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The Beatnik asks what vintage gear would cost today

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EH Scott Quaranta Radio

So often, people talk like vintage audio equipment in today’s market was more for the average Joe than it is, but there has always been a market for very expensive audio equipment. For example, let’s start with the E.H. Scott company, not to be confused with H.H. Scott stereos. From 1924 to 1945, Earnest Humphrey Scott designed and built some of the world’s finest radios, many of which, although nearly three quarter of a century old, are still treasured by their original owners.

One of their best known radios was the 57-tube EH Scott Quaranta Radio. It used an 18-inch woofer, two 12-inch midrange and three tweeters. Pictured here is one in a modern cabinet that allows you to see the drivers. Also pictured is a Quaranta in an Art Deco Cabinet.

EH Scott Quaranta Art Deco cabinet

Maybe the most impressive part was the tube tuner pictured here. It has to be the most elaborate and biggest radio ensembles ever designed and built. Depending on finish, the Quarantas cost around $5,000 in 1937 which would be $84,000 in today’s money. Let me remind you: That was for a mono AM and shortwave radio.

EH-Scott-Quaranta-Art-Deco2

Well, let’s slip forward to the early time of stereo, where vacuum tube amps were the only choice, and low-power ones at that. So, speakers were large and very efficient. In the mono era, you only needed one speaker and although large, it could be put in the corner of the room and people could sit around it and listen together.

So in 1957, JBL introduced a one-cabinet stereo speaker known as the JBL Paragon. It had an introductory price of $1,830 which would today be $15,700.

JBL Paragon

I have only had a little time listening to the Paragon being driven by vintage tube McIntosh equipment. The sound had beautiful tonal color and was very dynamic, but it was overly warm and lacked in midrange detail. It also had a bit of a cupped hand coloration and it had little to no soundstage width, depth or height. Still, it was a fun system to listen to. Admittedly, there are many speakers today that costs ten times that much but there are also speakers like the DeVore Orangutan 0/93 which will significantly better the Paragon in almost every way for considerable less money.

A vintage speaker that held the test of time was the original Quad ESL released in 1957 for 57 GBP each. The pound was worth $2.79 in 1957 so that would make them around $300 a pair in US dollar in 1957. Adjust them for inflation and that would be approximately $2,500 a pair.

Quad-english Quad-french

Above are two advertisement photos for the Quads; one is an English advertisement and the other is for a French advertisement. I bet you can guess which is which. These are the speakers I owned in college and several years afterwards. In my March Beatnik column, The Beatnik on Wayne Picquet’s Restored Quad ESL 57, I wrote about these classic speakers. Without a doubt it would be wonderful if you could buy a pair today for $2,500. There is surely nothing at even three times that price nearly as good.

When Quad introduce the Quad ESL speaker in 1957, they said the only amp to use with them was the Quad II. Like classic tube amps from Marantz and McIntosh, the Quad II has also held the test of time in both design and sound. It is a class-A, push-pull mono amp with only two active stages. It puts out 15 watts per channel and uses a pair of KT66 output tubes. I’ve been lucky enough to have both an original pair and a pair of the Qaud II Classic reissues that were brought out about 10 years ago.

Quad II

In 1958, a pair of these great would cost you $459 and in today’s money that would be about $3,800, which makes the price of the Quad Classic that came out at $2,700 for a pair seem like a real deal. For small scale music, these amps sound very right, but when you go to big band, full orchestras or rock they come up a little short. They also lack the openness, transparency and texture of some modern designs.

Well, that leaves us with turntables. I have written enough about Garrard 301s that you all know how much I like them, and few modern tables are as good as a well implemented 301. Problem was most of the ones I heard in my late teens were in such poor plinths that they seemed to have a problem with rumble and vibration. I now know better, this is an incredible turntable.

Garrard 301

A Garrard 301 without plinth or arm was $150, so about $750 today. Man oh man, if you could still buy a new one for that price there would be no need for any other tables between $2,000 and $15,000. For most, no need of any other table.

I would like to close by mentioning the price of LPs. In 1959, an Audio Fidelity 12-inch long play Stereodisc, as they called LPs, was $6.95 which would be $57 today. That same year a London ffss 12-inch long play stereo LP was $5.98, which would be $49. Lastly, in 1959 50 anti static, dust proof record sleeves sold for $5.50 which today would be $41.00. Makes LPs and record sleeves not seem so expensive today, doesn’t it? I know LPs got cheaper before they got more expensive again, but the quality went down as well. Anyway, I’ve gone on about this subject for long enough, keep boppin’ along until next month.

