Vintage Hi-Fi Blog
All contents of this Website are Copyright. Original research, photos of our hifi & all unquoted text is ©2011-2017 by select45rpm. This is all published freely on the internet by us to further the scene, not to give any seller or forum 'expert' undeserved credibility. We Do Not Authorise any Copying, Republishing or Quoting, even as rewriting Our Research In Your Words, of using or linking to any of our Sections on ebay, any sales sites or anywhere else. No-one else has formed these opinions, so don't steal them as yours. Please do not link to our site on ebay sales trying to use our unique info to play buyers for a sale suggesting we are authorising their sale, as we are not.
New since Jan 2017, sections are Indexed.
A Blog on Hi-Fi, Audio, Tech & Hi-Fi News Mag 1970-1980
If you've just found our site, have a read of the Main Pages first. This page adds to those in one place. All new sections go on this page, the only pages we add to are Vintage Hi-Fi Reviews when we get new amps.
With a site like this, seeing updated sections isn't so easy...
We've been adding to this site since 2010 & some pages are just sections we wrote & sort of put onto a suitable page for reading, if impossible to do much with now. Indexes have been done for some if not all yet. We get new amps to review & these you can see in order & this page will be random sections plus links to new sections on specific pages. The new amps we get will still go on the Reviews page. Putting order to things limits creation.
We've been reading through 1970-80 compete set of Hi-Fi News & many sections below offer comment on things in those mags. Picking the articles that interest us through the magazines.
Your Hifi Messages are Answered Here...
If we see it's an interesting subject, we'll write it up here. Answering in emails beyond Sales & Service hides ideas, so to keep this fresh, it goes here. Blogging is far freer than the long pages which are hard to add to & at a later date the sections below might get moved or indexed.
• PAGE INDEX ↑ TOP
by Month & by Bold Text Semi-Headers.
January 2017 Blog.
What do we think of Hifi as of Jan 2017.
Our main interest is the pre 1972 era in transistors & valves, if there are still plenty after this date that could be good, for the earlier years, we've tried the majority of the Best. Some like McIntosh & Marantz from the early years are too expensive to buy to try now, as is a lot of later quality amps. To Rebuild & Upgrade amps that are selling for over £1000 as original does go into a different market. Based on our sales, most buyers can deal with amps to about £600 & past £1000 the market really narrows. As what we do is far more advanced than what most do, as we upgrade using design knowledge, seeing the worth in this will take time to grow. We get emails with people with midprice amps hoping to get then serviced & upgraded, but we do point out that generally most amps aren't worth spending the money on. We're not just here to upgrade average amps as it's not very interesting & the limits of amps can often make them a wasted effort & wasting your money. In Oct 2016 we got a Goodmans Module 80 & as it was one of the first vintage we had, to upgrade it fully to see how good it was. we'd had one before as on the Gallery page if now with a proper circuit diagram we did it fully. Putting good ideas in that other vintage cope well with, the Goodmans was truly awful as we went far beyond what it could cope with. There are reasons why amps are dumbed down & it was laughably poor given top spec. It didn't survive & we could have upgraded it less & sold it for £300, but we wanted to try how far it could go. Another nail in the coffin of British Hifi & for that, we'll not bother doing similar with any Rogers or Leak. Not a waste of effort as it lets us see how far you can upgrade. As of Xmas 2016 we used the 1973 Realistic STA-220 amp, we've not even fully upgraded it yet but the sound certainly appealed. Can't even get a circuit diagram as a one-year model that used the capacitor-coupled older design, by 1974 everyone used semi-complimentary & differentials. Only got this amp on thinking the 1975 Realistic SA-1500 was good, but the STA-220 is in another league. So many times we've just got an amp that looked interesting & it was worth a try. Do our usual work on it & then sell it on. Some stay here as references but they get used too. Looking at the ones we have for sale currently, all were got as they looked interesting & were worth us working on them to firstly see how good they are & also to sell on. To keep looking for unknown sleeper amps has proved very worthwhile & buyers of them we hear love the sound. The Dokorder amp & tuner pair another blind buy, we fully rebuilt the amp to the resistors just to see how good it was & we used it on our Tannoys for a few weeks. Far more work put into that amp than it sold for, but when things are done for research, it doesn't matter. The KLH 27 amp we have for sale was a real tricky amp to upgrade, it needed a lot redesigning to have it working right. It was here nearly a year, getting looked at every few months as thinking time is needed. Now it's sorted, we sell it on, although we'd like to keep all the "experimental big job" ones, we are here to sell. The more good ones we find the less there are left to find. Every amp is treated like it could be the best one ever & they all get done to our perfection as our photos show. It still keeps interesting. Three years ago we wondered "is that all there is?" but look at the Recent Additions section on the reviews page. Hifi is doing well, it is Seasonal, Nov-Dec are not Hifi buying months, but we get lots of emails asking about upgrades. Loudspeakers still appear to be the most confusing area as some match amps better. Post 1980 Hifi is still a mystery area to us, so much is overrated junk is a fair comment. But we got the Sansui AU-G90X from having one here to service & got one ourselves, but there is no way we'd just blindly get an amp from this era. We don't play the 90X beyond comparing so we'll put it for sale again. Even modern-new Hifi is still not that different to the basic 1977 designs, if the designs are so dumbed down to give 'technical excellence' if little in the way of music pleasure. Hifi still interests us a lot & for the increasing amount of upgrade emails we are getting, interest in Hifi & getting the best out of it is slowly gaining interest. The stumbling block as ever is the Cost, as well as finding an amp good enough to upgrade to start with. For all the Amps we've upgraded, none is "Perfect", some are at the top of Excellence, but every amp does have it's own quirks. We use the Luxman LX-33 valve amp for recording Record Sales Soundfiles, it sounds great, but the design of it is ours, not Luxman's & it's taken over 3 years to get to how it is now. It's still not 'perfected' but to realise that will get more ideas tried out. All adds to the Skill we put into amps we Sell & Upgrade. ↑
Audio as of Late 2016.
The mass-market approach to Audio, we'll not call it "Hi-Fi", is mostly very mediocre. The Gadget Show in it's populist approach shows TVs with 4K HD pictures, but as a Dec 2016 episode showed, the fact that flat screen TVs are of no physical depth, the speakers inside are probably as bad as 1970s TVs. Most are fitted below the screen edges firing down, just a long elliptical speaker of no Hi-Fi quality at all & certainly no acoustic wadding or design. No Tweeters either. Why should they bother though? There's no room in the TV cabinet & anyone into Cinema Sound will buy a 5.1 or 7.1 Stereo receiver & use a TiVo or Sky+ box to use the digital optical outputs. We really couldn't care for the tiny satellite speakers & a sub idea as where's the midrange? For TV sound using a chosen amp plus 15" Tannoys gives far more full sound & the realism you wrongly think only speakers placed around the room will give can be delivered by big speakers. What Was That Noise? Was it outside or on the TV? Skip back the TiVo & it was on the TV sound but sounded like it was not in front as the speakers are. Headphones or Earpieces are how music is listened to today, or the tiny 'speaker hole' in the back of a mobile phone with it's heavily EQ'd sound. On EastEnders at Xmas we were led to believe the crappy speakers on a laptop would be enough to fill the pub with 2w of 'power' and many buy those powered speakers to get 15w, the same sort of junk that was around in Cassette days. Sound Quality has really been forgotten & considering 1979 was the Peak Year for Hifi sales, 38 years ago is approaching two generations ago. Most won't have a clue how Music can sound & explains why The Music Scene of today is dead, the Singles Charts used to mean something to all ages & the Album Charts are often just Compilations or Oldies. As bleak as it sounds, many are content or ignorant of how music sounds, just like Teenagers were content with Transistor Radios or Dansettes in the 1950s-1970s. But all it takes to get people interested in "Better Sound Quality" is to be cruel & let them hear Hifi done properly & they will forever crave it. Some will "forever upgrade" but only once they hear Vintage Hifi that's been Serviced & Upgraded will they be happy with what they hear. The amount of emails we get does reveal people are waking up to audio again, wiping the MP3 dust from their eyes & they really do want better sound. We don't advertise this site at all, it's only found by Googling & by reading our slightly random pages do you understand how music in good sound quality can better your life. Look on Amazon, Record Players are popular items, cheaply made Retro things are getting people enjoying the physical appeal of having a recorded item, not just a digital file. You have records, your interest is on that one record, not like a CD you put on & lose interest after Track 3. The pleasure of Music. On American Pickers they picked an old swinging pub-club & found Bose 901 speakers & a 50w 1980s Marantz SR-4000, the nerdy delight with Mike on seeing those items was a joy, he remembered them from his youth. But us on just having got the Realistic STA-220, a young guy pricing up a building repair, he saw it on the desk & was captivated by how well made & packed with mysterious parts it was. Forget how the media portrays the trashy element of today, there will always be those more thoughtful interested in vintage quality things & just like us at his age, he'll probably crave getting something that good. The typist has been reading an annual for an xmas break from Hifi mags, as on our Pre War Annuals page, it was from 100 years ago. It is a little scary to see that's all they had in 1917, they made toys out of matchboxes & bits of cork & played games with bits of paper. Be sure the poems in the book would have been learnt 'by heart' and often the illustrations were coloured in. Because they had nothing else to do. Their storybook heroes were the 18th century nursery rhyme ones & that only faded away by the TV era of the early 1950s. Before that kids only had their imagination & were often left bored. Today from what you see, the kid of today must be entertained every minute, they have no imagination, they'll just be another sheep in the system. Years ago things were "special" or "a treat", nowadays it's daily chocolate biscuits & all you want. Nothing is special now as the sleazy tabloid news sites & their daily nudity prove. There are 'special' things still around & to find them takes your challenge to find & then you too can write a website about Vintage things & get others interested in it. We can see the obvious increase in interest in Vintage Hifi since we started this Hifi site in 2010. People are finding joy in vintage tech a lot more, vintage gaming is a huge market. But collecting has really tailed off this century & even since 2010 we see the Records, Books, Coins & Antiques market really falling away except for the best things & even then prices can be fickle. The most thriving market is Vintage Cars as 'Chasing Classic Cars' shows, but this market is a narrow one driven by rich white guys who have money from biz or retiring. No guarantees the prices will last for long. But music will be forever around, if many just want it for free, but the human need to own things means collecting will continue, if only of things they see as valuable. What previous Generations considered collectable is not always what later Generations like, look at Chumlee on 'Pawn Stars' with Trainers & Gaming. Most younger people aren't bothered about Quality in Sound or quality in anything sadly, they'd rather spend it on partying or tattoos that will look very dated in a few years, watching the Strong Man over Xmas, those random zig zag pattern ones look so naff & dated now. The current trend is intricate 'wallpaper' design ones, if who bothers to see what they are, they all look a mess from afar, especially worded ones. If they want patterns on their skin, buy a loud shirt & have the option to update it when it becomes dated. An age in your life will come when you realise "This Isn't My World Anymore", things you liked are gone & past 30 you'll want those things back & new markets appear with people wanting things that seem unlikely. But with Music it's still a great track after not hearing for 20-30 years & hearing it on good Vintage Hifi bringing the soul of it alive will keep you young & interested, if maybe only in certain things. 'Your Retro World' can continue for as long as you want it to, the ability to cherry-pick the best of the past is one of the best things in life today. Goes a bit off-topic here but to compare Hifi & Music to other subjects is interesting. That could do with some paragraphs, but it's a blog... ↑
What Amps Are We Using?
Over Xmas we used the Realistic STA-220 & still have it on the speakers now for TV. Using DVD & TiVo to need 2 Aux inputs & Realistic is one of few pre 1975 to have this. You can use Tape input or Tuner on amplifiers, but a compromise. Using L&R sliders for Volume isn't as quick as Volume & Balance but how often do you change volume? On TV sound channels & even shows differ in volume so fairly often. Our 100w Valve amps aren't getting use as the "JJ" brand EL34s are great but these are far wider range frequency response than the old Svetlana Winged C's that many rave about. The JJs are much more detailed which is good but based on the design the amps & the Luxman LX33 has, the Miller Effect causes crackly noises that are very annoying. Enough about that online, but things need altering to stop the crackling. Some designs go too far to make amps universal, but suitable values can be found. The Realistic sounds great on TV, if the midrange setting needs 2 notches back. Is this speaker mismatch? On trying on headphones after doing some upgrades, it shows the amp set flat on tone on some tracks can be far too much midrange that is a bit overwhelming, if on most tracks it sounds fine. It shows up some of our earlier CD recorded tracks aren't quite as clean as we'd like them, but went unnoticed before on speakers, headphones are unforgiving. Now of all the amps we've had, only a few 1977-78 Yamaha have midrange & on headphones and speakers it was fine set flat. How accurate the response of the Realistic is will be measured once we get the main caps done. To have no circuit diagram for an amp this good is a real pain as we need to see the design schematic. Some stages can be traced by track but it's too complex to try to draw it, if sections can be worked out. It's had a few problems over the weeks it's been used, long stored & something spilt in it during storage does get problems, if these are now sorted. ↑
Old Amps Can Be Smelly & Not Perfect Grade.
1972 amp smells a bit musty with the lid off & needed a good clean inside from the open lid grille. Musty smell is dry mould in the wiring looms, what are we going to do with the lid, a fine walnut with a nice colour if stains on the front edge. Based on doing up old furniture years ago, sometimes to leave it be & just gently tidy it to be "wife friendly" grade, if accepting flaws. To refinish veneer is tricky as the faded colour will go once you sand it & the risk of sanding through to the base wood. Lots to do to make Vintage Amps look home-worthy, if the least to do is the best option. We upgraded a Technics amp recently, the amp was good but the fascia was scratchy & the lid rusty. Not attractive. The guy said he'd get it powder coated, but to match the colour is the issue. Wood can be tidied, but low grade metal with paint or coatings usually is best avoided, unless you can get a spares amp to swap parts. The Coral A550 amp pictured in the 'Solds Gallery' arrived here painted black & badly done. Looks nice now but to strip the paint, smooth & lacquer neatly. We've seen repaint jobs on ebay amps, one seller proudy said he repainted the top, but it was laughable, streaks, runs, bald bits. As with amateur hifi work, to undo the Idiot's Mess is often a big job, more on that on another page. We're not linking to pages that subjects that appear again are covered fuller on, 'Search' box will find that easy enough. Also as with any wordy thing, some may be repeated again. ↑
How to do tell a Stylus needs replacing?
Our Goldring Elektra has had a lot of use & now at least 18 months old. It's not perfect on some 45s that aren't mastered too well. To have a new spare one is wise for anyone playing vinyl, if it naffs or the tip falls off, to have to wait, search & not play vinyl is a downer. Compare records that you think sound a bit less than they should & hear how crisper the new stylus sounds. On some it may be noticeable, but if most sound 80% as good as the new one, then keep using the old one. One of those microfibre brushes is essential to keep the tip clean & a check with a basic x14 magnifier loupe, if it's one of the items that we waste time searching for a lot, sometimes to have two of the same item to allow for 'Murphy's Law' makes sense. As the £50 vs £200 Cartridge section linked above shows, we tried both turntables again. For the fact our Valve Phono stage is our design, we're finding the difference between the Technics & Garrard combos now being of the same quality if the tonal balance differs. Yes, a direct drive Technics can be as good sounding as a Garrard 301. But in reality, your Phono stage doesn't have the resolution ours does & we've tuned ours to match the Goldring, in normal use the more expensive one will beat the cheaper with ease as the cheaper sounds rough. But with top resolution, it's very different, we didn't expect to say that. ↑
Hi-Fi In Context is the thing
A person buying a midprice turntable will buy a midprice amp & speakers. We've played some amps we've not rated 'excellent' once upgraded, based on headphone use, but on the 15" Tannoys they sound surprisingly good, but in reality someone with Tannoys isn't going to use a cheaper amp, if we have been surprised how good some can actually sound used on speakers way out of their class. We've not tried every amp on the Tannoys, but you can see how they match on the Loudspeakers page & of those we've tried, beyond mismatches, none sounded awful, neither did a modest Arcam amp. The refined speaker will make even the most modest amp sound good. But a cheap speaker can render a great amp as awful for mismatching & being too much quality for it, which is why most Hifi is dumbed down especially on Bass to be universal. Free Advice? ↑
Don't Do Repairs on the Cheap.
Sadly the idea of Hifi repairs is often far from professional. We've seen some laughable repairs by lazy techs too idle to get a 0.5w resistor so they use a big vintage 2w one, ones twisted together mid-air to nearly make the value. A transistor fails so they grab "any old one" & shove it in, but it's not the right spec, seen this in a Yamaha amp twice including a ridiculous one on a 110w CR-2020. Resistors slightly burn, but it still works so they leave it be & don't even tidy the burn mess as found on a JVC amp last year. None of this is acceptable to our standards & for the ease to get the right parts these days, we do it properly as it makes us look bad if we didn't correct rubbish old repairs. When output transistors fail, we'll usually replace the set to keep all from the same batch, if one seen on a 1980s amp has one failed-repaired one of the same package type if a different number, so chances of wrong spec & mismatch. Some transistors past 1980 can be expensive or custom ones for the amp only. Finding equivalents is possible but a dark art & even cross-reference books we've found give wrong ones. Like with cars, no-one's going to look inside so bad repairs go undetected. Trust with hifi is the thing. Would we trust a bad repair on an amp we'd put on the speakers to try for a while? Amps not too well known if we use them for TV sound, they aren't trusted to leave plugged in overnight for a week, when they'll be off during the day, so they have to gain our trust. ↑
Where's the Continental Hifi
asked a French reader. We are UK based so have tried many of the UK brands & popular models. There aren't many beyond Bang & Olufsen and Scan-Dyna, the rest is some USA & a lot of Japanese ones. More a case of what is found in the UK is limited. The main problem is of the brands they mention... Grundig, Philips, Saba, Schaub Lorenz, Revox, Esart, Telefunken, Braun, Wega is the ones you find in the UK are usually the lower end models, 10w to 25w ones, or higher power ones too expensive to buy to upgrade & sell on. We've looked at some EU models including Tandberg on the "Other Amps" page. EU amps often have DIN sockets that we found with ebay selling that aren't so popular with UK buyers when UK & Japanese amps have more UK style connectors. a DIN connectors amp therefore can be price limited as UK buyers aren't so keen. EU & UK amps usually use axial capacitors (wire at either end), these we can get but these aren't the Audio grade coaxial ones so for those we've done these seem to be a compromise for our upgrading. Some of those brands have some impressive higher power later 1970s amps but the risk of ICs puts us off too, again based on upgrading limits. We've had those wanting to upgrade 20w Philips amps, but we fairly say it's not really worth spending the money on a budget amp. We'd certainly like to try Continental hifi of good quality & 40w+ power. But is the quality of Japan & USA there? Bang & Olufsen are popular but they aren't as great inside as ones of similar power from Japan & USA are far superior in sound & have good looks too. It'd be good to add some better Continental amps to our reviews, we'll see what we get offered to upgrade & that seems worthwhile, but aware of the above comments. ↑
The Risks of Bang & Olufsen gear.
We had a question asking if we could sort out a Beomaster 8000, a very retro stylish 100w RMS into 8 ohms receiver. Now we've had several B&O models & several of each of them. B&O look great but the build quality inside isn't so great, nor are the parts used & the designs are a bit lacking compared to Japan/USA amps. This one is an IC-stuffed advanced control unit from 1980 so the technology is likely the first of it's kind, B&O were certainly creative, but "disposable" is the truth of B&O. To actually fix a 37 year old very complex IC high power amp is probably very high risk, you could sort out 90% of faults & then be stopped by it needing an IC that isn't findable. Fault after fault could occur unless the thing was fully rebuilt. B&O don't even make replacement stylii now, so to buy a parts amp & cobble bits is the likely thing & have it fail again, we had to buy 3 cheap Beomaster 1900 amps to make one good one, a huge effort as poor construction is B&O usually, worn & broken bits inside. In repairs you have to be very careful not to waste a customer's money or create a money pit & the odds are the 8000 is just that, it could be fixed & better than new in some ways but getting there will probably not be worthwhile for a customer. There are reasons why B&O gear for spares-repairs are often found, to repair them is usually too expensive & will often be a huge challenge. If we had it here to get working, it'd need to be done right. We expect the questioner has tried others before & got a big "no" without explaining why. Not all things last forever. Stick it on ebay describing the fault & get rid is the best idea. ↑
Sorry Your Amp Isn't That Great Really.
Another tricky one, we get messages by those proud of their amplifier they bought in 1974 from their first wages, it may be a good brand & you've enjoyed it, but a 15w one is only entry level past 1967. They think servicing & upgrading is a cheap job too, but aware they'll never go anywhere with it, to reply stating this to not be anything other than informative. This is stuff that's already written about on the site. Very casual way some people approach things, but we'll not waste your money on any job that we don't see worthwhile. ↑
Energy Saving Lightbulbs: Which To Choose?
This is a tricky one as the market is changing a lot. LED bulbs are now a lot cheaper & are made to look like old style bulbs. But we've not tried any yet. We've tried all types of ESL bulb since they came out about 10 years ago. Some were too heavy & large for a desk lamp & the light was poor. The first satisfactory ones we only found a few years back & they're not made now, stocks running out. These were Lloytron 5600k Cool White - 1160 lumens - 20w. These weren't perfect in use, first of a good idea though, they blinked, some were a bit noisy, they failed too quick by burning a resistor inside that was the wrong spec based on lack of space. They also flashed when off due to long wires & electrical therory. But the light was great. In comparison a 60w old style bulb matches a 2700k bulb & the yellowy light is vile knowing the daylight bulbs, if it suits some places. The desk lamp uses E27 Edison screw bulbs, not the B22 bayonet ones, so when the last one failed on that resistor, to find Lloytron sold out. But they've been improved, the current one we use are Prolite 6400k Daylight White - 1150 lumens - 20w. These are 'bluer' than the 5600k as we've noticed looking at the computer monitor & to adjust it bluer, the bulb physically is smaller & lighter. Use elsewhere, they are slightly blue light which isn't perfect for TV watching, if a few days later on updating this we are used to them. They do smell a bit on first use though. Certainly fine for Kitchen & Bathroom as well as desk use. These appear about 20% brighter on an estimate, they don't flash when turned off now. Turn on & it takes a second to start seems odd though. The days of the Kitchen Fluorescent being too harsh white lighting & the yellowy light being preferred is an odd one, we much prefer the whiter 5600k-6400k light now. ESL bulbs are an updated version of those, if without the flickers before starting, updated tech. Using old bulbs they are too hot & the light is poor, the design is from the late 1800s after all. Wikipedia lists Colour Temperature & the colour light that suits you needs experimenting. How well these have lasted we'll tell later... *UPDATE: the 6400K Prolite ones we've had to get rid of, the light was good, but they stink if used hanging down & the heat sends the plastic brown already. OK for uplighting, but turn the Anglepoise down & the stink starts. Technology good but bulb plastic is poor quality & clearly not tested for the heat. Back to the Lloytron ones again. ↑
February 2017 Blog.
Bad 'Sophisticated' Ideas In 1960s Hifi Design.
We were reminded of the very expensive Trio Supreme 1. Trio Supreme I 33w bass - 23w midrange - 15w treble crazy multiamp system ignoring ideas of phase-shift £280... on our List Of Amps page. This we've looked at but never found the circuits to see what it's exactly about. The idea as the ads show is it is a TrI-Amping idea that splits the Audio into 3 frequency ranges, top, middle & low, to supposedly have dedicated amps & the speaker that goes with it to apparently sound better. The TVK site has pics, but we can't see any way to bypass it as it's 6 amps. Crossover switch on the back probably only makes it a 2 channel 33w amp. How they fit all that into an amp seemingly no bigger than the Trio KA-6000 is a mystery. HFE has the circuits now, not seen that before... 36lbs = 18kg. It has the typical early stages, then a phase splitter & Low-Mid-High amp stages as per the power ratings above. The "Defeat" is just as a 80Hz-40Hz Bass Filter, there is no 2 channel option, TVK are wrong. It has a Phase switch too. The design of the High Pass-Low Pass will certainly give unnatural effects to the sound, it is way too basic. It can work in Digital, but with just a few components it's pretty hopeless. There are 6 channel adjust controls under the front flap as one on ebay shows here to balance the outputs, but one to avoid really. The ebay one shows it's much deeper if very modest inside, a small transformer & the 'card' bit is a bit of asbestos as the TK-140E had inside. This all really sounds awful thinking to us. To bandwith limit audio creates ringing to sound unnatural, to use 3 amps per channel will introduce Phase Shift errors & then for the fact it's late 1960s, gain tolerance of transistors will very likely affect the sound. The Supreme 1 contains 6 channels of audio. Historically interesting, but not one to play. ↑
Say No To Bi-Amping, Bi-Wiring & Multi-Pre/Power Amping.
The whole idea of Bi-Amping & Bi-Wiring is a lousy one, if good for manufacturers & dealers as you buy more gear. Others think to use a Preamp from one amp & a Power amp from another, as in from integrated amps, or to add a separate Power Amp to a Preamp that is now too low power is a good idea. No it isn't. A 25w preamp is designed to work well with a 25w amp, to run a 200w modern amp from a 25w amp's preamp will not sound as you think it might. Similarly those using a graphic EQ in a 'Hifi'. You do need Tone in most rooms, but Graphic EQs are nowhere the quality of a Tone Stage. A simple but quality Hifi will always beat a complex overdesigned one. ↑
Hifi Fuses £65, want to buy some?
One on ebay now, Rhodium plated, silver fuse wire 13amp. Utter nonsense, it's like putting a pint of bleach in the sea to clean it, it'll have absolutely no effect whatsoever. Also 13A allows for 3kW power like a room heater or kettle. The Fuse Hifi needs is based on the max wattage (VA) capabilities at near-destruction. A 700w amp may be best with a 5A fuse, but a 300w will be fine with a 3A. A 13A fuse will allow the amp to damage severely before failure. Mains cable in houses today is either the age of the property or rewired when code updated in the 1970s from round pin plugs. It's general quality mains cable, not OFC or 8-nines. A one-inch fuse of higher quality is utterly pointless as your amp mains cable will be typical mains quality & only filters in the amp will "improve" the mains. The mains quality we've found is cleanest Saturday evening to early Monday as factories are closed. For the amount of hash on the mains, even BT put TV-Broadband onto the mains circuit as a carrier, only what's inside the amp helps & even then as we've fitted 'all the tricks' into one amp, we can tell Sunday electric is still the cleanest. There are a lot of shysters trying to part you from your cash with useless ideas. We saw one fuse like this advertised as "slightly used", as in they tried it, felt stupid for believing the lies, or maybe it fused straight away, but it's "nearly new". It's like those who buy bottled water, tap water you can put through a filter jug for very little, but people like to believe rubbish they are told & feel better having paid for a product or service. ↑
We want to buy a kit of Hifi upgrade ideas and have you tell us how to do it.
Our upgrade & service work is only done by us on your amplifier. We do not sell ideas, kits of parts, cheap options to do professional work, or even want to answer one who thinks we are willing to help their clueless ways for a price. No easy options, either you try it yourself or pay for it to be done. DIY Car repairs or use a garage. Hang wallpaper or try it yourself. Professionals offering a highly skilled service exist as amateurs thinking they can do a pro job often make a mess. You can learn how to hang wallpaper or do basic car repairs, but to upgrade electronics, mess with mains voltage & keep it reliable for safe use is hardly what any professional would want to guide you through. You'll expect endless help as you'll make a mess. Get real. We did a BTEC on electronics & in reality it teaches you very little practical work. You can be booksmart on formulas, but learning to upgrade hifi is a skill learnt by one who looks at things with a very different view of things to your usual tech. Look around to see how many offer professional upgrade work. The best you'll find usually is TV grade repairs who are scared to even recap as that goes into design territory that they can't solve. So please don't ask for easy options, we won't reply. ↑
Why Do Some Cables Sound Better Than Others?
New section linked at the page top that's on the Turntable-Phono-Cable page. Explains what expensive cable is all about. Do you need it or is your amp good enough to sound great with "cheap" cables? Expensive cables can actually make an upgraded amp SOUND WORSE simply as your amp doesn't sound rough now so the expensive filtered cables are making the sound TOO DULL as we found on the Phono Cables section linked above. ↑
Sound Quality is So Subjective
We've said this often on other pages, you can get tuned to one "sound" & find others not to your taste, but try another amp for a while & then the others that are unaltered since sound very different. One that sounded too harsh was because the amp you were used to was duller sounding, your hearing compensates & "hears" adding EQ, crazy but true, all other variants on that theme can be hearing-compensated. How 'realistic' the vocals sound & how wide the Stereo imaging is varies amid amps too. The amp we've had on the speakers over xmas now sounds very different to the one we used for a while before that we thought wasn't quite as good, but it now appeals more. The precision on playing distorted bass notes is superior for definition on this amp. There is a chance as we'd recapped it's complex power supply it's now working at it's best after use then sitting a while. It's all in the mind? Perhaps not with this one, the precision is noticeable on speakers compared to the previous amp playing the same TV shows as watched just earlier. Just shows how important it is to Live With An Amp for at least a week. 10 minute shop demos are worthless as you can be dazzled by non-neutral sounding hifi & well-chosen audio tracks.
Well just to show how difficult amp comparing it, we'll illustrate it here. Two amps much upgraded, we're not saying which as that causes a mad rush for an amp that you'll only get "raw & aged". Trying the same amps from the day before that wowed with the first amp, this time try the second amp first. As you'd expect, to wonder if it was working right the day before, if it was, as today it's the one that gets the old cliche phrases 'amazing' etc. This one on the same tracks sounds different, the upper bass a bit thicker & treble a teeny bit less crisp. The 'lesser' one from the day before now sounds more neutral giving an extra depth to the music that the other doesn't quite have. How can they sound so different one day to the next? "They" don't, your grasp of audio reality has differed as you used different amps as the first amp you played, got used to it's characteristics & referred to another. In reality, either amp is as good as the other, but compared together, you hear the differences & find what was 'better' before is now less neutral. Try the same thing another day with the other amp played first & the opinion will revert. This is why we grade amp sound no higher than "Excellent" as you can play any amp rated this way & be happy with it. Those grading stars-out-of-five are probably not comparing the way we do. There is no perfect amp, but there are amps "perfect" for you until you hear other ones. To be happy with amp for 10 years & only hearing other amps do you hear what you're not hearing with yours. ↑
In Hifi Reviewing You Need References.
In the above 2-parter we used another amp with valves as a reference. The Pt.1 winner didn't make the reference amp sound so good, it needed a notch more treble but was then a bit unbalanced. The Pt.2 winner is closer to this amp if the upper bass is more like the Pt.1 one & half a notch of treble matches it. So to play the same tracks on the valve amp to be used to how it makes them sound without the treble gain. Hearing adjusts to that after a short while. The valve amp is clearly more neutral as one track reveals fine detail if without a slight edge transistor amps with wider bandwidth & limiters bring to the treble, a form of 'ringing'. So back the the 2 transistor amps above, the Pt.2 one first. This is a mellower sound than the valves, treble does have that slight edge if it sounds not unlike the valve amp in most ways, if it doesn't have the deeper dynamics of the valve amp. The Pt.1 one doesn't have the open bass of the other two & sounds a little lacking in soundstage depth, it sounds flatter as in hearing 'depth' to even a mono track. See how the reference amp shows the Pt.1 one up, all are wonderful amps, but different. The next amp to try therefore is the Realistic STA-220, after all it pleased on the speakers for several weeks. Use of the Midrange control on speakers is required, if on headphones it's set flat, so why is that? The STA-220 is a loud clean precise amp with some interesting design for the age. Here it sounds as neutral as the valve amp, but we've not done the main caps on this one yet. The reason why the STA-220 needs midrange adjusting is the sound is too loud & precise for smaller rooms so needs taming back, we found this with the valves. Most domestic hifi is tamed similarly & runs out of power with volume midway. Some amps are more PA worthy & just get louder, if cleanly loud. Both the Pt.1 & Pt.2 amps start to run out of power, the STA-220 & valves just get louder. ↑
So how does the Sansui AU-G90X sound compared to these 3 above?
It has the precision of these amps, if it is very matter-of-fact with the sound, 130w of power is really more than you'll ever use. The sound you can reach out & touch if it doesn't have the warmth of the earlier amps. The sort of amp maybe better for speakers as on headphones the 'master volume' is a bit higher, gives huge dynamics, but a little more than reality. It is a sound you can get used to & find other amps lacking the huge dynamics, but the dynamics here are better suited to PA or Studio monitoring. It sounded a bit alien on first play on typing this, now after 15 mins, your hearing learns it's character & it then sounds right. We have found the precision & neutrality of the 90X sometimes sounds harsh, cold, lacking in upper treble, a bit grainy, cardboardy & too tight on the bass. But this is as other amps are lacking in some way, if maybe playing in a more musical way. The cry of "it sounds too clinical" could be thrown at the 90X but an amp like this needs big speakers, if you use it with 6" speakers it'll certainly sound 'clinical' as small speakers have no bass unlike bigger ones. The ear naturally EQs dull sound to sound brighter & with this mind-EQ you play the 90X & it sounds awful. Now we're used to it's sound, to try the other ones again. The Pt.2 one has the wallowy bass the 90X doesn't if the sound is clean, it's not as upfront which can be made to sound more like the 90X with volume up & bass down. The Pt.1 one again sounds just a little flatter in dynamics. Strangely overall all not so different beyond that if the power is limited as designed. Shows the calibre of the amps were comparing. The STA-220 compares well too, if all 3 are a slightly easier listen as more neutral being not so upfront. The Pt.1 & Pt.2 ones we'd still likely sell, if the STA-220 is the one that goes back on the speakers & it is the 'unknown' one with no circuit diagrams found yet. ↑
Who repairs Tuners these days?
The above was asking about fixing the Tuner. Tuners are a bit of a pain, if they work you can align them easy enough, but if they are silent & basic fault finding can't tell anything, then sadly it'll never work. Having recapped the Sony STR6120 & Trio WX400U tuners, we've learnt the basics of the tuner, but once they are silent, where do you begin without test gear? We asked one older guy about fixing a working tuner that didn't go Stereo, we were quoted 'anything up to £900'. As with our upgrades, it's the hours work to do, if hardly worth the spend here. He has the alignment gear & Tuner knowledge, but as Digital takes over, an analog tuner is becoming redundant as some countries are turning Analog signals off, as TV has been. ↑
Do You Use An Analog Tuner Anymore?
Those who buy our amps tell us they rarely use the Tuner, so the Tuner not working isn't so important. The Aux input is the main use for CD, computer & TV as well as Phono stages for Records are still used by many. We like records, this is a Record Sales site after all. Tuners aka Analog Radio is probably more an in-car thing as well as DAB & internet radio being today's versions, most use it for background music. Radio is still listened to, in 'Eastenders' they use DAB radios that has more stations than FM, AM/MW today has hardly anything beyond sport chat. In days of the typist's youth a radio was an essential thing, it was your music. The typist was 'tuned in' from the age of 7 to 22 by which time we'd strayed far from commercial pop. Capital Radio 194 was the main station, until one evening aged 11 was heard by mother listening to an adult health program, having forgotten to tune to Radio 1 & they found Radio Luxembourg 208 which was a nice find. Shops played radios, cars blared them out, but today it's very silent, nobody whistles pop songs now as the Top 75 is just teens musical product, to dare to listen to Radio 1 or Capital FM these days is hard work, if Radio 2 we listen to on receivers sometimes, if the music can be tedious at times to get channel changing jitters. Receivers with Tuner stages might not get used much today, if they do add a nice Retro look & Retro may be a narrow market as a recent 'Bargain Hunt' proved with huge losses but it's more interesting than the dull stuff they always show. ↑
We Do Design-Based Upgrades By Ear.
Some amps need some subtle redesign. By comparing all these amps our benchmark can only get better. See the above, one "The Pt.1 one again sounds just a little flatter in dynamics.". It is very similar to another amp as it's the receiver version, so looking again at the circuits, if for the first time in quite a while, we see something that we have encountered with other amps such as the Sony STR-6120 & more recently the Trio TK-66. Don't like that design, out it goes & once correct it sounds very different. So to compare back to the amp version & the flatter sound is still in that, the circuit is almost identical in the altered part. Where's the fresher sound of the receiver version? The bass sounds restrained, the treble isn't as crisp & the soundstage is noticeably flatter. This is why we need circuit diagrams to understand the circuit & see weaknesses. Now trying the STA-220 again, it is very much in the league but now it sounds a little lacking which if we had a circuit diagram could redesign it a bit, but beyond the tough job of board track staring, it's not easy to work out. Still with the original main caps, the Jam track noted below shows it up a bit now. Took a while to better it though. ↑
What sort of music do we use?
It'll upset the 'experts' to hear we use 1970s & 1980s Reggae recorded from original UK & JA 45s with the weakness of production & solid basslines really showing how good the amp can resolve. Some tracks used to sound muddy & indistinct on lesser amps, the height of resolution on these tracks with some amps really brings the detail out with challenging music. When we had the McIntosh pre-power combo, one muddy Reggae track sounded like no other amp could resolve & for quite a while we searched in vintage amps for that sound again. The first that gave this sound was the modest Consort CA-4000, before that we'd had a bit of a run on Bang & Olufsen gear that really is musically far from the hype it gets. The modest Trio TK-150 at only 13w gave a taste of the sound, if not the power. Now we try more with amps to surpass that McIntosh moment & that same muddy track with a difficult white noise tape hiss background now sounds so much more detailed. The vocal on this track, Ken Boothe 'Let The Water Run Dry' on the Studio 1 repress LP now sounds clear, focussed & precise, the female vocals used to grate harshly on lesser amps, now they have a presence & balance. Another one that gets used as a test track is Joan Jett & The Blackhearts 'Crimson & Clover' for the hard rock guitar riff, it needs weight & focus. To go Reggae to Rock is quite a different sound as it's far more produced. The Jam 'Start' has a very hard hitting dynamic intro so that gets used a lot too. ↑
Largest Monster Receivers of the 1978-80 era.
These hardly sold in the UK if shops did have them to order. For back breaking desk bending the Yamaha CR-3020 at 35kg & 632mm wide, just over 2 ft has to be the biggest one. At 35kg also is the Pioneer SX-1980 is 560mm wide, we saw one once, the owner had it sat on the floor & had the arrogance to use it as a power amp only. It sounded very tired & to assume the preamp had problems. Huge thing. We'd like to see either of these to service & upgrade, but be sure they are as huge a job to get up to spec as they are physically. There are even huger power amps of recent years, but to think there's stupidity in deliberately overdesigning the metal cases to make 50kg+ monoblocs. Similar to those who need huge cars as status symbols & the usual reasons why. We've had some of our 1960s Upgraded amps compared to these 500w monsters & for the fact a home set up doesn't need 500w, those testing our modest 20w amps like Coral & JVC ones all agreed for musicality, the 1960s ones outdid these huge dumb things with ease. With 95dB speakers the 18w-20w of those 1960s ones is actually enough to fill a room, if not to extremes, but loud enough to be able to tell. Yes, a dinky 7kg amp with 20w is more musical than a 50kg 500w monster. In cartoons, Monsters were usually huge furry things Bugs Bunny could easily outwit, named for a reason size & lack of intelligence. The Monster Amp era of 1978-79 is for the huge sales of Disco, Bee Gees & John Travolta films, those big amps to play that seems rather cruel. To create huge receivers with 160w to 340w, the most ridiculous being Marantz with the 300w 2500 but then felt the need to make a 340w 2600, the huge one with the oscilloscope. Likely great fun to use, the apex of 1970s Japanese & USA hifi insanity, but be sure they'll need a huge amount of work to sound right & for the hot bulbs in plastic fascia surrounds issues. ↑
Don't Butcher That Amp.
We had a question about restoring a 1977 150w Pioneer SPEC-4 power amp. These were popular amps with the chunky looks & rack mount features with a good range of other components. But what someone has done to this one is remove the power limiter, the manual says it wisely limits more than 180w into 4 ohms, to stop it getting unstable & damaging. The unknown & risk here is a big problem, the amp has little value as who'd trust it knowing an amateur messed with it, no pro tech would take out a worthwhile part. We read of those ripping out Tone Controls & using the amp flat. Well your amp to do as you wish, but it has no resell value now. What we do in upgrading you can see it's always subtle & in keeping with the originality. Amps must look tidy if rewiring the mains to 3 core & sometimes replacing useless speaker connectors. We saw a nice Yamaha CR-1000 but some fool had badly chopped a hole in the rear panel to put a kettle plug socket in, thinking it actually needed it. No it doesn't. ↑
Awkward Speaker Connectors.
If speaker connectors are useful in some way by using ideas we put on the Sales Page for awkward Speaker connectors, we'll leave them original, but if the buyer wants them altered to look subtle, we can do that. We don't use garish Gold Plated huge metal ones if it can be helped, the Gold wears off & the large metal areas invite shorting too easily. Subtle & Authentic Looking is important. Spring connectors aren't great but to use a 4mm assembly with a wire is adequate as are early Sony connectors that are for 3mm plugs. These are some we've used... Connectors 1 Connectors 2 Connectors 3 Connectors 4 with DIN speaker sockets getting the DIN plug screw block attached to the first one. Some suit some amps better. If you think the bit of thin wire isn't much despite it being 10cm long, then look inside the amp & see often the cable inside is much thinner, no more than hook-up wire. It's fine as it's only short. You could waste time rewiring the inside & realise it made no difference. Keep it as original as possible. ↑
Not Always Quite What It Seems.
Seeing a cheap 13w Trio KA1200B of 4.9kg being described by one ebay seller as having "amazing clarity" to have a look at the circuits. Expecting a cheap ICs design for 1977 , but instead we'd not expect it to have capacitor coupled outputs & you'd expect differentials, not so here. The circuit actually looks like the 1968-69 13w Trio TK-150/KA-2000 & probably is this basic design. So for a 1977 amp with a 1968 design in, oddly the rave review probably is similar to what we thought on first getting the TK-150 that helped start our hifi obsession you read of. Why bother redesigning a lower power amp when good sales of the 8-9 old design show it's a good one. ↑
Experience Shows in Hifi Opinions.
The Realistic STA-220 we got & the seller wasn't too sure about it, so after servicing we said it worked ok, has a few issues & sounds a bit tired. They thought it sounded great & in relation to a cheap modern amp it probably will do for the livelier sound, but here we judge all based on upgraded-recapped amps & after some upgrading the amp sounded of high quality, if in reality it's now better than it was when new for higher spec. This shows that those getting vintage amps just plug them in & use them, no checking, no servicing, no nothing. They'd do the same with cars if MOTs weren't there to keep them up to standard on main issues. Out there in Vintage amp land, probably 90% of pre 1990 amps are used "as-is", probably way short of how they were when new, but reading other sites, people learn to live with things rather than be bothered do anything until they pack in. The world of good sound they are missing. ↑
Are They Right?
