Gramophone Dreams #30: Skyfi Audio

Let's talk about management styles. If you want to run a successful small business, you must first be happy. If your personal goals are to learn and to discover, and you combine those with an intrinsic need to share your achievements and connect with people in your chosen field, you are likely to succeed. Given those qualities, if your business goal is to provide desirable goods and needed services, you will not fail. You will succeed beyond your wildest dreams if these are your goals and if you hire happy, smart, big-hearted people, with strong creative forces lodged inside their chests. Your entrepreneurial success is complete when your customers and employees love you and are grateful you exist.

I witnessed living proof of these tenets when I visited Fernando Zorrilla in the basement workshop of his company, Skyfi Audio, in Ridgewood, NJ (footnote 1).

According to Fernando, Skyfi specializes in the "purchase, reconditioning, and reselling of select high-end audio equipment. We only buy equipment we admire and are passionate about. No mid-fi, no gimmicks, no junk."


SkyFi owner Fernando Zorrilla with a row of classic Garrard turntables.

It was a breezy June morning. About 11am. I was feeling sun-drunk sipping coffee at a café table on Broadway near 17th Street in New York City—directly across from the Stereo Exchange's new location. I was talking with my friend Sphere about how I can play the same record on 100 different systems and it will sound 100 different ways. "How could I know which one is the most accurate?" Sphere was just starting his snarky answer when a gray Mercedes pulled up. "Are you ready?" the driver asked.

Next thing I know we're sliding over the George Washington Bridge. Below, the Hudson is littered with glittering white sailboats.

Dave Wasserman, proprietor of the aforementioned Stereo Exchange, was driving the C-class Merc. I was in the back seat with no idea where we were going. All I knew was I would be auditioning four completely different vintage audio systems spanning four decades, beginning around 1960.

Sphere and Wasserman were talking politics when I interrupted and told Sphere to ask Dave the same "class-D question" he asked me.

"So, Dave, you've been selling vintage hi-fi how long Thirty-five years? And during this time have you noticed any class-D amps that have held their value?"

"None I can think of."

Dave qualified that with an exception: "The Rogue Audio Sphinx fetches good prices—but it's a hybrid." I reminded him how the Sphinx was my first-ever review for Stereophile. Whereupon Dave turned around (while driving), squinted one eye, and said, "You wrote for Stereophile?"

Being a New Yorker, I answered his question with a different question, "So, Dave, what percentage of class-A amplifiers hold their value long-term?" He responded immediately: "All of them. Except maybe some [from] Classé." I sniggered at the irony. Why Classé? I wondered.

I leaned back and closed my eyes for a nap, trying to think of any vintage tube amps that did not hold some value. When I woke up, I looked about and I saw that I was surrounded by a wall of tall coniferous trees and a cohort of silver cars parked in a back-of-the-house driveway fronting four brown-painted garage doors. One door opened, as if by magic, exposing two tall youngsters and two Technics turntables, the latter on a red trolley.

I entered, and as my eyes began to focus in the shadows, I realized there were no cars in these garages—just scores of audio amplifiers. Stepping over the red trolley, we entered the basement of a large house. Inside, I noticed a couple of hand-made wooden model boats, alongside vintage photos of similar vessels. The first room we came to was a super-clean, brightly lit workshop with a square worktable in the center and four walls of benches dedicated to various building and repairing activities.

I shook some hands, forgot everybody's name, and wandered the room silently, touching and scrutinizing at least a dozen vintage turntables—all in various stages of reconstitution.


A hot-rodded Kenwood KD-1100 turntable.

From across the room, my host, Fernando, asked, "So Herb, which one do you want?" I pointed at a stripped-down, plinthless Kenwood KP-1100 turntable and said, "I'll take the Japanese hot rod."

Everywhere I looked, I saw reel-to-reel recorders. On a shelf below a mint Revox PR99 and a handsome Technics RS-1500U, I noticed a trio of classic FM tuners: a McIntosh MR78, a Marantz 10B, and the super-legendary Sequerra Model 1 FM tuner. (A Sequerra Model 1 cost around $2000 in 1974, when it came out, and around $5000 in 1989. Today, it sells for similar prices—despite internet radio.) "So, Fernando: Are people really buying these old radios?"


