Vintage audio components are in vogue again — there's no denying it — and there's good reason for it. You can find pair of 30-year-old speakers or a 40-year receiver and chances are that it'll sound just as good (if not better) than something more modern. Not to mention it's likely to look way cooler and cost significantly less.
In 2021, there are still a host of heritage audio companies still thriving. The likes of Bang & Olufsen (since 1925), Wharfedale (since 1932), Klipsch (since 1946) and JBL (since 1946) have all survived generations of listeners. But not all audio companies have been so lucky.
Here are a handful of the best forgotten hi-fi companies that are no longer around. But what's cool is that, thanks to a thriving refurbished market, you still find and buy their vintage audio gear to keep their memory (and sound) alive.
Sansui was a Japanese hi-fi company was a Japanese hi-fi company that was most prominent in the '70s and early '80s, but ultimately went out of business in 2014. Their vintage receivers and amplifiers are still well sought after, many of which you can find via online auctions such as eBay or Yahoo Japan, thanks to their many tactile knobs, wonderful blue back-lighting (similar to many vintage Marantz receivers) and bushed aluminum front panel. The Sansui 6060 receiver (above) is one such example; it was originally released in the mid-70s and demanded a $420 price tag at the time.
Thiel Audio was a Kentucky-based manufacturer of high-performing loudspeakers. It was started in the late '70s by Jim Thiel (along with his brother Tom Thiel and Jim's wife Kathy Gornik) and continued into the late 2000s. Their speakers were known for their "phase-coherent" designs, which allowed them to sound great across all frequencies, and beautiful wooden veneers. The company was sold several years after Jim's passing in 2009 and has since been discontinued. However, you still find Thiel loudspeakers, such as the TT1 (above), which was actually one of the few loudspeakers not designed by Jim Thiel, fetching a pretty penny on online auction sites.
Realistic was the house brand of electronics sold by Radio Shack and it was a prominent player in the receiver market in the '70s, '80s and even '90s. Its stereo receivers shared a similar look — bushed aluminum front panel, glowing lights, tuning meters, copious knobs — to many receivers by Marantz, Pioneer and Sansui at the time. They stopped making Realistic receivers decades ago, but you can still find a variety of different models like the above STA 240 receiver (above), on online auction sites.
Pacific Stereo was one of the biggest sellers of stereo equipment during the '70s and early '80s. Before it went under in the mid-80s, Pacific Stereo had two house brands, TransAudio and Quadraflex, the latter of which was comprised of high-end speakers, radios and audio componets. Today, there's a rich market of vintage Quadraflex receivers being sold by third-party resellers, like the above Quadraflex 676.