The Best & Rarest of all Stereo Gear

When it comes to stereo gear, to me, besides sound and build quality/reliability, the next thing I look for is how rare it is. There is just something about very rare, one-off, stereo gear that makes it very enticing to find and acquire. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to have found some rare gear and there's still others items that I'd like to find.

Recently, in my local CL, there was a very rare pair of Symdex speakers available for $50 that retailed at over $2200. When I inquired about them, they were gone. There is very little on the net about these speakers and later was lucky enough to have found a pair of Paisley Research AE-500 speakers. The Paisleys are amazing & are really giving my Omega Grande 8's a run for their money.

How about the Wingate 2000a amp? In 30 years, I've never seen one of these beauties for sale. Does anyone remember the EJ Jordan shoe box sized amp and preamp?

Please share if you are fortunate enough to have owned any ultra rare gear or if you are looking to acquire something unusual. (I'll share my own list of rare acquisitions and wants in a follow up post. I didn't want to make this initial post too lengthy).

Look forward to hearing your responses, thanks for reading,

Lou, the original Symdex speakers were designed by the great Kevin Voecks, who went on to design for Mirage, Snell, and is now with the Revel division of Harman Int.

Speaking of rare stereo gear, Andy Rappaport was Voecks best man at his wedding and designed a very rare class A power amp and tube preamps under the Rappaport marque.

The rarest, and most prized, gear though is mono, not stereo. Western Electric, Brook, RCA, James B. Lansing, etc. I have a nice collection, and am currently looking for one, or two, Electro Voice Patricians, or maybe a Hartsfield, mono rules!
Yes, I think I remember that Rappaport preamp from an old TAS magazine. Years ago, I picked up a rare Pilot mono receiver at a yard sale for $35 that must have been a foot tall in a beautiful wood cabinet w/Genelec KT-66's. Sold it untested a few weeks later for like $675. I know the vintage stuff is going for huge dollars these days.

Hope you find what you are looking for :)
1. rare early Jeff Korneff 6BQ5 SE int amp - beautiful sounding - owned it for 5+ years

2. one off custom Conn PP6BG6 triode amp - amazing sounding 8 wpc - owned it for 5+ years

3. Custom 6T9 SE int amp - one off beautifully built & looking; resembled Don Garber's Fi amps (please forgive me, I'm so sorry I kicked you to the curb after only a few months, you deserved much better than that)

4. Tannoy D50(635) dual concentric floor standing speakers (traded the PP6BG6 amp for these beauties and later traded these Tannoys for a rare pair of wide baffle Omega Grande 8's)

5. Chateau Reference 1.5's - resembled Wilson Watts using the same drivers as well

6. Proceed PCD-2 - maybe not all that rare, but extremely enjoyable cd player

RAUNA Tyr 2 in mint condition
Lou, I had a pair of Tyr 2s back in the day. I was younger, and more impressionable, then. Bought them based on J. Gordon's review. Amazing, and I don't say that lightly, bass. Tight, deep, just incredible. People would look for the subwoofer or were just dumbfounded. I felt that the tweeter and woofer never integrated causing the midrange to lack any kind of coherence. But they were fun.
Those were the speakers I heard the first time stepping into a really high end audio store and I'll never forget how great they sounded. You know, when your jaw drops to the ground in amazement. Same thing happened the first time I heard SET amps.

So, are you saying the Tyr 2's aren't as great as I remember them to be? That they are flawed and fatiguing because the woofer and tweeter don't integrate that well??? What else did you have in your system at the time? Might it have been other things in your system at the time? I guess I was younger and impressionable too.

I remember and still have a glowing review of them partnered with a pair of Berning EA230 amps.
Lou, no I didn't say fatigueing, that was not it. It was just a lack of midrange coherance. I bought them new so it was many moons ago and I am at the age where I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning.

I am not sure what electronics I was running at the time, but my guess is either an Adcom GFP555/GFA535 or PS 4H//B&K ST-140.

After all, every speaker is flawed, it's all a matter of what flaws we can live with. In a world of gutless little speakers, the Tyr 2 had real impact and scale. Please post back when you get your pair.
I hear you about not remembering what you had for breakfast, as I'm getting to that age too, or maybe I'm there already, as I just realized that I haven't eaten breakfast at all today :)

I'm trying to get a handle on your comments. I've read so many audio magazines in my time and still could never understand all those adjectives to describe sound, so just add "midrange coherance" to the list. Yin/Yang, chocolatey, vanilla-ey, palpable presence, etc - it's all Greek to me...