One seller put on a modern Luxman valve hybrid amp... "If you're reading this and wondering, don't hang around- they're rare as anything and if you miss it you'll think about it for ages..." if you know of something you'd like & you miss it by hesitating then 'yes'. If it's only a consideration with others then 'no'. To see something you're not sure of as it's not described well, the seller even when asked won't photo the problem, then stay away. To check the seller's feedback & see the buyer left a good comment may get you mumbling, but don't forget... that... ↑
Their ideas of 'acceptable' may wildly differ from yours
A classic example we know of was the Rogers HG88 Mk III that's on our gallery page from a few years back, well "it" sort of. The one we got it from left good feedback for the seller they got it from, but soon realised it wasn't so good & beyond their knowledge so they put it to sell at half price cl;early unsettled by how poor it was. On seeing it, to think a supposed hifi dealer would sell that as working was a bit of a shock, lots of problems & noises together with bad old repairs. It got a full rebuild & needed a second one bought as a parts amp to do the job properly as bits were missing & found the parts amp better grade to use it as the main amp. Taking the best parts to make one good one & getting enough back parting the other one out paid off. Maybe our standards are just very high, see our sales & solds amps to see if that's so. We do all amps to a standard of 'maybe we'll keep it as a reference amp' so to bring the best out in it. ↑
Hifi Variations amid a model number?
Amps in the earlier years often changed designs, the Leak Delta 75 got a lot of changes as it was a poor thrown-together design, the other Delta 30 & 70 were always the same as good designs. The late 1960s transistor amps varied often amid the same model for tuner technology advances & adding in minor changes with that, the B&O Beomaster 3000 to 3000-2 is only very subtly different. We've found this also with the Yamaha CR-1000 & these changes can alter the sound, see the CR-1000 review for more on that one. ↑
Early 1967-69 Pioneer - Not had one for a while.
Last Pioneer we had was the 1970 SX-990 with 28w, actually the only pre 1972 we've tried on speakers. Did have several 1966-69 ones early on if not revisited them. Need to try the earlier ones again. But the trouble with Pioneer was until the SX 838 range they had those truly awful speaker plugs, as we thought on trying the SX-990 with heavier cables as they have little grip in the sockets even if tightened, so the plugs fall out using 4mm plug-socket block as 'Connectors 1' linked above. Only designed for the thin basic cable like DIN speaker cables use, bell wire grade. To try to fit any sort of better socket is a tricky one, have seen awful messes online, but there's little space to even make a neat board without having to do surgery on the case. So best to keep it original. The plugs are hard to find as long since binned so buying online isn't cheap as the SX-828 gallery pics show it needs 3 sets. Most amps you can use the connectors to a degree if some of the plain screw types are not much good. Pioneer are a problem one. Only when we get one again will we think of better solutions to keep the looks tidy. ↑
Be Careful with Bulk Hifi Sellers/Brokers.
We got an amp here today from customer who got it from a Netherlands bulk seller. All nicely photoed & said to be 'working perfectly' aren't they always, but the signed service sticker on the back that gives it cred appears to be the one from probably early 1980s as the sticker is aged & dot matrix printed, all they did then was badly replace bulbs & manage to lose 7 screws including a big washer. The most insane thing they did was unsolder 2 wires & leave them hanging in mid air, not taped over, just left. What problem that hides we found out later, it hid loud hiss on a filter stage so they disconnected it rather than fix. These big sellers are usually brokers who sell gear on commission, have dealt with these before. The trouble is the amp in question is 44 years old & many will just buy it, use it without getting it serviced or checked. The sellers here will hear a complaint, they know it had a "minor issue" but play on the "part refund" game, leaving you with a problem amp & a large repair bill that you didn't want. The amp in question has loud hiss on one channel, the seller said they didn't hear it. If they tested it in a noisy shop odds are they would miss it, not very professional. The reality is, this is a large complex amp, we'll need to fully check it amid the complex servicing to see what else foolish they did years ago. For those who think servicing & upgrade costs are a bit too high for them, with us, you know you're getting a thorough job done as you can see our Gallery pics to see amps we've worked on & sold. Depends if you know how much better Hifi can be from having heard it. ↑
Are You For Real? : India High End Audio
We get one who claims to be a 'high end audio company' in India if their website is 'undeveloped' who has very odd ideas of what restoring a Grundig SV140 should be, hardly more than general audio quality 50w 1969 amp, they want it repainted, rechromed, the wood redone & it fully rebuilt with original capacitors if wanting it new, huh? We refer them to the quality of our rebuilds as the Gallery pages. We add the Dokorder amp back to show one which we actually rebuilt down to the resistors. Then we hear the amp isn't rough, so why refinish it & then they have the cheek to say "don't know if you can". Wary already of odd ideas, an insult tells you it's time to go after 8 emails sent by us. A case of they think they know it all, but haven't a clue about negotiating. To stay away from what could be a nightmare job. You find someone capable, which is pretty rare today, you let them take the lead, send them the amp & as found before. The first Sansui AU-G90X guy was like this. ↑
It was said in the 1960s-early 1970s that Japan made excellent amps
But their sales skills to other countries were very poor, so wisely got UK distributors who could deal with sales & service. Reading through the Hifi mags of the era reveals this. The UK distributors clearly did a great job as the amount of Japanese Hifi in the UK reveals. On ebay you'll have seen the remarkable hard-sell on Chinese valve amps a few years back, the quality doesn't look too good if they rave in a very outdated way with pictures with 100+ words added. India is an unknown in hifi, the fact that their Number One Audio Mart has to say All Products are Brand New & 100% Original tells the problem of faking has made trying to get credibility difficult. The world forever changes, learning how to deal with the Western World clearly needs schooling. ↑
Beware of Circuit Diagram & PCB errors.
You'd think it'd be perfect as someone will have checked, but the truth is there are errors, misnumbered components & the worst is marking capacitor +/- wrongly on the PCB & on the circuit we've seen this. You do a nice job & then are made to look foolish as someone messed up so yours messes up too. It'll cause other issues which then you have to repair after finding. Years back, the service manuals would get an update bulletin telling of errors once others suffered them, but today with sometimes 3rd gen photocopy quality, you are really left to find out the hard way. ↑
Unreliable Antex Soldering Irons Pt 1.
Recently these have "new improved" more flexible rubber cased wire. Much better you think, until it suddenly stops working. It's not the element, it's the cheap cable that's always too short so gets strain. Not copper strands but steel, which breaks far easier in strands as it doesn't have the same amount of bends in it before it fails. Take the plug off & pull on the 3 wires you connected in the plug. Odds are 2 will pull away very easily. For the moving around a soldering iron gets, to use steel cable is hopeless. Rubbish cheap cable to save 2p on copper cable. Update in May section... ↑
Audio Innovations 1000 passive preamplifier.
And it's been upgraded with some silver wire. Yours for £330 on ebay we see, to wonder what the silver scrap value is... Passive preamp is a switch box with a volume control. Some who think Tone Controls & Mono switches aren't needed will run a 300w+ power amp with one of these. To each their own. However much you think this is a good idea, to us it's one of the Jokes in hifi, but they do sell it appears. All cables inside it are not shielded cable & some are tightly twisted together. This will give a filtering effect for the electrical characteristics of that & as with expensive cables, some will swear it "improves the sound" as it tames whatever else they are using. XLR inputs & the awful stepped attenuator idea that limits precise volume control use. Do you really need any of this? No, says we, but there are those Hifi Mag readers who believe the hype they are told & probably rarely play music to listen to. ↑
Your CD player doesn't last forever?
Message about a Roksan ROK 1 CD Transport, hardly what we do work on, but it won't play CDs. One of those expensive Hifi Mag raved items from the early 1990s, 24 years use is pretty good compared to household items. But 1990s CD players are so outdated for the technology, by the mid 1990s a separated DAC was the 'thing to buy' so the use the ROK 1 with that. They contacted Roksan who said 'it can't be fixed' as likely the control ICs are damaged, so we are asked if we can fix it. Clearly not read a word here then. It's just a disposable bit of audio gear however much you paid, if someone may want it for spares. Couldn't care for CDs beyond using them to record vinyl on to & a DVD-CD burner-copier on the computer is all we used for. For the huge advances in computer tech a CD is just a data disc, any differences in sound are in circuitry after the DAC inside. For the fact a decent plug in Sound Card will better any CD player gives the idea 'why bother' with a CD player if you're happy listening to non-vinyl sourced music. ↑
The Goldring Elektra cartridge
This does show it's weakness playing loud cut vintage 45s that are cut Mono. In the ideal world, a Phono stage should have Mono switching right on the input before it's amplified, but none do, unless you do this yourself. This tightens the focus greatly. But play a Mono 45 with the Mono switch set to Stereo, it can be a nasty screetchy mess & the Elektra does suffer with this, on louder higher frequencies the Elektra isn't too sophisticated & can give a metally sounding imprecise sound set to Mono. We'd not using for archiving vinyl, but for general play it suits. Would you even notice that? The sound of YouTube videos is generally pretty awful if they copied the vinyl. Some don't even Mono it, others are lacking bass or are dull sounding. Those who record the sound in the room with a camera instead of using hifi are unlistenable, if as always, some will be happy with the most unnatural racket as they know no better. Older videos are heavily compressed & misguided noise reduction using poor monitoring gear loses the life, much like CDs which is why we don't play music from CD, only from Vinyl we recorded onto CD since 1998 with the first CD recorders. (this also on the turntables page). ↑
Hi-Fi sadly goes Modern in 1970.
From reading Hi-Fi News magazine, reading the 1970 year currently. it starts to get far more aggressive, which means far more cheap crap as you'd expect. HFN mag adds 'Record Review' mag to make a larger magazine & already the huge 50+ pages of ads are not quite what you'd hope. HFN clearly dumbs down from it's earlier idea of only covering Genuine Hifi Items, it clearly is just after ad revenue. Pages of adverts from Discount stores with cheap junk that's long since been binned, stupid adverts with unprofessional selling ways, still misleading 80 watt power that is either 40w+40w RMS or 80w music power meaning 15w+15w RMS. Sugden with their silly hype about Class A being superior & still cheap 10w amps with oversized lettering letting you know they are cheap, one 10w amp is just £14.50 new. Few shops list the quality amps we like, you probably still had to go into London to buy Sony, most shops still just sold the UK amps & some budget ones. a few with Lux aka Luxman. How consumers bought Hifi is probably like today, just buy it as it's there or some slick salesman flogs you the gear the shop wants rid of. 1970 in Hifi is not very encouraging & for the Discounters, the amount of cheap gear is at a high. Then quality is lessened as huge discounts are bad, as today with food when cheap is all most care about. Having read some later mags, it generally gets worse until a resurgence in quality by about 1976, but then the Hifi mags & their pointless reviews about specs & ignoring sound quality do revive things, a few brands continue with quality but most do sell out 1970-76 is the truth of it. ↑
Shall we use LED bulbs?
The trouble with the tiny incandescent 5mm ones is they don't last very long, the amp we use for records now needs a second bulb in 3 years. These 5mm bulbs match LEDs size so to try some, the prewired ones best save messing making them, 10 for £8 delivered, then foiund out the seller buys them on Amazon to make £2.50 profit & gets Amazon to deliver, hmm. Yamaha use these bulbs for meter lighting if an LED is only a 25 degree angle light. But for face-on lighting, a case of "why not try?". But for amps that use the fuse-type 30mm bulbs or bayonet, these last much longer so to source original bulbs is still worthwhile. How the white LEDs will look in our amp is to be found out, but we're tired of changing the tiny bulbs. We'll see how they fit in a Yamaha for meter lighting too, if the reality is the yellow light as white will need adjusting to not look too bright. Hot bulbs are a problem in plastic surrounds as they age the plastic badly as 1978-80 Marantz are notorious for crumbling plastic. We already fitted green LEDs in the Sansui AU-G90X as it still used the tiny bulbs & was aging the plastic, it can work fine for straight-on lighting if the LEDs take a bit longer to go out on turn-off. These needed adjusting to be the same brightness as before, what some fitting LEDs to amps don't understand so a sun-bright LED on an amp front looks lousy. ↑
Hifi News & Record Review 1970.
The magazines combine in Oct 1970. We've found reading through all since 1956, just missing a tiny few earliest ones, that HFN itself is actually more interesting in the pre-transistor era as it's the pioneering Hifi years. By 1967-69 we found the magazine less interesting for the waffle & endlessly repeated ads. The music reviews were embarrassed by anything Pop or Jazz even, if a few token Sgt. Pepper & Simon & Garfunkel LPs got awkward reviews. By Oct 1970 Record Review is failing so to combine the two into a much bigger magazine. A magazine full of stuff that has little interest. Music Reviews in Oct 1970 were endless pages of Classical & MOR, with just one Bonzo's Hits LP reviewed. By Nov 1970 they add a 'current pop' section with Fred Dellar who clearly doesn't like the music as his phony pointless reviews show. RR rates by numbers, many records get a high 45/50 rating showing little interest in the music, if the LP by 1970 was usually very different to Singles & hardly the sort of music we'd play. The Hifi section had a long boring article about record warps & pages of maths equations in justifying random things, who cares? Records reviewed are mainly Classical with pages of stuff we just bypass about Radio & even News & Audio Fair reviews tell little. 45,000 buyers of HFN/RR it says in the mag, be sure most bought to see adverts & deals on items plus a hope of reading a good Hifi review which they didn't get. Be sure the adverts were the main appeal as what other magazines were there until What Hifi began from a few earlier failed mags. If you want Rock, Pop, Jazz etc reviews you bought the Music Papers, not stuffy old HFN/RR. But the ads were mainly for cheap budget junk, some of the better brands were rarely in these shop adverts & Sony is rarely featured until Nov 1970 when 3 shops have ads. Most stuff advertised is just the sort of cheap 10w if you were lucky record players with useless speakers, just to upgrade from the radiogram with. We really thought the mag past the valve era would have been more interesting... For the 45,000 copies sold the mag is hard to find full years of as most were thrown away. The usual amount of items reviewed were just three & these describe features like an ad brochure & do tech tests, no subjective opinion. We'll keep reading as the 1956-80 era is what we cover & it shows how things changed. 1970 was a year of cheap junk stereos sold at cut prices & the bigger shops were feeling the pinch as buyers could at least be free of their high prices & snobby service as the letters make clear. ↑
Other People's Thoughtless Hifi Modifications.
We do like to look & see what others do on amps they sell. It does show how awkward speaker connectors are the main issue with what people change. See our suggestions to still use the old connectors earlier in this month's blog. Now as you'd expect this is where amateurs go & butcher amps. A Yamaha CR-200E is an entry level basic one of about 16w from c.1975. Still an attractive & worthwhile amp so treat it with respect. It has spring connectors with small wire holes, for use on 16w you can use 2mm 'bell wire' cable & still use it fine, but today's idea is 3mm+ cables with 4mm banana plugs, previously called 'wander plugs'. Make a short cable with a 4mm socket it on, 3" of thinner wire is as what's inside the amp. But what the Butcher here did is hopeless: they fit large metal cased Gold 4mm sockets, the + and - are about 2mm apart which is just asking for you to drop something carelessly & short the amp to damage it. Put headphones on the top, cable dangles behind & shorts etc. If you must fit 4mm sockets as we've had to do, use the more basic ones with red-black plastic cases to stop shorting & still look retro, those cheap Gold 'plated' ones are just a light dip of Gold that wears off. But with that Yamaha, keep the original fittings & improvise. They fitted a 13A heavy mains cable, amps under 100w are fine with the 5A cable we use when rewiring. As we see it, a butchered amp like this isn't worth having, just for the poor idea of the Gold speaker posts. ↑
Buying Tired Old Valve Amps.
We see lots of Rogers Cadet III & a few HG88 MK III around. These are always still with the original 50+ year old capacitors. These may work as such, but those high voltage capacitors are now totally dried out & to use the amp regularly is heading for problems. The trouble is these are two or three capacitors in one can & replacing them properly is why few will dare tackle them & one repair shop refuses to replace them 'as they still work'. You can see a HG88 Mk III on our Gallery page & we recapped it fully, the pics don't tell too much as we did it neatly. The Cadet III is a fairly crappy entry-level valve amp on using a very aged one, the 2-part one being more problematic. We just see these old valve amps & knowing the ones we've rebuilt, the amount of work in them is extreme as they need redesign. But on a more basic level, you can upgrade with like-for-like to copy the original design & hear it sounding fresher, but even then you'll find it sounds very lacking in what you hoped it'd be like & this explains why Rogers valve amps are commonly for sale, buyers buy, try & say goodbye as it's not quite what they expected. For the money spent, a transistor amp realistically will give you more for your money, but Valves rebuilt properly & at a high cost for the work will sound great. Valves you can't go into thinking of getting in cheap is the reality. ↑
Hifi News Magazine Jumps The Shark Dec 1970.
We've found the 1970 HFN a bit poor to put it mildly. Acres of clearly general quality audio gear all with false 'music power' ratings which are added together for L+R so your "200 watt" Sansui Eight is still a decent 50w RMS per channel, but some "80 watt" ones are 15w-20w & clearly are deceptive, if the laws were soon to change. The proliferation of non-hifi cheap 'stereos', one piece table top units with pathetic speakers rubbishes the ideals of early HFN. Thankfully most of this stuff got binned decades ago, but it shows how far away from Hifi the HFN mag is. Their editorial realises this saying the UK budget brands that all shops have will soon be gone, brands like Armstrong, Dulci, Teleton, Sinclair, Tripletone & Metrosound are now considered junk, if Leak & Rogers are still popular, they soon sold up. The shark-jump was a full page Grundig ad in a supposed Hifi Mag offering... a Mandello Radiogram, no specs or power ratings if they are proud of it's polyester fake wood finish. Probably 5w, we had use of one of these years ago, it was rubbish in every way, if it played sound, it didn't last long before it packed up & was very easy to smash up to bin it. All the years of HFN trying to better the public's perception of Hifi & they allow crap like that to get advertised, all about the money. The editor realises this by having to add RR mag into this 2 months earlier & worried about more junk stereos appearing they sadly say.. "it would be a pity if the great new music loving public found in the end that it had merely rehoused its modest stereogram in three hard-board backed boxes". Sadly in hifi & any prestige thing, Pearls Before Swine is the idea, most were happy buying Hillman Imp cars instead of Jaguars because it's all they can afford. In those days adding 'go faster' stripes was considered cool, all laughable, but the reality is you can outprice yourself in your marketplace, a thing we are careful to be aware of in pricing our upgraded amps. Hifi came of age in 1970 but it disappointed it's elders. ↑
Sony & Akai in 1970.
Sony & Akai were barely featured in HFN from 1965-70 until the last few months. These were very high quality brands, just look at the early brochures by both brands. By 1970 they start to get advertised more, but even by 1970 Sony make very basic 10w Sony TA-1010 as they see this cheap market is where more sales are made & this amp is often seen for sale way overpriced for 10w. By 1972 Sony ditch the high quality amps & start making more midprice-budget gear as this is where the money is. Discount stores lap up what was once a quality brand & like Pioneer, cost cutting hits more over the coming years. ↑
Early Important Brand Names: Now Something Very Different
Don't Trust the old names on newer gear. This was said in the HFN with one 1970 editorial. As with today, the brand names are owned by others so as with Cadbury's now sold to Kraft who ditch the quality chocolate for tasteless muck, the brand name means nothing, they still sell enough to unawares. Here HFN was complaining about HMV, Marconi & Decca who in the valve days were of high quality, but by 1967 some of these brands were on cheap BRC (British Radio Corporation) radiograms, those buying the brand name hoping for quality of old were left disappointed. Today with big faceless Corporations buying all the trusted brand names, you are often buying a very different item. 'Kit Kat' in the 1970s-80s had "Rowntree's" embossed in the chocolate until Nestlé bought them out, so still a good product. 'Ready Brek' essential fuel for cold days & it was supposed to make you glow radioactive red, but never did, was owned by Lyons but now by Weetabix. The quality of Weetabix was very variable at one time, we complained about this & the quality is more standard now only if you buy 12 packets, the 24 ones are cheaply made with no taste. But Ready Brek still has hard bits & lots of black oat bits in that isn't so great despite their hype & Weetabix still suffers with a hard mass of dust compressed into a lump that you can find amid, inedible. Mass market Corporations are only interested in 'good enough' & those 1967 HMV grams were the start of this selling junk under trusted names. Panasonic as we say elsewhere on the site were hot in the late 1990s but soon it was found their DVD players were cynically designed to overheat & fail within 2 years as internet pages told, so again the greed in cheating buyers once they've trusted you means Panasonic aren't much these days. Big brands can be great on some items, but poor on others, eg Bosch washing machine great, Bosch fridge packed up long ago. Hotpoint washing machine a nightmare, Hotpoint fridge great.
March 2017 Blog.
Running In New Hifi or New Capacitors?
You can imagine we've recapped many amps & generally after recapping the amp initially sounds lousy but after 20 minutes playing more dynamic music the change is obvious in that amount of time. Bass is the main lacking on first try & Treble can sound a bit strange, but 20 mins brings the sound out, this is why Reggae is good music to use for the Bass. Others say run it in for days-weeks but based on what? You have to run a new clutch or brakes in on a car as it takes time for surfaces to compliment eachother to get maximum contact, but in Hifi it's just getting the capacitors used to the working voltages & how they'll be used in a circuit. A Phono stage working on lower audio levels will take longer, but using Aux the circuits see higher audio levels. We recapped the Realistic STA220 on the output capacitors that pre 1971 amps often have & the sound was lousy until 20 minutes later, so knowing that from other amps to just play it for 20 mins & hear the better sound. An old idea that you must run in amps we've proved isn't really necessary. ↑
Running in Old Hifi With Old Capacitors.
The idea you can 'reform' a 40 year old capacitor is a cost-cutting idea we've read of. To try this out by running in the amp for hours rarely brought the sound back, it's a false economy. Old amps have been stored for decades in damp or dry places, things age & generally recapping a long-ignored amp is required, or it'll never be very good, as in below original spec. ↑
An Idea Of Avoiding Recapping?
Recapping is a big job, it needs to be done properly & we upgrade doing recapping. But how can you tell if the amp will keep going for years more? Only by using it which may or may not be risky. Some brands age better than others, we've had 1967-69 amps earlier on that were still fine to use. But then others 10 years newer that were obviously bad & even the 1998-2005 general quality capacitors in all gear were notoriously bad. Only by using it until it fails is your way of finding out, not very helpful. But based on all the amps we've recapped, the difference in quality of sound for recapping is the clue. The older it is & the higher the power means the bigger the difference, be it used lightly if regularly or used hard & left sleeping 30 years. A 1969 15w amp will likely stil be fine but a 1969 50w one will have problems or get them soon with more use. any amp pre 1967 or any Valve amp needs checking visually for signs of problems, that's a skill you learn. Before 1971 we'd recommend recapping all but the tuner. Don't rely on PAT testing as it's just a 30 second 'does it go bang' test. By 1977 as with Yamaha, some sections need a recap by design if you can leave others as original, as in you can still use it fairly sure of it being reliable, depending on the quality & some major brands used better caps than others. Past 1980 you can still likely get more years use once serviced. But it's only a general idea. The way we gave an idea to a recent customer on a 1979 amp, making clear it's no guarantee, was to check it when servicing & run it in for 4 hours & check again. ↑
Outdated Speaker Positioning Ideas To Ignore.
This is another tired old idea based on aged ideas from when Stereo was first available to the public by 1958-60. You see the old hifi mags & the 'Hugh Brittain' technique to us is awful, to toe the speakers in to the virtual line axis meets at a "sweet spot" in a seated position seems so wrong. So much for Stereo, the sounds converge & then past the "sweet spot" they'll have crossed axis so the balance is wrong. You'll get phasing errors. Toeing-In was always the idea even in 1990s hifi mags & be sure it's still quoted today. To us, ignore that. Have the speaker, in our case 15" driver ones, firing straight down the room. Stereo will spread out naturally the further you move away from a speaker & you will get wall & ceiling reflections & floor ones too if you don't have carpet. Speakers bounce the sound enough around the room as it is, so to add by toeing in as much as 45° seems pointless. ↑
But today's idea of a speaker bar you put under the TV
This also with Subwoofers is even worse, thin compressed treble & thin upper midrange & then wrongly adjusted boomy bass with no 'male voice' lower midrange is one we said years ago in a Hifi shop "Where's the midrange" says us knowing our 15" speakers & the know-all salesman had no answer beyond saying others wanted more bass. A younger guy demoed an AV set up as they had it on, so to hear what people are buying & the sub was set way too loud & boomy, on being told how awful it sounded they didn't really understand. Audio on TV where people are talking should sound realistic like when people are in the room talking, if very few amps deliver that sound. Not many people know what good sound actually is anymore, the Hifi Peak Years were 1977-79. Can you listen to your nasty TV speaker bar & lumpy Sub for more than 2 hours? No, because it's unrealistic sound will give you a headache. It is far easier to sell flashy crap than real quality in anything. Look how many listen to those i-pod earphones & phone speakers, they don't know sound can be better. Your challenge is to educate your kids to what great sound can be like, assuming you know what it is. ↑
Johnny Staccato TV series from 1959 is the earliest one to feature Hifi
& Records in, he was a crime busting Jazz lover & the series, now on DVD, is one of the best vintage ever, together with the 1960s & 1980s Twilight Zone & 1960s Star Trek. It features Johnny playing Records on the sophisticated hifi-amps of the era, barely any of it British made, but as a 1960 Fawcett Hi-Fi Guide USA book shows, the range in the USA was way ahead of the UK & this is where Japan started by seeing the USA gear & making their own. The Fawcett book shows UK Garrard autochanger record players & UK Leak amp & preamp, but no other non-USA brands. Amplifiers & Receivers by Lafayette, Dynakit, Jensen, HH Scott, Heathkit, Sherwood, Shure, Knight-Kit, Harman-Kardon, Eico, Fisher, Marantz, Stromberg-Carlson, Paco, McIntosh, Grommes, Bell Sound, Ampex, Bogen, QualKit, RCA. Leak from the UK also. Shows pictures of Hudson Radio in New York City which is very well stocked. UK was never this sophisticated, if New York high-speed life since the 1920s-30s has influenced worldwide progress. ↑
Risks buying NOS Old Power Transistors.
Some amps need obsolete transistors that can still be found NOS, New Old Stock, but for the age of these being 1960s-70s these have been sitting around as unwanted stock for decades. You can still buy some 1920s-1940s Valves for old radios as NOS & these will take decades to run out as the use of them is limited. But transistors we've had arrive slightly electrically damaged, the readings are wrong & this if used will work but it'll give big problems. They could have been stored loose in a box, blackened, dirty, crusty & bent pins give this away & a shock of static electricity can damage a transistor. They may deliver them in antistatic bags but they've been in that box 40 years. So to save problems, to check them before use & get free replacements. The sellers know from selling others that NOS can be unreliable so not hard to get a replacement, if to test it again. They probably paid 25p each for £8-£15 transistors so to replace not check saves time as is the way today. Of course, you trust NOS but then they get a rougher batch & then only when you get circuit problems is the truth found. Fault finding skills. ↑
What Did They Buy In 1971?
Onto 1971 brings a batch of HFN marked 'Dept Communications' & the reader marked off what they wanted to buy. Are they picking out obscure gems? Of course not, on the F.Cave of Surrey ad, a long-running company, they pick the Garrard SP 25 Mk II at £10.95 even though the Mk III is at £12. Clunky Rumbly thing, only the rarer Mk IV is any good really. Then at Trans-Headlines Ltd they want the Shure M44E at £9.25 & the plinth-cover for the Garrard at £4.50. They add on the back they want Celestion Ditton 15 for £23, if appear to have a 15w amp already. Budget gear they'll have tired of fast & not used much or bought better a year or so later & put those in the loft. ↑
In 1971 only a few bigger companies did Mail Order
worldwide, if using the Post Office. Only Comet offered Securicor who were the nearest to a modern Courier. The USA names like DHL & UPS were too expensive direct & still are & Comet must have got a good deal with Securicor who were more for Cash & Banks. Only with the Internet & Courier Brokers like Interparcel who started in 2004 did the big discounts by Couriers start & Parcelforce were very slow to get into this, only since about 2014 did they turn up on Interparcel & offer collection, as they had to offer it to compete. UPS & Parcelforce are the best UK Couriers currently. ↑
These to us are a bad idea, the 1971 Sonab adverts idea was to fill the room with sound. But you'll get hardly any Stereo image from blurred & randomly reflected sound, the HFN editorial makes comment on this based on a letter a previous month. Omni speakers will hide weaknesses by blurring them into a "wodge of sound" as HFN puts it, hiding how flat & lifeless cheap gear sounds. We tried speakers on an open baffle as was the idea some stated, again the open back gives the omni sound but no bass as it cancels out. HFN in the 1970s will reveal plenty more silly ideas that briefly are popular, Quadraphonic sound being the biggest waste of time, that starts arriving already in 1970. ↑
Do you need Filters On Amplifiers.
British amps like Quad revelled in filters. To tame poor recordings was the reason why. To tame poor Hifi design is more the truth. With 78rpm records the shellac noise does need filtering some may claim, but 78s we recorded to digital in 1998 before getting rid of them we just recorded properly with correct Stylus sizes & the correct EQ which isn't RIAA as everyone wrongly plays 78s with, the noise levels except on worn ones is still acceptable to us when recorded properly. Reading HFN since the 1956 issues, as in recently, not since new, Filters were used to cover up poor cartridges, rumbly turntables & poor amplifiers. "A Filter Is Essential" was the idea, "that LP sounds edgy on the strings they'd say". We've never used filters on Amps, the extra circuitry we know in some designs spoils the sound. ↑
The first Cartridge we ever used
was the Goldring G800 & still have one here. In the 1980s this was decent enough on the family Philco-Ford M1550 amp we reviewed, if finding the amp recently the preamp was a disaster. Trying the G800 on getting the one here it sounded very poor compared to the Goldring Elektra, the treble & upper midrange was messy. We've not used it in a while so now with our valve phono stage we'll put the G800 on a different headshell & try it on the Technics SL-1500. *Review continues below... ↑
Worst Ever Record Reviews are the Hifi News/Record Review ones.
Ignorant insulting Rock, Pop & Soul reviews by those who think Frank Sinatra is the best singer, a lazy artist to us who applied his narrow Rock-Hating formula to endless dull by-numbers ballads with only a few worthy of our playing. The March 1971 one shows this well, to call the Impressions a "Negro Protest Group" deserves a 'dry slap', clearly unaware of their wonderful 1958-67 era, they criticise Edwin Starr badly & rate low, a 1950s R&B Doowop compilation of classic tracks, if in fake stereo, is insulted with the lowest rating & perhaps the deepest insult is to low rate the Johnny Burnette Trio LP & a 1954-55 era Bill Haley LP similarly. If you don't like or understand the music, leave it alone, don't reveal your narrow-minded ignorance. But sadly HFN/RR don't learn, these self-defined "superior" types never do as the world forever proves, not many have played both sides of that 'fence' to understand. As we put on another page their 1980s reviews were just as insulting & worthless. But they just simply love any 200 year old Classical cover versions, pages of the boring stuff & insipid MOR pop. CBS issue a range of "Greatest Hits" Classical composers LPs, dumbing down to the bits you'd know from TV & Film, but they applaud that. So to avoid their ignorant narrow opinions, another section of this increasingly tedious mag to avoid. ↑
Goldring G800 Cartridge review.
This is on the Turntables page too... This was first released in 1968 as the Goldring 800, later called the G800 & variants with different stylus profiles G800E etc. So trying it on the Technics SL-1500 after usiing the Goldring Elektra on a different headshell. There is a difference in focus between the modern Technics headshell & the original one, so to bear that in mind. In weight it's heavier in itself than the Elektra & needs the counterweight rolled back, oddly to the expected place to use the weight, not right up to the pivots block. We've got a new elliptical stylus in, the generic replacement one. It'll take a few known & recently played 1960s Mono 45s to get used to the sound, but it's actually pretty good. It's a little different handing a heavier cartridge in cueing up a record. Last time we tried the same cartridge was about 5 years ago & it seemed a bit rough. The sound on our self-designed valve phono is enjoyable. The overall sound balance is a little more bassy & the treble is more extended. Playing a Mono 45 to switch out the Mono switch gives a nasty mess with the Elektra & we are tiring of how it mashes the treble unnaturally. The output seems a little lower on the midrange so the volume needs turning up slightly which brings up the background noise of the amp a bit. The opinion so far is the G800 betters the Elektra quite obviously. G800 stylus £14, Elektra stylus £35. So to put the G800 in the newer Technics headshell, sound tightens. After a few more known Mono 45s, the G800 is easily the better, smooth midrange, fuller bass if not boomy, cleaner treble & the important play Mono 45 in Stereo is more like the Roksan Corus which is based on a Goldring 1012. The output is better on the newer headshell too for reasons obscure. One known 45 on 1966 Island that sounds 'rough' with bad 'rip' sounds, one track actually sounds right, oddly we've had that 45 for ages & only ever recorded the Jamaican copy as the UK sounded rough, is this the conical stylus or the cartridge?. The G800 sounds cleaner on several other 45s, the heavier build has to keep the sound tighter than the lighter Elektra & the weightier cartridge stays in the groove better, as a better match to the SL-1500. The white stylus is a Conical Stylus that appears to suit 1960s 45s well. To get a G800 on ebay for £20 & fit a £14 cartridge for sound this good is one of the best Hifi Bargains. But this is our opinion using our high-def valve Phono stage & it didn't sound so great using transistor phono stages. As it's 1968 it is likely it was designed with valves in testing, further playing reveals it is very decent, if not Roksan Corus quality, actually not so far off it. We're not putting the Goldring Elektra back on the Technics SL-1500, the G800, for us, is vastly superior. How strange we are still using the same cartridge we first used with a Garrard SP25 Mk III & the Philco-Ford M1550 amp when a pre-teen first playing records. Catches you up. ↑
Conical vs Elliptical Stylus.
We play 1950s-60s singles a lot as the website name suggests. The Goldring G800 reviewed above we've played lots of known 45s on since & the conical stylus is a very different, we'll get an elliptical one to be sure. The sound is more intimate even when using the Roksan Corus on known 45s. The Conical stylus profile doesn't get as deep into the grooves is the typical reason why elliptical or bi-radial stylus is preferred. The standard G800 is 5 thou & an Elliptical is 7 thou x 3 thou. There is a possibility we're playing slightly deeper into the groove to find better condition grooves, but we've played Mint ones that were unplayed in the 60s. The treble isn't softer at all, it's all better focussed, if that could be the G800 cartridge. Ours has to be the Conical as at 1.5g it doesn't track quite so good, but 2g is right. A 78 stylus exists for the G800 & we used the G800 before getting the Roksan Corus. But we remember it costing £14 & G800E stylus is £16.50 now. The only way is to buy a 800E one & see if they are different, the one on it was unused. To be continued...
Been playing a lot of 1960s 45s on the Goldring G800 & oddly it has a retro appeal with tracks we've played since the 1980s on our Hacker GAR500 or 550 & the G800 with the conical stylus was the preferred cartridge. Remembering " it used to sound like that" instead of the thinner elliptical stylus sound, is it the G800 or the conical stylus? To be continued... It certainly makes 60s vinyl that can be as rough as sandpaper on the Elektra sound focussed. To get the idea that Mono vinyl was quality tested with a conical stylus. One rough 1965 UK London 45 by 'The Twilights' sounds awful on everything including a 1.1 thou Mono elliptical stylus on the Roksan Corus that still leaves a bit of a buzzy sound, playing the recording we done years ago. Here the G800 plays it better without any cringy face expressions, if the record is very roughly mastered, the G800 brings a crisper sound that would have got through an uncritical quality control. The Elliptical Stylus appears to have been introduced by Shure in 1964 with the V-15 if unlikely many UK buyers bought Elliptical Styli until the 1970s. So those very loud cut Decca 45s do sound best with a Conical Stylus. The G800 catridge has been sat on the SL-1500 for years, but tiring of the Elektra recently, remembered it was there & to try it. On one 1965 UK Columbia record a midrange distortion that we've not heard on playing that before suggests conical may not be the ideal. On another very loud cut UK 1966 Ember 45 to hear it not quite get the full sound out as it goes a bit dull. On a UK 1966 Reprise 45 is brings a clean focus to it. A UK 1960 MGM that 'rips' badly on the Elektra, the sound here doesn't rip if it sounds a little flattened. USA 1950s singles sound cleaner with the conical stylus.
The G800E stylus arrives as as we put on the Turntables page for Specs, the E version is in grey plastic, so the white one was conical, care needed on buying these therefore. The G800E we got from StylusStore on ebay. So to try the few 'very different sounding' 45s with the elliptical set at 1.75g play weight. The roughest one is The Twilights one & the G800E plays it cleaner than the conical. The 1960 MGM is crisper, it's rough but doesn't 'rip' like the Elektra did. The 1966 Island mentioned earlier is rough on on early section, but the G800 & G800E play it better than the Elektra, the 800E have a more detailed sound. The 1966 Ember on the Elliptical sounds crisper on the section the Conical dulled. The 1965 Columbia on the E loses the mysterious distortion. The 1966 Reprise is fresher still with the E. Verdict: The Goldring G800 with the grey Elliptical stylus still sounds great. In comparing to the Elektra which is ragged on the upper midrange & treble as well as being louder as the midrange is louder compared to the bass, the G800E is still much more refined. ↑
More Goldring G800E opinions.
We've played lots more 1950s & 1960s 45s as you'll see in our Records Stock. The idea even after using the Roksan Corus & having to fuss with Stereo or Mono stylus sizes, is that the 1968 G800E was designed to play singles of the era that were mastered roughly so it was tuned to tame the roughness which it does better than the Roksan & the price of that before it was discontinued edged over £200 last time we looked. The G800E is findable currently for about £40 with a new stylus. For vintage vinyl it's a must. Playing records we've known since the 1980s to hear it "sounding like it used to" is a strange one, reveals the Roksan is for LPs of a later era. We used it as a pre teen & also on the Hacker record players so played a G800, never being aware of the "E" version until the Hifi shops & Mags recommended the Roksan, which was useful, based on the Goldring 10 series & easy to get multiple stylus sizes made. We've had several G800s over the years, take the top lid off you'll see a solid metal cased 4 fixed coils of wire that the stylus end sits, see Wkipedia about 'Magnetic Cartridge" for more. This is a solid item & resonances are going to be low as the thing is solidly made, as is the idea of anything turntable. Not ripped an Elektra apart before but it's not as well made, a metal case isn't encased in plastic & the size of the inside coils will be a smaller size. Can't read inductance on the meter if the Elektra has nearly double the coil resistance 815 ohms to 470 ohms. This suggests the G800E is a simpler better design & as we find in amps, later overdesign limits things. The Roksan is 720 ohms. Construction plays a large part in the sound by those readings. Another difference is the stylus profile suits certain UK 1960s singles better, the Roksan & Elektra don't play them so well as the tip is more sharp so it can ride the groove bottom leaving a muffly sound. This faulty or incompatible groove is heard on some 1963 & 1967 Decca pressed 45 & a few 1966 Pye. ↑
Hifi Shop Comparators & Demos are Unreliable.
These were the "in thing" in the early 1960s if interest in them waned. What they were was an elaborate switching unit to compare 6 turntables, 8 amps & 10 speakers as an example. Early ones used valves as buffer stages & the wiring loom was miles of cable as one early HFN showed. But all that wiring will have introduced more problems. May 1971 HFN tells of why you should avoid buying via them, as the shysters were now misusing them to sell rubbish speakers of which most were & still are. Play the cheap high-profit ones loud & you'll not be bothered with 'noises' as the speaker may not even have a tweeter & no rumble bass problems as the speaker rolls off below 100Hz. Play the name brand ones with full range sound quieter so they don't sound so impressive in the demo as the 'noises' that are found with cheap sources & amps becomes more obvious. Mr. Amateur buyer is being cheated, they're getting a limited range speaker like radiograms used & they will be happy with it until they hear better & forever upgrade. Shop demos of later years we found were just the ex-demo gear they wanted rid of & be sure they knew which speakers matched the amp to give the sound you hoped for, but never find on your speakers. The only way to decide which amp or speakers to keep is to buy & try a few, mix & match over a few weeks then flog off the others. ↑
PAT testing is not to be trusted as a cover-all.
Having heard 'Bargain Hunt' mention this on 2 newly made lamps, the idea PAT testing is a guarantee of safety is very foolish, if it satisfies 'Health & Safety' selling electrical items that you couldn't sell for a short time years back. PAT test just very basically tests safety. Portable Appliance Test is vague term for domestic electronics that use the mains, Wikipedia tells more. To test basically the case isn't live, it doesn't go 'bang' or the mains cable & plug isn't damaged is simplistic, if common sense today ain't what it used to be. The amount of hifi we've had has revealed some ridiculous things as you can imagine, a mains fuse plug soldered a thick wire across where a fuse goes, a nail in a fuse holder of a Leak amp, awful twist & tape 'bodge' jobs, our pre-teen home stereo was like this, 3 units twisted together with a longer wire to use just one plug, laughable. If you pulled on the wire it'd all come loose & be live. Inside is where the problems are, burst mains supressor leaving a live mains lead 5mm from the case is the worst non-user one we've seen. Parts can be burnt from overheating & on the edge of failure, but like an MOT it worked when tested. These would all pass an amateur PAT test as they don't take the lid off to even look. On ebay electronics can be sold without a PAT test, if public sales in shops have to by law, car boots & markets can do as they please. Get any used mains item checked over professionally by taking it apart, if how to avoid the PAT test 'reassurance' lie being offered as the test? ↑
We Can Upgrade Valve Amps - Why Haven't We Got Them For Sale?
The Trio WX400U as an example. The amp as original will need recapping to even use it. If you just copy like-for-like the amp may be useable, but it'll not be very good. To upgrade anything will bring out the many weaknesses in the 1963 design & as we had one, we just about redesigned it, just for the hell of trying. Ideas to try & to solve problems took ages, we had the amp 3 years & had previously redesigned the Tube Technology amps so not newbies to valves. The reality is any amp in the current market which isn't really aware of what upgrading properly invoves, will only make a certain price. To put double or triple the amount of work in time & money to only get back a third or a half of your efforts is hardly a good way to deal. For our upgrading research, we can upgrade valve amps to a reasonable level & not cost you a fortune. The amp will be much better than it'll have ever been, if not to the heights of our own research-upgraded amps. Even transistor amps can take way more work than the resell price, the KLH 27 needed a lot redesigned to cope with being upgraded, it's great now but it was here a year trying ideas on it. Every amp is a new challenge, some are easier than others & some are very advanced, but we do it to add to our upgrading skills. You see this on vintage-custom Car & Bike shows where they can spend $75k on it & the resell is only $25k. But if you want to use the item or learn from doing it as we do, to do it fully is worthwhile, just the reality of resell prices will mean we'll not get a 1960s valve amp or receiver in to upgrade to sell simply as they all have the same redesign needs. If you have one & want it upgraded properly & are willing to pay, then we are here. ↑
Oh no not the Pioneer A400 again.
Ebay adds reviews on amps now & silly people think "this is one of the best amps ever made". Compared to what? 1990 What Hifi Award winner £250 new means nothing more than Sales Hype, don't you realise that yet? Other post 1980 Budget Amps is the answer if they tell. We've written on this amp on the 'Other amps' page if we can tell from the circuits what it'll be like so don't feel the need to spend £120 on it as we've heard enough of these amps to know. Great Value For Money they all say, maybe it is, but don't pretend it's anything more than Budget Gear. There are great bargains out there, read above about the Goldring G800. Pioneer A400 has IC phono stage which is typical & IC Phono stages are universally mediocre which is why CD took over. By the power amp circuit it will be of a decent volume but rather tamed on bass & treble. It'll have that "flat" sound we just can't listen to for knowing the "bouncy" full sound of earlier & upgraded hifi. No Tone Controls either, to keep costs low, not to be "better quality". Various other design weaknesses reveal it'll have a soft tamed sound with no real "musicality" to it. It'll certainly not have 'punchy bass' compared to a real amplifier, it's all about what you know. Cookie-Cutter Hifi that will please the Masses & exactly why we write much on this site to help you see beyond these boring amps. The A400 will have that rough "exciting" sound that earlier Pioneer SX950 suffered with because they are so cheaply made. The "power supply" is laughably poor, if cleverly done to keep the last penny down. The inside view is equally hopeless, no quality on this one-board piece of junk. Pioneer were one of the first Big Names to get into Comet 30% discount territory & they cost cut heavily by the 1975 ranges, even the SA-9500 is heavily cost cut. Ebay prices on the A400 vary hugely from £200 down to £30. HFE has more reviews of this, they say it has "no harshness" well we thought that with amps years ago & the better you go & with upgrades what sounded acceptable then is now awful as you've tasted better. To educate your ears to better sound, rather than show your lack of knowing better sound with naive rave reviews on mass market junk. To upgrade an A400 to our standards would be a waste of money, you can't make a cheap item into something of quality, we've upgraded enough amps to find weak design in some of the better amps even. ↑
When do Amstrad & Alba arrive?
