I fancy getting into vintage hi-fi (late '60's/early 70's) and would like to know what the best stuff to get would be. I need a turntable (and classic cartridge), amp (valve preferably) and speakers. May also invest in an 8-track!
Definitely look out for the Garrard 301 - the 401 was less well regarded. In Thorens, either the TD 150 or their flagship of that era, the TD 125. If you can pick up one with an older SME arm and a Shure V15 cartridge, you're really cooking! These are rarely for sale and are often only available when some poor old enthuisast dies. When they do and have been well looked after, they attract fairly high prices, especially over here.
Well, I really love the idea of a high end 50's set up, but the prices of gear from that era are astronomical . I see the late 60's early 70's period as being the classic period in hi-fi with some bargains still to be had.
I have to say that with standard cone drivered speakers that the 60/70's seem to be a time when engineering was amazing and the build quality very high.
Turntables of that era also appear to be very well engineered.
I have personal reservations of the age of electronics - so when it comes to Electrostatic speakers factor in that most will need work - If they dont thats good, but at that age a service is well worth doing.
Electronics in valve amps - though most are basic - and thats the good part of the design, transformers can start to buzz as the core leafs separate, capacitors dry out. I sold all my valve amps some time ago - I will consider valve again but NOT the new imported rubbish !!! the old stuff is still made the best.
For speakers I am still looking for a pair of B&W DM70, I feel those might give my Tannoys a run for the money - But I have never heard them side by side - To date all pairs I have seen/heard have been in need of serious repair mainly to the electrostatic section and the usual bass rubber.
Sansui equipment of this era is often mentioned - ever seen the older range of speakers !!! they are serious furniture.
Early Acoustic Research Cambridge speaker AR series are very good - again these usually need a refurb on the rubber edge - I do this work so thats not bother for me .
What I would say is be VERY careful of people who have done the refoam work themselves - usually you can tell as the g
lue line is all over the place, the driver ends up off center and to be honest a decent speaker ruined. I prefer to buy with damaged edge and rework correctly.
UK built stuff by bill beard is well made - I have worked on four beard units (pre and power)
Are you looking to stay with UK designed / built items ???
Unfortunately, Quad are no longer able to service the ESL-57, so you'd be relying on some form of third party refurbishing rather than original parts. There is a shop here in Zürich who sells refurbished ESL-57s.
Quad can service the ESL-63, including new panels, but despite the model number, it was first released slightly later than the period in question.
I ran a Sansui AU-417 and TU-417 for over 25 years; for the second half of their life the AU-417 drove my ESL-63s. Both Sansui's have now been discarded: they had reached the end of their useful life. I still have the ESL-63s.
For amps check out stuff from Rogers (eg Cadet 3), Quad (II or 303), Leak and Sugden (A21). For speakers, early Rogers BBC monitors, Kef, Leak Sandwich and B&W are all good. Decks wise, Garrard 301, Thorens and Systemdeck's were all good. Also get yourself a tuner too, there's some nice ones from this era (eg Leak Troughline).
Early Jap gear from '70s can be good too.
In our study I've got a Leak Delta 30 and Tuner, hooked up to some B&W DM110's. Quite a nice setup. Also picked up a Rogers Cadet 3 off freecycle, but haven't had chance/money to get it serviced ready for use again. Remember, early valve gear that's been in storage for a long while can be damaged by just plugging straight into mains again. Often it needs to be powered up bit by bit at low voltage and slowly brought up to normal voltage. Also old capacitors can explode badly if they've deteriorated. Eitherway go carefully and get a pro in if unsure.
HiFi World last month had a good round up of the best classic gear from yester-year. Might be worth hunting down.
Lowther's might be an interesting way to go. Very dynamic, although they have little real stereo seperation until you are bang on the axis. Couple with a nice tube amp (no idea what?) and it would sound amazing.
I heard a pair a friend had bought with the very rare driver a long time ago and have never managed to completely erase the dynamics of the speaker from my mind. The drums were so damned realistic it was almost magical, female voices seemed to be totally lifelike.
You would need a lot of research to get the right set up, but with a pair of glowing valve monoblocks and a 301 you would be in vintage land and still have something that a lot of modern setups still have not managed.