This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.
The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.
Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.
Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.
Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.
Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.
The cover of the 1979 catalog.
This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…