Imperfect Sound Forever

Last year, an audio dealer named Gordon Sauck called to get my permission to use a 1997 article of mine on his website. As I chatted with him, I realized there was a huge emerging trend to which I and most of the other guys who write about audio have been largely oblivious.

Sauck's Vancouver, BC-area store, Innovative Audio, focuses exclusively on vintage audio equipment. Now, I knew there were guys out there with a fetish for old Marantz and McIntosh tube gear, but I didn't think they'd be enough to support a business. According to Sauck, though, most of his customers are looking for the mainstream gear from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. "They're interested in the classic powerhouse receivers from back then, and in big speakers. And reel-to-reel tape decks. And even cassette and 8-track."

In other words, the kind of gear I've seen people discarding or selling off at garage sales for barely enough money to buy a six-pack of Newcastle.

A quick check of eBay and Google showed me Sauck was right, that there was a lot of interest in vintage audio gear. "But why would people be interested in all that outmoded stuff?" I asked him.

"That's the thing," Sauck replied. "They don't want all those new features because they make the equipment too complicated. People want to walk up to a piece of gear, see the function they want, and flip a switch or press a button to make it work.

"Vintage equipment is built to last, too," he continued. "The products in my store have been working for 20, 30, 40 years. That's probably not going to happen with home theater gear. The manufacturers know you'll be replacing a new receiver in three to five years to get the latest technology, so why should they build them to last?" (You can read more of Sauck's comments about vintage gear in this interview I conducted with him.)

"Yeah, but how does that old stuff sound?" I asked.

"Why don't you come hear it for yourself?" he countered.