Brownsburg man finds niche with vintage audio components
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (AP) — The vast majority of people today get their music digitally, listening through earbuds, headphones or small Bluetooth speakers.
But there is a small — yet growing — group of music lovers for whom listening to on-demand streams and digital downloads through a cellphone just doesn’t make the grade.
To them, there’s still only one way to enjoy recorded music: Vinyl records spinning on turntables sending signals to amplifiers driving speaker cabinets capable of rattling teeth while doubling as furniture.
It’s a niche market for consumers nostalgic for the Golden Age of high fidelity, when names like Phase Linear, Bang and Olufsen, McIntosh, Sansui, Harman Kardon, Advent, Cerwin Vega, Pioneer and Marantz ruled in dorm rooms, bachelor pads and hipster man caves (before we knew either had names).
Some of those manufactures have gone out of business. Other have been taken over by companies building lesser-quality components. But you can still find the vintage stereo gear from the 1950s through the 1970s at Getchell Amplifiers in Brownsburg,
Owner Bobby Getchell said most of his customers are looking for “quality for the money.” The reconditioned old equipment, he said, fits that bill.
“It’s much more warm sounding. More musical sounding,” Getchell explained. “You’d have to spend thousands of dollars now to equal a vintage piece of equipment you can get for $200 to $300 to get the same kind of sound quality and the same construction quality.”
Getchell said he has a diverse base of customers who seek out the vintage gear for a number of reasons.
“I have people that buy it for the looks. I have people buy it for the sound quality. I have people buy it for the physical quality and the fact at it was made when either the United States or Japan, which are both great manufacturing giants, actually cared about physical quality of their equipment,” Getchell said.
“A lot of it is nostalgia, too, of course. People are trying to rebuild the system that they had when they were in college, or the system that their parents had that got them into music. And then the younger kids, they want something retro-vintage to match their retro-y, vintage-y new vinyl.”
Getchell’s shop often has something for them all. At any given time, he said, the ever-changing inventory includes more than 200 receivers and amps, as well as dozens of turntables and speakers. Prices run from around $100 to more than $5,000, with what Getchell calls “nice vintage systems” available in the $300 to $800 range.
Getchell checks out and reconditions the pieces before he puts them on the shelf.
“All this equipment is very old — over 40 years old, which is a long time for electronics, and it’s all starting to fail in pretty major ways that render the equipment useless without a proper technician to work on the stuff,” he said.
Getchell also offers repair or recondition services for customer’s equipment. He said he tries to use high quality components, often better than the original parts, and new-old stock whenever possible.
“That’s a big part of why I exist,” he said. “We’re capable of taking that equipment and breathing new life into it and making it last another 20 or 30 years with new components, new parts inside.”
Most of the equipment Getchell, 29, sells and restores was made years before he was even born. It was a childhood curiosity about how electronic and audio equipment worked that got him into the business.
“I saw it as almost magic,” he explained, “and I wanted to see what made stuff tick.”
After tinkering with a RadioShack educational kit and a 1930s tube radio from his grandfather, Getchell said he was 12 or 13 when he built his first amplifier and was 17 when he made his first guitar amplifier for a 4-H project. Not long after that, he bought his first piece of vintage stereo gear at a Goodwill store was hooked by the sound quality.
Getchell started buying more vintage components to repair and sell on Ebay and CraigsList. He also continued making small, tube-powered guitar amps, but found a much larger market for the vintage stereo gear.
In 2014, Getchell took a leap of faith and opened a brick-and-mortar shop in a converted house at 521 E. Main St. in Brownsburg. He also stocked a few used guitars and other musical equipment, and partnered with two teachers to offer guitar lessons.
In October, he’s moving to a new, larger location a few blocks to the west at 128½ E. Main St. The new shop is located behind the Brahman and Moore Law Offices.
The new site will provide twice as much space for his showroom, which will include four listening-test areas, and more onsite storage. Getchell said he will continue to do repairs and stock some used guitars and other musical equipment — including his handmade amplifiers — and offer guitar lessons at the new shop.
Source: The Indianapolis Star
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com