Everyone is into vintage nowadays. Aside for vintage wine, vintage clothing, and vintage cars, another vintage consumer product is seeing brighter days once again—vintage technology, particularly audio technology.
Today, digital seems to be the name of the game when it comes to music. I’m sure many of you have downloaded music from the Internet—may it be from a legit buy from iTunes and alike, or an illegal copy from a torrent link you got from Pirate Bay. And in a market where more people have mobiles phones than computers, subscribers can now download music straight to their smartphone device at P15 a pop via SmartMusic. Everything has gone digital so to speak.
Of course not everyone is on the digital bandwagon. Anywhere you go on this planet there will always be those who tend to go against the flow. Purists as they are called. Or simply revisionists of years gone by, when people thought that events that happened back then were simpler, and consumer products were manufactured much better. Or maybe, they just can’t move on. No matter the reason, these people make the vintage market alive and kicking. And to you the truth, I’m one of them.
Analog. This is the term we often use when we want to describe something that is not purely digital. Simple enough. Today, analog and vintage blend very well among audio purists. Take for example the Roland SH-101 synthesizer released in 1983. It was a no-frills 32-key single oscillator synth sold for around $495, a price considered cheap compared to other synthesizers that cost thousands of dollars more. Now, the same Roland model is among the most sought-after vintage synthesizers in the vintage music market. On eBay, the final bid price for the SH-101 could reach up to $1,500. But that’s no match for the Roland TB-303 – a bass accompaniment unit, which was considered more like a toy when it came out in the mid-80s at $200. Final bid on eBay could reach up to $3,000!
Why the incredible prices for old and probably already discarded products? Simple: Supply and demand. The capitalist dogma that practically dictates how things should happen in a free-market world. Analog synthesizers from the 70s and early 80s are hot among synth musicians and enthusiasts. I myself have a couple of them in my synth collection—not the SH-101 or the TB303, though. Analog just the same. Nonetheless, I’m expecting for prices to die down a bit since many musical equipment manufacturers such as Arturia and Novation are coming out with purely analog-based synthesizers with 21st century tricks and treats.
But what about stereos? Yes, I’m sure you’ve noticed several shops in high-end malls selling tube-based amps for hundred thousands of pesos. With sales person happily telling you how much wonderful and better analog music is compared to digital (though most of them can’t actually tell the difference between cold and warm music). They would even throw-in a comparatively expensive set of speakers that would definitely break your bank account. But when you set them up at home, the sound is not quite the same when you heard it on the treated sound room at the mall.
Ok, you don’t have to dig deep in your pocket to get that old analog sound you’ve been looking for. There are a lot of surplus stereo equipment now on sale at the Port Area of Manila, as well as online retail shops like Sulit.com.ph, with 70s and 80s stereo prices ranging from P2,000 to P20,000 for amplifiers, cassette decks, cd-players and speakers from well-known brands such as Yamaha, Nakamichi, Onkyo, SAE, Pioneer, among others. I have bought several stereo components from these spots and I’m more than pleased.
Take it from me, an audiophole wannbe: music is an acquired taste. No one can tell that this or that music is better on analog. You are the critic of your own musical taste. If it sounds good to you—may it be blasting from a P2,000 boombox or a P20,000 component setup, then it must be ok. But one thing is certain: analog sound is here to stay.