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I hope this isn't posted in the wrong section, but I wanted very knowledgeable people to read it. No offense to anyone, either.

So I used to do a lot of my own car audio installations in the late 80's/early 90's. Back then a high qualtity ampliifer - say an Orion, or Alpine, or Linear Power, or Kenwood amp,, etc cost quite a bit of money You could easily spend $500 on just a 100wpc x 2 amplifier. A good head unit like an Alpine CD player could easily run $500-$1K. And this was in late 80's dollars! What's amazing to me is that now - 3 decades later you can pick up a nice head unit (media only) for like $75 and up, and a decent CD HU for $125. And amps that put out 400wpc and and are supposedly stable down to even 2 ohms are also a fraction of what they cost back in the day.

So what gives - why does car audio/video cost so much less these days, when you'd think it would cost a lot more due to the inflation over that 30+ years. Is it because it's all made in China now, and manufacturing has gotten more efficient? And re the products as good, better, worse?

I guess my main questions are: 1) why is car audio so much cheaper now than 30 years ago?.and are today's amps as good as the US and Japanese made stuff from 30 years ago? Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer - are these all still high quality products?

Thanks everyone
 

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Generally speaking, even entry level modern gear is better than vintage gear. The big reason, as you guessed, is manufacturing. It’s super easy to build amps to a very high standard with modern manufacturing techniques. Another reason is that a lot of the research and development has already been done. Using standard “templates” as a starting point, and improving upon them takes a lot of the R&D budget out of the equation.
There is some great vintage stuff, and some crap modern stuff, but overall these days stuff is better, and cheaper.
 

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I agree with gijoe, technology and manufacturing is better today. Another reason why vintage gear may not be as good is due to component degradation such as capacitors going bad over time. This is why you often see vintage gear being sold with some mention of having capacitors and other components being replaced.
 

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Oh boy this is a sensitive subject and you will find people from two different camps on this. For amplifiers, the old school enthusiast will say that vintage gear is superior due to build quality and the craftsmanship put into those aged beauties during the "Golden age of car audio" as they were large and usually hand assembled in USA, Japan, Italy, etc... you get the point. Amps were class A and a/b designs and not very efficient which required a stout electrical system to achieve substantial volumes while maintaining a high fidelity. The other camp says that this can now be achieved by utilizing a much more efficient class D design with little or no compromise to achieve these same goals while not having to add a mini reactor to power it all. The OS group will also assert that they can definitely hear an audible difference (superior) and "not all watts are created equal" due to the afore mentioned craftsmanship including the design and internal components opposed to the modern day mass assembled (overseas) electronics of today. The current day audio enthusiast will contend that the technology has evolved and has caught up and even surpassed the amplifiers of yesteryear and that a class D amplifier can sound every bit as good as a classic design and take up half the space doing it. This is especially true with the emergence of digital processing allowing the user to yield great results with almost infinite tuning possibilities which was not available in the 80's/90's for most of us. If anything this allows people to achieve competition grade sound out of even the most "modestly priced" equipment versus the ideology of whoever spends the most MUST have the superior sound system. I've been installing since the 90's and have done a ton system installs with amplifiers and components from late 80's - current and I've had mixed results so I don't subscribe to one camp exclusively but think there's a good middle ground that effectively blends the technologies utilizing the best parts of each of the previous eras. That's probably why you see multichannel amps with an a/b configuration in the front and class D for the rear sub channel(s). In the end, it's all pretty fundamental by design meaning speakers move in and out and amplifiers amplify and if it sounds good then you've achieved what most cannot...enjoy and rock on brother!!
 

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Oh boy this is a sensitive subject and you will find people from two different camps on this. For amplifiers, the old school enthusiast will say that vintage gear is superior due to build quality and the craftsmanship put into those aged beauties during the "Golden age of car audio" as they were large and usually hand assembled in USA, Japan, Italy, etc... you get the point. Amps were class A and a/b designs and not very efficient which required a stout electrical system to achieve substantial volumes while maintaining a high fidelity. The other camp says that this can now be achieved by utilizing a much more efficient class D design with little or no compromise to achieve these same goals while not having to add a mini reactor to power it all. The OS group will also assert that they can definitely hear an audible difference (superior) and "not all watts are created equal" due to the afore mentioned craftsmanship including the design and internal components opposed to the modern day mass assembled (overseas) electronics of today. The current day audio enthusiast will contend that the technology has evolved and has caught up and even surpassed the amplifiers of yesteryear and that a class D amplifier can sound every bit as good as a classic design and take up half the space doing it. This is especially true with the emergence of digital processing allowing the user to yield great results with almost infinite tuning possibilities which was not available in the 80's/90's for most of us. If anything this allows people to achieve competition grade sound out of even the most "modestly priced" equipment versus the ideology of whoever spends the most MUST have the superior sound system. I've been installing since the 90's and have done a ton system installs with amplifiers and components from late 80's - current and I've had mixed results so I don't subscribe to one camp exclusively but think there's a good middle ground that effectively blends the technologies utilizing the best parts of each of the previous eras. That's probably why you see multichannel amps with an a/b configuration in the front and class D for the rear sub channel(s). In the end, it's all pretty fundamental by design meaning speakers move in and out and amplifiers amplify and if it sounds good then you've achieved what most cannot...enjoy and rock on brother!!
Cool post. ?
 