Two brands that will make many think of rubbishy silver plastic stack systems, those one piece chipboard & smoked glass things that were commonly around until CD players arrived. Be sure 95% have been thrown away so you'll find they are quite rare actually, as are certain Cars of the era. The Alba AU 700 is actually reviewed by HFN/RR as they get sent one. This is how mags got reviews, they didn't go buy them or ask for them, explaining why reviews are usually 2-3 per month. Alba is a real low brand today if they survive as baseline items will. Actually Alba submitting this for review was genius, as the reviewer thought this 12w RMS was actually pretty good for what is is, much as the Pioneer A400 was. A basic but smart amp if it has DIN sockets. No filters if this leaves money to make what's there better, has Tone controls & a typical transistor line up. It did sell well as it was mentioned in later mags so to get it reviewed helped it along. The circuit diagram shows it's not unlike the Philco-Ford M1550 we used as a pre-teen. The inputs go through various resistors & then into the preamp, a bad idea that was commonly used & isn't upgradeable. The rest is basic enough to sound adequate if the input stage will stop it being much more than adequate, if it's only £34.50 new. The Amstrad Stereo 8000 arrives June 1971 with a simplstic advert showing a very basic very cheap looking amp, at least the Alba looked respectable. 7w RMS for £25.95 is for ex-Radiogram owners & from what we've read about Amstrad it was buy Saturday back into Comet with it on Monday as it packed up. "Ingenious electronic circuitry" shows the level of the item here. Sadly no service manuals exist as you'd take it back or bin it once the guarantee ran out after a year (or six months). An 8000 MkII pics of the inside found online, rather shockingly cheaply & messily made, no better than a cheap radio or radiogram & all DIN sockets. Even by 1979 Amstrad Executive as we mention elsewhere was a nice outer case but the same rubbish insides. Mr. AMS himself is a shrewd guy though, sell mass market gear very cheaply to the undiscerning who will buy it by the skip load, but unreliability was why few likely bought one again. But this stuff is in a "Hifi" mag. HFN/RR really did sell out as by 1973-74 the magazine grows to a huge size stuffed with lots of high quality good stuff as buyers soon demanded quality again after being stung & didn't mind paying for quality either. Only kidding, it was tons more cheap nasty stuff that got binned fast thankfully so you'll not see it around. ↑
We Don't Like the 'Lifestyle Ethos' of Linn, Naim. Bose or Bang & Olufsen
Nor the cynical way they & their paid Hifi Press reviews-adverts dictate that you should buy this as 'this is what you need' especially with Naim. External things because the internal one wasn't so good really despite you paying '£HowMuch'. Linn LP12 doesn't even play 45rpm records so, er, useless to select45rpm us. This Hair Shirt sort of Hifi we've never heard beyond the awful Musical Fidelity & don't wish to really, unless someone wants us to upgrade theirs. Plenty of Photos online if strangely no service manuals & circuits. Why the secrecy? To hide how ordinary they are perhaps. These sort of 'Lifestyle' products as Linn & Naim surely are, also are Bose and Bang & Olufsen try to sell a certain "dream" & the buyers end up with ugly Naim gear or futuristic design (as in pre 2000) with B&O, nasty sounding Bose plastic one-piece 'clock radio' or a strange idea of 'perfection' that Apple do with their computers & phones. Some really can't see past the hype or that other items are better. We know the power of saying amps are great with our site, the Yamaha brand we've helped revive but readers weren't fully reading things that meant it may not be for you or it needs work done to keep it working, so at one time ebayers were overpaying. We've already wrote of what we thought of the Naim NAP 250 on the 'Other Amps' page. We had a nice message from an ex-convert... Thank you for a wonderful informative website. Spent hours on here and ended up with a fabulous vintage Technics AU-8080 from the 70s. For many years I was caught up in the snobbery of British hifi and thought the Hifi News and Record Review was the bible for us audiophiles. Wish I spent all those wasted thousands on a pair of Tannoy Golds from the late 60s. Seriously thank you. Any chance you could do the same for turntables? Sold my Linn LP12/Ittok/Goldring 10 years ago and looking to get back into vinyl. Well put about The Snobbery of HFN/RR & similar mags, which is laughable compared to the 1970-71 comments on HFN/RR 'policy' on this page already. ↑
We do know later Hifi...
We used to buy HFN/RR from about 1987-98 which got the Vintage supplements mentioned elsewhere on the site. The HFN/RR reviews we write of on the 'Hifi Books' page & what was initially interesting soon got boring as the bias for certain British brands got a bit much & it went away from our interests with Digital. The Tube Technology integrated amp review got us to get the Genesis monoblocs & preamps as reviewed on the site. What they raved about we soon saw wasn't so great really, much upgrading of the TTs & getting a Sony STR-6120 after liking the Sony TA-1130 that we've seen the same one several times again. The STR-6120 sounded great on the Tannoys as did the McIntosh pre-power. Only by trying these amps did we find out how good they were. To try Modern "Hifi" like the huge Musical Fidelity ones again a tiresome UK brand the Hifi mags raved about we soon got rid of them after finding the valves too hot one summer. Again ex-demo Hifi Shop amps bought at a good price so could sell at the same price & be glad they went. So there's how we toyed with Hifi Mag "Hype" and realised by trying older amps & valves that there is where the Real Sound is. ↑
Asking for a good turntable without spending Garrard 301/SME prices.
As said above, we're happily playing the Technics SL-1500 & Goldring G800E on Mono 45s & it sounds perhaps better than we've heard those records in a long time, if for Hifi Testing we use later Music usually. We're using our totally rebuilt Luxman LX-33 valve amp & we've not played so much vinyl since the 1990s. You play more as it sounds good. But what the Technics & Goldring will sound like on a transistor amp is to be found out, as we want to see how what sounds great on our valves sounds like on something you can buy, ie our sales amps. ↑
Transistor Amps with the Technics SL-1500 & Goldring G800E.
To be very pleased with how this sounds on valves you'll read above, but how about with Transistors? On the Sansui AU-G90X it needs the input Mono'd & with this the sound overall is decent, the 90X phono stage not having the high resolution of the valves is noticeable & bass isn't very expressive. But we designed the valves to 'our' sound based on the Decca Test LP. So for high quality Transistor Amp users: use the SL-1500 & G-800E with confidence. The only 'original spec' amp we have here is the Yamaha CR-1000 & again the G-800E sounds fine. The CR-1000 is a duller sound than the AU-G90X if without the harder midrange of the 90X. Trying the Goldring Elektra shows a higher output but overall at the softer resolution of the CR-1000 you're not hearing the sweeter sound of the G-800E, giving the idea those with £500 cartridges aren't really hearing any improvement if the phono amp isn't detailed enough. We've written before about Poor Phono Stages, supposedly ±0.5dB accurate to RIAA but sounding lousy. Have a listen to our MP3s on the 'New Additions' page on the top bar of this site to hear what we are hearing, if those were done with the Elektra & MP3 compression, but gives a good idea of what vinyl can sound like. As with any cartridge that sounds right on better gear, the cheap ID-riddled amps will make a real mess of the sound as they can't resolve the detail with their puny generic designs. Hearing the often awful YouTube videos from 45s where they don't even use a Mono switch reveals what many hear, blurry no-bass rough unmusical mess. ↑
Comparing the Technics SL-1500 with Goldring G800E to the Garrard 301 with Roksan Corus
Firstly with playing the .wav recording done on the 301 & the other from the 45 on the Technics. Bearing in mind one valve phono stage we've only designed recently & the other, also valves, is from 2008 or one of the two earlier versions going back to 1998 & 2002, the G800E one is preferred as it's new ideas. This was expected & to try the Roksan on the newer design amp now. Previously the Roksan was thought to be a bit too bassy & trebly, the G800E in memory-of-sound seems to be midway. Not taking the Roksan off the 301, last time we did that the cartridge actually broke as one of the pins pulled out of the cartridge so unfixable. Always something weak to make you buy a new one. The G-800 on the 301 would be interesting though & we'll have compared both long ago. Trying the Garrard 301 & Roksan itself now, a strobe platter one may appear not much use with ESL bulbs, but if you look closely the strobe pattern still shows if you put it fast or slow. The 401 has it's own strobe bulb but not the 301. The Roksan is closer to the G-800E in sound, it is still slightly bassier with the treble needing one notch back on some 45s. The stylus profile is different & one UK 1964 RCA 45 has certain rough midrange sounds that the G-800E played smoothly. This is why we got the 1.1 thou Mono stylus & other larger ones to overcome that issue. The Goldring 10-series stylus we use just doesn't play some old 45s quite as well. A sort of swooshy muffly sound reveals the stylus tip is too pointed, not truncated enough to suit Mono 45s, so it doesn't quite read the grooves fully. Even trying a larger stylus tip still shows a roughness if this is the actual record mastering, that RCA 45 doesn't have the rough bits now on playing it, if the recording isn't the best, it does sound better on the G-800. Garrard 301 vs Technics SL-1500. Based on the above, is there really any need to keep the 301+SME? Playing one slightly crackly 1966 USA MGM 45 we first got long ago, the Technics system played it very well. Here the Garrard one using a stereo stylus plays it with extra treble of the Roksan, making it sounding a little unbalanced as the treble & upper midrange isn't quite smooth. Playing the same track as we recorded to CD long ago reveals the same thinner-overbright sound. Playing a 1959 UK Decca, it needs the bigger stylus as the Stereo one is too pointed for the groove. We have the same track recorded to the computer to compare & the G-800E version is far more balanced giving a more enjoyable sound without the thinner sound of the Roksan, the G-800E bass is far richer giving a better 'acoustic' to the track. Back to the Roksan, it does have a slightly better focus but the richer bass makes it seem less intimate as not so balanced, if +1 on bass fills it in. From testing the Garrard 301 years back comparing Oil to the earlier Grease bearing one, the Oil was the better sound as the Grease damped the sound. The 301+Corus are with a solidness to the sound that this 1959 single reveals the Technics+G-800E do very well, if the 301+Corus has a different sound but is more refined. In terms of out-of-ten, if the 301 is a 10/10 then the Technics is a solid 8.5/10. In terms of cost of buying one, the extra cost gives an extra quality, but as we've already said, will your Phono stage actually reveal this? We can reveal it & as the MGM record shows it's not always the balanced sound you'd hope for. The less bassy & brighter sound isn't really balanced right. Playing the recording of the MGM 45 & the disc now shows how much better we can make hifi using headphones to design, rather than on speakers which never gives the same detail. If your Phono stage is shop-bought spec you'll never even notice the difference is the reality. In terms of which Turntable is easiest to use, we use a velvet slip mat to play 45s & never turn the motor off, if with LPs some prefer to turn the motor off. The 301 with the levers where you put your hand to cue a record isn't great, the lever tip sticks in your wrist side as you cue up, if it stops wearing the paint off. The Technics is quicker in use to cue up for quick play of 45s. We played one 1965 subtle folk music Eyemark 45 on the 301+Corus, the sound was a delight. Back onto the Technics+G-800E the difference in sound was noticeable, the treble isn't as solid, the treble & overall gain is different. You can see opinions have changed in this section, but leave it as written to show how opinions change. Trying the higher gain Elektra shows both have the same slightly grainy treble. The Technics SL-1500 original arm is the weakest point of the whole unit & arms for how they damp the sound, or not is the difference, damping from lack of rigidity loses quality. Fit a high range SME to the SL-1500 & the differences to the 301 will narrow. The old-style SME 3009 is mediocre, only the post 1980s ones are worth bothering with. To fit a 3009 in the SL-1500 will be no better. ↑
More Goldring G-800E vs Roksan Corus.
The trouble is when you've heard the better sound, the other even if very good isn't enough. We can hear the 'slightly grainy treble' in all the records we've played since. The urge to hear the G-800E in the 301 is required even knowing the Corus popped a pin & broke last time. The 301 on the plinth is a bigger unit by far compared to the Technics & not for regular use, but where's the weakness? In the SL-1500 arm or is it the G-800E. So we try... the answer is found very quickly, the G-800E in the 301+SME is much better damped now & reveals the roughness of the cartridge. It is actually brighter, as in the treble is more extended as not damped. The G800E isn't easy to fit in the SME as the wires get squashed up. The G-800E is fine in the Technics SL-1500 but give it a turntable & arm of much higher quality & it reveals it's not in the higher league now. Horses for Courses. Didn't try the Roksan on the Technics but based on the swap it'll have the cleaner sound if the Technics arm will dampen it a little which may not be so serious as the lesser cartridge in the better turntable & arm. Roksan has a brighter tonal balance that resolves treble with better focus, if then the phono stage may be too trebly which could upset the sound further. The stylus profile of the Roksan isn't ideal for vintage vinyl so needs custom made ones to get the best sound, the G-800E plays records better in that sense. We did try the Roksan on a Trio-Kenwood KR-4140 long ago & compared to the Goldring Elektra it sounded oddly too dull, revealing more mismatching issues. ↑
He who is happy listening to a portable radio is the lucky one
as they know no better sound or care, it's all music after all. Songs you heard in your teens you learnt on poor sounding radios & stereos, the music got you, not the quality. To hear a great song on a cheapo portable cassette player & it hit you to go seek it out on Vinyl is The Joy Of Records. A Reality Check is required. Be sure next time we play 45s the Technics & G-800E will be good enough, as we're listening for The Music, not The Perfection. But to know The Perfection from designing it & knowing sound means our Hifi opinions are a little different to Mainstream Hifi Press. ↑
ESL Light Bulbs: Can they be Dangerous?
If they are smelly, YES we would advise. As you read above about these, the Cheap quality of today is a real problem with some of these. The Lloytron ones are no longer made as LED ones are cheaper if they aren't inspiring us enough to try them, the corn-cob type ones don't seem very good if ones in traditional light bulb shape are growing & the angle of light is far better than single LEDs that only light forwards. The Prolite ones we've got rid of as they stink. The Lloytrons do at least last if they burn out a resistor on failing, one out of many was noisy if the insides otherwise in good condition with only minor plastic browning. the Prolite ones are very different. We'd consider these a Fire Risk for the poor construction. After only a few month's use, bought mid January 2017, the fact is the bulbs hang downwards means the glass coil tube heat goes upwards. There is very little ventilation & taking one apart the board & components looks pretty burnt with blackening on the components side that is away from the bulb part. An inductor looks burnt too & for using 2 more months either something would fail or it could catch on fire is our opinion, there's enough to burn inside is the problem. In putting bad reviews like this, we need to show photos as proof, so here are three. Prolite 1 Prolite 2 Prolite 3. These have a European "CE" stamp on which we doubt has passed any UK Safety standards which are usually much stricter. The box says it's to EU packing standards if the Prolite box hides it's maker info under the base card flap. Their website claims they have 40 years in bulb tech, well if that was true they'd test these dangerous bulbs properly & know how dodgy they are. This is our independent opinion based on buying 4x E27 & 4x B22 20w 6400K bulbs & having now thrown all away as they are DANGEROUS based on severe overheating & burning plastic smells. These 'Compact Fluorescent' Bulbs are still on their site & have a RoHS tag too if oddly no details of country of manufacture if the usual cut price makers who know of the overheating as construction has extra wire soldered track side to stop the track burning out. Buyer beware, these things are legal to sell it appears, but too dangerous to trust says us. We told the ebay seller about this, ignored as you'd expect. So we blog it. If these ESL bulbs run hot & start smelling straight away, it's not them 'burning in' it's them burning permanently & sadly you can get used to the smell until another notices it, a bit like why cat women can't smell their 20+ smelly cats. It pays to complain about bad products, we did this on an ebay review about a certain brand desk lamps & to shut us up we got one replaced for free & one repaired, even though they were 8 years old then. We'll not mention the brand as they came good, but in reality one didn't last very long so we rebuilt it with a ceramic bulb holder before it burnt the switch section so use it still today. ↑
ESL bulb colour temperatures.
This is another issue, assuming the bulbs are of better quality. The Lloytron were 20w, 1160 lumens spiral ones, 5600k Cool White. These we've used for a few years & beyond a few failures, happy with them. The Prolite 'Compact Fluorescent' 20w, 1150 lumens spiral ones are 6400k Daylight White. These are too small built for the design, see above. The 6400k light is too blue & after using them for a few days went into a shop that was usually well lit, it seemed oddly dim now, if after 10 mins eyes got used to it again, as initially it was very yellowy light for being used to too-blue light. 6400k isn't good for Home Use as it gives things a blue tint that is unrealistic, the 5600k is slightly more golden in back comparing & is a nicer light. ↑
The E27 20w Lloytron aren't made anymore so what else is there?
LED ones buyable from Italy but they'll be too heavy for a desk lamp springs as the tech is still new. As with a lot of things in life, stick with what you know & trust if new is too unsure, so to find an Amazon seller with the Lloytron 4U CFL 20W E27 240V 5600K means we buy a few to last until tech improves.These ones are still good as they don't smell, the Prolite ones were awful. ↑
Goldring G-800E update.
After playing some more vinyl, as you'd expect knowing better sound, you crave it & the G-800E doesn't quite give it, a roughness is apparent that, er, grates. But we're not buying another cartridge as what else is there? The G-800E stylus hardly picks up any needle fluff unlike the Elektra. So what do we do? Rigidity is the thing with anything Record Player, solidness give better control, any form of damping loses stylus tip energy. Take off the cartridge, pry off the top metal cover & look inside. Look at what can be made better & more rigid & deal with that, if subtly. The difference in sound is as much as changing the SL-1500 headshell for the modern Technics one. Much smoother now on records played just earlier. Treble is actually higher as better resolved & needs pulling back a notch. Does it sound much more like the Roksan? Yes. Not totally there, but a sizeable improvement. Just a pity the output is a bit lower so volume up on valve Phono brings up the background noise more. ↑
My Amp keeps making click noises at regular intervals.
Not strictly true, the amp itself doesn't, other things in your home or very nearby do. Switches, thermostats, timer switches if aged get dirty contacts & when they switch off or on creating a mains spike. We've seen this on an oscilloscope: crap is on the mains. Modern gear has MOVs & suppressors & older gear uses mains chokes, these should stop mains noises being picked up by hifi, but not always. One valve amp picked up hum when room heaters were on, we fitted all we could to stop the noise, but nothing worked. What did solve it was a totally redone ground wire circuit in the amp, well into design territory. It doesn't hum now. In checking every thing we could, mains wall sockets were replaced & some had poor switch connections, darkened from sparking. If any often used mains socket is over 10 years old, replace it with a new one. In days of Analog TV the picture could pick up all sorts of noise as did car ignitions etc on MW radio. So if you have noises like that, generally finding out what goes on & off will sort it, if new switches etc will need buying, so get an electrician in. You can fit capacitors to stop the amp picking this up, but these ideas you do see in amps, such as small capacitors in certain places, but generally this will just dull the sound, so best to find out what makes the noise to deal with that directly. ↑
1971 Hifi Shop Advert gets into trouble with Pioneer.
Aug 1971 HFN/RR advert by 'Audio T' put a very strange ad in the mag, but clearly had no-one else read it first. "Common Sense? We wonder..." starts the ad. "We just cannot believe the public are totally stupid, but the way things are, really makes us wonder." They go on about Discounting & buyers only buying the cheapest things and try to illustrate a big £100+ discount of £450+ to £350 with one all-Pioneer system but a smaller £65+ discount on Cambridge audio/SME/Spendor £410+ to £355 system. This is foolish, they say one "represents quantity discount" & the other "quality in sound but a terrible discount". You see the problem, it suggests Pioneer are "tinsel boxes" the ad bleats on about. What the ad doesn't understand is RRP & lowest Discount Price vary by brand, but having read enough ads, the discounted price is with several shops, so is the real selling price. But Pioneer are discredited as "the biggest discount at the expense of sound quality". So much for 'Common Sense' by Audio T. The Pioneer SA-900 amp is a 50w-60w amp, we've not had but it's far from cheap junk as the ad implies. The Oct 1971 HFN/RR has to print an apology & public retraction on p1795 & Audio T has to use a half-page ad to do similar. Audio T continued into the 1990s at least & Pioneer are still active. Generalising using a brand named goods is risky. To say specific Prolite bulbs are a Fire Risk & put pictures as proof is fair comment as we do above. ↑
Realistic-Tandy arrive in the UK October 1971 HFN/RR advert Pt. 1.
Not that you'd know it was them on p1777, they trade as ROC Electronics Ltd, London W2, but in their line drawings the 'Realistic' brand shows. They offer budget gear as you'd expect if Realistic did make better quality as the 1973 Realistic STA-220 receiver mentioned above shows. They arrive properly by late 1973, see pt. 2 below in June ↑
Comet in Sept 1971 HFN/RR show why they grew so big.
They offer Securicor delivery which is the equivalent of Couriers today that only really took off with Interparcel in 2004 getting big discounts from the big companies most never used as too expensive. Comet brands are the worry, to see why the quality of Pioneer & Akai dipped heavily past 1972 & the usual Alba, Amstrad, Dulci, Ferrograph, Goodmans, Leak, Metrosound, Philips, Rogers, Sinclair & Teleton. Rotel appear too. But it makes Akai, Pioneer & Rotel seem cheap brands being lumped with the rest. Pioneer SA-900 amp RRP £134.10 Discounted to £95.95 is 28.5% discount, showing Pioneer RRP doesn't mean much. Ferrograph F307 amp £62.00 to £44.00 is 29% discount, showing Comet demanded these reductions & the better brands gave up, diminishing their brand names for doing so. Audio T just above weren't that far wrong if they worded it too specifically. Comet were only 4 branches then, Teeside, Hull, Leeds & Birmingham. They also offer the real cheap "Hifi Stereo systems", a Fidelity UA 1 Music Master with speakers for £31.95 is foolish to belive it'll be any good, if Audio T saying 'stupid' is a bit too harsh. ↑
We have a portable Sony stereo system, can you repair it?
We get found by Google & messages come without much reading of us, so to be told a portable CD player clock radio boombox thing Sony ZS-D55 wasn't cheap & we like it, can you fix it, please reply. But we've already explained this sort of gear is disposable, 5 years use & you bin it is the cynical idea of today. It's an insult by the makers because they see how mobile phones have such a short life & people accept this & no-one would bother fixing it. Parts if findable will be expensive plus labour to fix it will cost more than buying a new one, therefore it's disposable. Probably £150 new 5-8 years ago, you've had it's life, 50p a week, be grateful. £150 is not cheap depending on your wage, but Sony don't care, it's good enough to outlast the guarantee & be sure it has weak parts that will purposely fail so it's disposable. Ones for £20 used online show the opinion. We work on better quality Vintage Hifi, not general electrical goods, we do make that clear. ↑
We were asked why we don't have much on Loudspeakers.
The answers are on their page, most Speakers are awful & most do not give you the true sound. To judge by Headphones first then take to our 15" Tannoy Golds which can make nearly any amp sound good, we put a list & rating of every amp we've tried on them. When you know the best Speakers for the types of amps you like, why bother with others? Read that page, tells you plenty no other site tells you. ↑
We were asked about opinions on a Marantz 1060 amp.
You see Silver Marantz of the Classic 1971-78 era hyped up on the web & high prices asked even for the lowest power ones seems unrealistic. We've had a few as our Reviews page shows. They are good but they didn't really inspire us to try more is why we've not tried more, compared to Yamaha who we've certainly revived people's interest in. We've found Marantz soft sounding for design & spec & the 1152DC amp for it's power rating was feeble. The 1060 is a 30w amp from 1971-78 continuing into the 1060B, lots of controls & it's a nice retro looking amp. The circuit diagram is findable, having a quick look just now it's a typical sort of design but a few bad limiting design features in there, if the sort of ones we've more recently redesigned in other amps to lose that soft lacking-detail sound. Maybe we should try a Marantz again, not had one since 2013. They are well built, nice lookers especially in the wood cases. But the trouble is entry price is often high & to put the amount of work into one to resell, is the market ready to pay for Amps Upgraded Properly, who else subtly redesigns amps on upgrading. Food for thought though. ↑
The New Breed of Tech is Very Exciting.
You can see the advances of today in the TV shows. Take Electric Cars, not those naff looking small things, but meaty ones like on 'Counting Cars' TV show Dee Snider of 'Twisted Sister' had with his Tesla Model S. Electric Car of advanced design shows how things have progressed, if it looked boring on the paint job so he got it customised. That car is awesome & betters petrol engine cars, but the price of £66k upwards isn't as high as you'd think. The real amazing show to us, a rare genuine use of 'amazing' was Wheeler Dealers S13 E12 with the 1985 Maserati Bi-Turbo, but it was an early Electric conversion left unused for about 15 years. Tech moves on & the modern Electric Motor & Batteries were a real look at the Future, sort of leaving you feeling old as it will take years for this stuff to replace oil based engines. We've Google Street-Viewed places we've known & some are getting those Hi-Tech buildings way out of the league of what else is around, as in tired old 1920s-30s buildings. The old ones will all be gone in 50-80 years if time catches you up. In terms of Hifi, it's strange that we can upgrade & redesign Old Classics in a similar way as that 1985 car got to give the sound quality we crave. What will become of Hifi in 50-80 years time will tell, but we're still using 1920s design loudspeakers & the amps of today are little advanced from 1977 designs despite the 'hype'. It's good to live in the past to a degree, but to crave the better parts of modern life to better the past is what we are doing. Maybe we'll be noted in Hifi History for our efforts, if it takes time for buyers to realise what can be done if they dare to spend a bit more on upgrades. We do all our experimenting to see what can be done, each amp adds to the knowledge. ↑
Loudspeakers: B&W CDM 1 NT loudspeakers plus Tannoys.
We mention these B&W on the speakers page if we didn't like the sound much after using for a while as speakers on the computer, using a Rotel amp, we've had a look on ebay & it probably was the Rotel RA-02 or RA-03, we've not added it to the reviews not remembering which it was. It was discounted to £200 in about 2004? The RA-00 range all look the same but add minor features to keep up with mobile devices. The Rotel amp inside was dismal, the preamp IC-op amp wasn't even put in the holes evenly, so it sat at a slant. We did try the power amp stage with the valve preamp & it actually sounded pretty good, if the preamp stage with the IC lost a lot of quality. After the Rotel amp we got a Sony TA-1150 & then the TA-1130 as both reviewed. The B&W speakers in cherry wood were £700 new, if the wood was nice, the exposed MDF stained edges were a bit naff, the top tweeter rubbery finish was annoying & the thin grille looked better off. We tired of the sound of these & did have another smaller new pair before that, no idea what they were, but 5"-6" bass drivers just don't give a good full sound was the opinion, knowing the full voiced Tannoy 15". You can get used to small speakers & pretend they deliver bass, but in reality it's just your hearing compensating, if the B+W did match the 15" Tannoys turned up loud for quality in some ways, the CDM-1 NT were clean & uncoloured, but power hungry & still didn't do bass very much. Don't home Demo speakers by just playing them loud, try them at lower levels like you'd play watching TV. The Tannoy 15"s sound spot on at any volume. ↑
We got a £20 pair of Tannoy 605s (continues from the above post)
The simpler crossover leaves more of the real sound, the B&W crossover was complex if the speakers too good to mess with so sold at half buying price, which isn't a good idea, but market prices dictate. The Tannoy 605 speakers were much better at lower volume, at the time we did Cartoon sound restoration & needed a monitor, if hadn't got into headphones by then. Blogging things remembered from 10-15 years ago can never be much of a review as some late amps on the Reviews page shows, more being opinions at the time which will differ a lot to today, if the same TT valve amps & Tannoys were around then to have a reference. TT valves still here if we've barely used them in the last few years. ↑
Even getting Tannoy 12" Golds in a cheaper cabinet
didn't satisfy our sound ideas shows how much the 15" Lancaster Golds are so right. The Tannoy crossover is fairly complex & the treble choke reduces the tweeter sharply to only the higher frequencies the Bass driver can't deliver. As you can expect, we tried a few things but without the treble choke the sound was very unbalanced, so decided to put it as original, past recapping, and learn the Tannoy sound. Took a few weeks to get used to it in the room, but never looked back since. ↑
Shall we try a Marantz 1060?
One on ebay now no case but suspicious extra Marantz sticker £325. One in a pretty wood case is £650. Ones no-case sold for £250-£300. We did have the Marantz 1152DC in 2012 & the problem was buying an amp that was fiddled with & it was too much at that time & with a poor service manual, today we could deal with it to perfect the beast. The trouble with the 1060 is it's only a 30w amp. If we got the best out of it as we're currently doing with another tricky one, the Yamaha CR-1000, we'd have to ask at least £800 for it & without a wood case, or as much as £300 extra for the wood case? There's the problem. The market is still pretty unaware of upgraded-recapped amps we do, it knows recapped-restored ones, but we go much further. At the current time it'd not shift a £800, but would more at £600, but at that price we can't do all the upgrades to lose money on selling it. Only amps of 40w or more seem to upgrade the best. ↑
Annoying Radios & Devices played on TV shows.
Eastenders the other day was excruciating beyond how dire the show generally is, but something to watch whilst shovelling food. They don't actually 'play' the music, they get the sound dept. to dub stuff on that they have the copyright too. But they badly compress it with bandwidth limiting to sound like modern things which sounds truly awful to the point of unsettling when the rest is in Hifi. A tinny portable doesn't sound like that in real life, it is listenable as are mobile phone tiny speakers, if far from Hifi, still listenable. This suggests BBC do their sound work on those BBC LS 5/3 etc type speakers so don't really hear what it sounds like. Most amps play midrange softer than reality if the STA-220 we're using is spot on for voices, which can be an acquired taste. So unless your Hifi is as precise as that amp, you'll probably wonder what this is about. It's what you're missing is the answer. ↑
1971 Leak Delta 75 receiver.
This was made after Harold Leak sold out to Rank Audio & sadly despite it being a very decent looking amp, it's a real stinker. It's cobbled together from old Leak parts, the Tuner stages obviously & other boards seem random & varying in quality. The power amp stage is a real mess & was forever altered as we found buying 4 of them but 3 were just so unreliable they didn't survive. The one on our Gallery page must have been a very early build without the AM antenna inside & all the alterations. Lucky is the one who bought that. This gets a blog entry as the Nov 1971 HFN/RR shows it's debut and it's based on the Wharfedale 100.1 receiver if using Leak parts. Both are 35w & later in the mag it shows the 100.1 in a Comet ad, a 'Continental' styled stepped front unit RRP £139.00 Comet price £89.95, a huge clearance discount. A lids-off pic of this found online shows it's a junky mess as the Delta 75 is, the rubbish of UK hifi sadly. Leak under Rank Audio soon brought in the popular 2000 receiver that sold well, if it's far from Hifi quality. Sadly most UK & Continental Audio gear really isn't very good quality & only with the late 1980s Cottage Era did UK hifi get some quality. ↑
1971 Amstrad 8000 Mk II & IC 2000 amps.
The Nov 1971 HFN/RR has 2 full page ads together for these. We all know "shite" & "skip fodder" is why you don't see these around now. the 800 Mk II was £28 for a 12w 'Music Power' amp, probably 6w RMS. The ad does sell it well though, inside pic of the parts & even a 1kHz square waveform showing how "good" it is. Amps don't like square waves we've found so see testing with them pointless, what they sound like & how stable they are matters most. The IC 2000, or "1C 2000" as their ad states, is sold as "Amstrad - pioneers of integrated circuits". Again the inside parts pic & the IC output amp stages likely some sort of STK amp block first used c.1969 in the rare Rogers New Cadet that we saw on ebay long ago. ICs are death in "Hi-Fi", they are never any good, if in Digital era with the huge advances they are better, but never "Hi-Fi". The IC 2000 is £43 for 20w RMS which is great value, if ones on ebay for £25-ish not working shows most got recycled long ago. You have to admire Amstrad's adverts, we've seen their 1979 era ones too & they gave the masses what they wanted, such as more than they thought their money would buy. Later we see the Apr 1972 issue reviews the IC2000. It's all ICs beyond one regulator transistor. The reviewer clearly doesn't know what to make of it & is 'disappointed' with it. It's not even stable on using treble turned full. Too much put into it & not done properly is the idea, well of course it is. It does rate 18w not 20w as the ads say & it says ICs aren't very good for Audio, if the Distortion ratings are adequate in reality. But it picks up hum from poor design. Easy to sneer, but 18w for £43 is very cheap if put in context. Buyers wanted too much for their money, this is what they got & it sold well. ↑
Hi-Fi News Magazine Adverts For The Lads & Musty Raincoat Wearers.
We've mentioned this on the Books-Mags page but for the joy of how foolish adverts in the 1970s could be, look at Lind-Air of Tottenham Court Road, London in November 1971 HFN/RR & it's in the Dec one too. Half the double page spread is a woman stretched out wearing only a bra, a pained expression & her hand covering where the sun don't shine. What's the point of that? To get your attention, in 1971 this was a rare sight in non-top-shelf magazines & will have pleased many guys with horn rimmed specs & comb-overs. Their selling line is laughable too "We Take Off More... and give you something extra!" Sex sells, or it used to, it's everyday 'meh' now. Even Barbra Streisand gets a 'babe' pic courtesy of Eagle amps "I have this thing about going to bed with Barbra Streisand" is the heading & the next line "When it comes to pure woman, Barbra Streisand takes a lot of beating". Er, ok... make up your own jokes or non-PC disgust at that one. Eagle amps were very cheap if not bad as Japanese made, to find Eagle amps of their later era of higher power in good grade is impossible almost. Just to finish you off, Sir... the Duette amp by JJ Silber distributors returns. A naked man & woman sit & her arm carefully placed so that not everyone would notice a little something poking out. "Duette for lovers of pure sound". Strange range of amps going back to c1967 Germanium ones. Their next ad was again the two who couldn't afford clothes, this time a cheeky pic of her is noticeable. This was the era of Top Of The Pops cheap cover version LPs with teasing girl pics & all those Reggae compilation LPs with again women unable to afford clothes. A move on from the Cheesecake of the 1950s-early 1960s which was a move on from 1940s Varga calendars in a day when they could only print drawings in terms of 'art'. All very fascinating & like a lot of things, how life was then, not for today's stupid double standards mindset to grumble about. ↑
Amplifier Sound Quality We Aren't Keen On.
You can read enough of what we do like. The less-nice sounds are not so easy to find on our site. We've upgraded one amp we've had before, all the 'standard' recapping & upgrades done as it the adjusting. But there's no further redesign than as with recapping. We've not heard this sound for a while now, the big 160w Sansui was more refined if we could see it could upgrade more. This current amp here, that we'll not name, is a mid 1970s one. The sound we find hard to deal with, it is bright, it still shows low spec that we know is in the design which leaves a sound lacking depth & smoothness. The mark of the best amp is in resolving detail on complex or not so well-recorded music which is why 70s Reggae & 80s Rock are such good types of music to test, Classical doesn't really have enough going on beyond the louder sections, Classical is "lots of quiet" that's not hard to reproduce, unlike the full-on crescendos. Resolving known tracks into a bright tizzy mess is not Hifi to us at all, it might suit dull speakers & why that brand as the amp is remains so popular. It doesn't have the grunt to fill out the bass of hard Rock & The Jam "Start" sounds really awful as the amp just hasn't got the high spec in it that we can add, if it was our amp. Even playing slower music, it's just not "our sound" & brings grimaces and it's a bit disorientating even. Trying the Sansui AU-G90X, to use a later era amp to compare, is so different, the music has depth & realism. It appears on first try to not be as 'sweet' sounding as it could be, but the 90X being so clean you can play it too loud & this can confuse too. Playing Mono Reggae it needs turning down a little proving that's true & the apparent harshness is you playing it too loud, on headphones. ↑
You go on about "Low Spec", is it possible to put "High Spec" into any amplifier & make it the best amp?
No-one's asked us that but it's one worth noting. The answer is not just "No" but "Hell No". We recently got a Goodmans Module 80, perhaps the best of the UK early 1970s amps for reasons of upgrading, not having axial capacitors like Sugden & most UK brands. For the hell of trying, we put in all the high spec that other amps can cope with to a degree, but the Goodmans showed why it was so limited in the first place, it's not a very good design. Giving it the best revealed it to be laughable for the noises & limitations of the original power amp, it was impossible to try anything to stabilise it beyond putting it back to the original feeble design. The preamp was laughable too, using several controls it caused problems that you couldn't sell it having & again to put it back to how it was would have solved it, but negating the whole point of upgrading it. The idea of upgrading is to keep it looking as original as possible beyond new components, to rip boards out & put in a different design won't get you a customer as it's 'too fiddled with'. In our upgrading, we've had to tame down some amps to keep them good in use, switches & controls on some amps can cause problems in use unless tamed down as the original design, hardly a good design but the makers made it to sell as-is not for us to upgrade decades later. You certainly can IMPROVE any amp, but to expect all to be The Best generally doesn't happen as there is usually a weak point that stops progress. If we had found "The Best" amp, we'd not keep trying more amps, if there are some that come close though. Notice that no-one has ever designed an All-Digital power amp giving 200w output to drive any speaker. Only when that happens will we be worried. ↑
Even the Best Amps have some really poor design.
Not saying which, but shielding of certain sections is essential & trying one just now it does obviously affect the sound, unshielded it's a little lacking in focus compared to being shielded. This one has the power supply backed onto the preamp-tone stage with the boards about 1cm apart. Another has the power supply right on top of the Phono stage if both are about 3cm apart, it will affect the low level signals. These amps aren't budget amps, they are some of the best we've ever had. It's like they design it to perfection & dumb it down in every way possible. Undoing the dumbing down is the game here. ↑
Can We Do Rush Jobs Like They Do on TV Car Shows?
The ideas of this rush job is pure fantasy strictly for TV land, the latest one is "Big Easy Motors", a very dumbed down show sadly. Here they get long abandoned rough grade cars & have them apparently restored, sourcing rare parts, rebuild, repaint & fully test & making top money in just two weeks. This sort of nonsense has been in other Car shows & they all earnestly rush around, make mistakes, have problems but always have it ready "in two weeks". Impossible, utterly impossible. We've wanted to get some amps ready to try quicker, but it just doesn't work out that way, one we've had here 6 weeks is nearly done if waiting on parts. You have to plan what condition it's in, what needs doing requires time to think on new projects, to make a list of parts to order, then order them, hope they are in stock, then find the time & be in the mood to do the work. Other stuff to do often & you don't always feel focussed to do certain intense jobs. Things often don't quite go as you plan & some extra work & thought is needed. Then once you've done it, you need to test it & use it, to fine tune it, to find out what can be bettered. With a Car there are far more things to test & check, with an Amplifier, very often problems require fault finding skills to remedy as no upgrade is universal. The Trio WX400U valves receiver had three years work into that as we learnt the amp, you'll be able to do the next amp quickly? Not so, the valves Luxman LX33 we use for playing vinyl has had over 3 years into that too & could it be made better still? The KLH 27 we have for sale took a year to get right, it sat idly for months sometimes, but to complete it was the idea. Rush Job? Not in any reality we know.
April 2017 Blog.
Biasing Power Amplifier Stages.
This is usually difficult so not many bother, if aging amps does mean settings can drift & repairs-upgrades affect the settings too. The Yamaha CR-1000 appears simple enough to bias until you go to do it. Much care needed & turning off the amp between connecting test points to avoid errors is worthwhile. The CR-1000 needs the differential biased, not many amps do this which is why differential-design amps lack a certain quality, beyond cheaping out on parts. Next is DC offset, on post 1971 amps without output capacitors, as near to 0v needs to be on the speaker outs, if some amps are within the 100mV range which isn't perfect but no problem in use. Then AC bias, if your amp runs hot it needs Biasing. With the settings done right, the sound is slightly different, more precise on the treble, if it is subtle. With Valve amps, Bias can be used to alter the sound, running 'hot' or 'soft' in sound quality, if Transistors are different. If you don't know how to Bias an amp as with anything electronics, leave it be. ↑
To wrongly fiddle with Amp internal settings can damage the amp.
Some may not do much, others can end up trashing the amp instantly or or soon after. Not all amps give correct instructions on how to adjust or even what the adjust pots actually do, the early Trio-Kenwood & JVC-Nivico being notorious for not giving any ideas. You can circuit-gaze & work it out by trial & error, very vague. ↑
Don't Fiddle with the inside parts of Tuners.
Once people fiddle with Tuners thinking it'll repair a dead tuner, it'll likely never work again. Those ferrite core "screws" that tempt the fiddler often are found crumbled from misuse & replacing them means getting a junk amp to find them again. Aligning Tuners is possible by ear & meters on the amp, but if it's dead it stays dead unless it's a more obvious fault. ↑
The Yamaha CR-1000.
We've had a few of these & it always had a clean but harsh sound. The CR-1000 is one of the best looking amps, it's well made but the sound isn't for everyone. So we've got another one a few years after the last & put all the upgrades we've found with other amps since into this one. Not exactly many more amps to try unless it goes into 100w+ ones like the 160w Sansui 1979 receiver. The idea of the CR-1000 all upgraded which was quite a challenge, is it appears to have been designed to perfection, then cost-cut to save as much as possible to keep the price low enough. But cost cutting cuts the quality, if the meaningless THD etc specs appear to remain. We've done similar upgrading on the CA-1000 & CR-2020 & neither could quite get to the level of quality as some earlier amps can. To try this again based on the Realistic STA-220, still no manual, if it's been on the Speakers with TV for months now. Upgrading it fully with a lot of redesign in effect really does bring about a change in the harsh sound to something totaly different. ↑
EMI 1515 AR Amplifier.
