The past 18 months have been rather grueling in New York; between COVID-19, lockdowns, working remotely, and the inability to cross the Canadian border, we’ve been almost prisoners in our part of the state. Travelling to other parts of the country just to feel normal or search for vintage audio components has not been possible. My wife and I decided that we needed a break. I know that a lot of people feel the same; especially as millions of Americans get vaccinated every single day.
Road trip 2021 was going to happen.
But where the hell were we going to go?
A few weeks ago, I found myself in Greenville, South Carolina.
Before we loaded up the car and headed south, I reset my Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to the area and hoped for the best.
The rules are different everywhere right now so do your research before you plan any trip.
I have found that different regions of the United States have a very different “flavor” when it comes to vintage audio; especially in regard to loudspeakers and how expensive it can be to ship them across the country.
On the drive down to South Carolina, I began searching for vintage audio stores.
I rarely get any hits because these types of stores are hen’s teeth in 2021. I’ve been to plenty of record stores with “hi-fi” equipment walls and a number of modern stereo stores with used audio sections (which are never that cheap), but this was the first time I’ve ever visited an exclusively vintage audio store.
Cherry Vintage Audio proved to be quite the find. Greenville earned an extra “star” on this trip.
My wife and I carved out some time to visit the store. Although she may question some of my equipment purchases, she really does love vintage equipment and the sound just as much as I do. We arrived there about 10 minutes after they opened and there were already two gentlemen in the middle of the shop working on some vintage Yamaha equipment.
The owner, Albie, was teaching a customer how to use Deoxit to clean potentiometers and switches. I’ve felt intimidated in some audio stores due to the cost of the equipment and the attitude of the staff, but this unique store was a very different experience. I felt at home.
We browsed around and realized that Cherry Vintage Audio was set up in a very unique fashion. Some shops have equipment stacked everywhere, some shops have all the receivers together, all the turntables together and of course all of the loudspeakers together. This shop had 10 unique systems setup with a wide range of equipment.
The store was arranged to feel like you were listening to a system at home; both in terms of the furniture and how it was demonstrated. The polar opposite of a fancy high-end shop in an acoustically treated room with dedicated power circuits and everything dialed in to perfection.
The shop focuses on equipment from the 1960s to the 1990s; all of the equipment was in mint or near mint condition with the exception of a small “for parts” section in the store.
Each piece of equipment had a written-out description and price. I was quite impressed by the write-ups detailing both the functionality and features of the piece of equipment and Albie’s lifelong love and knowledge of vintage audio. Worst case scenario – you’ll walk away from this store with a lot more knowledge than you came in with.
My wife was drawn to a turntable, motioned me over and said, “this one’s beautiful, let’s get it.” It was a Realistic LAB-500 in mint condition with an updated clear dust cover to showcase the woodgrain and brightwork.
I’m very familiar with this model and unlike other Realistic turntables manufactured by CEC, this turntable was manufactured by Mitsubishi and branded Realistic. It was absolutely stunning, but to our rather intense disappointment – already sold to another customer.
Other highlights were a Kenwood Super Eleven; a 24-inch wide monster receiver (125 watts/channel), a very rare pair of EPI Model 75 single driver micro towers, and a pair of Sonus Faber Concertino bookshelf loudspeakers designed by the late-Franco Serblin who passed away in 2013. When I shared some trip photos from the shop, Ian White flooded me with questions about the classic Sonus Faber stand-mounted loudspeakers that were from the original run.
A tad unusual for the store but I can’t imagine that they lasted very long considering the condition and price.
We chatted with Albie for a while after his friend left. He spoke of his lifelong love of audio, and how he opened the shop after he retired and then the current Greenville shop in 2014.
This excerpt from his website says it all:
“The era of vintage audio, from slightly before 1971 through 1981 and slightly thereafter, comprised the gilded age of hi-fi and the ripe years of RCA Living Stereo, Radio Shack, record and tape clubs (“Get 12 records for a penny!”). This era of audio embodies the work of such names as Saul Marantz, Hermon Hosmer Scott, Rudy Bozak, James B. Lansing, Paul Klipsch, David Hafler, and Henry Kloss—dead guys with ears. These guys used the absolute best minds available to design and engineer sonic marvels that have stood the test of time as icons in a world now dominated by knock-offs from China, home theater, Sonos and so on.”
Needless to say, I love the shop and it was an honor to chat with Albie. His shop is only open three days a week, and people have driven from as far as New York and Texas to pick-up his equipment as he does not ship. If you find yourself anywhere near Greenville, I implore you to visit and check out Cherry Vintage Audio. I will be visiting him again.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I calibrated my phone to find potential sellers along the way. With the sale of the Realistic LAB-500 still stinging, I decided to find something else worthwhile to bring home.
I have wanted a Marantz 6300 turntable for a long time. Actually, since the beginning, as my first vintage receiver was a Marantz 2245 and the 6300 would be the perfect match. I had passed on a Marantz 6300 once because I thought $350 was too expensive and have regretted that for some time now.
Good things come to those who wait.
A Marantz 6300 came up locally on Facebook Marketplace mid-way through the week. It was serviced and like the Realistic at Cherry Vintage Audio had the updated clear dust cover. This one was a great example with the only flaw being a missing “clasp” on the tonearm rest; nothing significant that I couldn’t sort out.
Over the course of a few days, the owner and I emailed back and forth on price, payment type and location of the turntable.
The night before we were to return home, the seller made a very attractive offer. He knocked more money off the asking price and agreed to meet us in a very public place. There was that part of me that wondered if this was going to end up on Law & Order, but I wanted the turntable enough to take a chance.
We made the deal and I ended up completing the transaction in a McDonald’s parking lot in Hickory, North Carolina.
Birthplace of Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants.
I had never seen one of these turntables in person. It was much bigger than it seemed in the pictures and much heavier too. I safely wrapped it in layers of blankets for its return voyage home.
A review of the Marantz 6300 is forthcoming. My new vintage Dual 701 gave me a dirty look when I placed them next to one another.
Aside from our wonderful experience at Cherry Vintage Audio, we enjoyed some great hiking and kayaking. Not to mention some excellent wine at Wellborn Winery where we stayed.
For more information: Cherry Vintage Audio Shop