Founded in 1976 in Fort Collins, the Sound Doctor has not always been in its current place.
The audio equipment repair shop has bounced around in a few different storefronts in northern Colorado, but its current home on West First Street between Wilson and Taft avenues in Loveland makes it a good place for Lovelanders with vintage audio gear to. to fix.
Its founder, Don Barr, is retiring, so Alex Anderson takes over. He already runs the day-to-day business, but the official passing of the torch has been delayed due to a recent move into the current storefront and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A surge in demand for vinyl records has made old stereos a big hit, and the Sound Doctor is also one of a decreasing number of companies able to repair older equipment, ranging from eight-track tapes and reels to Betamax recorders. .
By the mid-1990s, when most people bought cassettes and then CDs, the vinyl record market shrank to a few hundred thousand units sold per year, according to Statista. Around 2007, vinyl began to rebound in popularity, and last year 27.5 million vinyl records were sold in the United States.
Anderson said that the charm and durable design of many old equipment makes it appealing to consumers, and that it is useful to help people repair old items instead of just replacing them with the latest cheap gadget.
1) Technology is developing at a rapid rate these days, but it seems that the last decade has seen an increase in the popularity of “vintage” sound equipment. What do you think explains this?
The resurgence of vinyl certainly plays a big role. People love the “analog” experience of listening to music, and the equipment is often part of the charm. Once people get into the hobby, they realize that this vintage gear sounds really good! It can become addictive, collecting used equipment. It’s so much fun trying out different amps and setups. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s what interests me.
2) How did you get involved in repairing audio equipment? What is your story and how did you meet Don?
I started out in this industry repairing smartphones, but then got a job as a technician at a local book and record store that buys, sells, and repairs audio equipment. I was working in a small closet in the back, but I didn’t care, because I loved it! After doing this for a few years, I heard that Don was retiring after 40 years in business, and we started talking. Don gave me the opportunity to take over the business after his retirement, and I’ve been working at the Sound Doctor ever since.
3) Are there still a lot of technicians doing what you do these days? What is lost when this type of service disappears, and what does maintaining it do for the community?
There are not many technicians left in this industry. Many companies have closed their doors in the last 20 years, and now we are at the point where all the old technologies that were left are retiring. When these companies disappear, consumers throw away their equipment rather than repair it, resulting in more electronic waste. Audio equipment is often quite heavy, making it impractical and expensive to ship for repairs. Therefore, having a service center in the area leads to the repair and reuse of more devices.
4) What is the oldest thing someone took to fix? Were you able to fix it?
The oldest thing I worked on was a General Electric ‘tombstone’ style vacuum tube radio from 1935. The device was so old it needed a complete electronics restoration. After restoration and alignment, it was fully operational.
5) Why do people bring this old stuff to fix it instead of just buying the latest gadget?
Our customers often have an attachment to their old equipment. Many bought them decades ago, so there’s a lot of sentimental value in making them work. Prices for vintage gear are going up, so repairing them is usually worth the investment. Older units are well made and repairable, whereas many modern units are much harder to work with and cost more to repair or replace.
Audio repair time: Five years.
Time with Sound Doctor: Two years.
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