When the phrase “vintage Hi-Fi” is used, many people remember shabby speakers, gramophones, and other collectibles that have very little to do with good sound. However, in the twentieth century, many components came out that not only laid down the standards of equipment for years to come, but also became truly iconic. The sound of this technique is fascinating, and the cost is only growing – so, even from the position of investment, the acquisition is profitable. It is such pearls that we will now study – meet twelve examples of the legendary vintage.
- Nakamichi DRAGON Cassette Deck
- Studer A810 Tape Recorder
- TEAC F-1 Tape recorder
- Stellavox PRO TD9 Tape recorder
- Studer A820 Tape recorder
- Nakamichi TX-1000 Turntable
- Micro Seiki SX-8000 II Turntable
- Yamaha GT-CD1 CD Player
- Sansui G-22000 Receiver
- Yamaha MX-10000 Power Amplifier
- Onkyo GS-1 Grand Scepter Speakers
- Yamaha GF-1 speaker systems
The culmination of the development of the Nakamichi cassette decks – and arguably the finest machine ever made in the field. DRAGON turned out to be smaller than the famous Nakamichi 1000ZXL, it cost a lot – but not prohibitively expensive (just under two thousand dollars at the time of release in 1982) and offered the ultimate quality. The revolutionary NAAC (Nakamichi Auto Azimuth Correction) technology, five engines (including the Quartz PLL DC BSL Hall) – all this ensured both the love of the public and mass production until the very end of the era of compact cassettes. Frequency response – even better than that of a CD (20 to 22,000 Hz), a signal-to-noise ratio of 74 dB with Dolby C – a real hunt is underway for this device in good condition, and Nakamichi DRAGON is becoming more expensive day by day.
Today, it is the Studer A810 that is the recognized standard for high-end home installations: so no wonder the prices for the devices have skyrocketed. Bobinnik was developed for small recording studios and was produced from 1982 to 1990 and guaranteed stunning playback quality. The modular design ensures ease of maintenance, and the servo-controlled model with a microprocessor-controlled quartz module ensures exceptionally gentle belt handling. The device keeps speeds up to 76 cm/s, the frequency response has from 40 to 22,000 Hz – everything is fine here.
TEAC F-1 was produced in 1976 – 1979, today the tape recorder is one of the rarest and most desirable for collectors (at the time of release, the model was offered for an incredible 800,000 yen). The device boasts a complete set – quartz speed control, servo drive, precision transport mechanism with durable polyurethane rollers, body with stiffening ribs on a molded base. A true engineering masterpiece.
In the mid-eighties of the twentieth century, it was the most expensive reel-to-reel – the price reached $40,000. Now, if you are lucky enough to find a model for $10,000, and for this money it is just a gift. For example, a refurbished device from Sepea Audio will cost from 30,000 euros. Stellavox PRO TD9 is most of all similar to a Swiss mechanical watch – its device cannot cause any complaints, and the modular design principle allows all kinds of upgrades. The sound quality is cosmic.
The top of the pyramid. This reel-to-reel tape recorder cannot be found even for $30,000 – $40,000. Triumph of thought, the final point when choosing a reel. The model’s tape-drive mechanism, mounted in a huge table-like body, ensures extremely gentle handling of the tape. The number of applied technological developments is enormous – from photoelectric sensors to a microprocessor that even determines the moment of inertia of the coil! The 91kg mastodon sounds exquisite and natural, and its dynamics can impress even the most discerning audiophile.
Unfortunately, nothing of the kind is being done in the 21st century. The last (number 1 298) “computerized” turntable Nakamichi TX-1000 was released in 1995, since then no one has dared to recreate the system for finding the absolute center of the plate (for the Nakamichi TX-1000, the mechanism worked on the basis of a laser scanner and an offset two platter). But the center error affects the sound much more than the minimum movement speed error. So, this turntable remains a monument to the era when developers could invest tens of millions in R’n’D – and, of course, it is worth its weight in gold (the price now rarely drops below $50,000). The unit uses a Quartz PLL direct drive with a Pressure Regulation Chamber oil bearing and a spindle machined to 1/100µ.
Another mastodon who survived in the series (albeit in a limited edition) until the beginning of the 21st century. Unrealistic 1,668,000 yen at the start, enchanting sound with a stunning scale – nowadays the device is rarely seen on sale for tens of thousands of dollars, and the price tag is only growing. The device is unique both in terms of its weight (134kg) and in terms of the applied technological innovations – an air suspension of the supporting disk is used, and the stainless steel of the platter allows the development of a moment of inertia of 3.5 t/cm2.
Years of manufacture 1984 – 2000
The Yamaha GT-CD1 was produced between 1991 and 1994 and quickly gained cult status. In the 21st century, many owners of CD collections hunt for the device – the device sounds exquisite and noble. The DAC is very original – a couple of one-bit chips are supplemented by two more correction modules, then a 20-bit digital filter is installed. The result is impressive – 22-bit resolution, 8 fs jitter. The giant, weighing 24 kg, guarantees a signal-to-noise ratio of 120 dB, and its capacitor block (48,000 µF) will be the envy of an ordinary amplifier.
The era of legendary receivers ended in the early eighties of the twentieth century – but the Sansui G-22000 pleases fans to this day. This stereophonic “receiver-monster” (weight – 42.1kg!) At the time of the start of sales in 1978 cost $1,400, by 1980 the price reached $1,800. Sansui G-22000 is a true High End, its sound guarantees brilliance, power, texture and drive. Armor-piercing design – output power 2x220W into 8 ohms, frequency response from 5 to 50,000 Hz, distortion – 0.009%.
Ultra High End of the eighties, the muscles of which are enough to lay on the shoulder blades of many modern rivals. The Yamaha MX-10000 operates in class A – a 1.2 kV power transformer, six pairs of Sanken transistors (2SA1216 / 2SC2922) and four more pairs of Toshiba transistors (2SJ123 / 2SK442) are responsible for an output power of 1,000 watts per 1 ohm. The model has a revolutionary signal-to-noise ratio of 132 dB and sports a bandwidth from 2 to 300,000 Hz. These are the characteristics that modern developers are striving for – and Yamaha did it in 1986.
The Onkyo GS-1 Grand Scepter speaker, produced from 1984 to 1992, has had a huge impact on the development of the premium speaker market. Now the sound of speakers is in the price – it is very difficult to find speakers on sale, for such a scale and separation of images, many are ready to pay a tidy sum. Yes, and at the time of the release of the AU were, to put it mildly, not cheap – the price reached 1,100,000 yen. Well – the weight of 117 kg, the highest sensitivity of 100 dB and hyper-realistic sound required an investment.
In 1991, Yamaha wanted to put an end to the High End market – that’s how the GF-1 speakers appeared. Released in an extremely limited edition, the active system is now the “holy grail” for collectors, and at the time of release, their price was 5 million yen. The Yamaha GF-1 was equipped with 100 W power amplifiers with external power supplies, it was possible to complete the system with an extraordinary pre-amplifier (with a maximum output of 25 V and with a resistance of 0.012 Ohm), but the most important thing here is the speakers. The diaphragms of the tweeter and midrange driver are made of beryllium!