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Comparing old and new stereo in the house

Vintage audio equipment has a “old school cool” quality that makes it appealing to many people. The sheer beauty of earlier receiver and speaker designs, from the metal and wood receiver chassis with analog meters that come to life with your music to the two monolithic speakers that reproduce it, demands attention.

Older audio equipment, however, can’t be compared to newer models. Before we get into the comparison, let’s take a look at what made old receivers tick.

Audio gear from the golden era of the home stereo

When compared to modern amplifiers, vintage amplifiers are hefty. Owning one weighing fifty to one hundred pounds wasn’t unusual back in their prime. The huge transformers within were mostly responsible for the bulk of the extra mass. They allow for a larger system current to go through the amplifier and allow it to drive more demanding speakers.

Class A/B amplifiers, which were more efficient and cooler than their Class A counterparts, were often utilized in antique receivers.

A vintage amp’s power output is nothing to laugh at. As manufacturers competed to produce the most powerful amplifiers possible in the 1970s and 1980s “power wars,” the amps’ output power steadily increased. The Pioneer SX-1980 from 1978, for example, had a 270 watts per channel power output.

Last but not least, antique amplifiers were purposefully overbuilt. For most, if not all, of the amplifier’s internal parts, overbuilding assured enough longevity. Most amplifiers were hardwired and didn’t rely too much on circuit boards, making them more user-serviceable and inexpensive to repair if you had the knowledge to do so.

Speakers of the past

Like their amplifier cousins, vintage speakers were overbuilt. Internal resonances were kept from seeping out by thick wood cabinets. There are 12,” 15,” and 18″ bass drivers available in some models, along with three or four midranges and one or two tweeters. They were a great addition to any house, then and today, because to their distinctive driving configuration.

A set of hi-fi speakers

Even while older equipment has a “cool factor,” current amplifiers and speakers are superior in practically every way. Over the previous half-century, advances in capacitor, crossover network, transformer, driver material, and digital-to-analog conversion technologies have ushered in a new era of audio.

Integrated amplifiers and stereo receivers of the modern era

People are increasingly turning to multi-channel home theater receivers as a kind of “one-stop shop” for all of their audio demands in the last few years. They have a ton of functions and are really handy, after all (especially for larger speaker setups.)

But when it comes to listening to music in stereo, nothing matches a dedicated hi-fi system. This year has seen an increase in demand for high-end stereo equipment for audiophiles.

Due to advances in transformer technology and component circuitry, Class A/B amplifiers sound better than ever. With today’s amplifiers, you receive higher sound quality for a fraction of the price. For example, a 1980 Pioneer SX1980 with a THD rating of 0.03 percent would cost $5,450 to purchase. With a 0.019 percent THD rating, Yamaha’s A-S501 may be purchased for $549.

Modern Audio Devices

Many breakthroughs in driver technology and speaker construction have resulted from decades of research into sound and human hearing. Modern speakers include homogeneous driver layouts and dispersion patterns that may be precisely tuned. The extreme left and right corners of a cabinet no longer house midranges.

To prevent diffraction (distortion) and baffle reflections, the drivers are not recessed too far in to the cabinet, which is an important factor. As a result of improved cabinet sealing, contemporary speakers provide cleaner sound over the whole spectrum of frequencies.

Modern speakers use more efficient crossover networks and crossover points that make sense for the drivers connected to the speakers. Magnets, formers, and voice coils all work together more efficiently in the drivers, resulting in a more efficient motor construction. As a consequence, today’s drivers are more expressive, faster, and more detailed in their sound than ever before.

Using a mix of old and new parts

When it comes to reviving ancient equipment, it’s not unusual to combine new and old technology. Use an external DAC to increase the sound quality when connecting a CD player to a vintage receiver. It’s a good idea to start with something modest like Audioengine’s D1.

With the DacMagic 200M, you’ll get the best sound possible. There are better converter chips, cleaner circuitry, and even a powerful headphone amplifier section in this improved digital-to-analog converter.

A specialized stereo preamplifier may also be used in place of an external DAC. The Burr-Brown DAC chip in Parasound’s NewClassic 200 Pre is 24-bit, and there are lots of analog and digital inputs. Your older equipment won’t be harmed by its elegant, low-profile design.

An upgrade from that is the RC-1572MK II, which includes a better 32-bit D/A converter chip as well as balanced XLR inputs and outputs.

How to connect antique receivers to the internet for streaming

It’s conceivable that your ears have become used to the sound of old equipment if it’s still in good working order. Streaming gear like this Bluetooth adaptor from Audioengine, in my opinion, would bring it up to date.

It connects to any RCA input on your receiver and streams music to your stereo speakers. Bluetooth 5.0 provides crystal-clear communication and a wireless range of up to 100 feet, making it ideal for use in public places.

Network streamers like iFi’s ZenStream or BlueSound’s NODE may be a good option if you’re looking for a higher quality broadcast. Both are MQA-compliant, which means you can stream high-resolution music with ease. With their user-friendly interfaces, you’ll be able to start making music in no time at all.

Brands with a modern aesthetic yet a rich history

When it comes to getting better sound, there has never been a more convenient time to do it. Suppose you want the best of both worlds? Vintage design elements have been used in current products by several “legacy” businesses, as I like to call them; this gives you the right balance of traditional externals and contemporary inside features.

Some of the first integrated amplifiers that spring to mind are Yamaha’s A-S series stereo integrated amplifiers. Yamaha’s A-S3200 integrated amp is a top performer with a retro aesthetic. In a nod to the ancient days of stereo, its twin front-panel meters hark back to the days when you could see the meters dance along with your music.

Yamaha’s more cheap A-S701 and A-S801 models also use some of the company’s older design ideals.

There hasn’t been a major change in the look of McIntosh devices, from the famous blue power meters to the lighted front panel, and even to the dials. Despite the passage of time, their items’ classic design has proven to be timeless.

The MAC7200 is a powerful stereo receiver that can provide 200 watts of power to each of its two output channels. MA5300 integrated amplifier is a smaller option.

Modern reinterpretations of old-school speakers

In honor of Paul W. Klipsch’s unwavering dedication to sound, the Klipsch Heritage line was created. When the first Klipschorn model was produced in 1946, it ushered in a new era. 1957 saw the introduction of the first Heresy automobile model.

As a 3-speaker stereo array between two Klipschorn speakers, the Heresy was conceived. For the first time, a center channel speaker was made. However, the notion of home theater was still in its infancy at the time, thus it wasn’t referred to as a center channel.

The “Heresy” moniker was appropriate, as the speaker defied most of Paul W. Klipsch’s speaker and audio principles. It was a gamble worth taking, and it sold out in a matter of hours.

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