"Vintage audio" is back in fashion, but you don't necessarily need to walk into a fancy second-hand dealer to find it. It's easier than ever to unearth great stuff for very affordable prices, or better yet, for free. For example, I've had more than a few friends find working tube amplifiers on the curb -- they were there for the taking! How many people passed those treasures by because they had no idea of what they were worth? The audiophiles among us, they know.
A Facebook friend lucked out when he spotted a very high-end Meridian CD player gingerly sitting on a dumpster! Worked fine, and he later sold it for £250! One friend found Technics RS-1500 and Tascam 34B reel-to-reel tape recorders behind a dumpster in Chicago, both were in working order! Another one of my audio buddies scored a high-end Nakamichi CR-2 cassette deck and its matching TA-2A tuner/amplifier on the street with instruction manuals and remote controls. There was also a Nakamichi six-disc CD changer, but the cassette deck and amp were all he could schlep home!
I've certainly seen my share of abandoned speakers on New York City streets. Keep your eyes peeled for free audio and you'll eventually stumble upon valuable stuff. One of my writer friends found boxes filled with mint-condition LPs, mostly in great shape, on the street!
Tantalizing finds on Craigslist and eBay
Vintage stereo receivers on eBay aren't free, but I spotted a Pioneer SX-434 for $60, a stunning Yamaha R-300 for $179, Sony STR 6040 for $125 and a mint Marantz 2238B for $575. All are credible finds.
When looking for speakers, the pickings were no less tempting: Vandersteen 1C towers for $389, Magnepan MG IIB flat-panel speakers for $625, 40-year-old Klipsch Heresy horns for $700 and Snell Acoustic Type E IVs for $569. All prices are for pairs of speakers.
Continuing with turntables, I found a Thorens TD160 Mk2 for $96, a Technics SL-DD22 for $120 and an Elac Miracord 50H for $300. I owned one just like that last one decades ago.
I'm citing these as examples only, but the point is, shopping for brands like these on eBay or Craigslist can yield first-rate vintage audio without breaking the bank.
Of course decades-old audio can need service; please be aware of that before you buy. Ask questions, starting with "does it work?" Just turning on is no guarantee it will be in proper operating condition. When in doubt about the seller's ability to confirm the product is in good working condition, don't buy it. Of course, if it's a pair of $10 speakers at a yard sale, and they look decent enough, it's probably OK to take your chances.
Purchasing from an audio specialist dealer with technicians who check out the gear and provide a warranty is worth considering, but those vintage pieces will likely be more expensive than buying from individuals who offer no guarantees.
High-end vintage gear from the Audiophiliac