One of these in the original box just sold for £208 with 45 bids. It's just a budget 15w transistor amp with DIN sockets, the Hifi mags are full of these for about £30 new in the early 1970s. EMI Emisound brand is a rarer one & the late 1950s EMI valve oscilloscope output preamps like the Stereoscope 555 are on our Amplifiers List page in 1960-61 before Clarke & Smith take over. Turns up in the 1975 HFYB on our Amps page... EMI 1515 only 15w £47 if first since valve era. The May 1973 HFN/RR has a full page ad, it's really a bit of budget nothing with all DIN sockets & 'Perfection In Sound' promised... Why a budget 15w with big wording on the front as cheap amps do makes this, has to be a collector issue that hyped Ferrograph a few years back, now prices are much lower. In reality it's probably worth £50 as an amp to use, but the collector aspect kicked in here. ↑
1972 Hifi Shops Making Worthwhile Systems for Customers.
We've seen a few shop ads doing this since the 1970 issues, but by Jan 1972, two shops actually make worthwhile buys for customers. The system is an amp or receiver, turntable, speakers & all the cables. Useful to many buyers for sure, plug & play instead of wondering what cables to buy. Most shops llike the awkwardly named "F. Cave" just list all stock items in a long priced list, er which one would the buyer choose? We know most of the amps from doing this but in 1972 when new, how would you have a clue? Laskys do this very well & be sure many shop will have copied these ideas as it gets a buyer in & out with something they will know goes together well. 1972 prices mean £49 can buy you a very basic Amstrad 8000 II system, including £15 for a pair of speakers will be the weakest link. Others in the £49 to £125 range start to add better amp brands like the £69.50 one with the Trio KA 2000A & the £86 one with the Sansui AU101. In the £120-£212 section you get Trio KA-4002, Leak Delta 30, Sony STR6045L & Trio KR 2120 receiver, modest amps-receivers but ones worth having in 2017 even. In the £200+ section Trio KA-4000 package £200, Trio KR-4140 package £268, Sony TA1144 package £295. Leak Delta 70 + FM tuner + Leak 600 speakers + Dual 1219 turntable for £305 isn't exactly cheap, the quality is good midprice then & now. Another package is Quad 33/303 + Electrostatics + Thorens TD 125AB turntable + Shure V15/II for £370. Trio KA-6000 + KT-7001 tuner + KEF Concerto speakers + Goldring GL75P turntable + V15/II for £395. Top Price Stereo system they offer is Trio KR 7070 receiver + Tannoy 15" York + Transcriptors turntable plus arm + V15/II for £550. A Quadrophonic JVC Nivico system inc MCA 105E amp, GB 1E speakers x4 with stands & a MTR15ME four channel tape deck for £625 seems a bit obscure as no real tapes & no record player for Q4 type discs, but it shows what there is. Buyers do like to be suggested things that one that knows them has put together. Other shop ads offer only cheap £100 or less systems & as Leak Delta 30/70/75 were new, to see the older Leak Stereo 30/70 amps in ads for just £5 less, but no Leak ads or writeups introducing the better looking Delta range, if much the same inside. ↑
Audio T are at it again...(odd comments on Hifi brands)
The March section above shows them foolishly getting Pioneer upset, so in Jan 1972 to see them criticising specs given by amp makers as being pretty worthless does seem a little baiting, if no names are mentioned & they do slightly alter the specs to not upset Trio-Kenwood with the KA-2000 by the looks of the specs. "How should one read a typical piece of propaganda from any manufacturer, knowing that they, along with all other makers only make the best equipment available? Frankly, very cynically". We can see it's that Trio amp as it's the only 13w amp of the era, so will others. To quote the misleading Music Power & RMS per channel using only one channel of a stereo amp is a valid comment & the laws of advertising did change shortly after. The old trick of 80w RMS amp then find it's 40w+40w or a 200w Music Power amp & find it's 22w RMS per channel are the sort of nonsense they are trying to stop. Frequency output of amps is usually shown as flat even below 50Hz, but we know of one amp of this 1972 era with severe bass limiting filters that reckons it's only -1dB at 20Hz, the truth is at 20Hz it'll likely be -50dB for the severe design & little natural bass until over 100Hz. It's like they do their specs on the prototype & then dumb the thing down severely to sell it to you. "It's got no bass, can you upgrade it" we are asked. Yes we can. So audio T in their clunky way do again have a point & this does appear to have gone towards IHF standards being introduced for Power Ratings, if 50w IHF isn't quite 50w RMS but far more honest than 50w Music Power is. ↑
What is Music Power Rating? We've played with this before to test.
It means Power Output going beyond using the amp for general continous use for playing music. It's the power an amp can generate for maybe One Second in terms of coping with Peaks in the Music program. In reality, the amp will just clip off as can be heard with many amps going past midway on the volume, a 'flattening off'. Some Music Power ratings even used an external power supply to boost the ratings further. Yes, use a 500w power supply on a 75w power supply amp, as in VA transformer ratings, not RMS watts. Utterly meaningless. One one amp we tested with a relay to not trash the amp, we got 44v clean sine out of, so you can see it's the NAD 300 on our 'Power Ratings' page, but to keep turning it up well into clipping to see the maximum waveform voltage before the relay kicked in, testing on the oscilloscope, no speaker connected. It could go to about 53v with clipping severe enough to burn speakers out as enough DC in the signal. This 53v is the same voltage as the ±HT supply to the amp, so to full 'music power' before the Relay cut in. Based on 53v being 160w as the Sansui G8700DB is, RMS is 100w, Music Power is 160w+. If you had speakers connected, you'd likely trash them & for the heavy current draw you'd likely trash the amp if it didn't have a relay to save it. We've found with the modest 12w Philco-Ford amp that the low spec original design means at full power, the power supply is in effect "no longer there" as there is no time to charge the main capacitor. So 'Music Power' means 'we tested it just before it exploded' and the HFN/RR reviews reveal this is what they did in testing amps, if never mentioning sound quality. In testing amps for our Power Ratings page, we push them to full clean sine power, but not beyond just a bit of clipping as we find the voltage output. To push every amp to Music Power output would be foolish as you'd trash many of them. What would 'Music Power' actually sound like if your amp didn't explode? Take a small portable radio, it may sound clean at low-medium volume within itself, but turn it up full & it's a ghastly distorted noise. This is you playing your 0.5w radio at full Music Power. What use is that to anyone? Exactly. ↑
1970-72 HFN/RR has got lots written, how about 1956-69 era?
We knew you'd ask so the truth of the 1956-69 era is it's of a different era. Pre 1970 Hifi was more a specialist market, most kept with their Radiograms & the 1965-69 Transistor amps will have sold to specialist buyers. You can see we've had most of the best 1965-69 amps now, only a few we've not tried beyond the UK-EU ones that don't really appeal, as in the Quad 33/303 that gets our revisting opinions on 'Other Amps'. See more write-ups on this era on the Hifi Books & Mags page ↑
By 1970 Hifi comes of age
The HFN mag itself changes hugely over the 1970 year. Discount stores & acres of budget gear introduces many. The 1967-69 HFN mags were mard to find & we expected those years to be far more interesting, in fact they were pretty dull. The 1956-64 era was interesting as it was the pioneering hifi years, if little you'd play daily anymore beyond a Garrard 301 turntable. "Hi-Fi sadly goes Modern in 1970" as above is when it starts to get worth writing about. Is it sad though? Unfortunately it is, the big brands all cheaped out as the Discount Stores wanted the proven brand names too cheap, Sony, Akai & Pioneer lost their way & the quality of amps generally got worse past 1973. We'll keep reading the HFN/RR until the Dec 1980 one & a good idea of the Hifi World will become apparent. Has anyone researched the chaging Hifi Scene 1971-80 before us? You read it here first, as in beyond those who lived it when you don't see the change until you look back. ↑
1965 Eagle TSA-218 amplifier.
All Transistor 40w says the original box it comes with, nice looking early amp. We have this on the amps page as Eagle add TSA.218 20w integrated Transistor £48. The back shows 240v & 50w which is the VA rating, not power output. This suggests 20w Music Power which is likely 12w RMS. It'll be Germaniums if the better Japanese type, proper Phono input sockets & screws for outputs, looks not unlike the Trio WX400U on connectors. But just 12w for their price says it's left to a collector, if it's a nice rare find. ↑
1978 Leak 3900(A) 80w Amplifier.
One on ebay in very sorry state, looked water soaked & on having seen similar that rusty, one best left alone. Nothing to do with the 1972 Leak Delta range of the brand, this was a short lived 1978 range. The inside pics of others show it's not particularly high spec build, it looks like a cheap 40w amp of the era inside, if it does have multiple boards, it still looks midprice quality. We've had the modest Leak 3200 receiver before. Sellers always say it's based on the Rotel RA1412 amp, no it isn't, it's Custom Built in Japan by the makers of several Japanese brands. It's like saying the Realistic STA220 is a Hitachi amp as a lot of Hitachi parts & boards. But "Custom Made" means to a non Hitachi design, if it uses their manufacturing build style & parts. Water soaked Hifi can be risky, we had a Sony TA-1140 in it's half rotted box out of a loft, it was very aged inside, but it cleaned up well & after quite a bit more work was good to sell. Another Sony TA-3650 was caught in the floods & mud of a few years back, the seller didn't bother to tell the truth, if we got a refund. It was rusted even on transistor legs, unreliable, too tatty to bother doing up though we tried, it got broken up for parts. The illogicality of ebay shows a nice 3900A working one if collect only made £102, if the rusty sad one made £124 as they posted it, seller says it's very low volume which could be anything. It'll need a full rebuild. To buy visually low grade hifi unless you have a spares amp is not worth bothering, as to upgrade it to be it's best, you still have a tatty looking amp. One we upgraded was rough, they said they'd get it powder coated, but on seeing it in use, it's in a hifi rack so the rusty & marked finish isn't so visible. But you'll know it's rough grade, depends if that bothers you, but resell value will be compromised, £600 if nice grade, you'll struggle to get £395 for a tatty one. We had two of the wonderful 1966 Akai AA7000. Externally in good condition if very poor & aged inside. These are worth buying as we improve the insides & the outsides look good still. ↑
The aging of 1970s Yamaha Main Capacitors?
We've had quite a few of the Classic Silver 1973-80 Yamaha amps & receivers & as the spec is good as is the Nippon Chemicon brand, we've never replaced any. The CR-1000 70w receiver from 1973 we decided to put new ones in & to cut the old ones open to see what would they be like inside. Some amps use capacitors that age badly, they go dry or grow crystals to go crusty. Some that are of high current will age badly as will any pre 1969. So what were these like? Both still good for 10 years further use easily, no crusty insides & still properly damp with not much smell to suggest they were becoming stale, some can smell a bit sour. So these 44 year old capacitors could still be used. It's only really ones pre 1971 that can be aged that may not last 10 years. Some brands are known for being bad, but no maker in 1973 would expect the amp to be used 44 years later, in general most large caps post 1973 will last for years more use if they aren't damaged. The 18000µf 63v ones in the 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 will still be good & strangely for the size, the ones of 42 years later will still be the same value for the size. ↑
Recapped Nikko NA 890 Amp on ebay.
Always interesting to see how others restore amps, sadly many are pretty poor from the efforts we've seen & we had to redo it properly. But this guy is on his way to better things, if sells his work very cheaply. They've redone the top metal lid, the thin paint on these can mark & rust & here they've redone it nicely. You need a paint gun, not a spray can to do large paintwork areas well. Inside most recapped if not the cleanest inside & the caps look like general quality ebay bought ones, not the quality ones we've used for years. As it's a 1979 amp, build isn't much quality & probably a working raw amp is £100-ish. But to redo the lid & recap is several hours work, yet they only want £200 for it. They did a Sansui 4000 redoing the wood case & recapping, but not upgrading or adding the finesse as we do by the looks of it & got £400. They'll sadly get into ebay dodgy territory where bad buyers want to exploit someone who does decent restoration work, the USA sellers are wise to this. We've only sold amps on our site now since 2013, if we have all these Hifi pages to get attention. ↑
Good or Bad Idea? LEDs in Yamaha 1973-78 amps.
We've got some of the bulbs, but to try LEDs as said above, for the fact the small incandescent bulbs don't last very long. Seeing hideous ones on ebay that don't even try to keep it subtle, overbright beacons to dazzle you are so wrong. But to try to get the bulbs is preferred on bigger bulbs like the fuse size ones, for tiny LES size bulbs, the LED is the way ahead. Here the White LEDs are white light as you'd expect, not the soft yellowy light of a bulb, more a soft blue light that's more modern but not offensive to us. The 5mm LED White X000H834VZ ones with wires & the resistor already included, Red wire to 10v DC voltage of the amp, black wire to ground. The light is as subtle as the bulbs & for the fact they'll last 'forever' in this case to fit them is a good idea & they look good in the dark too. They fit snugly in the casing holes too. The Tuner Dial bulb is different in use, how will that be lit? The bulb lights it subtly the yellowy glow. The thing with LEDs is you can alter the brightness with a resistor, to connect to Valve HT of 250v+ is possible if using larger values like 100k or more, the generic LED uses a 510 ohm resistor. The odd thing is the Yamaha CR-1000 actually has LEDs for the Tuner & Power lamps. LEDs only invented in 1962 & these were Red, the first non-red were only in 1972. So for Yamaha to use LEDs in 1973 is the earliest we've seen, other amps like the Sansui AU-999 (see our gallery) look like LEDs but they are bulbs & other amps use Neons like Sony did. LEDs were first around in calculators & watches, first intoduced in 1968. Yamaha could be the first amp makers to use LEDs? Despite LEDs being more common by 1984, the Sansui AU-G90X still uses bulbs for the input selectors so we put green LEDs in instead. But for replacing household lightbulbs & other sorts of small bulb, we're happier with the fluorescent ESL bulbs & for the cartridge fuse type 30mm bulbs & other medium size panel bulbs, the incandescent ones will still be our choice. ↑
LED in Yamaha 1973-78 Tuner Pointer.
The next one to try. Does it work? Yes. The LED resistor won't fit in the space so to fit another one elsewhere. The light from the LED put any direction lights the pointer much the same. Again to find the +v side & if you've not lost the green filter rectangle the light is a subtle green much like the bulb gives. The browned spot inside of the bulb space shows it'll eventually brown the plastic which then crumbles away like Marantz light displays do, so here an LED is a good idea, if it needs modifying to fit. ↑
Reviewing our Upgraded Amps?
We don't usually go too deep into how much we can improve certain amps, simply as some we do just for our own interest. The work involved would be too much to charge a customer & to say an amp that's difficult hides near perfection but you'll never afford it is a bit mean & beyond the scope of a Hifi site as it's Custom & Design work. It may say "xxx" on the fascia but the insides are ours to some degree. It can be "bought" though as the more we upgrade, we can offer a good amount of our upgrading at a realistic price & then you will hear a good taste of vintage hifi at it's best. We've never had any complaints that the bass is too deep & full, the treble too clean & detailed, but it's what upgrading brings. Some amps do better than others & some can really test your sanity as it's not always as predictabler as you hope, however much you check things. ↑
For site readers, the reviews do show ones we've upgraded.
The lowest upgraded rating got by the 1975 NAD 300, a difficult & restricted amp if we'd certainly get better out of it now than the last one we had. Upgrading has to be "everything equally" else you get weaknesses & be sure as with the Goodmans Module 80 mentioned above, you can upgrade too far & reveal how lousy it really is. Generally the big brand ones all upgrade well regardless of era too, if some need more. Sony, Sansui, JVC Nivico, Yamaha, Fisher, Pioneer, Akai, Hitachi, Marantz, National-Panasonic-Technics & Trio-Kenwood are perhaps the best brands, note all are Japanese except USA Fisher. Some were great only on a few amps so can't be included so generally. We just don't rate UK-EU hifi & you can see we've tried, to try 5 of the ill-fated Leak Delta 75 shows we tried again after the first was a success, but the others didn't get there, strange obsession there. Valve amps are huge projects to upgrade, how to price rebuilding the Trio WX400U for a customer? To pick out more worthy upgrades & keep the price realistic, if it'll stil be a huge job. ↑
Where Have The Electronics Shops All Gone?
Finding a 1974 Tandy-Realistic UK catalog online, looking for the STA-220. Tandy was a great shop, never claimed to be top end stuff but a Tandy was nearby until the early 1990s. Bought our first new receiver amp & new tape deck there. They had all sorts of electronics including parts like resistors & capacitors. Soon after Maplin took over similar territory from starting out as a components-only shop until seeing the Tandy ideas & done them in a bigger way. Got our Fane speakers from them plus cables & parts as well as computer motherboards & hard drives. All gone from your High Street now. Yes, it's all online, but you dont get to look at things in person now & see things to think you'd like one of those. Things we liked we saw, looking online is so wide. You can look at our Gallery pages of amps & receivers we've had, looking inside gives an insight into amps & be sure ones we research, to see what it's like inside is important as seeing the circuits. Tandy used to be around in the high steets until the 1990s & from looking at the 1974 Tandy catalog we remember our first electronics thing was the 65-1(?) Electronic project kit with the spring connectors with various things mounted in a box, but it didn't do much really, these were still sold into the 1980s. Good things to buy your 11 year old kid, because it creates things as this site proves. But those shops & seeing lots of old items is what got us interested, where would you start today? ↑
It Works So Why Bother Servicing It?
Why bother servicing your car? Because it has to pass an MOT past a few years old. No MOTs for Hifi. Controls get noisy, they don't work right. "Wiggle it & it'll work for a bit" sadly is how many live with Hifi. They are unaware of how aged their amp is. Take a high grade little used Sansui AU-666 amp. We found two fuses failed in it, but only soft fails, but one was a 4A fuse. The amp is a 1971 build by the serial number code so it's 46 years old. On thinking to try it on our speakers, at least check the DC offset to be safe. One side was 120mv & the other was 35mV. Not too risky but far from it's best as it should be 0v ±50mV which is a little vague as it can be set to 0-3mV easily. Why are the values so off? Because it's 46 years old. You could use it once serviced even, you don't need to recap if it is better to as a 1970-71 amp. But unserviced, look what's happened. It's blowing fuses as it's inaccurate so pulls too much current likely at turn on. It's aged. Put a higher amp fuse in & it'll not blow the fuse but what else could it damage as the fuse won't save it? It'll trash the power amp needing an expensive repair as often resistors burn & transistors to replace as a matched set. Why bother servicing it? To keep it reliable. ↑
Does Your Amp Have Thick Honky Bass?
Then it'll be very limited on real deep bass. Some amp designs were so scared of bass & those with cheap rumbly turntables, they ruined the amp designs with heavy bass limiting. We've got the Sansui AU-666 here, a really great looking amp, well built, sounds decent on headphones, but on Loudspeakers, the limited bass creates ringing that is that thick honky bass & it sounds awful. It is possible to upgrade the amp to bring back the real Bass, if as with any upgrade it's not a simple fix, the rest of the amp has to be able to cope with deep bass or problems arise, especially with valve amps. ↑
We Don't Usually Try Amps On Our Loudspeakers Until Recapped.
To not want to trust any unfamiliar amp on them is why. But the Sansui AU-666 as directly above revealed this great amp sounding surprisingly lousy on speakers. Features of the circuit limit bass & create a false thick bass from ringing. The Yamaha CR-400 we thought sounded pretty good on headphones, but to see the circuit was a surprise, it wasn't a later circuit, it was what it only is made as. So what does it sound like with similar bass limiting, if not as drastic? To test DC offset on the speaker outs confirms if it's safe to try & having used it on headphones, it seems safe. Slightly worried by the fact we're rating amps as 'Very Good' for original, based on Headphone use, thankfully the CR-400 sounded great on speakers as unserviced & original. A little limited & noisy controls, but if it was the only amp to use, we'd not be upset having to hear it for TV sound. Not bad going considering we watched hours of TV with the CR-1000 just earlier. Of all the amps we've had only very few have the awful 'T-filter' such as the Sansui AU-666, AU-999 7 the NAD 160A, if not the NAD 160. Oddly the Sony TA-1120 from 1965 has one too. From the AU-666 on speakers, sadly those ones will sound awful too, until upgraded. ↑
Hifi News & Record Review: Tarring & Feathering Time.
Stand up Stan Britt & be prepared for a virtual if historical pummelling. Up to April 1972 copy now & it's been a dull read so far in 1972 mostly. But the ignorant reviews of High Quality Oldies LPs by this fool who doesn't like or understand the music is typical of the ignorance by 'Classical Is All' type writers. To understand the ratings as 1 is top, 3 is below average & 4 is rubbish, to give two cassette versions of United Artists label LPs a C:3 which means poor sound:poor music to the staple 45s of record collecting "Golden Oldies On The Move" and "More From The Vaults" are both great LPs that started off the reissue scene. He even says he doesn't know the era, but so his opinion is worthless. An obscure Eddie Cochran "The Legendary..." on UA also gets an H:2 which seems better but 'H' is for old 78 transfers. The ignorance is worsened by a 5 cassette Elvis Presley lot, the 1960 "Elvis Is Back" has several top tracks, yet a B:3 here. The "How Great Thou Art" Gospel LP with 'Crying In The Chapel' is given a shocking B:4. Stan Britt, you're a disgrace to record reviewing. The others are 1970s LPs, if you don't ever play 1970s Elvis beyond the limited few new-recordings chart hits 1970-72. He liked the easy listening Mamas & Papas, A:1 on those if only a few hit tracks are of that quality. Googling his foolish name, he's a Jazz guy & won't be reading this as 3 years too late. For knowing of the two-faced Jazz Guys that sold out to make weak Rock & Roll records in the 1950s, to be so narrow-minded in your reviews aware of this, hang your head in shame for rubbishing quality music you clearly don't know. The other music reviews are better sorted to those who appear to understand the music, if Fred Dellar opinions are now tamed down probably as the "we're not giving you review copies if you're not nice" type, which makes a review bland & pointless. Sadly the same issue commits the crime of putting 'Motown Memories' STML 11200 stuffed full of Northern Soul Club hits of the time amid 'Sing Something Simple' by Cliff Adams Singers in the "Popular" aka MOR-Easy section. Just laughable. If you wanted real music reviews you bought the Real Music Press papers or the specialist Soul Mags, the extra-square HFN/RR is not for anyone but it's readership. Each copy sold about 54,000 copies. For the relative rarity, most will have got binned within a few months & very little beyond the Ads will have been read. ↑
We Have Played Classical via the Expensive UK LPs 1956-63 era.
We tried these more to see what the fuss was on expensive ones we used to sell several years ago. Classical is just endless Cover Versions likely done with little passion, but note-perfect playing-safe to make a clean recording is probably all you get past 1964-66 which is why the prices drop off heavily. Collectors want the early 1958-63 Stereo UK LPs for more than just the rarity, they have the name conductors & soloists on them, Wilhelm Furtwängler LPs were especially wanted we remember. Did play some of those to see what the fuss was, Johanna Martzy solo violinist on one early UK yellow cover LP was more an acquired taste as just solos, but the quality of both was very obvious. The best Audio was on the 1960-62 era Mercury plum label UK LPs with USA masters. The UK Decca Stereo Wide Band weren't quite as well mastered as the HMV or Columbia ones & some with "a lot of quiet" even on top grade played-once copies the vinyl background noise sort of spoiled it. Stereo LPs are the thing, a £500 Stereo LP could be worth £3 as the Mono version. Found a load of Decca Box Sets of the right era, but all Mono meant they were worth very little, even Mint & complete. Classical Music is very familar as 'Greatest Hits' CDs show, but for Music, we've never played Classical to enjoy it. You can see the sort of music we like as we have Vinyl of that style in stock, this is a Record Selling site after all. ↑
1972 HFN/RR is getting to be a very weary read.
Tons of ads for cheap junk repeated every month, tons of Classical reviews & boring articles. The Letters & News page is the most 'interesting' if the 'Crossover' Help page talks in such a long-winded talking-the-obvious fluffy chatty way. They still number the pages by year, not by issue so May 1972 is p815-p1006. 192 pages plus the inner covers & back so 195 pages plus the front cover. 39 pages of ads before the Editorial, then the main magazine section then 53 pages of more ads. But the magazine section had adverts on nearly every left page, 26 full pages of Classical Reviews. Not much to read really. Once we've 'read' these, do we really need to keep them? We await the 1976 year when their reviews finally get subjective if that's for another day. ↑
Phono Cables: Why Spend More? Update.
After using the Goldring G-800E for a while, the treble can get tiring as the cartridge played Mono sounds a bit 'metallic' on highest treble which is for the cartridge, not the Valve preamp. The blue Straight Wire Chorus and green Sonata get a swap over, the Sonata being the more expensive £40 vs £60 in c.1998. It certainly tames the harsh treble losing the 'metallic' sound for the LCR capabilities. After playing a few tracks that were too trebly just the day before, the Sonata cable very noticeably rolls off the high treble to a degree, like a High Filter in an amp, on the 10kHz+ frequencies & by ear probably by about -3dB if the LCR effect smooths it too. A much cheaper way than the cable to get the same effect would be to adjust the Cartridge loading on the amp. In reality for the muddy resolution of nearly all Phono stages, you'd never hear the difference. On the less crisp Goldring Elektra it made it too dull. We've used the Roksan Corus Black with G1006 stylus on the same preamp & using a non-standard SME cable, as the other one broke too easily, the sound was very clean, none of the 'metallic' sound. The G-800E now sounds sweeter if treble is now better contained, rather than rolled off as the SW Sonata cable did. To give the G-800E a more balanced sound brings a cleaner midrange too, if it's an unlikely match, as in using a cheap amp on non-cheap speakers will make the amp sound better than you'd think. So these cables certainly act as a filter, taming cheaper gear. The only difference we can notice is with a Phono Cartridge, for CD-Line level cables made no difference if they can do on Loudspeakers if the cable gauge is too thin as one who bought our second Akai AA7000 very clearly found. But the idea is still, with "the best", you don't need expensive cables to filter roughness & harshness away. ↑
Are Expensive Cables a False Economy?
The previous about using the SW Sonata to look at the price today, not made if $150 is quoted which is/was likely £150. To buy a used Goldring G-800 catridge & new stylus is about £35, if maybe they'll get wanted with our review. To use £150 cables makes it sound nearer the £200-ish Roksan Corus Black, now discontinued. So the numbers are very close. For the prices of some 1m interconnect cables going £250 to £400 based on rather foolish ideas, surely to buy a better "thing" and have better overall sound with the "cheap" but unfiddled-with cable designs. We still use Maplin silvery-blue off-reel interconnect wire with plugs we fitted as bought 20 years ago & the speaker wire, if with new 4mm plugs is the same one we bought for the Sony TA-1130 in 2003 on using the B&W CDM-1T speakers. That is QED Balanced Design Concept cable with about 3mm of bare stranded wire, unless you go over 200w you need no bigger, if we put the Ferrites, as on the Turntables page, on both ends. Found some old cables we used on the speakers with the valve amps bought around 2005, these are with 'Airloc' plugs that aren't very strong on the ends, cable is 6mm diameter per conductor, a pearl effect outer plastic onto what looks like TV aerial cable with a central wrapped plastic part that probably acts in a LCR way. Even for short lengths it was 'recommended' by the Hifi shop. Waste of money for the weak plugs & the QED wire is more user-friendly for swapping with amp comparing. In the days of making our own speakers we used huge bi-wire 4 conductor cables, like dark blue Plasticene when you buy it new, awkward ugly things. The sort of 'better cable' hifi shops used to recommend. Only got rid of those on getting the Tannoys, seeing that bi-wiring was not necessary. To use the QED BDC cable clearly the 'Best Buy' of the lot, if to fit plastic cased plugs not those gold metal ones that risk shorting too easily. We've spent, we've seen it's not worth the money & now keep it sensible, adding the Ferrites for speaker cable. The better your Hifi, oddly the cheaper cable, if of the right gauge for the job, is better for it as you don't need the Filtering. Ferrites are Filtering but it's to reduce RF 'contaminating' the Power Amp via Speaker cables to stop your amp amplifying RF hash & wasting energy. ↑
Transistor Phono Stages Incorrect Loading.
The trouble with older Phono stages is they don't ever get the typical 47k ohm plus 150pf loading correct. On amps we see anything 68k to 220k & rarely any pf loading or if there is, the amount is too low. With some amps past 1973 like higher models Yamaha CR-1000, CR-2020 & Pioneer SA-9500 you get an option of loading the resistance, the CR-1000 being the earliest we've seen from 1973. For the muddy sound we hear some of these stages sounding as, to set to the 100k is crisper, but in reality it's inaccurate & on better phono stages 100k can emphasise sibilants that 1960s singles can be very loudly cut with no limiting. In upgrading amps, we'll correct this as it brings a better focus to a Phono stage. ↑
No We Don't Restore Cassette Decks.
Cassettes are the Bastard Hell Spawn of the Hifi format, why anyone in 2017 would want to use one we find hard to see. Crinkly tapes, stretched & ripped tapes, the dull non-Hifi sound of cassette meant it was great for Car stereos & background music, but never for 'serious' listening. The joy of CD-R being out in 1998 eliminated the things forever. A Pioneer CT-93 rated on HFE to be one of the best. Unlikely, it's just a standard size deck, not one of the huge ones. Plastic parts, nasty belts to replace. To do this properly is going to cost too much, it needs stripping down to service like Turntables do, maybe a new head, pinch rollers. The risk of 25 year old plastic snapping as you'll have to bend things such as clips. Could be a big job & the risk of unavailable parts & high annoyance means not for us. But we say on the Servicing-Upgrades page we don't touch certain items, so why ask? More trouble than they are worth as found fairly recently with a CD player. ↑
Amplifiers That Have Preamp-Tone to Volume then to Power Amp.
This is potentially the best amp design if it's very hard to do as you have to design to avoid clipping on maximum tone. The benefit is the preamp is at full volume always & the sound is better for it, instead of a low-level signal after volume going through tone as there will be irregularities beyond what we cover here, impedance varying & sound balance differs by level. This we've just noticed the Realistic STA-220 made & designed by Hitachi has. Beats the Hitachi IA-1000 & SR-1100 for design if there are similarities to show it's a Hitachi design for Radio Shack. One of the best post 1973 amps, if Radio shack dropped Hitachi for Fostex so the STA-220 wasn't around for a year even. So what other amps put Volume after Preamp? The 1966 Akai AA-7000 sounded great for that design. So to go through amps we know to find more that have this feature: Dokorder 8060, Heathkit AR 1500, Leak Stereo/Delta 30/70, 1967 Pioneer SX-1500TF & other 1966-67 ones SX-700, SX-1000 & SX-2500, Rogers HG88 Mk III & Cadet III, 1965 Sony TA-1120 if 'T' filter ignored, Trio-Kenwood TK-140E/X any version. This is a fascinating thing to research as so few amps do this design. The 1965 Sony TA-1120 does if no other Sony does after. No Marantz, JVC, Rotel, Sansui or Yamaha if the few Leak & Rogers ones do. JVC early ones have the SEA after the volume. Trio KA-6000 & 4000 is very near, just the buffer stage on low pass filter after volume. The Yamaha CR-1000 has the Tone Amp & Filter Amp after Volume which adds a slight hiss, if not wanting to remove sections. Filter stages in amps often degrade the sound more than Tone Controls are unfairly blamed for. Not even Accuphase on the 202/203 or an early Acoustic Research have this. The Pioneer A-400 has volume before power amp, but it is so basic with no tone or filters it's not the same to compare. Does this mean this design guarantees a better amp? The Leak ones are good budget amps if not much upgradeable. The Pioneer, Dokorder & Heathkit depend on how good other sections are. The Rogers valve ones did have a clean sound if the Aux input stage is poor. The Sony & Trio are very decent when upgraded. Therefore it is a factor that can help make the best amps, but the rest has to be designed well too. The Heathkit AR1500 to be careful in setting the input pot gains to be sure it doesn't clip on tone. ↑
When Did Marantz & McIntosh Arrive In The UK?
May 1972 HFGN/RR introduces them, Marantz distributed by the snappily named Pyser Britex (Swift) Ltd of Wembley & McIntosh by Wilmex Ltd, London. Marantz certainly were popular even on the 1972 ranges, if McIntosh barely made a mark on the Hifi Yearbook only getting a brief mention if no listing a few years later as we wrote on the Amps-Receivers page. Marantz first ad on p.894 will have caught the eye & probably annoyed about 'those darn Yankee overpriced amps' as the 50w Marantz Model Nineteen sits on a Mini car bonnet the header is "This Receiver costs more than the car" as the 19 is £800 & in 1970 a Mini was £600. "Marantz - We Sound Better" they say, you do sound good but you sound too soft for cheap preamp build quality. The 1973 catalog on HFE is a fascinating read, you'll not see those top range ones in the UK, too expensive. The Marantz 19 was a 50w receiver with Oscilloscope CRT display for FM MPX Stereo only seems a little pointless today, if the world of Radio seems forgotten for Digital. The first McIntosh advert appears in the July 72 issue "McIntosh is here", appears it was only whispered which is a shame, half a page ad with the McIntosh MA 5100 integrated amplifier sold from 1966-72 so a little late to the UK to then be discontinued the same year. McIntosh amps are high quality & in the Panloc original wood cabinets with the slanted legs, not the repro ones, they really do look very classy. The glass fascias can age but maybe you can still buy new ones to replace? McIntosh 'assured performance' is they fully tested items to be the specifications as published. In 1972 comments made in HFN/RR of some Hifi being a gamble if it'd even work, if Japanese amps seem to have been the most reliable to trust selling them untested by the shop in sealed boxes, how times change. The MA 5100 is a 45w amp with a Differential which has to be a first for 1966. The things with McIntosh that were not so great we found on having ours years ago are the passive 'integrated circuits' orange blocks that have ceramic capacitors plus resistors, similar to the Fisher 600-T & the fact the preamps had so many adjust pots & filters it seemed excessive. To buy these today is an expensive buy & having considered a receiver as on the 'Other Amps' page, to upgrade already expensive amps may alienate the buyers. ↑
The Mystery of the 1972 Realistic STA-220 now solved.
It's a totally Hitachi built & designed amp. The Hitachi IA-1000 power amp board is #251839 & the STA-220 power amp board is #251968, for the IA-1000 being 1971 this has to be 1971-72. The power amps are quite similar so circuit diagrams not so essential if the STA-220 is autobias as is the Trio TK-140X later version. The Hitachi amp & receiver we rated highly if found the receiver a bit cramped. The STA-220 can be considered the "Lost" Hitachi receiver & is one of the best receivers ever made, but hopelessly rare as Radio Shack changed to a cheaper manufacturer & for it being an expensive 60w receiver when new, a bit beyond UK Tandy buyers at the time. The 32.5w STA-150 has the same odd back panel cases for the output transistors as the SR-1100 has. The IA-1000 amp was a great one if it was severely dumbed down & too much gain made it need some redesign. Both IA-1000 & SR-1100 have IC phono stages that were unusually poor compared to the rest of the amp. ↑
Digital Active Speakers: Meridian MSP 5500.
We were asked if we could service these, the amplifier stage, speakers but it has 1996 digital DAC inside, if sold 1996-2009. The fact is it has tone & is part of a Meridian system means it'll be stuffed with ICs. We could look inside & service but as we found with other more recent gear, you have to work out adjusting by track tracing. This brand & these 'lifestyle' type systems we weren't keen on in when buying Hifi News in the 1990s. The fact it'll be as early as 1996 means outdated digital is likely, you can get it upgraded as sold until 2009. 3 way active speaker with 3 amps for 3 drivers. One pair sold for £1000 in March on ebay, black ash painted wood isn't very attractive, the one asking is getting theirs refinished. But considering it needs a Digital input, has a basic onboard computer of sorts, has the big Meridian remote, we'd need the whole system. The speakers weight 85kgs each when packed says the ebay seller... Not our thing it appears. Offering an item like this to a valves & pre 1980 amps restorer is like giving a Smart Car to a 1920s Bugatti vintage guy. It's alien & they won't like it. It'll give them purple fits even. Do we reply? If it'll only be a negative "not our bag" type reply, no point. But gear like this is "try the manufacturer". As for recommending dated digital gear, don't: stay away from it. Buy separates always, to be forced into buying one Brand for all is very restrictive. Be sure our upgraded amps have been compared to some hugely expensive overblown overhyped gear. sound for sound, remembering 18w is enough to drive 15" 95dB speakers well, the vintage amp will better the digital nightmare for sheer musical pleasure. For those having this dated digital stuff: sell it whilst it still has value. We get comments from those trying good vintage & they are so glad to be free of the Hifi Mag BS hype, having wasted ££££ on what they were told was good. Even the cheapest of our Upgraded Sales Amps will give more musical pleasure than some Meridian system. ↑
Careful Matching Speakers To Amplifiers By Minimum Ohm Rating.
The 1966 Akai AA7000 says "Min 8 Ohm" on the back, it has one pair of speaker outputs duplicated as 6.3mm Mono jacks, it states "Speaker Output" implying one pair only. Later Akai AA8500 uses these as Speakers sets A&B if no note added, if the user manuals would tell more. We used our first one on the Tannoy Golds for 6 months daily & the second one for 3 months. Not a problem as 1969 date stamped cabinet ones are 8 ohm. But to use Celestion Ditton 66 speakers got problems. The user manual is a bit vague Impedance 4-8 ohm amplifier matching if the HFE page says rightly it's 4 ohms. Many amps say you can use 2 pairs of 8 ohm speakers, but not 2 pairs of 4 ohm or a mix of both, simply as it'll increase the amp load. So if an early 1966 amp says 'Min 8 ohm' then play 4 ohm speakers, the amp will get into problems & as the buyer found, repair is needed. 4 ohm speakers aren't what buyers today expect, some pre 1968 are 15 ohm even. If you use one 4 ohm speaker pair on say the Yamaha CR-1000 it'll cope fine as the design is a few generations along. But the 1966 Akai AA7000 is a 1st generation one with transformer coupling. The CR-1000 adds "Each Sp Imp is 8 ohm min at A+B system" which in English means use 4-8 ohm speakers for one pair, but if running 2 pairs all speakers must be 8 ohms or you'll trash the amp. ↑
Yamaha With Their First HFN/RR Advert Oct 1972.
"Anybody could do it. Yamaha have done it". The first Yamaha receiver was 1969, but here they introduce the CA-700 amplifier & CR-700 receiver. We've had these, they're not bad but strictly 'mid price' quality compared to the 1973 CR-1000. But what does their naive header mean? "Anybody could have produced this intelligent, comprehensive range. Yamaha got down and did it". But all Hifi brands already do according to their adverts, the best 8 track tape player by BSR Macdonald, maker of vile budget turntables, for £24 says one & crappy Armstrong talking like they are a quality brand. The 1971 Yamaha range including a YP-700 record deck paint the picture of quality if not aware of the build quality of Pioneer who must have influenced the classic 1973-78 ranges, to improve this range. What's interesting here is "You won't find Yamaha in the cut-price shops" which was a wise decision seeing how Pioneer, Sony & Akai had to heavily cost cut for being sold too cheaply. The selling methods are more modern than some brands by the UK distributor, if their ad heading is weak. The brand didn't sell too well until the 1973-74 ranges. The UK CA-700 with all DIN sockets keeps it limited in appeal, the weak mains selector cover is not quality & internal construction with the stacked Phono stages isn't very inspiring either. The UK CR-700 similarly all DIN sockets & a messy power amp stage wiring isn't great. It's like Yamaha increased in quality from CR-700 to CR-1000 in 2 years by about 100 times in quality. ↑
Modern Battery Charging At Last Hits The 21st Century.
At last the tech is improving on these, our Sony Xperia phone charges very fast compared to the previous Nokia one. Even Energizer AA/AAA ones are way improved, the old silver block one breaks & used to take ages to charge as well as it getting a bit too warm. The 'New Breed' ones are ACCU Recharge a black plastic unit with the obligatory plug power pack. This one tells you if your older batteries are bad too, the new ones charged in under an hour & the old ones showed one was 'bad' by flashing the display showing which one was bad, if the tiny print 'manual' tells this to confirm. But this does get pretty warm, the batteries 43°C & the charger case 37°C & the plug pack 40°C as it charges the batteries faster with more current. No warnings about making sure these are given ventilation, as if you covered them over, the temperature will go 20°C higher at least, as found with overheating Yamaha amps with & without the top lid on. so much for 'Safety'. Gets too warm, it fails quick. In use, it turns itself off once charged, which is progress. But how to store it, messy to keep around, we put ours in a loose component's spare drawer to keep it together. Not ideal really. It's like with Digital Audio, only once it goes mainstream does Tech improve. a computer Soundcard & CD drive is good enough these days. ↑
Can We Get Rid Of Plug Top Power Packs Next?
But there's the problem still, those sodding plug power packs with long skinny wire, you'll have several for several different things & knowing which one is the one for the item takes searching as power ratings differ. One for the oscilloscope, one for the parcel scale, one for the phone, one for hair trimmers, one for a PP9/9v battery charger plus others for landline Phone, Broadband, TiVo & be sure there are plenty more. They are a pain, but cheap to make instead of a proper power supply. No need for an expensive transformer as even our 2002 DVD player runs from mains. Toothbrushes have been induction charging for years if that takes a day to charge & doesn't keep full power for long. It'll be interesting to see how induction charging advances, but it's slow. ↑
Questions We Get... Why haven't we tried Onkyo A-5 & A-7 amplifiers?
We only review amps we find interesting for our own research or ones we get to service or upgrade. A-5 is a 1979 45w integrated, A-7 is a 1979 68w integrated. By 1979 Hifi was so samey & these are no exception. With no brand name you'd guess many brands to wonder who made them. Onkyo known for cheaper systerms these days if the brand has some history. To go look at the manuals... one HFE reviewer was "blown away" by it. Must be a hifi newbie as they survived to write, this later vintage just isn't very exciting once you've heard all we have. The circuit shows the A-7 is all transistors but by 1979 it's very predictable, based on Yamaha 1977 designs of differentials & P-P stages in preamps which we know doesn't sound as good as the 'simple' Class A earlier designs. The power amp has double differentials on the inputs, it looks like a P-P differential stage, never seen that before or even see why it's needed. The HFE says "some say the power supply is overbuilt", really? Pretty average to us, poor in places, they've not seen Yamaha ones. It probably sounds decent amid others of the era, but too much 'rubbish' circuitry that gives low THD actually loses music value & this is typical of the era. Seeing an inside pic the construction is messy, if it at least has 3 separate PCBs, it's just typical 1979. Only digging deeper would we see how good the spec is, but it's not got the quality to upgrade too well & it just doesn't really interest us. ↑
The Blind Hypocrisy of Hi-fi News/RR Nov 1972.
This shows you how unaware of their own pomposity the HFN editor, John Crabbe clearly is. 1972 HFN/RR has been a real bore to read through, the amount of ads for rubbish audio gear heavily outweighs Hi-fi. 270 pages this month for the Xmas market. Yet the Editorial bleats on about Radio, Stereo didn't fully arrive with the BBC FM until about 1990, the Top 40 was on FM if before that it was MW only for Radio 1. Here the comment of pandering to the "lowest common denominator" by playing too much Pop with Adverts as UK Commercial Radio was about to start, Capital Radio 194 started in 1973. Here they moan about wanting an oasis via a subscription radio channel for their own agenda types of programming, ie boring 'intellectual' chatter & 'serious' Classical Music. They forget that 'Classical' was once just the Popular Music of the day & dismissed as rubbish in the same way they do all other types of music they don't understand. But they seem to miss they allow the "lowest common denominator" to advertise in their pages, cheap nasty junk amplifiers & ghastly speakers & other long since binned items. HFN/RR complains about what it allows a public voice in the press! HFN/RR is a stuffy out of touch magazine that takes in the rubbish audio to merely get ad revenue. In the early days they used to only include genuine Hifi, but now play an awkward populist base-line advertising schedule to keep Discount Shops alive, if with their classical-only ideals & pages of deeply boring articles. 64,000 copies sold they say, read for the ads & binned with the Radio & TV Times. These double standards are the sort of rubbish "the self-styled elite" think is acceptable. Amusing to see such a blatant hypocritical comment in the Editorial. This huge amount of rubbish audio adverts continues until the Nov 1975 issue then as a more realistic mag like "What Hi-Fi Sound & Vision" takes over, the magazine sharply loses size as the general buyer doesn't like HFN/RR as it's patronising & has boring front covers. But until 1976, it's really the only main UK Hifi mag so we must suffer it. The What Hi-Fi/Haymarket brand goes back to 1968 but it seems not to catch on, we have a few early copies to read one day. ↑
Early Unknown Amp: Grosvenor TT-200.
