Is ALL vintage better? NOT Caveat Emptor

I have been around for 58 years now, and the marketing of anything old crap as better than today's gear kinda bothers me, considering that high end designs and features are often passed on to lower priced items over time, and much of today's low end equipment is vastly superior to most of what was sold in the past, and the few exceptions are well documented and raves can be found online. I know, I have owned many items I see now for sale at prices far exceeding their original retail, that would be great bargains if sold at discount, but are total ripoffs at the prices asked for now, often more than modern equipment, and (adding insult to injury) usually require expensive "mods" or "upgrades", bringing the prices up to beyond the price of equivalent modern day high and gear(!).
I was there, my brothers and sisters, and I know.
Caveat Emptor!!!!
The 'golden memories'of nostalga is alive and well.
I think because tthe old equipment has memories and thus brings back fragments of youth.

I agree new stuff is far and away better. But then it costs a lot more too.
Only old tube amps might be as good or better dollar for dollar than new tube amps.
Are performance cars from the 60's better than current models? Not even close in almost every case.

But for those of us that were around then, there are elements of emotion and nostalgia many find difficult to deal with in comparing the 2 generations of cars.

Sorry, I disagree with both Array1138 & Elizabeth. I think a lot of the vintage gear sounds much better than the latest & greatest electronics that is being hawked on Audiogon & other places. Yes, the vintage electronics does need attention & can rarely be used as-is - most often it is the power supply capacitors, the signal coupling capacitors & potentiometers that need replacement. Sometimes one even needs to re-heatsink power transistors 'cuz the thermal paste has dried & is beginning to flake off. This should be considered normal wear & tear of the item. Of course, the situation could take a turn for the (much) worse if that particular unit was not well cared for either during its use or during its storage or both.
IMO the vintage electronics was made with a mind & heart that was truer to the main idea of audio - that it's about 'technology serving music' (this is CAT's marketing logo hence the quotes) & it's not so much about the gear & specmanship (as it has become today).
I find that the discrete components electronics sounds much better than its modern-day (highly) integrated equivalent that used monolithic opamps (instead of discrete), MOSFET (instead of JFET or Bipolar) parts.
Yeah, capacitor & resistor making technology has come a long way from the 1960s, 1970s & parts made today are more reliable but they are not necessarily better sounding. I'm not saying that one must continue to use the old/vintage cap; the electrolytic does have a finite life-span but merely selecting some power supply or signal coupling cap off the shelf does not guarantee better sonics.
Of course, there is crappy manufactured & crappy sounding vintage electronics but then that is to be expected with anything.
Yeah, vintage gear can bring back memories of youth & other nostalgic memories but I believe that almost all the manuf back then were making their technology serve the music rather than serve the specifications. Many users have come to realize this world-wide. And, I believe that's why vintage gear still holds its value (any time you have demand outstripping supply or coming close to outstripping supply, the prices will go up. Basic economics. Also, when you have fewer & fewer technicians who can competently do the job & labour has always been expensive in the West, the prices will go up. Basic economics as well.)
All vintage equipment is not created equal, and most of it should definitely sell at a significant discount from original retail, although when you factor in inflation it is possible that in absolute dollars some vintage equipment could be selling for more than its original price, and still represent a rational purchase.

I have a healthy number of turntables, including a couple modern tables and several "vintage" tables. I just acquired a Thorens 126 MK III, in good condition but not modified, and in terms of sound it is the equal of any other turntable I own, including a couple new ones that cost four to five times as much. In fact, in some ways it is BETTER than any new table I own, in that it raises the tonearm at the end of the record and stops the platter from spinning. And it maintains dead-on perfect speed. There really aren't any new turntables out there that offer the same combination of quality and convenience.

When you get to speakers and amplifiers, the attraction of vintage equipment falls off rapidly, at least for me. I have a couple vintage amps and preamps, and they don't measure up to the new equipment or recent-vintage used equipment I own at all, either in terms of sound or convenience. But vintage equipment often offers good, if not stellar, performance at a reasonable price. And as the audio business seems to be more and more determined to abandon enthusiasts of less-than-unlimited means, vintage and used equipment may represent the only viable introductory path to the hobby available to many people.

So, I would not so much say "Buyer Beware" as "Buyer be thoughtful and diligent."
The Japanese seemed to have a different aesthetic that US listeners in the past, and a great deal of that stuff was pretty harsh in the high frequencies. So were many JBL and some other speakers. The way power is rated in amps has changed over time, making it difficult to compare specs. Seeing things like old Pioneer receivers with high prices must be more nostalgic than realistic, because they never sounded all that great. I wonder whether younger people who don't know any better are bidding up stuff because it looks so cool and "normal" humans can not afford the insane prices of much of the high end now.
Say it LOUD, say it Proud brother Array1138!!!
Today's Class D solid state and digital will TROUNCE any old tube/vinyl system!!!! AMEN!!
Audio depends on technology.

Has technology advanced since then?

There's your answer.

The overall design of older gear is of more interest in general to me than just the sound quality, and I used to sell that old stuff.

