A friend who liked the music system I’d put together using vintage components bought from a flea market decided to go down the same route, with a little help from me, of course.

So we hit the flea market one cold winter’s day and began scouring the shops that usually stock vintage audio equipment.

At the very first shop, we got lucky as I spotted a pair of speakers lying behind the counter. The speakers – a pair of Philips Type 22 RH 496 (a three-way model) made in Finland – looked fine except for a large chunk of wood missing from the top of one box.

The shop-owner had nothing to test the speakers with but we decided to take a chance anyway and picked them up for Rs 2,500 (about $29).

Sony TA-88 amplifier before being fixed up and polished

At another shop, I spotted an unusual looking amplifier lying beside a stack of VCRs. Turned out to be a Sony T-88. A perforated metal strip on top of the amplifier was badly dented but everything else looked fine. A little bit of haggling and we snagged it for Rs 1,800 ($21).

For CD playback, we picked up a Sony CDP-212 – a plain vanilla player which was in very good nick – for Rs 1,200 ($14). No remote or digital outputs but not a worry because my friend wanted to put together a very basic set-up.

My friend also wanted something to play back vinyl as her family had a large collection of records. I had earlier picked up a Aiwa PX-E855, a very basic fully automatic turntable with a built-in phono stage, for Rs 2,500 ($29). That would be used to complete the system.

Took the amplifier and speakers home and fired them up, using the Aiwa turntable as a source. Great sound right off but the volume controls of the amp sounded scratchy due to the built-up dirt.

Moreover, the speakers had plain white wires coming out of the box and there was no way to figure out the polarity. Luckily I had an Avia audio-video test DVD, and using the test to check whether speakers are in phase, I was able to figure out the polarity via my AV receiver.

The carpenter filling in the dents and cracks in the speakers

The next step was calling in my friendly neighbourhood carpenter to come in and fix the speakers and give them a fresh coat of polish. He filled in all the dents and scratches and soon had them looking gorgeous in a few hours. The wood panels of the amp got a fresh coat of polish too.

A few squirts of Philips contact cleaner got rid of the scratchy sounds of the volume control. The dented perforated metal strip (for ventilation) was straightened and glued back in.

Innards of the Philips speakers, check out the crossover

Next, I opened up the speakers and hooked up thicker wire to the crossover inside. (The original plan was to fit binding posts but that had to be ditched as the posts were not long enough to pass through the thick board on the back of the speaker.)

Hooked everything up and spun a CD. First impressions: a pretty good sounding system – nice warm mid-range, clean highs, adequate bass but definitely not the sort that’ll shake the room.

The system being tested at my work bench

System hooked up at my friend's place