 

Turntables

Empire 598 1974 $350 = $1,800 in 2015

Empire 208 in 1962 was $222 now would be $1,750

Dual 701 1974 $350 = $1,800 in 2015

Garrard 301 without plinth or arm was $150 today $750

ESL tonearm and stereo cartridge $850

Thorens TD-124 would be $850 without plinth or arm

AR 1975 $89 = $488

 

RR Tape Players

1962 a Tandberg 6-44 4 track stereo was $500 which would be $3,900

 

Cartridges

Audio Technica Model AT2OSL in 1974 was $150.00 today that would be $770

Empire 1000ZE/X was $100 that would be $508

Grado Laboratory Stereo was $50 in 1962 which would be about $395 today

Shure V-15 III was $75.00 that would be $382

 

Amps

Pair of Marantz Model Nines in 1962 was $650 and today would be $5,100

Pair of Quad IIs in 1958 would cost you $459, would cost you about $3800 today

Pair of Marantz Model 2 amps in 1958 would cost you $400, today would cost you about today $3,300

Fisher 500B FM Reciever 30 watts per channel was $385 in 1962 which would be a little over $3,000

Harmon Kardon’s Citation II was $230 in 1960 which would now be about $1,850

 

Preamps

Marantz Model 7 was $265 would now be $2,100

Fisher 400 in 1958 was $200 would be $1,015

Dyankit Pass-2 kit was $60 in 1960 today that would be $480

 

Speakers

The one cabinet stereo speaker the JBL Paragon was released in 1957 at an introductory price of $1,830 which would today be $15,700

Magnepan Tympani III in 1979 would cost your $3,900 which would be $13,500 today

Altec 832A Corona Speaker a pair in 1958 would cost you $850, now they would be $7,900

AR LST were $600 would be $3,050

AR 3as were $270 would be $1,375

Jensen TP-250 TRI-PLEX II3-WAY SYSTEM for a pair in 1958 were $590, that would be $4,900

1959 Audio Fidelity 12 inch long play Stereodisc was 6.95 which would be $57.00 today

1959 London ffss 12 inch long play stere LP was 5.98 which would be $49.00

1959 50 anti static, dust proof record sleeves for $5.50 today would be $41.00

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6 Responses to The Beatnik asks what vintage gear would cost today


  1. Bob says:

    That is NOT a ‘French’ ad for Quads. That is a stock Quad pic with another pic pasted on.

    And my God, if you could buy new 57’s for $2500….. every other speaker company would go broke.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Well, I pretty much agree with you about the Quads, but there are people who want more volume, more bass and less beaming. Still there would be nothing that could touch them in my mind either without spending 5 times as much and maybe not even then.

      In regard to the picture, yes it’s a stock picture with the girl put on it. Still, I found it in two different French articles about the Quads. Maybe not a French ad, maybe so, but for sure it was used that way in the French audio press.

  2. Marc Stevens says:

    A very interesting article. Certainly in the UK, though, these things are not so easy to quantify. Yes, you can apply an inflation factor to the price, so that something that cost £100 in 1950 would now be £3000. But then you find that in 1950 the average income in the UK was actually around £400, so as a proportion of the average wage the price would now be over £6000. So two things have happened: prices in GBP for like-for-like goods have increased over time, but salaries have increased far more.

  3. Mike says:

    Exactly!
    My friend who bought a McIntosh 225 for $250 back in the sixties made about $3/hr.
    It’s all relative to a point.
    It’s not that stuff is so expensive but that money is worth so much less.
    Trouble is that for for most people wages do not reflect the same delta.
    I made $12 an hour in 1980, $15 an hour in 1990 and that is roughly what a guy doing the same job would be making today yet each of those dollars is worth half as much.

    • Jack Roberts says:

      Well, guys this wasn’t supposed to be an economic commentary, but a fun piece to just make us think. I had fun writing it. By the way the whole question of income is much more complicated than I can deal with.

      • Jack Roberts says:

        By the way I looked up the medium household income in 1954, the year I was born and 2013. In 1954 it was $4,164 annually. In 2013 it was $52,250. Again this is just to think about not any kind of economic study.

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