So to digress, the Tyr 's were not fatigueing, they were fun to listen to, had incredibe bass and were I guess they were more on the dark end of the scale as opposed to being bright or tilted up? How long did you own your Tyr 2's for (approximately)?

I guess for further thoughts on it, I should just re-read the Stereophile review I have stored away, but it's nice to hear first hand from someone who actually owned them.

I recently picked up a really interesting, amazing set of speakers (Paisley Research AE-500). Extremely musical, dynamic and also fun to listen to and I can happily live with them should I never find a mint pr of Tyr 2's. They're also probably a much better speaker than the Rauna's, but the Rauna's are definitely cooler though :)
Lou, Ian Paisley was one of the titans of Canadian speaker design. They were somewhat ahead of us there what with the reseach facility at the NRC. He was with API which owned Mirage, Energy, Sound Dynamics and a few others. Great speakers, not well known in the lower 48.

I lived with the Raunas for about a year and a half. And, as you said, they were super fun; I think that you sum up the strengths very well.

Vocals did not sound like they were coming from a single source. The phantom place, between the speakers, where the voice should come from; it seemed to spread and get larger at different freqencies, so the mouth seemed smaller than the throat, etc. That's the best way that I can communicate it abscent audio speak.

I still think that you would find them a good roll in the hay though and would appreciate hearing your reaction when you get them. I have not heard a pair in this century, so take what I have to say with a full shaker of salt.
I agree, the Paisleys are terrific speakers. I think if Celestion or ProAc made them and marketed them at $2-2500, they would sell all day at that price.

I'd be very lucky to come across another pair of Raunas at a reasonable price. If it's meant to be, it will be meant to be. In the meantime, I'm more than happy with the Paisleys.
Chalice Audio 'Grail' SET monoblocks..possibly the best SET's anywhere..only 2 pairs sold..
What is that, an 845 output with a 300B input tube? I've definitely not seen anything like them. I'm quite sure they are amazing sounding as I have heard some great 845 amps, but for me, if I ever go back to SETs, I prefer the opposite - very low power/high efficiency speaker combo.
Ohm A's.
Stax F-81 electrostats.
Does anyone remember the Black Max model B50 speakers?
I have a "Wollensack" cassette deck that has a manual-stick- fast forward?reverse. Anyone know of it? Very few sold. I'm downsizing due to forced retirement and will sell this piece of nostalgia - to a collector.. I've had it since 70's. It played to about 13,000 cps-even though it quoted higher. It also has variable azimuth- a must to strive for high frequency response. I was lucky that Sony service agreed to sell me an azimuth tape-not easy to come by- and I maintained it well and enjoyed it's use til I bought a Dragon with auto azimuth among other features.
Draco tuner.

Fons CQ30 turntable.

Symdex Sigmas.

Amber Tuner.

Kenwood KT 917.

Klyne SH2a.

Nagaoka Kilavolt No. 130

Nagaoka Crystal Stabilizer GL 601

Rowland Research 2080 amplifiers (pair)

Rowland Research Strain Gauge board with Panasonic cartridge

Another strain gauge from Dr. somebody (I'm blanking on his name)

That's all that comes to mind right now. Time for bed.
I recently saw a pair of Symdex speakers in the local Phila area on CL for $50. They could have been the Sigmas, I'm not sure of the exact model as Symdex's are quite rare. I quickly contacted the seller that I wanted them and can pick them up anytime, but alas, they were gone - just not meant to be I guess.
Several months ago I picked up another rarity of a British integrated amp, a Ditton Elan DI-260 made by Celestion. It's a very beefy and transparent sounding 60 wpc line level integrated that sounds great and has very nice build quality. Not much on the net about this one except for some pictures.

Soon I'll be consolidating my bedroom system to have less boxes and will be selling the Ditton, Sumo Charlie tuner and Music Fidelity X-LP phono stage in lieu of a 1 box receiver as the bedroom system is really just background listening anyway.

I have something rare in mind for a 2 channel receiver but let me know what else I should consider in a rare analog or digital receiver (analog preferably)....thanks :)
Macrojack, that would probably be the Win strain gauge cartridge system by Dr. Sao Zaw Win.