Must be c1967-68 as 'All Silicon' and rocker switches. Has early Sony styled control knobs & Tone is for L+R individually. Probably a Made In Japan one. The back is Phono inputs & typical screw outputs with DIN for Tape only. Fuse is only 0.5A which means it's probably a 10w amp. Looks well made & for £85 to a collector probably worth a try, if to buy to upgrade just 10w not really for us. But there's a write-up on what we see, like the early Eagle amp above, interesting if the low power is the thing. ↑
Goldring G-800 Elliptical or Conical Stylus?
We're Record Dealers too so we play a lot of UK & USA vinyl from 1949-72 as our stock shows. Not played this much vinyl since last Century... We've been using the G-800E 'grey' elliptical stylus since the above, but some 45s are becoming a bit untidy sounding, the risk of hearing too much detail is you hear the rough bits too. The G-800 conical 'white' stylus tried on two 1961-62 UK singles (Del Shannon 'Ginny In The Mirror', Shirelles 'Baby It's You') we've played for many years & the conical one is a smoother sound. On playing a 1964 one (Yardbirds 'I Wish You Would') the conical loses fidelity & focus that the elliptical brings back. To play the Shirelles one again with elliptical & it brings a crisper sound as well as the mastering distortion is more obvious. But for the 45s buyer in 1961-62 with a cheap Dansette or Blue Spot gram, they'd never hear much treble or detail. Whether you'd use Conical for a smoother sound or Elliptical for more detail if hear mastering distortion is depending on how good your Phono stage is. ↑
Gadget Show Nonsense: £54,000 Sennheiser Headphones.
These are Electrostatic ones driven by valves in some way. Turn on & the EL34 size valves rise up out of the marble cased box, er... that'll not last long before crackles appear. The most stupid thing is the 4 presenters who act like they have an IQ of a biscuit now which is embarrassing, only listen to it for 10 seconds & Jon turns it up loud & says it's great. Utter nonsense, deeply patronising idiocy. It takes known music much used for testing & at least 30 mins if you can stand the sound of the amp before you can decide anything, read our 'Deciding top amps' page. Google Sennheiser HE-1 for more. ↑
We'll stick with our Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones
If these are now discontinued if the 50X version at £122 on Amazon. Detachable cables now may be the only difference as well as a box to buy to fold them into. In use these are still great, they took time to "burn in" & the headphone ear pads don't last too long as they age & crack if the non AT replacements are ok if not quite as comfortable. We got those in 2013 as our Headphones page shows. After 4 years regular use, the headband vinyl is now starting to crack & fall off which could leave black vinyl bits on you & on wiping them the colour comes off too. The cable has survived fine with the long spring section on the plug. But as with anything these days, it now looks tatty after a few years use, similar with our John Lewis "Leather" chair, it still good as a chair, but not much Leather in reality. Cheap airskin type vinyl wears off, the arms are vinyl covered leather, the vinyl long since bubbled leaving raw leather. The back & seat are vinyl over cloth, that's worn off a lot now, the silver frame paint wears, one of the wheels kept breaking if we sorted that by gluing in the metal post. Things aren't made to last & the "Leather" chair looks awful now, the padding went flat within a few months. You sort of feel conned, even buying it half price as a clearance. 'Go buy a new one' would be the way for an office after 3 years use. ↑
Biasing Valve Power Amps.
This is critical to do & to check occasionally too, usually once the valve is used for a few months it'll be stable. With some valve amps the adjust pots are either one per valve or one that has a balancing pot. The balancing one is less accurate in terms of reading stability but for EL34s it's acceptable. To DC bias the EL34s to your chosen value then check the AC bias which means an oscilloscope is needed plus a test signal, to balance the splitter stages in P-P so that the halves are accurate. We've found that ECC81s are better here, as in for the driver & splitter, to get AC bias isn't too difficult. ECC83s are strange here, sometimes they can bias right but be found way off & unadjustable another time, probably as the ECC83 is a lower current higher gain valve & hasn't aged well, the ECC81 is the opposite. Valve designing can be very critical, to have volume after the tone stage but to not clip is a very difficult one to design, if we've done it. This is why most amps, valve or not use the volume before the tone stage as it'll likely clip when the power amp clips, lazy design. More on that above as we researched some transistor amps with volume placement. The Luxman LX33 is an integrated valve amp, so with 11 valves all from the one main HT source if via resistors & capacitors, as the valves age the voltages change so here it shows why a pre & power in valves is the better option as the pre & power aren't together. ↑
A Lesson in Buying Hifi: Buying Vintage Amps as Raw & Unserviced is A Gamble.
This is what we do to get amps we feature here. It certainly can be a big Gamble, as you are buying from amateur sellers. To them it either sort of works or doesn't. Some will openly lie & say it works when we can see from inside it never worked in decades, this is rare but does happen. You can also get an amp that's been serviced & used recently, this generally is not the case. Today we got a receiver, arrived intact more by luck than their soggy box weak packaging, the seller has sold quite a bit of hifi & they pack so poorly. It had got knocked a bit so the fascia caught the buttons, if to take lids off & adjust the fascia screws, more than you'd expect to do or know how to remedy. It's a 1970s amp so over 40 years old. Not too dirty inside but not ever been touched. Checking over & a basic service it plays music. But on first use, it's not too great as obvious hissy-noisy transistors & a bit dull sounding. Noise here was a loud "white noise" hiss & also a continual rustling sound that often means bad capacitors. The noise here will sound on speakers & isn't really acceptable to use is the truth of it. The back transistors get a bit warm too, showing it badly needs servicing & adjusting at the very least. To us, doesn't matter as we'll upgrade it, but to you buying it, we think you'd complain it was noisy, you'd want a refund & would feel cheated, or maybe you'd not notice the hiss? The seller aware it was "tired" yet added a comment on posting about letting it run in a bit which is a guilty comment. It looks like a long abandoned attic find, probably used briefly to check by the seller who found it hissy so wanted rid. Just for the bloggyness of it, we'll contact the seller like we are non hi-fi people & see what they do about it. This is what you'd be doing if you dared buy a vintage "raw" amp. It's not a scare-story, it's the reality of buying raw vintage hifi much like car shows buying long-abandoned cars. We know what to expect & can fix problems, to the point of external condition being good matters more as we can sort the insides. But a typical buyer probably wouldn't buy an obscure older amp, if they'll buy 1978-90 ones which are generally more reliable for not being serviced, if they can have issues too. If we had this amp sent to us as a job, we'd recommend it had new transistors & a recap which on an amp & job like this would be more than a basic job. It's why our serviced & upgraded amps are at the prices we put: the amount of work & new parts needed. The seller now says they knew it was noisy but gets better over time, or you get used to it is their hope & try to blind with misleading waffle guesswork. This is what you get buying vintage raw goods, put up with it or return it. We'll try them a bit further, but we're not returning it, but just to see what you the reader would get buying a problem amp that this would be to a non-tech buyer. It's an amp that needs a major rebuild is the truth here. It's useable, but it's noisy. The real deal on buying anything vintage is you need to be aware it is aged & will have problems, but here with loud hiss & crackle, the seller is trying it on. The small Eagle amp we mentioned above since sold, whoever buys thay will have a 50 year old amp with possibly a lot of problems. Now the hissy amp seller admits for the second time it was hissy & it's acceptable. No, we expect sellers not to hide obvious faults. This is why sellers like the Eagle one say it powers up but they've not tested it. This is fair & shows there is a clear risk in you buying, they haven't made out it works though it likely does as they'll have tried it, but with issues but you know the deal. A seller with a Yamaha CR-700 fairly says... "in working order, there is significant cracking on the right channel. Music can still be played through both channels but attention is required." You know exactly what you're getting, though it's not worth £150 as faulty. It'll need a recap & a service plus possibly new parts. It'll be more than a £300 job if we had it, though others may do a cheaper job on it, we do it properly to last for longer, not just repair but renew. Buying vintage Hi-fi is Caveat Emptor, have a good tech nearby & be prepared to spend a lot more than the amp cost to rectify it if you get a 'problem' one. Not all raw amp buys are this risky... but every amp over 20 years old needs servicing. ↑
Very Early McIntosh C4 Mono preamplifiers from 1954.
We were asked about servicing these. But they are very early Mono preamps sold 1954-58. They need a McIntosh C30 power amp or similar to power them with the octal cables so there is no way we can test these without. They are far too early to give any sort of Hifi Sound you'd want to use today, if the aged retro sound may suit 78s well as they have old type EQ curves. To upgrade & recap these as so early wouldn't really be worth it for the type of buyers. A service & 'keep it going' is the best to expect, if 63 years old, they are never going to be use-daily. These are collector pieces if in good condition. We used to see high prices paid for these pre-Hifi Stereo era amps & a pair supposedly sold for $1000 with no wood cases. But what are you going to do with them? Leave them to collectors. ↑
Phono Cables Update.
Above (Phono Cables why Spend More?) we mention using Straight Wire blue Chorus and green Sonata. Having done a few changes to our valve Phono preamp, it sounds a little too smooth now, it lacks a fresh air on the sound that is usual. It sounds a bit boring if the preamp changes are giving higher fidelity. The cables to swap, the expensive green Sonata goes & the blue Chorus returns & so does the fresher sound. These more expensive cables are quite harsh filters that can tame rough, as we'd found the Goldring G800-E was giving, but a slight redesign & no need for the known higher filtering. So if your Hifi is a really good one, your expensive cables could be spoiling the sound by being too harsh filters. No-one ever found that out before, probably as most 'Hi-Fi' needs taming. ↑
May 2017 Blog.
A Lightbulb Moment: Time to try LED bulbs- Pt.1.
Not tried one yet, but looking on ebay to find a 96w equivalent one E27 15W GLS A70 LED Bulb, 1550lm 4000K Canyon LED. The Lloytron one were good before as regards smell, but the latest batch are too smelly, a sickly burning treacle smell as the bulb base gets too hot. The only trouble with LED bulbs is not knowing the weight, so to try just one. The Anglepoise lamp can only take a certain weight on the springs before it droops, you'd think they'd sell uprated springs. Having to resort to a 60w filament bulb is very strange, the yellow light is awful, but look at white things for a minute or two & your eyesight alters the white balance a bit to make it more as expected, we did live with yellowy bulbs for over a century. After a few hours back with a 60w bulb, the yellow light gives eye strain as you try to white balance it, seeing a white computer monitor & street lights-daylight. We'd rather have the ESL smell if to try to get away from these type. ↑
We've Upgraded Many Amps: What Is The Difference Between The Best Ones On Loudspeakers?
Using Tannoy 15" Golds, the difference between a lot of amps is actually not too great as surprising as that sounds. This is based on Serviced, Recapped & Upgraded amps only. Serviced but Original amps vary a huge amount. But Upgraded the difference is subtle. All have a clean precise sound, crisp treble & deep full bass if not boomy or slow sounding. The real difference is in The Detail an amp can bring. For TV sound to find a TV show with a good echoey room as on 'My Cat From Hell' S5 E17 is one we noticed before so kept the show. Here the couple at the start are in a lively acoustic room that can range from quite flat so you'd not notice on some amps to the 'veil falling away' leaving an effortless sound where you can place them in a virual 3D way on the most detailed ones. This is Soundstage that the best sounding amps can bring even to Mono music, the depth on old mono 1960s Ska is there for the finding. This sound can be got with Valve amps for the minimal circuitry & in transistor amps less circuitry does mean a more tangible acoustic. Some amps we hear "as designed" are as flat as can be & lacking in any sort of depth to the sound, yet owners unaware of better champion these boring sounding amps. The wide open 3D soundstage is rather unusual to hear, it's a little confusing as you lose any sense of where the speakers are. You've read many hyped reviews where they pretend amps have "holographic sound staging", but it's unlikely any shop-bought amp will have that sound for the fact amps have to be tamed to be universal. We know the places they tame & once upgraded the sound opens out even more. Whether you'd appreciate that sort of sound is another thing, odds are you would as other amps we've got this sound from but sold on, the buyer does notice there is something different in terms of detail & they are hooked. It's a sound only 12" or bigger bass drivers will deliver, unlikely a 6" bass driver will even give you a hint the amp is that good. ↑
How About A Good Amp As Original, How Does That Sound?
We've got a 1970 Sansui AU-666 to upgrade. Very nice looking amp. The sound offers to us an obvious good one to upgrade, but as original the sound on known tracks is a bit cardboardy with a fairly flat soundstage if it has reasonably good Stereo imaging, it does good enough but does sound limited. This amp as the AU-999 we had a few years back has some very harsh bass limiting, not so obvious on headphones but it sounded awful on speakers with a lumpy one-note bass that was embarrassing to hear from a quality brand, as the owner agreed by wanting it upgraded. The slightly blurry midrange as most "raw" amps have & an edgyness to the treble as it's not properly resolved. Bass is there but it's limited & misses the deepest bass, if most amps do to keep the complainers happy... The sound does have a good balance beyond the limitations that is the main reason why it's well worth upgrading & for this being a Sansui, to upgrade is better known to be worthwhile. If it was an 'unknown' brand, to listen for the overall correctness of sound rather than a weak blurry mess or thin scratchy sound cheap 1980s amps have. If we can play a few tracks & not mind the sound despite hearing weaknesses, then that is a good amp in need of upgrading. An amp like the AU-666 will be a joy to upgrade & the owner will get back a very decent amp. ↑
The J. L. Linsley-Hood 75w Amplifier - What Is It?
We've seen this on ebay before & despite searching at the time, found very little on it. What it is is told in the Nov 1972-Feb 1973 HFN/RR, it's a home build kit amp endorsed by Hi-Fi News mag. Complete with wood case & fascia, Powertran Electronics of Kent would sell the lot for £57 as a Jan 73 ad shows if another company appears to offer the parts £30 for the 30w version & £36 for the 50w version, so where's the 75w version says you? It's 75w Music power. The hype really suggests you are getting the best design "if you want the best amplifier in the world" and "years of experimental design..." suggest you should throw everything else out & get this instead. The amp is described with full circuit designs over 4 issues & we're far from impressed, it seems like a strange mix of very outdated 1950s ideas with a very complex filter stage that has little use in 1973 & it has op-amps in the preamp. Jan 73 shows the preamp, to us it's totally useless. All inputs even the 'Mag PU' go through large resistors, the lazy way to avoid building a proper phono stage. so Aux can go through 100K or even 470K & for 1972 who uses a Ceramic cartridge still except ultra budget stereos? The more we look at the preamp, the more sighs etc & it brings, it is truly awful repeatedly, the sound will have no chance of sounding natural, it will be a very contrived false sound that would impress the unaware. Now John Linsley-Hood is a known name, born 1925 & started out in Audio in the early 1940s. Wikipedia shows he's best known for a 1969 Class A amp kit in 'Wireless World' a home radio-audio builder's mag, if HFN/RR got him for this effort. The old-fashioned ideas abound in this amp, the sort of ideas British Hifi sadly often used in the 1970s. It's like us criticising older amps but knowing how to better them, one of an older age won't understand & we heard one amp we sold long ago on ebay went in for repair as the owner damaged it & told him "we'd put the wrong things in" as he could only think in straight lines to the circuit & from what their repair did, they foolishly took out even parts as originally designed that we kept. The JLH preamp has just about every awful idea we see as wrong in it & there's not even a 'Tape In' to bypass some of it as you have to do with a few Sansui that use the 100K Aux input idea. The last section contains the line by the designer "the best amplifier I've ever heard". Not with that awful preamp it isn't. But to look at the Power Amp stage which was in the Nov 72 issue. They call it a "Direct Coupled High Quality Stereo Amplifier". Here that means a Differential with no Output Capacitors as the design allows. Again the sighs on the needless limits to the first stage of the design, it uses nasty tantalums also. Some design is very much of 1972 the Differential, FET etc to make 12 transistors per channel. From seeing the pre & power amp circuits, the sound will be heavily contrived, the sort of 'compression' that certain amps use similarly that initially sounds impressive. But listen further & compare to fresher sounding designs & the flat limited sound will become tiresome once you notice it's not an honest sound. If JLH thinks that is "the best amplifier I've ever heard" then he's clearly not listened to the superior sound of Japanese & USA amps from 1965-72 to compare. You can see our favourites in the era in our reviews. Would we buy one to try? No, it's an awful design with no way to better it or bypass lousy ideas. ↑
Buying Advice: Buyers Are Now Looking For Our Best Rated Amplifiers & Receivers.
We've kept the ratings 'unexcited' to not narrow the field too much as we know we have influence here. Original amps rated 'Very Good' are the Best Ones, if Upgraded ones rated 'Excellent' can be at levels of Excellence, as in just scrapes excellent to really high excellent, but all worthy of the standard rating. We got in to these pre 1977 amps when they were pretty much ignored, we are responsible for 1973-78 Yamaha being rated highly now. Look at old forums, the later 1960s amps were found for small money if them being so old, the owners don't really understand what they had. But to Service & Upgrade these reveals which are the best. Some we'd buy again to upgrade, some we've been there & don't see anywhere further to go, such as the overrated Bang & Olufsen gear. Prices on wanted things climb & seeing high prices on early Sony when they were often £40 not so long ago, now they aren't. But don't forget in the excitement of these appealing retro items that can sound great too, these are still old items. Like an old car it'll probably work but be past it's best... "tired" if it can be bettered & even made better than new if you want to pay to get the best. Here you have with us the skill of the upgrader who looks way beyond the accepted ideas & has upgraded many amps to be sure these ideas work & are reliable, if they'll scare your standard TV grade tech. We're getting asked for these amplifiers, don't forget the receivers too were often as good or even better spec, a tuner-amplifier is a nice item to have, if not all tuners are reliable after all these years. To just decide you want "that" pre 1977 amp is all well & good, but be aware you'll need quality speakers of 12" or bigger bass drivers to hear these at their best. To play them into insensitive 6" drivers will get the power rating at the edge of clipping if big speakers with 95dB sensitivity can play an 18w amp adequately with full THX type bass like Dr Who TV show uses. But play a great 50w amp into 88dB 6" speakers it'll run out of power & you'll not understand why we rate it highly. To upgrade even a modest 18w-35w amp with our ideas brings a musicality that the original amp never revealed. All nice to dream of, but you've got to Find The Amp, try the non-UK ebay sites, be aware of Mains Voltage on some if many are Multivoltage, not all are, read the back panels. Buying from USA will get a better selection, but be aware of Shipping Charges & Import Duties. If you want it, cost doesn't matter if it's a high grade one, but buy carefully. Ask our advice if you want to buy to get us to upgrade an amp. The Best Amps need a lot of work to do them to the quality we consider is what they need. This can all add up to a Major Buy, so be aware to do Vintage properly isn't a cheap option. If you want the best of upgrades on a complex amp it'll cost a lot more than a typical £300 upgrade. It's good to see Hi-Fi heading towards the TV Car Shows scene where a good vintage item is bought & the customer wants to spend to get the best out of it by updating it but keeping as much originality as is possible. Interest in this is growing we see. ↑
Not The Same Sound: Hi-Fi in the Same Product Range.
You'd think models in one range would be much the same, maybe they are today, but in the 1970s, each amp could have it's own character. Take the 1973-74 Yamaha range, all models we've had sound different, the CR-400 is fresh & lively, the CR-800 is detailed if more rich-warm sounding & the CR-1000 as original is very upfront to the point of harsh which is good for larger rooms that can eat up the midrange. Even the 1972 Realistic range made by Hitachi differs in sound. With the same upgrades on both STA-220 (60w) & STA-150 (32.5w), the 150 actually sounds fresher with deeper dynamics. The 220 is a little flatter in dynamics if both sound much the same for the difference in power. The 150 has less circuitry than the 220, if only one transistor per channel less on power amp & pre amp. These both lack circuit diagrams if are very like the Hitachi SR-1100 design, where these differ beyond that is the mystery. Higher powered amps usually have more circuitry so will sound more controlled perhaps, not all are like this, but to find the Yamaha CR-400 sounding quite like a much upgraded CR-1000 shows that the basic 'sound' is there but with different designers on each amp the 'tone' of the amp can differ wildly. But in terms of Sony, some of their under 25w amps are very 'gentle' sounding compared to the 40w+ ones. For the 18w CR-400 to sound that good for a 1974 amp is unusual. In our experience 40w-50w amps usually are the best sounding, lower power can be good too if at least 18w, if plenty are just low priced junk. To get the sweeter sounds out of 60w+ amps is possible on a minority of them, but they need a huge amount upgrading, way beyond what any customer would expect to spend on an upgrade, but we've done it with our CR-1000 just to see if it's possible. It is. How do we know which 60w+ amps will upgrade well? Easy, just upgrade them, there is no way at all to predict how any amp sounds when upgraded. It'll usually be in the range of "Excellent" if barely scrapes it or high-ends it. ↑
A Lightbulb Moment: Time to try LED bulbs- Pt.2.
The Canyon LED 15w bulb arrives. "Could last up to 20 years" says the box. These are called "GLS bulbs" if that means General Lamp Shape. Colour Temperature on the box says 2700K-Warm, 4000K-Neutral & 6500K-Cool, if never saw any 6500K ones. 15W, E27, 220-240V 50/60Hz, 1550 Lumen, Neutral white. The Lloytron ones were 1160 lumen. Out of the box it looks like an old type bulb with a bigger base & fittings like other ESL bulbs. But obviously the weight is more, the Lloytron weighs 61g & the Canyon is 107g which will be too heavy for the old Anglepoise springs, maybe they sell upspec ones that are the right tension. LED bulb in the Anglepoise, it stays correct if not extended too far, if the bulb is too big so hangs out the bottom, Risk of it dropping for the weak spring & breaking. But the light is impressive, much brighter as the Lumens rating shows. The Anglepoise needs a stronger set of springs to use normally & other sprung balanced lights will have this problem too as they were designed for 35g weight traditional bulbs. The globe part doesn't get warm if the end of the white section gets a bit warmer, 29°C on the globe if much higher 57°C towards the end after 20 mins on, if now after 40 mins up to 72°C. After over an hour, no bad bulb smell at all, they do rate it as 'lasting up to 20 years'. After nearly 2 hours there is a bit of a smell, could be traces of the previous, so try it longer. These Canyon LED bulbs are way better than expected, 4000K at this Lumens rating is proper bright daylight, not the bluish tinge, equivalent 96w seems low, we used to use 150w bulbs for this sort of brightness & the ones of similar size we got could light a room, so going to get more of those. We'd say at long last, quality ESL lightbulbs are here, the Spiral type ones based on Fluorescent bulbs are already being discontinued as the Lloytron ones are as they are good light but too smelly. The plastic used here is much harder bordering on Bakelite type plastic so no smell. Google shows how much brighter a bulb can be, why is this info not easy to find, the hopeless 'Gadget Show' should be telling of this tech. The Brightest LED Bulb Overall: The Feit BR40 LED Bulb is currently the brightest led light bulb available — it is rated at 2500 lumens approximately equivalent to a 250 watt incandescent bulb... is what Google says. So 1550 lumens is a 150w bulb brightness compared to that as we said above. Very hard to find info on these bulbs, the ebay & Amazon sellers don't give enough info so as with Hifi we review, go buy the thing & find out yourself is the only way. ↑
Desk Lamps & Hot Bulbs.
The Classic brand is Anglepoise & we bought two in about 2002. These were about £250 each then, if now long discontinued. With the old incandescent bulbs, the shades got hot. The ones we have are all chrome with triple-stepped round bases with a rocker switch on the top of the double-layer shade, a limited version of the Type 3 if none on ebay etc. Several new models have been released including the Anglepoise Type3. “The Type 3 is hand built and uses Brass arms to create a fluid movement. It has a base that has been turned out of a solid piece of steel for extra stability. The shade is double skinned, increasing the light output and making the shade cooler to the touch” The lights are great, until they fail & can be used as an uplighter with a screw removed. But the bulb holder & switch is poor as it's made of plastic. Not metal like earlier Anglepoise or ceramic like outdoor lamps, it's plastic. The 2 mains wires are held in on a crude sprung metal piece that pushes against the thin side of the plastic fitting. Originally these were sold as 100w compatible as the design has a double shade. Plastic fails when it gets hot unless it's almost like Bakelite. So you can imagine the weak plastic breaks under spring pressure & the light doesn't work. We made a fuss about these expensive lamps not lasting long as a poor design on the crucial bulb holder & we got one repaired & the other totally replaced, they had old stock clearly & knew they were problematic to sell as they returned with 60w bulb stickers on. But we asked Anglepoise about heavier springs to find the light was discontinued & their current range can only take 60g bulbs. But we mentioned the bad plastic holders & remarkably they still use them, having not improved the design. The desk one has now failed completely, the ceramic bulb holder we fitted in still got hot & so goes the plastic. We're still using it now, the ceramic E27 holder is on ebay & a way to hold the bulb temporarily in the shade & unplug it as no switch. To try other ideas to get it working with a switch, even one on the mains cable will keep it going, we're not buying a new one. To have a smart looking lamp but it not last long, you'd do better buying 12 of the £20 at the time DIY shop ones, use & throw away. But these cheap lamps have no style so to endure repairing the 2002 ones or go buy a Vintage Anglepoise. We actually bought a few of the refurbed ones on ebay before getting these new ones. The old ones are usually old painted ones with the paint stripped & the metal polished. They looked a bit crappy as aluminium dented shades don't polish up well & the small lampshades were really only for 40w bulbs. So having found we had the top range Type 3 , as the label says, we're not getting rid, rebuild the bulb holder & switch somehow. ↑
How Does a Very Badly Aged Amp Sound?
The way an amp ages depends on a few things. Beyond user damage shorting speakers, amps go bad in just a few ways. Amps stored in a warm place for 40+ years will often have dried out capacitors, one Harman-Kardon amp had the wood case bleached at the back edge so it sat in direct sunlight. The power amp capacitors on the back panel were dried out & it was rough sounding. Valve amps using 300v+ capacitors will always be dried out, yet people still used Roges Cadet III & HG 88 III amps without a thought & worryingly one tech stickered one without thinking either, they'll not last very long & risk of damaging transformers. Just because capacitors look good the insides can tell a different story, a Sony TA-1120A one of the earliest 1967 ones looked perfect but all the caps were dried out & crusty, even the smallest ones. Our 1965 Sony TA-1120 has obviously leaky capacitors & it sounded awful with crackling & humming. So to get a 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 that we've had twice & both were still useable, to get this early one with a silver rear badge & 190w rating, we were told it was bad & got very hot. To try it out to at least get an idea, it was quite remarkable how bad it was. Probably sat in a warm house since 1969 until the owner got it a few years ago & they never used it again after it got too hot. Checking it over, nothing looked bad, underneath the capacitors smelt sour, so to give it a quick dry service & plug it in on the usual Circuit Breaker. Got music out of it, a dull small sound on the music, if there was loud hum that varied in tone & volume with the volume control changing, then it got loud crackles so we decided to leave it be, at least knowing it basically works. Other bad amps include exploding capacitors on Goodmans Module 90, exploding mains capacitors actrually on our first KA-6000, it goes off like a firecracker with a puff of smoke. Scary? Amps shorted or transistors failing the resistors catch fire & burn the board if you don't catch it fast. Amps overheat so the heatsinks can be too hot to touch, hot enough to melt plastic. Don't under-estimate the Fire Risk using old electrical goods, they need to be checked out first & not just useless PAT tests. Never heard one that bad before, right on it's last legs & to use it further could damage a lot & the only non-repairable things in an amp are the Transformer & whatever gets burnt as it fails. It'll get a full rebuild & recap which on a complex amp like this isn't cheap to do it properly, but the results will be a "renewed" amp that sounds great & could easily give another 40 years use. ↑
The Woes Of Mail Order in 1973.
HFN/RR had dozens of pages of adverts, some offering big discounts on full ranges by many brands. Back then people believed this meant the Item Was In Stock. Not so, any shop will only have a certain range of goods as was still the case pre internet late 1990s-early 2000s. They got a sale order & they ordered one in from the distributors which means middle men & the vagueness of their professionality. Usually this would work out so the customer got the item within 7 days based on our buying then, but as with any items they could be out of stock as none left & the maker hadn't discontinued it but wasn't going to make anymore. We did hear of distributors getting one from a shop that had one 300 miles away to get the sale. Buyers wrote into HFN/RR saying they could be left waiting months & sellers did nothing which is bad & they get a free loan in effect. Selling rules thankfully changed & the 'Amazon' model of selling knowing exactly what was in stock is today, we go order electronics parts & know exactly how many are in stock, 20,000 of regular items with Farnell. You know exactly where you are & today these long unexpected delays are rare, if depending what you buy. ↑
1973 Hitachi Hi-Fi Flyer: Amplifiers & Loudspeakers.
Found this in the May 1973 HFN/RR. It's interesting to see the full range when we generally only look at the amps & receivers. Covers the IA-1000 45w amplifier & 55w SR-1100 receiver. what's harder to tell from even looking through the Hi-Fi Yearbooks is ones in the same range, as often ranges could be mixed together & confuse. Here the colour flyer shows the amps with the lids off which is unusual. Both these are great amps if the SR-1100 is a bit dumbed down & having IC phono stages that aren't in the league of the rest. The Loudspeakers are news to us, the Hitachi HS-1400 W Acoustic Super-Woofer 4 way speaker system. Good looking unit if the multiple drivers are never good & it has a downward facing bass driver with a front port gap at the cabinet base. Tweeter, Midrange & smaller Bass driver facing forwards. The complex crossover always means these never sound as good as you hope, the power rating bearing in mind the 45w-55w amp ratings is 20w Music & 8w RMS. What use is that for matching with the amps? Then the Hitachi HS-5000 2-way speaker system is a bookshelf monitor type, typical looks if again 60w Music & 20w RMS. Be sure some buyers were sold these low powered speakers & ruined them. That makes no sense, even JVC offered a 50w speaker for their 1967 JVC Nivico 5030, if not a 75w one for the JVC Nivico 5040. There is a turntable, Hitachi PS-77 belt drive transcription turntable on a floating motor, the platter floats 6" above the unit for their photo, their wording will have confused. Mentions the cheaper PS-33. Nice flyer to see, if no prices. 1974 HFYB shows PS33 at £94, PS77 at £170, IA1000 at £148, SR1100 at £189, HS1400W at £129 & HS500 at £139. Looking with today's eyes, the amps are worth having, belt drive turntables are still less welcome than pulley drive or direct-drive & the speakers probably not much use. ↑
Linn Sondek LP-12 arrives May 1973.
Another from that issue shows this controversial-loved-hated brand making their HFN/RR debut. Castle Precision Engineering (Glasgow) have bought a new factory to make Linn transcription decks. A turntable that will be familar to many as the looks were timeless if simple, but no use to us, we're select45rpm, the silly thing only plays LPs at 33.3rpm. No provision for playing 45s or 78s. They are aiming at the Classical buyer or the 'serious' buyer who doesn't play 45s or EPs. One for your James Last LPs though, but that sort of buyer still bought the easy listening pop like 'Peters & Lee' which was a No.1 hit that year. HFYB shows it wasn't that expensive to buy £46.30 for the chassis & £59.40 for the plinth & cover, compare to the Hitachi prices above. But it's got no arm, what use is it? Put on a Vertigo spiral LP & hypnotise yourself? The idea was you bought an arm, usually a SME 3009 with the blurry-sounding 'soupstrainer' headshell & thought how clever you were. Their design is quality though, 9lb platter, oil-bath bearing as Garrard 301-401 has, if it's still a cheapo belt drive like many plasticky music centres. In reality you could likely fit a 45rpm spindle on the motor & fiddle with it to change speed, a bit hair-shirt though. What is most telling here is the 'same' Linn Sondek LP12 was previously sold as the Ariston RD 11 until Nov 1972 as stated, this appears to be the same item renamed? The 1973 HFYB features it distributed by C.W. & J Walker of Cleckheaton, Yorkshire. But it's actually different, 8.75lb platter on PTFE bushes, not oil, so the LP 12 is an improved version. The idea of a one-speed turntable may please the Classical crowd, but in reality be sure most Classical buyers will have a few 45s & EPs they can't now play. ↑
Sansui AU-9500 Amplifier 75w from 1974-75.
On getting a nice Sansui AU-666 to upgrade, to then look at what Sansui did after. The 9500 is in the similar black fascia if it's one that's clearly liked so we've never found one yet, or at a price to try as is often the way. Bear in mind Sansui are sold in Discount Stores at this time, so cost cutting is here as we can see having typed this. HFE has an improved scan of the User-Service manual so to have a look, the poor scan in 2 bits is messy. A worry with Sansui is Aux into a large resistor as the 4000 & 5000 receivers have, but thankfully not on the 9500 or we'd not bother looking further. Signal still goes through a 12k resistor though. Complex tone stage has a FET on the first stage, we don't like FETs as mentioned before. But Tone has an excessive 8 transistors. The sound of an amp is defined by the preamp. Some circuitry we aren't keen on here, a few sighs etc we utter... it will sound lacking in fresh dynamics & bass will be limited, it'll sound 'small' much like the AU-666 did if without the harsh 'T' filter. Power Amp has doubled output transistors & fully complimentary design NPN & PNP outputs. 16 transistors including a differential & protection is typical. Power supply is a complex one & brings some more sighs as it's not great. As with any amp with a reputation, those who rave about it haven't heard better. Much scope to upgrade to be a very decent amp, but as we see the design, it's still going to sound weak & lacking. The reality is the sound we crave is what we upgrade them to, with as-original amplifiers all are nowhere as good as they can be & not all upgrade to be quite what we hope. The AU-9500 is one we'd like to try to upgrade, but with £550 for a tired one with a boring metal case on ebay, no wood cases by 1974, we'll wait. ↑
More on LED bulbs for Amplifiers: SMD type.
We got one amp & the previous owner put LED bulbs in. Not the nightmare of over-bright Blue LEDs that don't use the original fitting some amateurs think is acceptable, light so ultra-bright you enter an alternate reality. Not so, these are new 30mm Fuse Bulb type ones, sold more as Car Vanity bulbs. They have a 2 element SMD (Surface Mount Device) LED fitted into a cartridge fuse ends, these are made for 12v use so to use 8v like many 30mm bulbs use works fine. The whole unit is little bigger than a typical bulb, it might not fit all amps, such as Sony STR-6120 where the bulbs are tight. These LED bulbs need to be fitted with the light source pointing the way the light needs to be, easily done by rotating. Just put them in, no resistor needed. Other SMD LED bulbs like this can be bigger with a larger PCB & more SMDs, the sort used in car lights. Oddly the SMD LED is not a new thing, old clock radios with red elements going back to the 1970s used these, a tiny dot of light if today the light is much brighter & proper white. Advances in Car Lighting have brought advances in LED bulbs & this helps other areas. The amp that had LEDs shone through a blacked out board with blue numbering. With the LED it shone blue & was rather pleasing, not too bright either. But back in with the correct spec incandescent bulbs it was dingy & green with yellow light + blue lens = green. These LED bulbs were £3.29 delivered for 2 of them, no different to what the old bulbs cost. Whether all amps can take the light & size is another thing, but for Marantz receivers from the late 1970s that have a weak plastic lighting unit that ages badly with lightbulb heat so it crumbles, maybe too late to save those, if 3D printing could have repro ones made. But better light units with metal casing will now no longer get hot. Looking at what else there are, high brightness LED that are "error free" for cars with heatsinks on the back of the LED section, CAN-bus compatible, but these are larger 38mm size, much like the old 'doorbell' festoon bulb with pointed ends, never used in Hifi amps. The LED bulbs we had to try were 4 SMD smaller area ones, the current ones are a larger are 2 SMD unit with 20 lumens total. As with any technology, it's just 'luck' that these 30mm bulbs are used in cars, when it comes to different types of bulb, small bayonet ones USA amps use, push in types B&O use, torch bulb 6.3v etc there don't appear to be any, so to use a typical LED with a resistor & alter the fitting appears to be all you'll get. This new bulb tech is exciting, to finally have better light without heat to use in many amps is one of the last obstacles to 'old life'. As years go by maybe the less regular types of bulb may get LED versions, if it's probably unlikely without a wider use such as car lights. But as with torch lights, new torches are a very different design, no need for traditional bulbs, so there will still be a need for old-style bulbs as that's all there is. A 5mm LED can replace a 5mm LES bulb, Yamaha bulbs etc if you need the ones with a resistor fitted in & then there is light leakage through the back. In some ways LED lighting has taken way too long to arrive, only over the last few years do most cars have white LED lights now, if 'Wheeler Dealers' was talking of these in 2010, prives have now only come down for retro-fitting & new cars being made with them. On Trying The New LED Bulbs... these ones are about 1mm too big on the boards for a standard 30mm bulb fitting, you can put them at a slant or file off the tiny extra bit, so it's not perfect. The earlier 4 SMD unit ones have one 'pip' of light, the 2 SMD ones have 3 'pips' of light so are the same brightness. The correct 8v 0.25A incandescent bulb looks feeble in comparison. See the Photo New LED Bulbs as it shows 3 different bulb types in the Realistic STA-220 bulb holder unit. First is the old-type bulb as spec for the amp, 2nd is the earlier type with 4 SMDs with 1 'pip' and the 3rd is the current 2 SMD with 3 'pips' per SMD, notice we filed the corners to fit. The old type bulb in normal room light is very dim & orange coloured, the new LEDs are bright white if they flicker as the power supply needs some upgrading, flickering LEDs may not last as long, the 50Hz flicker is obvious. We like the LEDs & they are a very worthy upgrade without looking garish or upsetting our sensibilities of upgrade. But beware you need to file off the fibreglass PCB corners to fit, 2mm x 1mm off the PCB is away from the board track if it's a bit of a nuisance as the STA-220 needs 7 of them. Fit once & forget though, takes a few minutes to do the lot. In use the tuner display instead of a dim green is now a fresh blue if brighter as you can see by the bulb differences, it's not garish looking & complements the amp well. ↑
Comparing LED bulbs to Incandescent Bulbs in Amplifiers.
This is almost impossible to do in photos as photo lighting varies between one photo to another. But we can do the impossible: we have 2 of the nearly-same amp, Realistic STA-220 & STA-150. The STA-220 we're keeping & it has all LED bulbs except for the Tuner pointer & the 'Auto Magic' feature. The STA-150 has the correct 8v 250mA bulbs in as pictured on the link above. To have one on top of the other to compare. The Tuner pointer is the same original bulbs so is the reference. New LED vs Old Bulbs. The top amp has a gunmetal grey fascia, the lower is silver-aluminium. Any uneven lighting is due to bulb heat aging the tuner fascia, slightly browning it, if you could replace the plain diffuser layer. The top amp is dingy green, the right meter is noticably orange-brown light compared to the crisp but not too-bright lower amp. In reality with your eyes, the lower amp is just right & the top amp is a bit darker, but cameras alter & ours doesn't focus too well sometimes either. The lower amp lights do flicker still, maybe you won't notice, but we do & this requires a little power supply redesign, we've not looked & we don't have the circuits as said before. The lower amp looks great to us, the top amp is dingy, but it is original. The bulbs get warm after longer use & heat ages plastic as the darker areas in the top one show, it had more use than the lower amp we noticed. 8 bulbs cost us £13.16, the dreaded 'free post' so you overpay post each extra pair, but no other selling way. Farnell & RS the usual parts suppliers surprisingly don't have these bulbs (as of typing) as they are Car Parts & hardly what any new Electronics use. ↑
Getting Modern: LEDs in Amplifiers: DC or AC power supply?
The idea with LEDs is they are most reliable on DC. The Yamaha CR-1000 uses DC for it's 4 bulbs so no problem there. Many older amps with bulbs use AC direct from a Transformer tap, the Realistic STA-220 does as it's not unlike the Hitachi SR-1100. AC LEDs will flicker, as in they turn on & off repeatedly. Failure or going dim over time is the problem. the whole idea of White LEDs is still fairly new as you'll have noticed as cars & streetlights (in the UK) are now generally white. Ideally to use AC to convert to DC would be the best idea. With Receivers you often have Tuner voltages that are DC so possibly to use that instead, if correct voltages & current capabilities of any circuit may not have enough current available. To make AC into DC is the only way really, but it's redesign though. Just for the bloggyness of this, we'll leave as AC just to see how the amps with AC bulbs last. Be aware some amps use Neon bulbs that can run from much higher voltages, these are a different problem. A Neon is often a glass bulb if has 2 bars inside with no filament or some look like a valve. As for LEDs needing a series resistor, between the LED & the voltage, the earlier '4 pip' ones have a surface mount 270-ohm resistor. The newer ones have similar if 240-ohm as there are '6 pips', this is for 8-12v use. Possible to run LEDs from 240v DC as valve amp preamps use, but you need larger value resistors. ↑
Do Most People Care about Good Sound Quality?
Sadly it'll never be a "Yes" as a lot of this site already tells. Most are happy to hear the Music as the awful quality of the majority of YouTube videos prove. Ones from 5-8 years ago were still in low bit rate era for quick upload, if today there is no need for that with Broadband much faster for many. Plenty copy Vinyl to the Computer in ghastly sound, not even playing Mono tracks Mono & then post on YouTube which is there really mostly to sample music. Many will 'save' the tracks to keep via various means. To us, most YouTube videos even from CD are thick & muddy sounding with little dynamic range so no detail to the sound that we know is there on the records, if occasionally some are not bad. The old idea of hearing 'better stereos' was they were amazed at hearing sounds in the tracks that they've not heard before. But look on Amazon for the "Stereos" of today & it's sound is usually defined by the Loudspeakers as it was in the 1980s with Music Centres etc. Small plastic cased speakers sound awful, if maybe the electronics after years of computer progress may not be as bad as 1980s "stereos", but with rubbish speakers you'll never know. The Hi-Fi mags used to get letters about those only interested in listening to their Hi-Fi not the Music itself. Also the man happy playing a Portable whatever for his Music is the lucky one. So go and Annoy Him by playing your fancy Stereo at him one day & he'll never like his cheap thing again as you showed him up & will forever be in search of "that sound". Still, it'll keep him busy if forever unsatisfied. ↑
Vinyl Sometimes Is Not As Hi-Fi As We Want It To Be.
