Vintage vs. New, Risk vs. Reward

There are lots of respectable merchants for used vintage high end equipment.  Having developed my chops during the golden age of hi fi, the vintage has lots of appeal. The question is about the risk of making a rather large investment in what today “measures perfectly” but what tomorrow could quickly  end up a paper weight due to age.  This versus an investment in new which may bring with it, in addition to the probability of better reliability, but also the latest in technological advancement.  I recognize that “new” and “reliability” are much different (reduced) standards than years gone by (IMO/experience).

Appreciate your highs on this topic.. 


IMO vintage audio equipment is purchased mainly for nostalgia. The level of performance from present mid-fi gear usually exceeds many touted vintage pieces. How would a conrad-johnson Premier One($4k 1983) compare to one of the better current budget power amps(Benchmark AHB2)? Something to think about. Other than reel/reel, cassette decks and tuners vintage gear is best avoided if sound quality is paramount.

I love the looks of “old” equipment, such as the old Marantz receivers. I also love the look of McIntosh, although for the most part they still look the same…but even they have changed the electronics inside.

Anyway, I did not buy “old” equipment as my main system, too many advances over the years, even though there are companies who really know what they are doing - for a price of course. I’d love to have a room for old school stuff, but it would be just for fun to have. 

I brought new, a Luxman, looks a bit old school, but way better built with much better sound. Still lust for old equipment, but glad I brought new. 

Another way to think about is, say you were back in the 1970-80’s looking at new equipment, would you instead buy electronics made in the 1930’s 40’s or 50’s? I sold equipment in the 80’s and no one asked for ‘Old’ stuff, not with all the advances with electronics after the 60’s.  So, it’s 2022 and you are looking back how many years at stuff? Similar to today looking back 20+ years. 

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Longevity can be an issue.  Elements deteriorate and fail with age.

Some obvious items include tubes and capacitors in electronics and rubber or other soft compounds in electromechanical devices like speaker surrounds, cartridge suspensions, rubber belts in turntables and cd players, etc.

But if you hanker for a certain sound, like the remembered allure of a peaky speaker, the modern stuff may not provide that for you.

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I think the important point you brought up was that it was vintage is attractive to you. That is important. Particularly if you liked some vintage sound in particular. I am sure it could be great fun assembling some particularly romantic sound… and likely you could do this at a smaller budget than pursuing the best possible sound. Some folks love antiques, not necessarily that an old chair is more comfortable than new.


While there are a few exceptions, by in large if you are mostly attracted to the best possible sound, then new equipment is a must. In each of the last five decades I have been pursuing the high end very significant progress has been made across the board towards better sound… at all levels. Tube gear got more accurate and quiet, solid state less edgy… turntables and phono-stages just blossomed. No, comparison.

So, it comes down to which is more important. Or, maybe you have room for two systems… so, depending on your mood.

<Appreciate your highs on this topic> Ooops, s/b insights obviously. Digging and appreciate the discussion thus far and pretty much aligns to my instincts. Been investigating those LS3/5As! Wondering what class the Benchmark is given the specs/claims. Sounds interesting as well. 

I love my assemblage of old/new, it gives me the sound I can live with until I won't be around anymore to enjoy it.




I agree with you, there is some old equipment that still sounds as good, if not better then some of the new stuff. Restore an old Dynaco or Marantz Tube amp and you'll have some great sound. My AR turntable sounded great until it gave up the ghost. I bet stacking four Advents would still sound great - provided the surrounds were replaced. I'd buy a set of Klipsch - if I could fit them in my house!

Other than reel/reel, cassette decks and tuners vintage gear is best avoided if sound quality is paramount.

The rest goes to nostalgia area.

Not a bad thing for sure, still there are some, after some useful upgrades, to hunt, but for a second system.

I have time, tools, skills, and professional sources to help with what I cannot do myself. That is the only way I have been able to maintain/repair my vintage equipment. It is fun and satisfying. Without time, tools, skills, go for new with warranty!!!

I have a lot of vintage equipment, that can be seen here

subsequent upgraded AR-2ax speakers


Sound so good, I bought a 2nd pair to re-hab.



The very best systems I've heard were primarily "vintage," but this term is not easily defined and can be more complex than simply the age of the component.  These systems were new builds, but most of the components of the speakers and the electronics were very old, some going back to the 1930-50's.  Some of the speaker drivers were "new" but essentially replicas of very old drivers.  The new drivers were G.I.P. Laboratory (Japan) reproductions of Western Electric field coil drivers and an "updated" version of a Western Electric tweeter (the tweeters alone, without the field coil power supply are $60,000 a pair).  

My own system is sort of the same sort of mix of old and new.  The linestage is based on an old Western Electric design and utilizes Western Electric  transformers, but it is a new build with remotely controlled volume control.  My amp is also a new build based on a Western Electric amp and utilizes the original design's input and output transformers.  It also uses a lot of other vintage parts--old Aerovox capacitors, old flat resistors, and the original Western Electric 348 and 349 tubes, but the power supply transformer and choke are modern.  My speakers have have modern, but old school woofers (twin 12" alnico magnet drivers with pleated paper surrounds), a modern Fostex bullet tweeter, and a very vintage Western Electric 731b midrange compression driver and a Western Electric 12025 multicellular horn.

In certain areas of sound quality, these old school and vintage systems have not been surpassed, but, in other aspects of performance they generally don't match new speakers (bass does not go as deep and with as "tight" a sound).  

As to any kind of "risk," it again matters what kind of vintage gear one is talking about.  Old tube gear is quite low in risk to invest in because all of it can be repaired easily and maintained for a very long time.  That is not often the case with solid state gear that is 20 years old and older--some replacement transistors and chips are almost impossible to find and people who can diagnose and repair complex solid state gear are hard to find.  A lot of vintage tube gear has been pretty much depreciated to the point where they may no longer lose value over time.  Some such gear actually appreciates in value; the Western Electric parts I own only keep going up in price, and some of it quite dramatically.

Vintage amplification electronics work best when tube based. Old, transistorized equipment is a higher risk in my estimation.

Most of the posts here are regarding vintage electronics. I would like to ask about speakers. For instance ADS made some excellent speakers in their "L" series starting in the late 1970s through the 1980s.

But I question the "value" proposition. For instance, the L620 Mark III sold in 1982 brand new cost about $400/pair. Allowing for inflation this value today is about $1200. Sellers on Reverb dot com are asking $1000 + $250 shipping for these. That equals $1250, more than the value when they were NEW!

Sorry, but that seems crazy for an electro-mechanical device that is 40 years old has no warranty, and "used" replacement parts availability and quality are questionable.

I know, I know, the "value" of something can only be assessed by what a buyer is willing to pay. If someone is willing to pay that much for them, then I guess they are indeed "worth" it - at least to that buyer.

But really, I was curious if anyone on this forum think the speakers they are buying today, in 2022, could be sold 40 years from now at their original value? Curious.

I mean, if someone bought these new in 1982 and sold them in 1992 to "upgrade", I can bet you they took a big haircut on them and didn’t get $400 plus the inflationary increases for them.

I really don’t care when something was built. The sound is what matters. 
Like many of you here, I’ve had an embarrassing amount of gear over the years and most of it ‘high end’. I can’t believe what I listen to now.  It’s all vintage and the sound is so good. Servicing is easy, and inexpensive when compared to a new purchase. 

But it’s really whatever makes one happy,  and what makes enjoy the music a joy to listen too. So, for me that’s vintage gear.