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I agree with gijoe, technology and manufacturing is better today. Another reason why vintage gear may not be as good is due to component degradation such as capacitors going bad over time. This is why you often see vintage gear being sold with some mention of having capacitors and other components being replaced.
In time today's amplifiers will be deemed vintage and will need new capacitors as well..
 

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I’m no installer, just an enthusiast, but I’ve been in it since the early 90’s. There’s just a bigger range of prices now. Decks are $75-$1500 and amps are $100-$3k+. So, if you want some amazing equipment, you can still spend as much now as the amazing equipment from 30 years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks very much for everyone's replies - they're much appreciated. And very informative! Thanks again. Yeah I'm still blown away at how inexpensive nice gear is these days. I agree that even the cheaper stuff still tends to sound pretty good from what I've heard myself, all things considered. I remember in the late 80's you could spend $300 on an obvious knock-off of an Alpine cassette deck, and it sounded like garbage. Now you can buy an entry level head unit for like $75 that sounds pretty darn good. So amazing to me how much prices have dropped!

And Bchester6, funny you mention that 'golden age of car audio', I often use that phrase myself, lol. I can remember owning some spectacular Alpine head units - CD or cassette, as well as some killer amps. One of my favorites was Linear Power. They had a tiny little 10wpc amp that would easily run 10's at a very high volume, very cleanly. I've actually perused eBay a bit for old school gear but am aware of the issues with capacitors drying out in old electronics, so will probably not buy anything in the vintage catagory.

I'm currently running a mid level (for the line) Sony CD head unit which I picked up in pristine shape for $10 (shipped!), on eBay. It sounds great in my car, and I'll soon be adding some Infinity door speakers I bought around 25 years ago and was running in a previous vehicle many years ago. I've also decided I'll probably add an amp so have been persuing used stuff on eBay and FB Marketplace. My days of wanting a system that can shake the asphalt (cleanly!) are over though, so I'm gonna just gonna go with a pretty basic system: head unit, 1 amp, and 6.5" door speakers.

One last request: I would love to hear recommendations for what you guys think are the best bang for your buck component brands these days. I was always partial to Alpine back in the day, but wonder about other brands like Orion, and MTX - are they still around? I noticed Linear Power is long gone, sadly.

I feel like we're actually in a pretty golden age of car audio/video even today. Thanks for reading my ramblings, everyone. :)
 

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Linear Power is still around and one of the only people still making all their stuff in the USA. I don't have any of their amps because I need multi-channel amps to run my Logic7 system (I do have an 80's BassVent) but, the owner is very active on FaceBook.

 

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... My days of wanting a system that can shake the asphalt (cleanly!) are over though, so I'm gonna just gonna go with a pretty basic system: head unit, 1 amp, and 6.5" door speakers.

One last request: I would love to hear recommendations for what you guys think are the best bang for your buck component brands these days. I was always partial to Alpine back in the day, but wonder about other brands like Orion, and MTX - are they still around? I noticed Linear Power is long gone, sadly.

I feel like we're actually in a pretty golden age of car audio/video even today. Thanks for reading my ramblings, everyone. :)
For what you plan, I would look at a 4 or 5 channel amp to power a set of components with passive crossovers + a subwoofer. Nothing that "shakes" the asphalt, but something to play all the way down to 20Hz and reduce the demand placed on your 6.5s.

As far as "bang for your buck," it is all relative. What really matters is your budget, and that should include the subwoofer, amplifier, sound treatment and all of the ancillary bits that go with it. If you're asking about entry level, the Morel Maximo 6 component set is a good place to start.
 

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I hope I didn't discourage you from buying old school pieces because I certainly have an affinity for that gear still (see my signature line). I run it because it's aesthetically beautiful and I have the space in electrical requirements to do so...And I have a garage full of it that I've collected over the years :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for replies. I'm very glad to hear Linear Power is still around, they made the finest amps of their day, imo.

And don't worry Bchester6, I still love vintage gear too. In fact I picked up a really nice 90's era Pioneer cassette head unit a couple days ago on FB Marketplace, and I'm gonna throw it into my car next week and use it for a while, see how I like it.. Of course if I keep it I'll then be forced to buy a high quality vintage 3 head home tape deck to make some tapes. :)

Thanks very much for the suggestions, rton20s. I'll definitely take it all under consideration. (y)
 

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In time today's amplifiers will be deemed vintage and will need new capacitors as well..
And in time I’ll buy newer amps too.:) But I’m not a good barometer for this question since I’m a technologist and often getting leading edge equipment though I’m better than in the past when I wanted bleeding edge.

