Rich Warren: Collectors spinning a profit with turntables

Rich Warren: Collectors spinning a profit with turntables

Cleaning out vintage audio components cluttering your basement or attic?

One reader expressed curiosity about whether old electronics retain any value.

"Do you have any idea of the second-hand value of a hi-fi system consisting of a Dynaco pre-amp, power-amp and FM tuner, kit-built and all tube, with a Thorens turntable and Shure SME arm, with 2 ARX speakers from 1968?"

If you practice carpentry, you could repurpose the speaker enclosures, which came wrapped in thick, real wood veneer in those days. Or use them for firewood.

Otherwise, the speakers are worthless. The tube electronics may fetch a few dollars from someone who values audio reproduction accomplished with vacuum tubes.

However, Dynaco never qualified as a premium brand. It was something of the Volkswagen for audio buffs during the 1960s.

If you owned Marantz or McIntosh tube electronics they would be valuable.

Your vinyl record playing gear might be a pot of gold. Assuming you've kept the Thorens spindle bearing lubricated and can obtain a new belt, a vinyl aficionado would snap it up.

Thorens made outstanding turntables, even its budget models. The SME tonearm (Shure imported them for a decade but had nothing to do with the design or manufacture) remains one of the best, assuming the bearings are not damaged.

Ironically, a decade ago this record playing gear might have been a modestly valued curiosity. Today, with the irrational resurgence of vinyl, quality gear from the past suddenly commands lofty prices.

Recently, a Chicago guitarist submitted an LP for my radio show. I offered to return it to him.

Regardless of any questionable advantages of analog vinyl versus digital, at all radio stations the audio chain goes through at least one and often multiple conversions from analog to digital to analog. This negates any sonic superiority from vinyl.

My radio station retains turntables for playing legacy LPs unavailable on CD. Our ultimate goal is to convert hundreds of our most rare and often played LPs to digital and store them in our server.

From a functional standpoint, LPs present a hassle for radio stations involving cueing and playing.

Many stations no longer even play actual CDs, having stored all their music on computer servers.

Hearing whether LPs sonically surpass CDs requires listening using expensive equipment comparable to that found in Geoff Poor's high-end audio room at Glenn Poor's Audio-Video in Old Farm Shops at Kirby and Mattis in Champaign.

Just as most LPs were cheaply pressed and poorly recorded back in the 1960s and 1970s, most CDs are poorly recorded and mastered today.

That does not automatically make CDs inferior to LPs. Conversely, LPs staging a comeback are carefully and lovingly mastered and pressed in small quantities on high-quality vinyl.

A lot of CDs pain my ears, but the fault is not that they are digital or from the CD standard.

In a couple of decades, the best CD players from the 1990s and audiophile CDs from the past 30 years once again will become precious. When everyone grows sick of listening to mid-fi music from "the cloud," CDs will once again become desirable and hip.

The "cloud" consists of vast buildings housing multitudes of computer servers composed of computer hard drives storing exabytes of data.

The cloud stores everything including music, photos, video and data for entire corporations and government, accessed via the Internet, whether wired, Wi-Fi or cellular smartphone.

The same reader wonders why Comcast dropped the WGN noon newscast from cable. Last year he lamented the loss of the 9 p.m. newscast.

Research revealed this was not Comcast's decision, but WGN's.

It repackages its cable/satellite programming for the maximum number of viewers by a national audience.

While Chicago-area ex-patriots and those of us in Illinois under the thumb of Chicago remain interested in local Chicago news, the rest of the national would rather watch "Funniest Home Videos."

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (3):Music, People, Technology

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