A sampling of tube amplifier prices from the October 1993 Stereophile Recommended Components list:
Air Tight ATM-2 $6995
Yes, the price of admission to the world of euphonic, liquid midrange is plainly exorbitant. Handcrafting, limited production, and hype all work to drive the price of new tube equipment ever higher. But what about used gear? There was some great stuff produced in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Luckily, a fair amount of this vintage gear still exists, and guess what — most of it goes for less than three grand a piece! Some representative vintage amp prices I have come across lately:
Harmon Kardon Citation II $650
And these are dealer retail prices. A little patience and determination may turn up prices far lower than this.
OK, you say, I bought an amp. But wait a minute, you say, there's old capacitors in there, I don't have a tube tester, and I don't know how a HF 89 should sound.
That's what VALVE is all about. I've been playing with audio gear since I was 15. I still have the Ampex tuner, amp and preamp that a dear friend let me use to find out about high fidelity back then. Since then I've met many people interested in vintage gear, be it vacuum or solid-state. I've bought, bartered, borrowed, built and befriended, but I never found the venue for information exchange that the antique radio clubs and new equipment-oriented audiophile clubs had.
So here's an attempt to get all of us vintage audio collectors, users, hackers, scratch builders, and B.S.'ers some sort of organization. Any club needs some basic components to work. First is a place to meet. I am happy to volunteer my shop as a starting point. This year I plan to convert a 12 x 20 foot garage next to the workshop into a LEDE (live-end dead-end) listening room / showroom. It should be able to hold a dozen or more people for starters. So we just need a president to preside at the meetings.
I now have a photocopy machine arid desktop publishing equipment for production of a newsletter. So we just need an editor and stamps. I have software for tracking names and addresses of members, so we just need a membership chairman. I would be happy to coordinate the assemblage of loaner test equipment for member use, so we just need volunteers to give presentations on repair and mods. I have also begun to build a reference library of schematics, tube manuals, magazines and texts, which could be used and augmented by members, so we just need a librarian.
A lot of you folks out there have experience with these types of positions, so be prepared for a phone call from me leaning on you to volunteer (hint - unless I hear from you first). If we get enough membership we could do some righteous equipment comparisons using member units. Sharing homebrew construction projects and experiences would be another great area to explore.
This doesn't have to be a ‘tubes only' club either. I would enjoy talking vintage 78s, building speakers to match amps, matching solid-state components to tube components within a system, and I know you have some interesting ideas too.
Oh yeah, solid-state is vintage now too. And hey, if you think
old tube gear is a good deal, people are practically giving away excellent solid-stale gear from the
70's and early 80's. I guess they figure it don't sound good if it ain't painted
Dan was owner of Classic Radio of Liberty Bay, specializing in restoration and custom modification of antique radios and vintage audio equipment. Fast forward a few years and now Dan is responsible (some say guilty of) the Vacuum Tube State of the Art Conference (VSAC) and is the Head Bottle of Bottlehead. His company has a longstanding reputation in offering excellent kits and parts. Such kits may also be offered pre-assembled and include the S.E.X. integrated/headphone amplifier, Seduction phono stage, the Foreplay III linestage and other goodies.
As an extension to his company, Dan published a magazine called Valve that features many DIY projects, tweak article and think pieces. Here on Enjoy the Music.com we will feature one new article each month that will be of great to various audio enthusiasts. As the VALVE namesake heralds, this is for Vintage Audio And Valve Enthusiasts.