Q: You recently touched upon four of the best brands of vintage stereo gear (NAD, Adcom, Rotel and Harman/Kardon). What other older gear is worth looking for?
A: My top vintage gear recommendation is Ohm Walsh speakers from Ohm Acoustics. I own five pairs and love them all.
These speakers use a unique driver that reproduces almost 100 percent of the audible range. 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, wide dynamic range). The Walsh speakers allow you to experience spacious sound with good 3-D imaging from almost anywhere in the listening room.
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 manufacturer. (In 1986, my Walshes retailed for $599, and a used pair can be had for less than $300.) Although the towers had stronger bass, everyone preferred the Walsh 1 speakers, especially after a powered subwoofer was added.
The Ohm Walsh 1 and Walsh 2 can be found on eBay and Craigslist for less than $300 a pair. The bigger Walsh 3 and Walsh 4 typically sell for less than $600 a pair. Most of the Walsh 1 and Walsh 2 speakers will need new grille caps, but you can contact Ohm (www.ohmspeaker.com), which supports every speaker it has sold since 1973, for replacements.
If you buy older Walsh speakers, note that they need a lot of power. A good modern amplifier for them is the $360 Harman/Kardon HK3490 receiver, although 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 (www.emotiva.com) would be a good choice, too.
New Walsh speakers, which are $1,200 a pair, are even better than the older ones. I highly recommend them. All Ohm Walsh speakers are handmade to order in the United States, with many wood finishes available.
You already mentioned my favorite vintage makers for amplification. Other standout classics include 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 Linn Sondek LP12 turntables. Depending on year and features, they sell used for $1,000 to $2,000, although a new version with all the enhancements can run about $30,000. Owning a Sondek can be akin to owning a Ferrari with the finicky setup and maintenance, so have a support staff lined up if you buy one.