NY Audio Show 2014: The Vintage Seminar

The Brooklyn show offered a full program of seminars throughout the weekend, and one of the best-attended was "The Virtues of Vintage," which took place late Saturday afternoon. Chaired by Stereophile's Art Dudley (far left), a panel of expert anachrophiles comprising (L–R) Steve Rowell (Audio Classics), Mike Trei (Sound & Vision), Jonathan Halpern (Tone Imports), Joe Roberts (Silbatone and once Sound Practices) and Herb Reichert (Stereophile) started off by examining what great components from audio's past had to offer.

The discussion rapidly diverted into what was fueling the current revival of the LP, with Herb Reichert (right) offering what his re-immersion into vinyl had to offer, echoing the thoughts he expressed in "Gramophone Dreams" in the current issue of Stereophile.

Mike Trei (left), who is one of the New York region's top turntable-set-up people, made the point that classic turntables like Linn's LP12 can perform today as well as they did when new, while "modern" products, such as Linn's own CD12 CD player can no longer be fixed when supplies of an essential part, like the transport mechanism, dry up. Steve Rowell reassured everyone that most products from Audio's Golden Age could be restored to top performance, though he warned that technicians with the necessary skill and knowledge didn't come cheap.

Joe Roberts (left) enthusiastically agreed, pointing out that FM tuners from the 1970s and before can still be maintained and are even a bargain when you consider that a top-rated model like the Yamaha CT-7000 can be found on eBay for cents on the dollar. But more recent tuners tend to depend on custom large-scale integrated circuits that can't be replaced when they fail. When the discussion turned to loudspeakers, Joe also got the biggest laugh from the all-male audience when he responded to a question about the advantages of horn speakers that "chicks go for horns."

The show's seminar organizer, Ken Furst (right) offered some thoughts not only on vintage components but also on the role of equipment reviews, based on his experiences representing Denon in the USA in the 1980s and '90s. He reassured showgoers who are fans of the vintage Denon DL-103 moving-coil phono cartridge that he had been told by his erstwhile colleagues in Japan that they have sufficient parts on hand for another 6–7 years of production.

Art Dudley's final question to the panel was "what component will you grab when you find out your house in on fire?" The consensus among the panelist was that it would be their Garrard 301, a great turntable that has been out of production for more than 40 years. Truly vintage!

tonykaz's picture

Oh-my , a bit off Topic . Oh well , still I didn't even know Garrard had a 301-probably most people would be throwing it into the fire and calling their State Farm Agent with a Claim ( smiling ) !
My trip to NY got rescheduled , so I couldn't attend , I wanted to see who these "clinging-to-turntable" people are , I imagine they're the same people that collect 1961 Chevys ( which are also expensive to maintain ) . A Furniture restorer and reseller tells me that people collect everything , he runs into them everywhere , he even encountered a Yo-Yo collector the other day .
Enough said , NY has a Vintage Audio Collector Group and all hundred of them or so have a nice Hotel where they meet once in a while . Mr.Dudley has risen to Guru Level along with a few technical assistants . The remnants of the High-End world are taking time to talk about the old stuff like the Linn LP12 ( I sold hundreds of these back in the early 1980s - they never break - and Linn still supports and in fact makes these things - thank you Ivor T. )
Very Nice for all of you .
I'm older than the people I see in the Photos , probably .
I sold , imported , manufactured this stuff from the 1960s , 4 Decades more or less , Dave Wasserman of Stereo Exchange has had everything I've represented on his used shelves , I never wondered where this old stuff was going , only that Dave would buy it for some reason , I guess that I now know the reason .
Thank you for showing your version of the "Antiques Road Show" .
Tony in Michigan
ps. I wonder if we'll be having vintage iPhone shows 50 years from now ?

dalethorn's picture

According to a recent Stereophile article, vinyl playback has a genuine technical advantage over digital. It originates with the stylus generating a voltage from its physical interaction with the record grooves. All other playback methods create their initial voltage purely electronically.

Steve Eddy's picture

I can't say I see the advantage of a mechanical system over an electronic system.

And of course unless you're recording purely acoustically, with vinyl you're going from mechanical (the microphone diaphragm) to electrical, to magnetic (tape), to electrical, to mechanical (cutter head). What's the advantage of all those conversions?


JROB's picture

For one thing, a state change seems to be required for storage. I can't think of any purely electrical archival system and have a hard time imagining one.

Sure a live mic feed would be cool but somewhat impractical. For that matter, one could skip all technological conversions and listen live. Otherwise, a mechanical/physical intervention is the price paid for rescuing music from the fleeting historical conditions of the creative moment.

thom_osburn's picture

All sound like you have not given any thought to analog or LP playback before reading this short article.

There's a lot of vintage gear out there that is an analog front end, yet isn't a turntable.

I handle at least 2 turntables every day. I have a Saturday hobby-job where I price and clean records for a friend in his hi-fi store. Analog, and specifically the lp, are not going away.

The thing I always tell the analog-curious I meet who are under the age of 25 is that the bargains out there for a novice assembling a good first-stereo is that there are a ton of options and (without reading old hi-fi mags) that a good start is to hit a thrift store and look at the components. People retire or die and their quality early-70s gear is there for the very lucky who trip over these 20lb amps and turntables. "If it weighs nothing, throw it back" is my simple advice.

Tesla one's picture

When the discussion turned to loudspeakers, Joe also got the biggest laugh from the all-male audience when he responded to a question about the advantages of horn speakers that "chicks go for horns."

Having not attended named seminar and heard the whole of inputs on vintage horn speakers, I'd still say the above is about the level of seriousness to be had from Stereophile as well (past and present) - were it not for Mr. Dudley's coverage and reviews, which are naturally appreciated (apart from the disagreements here and there) - by virtue in this case of it being the only (printed) comment on the matter.

It would be interesting to learn whether other categories of vintage audio equipment, other than turntables, were regarded as sonically worthwhile revivals in the seminar - horn speakers, anyone..?

JROB's picture

I mentioned that I demonstrated a Western Electric snail horn system from 1926 at this years Munich HighEnd Show. This was the FIRST arguably high fidelity speaker and this stone age implement not only earned the majority of "Best in Show" reports but the music it produced made numerous people cry in ecstasy! This was a profound experience for me and a telling indictment of conventional notions of technological progress.

This seminar was a friendly, rambling, enjoyable chat. We went overtime and could have continued for the rest of the night. Great to hang out with our new and old friends...and chicks may dig horns but none showed up at this event! ;op

corrective_unconscious's picture

I thought "vintage" was a reference to the type of audio gear, but now I see that "vintage" refers to the participants....

JROB's picture

The age of the participants was a matter of discussion also. We, mostly old heads it's true, decided that most of the kids were somewhere listening to their phones.

However, it was recognized that some relative young 'uns are eager participants in the vinyl revival, a long-semi-dormant technology from their grandparents' generation.