Vintage high-end audio looks cool and sounds great too

The Audiophiliac visits Sky-Fi Audio in Ridgewood, NJ and gets an ear full of vintage sounds!

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
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Magnepan Tympani 1-D speakers: A wall of sound

Everything old is new again! SkyFi Audio is a second-hand hi-fi specialist based in Ridgewood, New Jersey. I visited them recently to check out some truly great audiophile models from high-end's past. 

For my Sky-Fi Audio listening sessions I started with Magnepan Tympani 1-D speakers. They're super thin panels, but 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and nearly as wide, so they really do produce a wall-to-wall sound. 

The speakers date from the early 1980s. As I listened to them and other vintage systems at Sky-Fi Audio, I started to think about how little progress has been made. Even high-end audio from decades ago can still sound great! 

In this system the Tympanis were matched with a Marantz Model 7 preamp, Bryston 4B power amp, and a Garrard 301 turntable. 

Sky-Fi Audio works in partnership with New York dealer Stereo Exchange.

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Marantz Model 7 stereo tube preamplifier

As vintage as they get, this fully serviced Model 7 Marantz in a wood case looks and sounds the part of a 1958 (!) superstar audiophile preamp.  

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Bryston 4B stereo power amplifier

The classic 250 watt per channel powerhouse amp was a mainstay for many an audiophile in the 1980s. 

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Groovy Garrard turntable

This is the holy grail for vintage turntablists. The Garrard 301 is fitted with a SME 309 tonearm and a new wood plinth. 

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Garrard controls

Close up of the Garrard 301's controls.

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Wilson Watt/Puppy 5 system

The Wilson Watt speaker and the matching Puppy woofer is my all-time favorite Wilson speaker system. 

Listening to this pair at Sky-Fi with a Krell KBL preamp, Spectral DMA 360 power amps and a Nakamichi Dragon CD changer brought old memories roaring back! I haven't heard a contemporary system that made me feel the way this system did. Wow!

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Krell preamp and Spectral mono power amps

Here's the Krell KBL preamp straddling the two Spectral DMA-360 monoblock power amps. 

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Nakamichi Dragon CD changer

This one came as a big surprise, I didn't know Nakamichi made a Dragon CD changer, and Sky-Fi also has the matching Nakamichi Dragon digital converter.

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The Quad ESL 57 system

The Quad ESL electrostatic speaker debuted in 1957, but they still serve as reference speakers for many an audiophile. They love it for its uber transparency and beautiful midrange tone.

This pair Quads at Sky Fi has been upgraded and fully serviced. The ESL 57s were paired with a Conrad-Johnson PV8 Preamp, Luxman MQ-3600 power amp, and a Thorens TD125 MKII turntable. 

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Conrad-Johnson PV8 tube preamplifier

The Conrad-Johnson PV8, is a classic 1980s tube preamp, with built-in tube phono preamp.

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Luxman MQ-3600 stereo tube amplifier

The made in Japan MQ-3600 amp was designed to run on proprietary Luxman 8045G tubes. This example is equipped with the original 8045Gs, and the tubes are in great shape.

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Thorens TD125 MK2 turntable

This TD125 weighs 30 pounds (13.6kg), it's super solid, it's fitted with a Linn Basik Plus tonearm.

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Sky-Fi Audio turntable workshop

Sky-Fi Audio's technicians work on turntables and reel-to-reel tape machines. Take this video tour through the turntable workshop.

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Tech workbench

All the gear passing through Sky-Fi Audio is checked out. 

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Racks of vintage audio

Everywhere I turned I spotted the coolest gear!

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The KEF Reference 107 speaker system

The fourth and final Sky-Fi Audio system featured KEF Reference 107 speakers from the mid 1980s, and a full rack of vintage high-end Sony electronics. 

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Sony CDP-707ESD CD player

They don't make CD players with silky smooth opening disc trays like the CDP-707ESD's any more. The solid copper chassis and the laser transport is made of cast aluminum, Sony didn't use plastic parts in its high-end players.

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Sony ST-707ES tuner and Sony DTC-75ES DAT player

The ST-707ES tuner and DTC-75ES DAT (Digital Audio Tape) player still appeal to Sony's vintage fans. 

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The complete Sony rack

It's a matched set, all period-correct Sony components from the late 1980s. 

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That's all folks!

There was so much more to see at Sky-Fi Audio, but for now we'll take another peek at that gorgeous Quad ESL electrostatic speaker!

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