How to Buy Vintage Audio Electronics

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How to Buy Vintage Audio Electronics

The move towards going retro has created burgeoning and profitable consumer niches. From vintage automobiles to vintage fashion, more and more consumers are flocking to become part of the hip retro trend. Baby boomers may have started the trend to buy vintage products, but their progeny have continued the trend of looking, feeling, and sounding vintage. The most recent move towards going retro has come in the electronics industry. Consumers find that not only do vintage audio electronics look good, they also provide users with excellent sound quality and high durability.

Consumers can find vintage audio electronics in smaller electronics specialty shops that cater to retro-seeking customers. Some big box electronics shops have caught onto the vintage audio electronics movement and now provide a separate section for vintage audio components. Consumers can also find vintage audio electronics at the leading online auction site, eBay. Before they shop for vintage audio products, consumers should learn what constitutes vintage audio electronics, the four essential vintage components to buy, and a few vintage audio electronics buying tips.

The Meaning of Vintage Audio Electronics

The term “vintage” has changed meaning over time. Initially referring to the time a wine vine was created, vintage now applies to everything from clothing to guitars. Most people define vintage to mean something that is older or represents an original replica. As applied to electronics, vintage can mean the first speakers attached to phonographs, or the first compact disc players that set the music trend during the 1980s. Some consumers invest in vintage audio electronics to earn a profit on increasing value, while other consumers, mostly audiophiles, invest in vintage audio equipment to tinker with the vintage vacuum tubes or wiring. While 10 people may have 10 different explanations for what defines vintage audio electronics, most audiophiles agree that there are four must-have vintage audio electronics components.

Must-Have Vintage Audio Electronics

Most audiophiles shop for vintage audio electronics not to integrate one component into a home cinema system, but to build a sound system from the purchase of multiple vintage audio components. Any audiophile who wants to create a vintage sound system cannot go wrong by investing in the four cornerstones of a vintage audio electronics system. Just remember that the fifth component, the receiver, can either be vintage or the latest model offered by Panasonic.

Vintage Turntable

The reasons for buying a vintage turntable include superior sound quality and personal interaction. However, most music fans buy vintage turntables for playing the LPs and EPs they collected from the golden era of music. Vintage Dual, Thorens, or Pioneer turntables produce pristine sound quality that produce the classic low-fi pops and hisses of a foregone era.

Vintage turntables possess platters that securely hold records, isolate the tone arm from vibrations, and accurately judge the speed of a record. Manufacturers construct vintage turntable platters from anodised aluminium. Examine the condition of a vintage turntable cartridge, since the cartridge is one of the first turntable parts to experience wear and tear. Most vintage turntables operate on a belt-driven system, but consumers can find later model vintage direct-drive turntables. Since belt-driven turntables operate on rubber belts, check the condition of the belts to ensure belt stability.

Vintage Reel to Reel Recorder

Owners of reel-to-reel tapes need to match the tapes to the proper vintage reel-to-reel recorder. Most reel-to-reel tapes flawlessly play on vintage Teac, Pioneer, Akai, or Pioneer recorders. Reel-to-reel tape sizes vary between 5/8 to 5 cm. Remember that most American reel-to-reel tape recordings were stored on smaller tapes. Recording techniques also vary between tapes. Most professional reel-to-reel stereo recordings store on the left channel on the left half of the tape, and the right channel on the right half of the tape.

Vintage Speakers

For considering the most important component of a vintage audio system, audiophiles should first determine where they plan to locate the speaker system. The shape of a room, floor and wall materials, and the type and number of furniture affect how sound waves bounce around a room. Electrical resistance, which is referred to as impedance, is another factor to consider before buying vintage. Knowing the impedance rating allows audiophiles to match speakers with the right vintage receivers. Mismatched speakers and receivers result in poor sound quality and can cause vintage speaker damage. Speaker power, as measured in watts, also plays a role in making a decision on a pair of vintage speakers.

Vintage Eight Track Player

Eight track players invoke images of the 1970s and the disco craze. The player head reads magnetic information two tracks at a time. Eight track player heads also push against eight track tapes, while a foam pad exerts pressure on the back of the tapes to ensure continuous contact. Audiophiles must analyse eight track player heads before making a purchasing decision. They should also understand that eight track player heads require cleaning after 25 hours of use. The only downside to buying vintage eight track players is the difficulty of finding cleaning cartridges for the player head.

Vintage Audio Electronics Buying Tips

Buying vintage electronics requires consumers to vet any considered component carefully. While quality assurance is the paramount priority, there are other factors that determine the buying decision.

Entire System

Some audiophiles, especially those with an electronics background, mix and match vintage audio electronics components to create a sound system. This can be a time-consuming process, as well as a costly process. Consumers can find complete vintage audio sound systems for less money than if they had purchased each vintage audio electronics component separately. Moreover, most vintage audio systems contain audio components constructed by the same manufacturer, which ensures optimal performance.

Research Value

All it takes is a few keywords typed into a search engine to find the value of a vintage audio electronics component or system. Some sellers may factor the hard-to-quantify vintage factor into the price of vintage audio electronics. Avoid sellers that do this, and instead, only consider sellers who closely match the true value of the audio components or systems. Do not succumb to emotional triggers of nostalgia when making a vintage audio electronics purchase.


Vintage audio electronics average about 30 years old, and as such, may have volume, balance, tone, and frequency issues. Avoid vintage audio components that have missing knobs or any other broken exterior parts. Exterior damage is the first sign of potential internal part problems. Remove casings to examine lights, switches, and connectors within each audio component. Every receiver channel should provide power, and turntable arms should be securely attached. Another reason to buy an entire vintage sound system is that each audio component should be in similar condition.


Look for hidden shipping, handling, and return fees that appear in the fine print of retailer terms of sale, especially brick and mortar retailers. There is no reason for anyone to charge for the privilege of shipping vintage audio electronics. The only fee that is even remotely legitimate has to do with packaging, since vintage electronics require delicate storage.


The best reason to buy vintage electronics in person is the ability to test each component or an entire audio electronics system. Most big box electronics retailers have the tools and space to test vintage electronics. Shopping online requires a short leap of faith. Only consider online sellers who claim to have test vintage audio electronics and provide a large window for returns. The best online venue for finding sellers who sell test vintage audio electronics and offer return policies of more than 30 days is eBay.


The retro movement sweeping through the United Kingdom now includes vintage audio electronics. Consumers have found that not only does buying vintage audio electronics evoke fond memories of the past, but that vintage audio components produce sound quality that is equal or exceeds the sound quality plated on contemporary audio system components. This is especially true of vintage turntables that spin the classic LPs. Audiophiles who are interested in building a vintage audio system can either buy individual components or search for sellers offering entire vintage audio systems. In either case, they should form their vintage systems by buying vintage turntables, eight track players, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and speakers.

The desire to return to the good old days is one thing, but knowing how to buy the right vintage audio electronics is quite another. Audiophiles can find vintage audio electronics at small speciality shops that cater to retro customers. Buying in person allows audiophiles to analyse and test each vintage audio component. However, they may find better vintage audio electronics deals online, where sellers often bundle electronics products and sell the products for less than if they had been sold separately. Audiophiles who search online should consider shopping for vintage audio electronics on the number one auction site, eBay.

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