Sound Advice: Give vintage stereo a second chance


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Question: In a recent article, you touched upon four of the best brands of vintage stereo gear (NAD/Adcom/Rotel/Harman Kardon). I would value your opinion on other vintage gear to look for.

LAWRENCE HOFFER

Franklin, Wisc.

Answer: My top vintage gear recommendation is Ohm Walsh speakers from Ohm Acoustics. I own five pairs of Ohm Walsh speakers, and love them all.

These speakers use a unique, patented driver that reproduces almost 100 percent of the audible range with a single driver. Walsh speakers combine the best qualities of exotic flat panel speakers (incredible transparency and detail, with a convincing 3-D soundfield) and conventional speakers (solid bass, high power handling and durability and wide dynamic range).

The Walsh speakers go above and beyond these good qualities by allowing you to experience the 3-D soundfield from almost anywhere in the listening room. You get spacious sound with good 3-D imaging. In most speakers these are mutually exclusive qualities, but the Ohms manage to get them both right.

I recently conducted a test putting my 25-year-old Ohm Walsh 1 speakers against a pair of new $1,500 tower speakers from a top-rank manufacturer. In 1986, my Walsh 1s retailed for $599.

Though the towers had stronger bass, everyone preferred the sound and experience of listening to the Walsh 1s. When a powered sub was added, the Ohms came out ahead 100 percent of the time. The Walsh sound is natural, listenable, beautiful and real.

The Ohm Walsh 1 and Walsh 2 can be found online on eBay and Craigslist for less than $300 per pair. The bigger Walsh 3 and Walsh 4 typically sell for less than $600 per pair. Most of the Walsh 1 and Walsh 2 speakers will need new grill caps, but Ohm Acoustics supports every speaker they have ever sold since 1973. You can contact them to get new ones if you need them.

If you buy older Walsh speakers, please note that they need a lot of power. A good modern amplifier for them is the $360 Harman/Kardon HK3490 receiver, though if you get the Walsh 3 or Walsh 4 speakers you would be better off with a used power amp of 100 watts per channel or more from NAD, Adcom or Rotel. A new amp from Emotiva would be a good choice as well; www.emotiva.com.

Ohm Acoustics is still in business, supporting older Ohm speakers with parts and upgrades as well as selling new Walsh speakers, which are even better than the older ones.

New Walsh models are available from $1,200 per pair. If you want a superior sound system, I highly recommend them. All Ohm Walsh speakers are handmade to order in the USA, with hundreds of wood finishes available; www.ohmspeaker.com.

You already mentioned my favorite vintage electronics companies for amplification. Some other standout vintage classics are the Onkyo T-9090 FM tuner, amplification from BK, Celestion DL8 and SL6 bookshelf speakers, and the Conrad-Johnson PV7 tube preamplifier.

No list would be complete without mentioning the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable. Depending on year and features, they sell for $1,000 to $2,000 on the used market, though a brand-new version with all the enhancements can run around $30,000. Owning a Sondek can be akin to owning a Ferrari with the finicky setup and maintenance, so be sure to have a support staff lined up if you buy one.


Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.

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