We play a lot of vinyl & the truth is the higher resolution you get with vinyl the more roughness you reveal as well as clear detail. Stages of Phono Stage quality range from muddy hiding the roughness, to more detailed but poor focus so roughness can grate. Then to resolve vinyl really well with good focus can reveal the rough mastering, some 45s we've known over 20 years & playing one just now, that is so rough, it was remembered as rough but not so obvious. Look at the record grooves which are pure VVVVV pattern showing whoever mastered it was an amateur & clipped the music. This is sadly often on all eras of vinyl. Sometimes to hear "just for the music" in lower-fi gives more pleasure, especially in public. Our first Record Player was the Hacker GAR 550, after playing lots of Radiograms & Music Centres. The Hacker itself not bad if not great, but the Speakers that came with it were far from accurate sounding with paper tweeters & thick foam fronts. The Hacker had that thick false "Retro" bass that sounds honky one-note bass if to a teen it's great as you know no better. Your Hi-Fi Head wants to hear the songs in your sound quality demands of today, to hear them on the same 'stereo' you did long ago would upset your sensibilities today, if that inaccurate one taught you those songs that are now part of you. A similar odd ago-now one we found was when aged 8 to dig up an old wood & brass spirit level in the garden, a Hockley Abbey one of modest quality that we still have. But it's the one we've had ages but it doesn't satisfy the soul as it's tatty & cheap regardless. So a few years ago to buy a better one "to remind us of the old one" in the higher ideals of today. This one was a Kelly & Sons, Liverpool one in ebony with brass fittings on the base & with the original screws it looks the part. So to have both levels now shows a confusion of reality & assumed ideals of the level we found. Similarly hearing your old favourites in high resolution & seeing they aren't quite what your mind sees them as. A similar "fooling yourself" is looking up old friends unseen in decades on Facebook, some you'll still think of as turds, some will have done better than you thought & some will not lived well which bursts your balloon of your memory to go looking. Thankfully many women you'll never find as married names hide them, so not all the dreams have gone. The lesson here is to not go looking for perfection in the past (or now) as you'll never find it, only variations on it as upgrading all these amps shows no one amp is 'The Best Ever'. Some records we get after not having for years, the song is remembered fondly & we'll have it on the computer from recording the last copy, but having the record is best. To play some not had in 15-20 years leaves you a bit neutral after the first play as it needs to be re-assessed with your current ideals, if then it can hit you as great as it did years before after a few plays. One 1950s R&B 45 we got, played it once & thought we have no wish to play it again, but a few days later it was next in the pile & it was enjoyed again & again since. With some records we do find their day has passed though, slower tracks can suffer this way, not having the patience for them can 'hide' their appeal until just played & then the song hits you. Generally slower songs have a harder time being 'accepted' by the typist today as can Big Chart Hit records that we have had lots of copies of. Songs that were "Ours" as in unknown unwanted obscurities are the ones we play & to find years later that maybe for our efforts these songs are now known by many others is sort of strange. We certainly have 'discovered' a lot of great obscure 45s & seeing them on YouTube, CD compilations & Reissued 45s is nice as it's our find you're enjoying. Life goes on... we certainly like to discover The Best Records & The Best Hi-Fi in our years of interest, and you're reading the site of one who dares to try the obscure in a big way so find the good stuff. ↑
Hi-Fi News/Record Review Finally Understands Rock & Pop.
June-Aug 1973 has a three-parter by Michael Slade called "Pop" if it covers Rock mostly. Considering the music they talk of is no more than 10 years old, we thought the first part was intelligently written by someone who understands the Music, instead of the dull looking grey accountant-type guys you see pictured on the pages. Can't find anything on Michael Slade on Google that is obviously him, must be a Music Fan as they used to call them, but it's not his job. The first part covers Bob Dylan, The Beatles & The Rolling Stones as "the most important artists of the era" for their Pioneering work, if all 3 can be summed up by us as actually just initially covering Woody Guthrie, Motown, R&B & Muddy Waters songs. Bringing such music to the mainstream is the point though & to read these articles in a dry Symphony-obsessed mag like HFN/RR is good progress & we'll look out for Reader Letter opinions on the articles. Part 2 was more about Live Stadium Rock mentioning high power rigs Pink Floyd used & Part 3 seems to repeat Part 1 adding in Hendrix, Bowie & others. To just state that Albums are the most important format we'd not agree with, the Single was the thing until 1969 if at the 1973 time of writing, big Albums did define Rock better 1969-73 if most will only know the Singles from them unless they bought the albums. Most albums pre 1969 beyond The Beatles, Stones & Dylan were a few filler tracks with the hits, only really the further scene like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix & Jefferson Airplane as well as The Monkees, did Albums go a way to be a worthy buy. In 1973 this is all very recent to be able to look back to see perhaps. A good effort though, if "Pop" was the wrong word to use. For us as Record Dealers & Music Lovers, the Rock & Pop scene 1970-76 pre Punk is the least liked type of music, we've played enough of it but it mostly doesn't appeal like pre 1970 & the 1977-82 era. ↑
Fascinating Amplifier Circuit Designs.
We can read amp circuits very well now, some are much too complex with too much 'modern rubbish' like current mirrors, multiple differentials & the like. Not especially the design ideas are 'rubbish' but in our experience very few Differential era amps, post 1973 usually are as good sounding as earlier ones, the design just isn't very good. This gives very good specs but generally doesn't sound impressive. Most amps ever made have much the same basic design beyond overdesign, but only one we've found has the NFB from after the output transistors used in two different places. It's the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X the black label UA1384J version only. There is an earlier more common silver label that is the same amp as the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000. But the UA1384J version uses NFB from the output to two different stages which is unique as far as we know. The circuit is on HFE & on the page once rotated it's the second circuit version. The amp itself once upgraded is certainly one of the best Vintage amps as is the KA-6000, if it needs a lot to upgrade it as you'd expect. The TK140X isn't actually a great looking amp for the dreary lid & plastic control knobs & it'll likely have a dead tuner, but it's one we'll keep as a reference for the unique design. The KA-6000 does a similar double NFB to the same point but from before & after the output capacitor creating a tiny delay & a blur to the sound, the UA1384J does this to perfection. No DC Bias to adjust, the adjust pots just balance L+R audio (AC bias) on older less closely matched transistors. Is it the best Power amp design ever? Is it Reliable? The one we have is the one on the Amps Gallery, it arrived back trashed after catching fire & the buyer had used it for over a year. It's a bit of a wild one says us as we've found out from rebuilding it & trying more upgrades. ↑
The First Modern Amplifier from 1965.
This is the Sony TA-1120 released November 1965. It is a design based on nothing before it. All Silicon Transistors too makes it a World First. It was too good & too complex so it swiftly got redesigned as the TA-1120 first seen May 1967. It has two separate Phono stages of differing sensitivity, for MM cartridges. HFE wrongly states it's 1969-71. The TVK-The Vintage Knob site that we used to read before much else turned up appears untouched since 2012 features it. The TA-1120 & TA-1120A are actually very different in many ways, the preamps are totally different, the power amp is very different too if the rear section of the amp is much the same. A lot of "Firsts" with this amp, all Silcon transistors, stepped Tone controls made with discrete components, not a rotary pot, Pre Out-Main In connectors & Tone cancel switch. Too early for MC Phono & a Mute switch which arrived on 1969 amps. The better USA amps by Marantz & McIntosh which were still Valves or Germaniums & as our Reviews page shows others did arrive by 1966 like the Akai AA7000. The nearest Receiver to the 1965 TA-1120 is the Fisher 600-T if it is mostly Germanium transistors & even a valve for the Tuner. Having just used ours in comparing to the Fisher 600-T, both upgraded but still pretty much original, the sounds are different to a 1973 Yamaha CR-1000 that has the quality but not the low Damping Factor that gives the Sony & Fisher their pleasing sound, the Yamaha is much tighter sounding. We upgraded & rebuilt our TA-1120 but kept all the resistors as designed original, nothing altered, to at least keep the original sound of the amp, if it's much better spec compared to when new. All the kooky non-electrolytic capacitors left in it too. It may sound a little less detailed than some, but the joy of early Sony is that rich neutral sound that no other amp brand got close to. To see a 52 year old amp still sounding great, as rebuilt, is sort of strange, it doesn't look so old as Sony used the classic design until 1973 as the TA-1140 & TA-1150 are still in the style. The 1965 Fisher 600-T looks old if again all rebuilt on capacitors if the original circuit & Germaniums left. The 600-T could be upgraded more & made all-Germanium with higher spec & redesign, but it'll then sound fresher than a 1965 amp & sort of lose the pleasing originality of the sound. To not over-modernise both 1965 amps suited because they sounded so great. So the TA-1120 is The Daddy of All Modern Amps, but note the Nov 1965-May 1967 date & the TA-1120 manual shows serial number 1001-4000 of ours in a 5100 serial has just a few changes on the power amp, ours was faulty on those added bits so remove them & put it to the earlier design. So 4000 were made & very few made it to the UK, see our TA-1120 review. Since getting ours after looking out for one for over a year, to only know of three others including ours shows the rarity. The TA-1120A is much more findable. The design of the TA-1120 we cover on our Review makes good use of Buffer Stages which do make a better amp if few later amps use them, the 1972 Realistic STA-220 has a buffer on the Power Amp input stage as does the TA-1120 but not the TA-1120A. The TA-1120 goes with the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X UA1383J version as one of the Best Amplifier designs. How strange both are rare amps... ↑
What Don't We Like In Amplifier Designs?
There's a question. We've gazed at enough circuits & criticized enough amp to know what usually means good sound & what means it'll never be much. Some we've covered before like ICs a general purpose circuit with no finesse that will never, ever be Top Hi-Fi. Some Op-Amps use a ridiculous amount of needless circuitry & some can have 16 transistors in them. We don't like FETs beyond the MOSFET output. FETs don't allow much to be done with them, much like ICs, the design is fixed & FETs are usually not upgradeable in any way, as we first found with the 1971 Sony TA-1130 & 1975 NAD 300. MOSFETs are commonly used as output stages in amps past mid 1980s, they need an odd way to test & why are they needed when typical NPN-PNP output transistors in similar case sizes are fine. FETs are known to be good in FM 'front ends' as the 1968 Sony STR-6120 was the first (?) to use them. Darlington Transistors. Just a double transistor for high gain instead of using 2 transistors so it heads into IC much as ECL86 valves do, which are a driver & output in one valve. These output Darlingtons first noticed in B+O amps mid 1970s & a preamp one in the Heathkit AR-1500 tone stage & sounded better redesigned without it. Zener Diodes. We don't like these at all, it's a lazy way to pull an unregulated voltage down to the required voltage. Much seen in later amps, the zener is also a current limiter. The zeners used in the 1973 Yamaha CR-1000 power supply is different, the lazy ones put HT to ground are the trouble, but knowing people will read this & snip them out, they are usually there to set 25v from 40v as an example & without them you'll likely get problems. Unshielded Preamp Cable For Line-Level Audio. We've seen this in some higher quality amps that should really know better. Cable is shielded to stop hum though by dumbing down or careful routing of the cable, hum can be kept below an audible level but upgrade it further & the hum shows. Very short cable runs to Tone Controls won't cause problems, but to see unshielded cable disappoints as it will cause crosstalk also. The amp with the unshielded cable went from preamp to tape monitor switch to volume, so 24" of unshielded cable per channel. Glue on PCBs to hold capacitors. This is annoying & serves no purpose at all, except possibly when they wave-solder the boards. The capacitor doesn't need glue & it's often a pain to scrape it off without scratching the boards. The Yamaha CR-2020 overheating power supply uses glue on the hot top regulators & glue dries to a crusty black mess that may be slightly conductive, if we've meter-tested some to 20 Megohm & found 'not so', but it looks messy. Big Capacitors Fixed to PCBs. Main HT caps soldered onto the boards, usually with a blob of glue. The trouble with older amps is they can use obsolete multi-pin capacitors & to upgrade the main caps will just leave things looking messy as modern caps won't fit the board holes. Found this on the Yamaha CR-400, it has 3 pin ones & not much room to do neatly, so to leave as original after testing seemed best on an 18w amp. Germanium Transistors & Diodes. The USA & Japan made ones are high quality & should give no problems, if some are unfindable now. The problem ones are the UK & EU ones made by Mullard & others, AC140 & OC91 etc mean "poor quality". Early Transistor radios used Germaniums & some you'll see have 4 wires. These lousy UK-EU ones were badly made with tin lining the case insides & as not fully sealed, the tin oxidises creating 'tin whiskers' which as are metal will short out the transistor from inside. The extra 4th wire you find snipped on old portables to try to solve this, but on a 1964 Decca radio we have it 'works' but no sound as a bad Germanium somewhere, it uses AF114 & OC71 germaniums. But an earlier Aug 1958 Ultra radio still works as it used different Germaniums like Mazda XA101. ↑
What Will Fail In Amplifiers Over The Next Decades?
Certain amps can be forever repaired with transistors, diodes, resistors & capacitors. But the User-Interface things such as Volume Controls, Selector Switches & Push Buttons are already heading into risky territory. Generally the 1965-73 era ones are serviceable to be good again, but it's the later ones that were common by 1980-90 that will finish amps off. Those tiny potentiometers for Tone & even volume are already known to wear out, the 2007 Marantz PM5002 had a ropey volume if we got a spares one & the 1984 Sansui AU-G30X had a tiny balance control that was worn out, we took it apart to see how weakly & small it was. Nothing to replace either with is buyable. The smaller size PCB mount pots used for Tone as in many Japanese amps, the earliest we've seen are the 1972 Realistic STA-220, are still good as in an area that's not used too much & none found damaged yet. Volume controls get a lot of use & can be inaccurate once they get worn. The trouble is most have a Loudness circuit if ALPS Blue can sometimes be found with Loudness taper, we've yet to use one to replace. Sliders again the Realistic STA-220 has & these are large size ones as the 1968 Dokorder amp has so no issues there, but cheaper sliders on 1970s portable gear ofen failed fast, matchstick to hold the volume right was a known issue, but they'll be long since binned. Wraparound Wires On Posts. Instead of soldering a wire to a point on a board, an idea that Hitachi then Pioneer started in 1971-72. In repairing & upgrading be sure some will break off as the wires are too short. Currently these 45-46 year old amps aren't having a problem with these machine-wrapped binding posts, but bare wire wrapped tight onto bare metal post will get worse, just look at unused ones they are greyed from light oxidisation, one post used may still be bright under, but it's not sealed & you can't solder them either as the wire has slightly oxidised too. Hot Lightbulbs. These have already ruined many of the 1977-80 era Marantz receivers as hot plastic goes brown & crumbles. But as LEDs mentioned above shows, there are some soloutions to this. Some bulbs such as FM indicators rely on the bulb dropping the voltage so an LED probably won't work. All these mean that junk audio heads to the skip, but for unaware people getting house clearances etc today they do treat all old gear as junk, if hopefully these days there are those raking through e-waste & wised up. ↑
Upgrading is Design Work & We Must Fully Test The Amplifier.
Many will only recap like-for-like as this takes no real skill. Still needing to buy quality parts & do the job neatly isn't often seen in amps we've had that have been 'messed' with. One Repair Guy won't even recap unless the capacitor is bad, but falsely states recapping is risky because the can't rectify problems. We Can. We've been upgrading amps since 1990, learning what can be done & mastering it, starting from basic ideas early on. Today we can recap-upgrade to really Bring the Best out of a good amplifier. Often this needs fine tuning in the realms of design & no two amps are the same, even differing models in a range. To be sure the amp is good to use is the main thing, to check it's Stable in use, no noises, wobbles or unpredictability is a must. Switches & Controls once the amp has settled for 1-2 minutes after switch on have to be acceptable in use. Some amps are with minor noises on controls as made & to be aware this is how they are. Loud crack noises on speakers in use are scary as you don't know if it'll trash the speaker. To run the upgraded amp in for several hours & then test & adjust to be correct. Some amps again aren't perfect with some differential-era amps having 100mV on the speaker outputs & no way of adjusting. As long as DC on the speakers is no more than 100mV it's safe to use, if it's not ideal, it's the best it can be without having to overdo things, originality is important too. So to Upgrade takes design knowledge & problem/fault solving to rectify what is unexpected & be sure nearly every amp will have to be fine tuned to a degree to keep it safe to use. ↑
1973 Brings The Peak Years of Quadraphonic.
The idea of 4 channel sound has grown since 1970-71. JVC Nivico unwisely ditched all their Stereo amps to just make 4 Channel ones. Adverts & articles said it was the Next Logical Step up from Stereo, but it was unsurprisingly a big failure. Too many 4-channel LP formats. The Amplifiers were expensive yet usually only 10w-15w per channel. The Budget Stereo makers latched on to sell even cheaper versions, all to a disinterested Public. By 1974-75 Quadraphonic was considered finished. Looking at circuits of the higher power 4ch amps, the Stereo mode was often by Bridging two rather low spec stages together, or just using 2 of the 4. We first had a Marantz 4ch one with Dolby so it was a high model, £20 junk shop buy in about 1996, one of the 4230 or 4240 ones with Dolby & Dimension control, all look much the same inside, if ours had 7 control knobs looking at a blurry photo of it so can only be one of two. 4230 goes for about £150-£200 in USA & the 4240 nearer to £200 so hardly much wanted even for Marantz & the retro appeal. Playing with Dolby was interesting if also pointless. Long ago, but don't remember it sounding very exciting, around the time we got a Rogers Cadet III as one is sat on top of it with our first Technics SL-1500 found about the same time. Looking at the Marantz 4230 circuit as it's crisper than the 4240 one, the circuit is a busy one to understand, to the point you'd need the amp here to see what each board was without taking ages to work it out if the Service Manual does state what the numbered boards are for. It basically is two stereo amp boards for 4 channels of amplification. 4 channels are made into 2 by BTL-Balanced Transformerless Connection aka Bridging as we state. The one we got had no 4ch decoder & from looking at later Magazine ads it seems these ones were sold on cheap after 1974 as there'd be no use for 4ch but it's still a Stereo amp. To see how cheap these are discounted will be revealed as we read more HFN/RR. The idea of Multichannel only really resurfaced with 5.1 Stereo on Film Soundtracks for Domestic use. The idea of Multichannel has no appeal to us, the fact big 15" speakers can deliver a full sound with enough Stereo width & "it's behind you" effects are not unknown, using tiny 3" speakers & a sub is far from our ideas of Audio. To get a Quadraphonic amp since hasn't happened, we've been asked about upgrading one, the owner of a good brand one said it sounded dull & blurry as we would expect. It's not really worth upgrading was the reply we gave as it'll never be what you want it to be. How we'd get to check any 4ch decoder & all the inputs is the trouble also. Explains why the Marantz ones don't make much. Avoid quadraphony, unless it interests.↑
The "Whoomp!" Factor in the Best Amplifiers.
You may think we sit around playing amps loudly all days, Sadly yes, we do & it's so boring... not. It's research. The "Whoomp!" factor is how hard the amp can deliver a bass whoomp yet still give clean detail. We've known one as a great test track because it does just that at the start, making it a regular play since we've been comparing amps. It's by Intaferon with "Steamhammer Sam" from 1983. For the low spec of many amps as original, we rarely heard & felt this delightful phenomenon, as even on headphones if played right it can appear to hit the desk & make your back feel it in the chair. If that's just what you're looking for from an amp, you'll need it upgraded as no amps are sold with this sort of quality. The "Whoomp!" is a mix of large dynamics with enough power to deliver them without flattening as well as high quality to not leaving it sounding rough. We've not gone all "What Hi-Fi" on you, but delicate sounds are important to get but so is a good kicking amp sound... we'll stop writing the w! word as you get the idea. This is what some amps can upgrade to bring. We've played a batch before typing, two 50w amps, two 60w amps, one 70w amp & then a 130w one. A mix of capacitor coupled & differential era amps, in reality neither if done correctly are the best, which is why we'll play transistor amps of any year 1965 to date in search of the sound we want to hear. Amps with doubled output transistors such as the 1965 Sony TA-1120 can do the whoomp! well if ours is still the original resistors design if all upgraded & it can be heard not quite giving the precision. The other 50w has the precision & has a good amount of kick if not quite the TA-1120 amount. The two 60w amps, fully upgraded, are obviously 10w more power & a little extra weight of kick. One did bass deeper so appeared more lively in comparing back. The 70w one is also fully upgraded & a real experimental one. The sound of this was a little scary & brought chair-effect bass kick through headphones. That was especially pleasing. All of the others beyond the TA-1120 have the quality of focus that makes a great amp. How about the 130w one, you know which one it is, the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X. We've said the sound does differ from early amps & to hear it play was not as expected having played it enough times. The amp goes loud like the 70w one but there was no bassy kick at all, we turned it up but it got too loud rather than bring out the kicking bass sound. It has doubled output transistors so has a hefty current in the 130w. But it didn't have the sound. It appears to have a high damping factor that as the term means, it damps the sound to sound flatter. See June blog for a Valves opinion. ↑
Damping Factor In Amplifiers.
Continuing from the 'fun' above... The 70w one has a DF of 70. One of the 50w has a DF of 29. The TA-1120 has a DF of 70. The AU-G90X has no DF findable if THD is 0.003%. These THD specs are totally meaningless if the sound as it was originally was thin, lacking real bass & a bit edgy. THD just tests how distorted a sine wave gets, of no use when your ears tell you. We had the Musical Fidelity A308CR & it sounded lacking in 'excitement' with it's DF of 250, the AU-G90X must be similar. Based on amps we've plyed & found the DF in the specs, 30-70 is a typical "Good Sounding Vintage" with Valve Amps & some early low power transistor amps of Silicon or Germanium having lower DF. One early transistor amp had a very low DF of about 10-15 & this is perhaps not good for speakers as it doesn't damp them at all. It may sound exciting but we heard from the one who bought it that they were a little scared of it on the speakers for the bass. Damping Factor is related to Output Impedance. In the early 1960s ideas that anything above a DF of 20 was of no use, but clearly amps having a DF of 250 or more do lack the richer sound. Output Impedance explained on Wikipedia, if they say a High DF has better control of a speaker, not true in terms of music, if too high it restricts the cone movement. You'll have seen cheap speakers flapping wildly, these are poorly damped in themselves and/or the amplifier. 15" Tannoys even playing a loud 50Hz tone barely move as they are large & well damped, so don't need a high DF to sound good, but cheap speakers or ones for PA work do.↑
Amplifiers With The Best Tone Controls Sound Best On Speakers.
We try all our amp on the speakers & we're finding the most enjoyable ones are those with a good Tone stage with good gain & not too thin on treble or too thick on bass. The 70w amp above is a little lacking on speakers as we do need Bass & Treble gain to watch TV at a certain volume. Some amps need only about half of the gain to sound right, some need full treble gain & could do some more. The same 70w amp has an awful bass gain, it gets too thick sounding without just adding deeper bass. So which one sounds best on speakers usually has more than enough Tone gain. The specs may say it has ±10dB but in listening ones with that range can sound so different. All a part of Matching amps To Speakers, as our Loudspeakers page tells more on. In testing a few amps that are all upgraded here, the 'tone' of each varies. The choice of a less midrangey sounding amp that emphasises detail more for treble being clearer & bass more prominent. Then another amp with a fuller midrange, still has the quality if a more neutral balance. Then others that you need to use Treble gain to max & not really get enough treble. Others that sound a little flat & 'small' in soundstage, but also can be more intimate. All sound different. Which one appeals in tests like this is actually difficult, live with one amp on speakers playing TV sound for a few days then swap. One will have more of that but less of the other or vice-versa. Overall to play male voices is the decider, to sound full without sounding too thick sounding, as in sound, not the voice owner. All a matter of taste. For TV sound, some channels are better than others, but generally HD ones sound better than SD ones, even switching between the same show as broadcast.↑
Matching Amps to Speakers.
This is often asked in Google searches to find us, we've added a list of amps we've tried on our speakers on the 'Loudspeakers' page. But the fact is we're using one of the best ever speakers, Tannoy Monitor Gold 15"s & these can make a modest amp sound good. The "Best Tone Controls" section just above shows how even amps we've upgraded with our best ideas still can sound very different on speakers. There is No Other Way to find what matches your speakers best than to try a few amps in one Listening Session. Most will have smaller size speakers & most of these despite the hype & selling prices only give an idea of the sound compared to a 15" speaker that is as big as a piece of furniture. Small speakers are unable to deliver the full lower midrange & bass. You can get used to the sound & think it sounds realistic, but it doesn't even sound like a person talking in the room does. we've always found speakers disappointing & first built big cabinets from old heavy chipboard in the early 1990s & fitted 12" then 15" Fame 200w PA drivers & the suitable tweeter, in those days a bullet tweeter. But homebrew speakers need a good crossover, we just built them the same sort of size as a pair of 1960s 'Rigonda' speakers, the piano finish ones that came with a low power musc centre-radiogram type thing, they weren't bad but on reflection they'd not sound so great being used to how the Tannys sound. The first speakers we bought were Sony APM ones in all-black, likely the '22ES' model. Silly square driver made from a traditional cone fixed to a board of aluminium foil with a honeycomb grid making it rigid. Less surface area than a cone is the reality. The tweeter was a soft dome one & they got cranked up with the Realistic STA-2280. Bass from the STA-2280 was awful we found on getting one again a few years ago, heavily bass limited, so as a teen to use Loudness & the awful IMX expander at least filled it out. It must have sounded really awful. ↑
Have we enjoyed writing this Hi-Fi Website?
We've just re-read & indexed the 'Deciding Top Amps' page which was an extension of the 'Hi-Fi Reviews' previously called the 'Top Amps' page. The Top Amps page used to rate amps we had in order of those we liked best & gave them marks out of ten. Seems a little odd now, to rate our current batch we know is too hard to do. the later version grouped these amps as Top Amps, Highly Rated & Recommended, the basis for today's ratings. Our Hi-Fi pages were just one long page until Oct 2011 which started out with a section on old record players which is the 'Retro' Old Players page still online. And then it grew... Some of it towards the end duplicates newer sections further up & is still a worthy read, if it does show our progress. Finding amps that better ones known was enjoyable, to progress from a 13w Trio amp & B&O Beomasters to find amps that gave more detail & quality. Of slightly more recent years, to upgrade amps having surveyed the 1965-78 amplifier & receiver scene including revisiting ones that in retrospect were of better potential than others to upgrade. Upgrading early on could be very unpredictable in what amps would upgrade well, not a case of skills lacking but the amps themselves. Realising no amp with ICs will ever upgrade to be as good as you hope first found with the 1986 Realistic STA-2280 that we bought new in 1988 & got another one back in 2011. It got recapped losing a lot of the low spec bass limiting that was obvious on revisiting, but in those days not going into more upgrades, even then the fact it had ICs could be heard as a weakness that other amps could do better. Finding Yamaha amps when these were pretty much ignored unlike today because of our interest, the first we got was a CR-1000 in 2012 as the price seemed good & the amp looked nice. Understanding it was another thing & only very recently on fully rebuilding-upgrading another one do we get to hear how good the amp is, instead of the harsh sound the amp is. Then finding some great 1965-67 amps & receivers, the early JVC-Nivico were ignored until we found them, getting a good selection of them as we did the Yamaha. Only now after trying so many amps can the ones that we liked best be known, we've sold most on as we're not collecting them. But still surprise unlikely good amps like the Realistic STA-220 that is mentioned a lot above turn up. Several times over the years we've thought there can be no more good amps to find, we still think that as of typing, but then another appears. Has it been enjoyable helping progress Vintage Hi-Fi like no one else online. You bet it has, long may it continue. ↑
The British Hi-Fi Boom 1972-73.
HFN/RR Sept 1973 publishes some interesting data from BREMA, British Radio Equipment Manufacturers Association. Sales of UK brands of Audio including all types from Portables to Hi-Fi grew 94% from Jan-May 1972 to Jan-May 1973. This means 384,000 audio systems of any description sold compared to 187,000 in the previous year. This naturally only covers UK brands, the USA & Japan brands sales are not mentioned. Record Players took a slight dip but as Tape grew it's just a stats difference. Be sure most of these sales were for Non Hi-Fi gear by Radiogram & Music Centre-System makers, the budget end of things & portable radios, if not covering TV items. Department stores get 30% of sales, Independent Hi-Fi shops get 40% & the Discount stores get 30% which is a little surprising, if "multiple retailers" as the term is for the Dept Stores could cover Discounters as the terms are blurred. It reveals the old Green Shield Stamps brand turned into Argos as Wikipedia confirms, we remember books of stamps were given away & collected to be exchanged for goods in a similar way as Argos started out by selling for cash. How many forged these stamps, the cashier never bothered to check the stamps too closely. Argos at one time was a hugely busy shop for general goods by brand names so they will have shifted a lot of Audio items. For those who know UK History, it didn't last long in this boom as by 1974 Power Cuts, Strikes, Three Day Week & Petrol shortages took over... It'll be interesting to see how Hi-Fi fares in the 1974-75 mags, on going through the Hifi Yearbooks for Amps & Receivers it was a slow time, if at least it killed off Quadraphony. ↑
Fake High Power TO3 Transistors Trashed My Amp. Pt 1: Is It An Easy Repair?
We are very careful buying Power Transistors online & stick to established Electronics sellers, if you then rely on them to not sell fakes, but this happened to us on one of our own amps. The seller is one we've bought from before, we needed one MJ802 for an amp, it's a 200w 30A 100v one so a high spec one. The same amp we'd used for the last 2 days on the speakers with an equivalent in, so the amp was trusted. But we got a fake if paid the usual price for it. It caused a small puff of smoke from one of the resistors if then blew the 3A main fuse, on 240v this means 720w rated so a full short occured. The transistor was a fake of an "ON" brand one which Farnell etc stock others. ON are a reputable brand related to Motorola, but as just one had failed, to buy another of the same brand is fine, as the others test correctly. But look at the photo Fake Power Transistor it has a burnt dot on the case that wasn't there before. We tested the transistor was right before using it, the Diode tester on the meter showed about '560' which is a little high we thought for new ones, usually it's about '490-520', but to allow for production tolerances as this isn't unknown. All tested correct so fit it & then that happened. Dropping the transistor on the table after pulling it out it makes a tinny noise unlike real high power ones so is a 100% fake, to drop another real high power transistor or any other makes a more weighty dull noise. We now have to check the whole R channel isn't damaged further & it worked fine the last 2 days with an equivalent used instead, we had the amp on the speakers with TV sound for several hours so it was trusted as it tested fine. Testing the amp, it trashed a total of 5 transistors in various places. A repair on this particular amp is not so easy as we searched for equivalents of the same case size, no joy finding a matched pair so to use similar but of a different type means to replace all 4 in the amp. An afternoon wasted, if it's sad to see it wrecked so eventually it costs us about £40 in new parts & have to match replacements so 1 bad out of 4 L+R channel means all 4 must be replaced if the original transistor is obsolete to keep the amp in balance. To fairly charge 3 hours work & test to be sure it's reliable for it's heavy trashing of the power amp plus courier costs for a customer makes buying a £3 transistor & getting a fake could easily be a £150-£200 repair in total. The amp now works again & is trusted. It needed a LOT of new parts for reasons of obsoleteness & matching all correctly. For replacing so many, ie the whole lot on the power amp boards we replaced the differential pair too matching the HFE. So one amp now has 18 new transistors at a cost of £42 just in parts. Plus easily 5 hours work in all. See June 2017 for Pt. 2. ↑
Unreliable Antex Soldering Irons Pt. 2
The old "new improved" more flexible cable with steel strands not copper has proven totally useless. The wire just breaks as it's not got many bends before breaking & the cable is too short. A new one goes back to the copper wire as they'll have got complaints & adds a moulded plug so is the new batch. But we're not throwing away a failed cable one just for the bad cable. The new one has 50" or 127cm of cable. The "new improved" one is down to 40" after breaking 3 times now & it's a pain. As with many things today, wire not long enough to save a few pennies & guarantee failure, we expect previous 'failed' ones would work if the cable was redone. So to do that. But we've cut 72" or 183cm of cable to fit, allows enough use & movement with no strain, we fit this length to amplifiers on rewiring as it's the right amount to use, around 6ft or 2m of cable is a proper cable length. To repair a soldering iron needs... a soldering iron & once one fails we'll have a new one ready & have a new spare at all times. It's like with any tools, you keep losing one, solve the problem by getting 2 or 3 of them. Wasting time 'looking for lost small things' is one of the most annoying things in any repairs as well as 'oh, it went on the floor' & even 'it fell inside a drawer that was slighly open'. Being aware of the annoyances & there'll be the answer solved most of the time. another thing with Soldering Irons is to keep them lasting a long time, don't tap the tip on the iron spring stand as it'll weaken the insides & usually, despite what the box states, don't pull off the soldering tip as this often causes the elements to fail for the strain on it. Only remove the tip to replace as the one we have is getting a bit holey further up as the plating goes & the rest disintegrates with the heat. The re-wired soldering iron works fine & as solder throws out more smoke now it shows the steel wire must be poor in several places so it rarely gets the full temperature. A small £4 desk fan keeps the smoke & fumes away. We don't use the Lead-Free solder, it solders poorly like a dry joint & needs a higher temperature. Only 60% Tin /40% Lead is any good. When Lead-Free Solder was first out we got some, found it soldered badly & the fumes gave a neck rash. Always to use 60/40 on vintage gear as mixing the types may not age well. ↑
How To Successfully Trash An Amplifier In 'Normal Use'.
There are several ways & all will be as 'successful' as the other. It'll cost quite a bit to repair the amp, so only try these if you want to get your amplifier repaired regularly... Some amplifiers may save themselves with fuses & relays, a 'Protection Circuit' often isn't quite what you think it is & both relays and fuses may not trip in time to save damage. This is written as a 'How To' guide as it's what people do to trash amps & then they need repair. This is how they do it... Connect speaker wires badly so strands touch the opposite connector to create a short circuit that will wreck the output stages for an excessive current draw. It is possible to do this to an amp & as the current needs about a second to grow, you may get away with not trashing it. The only way you can try this is to look at the amp as you short it & see things start to burn & power off quick enough. Turn The Amp On Then Off Then Back on all within a few seconds. On high spec amps including upgraded ones, the voltages need a minute or so to settle. Doing this careless on-offery can make the amp totally unstable so it'll trash the output stages & burn things. This is why many amps have low spec so you can do silly things to them & not get into bother. Treat High Powered Amps with Respect. High Power is 40w+. Plug In an Input with the Volume Turned Up & The Amplifier Switched On. If the amp doesn't have a proper Mains Earth there will be a floating AC voltage on either input possibly which will put a huge signal into the amp. The outcome could be fried speakers especially tweeters & it can trash the power amp. Cover Your Amplifier with cloth or similar so it overheats. This one may take some time to do, but Your Cat may find the warmth from your amp appealing so it sits on it for an hour. Poor ventilation causes heat build up in small cabinets also. Put A Pot Plant In A Saucer or Outer Pot On Your Amp. Beyond watering the plant & dripping water, you're not that silly, but excess water that collects in the outer container will be subject to outside condensation & the condensation collects & becomes water drips. This happens to furniture too & why the plant pot has marked your prized antique as the wood sat wet despite the outer pot protecting it. Pull Out A Valve With The Amp Still On & Replace It. Probably commonly done by guitar users on smaller ECC83 type valves, if the risk of not plugging the replaced valve in correctly could get pins mixed up. But to yank out a working valve will upset voltages & could make a loud noise to damage things. Unlikely anyone yanks out big EL34 output valves with at least 400v on them & for how hot they get. You may burn out resistors & transformers, a speaker could burn out too for the loud noise. Put 240v into an amp made or set to 110v. This is a more advanced one, double the power into a 30w amp makes it a 60w amp, right? But instead you'll burn out the power supply & possibly ruin the main transformer. A 500w (VA) rated amp is the same VA rating at 110v or 240v as the 110v draws double the current. We've never seen an amp trashed thusly, so it's only an estimation as it'll pull in double the current at 240v if set to 110v so it'll depend on the design of the amp. All Very Foolish Things To Do, So Don't Do it. But we've seen the outcome of most of these & to repair for the amount damaged could easily be a £200+ repair. Then test it out & trust it again. Would you trust an amp that had heavily smoked, gone bang or caught fire previously? As techs we can & have, but the owner of one we got back trashed was scared of it & wanted rid, so we bought it back & were unsure if it was repairable. It was, but the cost to a customer can get too high to repair & then forever think "that amp" nearly did whatever they see it as. Be careful out there. ↑
What An Upgraded Amp Can Bring You... Long Forgotten Happiness.
For the risk of sounding like a Life-Changing advert, it's what we hear back from those buying & getting amps upgraded by us say. The owner of the Sansui AU-666 mentioned above & on the reviews page had a great few days rediscovering his Record Collection hearing it in far better sound than they'd heard before. No mere sales hype, we've been playing a lot of vinyl on our Luxman LX33 valve amp to the point of finding great tracks we'd not taken much notice of. One we've had for 12 years, it's a rare one so unknown is realised to be a lost gem as have a few others. How did we miss that? By not taking enough notice. Enjoying Music on any Hi-Fi that makes it sound Better Than You've Heard It Before makes you Feel alive, escape the never-ending misery of Life Today, as the News pukes every negative thing that happens in the world at you. By properly getting back into Your Music that you've probably known 10, 20, 30, 40 years. Remember more carefree times & notice How Old you've become forgetting to Play Music & take notice. Playing your Old Tunes whatever they may be revives you & soon you'll see how Dead & Miserable other people your age look because you've Woken Up to Life again... because of Enjoying Music again. Yeah, cranking it up loud in the car & wailing along like you used to long ago. Note people you see on TV shows like 'Bargain Hunt' the ones into music or are eccentric never seem as aged as the ones with boring jobs & boring lives. Never forget Music is a very powerful Happiness Maker. Middle Age woes of having affairs, buying stupid cars & dressing like a 70s swinger are the painful excesses of realising you're half dead, forget all that, put on some tunes & let the years fall away. "Still Got It!", yes, but it's old & wrinkly now... Don't feel embarrassed that Your Music Is Old, it's now Modern Classic, we're surprised how much 50s & 60s music is on YouTube these days. Be sure anyone hearing these songs from 50+ years ago won't care how old they are if they like them. In the 1980s & 1990s the sort of music we like & sell on this site wasn't expensive to buy as it is today so we got through loads of great songs for the chance of trying for small money. ↑
June 2017 Blog. ↑
Doubled Output Transistors Pt. 1.
Not many amps have these unless over 100w as it increases the current to push amps to 200w+ territory. But in Vintage there is just one Amplifier (we've had) that has this, the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & also the 1967 TA-1120A. Originally the idea was to give higher power when Transistors were no more than 50w rated. The 1965 Fisher 600T Receiver does this also with Germanium outputs to get a true 45w, likely other early Fisher use similar design, if to find one is the challenge. The extra current even using modern transistors is obvious audibly as double the instant current does give more weight to the sound, even on Headphones. It's like hearing the Damping Factor is lower as in how different they can sound on the early 'DF 15' ones, but it controls Speakers better than that for the extra current. The sound has more 'authority' & the 75w Pioneer SA-9500 with Doubled Outputs sounds similarly fuller. There is another 1960s amp, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 that has heatsinks with 2 empty spaces. Originally it had 2SD213 (100w 10A) in the first TK-140X & the KA-6000 has 2SC898 (80w 7A), depends what was available it seems. So no real need to Double the KA-6000 outputs despite the spaces. But we had some spare fittings so spent ages wiring it to Double Transistors, because we can. The difference was obvious, more confident weighty sound like the Sony has. Comparing KA-6000 & TK-140X now both upgraded the same, the Doubled Outputs of the KA-6000 does give it an extra finesse. Hard to put in words, maybe like hammering in nails, not so satisfying with a light Modern hammer, but use a heavy old Vintage hammer it just feels better as more weight to it so hammering is more confident. Yes, it's a great idea, but as with anything upgrade, it requires further redesign & if the amp isn't capable you could end up trashing it. Don't try this on your amp, it's advanced stuff. Best to look for amps made with Doubled Outputs to hear how the sound is different. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X has 8 output transistors, but as it's a balanced design, it's not the same thing. Of the Yamaha 1970s amps only the CA-1010 & the huge CR-3020 have doubled outputs, if they are 100w+, the CR-2020 gets by on a standard set. The 1971 Akai AA-8500 has Doubled Outputs & again had the extra weight of sound. The 1977 B&O Beomaster 4400 has doubled outputs also. Not all sound as great in other ways though, they do all have the extra weight but the rest depends on the design & how upgradeable they are. 160w amps like the Sansui G8700DB have doubled outputs, but despite the high power the sound had none of the quality as the design was so cost cut. To fully upgrade an amp like that fully would bring it's best out, but could it cope? ↑
Germanium Amplifiers? Why Bother?
Germanium amps are from 1962-66 mostly. Only the USA & Japan brands are worth trying, forget the UK & EU ones with AD140 as these age badly. We first found Germaniums in a few 1966 amps we've reviewed & the Fisher 600-T is mostly Germaniums from Input to doubled Outputs. The KLH 27 amp we have for sale currently was all Germanium on the Power amp but the trouble with Germaniums, they aren't very powerful so to do the KLH right needed Silicons. But just having Germanium outputs gives the smooth Germanium sound, in reality the rest aren't so important, just the Outputs TO3s. Germanium transistors aren't as wide range as Silicons so have a different treble characteristic for not needing to amplify to 1 MHz or more range when Audio is 20Hz to 20KHz. Less power wasted amplifying inuadible RF hash gives the smoother sound. the JVC MCA 104E has Germanium outputs 2SB407 as our Solds page shows, these only amplify up to 400kHz as an example. ↑
We Say It's a Good Amp.. Then Oops! Too Many For Sale.
This is an odd one but not unknown. We rated the 1973 70w Yamaha CR-1000 as a great but difficult amp & there was a glut of them at one time making high prices in about 2014. The trouble here was our comments about the amp being a hard match to speakers were being ignored, on some of the run if not all as we later found out. It's still a great amp & we have one we've fully upgraded to lose the harsh sound & ours, for some early production run reason, sounds great on speakers. The current "bother" is the 1972 40w Akai AA-8080 receiver. It's as great looking amp with Pioneer SX-828 styling & despite being a quality midprice amp, for some reason it's become "common" if it's still a great amp as we reviewed it. But the first one we sold the seller needs to sell now so it's on ebay at a price cut & they slightly marked it, their amp now after many months with them so don't think it's anything to do with us selling it. Then we had a second one we sold but then 3 or 4 more "raw" AA-8080s are around, one sold for £99, another optimistically wants £200 for it when our first upgraded one is up for £290. So much "raw grade" hifi is way overpriced on ebay & there they sit forever. It's a shame to see good amps sit, but that's how it goes. Akai, like Yamaha were pretty much ignored until we rated them, similar with the 1967-72 era JVC-Nivico. We have influence with these amps, so are careful with what we write, but if too many appear as the word is out it's a good one, it messes up the market. The AA-8080 was around in the first Hifi Boom era of 1973 & in all the Shops and Discounters so it will have sold well as it sounded good. Similar happens with Rare Records, people see the price goes high so a lot of copies emerge. Some sell at high prices as the demand is there, but once a person has a nice copy, they don't need another & at some point the market wanting to pay top price is satisfied, leaving buying to those less willing to spend top prices & the next high grade copy of one £500-£600 regular seller goes at only £300 so no copies offered for over a year now. ↑
Doubled Output Transistors Pt.2.
A High Current Amp does give a much richer sound. The idea to try the KA-6000 further was inspired by another amp having that weighty sound despite it having single transistors. That amp was the one that got wrecked by the Fake Transistor & it's the Heathkit AR-1500. Getting ready to compare them & the fake transistor trashes it if that morning we'd enjoyed playing the AR-1500 on the speakers using the temporary replacement. Playing some of the tracks used the day before with the KA-6000 on the AR-1500 reveals a similar weighty sound if it's not quite as sweet sounding as the KA-6000 yet. But we tried it again for the TK-140X sounding great but looking a bit unpleasing. Both amps have Tone Defeat & the AR-1500 sounds better without Tone on. The Heathkit you probably think is some crappy kit amp & most are. But not this 1973-74 60w amp it's top spec, a real great looking amp with a heavy cast fascia. But it's not respected as it's not known so goes ignored. In comparing the AR-1500 & KA-6000 the output clean AC is the same 31v as is the TK-140X, but the AR-1500 is the better for precision & control, the "not as sweet sounding" is as it's slighly more trebly than the KA-6000 that can be a little soft, if we'll upgrade it more. ↑
Hi-Fi hit a Confident Peak in Late 1973.