Linear Power is still around and one of the only people still making all their stuff in the USA. I don't have any of their amps because I need multi-channel amps to run my Logic7 system (I do have an 80's BassVent) but, the owner is very active on FaceBook.
I used to love my Linear Power amps. Didn’t know they were still making gear. But even with my affinity for the company, I personally would buy a quality class D design but Bchester6 summarized the camps well and there is no single correct answer.
 

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I hope this isn't posted in the wrong section, but I wanted very knowledgeable people to read it. No offense to anyone, either.

So I used to do a lot of my own car audio installations in the late 80's/early 90's. Back then a high qualtity ampliifer - say an Orion, or Alpine, or Linear Power, or Kenwood amp,, etc cost quite a bit of money You could easily spend $500 on just a 100wpc x 2 amplifier. A good head unit like an Alpine CD player could easily run $500-$1K. And this was in late 80's dollars! What's amazing to me is that now - 3 decades later you can pick up a nice head unit (media only) for like $75 and up, and a decent CD HU for $125. And amps that put out 400wpc and and are supposedly stable down to even 2 ohms are also a fraction of what they cost back in the day.

So what gives - why does car audio/video cost so much less these days, when you'd think it would cost a lot more due to the inflation over that 30+ years. Is it because it's all made in China now, and manufacturing has gotten more efficient? And re the products as good, better, worse?

I guess my main questions are: 1) why is car audio so much cheaper now than 30 years ago?.and are today's amps as good as the US and Japanese made stuff from 30 years ago? Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer - are these all still high quality products?

Thanks everyone
I'm just going to echo what everyone else said, improvements in manufacturing technology and techniques is what makes today's stuff so much cheaper. And, as far as quality goes, it's just as good and bad as it used to be. Some companies have declined, some have risen, and some are stagnant. For a modern install old A/B amps are still good if they provide the power you need in your space requirements, and modern class D amps can get into megawatt ranges in tiny spaces with great sq. Just do your research before buying. As someone else said, enjoy! (the huge range of options)
 

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I hope this isn't posted in the wrong section, but I wanted very knowledgeable people to read it. No offense to anyone, either.

So I used to do a lot of my own car audio installations in the late 80's/early 90's. Back then a high qualtity ampliifer - say an Orion, or Alpine, or Linear Power, or Kenwood amp,, etc cost quite a bit of money You could easily spend $500 on just a 100wpc x 2 amplifier. A good head unit like an Alpine CD player could easily run $500-$1K. And this was in late 80's dollars! What's amazing to me is that now - 3 decades later you can pick up a nice head unit (media only) for like $75 and up, and a decent CD HU for $125. And amps that put out 400wpc and and are supposedly stable down to even 2 ohms are also a fraction of what they cost back in the day.

So what gives - why does car audio/video cost so much less these days, when you'd think it would cost a lot more due to the inflation over that 30+ years. Is it because it's all made in China now, and manufacturing has gotten more efficient? And re the products as good, better, worse?

I guess my main questions are: 1) why is car audio so much cheaper now than 30 years ago?.and are today's amps as good as the US and Japanese made stuff from 30 years ago? Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer - are these all still high quality products?

Thanks everyone
Oh, yeah, Alpine, Kenwood, and Pioneer are still great, but don't overlook the newer players (for amps and speakers).
 

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I still have and use old school alpine and soundstream ( made in the USA ) rubicon amps
I have the 5 channel alpine V12 in my wife’s car and the soundstream amps are going into my truck. Great gear, and yes don’t count out the new gear, I don’t like the newer soundstream amps, if you take one apart, you can see it’s the same as many of the other brands. One company is China makes them for a lot of companies with just a rebrand on the case
I’m not a fan of the class D amps for anything other then subs, I don’t believe they are up to par yet, but they are getting better every year. My favorite has been the McIntosh car amps, crazy expensive, but worth it if your looking for SQ and longevity


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No. I loved some of my old gear, and my RF Power 1000 25 to Life was a beast ! But technology marches on. The gear today is generally getting better, and cheaper.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
One company in China makes them for a lot of companies with just a rebrand on the case
Yeah I've found this to be the case with many things totally unrelated to car audio as well. In fact you see that a lot in the world of bicycles these days. Basically a couple of big Chinese companies making almost everything, with the stuff being sold under the names of well known brands that folded decades ago, but sold their name. That's not necessarily a bad thing of course - it allows for lower prices and fairly even quality, but definitely kills a lot of the uniqueness among brands these days.

I prefer handmade stuff myself, but..ultimately what I care about is the music itself more than anything. So if decent sounding stuff is available cheaply, I think that's great.

PS. Yes lol, I would expect McIntosh amps to sound pretty darn good
 

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Mac amps are timeless...their speakers not so much.
 

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im all for "made in the usa" but amps made in other countries aren't all bad
 
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