"Absolutely! Right now, audiophiles are getting into tuners and tape decks—but they must be clean, fully tested, and work perfectly."

Smiling proudly, I bragged how I use my Kenwood KT-990D tuner to listen to every Yankees game on WFAN (660 on the AM dial).

I toured the garage slowly, mov ing from shelf to shelf, admiring one preamp or amp chassis after another—some models of which I haven't seen in 30 years—while swapping vintage amplifier stories. After examining dozens of Krells and Levinsons, plus a slew of Luxman, Marantz, and Fisher tube amps, I asked Fernando, "Is there a demand for used class-D amps?" He said more or less the same thing as Dave: "A couple—the Rogue Sphinx and maybe the Bel Canto Black."

Then I asked, "Can you think of any class-A amplifiers that have not held their value?" "No, demand is high for all class-A, especially for classic designs like the Levinson ML-2 and the Krell KSA-50."

Remembering what Dave said, I asked, "What about Classé amps? Have they held their value?"

"Definitely—especially the early DR stuff: the DR-3, DR-2."


Classic Luxman 3045 and Marantz 8B amplifiers.

"What about tube amps?" I inquired. "Everybody loves tube amps. But to sell, they must be clean, recapped, retubed, and fully tested. That is my job."

Then I asked, "How much do you think looks count with used-gear buyers?" Fernando replied, "Amps become classics not simply because they sound good; they have to look good too. Oftentimes, art directors came here looking for just the right style for a hi-fi in a photo shoot. Once, an art collector came and showed me a picture of a big abstract painting. She wanted her hi-fi to match the style of the painting."

People love vintage audio because it delivers a complete sensory experience. Vintage aficionados want their system to be beautiful to look at, luxurious to touch, and exciting to listen to.

At lunch, Dave Wasserman asked me what I thought of all the gear I'd seen. "Fantastic!" I said. "But where's the dust?" (Fernando's shop and storerooms are super-clean.)

Footnote 1: Skyfi Audio, 355 McKinley Place Ridgewood, NJ 07450 Tel: (646)852-2073. Web:

tonykaz's picture

1.) Uncompromisingly good performance

2.) Built by a group of loyal employees

3.) Sold at a Fair Price

Products that have these features will have sustained Value. ( even if they are in rather shabby condition )

I'd venture to suggest that there isn't a single Quad 57 in pristine original condition.

I have compiled a partial list of Manufacturers that are recognized for meeting these Standards.

Schiit, PS Audio & Magnapan are a small example/sample . I'm subscribing to and reading Stereophile to help me to recognize a few more.

Every field has outstanding Companys.

Tony in Venice

ps. Of course I'm disappointed to learn of Outfits that decided to abandon their Loyal Employees and Off-Shore to Asia ( much like my own General Motors Corp. ) I can never support any person or company resorting to this horrible practice. dam em!

AaronGarrett's picture

Since they pointed to an amp that you reviewed as the exception, it seems that you are creating resale value through your reviews as a rightly trusted reviewer.

Herb Reichert's picture

Thank you Aaron Garrett for the nicest compliment. But Rogue did not need my help.

The Rogue Audio Sphinx is a great-sounding amp at a VERY nice price made by very good people and audiophiles recognized this long before I wrote about it. Most importantly, it does not sound like a generic class-D amp.It has that extra 'lightening in a bottle' thing going.

To me, consensus is the only value-maker.

not herb

JHL's picture had me at Flesh & Blood, Herb, in the first paragraph thereof. Kindly carry on, good man.

Value is an experience, an experience I've only ever had in the presence of gear with soul. That's the gear that makes reality, damn the technophilia.

