Alec Baldwin on Being an Audiophile
Having made a serious study of 1970s arena rock before graduating to classical music (he is the host of public radio's 'New York Philharmonic This Week') Alec Baldwin has a personal music collection that includes high culture and not-so-fondly-remembered pop. But the 55-year-old star's taste in audio equipment runs uniformly toward the high end. Baldwin, who keeps two boxes of vinyl records in a former shrink's office on Central Park West that he uses as a sort of man cave, has been something of an audiophile since the days of Iron Butterfly.
"I used to lay on the ground and smoke a joint with the speakers next to my head while listening to 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,'" he says of his teenage vinyl years. "The photography, artwork, liner notes, and lyrics were all part of the experience."
Baldwin, who recently curated a Macallan-soaked rock photography show, says he was so desperate to build himself a great listening setup when he was younger that he overcame not really having any money.
"I saved and bought a used Garrard turntable from my neighbor's brother and a Pioneer amplifier," Baldwin says. "I had Acoustic Research speakers. This was before the Japanese took over. This was the seventies."
Replicating Baldwin's classic setup is still doable – even if this is slightly harder than it once was. Founded in the 18th century, the U.K.-based Garrard and Company produced turntables from 1918 until its closure in 1995. Revered by audiophiles for their craftsmanship and sound quality, vintage Garrard 301 and Garrard 401 turntables are available at many audiophile shops on eBay and at Loricraft, a British boutique company that specializes in buying and selling used turntables and, with the input of former Garrard engineers, produces a new Garrard 501 model that incorporates some new technology .
Now owned by Audiovox, Acoustic Research was once renowned for its accurate bass sounds. While new wireless versions are available, vintage Baldwin-era models like the AR-3 – one is on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. - are an eBay favorite. As for the Pioneer amplifier: Some collectors swear by the "warmer" tones of pre-1980s amps. If you're really going to go for it, try to find vintage items like the Pioneer 424 receiver.
The final piece of your vinyl man cave? Storage. Bypass the college-dorm room egg-crate aesthetic and take a cue from Baldwin – spring for something classy. Urban Outfitter's 'Mad Men'-inspired Draper Media Console will house your whole setup with bureau space leftover for a bottle of rye.
You may not have Baldwin's looks, but at least you can have his sounds.