An old high-school buddy that I reconnected with recently, Mark, asked me for a recommendation for a HiFi system for $10K or under.
Mark is actually the person who introduced me to enthusiast audio way back when we were in high-school together, but he’s been out of enthusiast audio for quite a long while.
As an old friend, I wanted to make Mark a “solid gold” recommendation for a HiFi that would keep him happy for the rest of his days, based on my own experiences over the years of reviewing audio gear.
As you know, I love vintage HiFi gear, so for my first HiFi system recommendation I thought I would start with a drool-worthy vintage HiFi for Mark that would be the envy of audio nuts around the world.
I’m sure it’s not what Mark was thinking about for a system, which was probably new gear, but the thought of recommending a prize vintage setup for an old friend was just too irresistible, so I started there.
My first recommendation was for loudspeakers, a vintage pair of Altec Corona 832A loudspeakers, like I just recently bought from LA Jazz Audio.
LA Jazz Audio did a great job of packing and shipping my Corona 832A’s, and I recommend them to you for consideration.
I absolutely adore my vintage Altec Corona 832A loudspeakers, and I think they are one of the best investments I have ever made in audio. At around $5K USD I can’t think of a loudspeaker that I would rather have, they’re that cool and that musical!
My Corona 832A loudspeakers are extremely musical, have pro-level Altec components inside, look gorgeous, they sound great in room corners (which their shape suggests) or out in the open, and unlike with the Altec A5 or A7 Voice of the Theatre pro models, the crossovers sound pretty decent, so you don’t need to replace them right away.
For amplification my recommendation was a restored vintage Eico HF-81 integrated amplifier from Yves Beauvais at Vintage Vacuum Audio.
This valve integrated amplifier has a built-in phono stage, so it’s perfect for those of us who love playing vinyl.
I’m going by memory here, but a beautifully restored Eico HF-81 by Yves goes for around $2500, so that brings the subtotal to about $7500 USD.
In case you are wondering, a restored Eico HF-81 integrated amplifier by Yves is on my future shopping list for my own system!
Next up is a vinyl source. Now for my system I’ll be using my Artisan Fidelity Thorens TD124 turntable, with a Soundsmith Carmen Mk II or Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridge, but that would bust our $10K budget big time, so what I would recommend instead is a restored Thorens TD125 or TD160 turntable from Vinyl Nirvana, which sells high-performance restored vintage music-machines for a relatively affordable price.
That would put you right in the sweet-spot for our ~$10K USD budget and provide superb performance. Later on you could always upgrade to one of the aforementioned Soundsmith cartridges for a musical knockout!
Finally, I would use nuevo-vintage Duelund DCA16GA or DCA12GA for speaker cables to connect the Corona’s to the Eico, and Duelund DCA20GA interconnects (or Belden 8402 if shielding is needed) for connecting the source.
There you have it, that’s the world class vintage system I would recommend to an old friend with about $10K to spend, and who wants to experience a lifetime of musical bliss!
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!
First off, my apologies to Juan and Antonio if I came across as overly grumpy in my responses to their very reasonable and helpful comments. It was a combination of me having a couple of difficult days in a row dealing with some things that came up (it happens), as well as being very passionate about this particular system. Sorry guys. 🙁
So why am I so passionate about this particular vintage Altec 832A Corona based system?
When I look back in time, I wish I had heard something like this vintage Altec Corona 832A system, as it would have been a great all-in-one starting & finishing point for audio.
This is one of those audio “game over” systems that you buy once, and then just build your music library after that, kind of like our friend Yazaki-san did with his system.
That’s why I recommended this system to my old high-school buddy, Mark, as with his good taste in all things music & audio, I knew this sort of combination of gear would be perhaps the best thing I could recommend for his lifelong musical bliss.
My vintage Altec Corona 832A loudspeakers have a components compliment of 803A bass drivers (1947-1958), 802D compression drivers (1957-1972), 811B HF horns, and N800E crossovers.
Those are pro-level Altec components, not unlike those I have in my Altec A7 Voice of the Theatre loudspeakers, and they are designed to perform for a lifetime with minimal fuss. My Corona’s are 60 years old and perform like they could be brand new. That ol’ Altec quality was truly remarkable.
I can’t even begin to completely articulate how incredibly musical my Altec Corona 832A’s are, and how good they perform on the things that matter to me most for reproduced music (timbre, tone color, dynamics, presence, rhythm, melody, harmony, and tempo).
I also love the fact that you can put the Altec Corona’s into room corners and they still sound mind-bendingly good!
This aspect of the Altec Corona’s makes them great for smaller venues, like apartments, or spare bedrooms, where space is at a premium, and they are still able to fill the entire room with music and a sense of space in uncanny fashion.
I place a lot of value on a loudspeaker’s ability to sound natural at live-like levels, and the Corona’s do that rather easily, but what they also do is sound really good during low-volume listening, which is really important for those that can’t or don’t want to listen at live-like levels.
Even when combined with my Almarro A205A single-ended EL84 integrated amplifier, with my iMac used as a source to stream Jazz24 through my Mhdt Paradisea+ USB DAC, the musical performance is so ridiculously good I’m just astounded!
I’ll listen to the music emanating from those vintage Altec Corona 832A loudspeakers, and I just marvel at how right the music sounds & feels flowing out of them – and that’s with the stock 60 year old crossovers!
The only magic that my Almarro A205A lacks is the presence of a phono stage and extra inputs, which is where the recommendation for a restored / rebuilt EL84 powered Eico HF-81 integrated amplifier by Yves Beauvais comes in, as it has a phono stage and additional inputs.
If you haven’t heard an Eico HF-81 you should if you get the chance, as they’re glorious! I’ve only heard one briefly, quite a while back, but it made a big impression on me that’s made me want to follow up by getting one for this system.
Also, if you haven’t already read it, you ought to go read Art Dudley’s review of an Eico HF-81, it’s an excellent overview of its performance.
Here’s a link to an Eico HF-81 owner’s manual for your reading pleasure too.
l’m just itching for the opportunity to install my Thorens TD124 turntable in this system, but I need an Eico HF-81 first. I’ve asked Yves to give me a heads up when he gets another to rebuild.
Like Antonio said, there’s other good choices of vintage turntables as well, like the Lenco’s (I actually have a Bogen version of one that is waiting for some TLC), a Garrard 301 or 401, etc.
Lately I’ve been listening to the new Soundsmith Carmen Mk II and Zephyr Mk III phonograph cartridges on my Thorens TD124, and they are an amazingly musical match that I’ll have a lot more to say about in the near future, so stay tuned on that front.
You’ve heard about phono cartridges that put you at the recording venue, or phono cartridges that put the musicians in your listening room, but these relatively affordable Soundsmith cartridges put the musicians in my heart, so that I can connect with the emotional content of the music in unparalleled fashion, while listening in my Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre system.
Well, I just can’t get enough of listening to my vintage Altec Corona 832A’s of late, and my other hifi rigs aren’t getting nearly the amount of attention they usually do.
I believe the future holds some very exciting times for this particular vintage Altec Corona 832A system, as I continue to develop it, so stay tuned for more!
Ok, that’s it for now.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!