Stereophile is gifted with your sensibilities and proclivities. Long may they live.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some of those old amplifiers and reel to reel analog tape machines may be still worth seeking out :-)......

volvic's picture

i read this great article listening to a Furtwangler CD played in an ancient Sony CDP-111 player through an even older Tandberg 2060 receiver while visiting my parents in Montreal. The Tandberg will most likely outlast the polar ice caps. Vintage equipment is just that, endlessly fascinating.'s picture

That guy gets it. He has (had?) a pair of Altec 604's in drop- dead beautiful cabinets for sale on Audiogon that I'd do things I KNOW are wrong to get my hands on.

ok's picture

had me the same experience once; shame this wilson never repeated.

Kal Rubinson's picture

w/p had me the same experience once; shame this wilson never repeated.

What are you saying?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be KR could review the new Lexicon SL-1 wireless speaker system with SoundSteer technology ($40,000/pair)? ......... KR mentioned about those speakers in his 2017 CES report :-) .........

tonykaz's picture

That Rogue has a Sound Quality reputation, as do Genelec Active Monitors which probably out-sell all Audiophile Loudspeakers by consistently delivering outstanding Sound Quality, reliability and Re-Sale Values.

Should we consider the B&O Active Loudspeakers that Mr. Kal Rubinson reviewed for Stereophile ?

Class D is real amplification, nasty comments about it are probably no longer warranted or earned.

Tony in Venice

ps. Of Course : folks steeped in Mid-Century collecting can legitimately ignore 21st Century technologies, even I am still hunting for a early 1980s Conrad-Johnson MV-45a with Cage ( for old times sake and outstanding sound quality on MG2 maggies.)

Anton's picture

I heard them once in an L.A. store.


I wonder what they went for. Likely above my budget, but a boy can wish!

JRT's picture

There are businesses that restore and/or modify old vintage cars.

Many of those are collectible and some can be very valuable in the market place.

Compare two used cars:

An older restoration example 1957 Mercedes Benz 300 SL roadster in relatively nice condition can fetch ~$1M at auction.

The 2009 MB AMG SL63 power retractable hardtop roadster would eclipse the 1957 300 SL by every measure of performance, ride, handling, NVH, amenities, safety, efficiency, refinement. It sold new for ~$135k, and can be found for ~1/4 of that now in low mileage lightly used condition with nearly as-new appearance.

I would argue that if you want something to store in a climate controlled garage and occasionally look at, the 1957 300 SL is artwork on wheels. But if you are going to choose among the two for a commuter car in traffic, or for a long distance drive on public roads, or most any other situation that includes using the car for transportation, the SL63 would be the very much better choice.

Just because it sells for more in the marketplace does not mean it works better at the purpose for which it was intentionally built.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You cannot compare old 1957 Mercedes with old Krell KSA-50 or old Mark Levinson No.27 ....... It is like comparing apples with oranges ........ Chances are those old transistor amplifiers could still work well with the modern loudspeakers and other associated equipment ........ I think JA1 still uses his old Krell amp for some of his testing :-) ...........

JRT's picture

A better example from late-1950s might be a pair of Quad ESL loudspeakers (£52 in UK new circa 1957, not sure about US pricing) powered by Harman Kardon Citation II amplifiers ($229 each new circa 1959, or $159 kit in need of assembly).

tonykaz's picture

The Car was not all that wonderful, Engineering & Performance Wise.

The KRELL was and still is a stunningly Spectacular piece.

Tony in Venice

ps. I was an Electrocompaniet Fan over the Krell, mostly because the Electro voicing was addictive.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Electrocompaniet Nemo 600 WPC/8 Ohms mono-blocks were very favorably reviewed by Stereophile :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

I was referring to the Ampliwire Amps of Per Ambrahanson , 1980s vintage.


The PreAmpliwire preamp with their unique and beautiful performing MC step up.

Tony in Venice

jeffhenning's picture

I truly do love the way some of the old stuff looks. Marantz, Technics, Luxman, SAE, McIntosh?... probably the best looking audio equipment ever. Nothing, today, comes close.

And I think it's fantastic that Skyfi takes the effort to make sure that their vintage products are up to spec.

Where I digress from this love of old stuff is that it's old and no longer state of the art, best of breed or cutting edge... pick your description. A Lamborghini Contache, while very cool, is no longer considered a great sports car. Lambo makes much cooler, better stuff now.

