Since I started buying and reselling HiFi equipment, I came across a few really good deals. At the beginning the money I spent has been quite a lot, at least for my economical “status” (unoccupied student). But the original core of my first real serious system revealed to be a good investment. Plus, later I happened to find some good stuff just by chance. The amplifier I bought in late 1991 to pilot the loudspeakers I wanted (the TDL Studio 0.5 transmission lines) proved to be a very good investment since I bought it for 1.35 million Lire and sold it in 2019 for 500 euros. although 1 million lire of those days would actually compare to 1000 euros today, mathematically speaking it is almost the same figure (500 euros are around 1 million Lire), therefore the old Italian-made Unison Research Mood kept its value fairly well.
I had seen Unison Research Moods out there sold at over 1000 euros! I tried that too, just to align my offer to the actual market. It was also because I actually felt bad about giving it away after all those years, though reason told me it would have been an upgrade. But at the same time I needed to do something trivial for myself, a self-gift in that dark period. But nothing happened, it was actually nonsense. The Mood was beautifully made with its elegant wooden chassis, but tt is almost 30 years old technology and today’s frenzy for vintage equipment is the only reason for certain prices. As soon as I lowered the price to a reasonable amount, I succeeded. In that period I was unemployed, I had lost my job and spending money on HiFi stuff was out of the question. The only thing I could do was selling and buying for the same amount of money. I knew Naim Naits were out there for the same amount of money. As soon as the new owner gave me the money for my old Unison Research, I bought a Naim Nait 5i from a German seller on eBay. I’ve been scared for a while since he stopped messaging just after my payment and the slick pictures in the ad (see below) looked like they were from a brochure. Instead, in a few days I received a huge package with the original Naim box and a brand new Nait 5i, never touched before although from 2006! I spent practically nothing and upgraded my system to a more recent amplifier and technology. A Nait 5si would have certainly be better but I couldn’t spend anything, therefore I was limited to what the market offered at the same price I sold the old amp. I could certainly not complain, since I stumbled upon a NOS unit: apparently the German reseller was someone with access to old stocks of various brands (from the serial number, the pictures of the ad were actually of the unit I received). The price was the same as used Naim Nait 5i amplifiers around. The ad also claimed the Nait was covered by Naim’s warranty for a year but I doubt it was true. At least not in Italy. By the way, I was really satisfied and although I was not immediately overly impressed by the sound I got from it, I learned to appreciate the Naim with time and now I really love it. Therefore, the number one bargain is a Naim Nait 5i at no cost!
Many years before, I had been asking a friend of mine for a price for his late father’s Thorens TD-165 turntable. The answer had always been “You name the price”. I was not able to, so I waited. After months of no answers, one day I happened to see the poor Thorens thrown into a closet with no respect. I told my friend “Well, if you have to keep it that way, I’ll get it!”. So I got a vintage 70s Thorens TD-165 for free… With time, I really learned how to set it up and fine-tune it. There are loads of pages in this website about how to set up a Thorens turntable of the time. For a while, after I lost my job, I thought about starting a business as a Thorens tweaker: you send me your Thorens, I refurbish it and set it up and you pay for the service. As I was planning all this, prices of those units from the 70s skyrocketed! Ok, I’m no businessman…. but guys, 600 euros for a 50 years old stock Thorens TD-160? Come on! I was able to buy a TD-165 for 100 euros and refurbish it completely. But I had to sell it for at least the same amount of money I spent on it! I stumbled upon good priced TD-160s, one for 200 euros, another one for 150. I refurbished and sold the first one but still maybe I lost money out of the deal. I kept the latter, I still have it but I still have to damp the sub-chassis. I just replaced the cables and rewired the ground. It runs perfectly. I sold my friend’s TD-165 to another friend of mine. Sometimes I feel bad about it. It was a friend of mine’s late father, it has a history. Although I don’t see very rarely see my old friend, I still think I should have kept his turntable and maybe upgrade it to TD-160 specs. I never even asked him if it was all right also because I could ask the new owner to swap our turntables and he would get the better one. Therefore I got my current Thorens TD-160 for free. Another really big bargain, considered the crazy prices of today!
Again, during the period I was unemployed, I happened to make another huge bargain. Some people were about to throw away an old turntable. Knowing my thing for those devices, they asked me if I wanted to have a look at it first. Of course I did. The turntable was nothing worth any efforts but the cartridge was a Shure with a broken needle. I just kept the body, just in case I happened to put my hands on some other Thorens to resell. It was an Me97HE Encore. I knew nothing about it, but it turned out to be useful when I accidentally damaged my beloved Grado styli. What if I could find a cheap stylus for the Shure and give it a try? I learned that the Me97 cartridge was the reissue (Encore) of the legendary M97 Era IV, which was second only to the venerable V15 of their time. The body would accept a hyper-elliptical stylus (hence the HE suffix) and would sound really good. I got it for free! I had to try something. I stumbled upon an eBay ad about a Nagaoka N97ED (just elliptical) stylus. It was used and only 28 euros. Even I could shed that kind of money! The N97ED stylus was intended as a replacement for N97 Era IV bodies, not for the Encore reissues. But it fitted well enough to be played. And the sound surprised me! A lot! I started to investigate, because this combo that cost me 28 euros total was shaking my unconditioned love for Grado cartridges. A new 8MZ stylus for my Grado Signature 8MX is around 170 euros shipping included. No way I could buy one! I started to love the strange Shure combo and wondered how it would sound with a proper hyper-elliptical stylus.
Meanwhile, I made friends with a guy from the US through a HiFi forum. The man, also a HiFi dealer, was so kind to offer a steal price for an Audiotechnica AT95e body. They had just been discontinued and replaced by the new ATV-95 series. The old AT95e was the best bargain cartridge ever built: around 40 euros for a new one! For that price the sound was incredible! The guy asked me 60 dollars and included an ATN95HE stylus. I checked: it costs 120 dollars alone. The combo sounds like a 500 dollar cartridge! I could still improve it with wooden body covers you can find on eBay. Later he found a couple of NOS Shure N97HE styli for me. With 100 dollars they would have been mine, but unfortunately he ended up in a hospital and I don’t know what happened to him. The idea of finally trying Shure’s hyper-elliptical styli prompted me to look for a “proper” Era IV body. Someone was selling one for just 70 euros, including a used N97eX stylus! I was no longer unemployed by that time, so I immediately went for it. Just a while before, I learned from a HiFi forum that the Me97HE Encore body I had, showed the same electrical measurements of the more recent Shure M97eX cartridge. The N97eX stylus I just bought fitted perfectly. The Nagaoka stylus also sit very well inside the N97 Era IV it was intended for. By observing it more closely, I also found out it was a nude mount! From the same forum I learned how to use a drop of high-viscosity silicon fluid on the damping brush hinges of the Nagaoka stylus to restore the slow descent to Shure specs! So I practically now have the equivalent of a Shure M97eX and a Shure M97ED Era IV. Total: not even 100 euros. Not bad! The sound of the N97ED combo astonished me. The performance on my test records were at the top! I just can’t wait to be able to try a HE stylus on it. I already love it as it is.