Why does vintage hi-fi gear seem to last longer?

This is a good question, it often comes down to the better mechanical design of older equipment and in many cases the use of higher quality parts.

I’ll often see equipment from 1970 for example, with a full set of electrically perfect Elna electrolytic capacitors. Fifty years of life out of what are nominally 2000 hour-rated parts is extraordinary, and yet I see this all the time. Modern capacitors found in affordable new equipment simply don’t last this long. Good modern capacitors are excellent, but you need to spend a lot to get an amplifier filled with good Nippon Chemi-Con or Panasonic capacitors.

Then there is the physical build quality. Older gear tended to use less plastic, heavier grade metal, metal switches and so on. These parts tend to be serviceable. If metal bends, for example, it can often be bent back. Plastic breaks and get brittle with age.

The simple fact is that older gear from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was designed with serviceability in mind. Production values and the way we view our equipment have changed. Modern gear is often designed to be thrown away rather than serviced when it fails, so it often cannot be viably kept running.

Home cinema equipment and modern TVs are classic examples of this. Ever wonder where all the old TV repairers went? It’s not that modern TVs don’t fail, they do, but try taking your 65 inch TV anywhere if it breaks! Good luck with that!