Those Draco tuners are rare, but before they had a split they were marketed by Sherwood. I have seen a few of those and I believe that they are fairly common for an esoteric tuner.

Lou, almost by definition receivers are mass market goods and most tend to be made in rather larger quantities than more esoteric components. That said, Setton is a rather rare receiver marque.
Setton is indeed a rare one, probably very expensive now. Should have never sold my Tandberg 3030. How does the advent receiver sound??? Does anyone know?
Anyone remember the Hegeman Hapi 2 preamp? That was one cool little preamp. With the birth of my daughter 21 years ago, I got out of audio for a while and a couple of years later picked up a used Creek 5050 integrated amp. Not too long after, I then went to a used audio show and traded the 5050 for a Hegeman Hapi 2 preamp and Acurus A80 amp. Such a cool looking little preamp, IMO. That same day I also found a musuem quality Proceed PCD2 - another really cool product. Wish I had kept the Proceed.
A. Stewart Hegeman was one of the geniuses of audio design. The Citation 2 was arguably the best amp made for several decades.
Also OHM I.
Harmon Kardon I think the model 20 amp and preamp??
Macrojack Dr. Sao Win of Win Labs pioneered the strain gauge. He is a very nice guy by the way. He worked with Harold Beveridge before Beveridge started the Beveridge speaker company.
John Curl's Vendetta Research phono preamp.
The best combination of outstanding performance and rarity are so me OTL amps that were built by a Greek builder around 1980.  I know one person who has the two-box per channel version (both BIG boxes), but, I don't know what he paid for them.  Another person bought the little brother of this amp (just one big box per channel) for $50,000 for the stereo pair.  I have heard both amps and they are incredibly dynamic and immediate sounding without being harsh or brittle (tough combination).  I heard that this hobbyist/builder only made six such OTL amps.

I have also heard an ultra-rare Western Electric 59B amp equipped with the also ultra rare meshplate 252 output tube.  This is also a fantastic sounding amp that gets dynamics so right.  The dealer did a "cruel" demonstration for me where he hooked up an Audio Note Kageki amp and the 59B for comparison purposes (I own a Kageki); the Kageki sounded somewhat lifeless by comparison.

On the solid state front, I heard a system that had a Lyra Connoisseur phonostage and linestage.  The system was very dynamic and immediate sounding while still sounding very fluid and lacking in artificial edginess.   
Without question the Bar B Que amp and Blowtorch preamp from Curl, Crump and Thompson.  You would literally have to pry them off of a dead man's hands.
Hello Lou,
I have an EJ Jordan preamp that I am considering selling. It needs a little work, but sounds great.  I was looking for information and saw this post.
please let me know if you're interested or have any information on these. 
seattle, wa
Two brands come to mind:

MFA (Moore, Frankland and Assoc).  Bruce Moore had his own eponymous company, too, which produced the Companion (sic?) preamp.  I think it was his highest profile design and it had its moment in the sun some time back.  However, the Companion was always made in boutique quantities, so they were never commonplace, despite the high quality and positive press.  The MFA stuff was even rarer.

Audire gear was designed by a former NASA guy called Julius Siksnius (sic?).  I once bought his Diffet preamp and a matching power amp from Crazy Eddie, a big box discounter in the metro NYC area.  They somehow got the franchise before Audire pulled it and I bought the pair on close out.  I probably should have hung on to it.
I had a pair of Braun made version of the old Quad ESL, only pair I’ve ever seen. Peter Walker allowed Braun to make them for the German market only. I sold them to Brooks Berdan---he wanted them for his Hi-Fi museum.
I have a Spread Spectrum Technologies Son of Ampzilla 2000 power amp.

Designed by James Bongiorno from GAS (Great Sound Company) and Sumo fame.

Very few were made and sold. Few dealers, due to the fact that James had an abrasive personality.

A SOTA sounding 100 w/pc amp, with a 2400 V/A transformer, and unique circuit design.

Very rare.

Also an original Koetsu Black MC cartridge  designed by the founder of Koetsu in the early 80's.
The first strain gauge cartridge was from Panasonic or some other Japanese manufacturer. Win, Rowland and so on just modified or had special interface electronics built for them. You could actually change the stylus, I recall. I tried to get MLAS to build a special board/interface box for the JC-2 but Mark was into the Goldmund and the nude EMTs...before they hit the conventional consciousness and importation under their own name.
Then there was Ikeda-San, the FR1s, and finally his own company. Mark, Jeff and others went with Ikeda-san's MC Decca and private labeled it, we shan't hear its like again!
How about the Fulton J's?