Man, I wish they made a Benchmark AHB-2 with giant meters on the front!

JRT's picture

The web page does not mention anything about the ballistics of the meter.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Those meters may not experience any 'Newtonian drag' :-) ...........

JRT's picture

Audio engineers have traditionally used the word "ballistics" in description of analog meter dynamics.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok ...... Those meters may not also, experience that much 'Newtonian drag' :-) .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Bel Canto REF600M mono-blocks ($4,990/pair, Stereophile Class-A) use Hypex nCore Class-D modules :-) ..........

jeffhenning's picture

McIntosh doesn't need the giant meters for their amps to sound fantastic. It definitely, though, adds to the cool factor.

Also, the nCore amps relating to this thread are cheaper.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Then, the D'Agostino Relentless mono-blocks should definitely sound fantastic, with those huge meters :-) .......

I was mentioning the Bel Canto REF600M as an example ....... They were tested and 'certified' by Stereophile as Class-A :-) ........

jeffhenning's picture

...if the amps are huge, but the meters, in comparison, are so small.

Again, the quality of the amp is based upon the size of the meters.

The smaller the meters, the worse the amp! It's simple science. Can you not get that?

It's already been scientifically proven.

Pseudo-science is wonderful. Real science is for chumps & idiots.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

BTW ....... The new McIntosh Class-D multi-channel amp M1254 has meters too :-) .........

jeffhenning's picture

...That's not what I need.

Of course, it's a McIntosh so it's fantastic.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Some other examples ....... Some models of amps from Technics, Luxman and Accuphase have meters :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I forgot to mention ........ Some models of Pass Labs amps, also have meters :-) .........

Ortofan's picture

... see the SAE 2HP-D:

The meters are also switchable to a one-third octave display:

tonykaz's picture

Some of the OLD gear is quite up to snuff compared to today's better gear. Some rare Russian Tubes excell in Sound Quality.

However, the older gear's performance can have Vinyl's dynamic Range of 30 to 40 db, Vinyl's not having ultra low freq. like modern Digital's ability to drop down to felt range.

Looks are personal but Chord gear is attractive sculpture.

Tony in Venice

jeffhenning's picture

I think that I've just fallen in love with an amp again!

And it's an nCore so that ain't all.

I always used to joke with my dear, departed step-dad in the 70's & 80's that the quality of the amp was related to the size of the meters on the front.

Also, the price is very reasonable.

Herb Reichert's picture

to compare basic power amplifiers to automotive engines rather than whole cars.

just sayin'


Bogolu Haranath's picture

Most of the old car engines didn't have fuel injection or multi-valves ......Most of them were less fuel efficient ........ Most of the modern engines and automobiles have all those qualities :-) ........

tonykaz's picture

Today's SOTA High Performance Cars feature Electric Motors at each wheel ( like Active Loudspeakers ), have intense, butter smooth power to infinity and are SOLAR Powered. ( they even drive themselves )

Just Say'n,

Tony in Venice

JHL's picture

the ancient Western Electric tube amps - the very costly ones leased to commercial theaters - while technically bandwidth-limited by modern standards, may have nearly everything beat in terms of sheer grainless, immediate, insightful musicality. That happens when the entire circuit is iron and triode. They're also nearly immortal, speaking of value, and their collector worth is both purposeful and resolute.

We miss a lot when we assume a thing is automatically passe. The Bugatti Type 47 Grand Sport's 16 cylinder from 90 years ago is still high art and will be forever.

Connectedness of sound is the most important term in high end audio. It's also the rarest.

tonykaz's picture

Nice point about those Western Electric Amps. I've never owned one but I did take a Dynaco ST35 in trade that was very good sounding but looked rather rough. I sold it to Dave Wasserman for only a small few Dollars ( to my unrelenting regret ).

Bugatti only ever made outstanding Art pieces. What a Great Brand!!

Tony in Venice

JHL's picture

To be sure the WE and small Dynas are wide apart because the former are so over-built. The latter is also a tiny pentode.

As a testament to the enduring legacy of the WE, some modern variants keep the overall architecture but add back the bandwidth and control. State of their art: