Vintage Stereo Receivers

In a world where digital sound is growing ever more popular, it's important not to underestimate the impact of vintage stereo equipment. A tube stereo receiver gives you that warm analogue sound that digital cannot match. Modern equipment has capabilities that its predecessors cannot provide, but the tone of a vintage receiver is something that's very difficult to duplicate with a solid-state unit. It's not a matter of pure quality, although some people think so, it's the way the sound resonates with the listener. A vintage stereo receiver drives two speakers, each with its own audio channel. While there has been a movement towards more and more audio channels, there will always be a place for stereo simply because humans have two ears.

What's the Difference Between Digital and Analogue Sound?

Perhaps the biggest difference between a vintage receiver and a modern one is that its tube technology means that it's entirely analogue, rather than digital like a solid-state system. They are fundamentally different reproduction technologies with very different results:

  • Analogue Sound: Analogue sound reproduces the existing audio source. While there may be some losses due to the fidelity of the system, it reproduces the entire sound wave.
  • Digital Sound: Digital sound takes a series of instantaneous samples and then plays them back in order, working like a strobe light. If the sample rate is high enough you don't notice the gaps, but they are there.

Why Listen to Vintage Stereos?

There are two reasons to listen to vintage stereos: one is the nature of analogue sound, and the other is the warmth tubes provide. The biggest advantage of analogue sound is that your ear doesn't have to fill in the gaps between the sample points; you get the whole sound. The tradeoff is the copy effect, where each copy of an analogue master is slightly less accurate than the preceding generation. For digital you don't get the copy effect because rather than storing the sound itself you're storing the instructions to recreate the sound. In effect you're getting a more accurate reproduction of a less complete original. Another advantage of analogue, and a reason for enjoying vintage speakers, is that all speakers are analogue, so by sticking with an analogue source you don't have to convert from one form to the other, which helps maintain fidelity.

Collecting and Using Vintage Stereo Receivers

For anyone with a large collection of vintage analogue recordings such as audio cassette tapes and vinyl records there is always a place for a vintage stereo. Most systems used components, with the receiver often serving as the centrepiece of the unit. Everything else from the vintage record player on top to the amplifier and preamp connected to the receiver that then drove the speakers.