November 1998
My Favorite Vintages
Good Old Gear Doesn't Have To Cost a Fortune

Illustration: JACK DESROCHER

While the rest of the world is standing on its collective head and in line for the privilege of doling out a week's worth of billings for a matched pair of 12AU7s, made by slave labor in China out of parts from dead Soviet nuclear plants, I look around at my surroundings and think about what "vintage" means to me. Here's some of the stuff I've had in my studio for years that nobody makes any more and that I couldn't do without. And no, none of it's for sale.

JVC XL-Z335 CD player. I didn't make that up, that's really its name. It's a pretty ordinary consumer model and doesn't even have multiple trays. It's eight or so years old, and I bought it from the Crutchfield catalog on a sell-off for about $250. It has the usual array of cueing options, remote control, fast play, etc., etc., plus one amazing feature: an S/PDIF out. Now, I think the CD-audio-extraction routine built into Apple's QuickTime is incredibly cool, and there are some very slick audio CD-copying programs out there. But for speed and flexibility, when you are trying to find something on a CD to load into the computer, nothing beats an ordinary consumer CD player's transport controls. With this puppy, I can go right into my Pro Tools' digital input without skipping a bit. And with the remote control, I don't even have to move from my keyboard. I can't imagine getting sound effects or stealing licks off a CD any other way.

Rectilinear XI speakers. I bought these hulking things my first week of college, and I've never been without them. Built like trucks, they were considered very hip back when there was a controversy raging in hi-fi circles between the "New England" sound and the "California" sound. These were East Coast with a vengeance: Their sound is so reserved they make Advents sound harsh. Terrific for playing in the background while I'm trying to write, they also make great secondary (or in my case, tertiary) monitors: If I can get a mix to sparkle on these, it'll sound good on damn near anything.

The rest of this column, along with 56 more, is now available in The Insider Audio Bathroom Reader, published by Thomson Course Technology PTR.

Copyright ©2006 by Paul D. Lehrman