Sao Win made a few unusual cartridges, such as, a field effect transistor cartridge.  The signal generating element of the cartridge was a transistor: the gate element being a permanently charged electret attached to the cantilever which controlled the electron flow through the rest of the transistor.  I heard this cartridge once, and the system it was in sounded very good.  I bet this is extremely rare.
The Fulton J’s! I bought a pair from John Garland in ’74, which replaced Tympani I’s in my system. Another rare and excellent speaker is the ESS Super Quad. It consisted of the original Quad ESL for midrange, a transmission line-loaded KEF B139 woofer for bass, and RTR ESL tweeters. Similar in concept to the Levinson HDQ (another rare one), which had two Quads per speaker, a Hartley 24" woofer, and Decca ribbon tweeter. I think the Super Quad was priced around $2,000, same as it’s main competition, the Infinity Servo-Static IA. The Super Quad evolved from ESS’ Transtatic I (of which I have a pair), which had the same TL KEF woofer and RTR tweeters, but with a KEF 5" Bextrene midrange driver. That speaker was priced at $1200.
The Koss Model 1A are big full range electrostatics that can be tri-amped if that is your wont. I had the Fulton Nuance three-way speakers which are not chopped liver. I also had two, count em, Ultra Tweeters, another very interesting speaker in it's own right, in the room when I had the Fultons.

i owned a pair of the large Nestorovic 5as speakers which you could consider rare. They weren't perfect but they were great in some ways and I really enjoyed my time with them.
I still own a pair of Celestion Kingstons which are also sort of rare and also very good.

I agree that it is a little more added fun to own an unusual component.
I forgot...I also own an Audio Note Kit One integrated 300B amp which is by no means rare, but mine is the 10th Anniversary edition with the dual c-core transformers, which not too many people order. 
Anyone ever own the Streets Electronic 950 amp or a Wingate amp?  Those looked awesome.  I once heard a Wingate at a high end show, but the rep was this young kid who believed everyone wanted to hear it at ear splitting levels and wouldn't turn it down.  Right now, I'm kind of digging on these rare 70's-80's turntables, maybe not so rare, just old :)

I have the very rare Biotronics Control Systems Gestalt phono preamplifier. I challenge someone to find information on it. It has some sort of active variable bass control and sounds very smooth. The board traces are heavy and appear plated with silver. It is obvious the unit (with its outboard power supply) was designed for the serious listener.
I suppose much of what I currently run is rare and quite nice sounding.  My preamp is custom-made by Aldo D'Urso in Italy.  This makes it "modern," although very few of the components are actually modern.  The chassis, tube (310 and 311s), input and output transformers, all of the resistors and capacitors and the Daven attenuators for balance are all quite old and repurposed; the only thing new is the remotely controlled volume pot and the power transformer in the separate power supply.  My amp, also built by Aldo, is essentially a stereo version of the Western Electric 133 amp--348 input/driver tubes, 349 output tubes, the correct Western Electric input and output transformers, vintage caps and resistors, etc; the only part that is new is the power transformer.

My speakers were made by Strumenti Acustici Precisione, but, I replaced the midrange horn with a circa 1939 Western Electric 713b compression driver and a Western Electric horn (the replacement midrange is free standing on the top of the bass driver cabinet, just like the horn it replaces).   The WE 713b is a terrific midrange driver, but, it is now VERY hard to obtain a matched pair of these things.

The rest of the system is more modern and still in production, although the Viva Fono phono preamp is not a common item.
All interconnects made by Confirmation Bias Cable Co. are the absolute best!  

While terribly expensive, they work like magic on the psychoacoustics of the ear-brain interaction.
I wish I was able to give likes to these comments :)

Currently I'm using a pretty rare British integrated amp, the shoe boxed sized Onix OA 20/2, which I've heard was the poor mans Naim Nait II.  It's in perfect condition and very enjoyable.  This is my second Onix int amp, the other one being the OA21s, a 50 wpc linestage int amp.  This one is 30 wpc with a phono stage.  Both are extremely smooth sounding.