Vintage Hi-Fi has become a significant market in the last 20 or so years. You can pay very big money for some of the most sought after pieces, such as original LS3/5a broadcast monitors, big Tannoy dual concentric speakers and Garrard 301 & 401 turntables. The days of picking these items up for 'beer money' are long gone, sadly. And, as if that weren't bad enough, you can also find 'optimistic' prices being asked for some very average old kit. So, we're going to share our list of 'sleepers'...the vintage hi-fi pieces we think are great performers, still good value, and not too hard to find.
Lenco GL75/78 turntable (above)
The Lenco is a superb piece of Swiss engineering - simple and very well made. It's easy to service, there's wide availability of parts, and you can find a wealth of knowledge and experience at the Lenco Heaven forum. The Lenco has plenty of upgrade potential, too; make a heavy plinth, change the arm, use as a motor unit, add a second platter. The number of options and the ability to customise and personalise has created a sort of 'DIY punk' subculture amongst Lenco enthusiasts. We've just had a new birch-ply plinth made for ours by Ant Cresswell at BTE Designs - expect a blog post, soon! Guide price: £50 to £150.
Philips CD Players
Philips is not the most esoteric name in the world of vintage hi-fi, but they have made some excellent CD players down the years, and nearly all of them can still be found for very little money. Models that include the TD1541/A/S1/S2 variants of DAC chip are well respected for their musical presentation and most can be tweaked to provide even better performance. Also, look out for the later CD751 and CD753 models, featuring the rare TD1549 DAC chip...DAC experts, Lampizator, say this about the 751: "This must be the best sounding stock player I ever had. It totally beats almost all players, and it is about equal with the best stock machines, if memory serves me, like for example Copland 289, JVC1050K2, Naim CDS-1 and maybe Cambridge CD-4. It would even beat the stock Meridian 506.20". Guide price: £25 to £100.
Monitor Audio R352 speakers
There's been an uptick in interest for larger 'classic' British speakers in the past few years, but vintage Harbeths, Rogers and Spendors are now selling for inflated prices...and we can live without quacky plastic drivers and complex 4th order crossovers, anyway! If you like a lot of cabinet for your money (we do, we do!) take a look at Monitor Audio's 1980s vintage R352. It's 91db sensitivity and 8 ohms impedance make for a lively and communicative speaker that is an easy load for low powered amps. We run a pair in our office with our little 15 watt NVA AP10P. Worth hanging on for a set that include the original stands, which tip the speaker back a few degrees for improved dispersion. Guide price £50 to £150.
Vintage FM Tuners
As PC-based streaming and internet radio have become ubiquitous, tuners have become that very rare thing in vintage hi-fi...their prices are actually going down!! You'll need some sort of aerial, of course, but there's still little to beat a Radio 3 classical concert broadcast in glorious FM. There's a wide choice available, from Leak to Sansui, all at sensible money. Guide price: £15 to £100.
NVA AP50 Integrated Amplifier
Not very widely available (it's a niche product, and owners don't tend to let them go) but still affordable and we can service most models. A wonderfully natural, open and unforced musical presentation. Earliest examples were in metal cases, and then a wood and acrylic version (shown above). Guide price: £100 to £200.
Sound Organisation Turntable Stand
Light and rigid, a worthwhile upgrade for most turntables (originally famed for taming the fruity bass of the Linn LP12)...and it has a rather cool, industrial aesthetic. The 2-tier stands are also decent, and easier to find. Prices are kept reasonable as they are difficult to post - you'll need to 'fire up the Quattro' and go collect. Guide price: £20 to £100.
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