The HFN/RR mag becomes it's hugest ever in Nov 1973 with 310 pages, Dec 1973 is 300 pages & even Jan 1974 is a large mag. All have a luxurious thicker paper colour Sony section picturing some very obscure but nicely Retro gear of all types of Audio from 10w Systems to the TA-1130, 1140 & 1150. The Nov 1973 issue has some rare ads from Brands we've not seen advertised, it was like Day Had Finally Broken on Hi-Fi-Audio as everyone had to be in the mag or you were nobody. This optimism is great to see but History knows how bad the UK got in Jan 1974 with strikes & 3 day week misery. The Dec 1973 for the first time ever puts a Rock Group on the front cover, not their usual deadly-dull pics, if Nov 1973 had German stamps with Hifi on. The group is "The" Pink Floyd doing quadraphonic with Alan Parsons. Be sure many Rock buyers bought HFN for this, page index says page 2587, they tiresomely still number by year, not issue & where is it? It's a Memorex tape ad. It's on page 2583 & is just about tech stuff on the "DSOTM" mega-selling Album, the one with 'Money'. Not a very interesting article to most. The Feb 1974 mag understandably is half the size at about 160 pages & it never recovers by the size of later mags for The Economy & 'What Hi-Fi' taking over the populist market in 1976. They explain Feb 1974 was supposed to be 10 pages of articles & 70 pages of ads extra, if 3-day-week got it limited if oddly all the regular dull articles & Classical reviews are here. March 1974 is back to 190 pages suggesting the 70 pages of ads was a lie as you don't cut advertising, the ads got cancelled is more the truth & at long last they number per issue, the tedious numbering by year was very out of date. The late 1973 adverts in a mag that was selling over 60,000 copies was really the peak of Hifi-Audio sales until the 1978-79 era. Ads for Quadraphonic & Cassette were aplenty, if Cassettes thrived, Quadro died a death as it was impractical & not very good. The ads were in colour often & not just lists of shops discounting, but the USA-type glossy mag type ads that people buy to frame them for Retro reasons. Money was being made, a good range of quality brands if a huge amount of cheap stuff certainly kept buyers happy, until it all went bad. Even today, Brexit, Bad News Stories & Election worries put buyers off buying. If no-one buys all suffer, but in reality life goes on, but confidence gets weakened. Hi-Fi did revive by 1978 for the Disco & John Travolta scene, the Japanese Monster Amps scene made Hifi-Audio boom again if this time by 1980 it swiftly fell off again, see the 1980-81 sections on amps-receivers listing page. Since 1980 we've had the CD boom in about 1988-94 that rode the early 1990s troubles as CD was to replace Vinyl & Tape. Only really MP3 & i-pods changed the Audio scene from 2001 if only got big after 2004. Audio changes it's face but Quality in Hi-Fi has never been at the heights of the pre 1980 era. They don't know what they are missing... ↑
Heathkit AA-1214 Amplifier & other Heathkit.
Knowing how great the 1971 Heathkit AR-1500 is, a kit amp that is of high quality with great looks & heavy build, to see the AR-1214 with inside pics. UK first got Heathkit transistor amps in about 1968 & the Nov 1968 HFN shows a double page advert with "New!" on some of the range. The power ratings need understanding as The AR-15 is 100w RMS, but that's 2x 50w also 150w Music power, in the days of misleading specs. So... AR-15 receiver 50w, AA-15 amplifier 50w, AR-14 receiver 10w, AR-17 receiver 5w?. AJ-15 tuner also. Also an earlier range AA-22U 20w, TSA-12 10w. The AR-1214 is new in 1972 & is "50w" but in reality 25w IHF means 15w RMS per channel. The AA-1214 amplifier with 15w also means it's not so great once the power ratings are found. The outside of the AA-1214 has some quality to it in the fascia & side boards, Phono inputs & awkward screw connectors for speakers, like the UK Rogers ones. The inside is not so hot, it has an IC probably for the preamp, if the AR-1214 receiver doesn't. This one really does look like a kit amp & it's not too impressive seeing all main stages on one board. Only with the 1971 AR-1500 do Heathkit get into Top Quality Hi-Fi like the later AR-1515. This has more modern styling & the Tuner is a digital display. Other models we've not heard of on this site with a good listing of Heathkit, if not many will have been sold in the UK. Heathkit did kits of TV sets even & a 250w amp was one of their later efforts. But most of these will have been USA only as UK Distribution changed so the brand faded as few wanted to build kits. ↑
You Want To Buy Vintage: Don't Narrow Your Sights Too Far...
We're getting those wanting Vintage Amps, but they are looking at the 1965-72 era with 1977-80 ideals. There are really not that many findable amplifiers around 40w-50w in this era. You can see those from our reviews page & from ones we've had, we hear that the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 & Sony TA-1120 or TA-1120A are the only choices that's being considered. There are other 1965-72 transistor amps that are mostly USA only like Fisher, Marantz, Sherwood & McIntosh that could be great too. Beyond us saying these amps could be 48-52 years old & need a full rebuild at a price that's not anywhere cheap to do it properly, buyers are missing out on receivers that are usually more plentiful in the 40w+ range. You may not ever use a Tuner as what is broadcast isn't your music & in testing receivers we usually use Radio 2 as the sound is uncompressed, but the music can not be our bag as it's a tame BBC channel after all. Receivers look great with an attractive Tuner stage dial & meters, on the best of these having a Tuner in with the Amplifier is no compromise. Don't forget the 1978-80 Monster Receiver Wars was based on.. Receivers & some of these were 160w-300w if why you need the power is another thing. There are some great amps & receivers of 20w to 35w that put out a good volume & are great value with good looks. You'd not bother with under 40w past 1972 as this heads into too-cost-cut territory, but we still remember the 1966 18w Coral A-550 & 1966 16w JVC Nivico MCA 104E that sounded great on speakers as they had enough volume even at 16w-18w. There will always be those seeking the best, well the truth is NO AMP is the best, the Trio KA-6000 has a Low Filter that is after the volume & can cause problems once upgraded, the Sony TA-1120 uses 100v bulbs that you can't replace & will need a huge rebuild. The TA-1120A has no proper headphone & will be bass-light for the kooky original red case capacitors. Some of the 1967 40w-45w receivers like Pioneer, Sansui & National need a lot of work to sound good. There is no perfect amp, all have issues. Just because we say the TA-1120 & KA-6000 are great amps, are they what you want & will they match your speakers? See our Loudspeakers page, a TA-1120A on 1992 Tannoy 609s sounded awful as it was a mismatch so sounded far too bassy with reduced midrange, see the "Bad Speaker Amp Match #2" section. If your speakers are low sensitivity & small drivers to use a 50w amp will be right on the full power to get a decent volume as your speakers are inefficient. Don'ty just jump in & buy the "easy answer" as it probably isn't what you need or will match what you have. We see our page views & getting info on amps to pick "The Best" is the main idea, but without any idea of what they sound like, you could end up being disappointed, or having to buy different speakers. ↑
We Can Upgrade The 1965-69 "Sound" into quality Later Amplifiers
We like the 1965-69 sounding amps best & there are some into 1972 that have the same sort of sound if generally by 1973 things get cost-cut even with the big names like Pioneer & Sony. But even these cost-cut later ones: we can upgrade them to put some of the 1960s Quality into them, we've done this with some we've sold & in the case of 1972-75 Pioneer, these upgrade well if do need a lot upgraded. If an amp is midprice as is revealed more by looking at the insides, these upgrade well, but results will vary, some amps upgrade better than others. Look at our 'Hifi Sold Gallery' & the ones that look well made inside are always the better amps. ↑
We don't get many asking about Valve Amps.
Hopefully our Valves pages have been read & to see how much work these need to rebuild & then the maintenance needed as well as the heat. Valves are great sounding, but to be honest, transistor amps can usually do the same & better overall. We've got the 1979 30w valves Luxman LX33 & after 3 years redesigning it, it's still not as good as we'd hoped, if in the June section it finally arrives. The original LX33 design is very poor in many ways sadly,. but an upgrader's dream. The Trio WX-400U we spent ages rebuilding & it did sound very nice but still had a background noise & 10w isn't really enough power. We'll rebuild Valve amps for customers, but to try another Rogers HG88 Mk III or similar, we've been there & done that, found out the limitations & moved on. Valves can sound sweet, but really the only valve amps that will please the modern user actually don't exist & never have, as the designs are so limited. The 2004 Prima Luna was a modern valve amp we had to try when upgrading & repairing & found it had some poor design. The owner of it sold it on, bought a Class A 30w amp for £2k+ and soon sold that on as it didn't sound so good as well as being way too hot in the room. ↑
Phono Stages Still Best As Valves. 2003 compare Arcam FMJ C30 to Our Valves.
But for Vinyl we'll gladly suffer the heat of valves & regular crackly noises on the Luxman LX-33 if we try to lose the noise just as so far we've not tried to get a Phono stage as good as Valves in Transistors. Maybe we'll spend ages designing an Ultimate Transistor Phono stage. No FETS, no ICs. We bought a Arcam FMJ preamp, FMJ C30, both look the same back & front. The inside was a nasty surface mount & IC preamp & awful user controls, but the Phono stage after a little altering was actually very decent. We recorded a few Reggae 45s with it & our Valves & hardly any difference, if that was 2003 opinion. The FMJ C30 preamp has the circuit diagram, a 15 transistor & one op-amp thing, looks horrendous. Got the CD-R with both versions of the tracks recorded, need to dig it out & compare again... A CD we recorded late 2003 & it's got a rare 1968 Rocksteady track "Summertime" by Lloyd Clarke on UK Island, a crisp clean Bunnie Lee production, now a big money tune, if one we borrowed at the time to record together with the Ska cut of 'Artibella'. Easy to tell the valves version, the sound is deeper & it copes with strong sibilants well, resolving them properly, this was our Valve Preamp design probably only done in 2002-03. The FMJ C30 version is very close, but it sounds less open, it gets slightly mushed in the detail & the treble sibilants aren't as well resolved. The sound doesn't quite get you as involved as the Valves version does. The 'Artibella' Ska cut by Stranger Cole & Ken Boothe is a 1965 'Studio 1' cut, not the 1970 repress either. This from a crackly JA original is a great test which is why we recorded it to compare. On the FMJ version it's a bit flat sounding with treble a bit lacking. The valves version digs more detail out giving a soundstage that the FMJ just doesn't reveal. The mastering of 1965 Ska is hardly Hifi quality, but it shows how good an amp is at resolving detail. Just to be sure we got the FMJ vs Valve versions right, the 'kept' versions are the valve ones. ↑
COMPARISONS: How Detailed are a Range of Amplifiers?
(based on the above test... )The amp we used to compare the above was the Heathkit AR-1500. To try other transistor amps, the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X next... 'Summertime' on both sounds much the same, if the FMJ is slightly weaker, not by very much. 'Artibella' again not much different beyond the FMJ slightly flat sounding. Next the Yamaha CR-1000, be aware all amps tested here are much upgraded ones, not "stock-original" versions. This amp is a different sound, on both versions of 'Summertime' it offers a deeper soundstage if the valves version is better detailed sounding more intimate. 'Artibella' sounds different too, if the valves version is more detailed on the rough recording. Next is the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X. Sound is very different here too, the sound appears very tight, stiff sounding with all the sounds there if it lacks a warmth to the sound. The AU-G90X is an amp you can get used to & find it more precise than others, if the music lacks emotion for being too precise. Trying a few other tracks, the AU-G90X sounds ploddy with a cardboardy sound that you either love or think is cold & clinical. The Realistic STA-220 & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 next with the same opinion as the TK-140X. Back to the AR-1500 again shows it's a richer sounding amp if also a little more detailed than the others. Comparing amps together is interesting if your hearing can alter how one amp sounds in comparing to others, giving the mindboggling idea that "today the amp sounds dull, yesterday it was too bright". As long as the quality is there in the amp, you could live happily with any of these amps & get used to them as we have truing them on speakers. There is no "Best Amp", it's all a case of perception. If you like the sound of it, then it's a keeper. For the chance to test amps together, to try the others that are up for sale, might find a surprise. The 20w 1967 Trio-Kenwood TK-66 we've not played in a while, it got recapped with not too much else done beyond rebuilding the power amp. It does sound like it could upgrade more, it has a freshness that could be brought out further, 20w amps can sound very sweet & this certainly has enough volume to it as did the 20w Fisher 440-T. Hearing the TK-66 after the others is a nice sounding amp & it'll get more upgrades, if as usual Trio dead tuner issue. It sounds sweeter than the KA-6000 & TK-140X. Last to try is the Realistic SA-1500 amplifier. Modest looking 35w amp but it has a fresh lively sound. Another one that could upgrade further & sound way beyond what it looks & is expected to sound like, but then the reality of selling it comes in, so to not go too wild on it, though it could take more upgrades. The Pioneer SA-9100 didn't sound as good as this one. ↑
What Transistor Amps Have We Enjoyed Using On our Loudspeakers?
We use some of the amps we have here on the Tannoys for daily TV use. Ones we've enjoyed most are the 1965 Sony TA-1120 used for a few months, 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 used for a few months, 1966 Akai AA-7000 used for over 6 months, 1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X used for about a month, the Realistic STA-220 used for about 6 months & currently the 1971 Heathkit AR-1500 is on the speakers with a pleasing rich sound giving more weight to voices than other amps, so it matches very well. Others we've used for a day to a week just to compare them. Some match better than others, some have a more Retro sound like the Fisher 600-T that was not as fresh sounding perhaps, but very enjoyable as it was pure 1966 sound. We usually only try upgraded amps on the speakers, not wanting to trust 40+ year old original amps, if many do buy "raw" amps on ebay etc & just use them unserviced & unchecked. Too Risky says us. ↑
In Testing Hi-Fi A Neutral Sounding Reference Amp Is Required.
Time & time again we find listening to one amp upsets the hearing balance of what is "Normal" by being too bright sounding & it makes Neutral amps wrongly sound soft & unexciting. First noticed this in 2012 with the awful Radford HD250, an amp so harsh & bright as well as over-loud it really messed up comparing. We gave it a low review as it was a horror, if it's hyped as 'Reference quality'. Earlier today putting some TK-140X type upgrades in the Trio-Kenwood TK-66 that's up for sale. After giving it a good listening session we then tried it on Speakers, a 20w amp with a good sound if not the dynamics on speakers of the Realistic STA-220 we used to compare to. So then blow the dust off the 1967 KLH 27 that is being ignored as it's a tiny amp & 110v. After a very quick listen based on the TK-66 listening, how nice the KLH 27 sounds. Clean crisp treble, open bass & a lively sound that can give a bit of kick for 25w on the Germanium output transistors giving a pleasing smoothness to the sound. More sophisticated sounding than the TK-66 that has an odd Tone stage as it's limiter. the KLH 27 has all the TK-140X upgrades done long before which surprised. Application of ideas. The KLH is a great amp upgraded but as-original it's not very good at all as the power amp is poor, we rebuilt ours & had lots of issues with it. But that was long ago... We looked at the KLH just the week before, if didn't play it seeing it has lots of unshielded audio signal cables, clearly not so critical in some amps but it is in others. So after revisiting the Heathkit last month, to revisit the KLH. Good job no-one knows these amps as they'd be long gone. Early days still on Vintage Amps & Upgrades if the above does show progress that we see. ↑
1973 Harrison S200 Amplifier - What Is It?
This appears in the Oct-Nov 1973 HFN/RR with a photo of it. The futuristic looks appealed so to look closer. £169+VAT in 1973 buys you a 100w per channel British Made amplifier. It has early touch-sensitive panels like B&O did on the 1976 Beomaster 1900, what looks like Chromed control knobs all on a black fascia with a light panel below with push buttons etc. Gimar Ltd of London WC1. LED output meter is early & 'computer controlled' logic function selectors, if it's just likely a simple transistor switch circuit having seen the B+O. Does feature in the 1975 HFYB but missed the 1974 & does feature in others to the 1979 one. Did it sell? Have we seen one? Appears to be a rare one as not much on Google if there are pics of it. Toroidal transformer & a few PCBs on end close together in a row with no shielding. Hard to tell if the parts are of good quality or Goodmans-Leak TV grade if some are larger film capacitors so it could be a good one, if it does look a little 'British' in quality, that Kit-Amp look. Seems Harrison-Chapman carried on into the late 1980s making Power Amps in Disco type rather than Hifi quality, so the S-200 must have failed. Pity as it looks interesting. Nothing on ebay of recent so Rare it is. For it being a UK amp, hard to tell what quality it'd be. 100w for 169 in 1973 sounds a bit 'midprice' as the 100w Marantz 1200 is £399 if Pioneer SA-1000 94w into 4 ohm is £148. One we'd try if we saw it, but Rarity means only you reading this probably have one long gone unworking that needs repair-upgrading. We'd like to see it. HFE has nothing on the brand, so one of those mystery amps to spend ages working it out. ↑
We see your Amp on the Solds Gallery Page... What Did It Sell For?
A naive person just asked this, no reply for you. No doubt they have one & want free pricing info instead of putting it up for auction. As if we're going to put prices of upgraded amps once sold. We know the trouble with publicising the pricing on our Serviced Amps & then Upgraded Amps. The person with Raw untouched Vintage Hi-Fi has no realisation that Work & Servicing can add value & Upgrading can add a lot more value. A "raw amp" in nice visual grade working or not but not trashed might be worth £100-£150, properly serviced & working it could be £250-£300 & Recapped-Upgraded it could be £450-£600+. But the unaware person with the raw amp doesn't see anything beyond the top price, explaining why there is so much Overpriced Aged Hifi on ebay. There is one website that gives selling prices for "Raw Amps" & as this is the Reality of what original untouched amps sell for, so Google for Hifi Shark. We just put in the Yamaha CR-1000 & to see a range of prices $200 to $590, but no way of knowing the state of the amp on sold ones, from not working & tatty to pretty in the original box. It shows one for $399 plus $280 shipping & import charges making it an expensive buy for a UK buyer & it's a 117v-only one so further care needed. We first got a CR-1000 in Nov 2011 for £90. Had no idea what it was if it looked nice & not a high price. Yamaha were totally ignored at the time, only us saying 1973-78 Yamaha are very good has got them recognised as being worthy since. In these earlier days when we were learning the sound of Transistor Amps as Original, we spend ages Servicing it but didn't really understand it for the loud harsh sound & eventually sold it May 2012 for £250 which was an earner for the work, if it now seems very low now the market has progressed. Pricing Amps needs care, as does upgrading them knowing they'll be for sale as the Market gets cautious over about £800 for fully upgraded vintage amps. We just sold one of our Best Amps with a lot of upgrades for a price that doesn't reflect the work put into it, but to price to sell it, as it had other issues. In reality the "value" in the amp was about Double the sell price, but we do these Upgrades as Research which gets techniques found that we can put a good amount into amps we get paid to Upgrade yet keeping prices affordable. Research & Development of ideas, the ones that make the most difference, rather than some that are a lot of work for no real difference. ↑
110v USA-Japan Amplifiers, Is it worth getting the Transformer Rewound?
We like the KLH 27 but it's a USA only amp so is 110-117v only. It needs a Step Down Transformer, which is OK to use, but the SDT does get warm in use & needs turning off each time. To ask a company we found on Google if they could do this is worth a try.... Some Amplifiers have complex transformers with multiple taps, these would be expensive to rewind & may not fit the transformer case as 110v needs less turns of the enamelled wire than a 240v & also for current capabilities. To ask a pro rather than try to work it out & then see we haven't got the tools to wind the wires neatly. The KLH 27 has 2 Mains wires to the Primary input & 2 Secondary output ones plus Ground wires, an easy one to do you'd hope. The Fisher 600-T we've sold has a 110v transformer if UK 240v ones were made, but to find a UK one will be impossible. The Fisher 600-T transformer has 3 secondary windings, 152v for the Tuner valve, ± 36v for the Power Amp with other supplies taken from the + half, plus a 6.3v one for bulbs & valve heaters. In the case of the Fisher, it may not work out as stated, unless they could get the specs of the original 240v one it'd need more calculations. To do the KLH we'd expect to be simple enough, they'd test it to get it's specs & make a 240v version exactly in the way you'd expect them to, as in calculations & the right SWG wire size for the job. We'll see what they say... Got a message back from their Trainee Sales-Designer, er, not reassuring, not sure if they are that keen, trying to offer step-down transformers. You can see we like to push the boundaries with upgrades, so to see what others can offer in transformers as be sure the idea of USA voltage-only & SDTs aren't appealing. To see if a non-standard size transformer of 120VA with 48v plus ground can be rewound. Other 150V 50v ones are buyable for about £45 but the size is too big by far, the KLH one has laminations size 95mm x 80mm x 33mm if the metal case ends make it 85mm. The 33mm deep is the difficult part as ones to buy are usually more square. Appears custom Vintage Hifi ones are better quality so smaller than the ones you can buy online today, or the ones in many UK made amps. Grain Oriented Steel rather than Standard Steel, probably a purity & eddy current related matter that Wikipedia will explain deeper. Looking at USA & Japan built amps where transformer tech was more advanced than today appears to offer, unless you get several thousand made. We asked the transformer company for pricing, they've not bothered to reply as it's clearly beyond them. All we get is some trainee fool wasting our time over several messages. We find this often sadly, we can do advanced "Old School" things but try finding someone to do similar for you... They do reply several days later, but they just want to sell a new item that won't fit. We asked for a custom job to rewind an old transformer. It's not hard to do, 240v will have more windings of smaller SWG wire & to fit an old transformer could be done easily by those around 30 years ago. But skills fade away. We tried to get Tuner Glass made by companies, they printed it badly to need a new one done that was acceptable for telling them how to do the job right, then the next one for a different amp they messed up so we just returned it & gave up. How many people out there do Amplifier Upgrades with Design knowledge like we do... none it seems. ↑
Putting New Speaker Connectors On Amplifiers.
This is still controversial as you'll see some do it very badly with gaudy Gold wiped huge metal things leaving an amp easy to short as they are too close together. We've found the VOSO ones on ebay are good. No Gold plate nonsense here, these still look 1970s so are good. To replace the screw ones on the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X now we've sold it. The buyer wanted the 4mm connectors so to charge £50 to fit the set of 8. See the Old Connectors and the New Connectors to see. On the Trio to use the original boards after carefully removing the old connectors worked well. It does take skill to do this neatly & not get into problems, not a basic job. We've used this amp on those original screws with the Gold Blocks that are meant for early Marantz amps & don't fit the Fisher 600-T as they are just too wide to fit right. Using cables on those 4mm blocks here was not a problem as the screws fitting has a notch to hold the Gold block in place. But they aren't permanent & the screw can come loose which again could short the outputs. We first put the VOSO on the 1966 Akai AA-7000, then on the Sony STR-6050 as the Sales page shows. These we think are a worthy upgrade & in reality no screw connectors are good enough unless you use fork-spade or ring connectors which can still come loose & touch. The VOSO are small enough to fit neatly. There were ones smaller still around about a year ago if these looked a bit too cheap, These we use are fine. For other connectors, it's up to the Customer what they want & we'll fit them once paid, if some amps we still prefer to use other connectors. For the Yamaha CR-1000 with the typical spring connectors and early Sony that have the 3mm sockets with side wire holes we use (as on the Sales page) Connectors 1 that also shows the Gold blocks. For the KLH 27 we use Connectors 4 as the screws undo fully as do the Fisher 600-T & 440-T ones. The old screw connectors were for thin wires like you see on FM antennas, but these aren't buyable now unlike DIN plugs. If an old connector can still be used like Connectors 4 which you could make with a bare wire like Connectors 1 then the fact you add a small length of thin wire, well look inside the amp to see how thin the wires are to the connectors. Only for long lengths do cables need to be bigger size. DIN plugs aren't much good for thick cables, we've never trusted old ones as you're trusting whoever made them & ones with screw connectors inside seem a bit amateurish. The small Realistic SA-1500 amp has DIN sockets, if we fitted 4mm plugs it'd sell much better. Bang & Olufsen gear is usually DIN connectors & the trouble there is no space to fit anything better, if B&O buyers are more in into how they look than the sound. ↑
Fake High Power TO3 Transistors Trashed My Amp. Pt 2.
So to cut the Fake transistor open & also a real one that trashed because of it. Fake Power Transistor insides. These MJ 802 are very high power 30A 200w transistors if a commonly used one & were the original ones in the 1971 Heathkit AR-1500. See the picture labelled with the Fake on the left & a real one on the right. The fake lacks the extra metal plate inside to cope with the high power so sounds tinny on table drops. The square dot bit in the middle is the actual transistor workings with 2 wires connected to the pins, the case is the Collector as standard. The fake one you can see part of one wire that blew up & the other will have come loose & shorted the case Collector to the Emitter pin which in the design is 0.47R from Ground, so it's as good as shorted. The mess inside the fake is it blowing up, it looks like a Spot Welded joint as this is how a MIG welder works with a reel of wire, see Wikipedia for more. The real one is far better made & despite it being totally shorted, the wires are still intact & are held in place by a white paint type glue as the makers know of weaknesses & what happens in a failure. On the real one only the silicon area will be damaged, for the fake one to explode on turn on where there can be a high instant current peak, it didn't survive as the silicon part is half melted. The fake may be absolutely anything, it could be an old lower power one with fake printing on, but for the tinny noise like early TO3s make sometimes it's likely all fake made as a 10w transistor just to read as believable, but never cope with a turn-on surge. If it was your amp damaged by your own buying of a fake transistor the repair bill would be those parts plus 3 hours labour if it was more like 4 for taking time to try to find equivalents. £150 repair you'd be billed for plus Courier costs. Other amps could be a cheaper repair, if this had obsoletes. Now we know the signs of Fake Transistors, another one to be careful of, even from trusted sources. It did seem right to have tried it as was the price. You have to put trust somewhere & it bites you back sometimes, as life shows... getting it back working right again is the skill. ↑
What Cables Do We Use On Loudspeakers?
The cables we use on our Tannoys are cables we bought in 2005(?) when the Sony TA-1130 was here. We'd tried the bulky bi-wire stuff, it makes no difference & it's too big so looks ugly. Using 5A or 13A mains wire, even the Solid Core stuff isn't good enough. The one we use today is QED Balanced Design Concept cable. Pearl coloured plastic 3.5mm diameter over multistrand copper of 2.5mm total size. Plugs were 'Puresonic' Gold plated ones, yes, the Gold wears off as barely a lick of it, an Audio Con if ever, it makes Zero difference. The trouble with these all-metal cased ones is on some amps the 4mm sockets are very close & too close means shorting & repair bills. Only use metal cased ones if the speaker posts are widely spaced. But the springy bits don't keep tight for very long so we actually use some basic plastic red-black cased ones with the obligatory Gold plated pin. These plastic cases are safe on any 4mm socket even if as near as 2mm apart as plastic doesn't conduct. Why spend more? You don't need to. Silly mags & sites hype cable, but we've been there & found out it's just a marketing tease based on pay more, feel better. As an example of paying more, as we have our valve amps on top of the Tannoys, with isolating feet naturally, we only needed short cables. These we got maybe in about 2004, Hifi Shop Recommended. Utter rubbish in use says we. The QED X-Tube XT400 SPOFC Air-Core ™ Technology Speaker Cable. It sounded no better or worse & is as big as TV aerial cable, if 2 fixed together in the pearly plastic. The Airloc plugs they have a machine to pressure fit we found very poor as they break so easily as there are grooves cut to provide the spring, knock one & off it snaps in the amp or speaker. The cable itself reeks of bullshit (not literally..) it's like a TV aerial cable with a centre core wrapped in copper foil that's empty unlike TV cable & a typical braided mesh outer ground that's used as the conductor. Look on ebay for QED Airloc & be shocked at the prices, in about 2005 ours was about £50 & we'll never use them again. Forget all the rubbish you read about Speaker Cables, go buy some decent OFC multistrand cable & put some FERRITES on the ends as this really does make a difference, see below. If you need over 10m of cable, you really should just move speakers & amp closer as you'll end up getting losses in the sound which will affect the treble first. You see 100v PA systems, the 100v is a carrier voltage that the audio sits on to not get losses so a huge building can be set up for PA with a 100V PA system. But don't put 100v DC on your speaker cables as you'll trash your speakers, 100v PA systems use special transformers. ↑
My Cable has Directional Arrows On It.
Then your Cable is telling you to plug it so the sound signal travels in the way the arrows go. Directional Cable as you'd expect relies on how the copper wire was rolled & the arrows claim to match the way the wire was made. The laughable "fact" the Molecules that make copper are apparently aligned in a certain way when the wire is stretched to get the required size means cable "sounds better" one way or another is totally unproven, except on forums & by those selling said Magical Cable. You can probably find much on these illusionary cables on sites frequented by Linn & Naim types. But the trouble is if you have cables with arrows on as our 'Straight Wire' ones do, the psychological effect of plugging them in the right way makes you feel better in case some Linn user comes visiting & tells you your arrows are pointing the wrong way. Next they'll be selling Directional Paint that you must brush up & down only, not left to right. Silly? So are Directional Cables. Get a tin of solvent & clean the arrows off. Why Do People Believe Cables Are Directional? The fact is "you don't know for sure" and as some 'expert' says so, it must be right & you do as you're told. But look at your 'expert' are they the ones selling or marketing the silly cables with pseudo-science. The same nonsense Women are told about Beauty products. People may sneer that you haven't got expensive cables & use basic speaker connectors, but they can't prove theirs is any better. ↑
The Art of Cable Selling Ideas & Promises.
One who saw our QED Balanced Design Cable blog above is told it's no longer made if a 'Performance Original' one replaces it. It looks the same. The specs claim it's lower capacitance , which is odd as most cables are purposely made as LCR filters, as in Inductance-Capacitance-Resistance, to tame rough "Hi-Fi". This new one has Capacitance of 39pf per meter, Inductance of 0.59µH per meter & Resistance of 0.015 ohm per meter. Typical cable lengths will be 5m to 10m. The values are vey low on this 'honest' cable & at £4.50 a meter very good value says we & neat looking in use. But how about Capacitance? The output stages of most amps have a LCR circuit of much higher values, so in reality does Speaker Cable make any difference on a quality upgraded amp be it £4.50 a meter or £200 a meter. No it doesn't. It's all about selling techniques & psdeudo-science. The only cables that affect Audio are ones from Cartridge to Phono stage as the voltages are tiny. But how do what Hi-Fi tests find a difference on Loudspeaker Cables & some Amp makers suggest a High Capacitance cable? Because some amps are badly designed & should have these "features" in the amp already. The cables argument will continue forever if you're only using poorly designed low spec amps. We can use "cheap" basic but good cables because we're using our Upgraded Hifi. To use the basic QED cable works for us, if on lesser amps it may sound rough as it reveals Your Amp is rough & fancy cables apparently tame it. This influenced the below posts looking at "why" amps have output filters. ↑
Have We Forgotten Valves? Time for A Listening Session.
The much rebuilt 1979 Luxman LX33 gets a look as we had a look inside the 100w TT Genesis monoblocs & didn't fancy trying all that just yet. Putting an older set of JJ EL34s that the LX33 used before, the things are still as rustly as ever, which is really annoying as *everything* to stop that has been done. Biased up right one is biasing high but can be settled if likely it's the noisy one, the rustling just won't shut up. Ignoring that as music covers it, if not acceptable really, the sound is fine. After playing transistor amps for Aux testing & the LX33 only for vinyl, it's sound on Aux is quite different to Solid State. The LX33 is designed as Ultra Linerar, if we've altered it to Pentode mode, which is a design thing, not just a quick alteration. Treble is different, trebly music still has the crispness if known sibilants don't extend so far, suggesting Transistors can be 'peaky' on treble? Or is an impedance matching diffference? Reducing the Soundcard volume & upping the amp volume, the characteristic is the same, so it's not clipping. The rustly valve has to go as it's annoying & the new set goes back. These bias right but are crackly & rustly until they warm up fully & then just the odd noise. The JJ valves are good on preamps but on Luxman & TT they do make noise as we noticed they were more trebly & deeper on bass compared to the previous Svetlana Winged 'C's. Changing valve set makes no difference to the sound on the treble sibilant. Musically the sound is very different to the 1965-71 Transistor sound, as different a the 1984 Sansui is. The valves has a different upper bass with more neutral treble than Transistors. As for the "Whoomp!" tests above, the 30w Luxman can deliver a full sound with enough kick to scare you into saying salty words, which is nice. 30w in valves has the relative volume & power of at least 75w in transistors, in terms of sound. Testing on Headphones here firstly. The Valves sound is very different & needs a little familiarising with tracks used before. Using the "Reggae tracks in Phono Stages Best as Valves" post, the Valves version of "Summertime" on the first lead vocal SSS sibilant on the title appears to clip a bit. Putting the Soundcard at half volume it's the same. This wasn't noticed on Transistor amps, it's the 2003 recording. After all we did rebuild the Phono in 2008... we have 2 of the preamps & the 2003 version has been mid rebuild for a few years now if no circuit board done, the rest is. That track sounds again very different on valves, a more personal sound with tonal differences that are unusual to hear after not playing valves for Aux input in probably nearly a year... The FMJ version of the track is actually not that different, the sibilant is unclipped beyond the actual record mastering. Both sound great if maybe the FMJ dynamics are a little flatter. Onto the "Artibella" track, a hoary old Ska cut from a crackly record if it has depth to the sound, with the close acoustic of the Jamaican studio audible, very few amps can bring that out, the room must have been very small compared to UK ones & is if you see Studio 1 studios on TV documentaries. The FMJ version lacks the depth of the sound more noticeably, if some may prefer the less dynamic sound on old vinyl. Checking the Bias again it has gone a bit high so needs adjusting. Valves do clearly bring more detail to the music, if transistor amps with ever-more transistor stages will lose detail. Here the valve count is (stages count) 2 for Phono, 2 for Pre-Tone, 1 for Pre-Driver on Power amp, 1 for splitter & then 2 for P-P outputs. Aux to Output sees 5 amplification stages. The Heathkit AR-1500 we have on the speakers currently has 2 on the input stage, 1 for Tone, then the power amp ignoring the 'Dissipation Limiter' is 7 transistors. So 5 on Valves, 10 on Transistors. Each Transistor will affect the sound. Rock Guitar on Valves sounds very different on the much-used Joan Jett tracks, not as up on the treble on these busy tracks as all transistor amps give, a more live sound. Electric guitar means a Marshall stack usually & they have valves. Learnt again by itself after not using it for Aux input in so long as other amps progressed was a good diversion & then to compare back. Conclusion: The Valve sound, if not the overused Ultra-Linear design, is more neutral than Transistors as less Gain Stages to mangle the sound. Ultra-Linear doesn't sound as good as the now little-used superior Pentode mode, if it's used a lot in later amps as it gives good specs & cleaner sound using cheaper designs. Pentode needs doing properly to sound good, we've done it in the TTs & LX33, ultra-linear is a safer sounding design. The non Ultra Linear Pentode mode has a more Personal sound as the dynamics are more open. But Valves are still high maintenance, they get hot as designed, use valves on a warm day & the room will be noticeably warmer. Output valves need replacing every few years on regular use & to get a good valve amp design on an amp "as made" is impossible as they are all aged poor designs or newer amps copying old designs on the cheap, regardless of price. See below on "Valve Sound" & Valve-Transistor compares. You can find Good post 1967 Valve amps lazily copying old designs, but sadly Excellent Valve amps are only found in radical rebuilds. Full redesign is what the now-sold Trio WX-400U got too. ↑
1979 Valves compared to 1984 Transistor Amp.
We put the Valve amp sounds just above as different to 1965-72 amps as the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X does too. No-one will buy that as they have no idea of what upgrades are in it & how good amid itself it sounds. (Goes to play it...) You're expecting to read a put-down of sizeable proportion, but not going to happen. The AU-G90X actually sounds very like the LX33 valves. Treble is a little different if the overall sound is actually not that different. The midrange-lower treble could do with a little more strength, if this does have quite a few transistors in circuit. The AU-G90X from Aux to Output is complex. Tone is 2 differential pairs with a driver & P-P stage so 6 transistors if one is voltage only. Power Amp has a differential & then as it's a balanced groundless design it has 2 differential pairs "per hot & cold side" then a driver. Onto the main Amp & 3 sets of P-P pairs. The transistor count on the Power Amp isn't comparable to a regular Transistor amp, it has 29 transistors in total. On the 2003 valve & FMJ Phono tracks, the AU-G90X sounds precise if again as with this amp a bit more midrange-lower treble would make it sound more like the valves, but as in all compares, the LX33 may be less neutral. The "Summertime" sibilant is much more tamed here, the whole track sounds less involving if it's still very 'together'. The FMJ version sounds no different, the flatness the valves picked out is not noticeable. On "Artibella" it's served up well if again lacks the 3D sound the valves brought out. the FMJ version is a little flatter but very close on the AU-G90X. Back to the Valves, on "Summertime" the veil is removed to reveal the deeper soundstage & the sibilant still sounds a bit clipped. "Artibella" is also deeper sounding. Despite all the balanced design of the AU-G90X & all our upgrades it still does lack the fine deep detail of the best amps. ↑
1979 Valves Compared to 1971 Transistor Amp.
Back to other Transistor Amps, the Heathkit AR-1500 won the Transistor Amps test which is why it's on the speakers for TV sound. How will it compare to the Valves? To play the valves again to get the 'sound' back after the AU-G90X. The Heathkit is with the fresher sound like the Valves has & was based on the Trio TK-140X we sold after putting similar into our Trio KA-6000. A more bassy sound than the valves if the overall tonal balance is different. Higher treble louder, lower treble a little softer, midrange not so upfront if upper bass is slightly fuller. Again testing on Headphones. The softer lower treble & midrange appears to be a Transistor Amp characteristic, the less amplification stages in Valve amps do make this area the most obvious difference. The "1979 valves" is a bit incorrect, the entire design beyond transformers & case is ours, but it's based on a 1979 design. ↑
Three Compares on Speakers: 1979 Valves vs 1971 Transistors vs 1984 Transistors.
Three great amps, as tested on Headphones. Now to try them on Loudspeakers, Tannoy 15" Golds. To try the Heathkit AR-1500, Sansui AU-G90X & Luxman LX33. But remember these are all much upgraded & very unlike the original Stock Versions. First is the Heathkit. we like this as it has a clean precise punchy sound with an accurate lower treble-midrange to make voices sound natural. The upper bass is fuller than some amps that makes it sound good for TV sound if using Bass Control carefully to not overdo that. Sounds great at low night-time levels too, if the volume control is a little unbalanced right at the start of the volume travel, if this is common for the era. Next the Sansui. This needs the 4mm speaker sockets on wires as the connectors that look like 4mm have no metal innards which is 1984 foolish thinking worried about safety not convenience. It's not quite a perfect match to the Tannoys, a bit midrangey with Tone not having enough effect. It sounds lively if it'll be better suited to later speakers. Valves with the LX33 on speakers is something very different. The sound is huge, voices are as clear as the person being there which depends on who they are if that's good or bad & full bass & treble unlike the Sansui. This sound is great but it's too big for most rooms, if it's great fun, it'll easily annoy the neighbours as it sounds like a PA & be sure you'll crank it up loud. The Realistic STA-220 has a similar full voice, if not as rich, so to use Midrange to tame it helps. ↑
Design: Why Amps Have a Resistor & Capacitor Load on the Output.
This is an interesting one yet it's never explained. We've considered it to be a RF filter & in a way it is, but it's more complex than that. The 1965 Sony TA-1120 is the first transistor amp to use this & just about every Transistor amp since does too. It's seen as typically a 0.1µf with 10 ohm to ground. Some use different values but generally the idea is the same. Later Differential amps use an Inductor coil similarly. So what does this do? Silicon Transistors can amplify way beyond the Audio range so need this, Valves & Germaniums go much less. Sony discovered this early on so the 1965 TA-1120 had a lot of R&D put into a brand new design. Should you rip these out of your amp? (No) What happens if these aren't on an amp? A few like the Cambridge A50 Mk I, Leak Delta 75, the Armstrong 500-600 series & some of the Transformer coupled amps don't have this. Can't leave that untested, so in testing with & without, at 20kHz 'with' is about 1% louder on the 'scope as the amp isn't amplifying much higher frequencies & a tiny ringing effect as the circuit would have. Going up to 50kHz+ is the same. One amp with what looks like a harsh 2.2ohm + 0.22µf gave this result, so the standard 10 ohm + 0.1µf with or without a speaker load makes no difference to the sound in any way at all. So leave them be and as designed. But why should you need them? Read on... ↑
Amplifier High Frequency Radiation Is Broadcasting & Needs A Licence.
The USA FCC Regulations (FCC Declaration of Conformity on Wikipedia & the linked Title 47 CFR Part 15) appear to be about Radiation above 490kHz or so... "devices operating below 490 kHz in which all emissions are at least 40 dB below the limits". To be sure that the amplifier has these 10 ohm + 0.1µf fitted to keep it using your speaker wires like an aerial in your room, but it seems to be an idea that's just accepted if never questioned, except by us as it's how we upgrade. No need to remove the 10 ohm + 0.1µf as the above post shows, you could end up getting a visit saying your amplifier is broadcasting unwanted signals & could cause interference with other legitimate broadcasting. Reading one HFN/RR article recently about early Radios, in 1936 you could have your Radio Licence revoked if your Radio went into oscillation & broadcast 'whatever' into the air. So that's why the circuits are there. Years back, Hifi & Radios picked up "ignition noise" as the car parts weren't then fitted with suppressors so it broadcast the spark noises which was very annoying say letter writers to HFN. Big items with motors now have suppressors in the mains & any mains item should have a 'click suppressor' on the mains switch. We remember using an old drill without a suppressor & it sparked a lot inside as worn out, but with the hifi on it picked up a lot of noise, this is the same sort of thing. Worn brushes & motor contacts will spark & broadcast the noise to others. Even today some amps can pick up thermostat clicks as the thermostat is old & should be replaced, but how would you know? Even older Light Switches & Mains Sockets need replacing, we've found ones that get heavier use well sparked inside & these will give out interference. Ferrites are on a lot of cables to not pick up or radiate by limiting bandwidth. ↑
Transistor & Valve Bandwidth aka Frequency Ranges
The fact is a common 2N3055 transistor is rated at 2.5MHz & could go higher on modern ones is the deal here to need the output circuit mentioned above. Earlier ones aren't given a higher frequency & looking at spec sheepts you rarely see the FT (big F small T as FT, transistion frequency, unity gain frequency, see Wikipedia etc) if those that do usually put about 1MHz. FT of the MJ 802 is 2MHz. Finding FT of an EL34 valve isn't possible if amps with them claim 10Hz-40kHz if in reality the spec of the transformer will dictate. The obvious test is try our LX33 amp & see how the frequency rolls off. Comparing to the 20kHz reading it's steady at 40kHz & only starts to slightly roll before 50kHz, going to 100kHz & the max, on the generator, 200kHz it still reads 95% of the 20kHz value. The JJ EL34 valves do seem to have a wider range than the original 1979 valves & the Svetlana Winged 'C's probably why the amp keeps rustling as it's too wide range, if the transformers cope. Germaniums are considered to be smoother for not amplifying as high frequencies, but with the 30w 2SB407 in the JVC MCA 104E, a spec sheet says these are still 400kHz, so that puts that 'old opinion' aside as why Germaniums sound different. ↑
Square Wave Testing on Amplifiers.
