Established in the 1920s, Lafayette Radio Electronics (LRE) became a thriving mail-order catalog business; the electronic components it sold were useful to amateur radio operators and electronic hobbyists in areas where such components were unavailable in local retail outlets. Early Lafayette Radio stores were located in Jamaica, N.Y. and Manhattan in the mid-1950s. The electronics kits were produced in the Jamaica facility.
Lafayette advertised heavily in major U.S. consumer electronics magazines of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Audio, High Fidelity, Popular Electronics, Popular Mechanics, and Stereo Review. The company offered a free 400-page catalog filled with descriptions of vast quantities of electronic gear, including microphones, speakers, tape recorders, and other components.
Lafayette's products ranged from individual resistors, capacitors and components to stereos and two-way radios for amateur radio, CBers, and shortwave listeners. Many were dedicated types with special functions, such as VHF receivers for police and fire channels built into a CB radio. The company's best selling products were often shortwave receivers, parts, and portable radios. In the 1960s, many Lafayette brand radios were rebranded Trio-Kenwood sets.
While the catalog heavily promoted their own branded products, Lafayette also carried models from many other hi-fi manufacturers of the era, including Marantz, Fisher, Pioneer, Sansui, AR, Dynaco, KLH, Wharfedale, Bozak, BIC, BSR McDonald, Garrard, Dual, TEAC, Akai, Shure, Empire, Pickering, Electro-Voice, JVC, Panasonic, Sony and others.
Lafayette was quick to jump on industry trends, embracing first open reel tape recorders and later 8-track cartridge recorders and compact cassette recorders, along with an amazing array of gimmicks, supplies, and accessories. During the mid-1970s, the company was one of few places one could actually experience four channel ("quadraphonic") sound.
Lafayette also sold a variety of electronic musical equipment made by different manufacturers. There were solid-body and hollow-body electric guitars, probably made by Teisco or Harmony. Microphones, amplifiers, and various electronic effects such as reverbs were available, many of which sported the Lafayette brand name, most notably the Echo Verb and Echo Verb II. One of the most famous effects that Lafayette sold was the Uni-Vibe, used by many musicians, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others later used the effect to emulate Hendrix's sounds and achieve new ones of their own.
Sixty Years of Lafayette Radio
A comprehensive article on Lafayette authored by Rich KB8TAD for the December 2012 issue of the Monitoring Times. All you need to know is here! (Pages open in new browser window)
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