What’s so cool about vintage gear?

Back in ’85, I accepted my first job for a consumer hi-fi equipment manufacturer called a/d/s/, based out of Wilmington, MA. My first position was that of Product Specialist for their Pro-Audio division, DeltaLab, who made digital time delays for live sound, commercial installation and recording studios. Back then, we were known for developing some of the first products in the new “digital era” that successfully combined good sound with low cost to these markets. The ability to have full bandwidth at maximum delay times was unheard of. Our chief competitors, like Lexicon, Roland and others, were amazed at our technical achievements, given our price point. But like so many other companies, we realized that our customer’s needs and the market had changed, so we quietly faded into the pro-audio graveyard with little to look back on.

As time passed and technology raced toward new platforms and products, the old gear just had no more obvious practical applications for the market. Sure, you’d see the blue face of a DeltaLab EffectronEffectron in a recording studio or live sound effects rack, but who really used them. Let’s face it, technology seems to change every few days and we all want the latest and greatest toys. Frankly, who wants that old Charlie-in-a-box when they just introduced the new Jack-in-the-box? eBay became filled with listings of old gear from users trying to recoup some of their investment in this once new state-of-the-art equipment.

A few years ago while providing sound services at a local summer festival, a sound engineer came to the front of house tent and saw my effects rack where I still had (and still used) my Deltalab Effectron (model ADM1024). Within seconds, he was asking if I wanted to sell it. I paid no attention to his request and finished my work. The next week he calls and again asks if I would want to part with my Effectron and made me an offer. While I didn’t sell it and still have it, I wondered why he was so motivated. He said that “these old units are so fast and easy to operate”. He then went on to explain that while the sound of these old units may not be as good as many of the current products on the market, the operational ease of use clearly outweighed its sonic shortcomings. Hmmmm… I thought. Do I have a piece of gold here worth lots of money? Turns out not really, but it does have value. What is garbage to one person may be gold to another.

For years, guitarists have all tried in vain to find that old vintage Telecaster or Les Paul from the 50’s. Many recording studios have again begun to build control rooms loaded with older (often rebuilt) mixing consoles, outboard gear and tape machines. What?  No Pro-Tools, computer based recording equipment or analog-to-digital converters that allow an artist to cut and paste their way to a hit record? Are we going backwards? Likely not. But the point here is that newer isn’t always better. Maybe the old adage “less is more” truly does apply to the pro-audio world.

Vintage guitars, amplifiers, recorders, processors and even the old modular synths are again the choice of many who want that great warm sound and ease of use or the ability to interconnect this old gear together to create a new platform or sound. Go check out Reverb.com, Craigslist or eBay Analog Tape Recorderand see the vast amount of vintage gear available at decent prices that can be easily implemented into your rig or studio. The used market has flourished with users who like that old sound and search for vintage gear or they have no desire to learn software that replicates the original piece. Tube or solid state designs, it doesn’t really matter. The usable value of these products is worth considering.


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