Crap today is no better than crap from then. The good sounding and better built stuff is where the difference lies.
I more-or-less agree with the OP's premise--lots of folks ask stupid prices for vintage gear. Like the guy on Pawn Stars always says about fossilized dinosaur droppings, just because something is old or rare doesn't mean it's desirable or valuable. That said, much well-built, well-designed vintage stuff stills sounds great and in some cases may be preferrable to more technologically-advanced modern stuff
I have a fair amount of experience with vintage 1950's and 1960's tube equipment, most of that experience having been during the 1990's. I would single out vintage tube FM tuners as being particularly likely to provide outstanding performance, assuming of course that a good model is chosen, and that it is in good condition and/or well restored.

I can say with certainty that the reason that the REL Precedent (no relation to the subwoofer manufacturer) and the Marantz 10B (both of which I have owned) and a few other vintage tuners sell for thousands is not just nostalgia. If in good condition they are extraordinary performers in terms of both station-getting ability and sound quality. Also, numerous models from that period that were made by McIntosh, H. H. Scott, Fisher, and others, that go for considerably lower prices today, can provide excellent performance.

At the other end of the price spectrum, I have in a second system a 1952 Radiocraftsmen 10 mono tuner that I bought during the 1990's for $25. I would challenge anyone to not be beguiled by its rich, lush sound quality, despite the fact that it is strictly mono. I should add, though, that I had to buy three of them before I found one that worked this well. And then a fourth, to obtain the original knobs :-).

During the 1990's I owned a pair of Marantz 2 monoblock amplifiers, from the 50's, which were also exceptional performers, considerably better than a pair of Marantz 9's that I also owned, which go for astronomical sums today (although of course condition might have accounted for a lot of the difference). Would the 2's be outperformed by a good currently available model in the $6K to $8K price range that I believe they go for today? Probably. Obviously rarity and collectability contribute a lot to that valuation. But I would certainly expect them to be competitive with current models at price points perhaps $2K or $3K lower.

IMO Rdavwhitaker's succinct and well put closing comment pretty much says it all:
I would not so much say "Buyer Beware" as "Buyer be thoughtful and diligent."
-- Al
I guess it's kind of like the old car syndrome Array1138. Many people covet that old junk for historical reasons, but they just don't compare to todays gear.
it's foolish to generalize. however, i consider some systems from the 60's to be superior to anything in production today, sonically speaking. here are some examples:

speakers: electrostats of the 60's

electronics: mcintosh tube gear and quad amps

turntables: thorens
Thanks, guys! I never expected such a response.
My main warning is intended for those new to this beloved pastime of ours.
I loved my Fisher 400C, my Dynaco A25's, my 10B (now replaced by a 20B) and many of my other vintage items when they were new. I would never go back, however, since the advent of websites like this one gives us the opportunity to afford great modern day equipment for less than retail, and for the prices asked for "vintage" gear one can afford better new-ish equipment, with no need for modification or repair. There are incredible bargains out there for those with the patience to wait for the right deal to come up. I could never afford my present rig at retail, and I am not the least bit embarrassed to admit it.
It's just that when I see old transistor receivers and cheap equipment that was crap back then being sold at prices that should buy you the second coming it p*sses me off and mandates that I warn people that it takes some research and patience to find the older gems that are worth investing in.
Best Wishes,
An interesting read is the interviews in the current issue of TAS with the top audio designers of today. They are unanimous in their opinion that amplifiers have improved over the last 20 years. However there were also notable comments regarding the discontinued quality parts they like to use.
Quality NOS parts are a big part of the Shindo allure. I recall Charles Hansen of Ayre being forced to modify existing designs due to discontinued parts, namely transistors, and finding the new replacements to be inferior.
So, some parts like capacitors have improved, but many other parts have not.
Everything about today is better in every way than yesterday but it comes at a premium. People confuse dumpster finds that after brought back from dead performing very well for what they had to put into it vs what that same dollar can but in modern gear with sweeping assertions that vintage is better. You take the best if the best from any point in the past and match it against todays best models and its no contest.
I dunno Chadnliz, I think you may be reading too many issues of Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. No contest? Really? Who wins?
Perhaps that's why the more modern technology of silicon chips has eliminated the old vacuum tube. The new "pefect sound forever" digital has embarassed vinyl. Speakers like Quad ESL-63's and Sound Lab just can't compete. No contest between an old Threshold amp and a modern amp, huh? An old Technics SP-10 mkIII would be put to shame by modern tables? LOL.

My point isn't that the older stuff is necessarily better, just as the new stuff isn't necessarily better, despite all the accolades of the media. Just because a glossy rag says that Gizmo Wizbang mk IV is light years ahead of the mk III version, don't make it so. They are simply trade magazines published to encourage buying new toys. Beware the Emperor's new clothes.

Is ALL vintage better? Absolutely not.
Is ALL modern better? Absolutely not.
Listen with your ears.
Hear! Hear! Jmcgrogan2!
Thank you all for your time and for proving that intelligence is not yet completely lost in this community of ours.
Best Wishes
I concur, with possible exception of radio tuners, Mike
What's a radio tuner Mike? :D
It's a microphone that tunes in radio, duh.
1 thread is enough!!!