Since the 1960s, using a Square Wave to test an amp's capabilities has been a staple of amp testing, if subjective listening didn't really start until 1977 as a section on the Books & Mags page shows. The creation of a square wave in an analog generator means high gain & chopping the ~~ waveforms once very loud to get |_| shapes. You'd not what to hear a 1kHz squarewave played loud, it'd cause speakers problems as the flat top of a square wave is DC voltage which will trash a speaker of lower power. Reviews used to use square wave tests as the be-all of amp testing & by looking at the slant to the left or right shows if too bassy or too trebly, or lacking bass or treble. The transient capabilities of the amp will show on the left of the square wave & often you see overshoot & extra ~~ harmonics. We've gazed at enough of these in amp reviews, but never really gone to test an amp properly. Using a Soundcard for Square Wave testing is no good, you need a generator. Soundcard is OK on Sine Waves, if not perfect as output isn't totally flat. Soundcard on Square Waves shows awful harmonics & overshoot, as it can't cope. We have a Sine-Squarewave generator, a 'Seesure Signal Generator' that they used in the Electronics College so we remembered it & bought one years ago. It's basic & we should get a better one really as this test is useful now. Testing this on the scope, a clean proper square wave is output, only at over 30kHz does it lose square-ness. Put that into the amp via Aux to test, if making sure the Generator only puts out about 0.8v to not overload it, line level 0dB is 1.024v on our 'scope which is about 0.7v RMS. We tested all the amps we have here, to write that up we decided not to as in reality we're just testing Our Own Upgrades, but add in an overview below. Not got a "raw" amp here to test. Got a nice Sherwood 1973 40w receiver arriving & be sure it'll be tested to see how it sounds & tests before we even service it, assuming it works well enough. To test amps with 2000µf main caps like even the Realistic receivers had would reveal how worthy our upgrades are. The Sherwood will get a good testing & you'll read it below...↑
What Do Square Wave Tests Reveal?
To us, it confirms what we already know, we test & upgrade "by ear" rather than going for calculations based on other's ideals, upgrading by "knowing what's good" & "how far to push it" then much testing & listening to further things. Our upgraded amps & now these Square Wave Tests (SWT) proves we are Rather Good... The best ones of our upgraded Transistor ones were Sony TA1120A, Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 & Heathkit AR-1500 - not in order & remember these are much upgraded. The modest Realistic SA-1500 we have for sale put some very respectable squarewaves, way better than we'd expect. The waveforms we've seen in HFN/RR tests are sometimes very poor compared to our upgraded amps, the overshoot & ringing some amps HFN/RR tests shows their low spec & poor designs. Why they test using 2µf capacitance across 8 ohms appears odd, the results are messy, but they are actually simulating an Electrostatic like the Quad ESL 57. They do review the KA-6000 but do no SWTs on it unfortunately. The Yamaha CR-1000 we thought it lacked enough deep bass & the square wave proves it so more to do. The March 1974 HFN/RR reviews the similar Yamaha CA-1000 & their waveforms are similar to ours as upgraded, if subtle shape differences reveal the upgrades, if listening tests of the CR-1000 as original to upgraded-rebuilt reveal far more quality that square wave tests can't show. The Sony TA-1120 we've left still sounding 'Retro' yet it tested the best if does sound great on speakers, only on headphones does it reveal the age, the design is a little tailored to give such perfect squarewaves. The fact only by educated listening Aware Of Better can you evaluate if an amp sounds good enough to bother upgrading. Hidden amid low spec, grainy sounds & lack of bass we can pick out the best amps by knowing good circuits as this site proves. SWTs don't clearly reveal how Wide the Stereo is or how detailed & dynamic it is, it won't fully reveal if the sound is flat sounding, if ones with a rolled off left side of the waveform are lacking Treble definition as rise-time could be better, ones with a raised right side are imbalanced as too rich on Bass. Testing Square Waves needs Tone Stages set Flat or the wave tops won't be horizontal. So SWT is useful to make sure the amp is neutral sounding, if your ears in testing & comparing will reveal that, seeing ones in HFN reviews sets the standards, often the original amps aren't testing too well. By doing Sine Wave Tests the results can appear to rise in treble when in fact the SWT is more accurate as the Soundcard may not be so accurate, if it was too trebly it's be raised up on the left of the wave & have ugly harmonics, much like The Soundcard does to a Square Wave, maybe the Sound Card is giving the Harmonics? Testing just a spot frequency just shows a ~~ shape. We only use the Soundcard for testing 1kHz on fault finding or Power Rating tests. See below about Rise Time-Slew Rates in amplifiers. ↑
The 1973 Superscope Brand... is it Marantz?
HFN/RR mentions the introduction of the 'Superscope' brand in early 1974. Yes, it is a Marantz brand, but their budget brand as a cheap looking Superscope A-245 10w from 1973 on ebay reveals. But as it's half board on the rear with a gap for the connectors area, not hardboard like some EU ones are but it just looks cheap. The Superscope brand was marketed away from the High Quality Marantz brand of the era, even their 10w ones in 1973 were still way ahead of the discount store junk. But Marantz knew they had to make junk of their own so they'd rake in the bucks as junk sold well because more cheaper goods sell that premium ones. The later A-545 46w from 1978 looks more like the Marantz amp style of the 1152DC type of amp, if it's just generic stereo gear with all costs cut no doubt. HFE says the brand was introduced in 1954, so Marantz bought the brand it appears. A Superscope R-350 20w receiver from 1973 looks better than the 10w amp. Not one we'll look to try as already seeing the lesser quality. Past 1972 to be very careful buying amps for our interest, to recap & sell on, Superscope just don't have the cred, despite the Marantz link, Marantz quality they ain't. Not that Marantz are quite as great as hyped either... ↑
Realistic-Tandy arrive in the UK - Pt. 2.
After a strange test-the-water advert in Oct 1971 Tandy finally get to the UK in High street Shops as the Feb 1974 HFN/RR reports. The Tandy Corporation founded 50 years ago has 2,000 stores in the USA. Towards the end of 1973 they launched in the UK via a Wednesbury, Staffordshire warehouse & intended to open 70 stores around 80 miles of Birmingham, if there was actually then only one shop with 8 more planned. Tandy-Realistic-Radio Shack is all Tandy & the shops were Franchises much like Kentucky Fried Chicken & other chain shops are. About £14,000 for you in 1974 to set up a Tandy shop if Tandy provided & chose the shops. Says that as well as Hitachi making for Tandy under the 'Realistic' brand, so did Panasonic, ITT, Sony & Fisher. Panasonic, Sony & Fisher seems unknown to us, but the Hitachi links are only found if you had the rare 1971 Hitachi range as we did. Tandy sold all types of Electrical goods beyond Hifi & we have a fondness for the shop as it was all there was like this until Maplin appeared by about 1993, only shops in London like 'Henry's Radio' were along the same sort of lines. The Maplin shop we used a lot faded away a few years ago as so much is dealing online. Generally there were few browsing the shop even in the 1990s as their huge catalogs covered all the stock for an early 'Home Shopping' & go in the shop with a list of code numbers you wanted. Ironically we discovered Henry's Radio opened a shop in the late 1970s right next to the shop that became Maplin when 'John Collier' sold up, if a side-road between. So the Realistic STA-220, STA-150 & SA-1500 as a UK 240v model were only sold around Birmingham until more shops appeared. The Hitachi ones are rare items with limited distribution, if an amount will have been made. We'll watch out for Tandy ads, maybe they did Mail Order as the 1971 ad tried to. ↑
Input Sensitivity on Amplifier Specs?
The typical 'Line Level' input usually via Aux, or via Tape In via Phono sockets on some amps, is stated on many amps as 150mV. 'Line Level' means the output from a CD player, TV, DVD player, Blu-Ray player, DAC that you put on your TiVo & likely others. Mobile Phones headphone output is not the same thing. The Input Sensitivity should be considered "Line Level" on all non Phono or Tape Head inputs, if read on about DIN Tape players. Ignore the spec sheets therefore. What 150mV means is the amp needs 150mV to reach full output before clipping. On testing power outputs using 0dB 1kHz signal, the volume rarely goes above about "3" to get full clean output, if most music sources are not playing 0dB all the time. Typical Line Level output from a CD player or Sound Card, at full 0dB output, is seen as 1.028v Peak To Peak on the Oscilloscope. This equates to 0.7v RMS roughly & why if you input a Line Level source, the volume only needs to go up slightly, not advancing it well past halfway. This depends on Speaker Sensitivities & on getting Yamaha CR-2020 amps that were raw & uncleaned, dirt marks showed that the amp rarely saw past "2" on the volume, which goes up to "10". No CD player will be louder than the 0dB output of 0.7v unless it is amplified in some way to be a preamp with a remote control volume. Also, some Power Amps quote 400mV sensitivity for full output & others like Quad II quote 2v for full output. This means you need a preamp with higher gain or standard gain to match different brands of pream to power amp. DIN In-Out Sockets. These days it's far simpler, but in the 1970s DIN in-out on tape connections was far from Line Level. We remember the Hacker GAR550 by recording tapes into older DIN machines gave the right volume as they were matched, but our new double tape from Tandy even at the highest recording level wouldn't record at the right volume. The DIN tape input-output on amplifiers usually goes through a 100K ohm resistor, which is of no use today, if any Cassette, MiniDisc, DAT or CD-R usually records at Line Level. DIN sockets for Tape are the only problem on older amps, if usually they are duplicated by standard Phono Sockets that are Line Level. ↑
Modern CD players: Are They A Waste Of Money?
Looking on Amazon the Marantz CD5005 is £150 down from £240. In reality that's all you need, don't spend any more. We had an earlier one of the same spec in 2008 & there was a huge difference in quality to the 1992 Marantz CD-52 II SE. We had a Marantz pro CD-R for a while before that, the only difference was it burnt CD-R blanks with a stronger pattern instead of the weaker domestic version, CDs are mastered on these after all. We heard of a Lector CDP 603 that one customer bought for £1500 & was having trouble with as the Output is too loud. It should have a Volume Control on the Remote surely as it appears amplified in a pre-amp way. But here it has 2 ECC 81 valves as DAC output valves if you'd never know as they are hidden away in the boring but round cornered dark grey/black case. We found the 2007 Marantz PM 6002 beyond ICs & severe dumbing down to be little different to a 1977 amp. You really don't need to spend a fortune on Digital Audio Sources these days, so much R&D has been spent on Digital sources if don't expect it from your Phone. Expensive CD players are part of the silly 'Audiophile' nonsense that's existed for Decades promising much but rarely delivering the hopes & a different sort of Upgrading to what we preach where these kind souls buy £2000+ items, use them to criticise yet never enjoy the music & then are easily cajoled into selling or trading in their 'old rubbish' as it has become for the New 'Better 'Delight. For the advances in Digital Audio you no longer need to care about High End sources as that £150 Marantz will be good enough, if it has not the Kudos. Is the £1500 player a waste of money? It depends on your outlook, if you are a realist, it is a joke, but if you believe hype in Hifi mags that are usually glorified paid adverts, the bias of the reviews can only be 'Wonderful', you will end up wasting money & saying that 'select45 site' was right after all... ↑
Put Your Money In Amplifiers & Loudspeakers Before Anything.
To where you should best spend your money is mainly on just 2 items, the Amplifier & the Speakers. For Music Sources you have your Computer Soundcard, buy a 3.5mm jack cable to Phono pair & hear how good it sounds. Our 15" Tannoys can make a modest amp sound great as our reviews show, but average speakers can hide even the best Upgraded amp we have. Hifi is a difficult game as there is so much of it & the best stuff is old & needs servicing or more. But stay away from overpriced modern gear, think of things in a penny-pinching mean way as in laughing at £1500 CD players & £500 cables, but don't be so mean to buy cheap without some standard of quality. On getting some of the amps we've reviewed, we were surprised how "they" could dream of selling an amp that good. The reason why, beyond having no use for it or wanting the money is usually they had no idea it was anything special. Loudspeakers are where the problems come, as most Loudspeakers are total rubbish, any with more than 2 drivers are no good for giving an accurate sound despite any hype you'll read. Even vintage ones that were good sellers like the Leak Sandwich now sound muddy & lousy. Only a 2 driver speaker of good size, at least 8" bass drivers is needed for a fuller sound. We even found the cheap 6" Tannoy 605s better sounding than expensive B&W CDM-1NT so sold them off when we used them for Computer sound before getting into Headphones. Forget anything that needs a Subwoofer or a Sound Bar as that's mediocre. Best buys in speakers are Tannoys from 1968-80, see the Loudspeakers page. As for an Amplifier, we've recommended enough on this site, some are easily found like Leak Delta 70 or 25w Japanese Silver amps from 1977-79. There's a good start. The biggest mistake many make is thinking "Expensive" Means "Great Quality". The one buying a £1500 valve CD player sadly has believed a shop or forum hype saying it's 'the best thing there is'. They clearly don't realise how good their recapped-upgraded Teac AS-100 amp is, this was the first Transistor Amp we found, beyond the Sonys STR-6120 & TA-1130 that had the power & open sound quality after getting stuck into Bang & Olufsen gear, finding it OK but not so great, if it did sell well. As you can imagine, we told them to ditch the silly overpriced Lector & try that Marantz CD player... but they'll need to realise that for themselves. ↑
Armstrong 621 Amplifier from 1973: Is It Worth Upgrading?
This brand gets a deserved mauling on this site for their 1960s amps, the 1966 Armstrong 221 valve amp was truly hopeless even after recapping it as it didn't work when we got it as the cheap capacitors had obviously failed. Then the Armstrong 500 series with the 521 amplifier & 526 receiver were just so poorly made & using several of the poor UK-EU Germanium transistors such as the AD140 outputs. These UK Germaniums age badly & probably started failing within a few years, any left working will have been 'lucky' ones with a better batch. The adverts for the brand were making out their 400, 500 & 600 series were of high quality, a quick look inside will tell you they are budget junk. The 1973 Armstrong 625 we had & is on the Gallery page. These to be fair are far better quality overall than the earlier ones, if they do still use cheap TV grade components that could make an expensive recap for all the awkward axial (lengthways) capacitors it uses. The main capacitor on our 625 exploded after a brief use, left unused for decades & only got more use with us, it exploded it's insides all over the amp making a mess. The wiring & construction is poor with no grounded casework, the underside is just a plastic tray & the top was just the wood veneered lid. Look inside, it has ITT capacitors, ITT is TV grade & you'll see these in Leak gear too, all probably ready to fail or best replaced. Construction is poor as you can see & the boards are hard to work on for how they are wired. To look on ebay & see a USA 117v one on USA ebay, all DIN sockets too. To upgrade this would be a waste of your money as we know the results will not be very good as the Goodmans Module 80 review shows with these Budget UK amps & be sure the non-grounded casework will bring problems. But to recap it to keep it alive is worthwhile, if perhaps your money is best spent getting a better amp to upgrade. Not everyone knows better sound, the 'old friend' is trusted even if it's way past it's best. ↑
Audiolab 8000: One Of The Biggest Selling Amplifiers Of The Early 1990s.
This was a typical "What Hi-Fi 5 Star amp" and as it was the early peak years of CD, it sold many thousands from Richer Sounds most likey. It's a midprice amp of ordinary looks, some of the range have Phono Stages. This amp is a very common amp on ebay with some selling for £200. To us, it's a general purpose amp like the Pioneer A400 is which will ruffle feathers, but it's to get you thinking why we don't like it. You'll buy one, play it a bit & not play music much as it doesn't inspire you. Then you'll sell it on ebay & go buy something similar but as boring as you've not read our site & aren't reading it now. But you are so to get this far into our site, you'll get the idea pre 1980 sounds best. But back to the Audiolab 8000A (Model 207) as we have the circuit diagram & user manual. 60w RMS, with ±6dB Tone that you can switch out plus a Phono stage. Generic basic looking amp much like every other everyday Stereo amp since the early 1980s really. Useable, but just product, if must be well enough made for them to have survived in larger amounts. Cambridge Systems Technology, not related to ARCam but there probably were earlier links if they went separate ways. MM Phono Stage has 8 transistors, the typical Differential & P-P output that Yamaha first did around 1978, why does it need all that? Tone has 7 transistors, "Flat" is switchable if not 'Source Direct' as you may assume as it comes after the 7 transistors, not bypassing them. The Power amp is dismal too, 20 transistors plus an op-amp on the input, made of 2 pairs of differentials and a surprising 4 P-P stages including the outputs, but no adjust pots for anything. The power supply is equally miserable, we can accurately estimate it'll sound thin & grainy as well as boring. It is the sort of Vile General Quality Mediocre Amp that defines why Vintage is just so much better. In terms of newer amps past 1990, you'd probably be better off buying a £200 new amp from Amazon than buy a mediocre 25 year old amp like this. But many will love it as they've heard no better. This really is the problem with Hifi, many really don't know what The Best Hifi Sounds like. The excited reviews of this amp on HFE are unfortunate, these are the owners of his mediocre amp & they love it saying how great & transparent it is. They have not got an idea of Hifi at all... But it's for them to find out there is better. Maybe it's good they keep their Audio Heads In The Sand with amps like this championed as the wonder as there aren't enough Vintage amps for them... and they'd not understand them anyway as we've seen amps we rate highly & sold the seller the amp they then sold on as they didn't understand it. ↑
Buying Amplifiers From USA: Is It Worthwhile?
We've done this enough times & the issues here are the High Post Rate for a Standard 12kg amp packed well. Global Shipping that ebay does is often around $130 to UK, but be aware they add on Full Import Charges that can up the price a bit unexpectedly. If you like the amp you see, do a "Buy Now" & see what the total is, you won't buy it yet, but the full price in UK £ will show. Global Shipping is an Economy Service & make sure the Seller is told to pack it well as it'll have a rough ride here as the aged looking boxes will reveal. We bought one that the foolish seller despite being told to pack it well just put it in a box with a tiny bit of bubblewrap, as in just 2 squares of it & the poor amp arrived bent up, pretty much trashed with broken tuner glass & bent tuner dial mechanism. Another issue with buying USA amps is not all are Multivoltage so look at the pics for 117v or 110v-120v on the back. If it shows 220v-240v also then you're safe to buy & adjust the voltage on the amp on the back or inside via plug-in blocks. If you are a gambler, you can dare buying a Sony TA-1120A & the early Tuner that's actually only marked 110v on the back, if the amp has 110-240v. The Sony ST-5000W tuner, later version is ST-5000F(W) with the slider on the front, only states 110v but has the usual black plug-in block if the Service Manual showed it's Multivoltage. The Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 comes in a few minor variants, the earliest are Multivoltage as the switch on the back reveals, if we've seen a USA 110v-120v one that's not Multivoltage. It has voltage marked on the case which all amps should do. the Fisher 440-T & 600-T we've had as 240v versions if the case still states 110v-120v if a sticker would have corrected that. To be careful of voltage blocks set to the wrong voltage when you import & carefully fit a plug but forget to alter the voltage. Putting 240v into a 110v amp will cause damage minor or large, we've never seen what happens. Putting 110v into a 240v amp could be a problem too, drawing excess current. So is it worth Importing An Amp from USA? If you like it & want it, especially if it's in nice grade, accept the price as if you have to go to USA for one then it's not easily found in UK or Europe. Snap it up, tell them to pack well & if they don't use Global Shipping be aware there can be import charges to pay before you get it delivered. Importing from Europe is easier, no Import charges & delivery is easy. The only issue is some amps that are 220v only, to use 240v is slightly over voltage. It may or may not matter if the voltage it runs on will be 240/220 higher, ie 9% higher so a 50v HT will be 55v. Depends if the amp has 50v capacitors & how good the tolerance is. Your risk to take. ↑
Transistor Amp Hype: It Sounds Like A Valve Amp. The Reality of Valves...
What does this actually mean? It means they are guessing as they've likely never even heard a valve amp. The general idea of Valves is from hearing old & aged ones with a lot of limiting in the weak designs. This often leaves a bandwidth limited sound, but it does sound nice in a small polite way. It'll never Scare a Mouse or Shake the House: it's a warm sound that sounds smooth but with little detail. It's a nice old fashioned limited sound like your Granny's old Record Player or Radiogram. "Takes a few minutes to warm up". But having had Rogers Cadet III & Rogers HG88 Mk III they are valve amps, do they actually sound "valve like"? Different sound to an old wallowy Radiogram, as aged & with valves that need replacing they are a bit lo-fi with a clear but unsophisticated edgy slightly rough sound. Does your transistor amp sound like that? You've not heard a valve amp... The 1979 Luxman LX33 is wonderful fully redesigned when it's not making crackly noises. As original it was lousy, we had a Luxman R-1040 1978 receiver here & it was obvious the R-1040 sounded better even as original. The LX33 was boring sounding, no real bite or life to it. The original design is very poor sadly. Ours was found in an attic & it had been barely used as the valves were still good to be used once we started upgrading it. But it never really sounded that good in itself, the design needs a full redo leaving little beyond the basics, the heaters & circuit are lousy. Does your transistor amp sound soft, tubby on the bass & uninvolving? Then it sounds like a Valve amp. The Tube Technology Genesis & preamps sounded nice on first getting in 2002 but soon the sound was thought very limited. It sounded like a modern Transistor amp, not valves like the Rogers Cadet III did. The design is too safe & using regulated HT voltage really limited the sound, but to alter it changed it a lot. Does your transistor amp sound slow & restrained despite a nice sound it's still a boring sound? There's the reality of valve amps, they are generally disappointing. The designs are old, even on modern ones that just copy the old Mullard or Williamson designs from the 1950s even copying old spec. The vintage amp valves are likely now low-emission & the circuits are low spec for old ideas. We upgraded a Trio W-41 amp & the sound as with the similar Trio WX-400U was great once upgraded, but as original the WX-400U was too aged with lots of bad capacitors. On first recap we got it playing better but it still sounded way short of where it ended up, after 3 years of gradual upgrades & putting DC heaters that no vintage 1960s valve amp has. The Luxman LX33 being upgraded at the same time helped the WX-400U improve & the WX-400U helped the LX33 improve. Valves upgraded can better Transistor amps as less circuitry, but in general "The Valve Sound" is considered a warm tubby bass sound with smooth midrange & not much punchiness or dynamics. On much upgraded amps, you'll maybe be disappointed to hear they sound more like Transistor amps, if read the two above posts with "1979 Valve Compares" to see how upgraded Valves compares to Upgraded Transistors. You don't have to fully upgrade a Vintage Valve amp like the Leak Stereo 20 that often sell on ebay. what do buyers think of the sound? Odds are they play it a bit & sell it on, not understanding it. If you want a good start into valves try a Rogers Cadet III or Rogers HG88 MK III. But be aware they are 1964 & 1966 designs which are getting past 50 years old. They may work but will always be past their best. Not easy is it? ↑
Amplifiers Speed: Slew Rate & Rise Time.
Both Slew Rate & Rise Time are the same thing, if they are measured in different terms, search online for more. The whole idea of Rise Time is found with Square wave tests, see above in this June section for more. Rise time gives a squarer waveform side instead of it going more 'cog shaped' \_/ instead of |_|, if that's the lower half of the waveform but all the characters there is to type. Fast Rise Time is equatable to sounding more like a PA amp as the 'Master Volume' is higher, or the circuit has been fine tuned to give a better reading than it sounds. The Sony TA-1120 is an example of an amp with 'circuit shaping' to give perfect square waves. But in reality you're playing Domestic Amps & these are designed to be less upfront so the rise time will be slower giving the 'cog shape'. It's not a bad design, it's not wanting to sell PA sounding gear to Home Users, although some amps do & it does sound great if can be overpowering. The Sony TA-1120 is an example of an amp with 'circuit shaping' to give perfect square waves. Certain design features make an amp faster than another, running hot in valves is a similar idea. Care is needed making a very fast amp as without good design you get overshoot on the square waves rise side as it's not controlled & overshoots normality. A mix of poor design & low spec is why some amps have bad ringing. But we've noticed transistor amps are slightly brighter on treble from inbuilt limiters that valve amps don't need so you will usually see a slight tidy but controlled peak, if not with ringing harmonics after it. Look online to see square waveforms & that will make sense. ↑
Recycled Amplifier Designs in 1971-72.
By the early 1970s, a lot of Amplifiers were being custom built in Japan by manufacturers who took no credit for this on the casework. The 1972 Realistic STA-220 & STA-150 are superior versions of the 1971 Hitachi SR-1100 receiver. Now we found the 1971 Sherwood S-7200 was later used as the NAD 160(a) in 1972-75. The Sherwood is noted as 1973-76 by some, if many clues reveal it's a 1971 design as we put on the Amp reviews page. We've liked the NAD 160 & have had several, it's a very decent midprice amp, the Sherwood is a better made version as the higher quality casework shows. so we've thought the NAD 160 was a great amp, yet wondered why the NAD 90 & especially the NAD 300 were not so good in comparison. Made by different companies to a different design it appears. Getting the Sherwood hoping to find a new designed amp inside & to find a familar one used on a later amp was not what we thought to get from a USA brand, But due to costs even Leak in 1978 got their last few amps custom built in Japan, with comparisons to Rotel being made, if very different amps in reality. By this era, good designs will have been copied & altered slightly, but often we've put an amp looks like another & by 1979 most amps all looked so similar. Even the Akai AA-8080 was in some ways not unlike the Sherwood & NAD, so this Japanese company must have been makling amps for several Brand Names. Very unlike the 1965-70 era where each amp was an unique design. Even 1974 Yamaha look like they are made by different factories, compare the quality of the CR-1000 to the lower CR-800 & CR-400. Never realised Generic Design started as early as 1971-72. ↑
Square Wave Tests Part 1: On a Raw Unserviced 1971 Amp.
The amp is the newly-arrived Sherwood S-7200, the one mentioned above that the NAD 160 copies. It got too hot on the heatsinks after sounding quite smooth, but once biased right, the crisper sound reveals the amp's low spec. So to test an amp as-original & then again once we've upgraded it. A better built amp than the later NAD 160 with a better fascia & lid that look so 1971-73. 1kHz test. This tests very good, a very squared wave with a tiny overshoot as is typical as stayed in an above Square Wave post. A little wobbling of the top horizontal shows a little lack of spec giving very minor instability. The Generator outputs a perfect square. 10kHz is again a typical Domestic amp waveform, a little 'cog tooth' as rise time is a bit slow, testing other amps this is still a good pattern & compares well to others, if upgrading it would improve. 20kHz on our test reads 4.4v & up to 100kHz it dips heavily to 1.5v 100Hz gives a good square pattern with just minor edge rolling if going lower frequencies shows it rolls off below 75Hz with 40Hz giving a severe tilt down, but looking at other Square Waves in HFN/RR reviews this is typical for amps as made, to stop buyers with rumbly turntables complaining is the excuse, if cheaper to make is the reality. For the Sherwood review we put... "This sounds pretty good, a lively fresh neutral-balance sound if it gets grainy on busier music giving an unpleasant sound, a restrained bass & it doesn't cope too good with high treble, sort of flattening & spitting it a bit, it'd sound fine to many, but a sound we know is low spec." The Square Wave tests reveal bass is limited, but for the rest the Square Waves tell you Nothing is wrong with the sound, it reveals nothing of the grainy sound if seeing how much it rolls off over 10kHz is the only clue. We tested our Luxman LX33 valve amp & at 100kHz it was 95% of the 20kHz value. ↑
Amp Makers: It Gives good readings for Hifi mags, it'll do... Square Wave Tests.
This is how Amp makers can get away with cost cutting designs, it reads good on Square waves so will give good THD readings too if they never state at which frequency, or how distorted the sound is at very low levels. Not that we have the gear to test, but the Sherwood S-7200 advert claims 0.7% distortion at 40w which is actually not a great reading. The user manual clearly shows a heavy roll-off over 20kHz, -4dB at 100kHz if we saw it was about a third of the 10kHz value. Doing some Square Wave readings on the Sherwood S-7200 as original & unserviced beyond biasing right, 25Hz & 50Hz has a heavy downward-to-the-right slant, 100Hz is flat at 3v, 250Hz is 2.9v, 500Hz is 2.8v, 1kHz is 3v, 10kHz is 2.8v, 20kHz is 2.7v if very cog-shaped as slow rise time, 30kHz is 2.5v, 50kHz is 2.1v if 100khz is 0.6v. So this amp is actually reasonably flat with a treble dip of up to 10% by 20kHz as the readings show. How will it compare once upgraded to our own ideals? ↑
Early Rotel FAX 200C as Martel-Roland Valve Receiver.
One of these on ebay with the case & original box for £100. Bargain? Probably. Now Sold. But what is it? ECL82 valves mean likely 10w which is nice on Headphones but not quite enough on big speakers as we found with the 10w Trio WX-400U. The 200C has PCBs like the Heathkit S-99 which are easier than the messy hard-wiring. But do we really fancy doing another 10w valve amp for ourselves, been there & done that now. The work required to get it going is not too much, but to get it with better spec than the weak original design is too much. Just replacing like-with-like as many do, it'll sound OK but it'll not inspire you & you'll sell it on thinking valves aren't that great. But it's a budget priced receiver like the Sansui 220 we had before we started writing the amps up. It's aged, parts could be broken & old repairs, needs new valves. With that Sansui 220 we just sold it on to get the money back in about 2010 on seeing how basic the design was & not fancying the job on an amp with no FM Stereo & a single Transistor for Phono. Looking at this & that now, we'd not really want to get into one again. We'd upgrade for a customer based on what they wanted to spend, but the reality is these 10w amps are not powerful enough for modern use. ↑
PRE 1970 AMPS ARE BEST SUITED TO 8 OHM SPEAKERS.
The earlier Amps have Early Designs as you'd expect, the first Proper Transistor amp was the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & by 1967 the First Generation of Amplifiers was here. By 1969 the Second Generation was here with some designs being much tamer than the earlier ones, perhaps more accurate to say 1969 was 'Transitional'. We've given "Generations" to amplifiers but more research gets more known. Really only the Differential-Era amps that arrived 1969-73 are the Third Generation & will be fully compatible with 4 ohm & 8 ohm speakers. We upgrade & test on 8 ohm speakers, our upgrades bring out the best in the Amps & we can be sure that 8 ohm speakers will work well. Some like the 1966 Akai AA7000 say "8 ohm speaker only" which is clear. Some say nothing. Some suggest 4-16 ohm speakers will suit but in 1969 they won't know what came later. IMPORTANT: CHECK THE SPEAKER IMPEDANCE. Some say Impedance 4-8 ohm which we've found is misleading as it's really only 4 ohm. We've found twice now that Celestion Dittons are a bad load for early amps. Ditton 44 (100w) & Ditton 33 (25w). HFE wrongly says "8 ohm" but look at the User Manuals to see 4-8 ohm. It can't be both resistances, it's 4 ohm. If you use these 4 ohm speakers on early amps, they will likely overheat as the load is half so the current is doubled. It may or may not damage the amp, but it's "User Error" which it does take these issues to realise. The Ditton 44 user we told to add 4 ohm resistors to the speaker cables & now the amp works fine. The Ditton 33 is told the same, but to use 25w speakers on a 50w+ amp is risky in itself. But we do know Celestion Ditton 66 work fine on the 1968 Sony STR-6120. It appears to depend on the amp & speaker match. Avoid 4 ohm speakers on pre Differential era seems to be the best advice. ↑
How Can You Tell They are 8 Ohm or 4 Ohm? Online Specs vary a lot.
This is the problem. Tannoy Golds are stated as 8 ohms with 5 Ohms minimum which means at Resonance Frequency. By the time the 1974 Tannoy HPDs arrive they are stated as 8 Ohm Nominal as does the recent Tannoy Prestige brochure that looks like it's with the old 1960s drivers still as such a great design. One site reckons 4 ohm speakers are only for High-End High-Power amps, utter nonsense as 1969 Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 3000 & all other B&O are 4 Ohm rated amps to use with 4 Ohm B&O speakers. Search "Speaker Impedance" on Google & read on "Nominal Impedance" on Wikipedia. Note 'Impedance' does not quite mean 'Resistance' but you can put a Multimeter on the Speaker Inputs. See Wikipedia for "Electrical Characteristics Of Dynamic Loudspeakers" to see an example Impedance Curve. It's not a straight line as Impedance varies with Frequency. some speakers will dip too low & this causes amp-speaker mismatch & as some are rated 4 ohm, they can dip to 2 ohm which is too heavy a load for an amplifier so it "complains" by getting too hot. On the "ECODL" Wikipedia page it shows a graph, 8 Ohms Nominal as designed has the resistance going over 32 Ohm at some frequencies if it dips to 4 Ohm minimum which is where the trouble of mismatching happens. Overload something & it stops working at it's best. Use an Electric Drill & press too hard when drilling something difficult the Drill motor slows as you're overloading it & could damage the Drill Motor. Overloading an amp with an excessive load does the same thing. If the speaker is 4 Ohms nominal you can now see the problem. Note that Impedance Curves are in no way related to Sound Output Curves, the Impedance curve shows where the Speaker can put a heavy load. All Speakers are designed differently. The Tannoy Monitor Gold 15" read on the Inputs tests at whatever Frequency the Multimeter tests at. They are rated 8 Ohm Nominal yet read 5.6 Ohm on the meter which is typical. So to see a "x0.7" meter resistance means a 4 Ohm speaker will read 2.8 Ohm & could dip to 2 Ohms minimum which the amp can't cope with. ↑
How Does a Big 1980s Amp Test on Square Waves?
The Sansui AU-G90X with 130w. This is an interesting one. Fully balanced design with a lot of Transistors in it. Preamp-Tone is a double Differential, a driver & a P-P stage like a power amp, 8 transistors including 2 FETs for one diff, if it's just on Line Level, A design idea first done with Yamaha Amps in 1977. Why is that needed? Power Amp is where the Balanced design is. A differential pair drives 2 separate stages for "Hot" and "Cold" as they call it, with no ground reference beyond a few circuit resistors. Each stage after the input diff is a pair of diffs into a P-P stage, then into 3 more P-P stages including the outputs. A total of 29 transistors for the L channel. Is that a good design? The Square Wave tests were not as good as we'd have expected, not terrible but it shows signs that upgrading brought out weaknesses in the design, there were certainly a lot of limitations in the design. We're here to push amps way further in upgrading & to do Square Wave Tests now is our next step of progress. So looking at the circuit for the first time in ages, ignore what they do as it's proven not good enough now upgraded way beyond the original weaknesses and put our ideas in. The amp has proper Bass now & nearing the friendly warmth of earlier amps, gone is the stark cold sound. Earlier the same day got the Sherwood so had that as a Sound Reference. It took some altering-redesigning to bring out the best & pleasingly the AU-G90X now sounds like a "Proper" Amp. At last it has a rich full bassy sound but still with the precision of the original design, the "Whoomp" sound it can now do with some weight behind it. So if we'd not Square Wave tested it, we'd not have seen how average the waveforms were & to see what to do to sort that. The fact it has so many transistors isn't the problem, poor design elsewhere is. The low spec of the original design hid it, if upgrading a complex amp like this shows Sansui didn't put enough "fine tuning" into it, keeps the costs down. We tried it on our 1969 Tannoys if it still doesn't match as well as an earlier amp, the midrange is more prominent giving an imbalance that's not too listenable. It'll sound great on modern speakers that are with different characteristics, the sort of speakers you can see the cones move on as less damped. The 1969 Tannoys don't move visibly at all. ↑
Can we make any 1980s Cold Sounding amp into the Friendly 1969 sound?
The answer having looked at enough 1980s amps is probably not. Only the best ones that can upgrade elsewhere to cope, the thin sound is also due to dumbed down design & low spec. As found above, the AU-G90X still doesn't match 1969 speakers well if now sounds far nicer on headphones. The 2007 Marantz PM6002 we had was so dumbed down & with ICs in the Tone stage that getting a better sound for their spec just wouldn't work out. The AU-G90X is already a high power 130w large amp so has far more potential. The smaller AU-G30X we got to compare it to this was not worth upgrading. Is it possible to make this 130w amp sound like a High Power version of the Sony TA-1120 or Trio-Kenwood KA-6000? We got very close to it, but it will still be a later sounding amp in someway as the circuit is more complex. The Yamaha A-720 from 1986 with 105w we had in 2012 we remember it was cheaply made, a one-board job that isn't Hi-Fi quality to us, it sounded very grainy if Class A bettered it, the sound was awful to us. The 65w 1992 Marantz PM62 similarly was still really only midprice gear as was the A-720, so not good enough with the Power Amp driver IC. Really the only 1980s amps that are possible to do this with are the Top Range ones without any ICs, Phono stages either if possible & they must have several boards, none of these low-end one board jobs like the A-720. Ones with side cheeks to add a bit of style beyond the tin box are the ones to consider. The big 200w Pioneer C90/M90 probably would be good, if only on the power amp, the preamp was awful. Bearing in mind this is experimental fine-tuning that we first did on a Yamaha CR-2020 to get it sounding more like "our" sound & the Heathkit AR-1500 from 1973 has this done too making it in a very different league. ↑
What Would A Perfect Transistor Amp Have?
We've written the Perfect Valve Amp one on the Valves page. But to do similar for Transistors. Some things would be similar. Power should be 40w or more. 50w-60w will ber enough for nearly all users. Anything over 100w is more for vanity or very low sensitivity speakers. Proper Tone Controls. Tone Controls of ±10dB are necessary as no room has ideal sound & some sources need a little altering in Tone. A Mono Switch is necessary for playing Mono vinyl & to deal with Bad YouTube videos where they record Mono records in Stereo with added noise. No Filter Switches. Filters were much used in earlier Hifi days to deal with Noisy 78s, Grainy Ceramic cartridges, Rumbly Turntables & any other unwanted noise. But hifi is about the Highest Music Quality, not filtering sounds away that should be improved instead. Filter switches we've found can spoil a good amp. No Loudness Control. Some will still use these to cover up for thin sounding speakers. But every Loudness circuit is a basic thick bassy boost & edgy treble that loses quality. Make other things better instead. Loudness can be ignored in an amp as all it does is add extra gain by tapping to a louder point & boosting bass & treble. Power Switch as a separate lever switch or push button. From knowing vintage, many add Power Switch to Rotary Controls like Volume & Speaker selector. These rarely fail, but if they do, to repair is impossible. 4mm Speaker Sockets with bare wire holes. These only became popular past the mid 1980s. Before that you had awkward screws or spring connectors with tiny holes not suitable for even the QED cable mentioned above. Some can be replaced with better if some are best left original as we state elsewhere. Power Off Mutes Output. On older amps that don't have a way to mute the output, the 1965 Sony TA-1120 does, the sound if left with the volume as before will just fade away into a distorted mess. It seems a bit amateurish. Relays sort this one out as the relay disconnects the speakers the split-second the power goes off. RCA Phono Connectors on Inputs. We don't bother getting DIN socket amps as buyers don't like them when paying for Upgraded Amps. DIN sockets are General Audio Quality but not for the Enthusiast. B&O, Quad & some other 'prestige' brands still use DIN or custom plug connectors. No FETs. FETs are low spec & are no good for full volume Line Level. To use them on the Input stage of a Power Amp is often seen if there you'll reduce the volume with the Volume Control. There are other ways to use transistors instead of FETs & those amps with MOSFET drivers we just don't like as said elsewhere on the site. All Discrete Audio Stages. This means No ICs on all these stages: Phono MM or MC, Tone, Preamp, Power Amp Driver & Power Amp Output. 'Discrete' means made of Transistors. This covers the next few too... No IC Power amps. Some of the big 1976-80 amplifiers use IC output stages, from the 'common' STK ones to other custom ones. For the fact if they get damaged they are unfindable to replace, the whole idea of a general purpose amp block is not Hifi. No Op-Amps. Again Generic ICs that you can do equally well with Transistors. To add that some IC-looking items are actually 2 matched transistors or FETs for Differentials in one case is another thing & these are fine if you can find the part still. 3 Core Mains Cable is essential on nearly all amps. In the past a Record Player would ground the amp as does using the Computer sound Card. But using TV sound sources only, there is no ground & there is actually a 60v-150v floating AC voltage on the amp case. It's not truly 'Live' as such if touching the case & a grounded item wil give a tiny electric shock. ↑
Hi-Fi Repair Jobs We Wish We Hadn't Started.
Some of what we do is "Make It Up As You Go Along" & then perfect it. It's how The Wheel was made after all. One particularly mind-bending repair was on a 1980s amp that had the Speaker Connectors broken & also the board they soldered to had ripped off the PCB from Courier damage from an ebay seller packing poorly. No original parts available. Amp useless without it beyond headphones & to add to the difficulty the Protector-Relay board was the board it ripped the track off. But that was not all, without the old connectors the PCB which the Protector-Relay circuit was on is now left floating loose as it was held on with the Speaker Connectors. Then the added fact the case of the relay sits blocking 4 of the 8 holes with 1cm space between it & the case panel was the real difficulty. To spend a few hours trying to work it out but had enough so left it to the next day. As you can imagine, now it's all fixed, looks almost like the original, but it took many more hours to devise a good way to do it plus parts from other amps & bits found in a box from who-knows-where. Jobs like this are to the max of problem solving & the "luck" of having spare bits to do it properly. Time to design-problem solve & make the speaker connectors: 6 hours in reality. Parts used were already here if no more than £5. Boxes of bits accumulate when an idea is thought of, the parts bought yet a better idea comes along & those parts don't get used, but will be there for future raking through & use. ↑
1978 Luxman M-12 Power Amp, Is It Worth Repairing?
80w Power Amp from 1977-80 says the TVK site. Is that the back or the front? Looks are not the thing here. Plain box with a big grille. Noted to have ICs so already we're not interested. But it's worth noting here as the nasty ICs that are known to be bad & fail are now findable as a modern rebuilt board to fit in the space the bad ones are in. It's still an IC, but good to see someone has made some of these to replace-upgrade a bad part. But an IC is still an IC & for the Power Amp to have these isn't good. The schematic shows the amp is all transistors apart from this DML-01 input stage IC, likely a differential & gain stage. Why they can't do it all in Transistors is actually so they can "brag" it's got "Up To Date ICs" even if they are lousy ones. Probably easier to redesign as Transistors as it's hardly going to be complex. We don't think much of the amp, lousy looks, build quality inside isn't great. Far better 80w amps out there than this is the reality. Is it worth getting the New IC blocks to fit in, you'd need to do all 4 at $33 each, assuming there's any left as sometimes one person has to bulk order 50 to get theirs & they sell off the rest. Go flog it on ebay & buy something better & more reliable is the best advice. The enthusiast may love a project to get those new parts for, the realist can see there's far better out there & a power amp of only 80w is a bit pointless, then again Quad seem to sell the things. To use one brand as a Preamp & the Luxman as the Power Amp rarely works out well as impedances & more can not match the other. Either buy the matching pre or stick to an integrated one. ↑
Why Do We Warn Of Pre-Differential Amps Not Suiting 4 Ohm Speakers.
An amp in 1965-69 will have been designed to suit 8 ohm speakers. At the time Valve Amps mostly played into 15 ohm speakers with the 1958 Heathkit S-99 9w Valve amp having a 15 ohm & 3 ohm tap only. 8 Ohms was decided upon to make it an easier load than 15 ohms, HFN mag at the time makes note of this being a good idea & it appears all transistor amps were designed to 8 ohm. 4 ohm speakers were not a Standard Design at the time & why the need for them appears an advertising one to make an amp appear more powerful, if in fact you're just driving it harder. The 1967 B&O Beolab 5000 is rated 60w into 4 ohms & therefore this is a EU idea. The 1965 Fisher 600-T is aware of 4 ohm speakers as it has a Switch on the back to select 4 or 8 ohms. This actually just alters some circuitry, only for Speakers 2 does it add a 4 ohm resistor in the circuit. It here alters the NFB to be less to run 4 ohm, as in 8 ohm has 3.9K-ohm NFB & 4 ohm has 8.2K-ohm. From that it appears if you use 4 Ohm speakers it gets the amp unstable as the load is half & the 8 ohm NFB is too much so instability means it can oscillate causing overheating. NFB here means NFB from the Speaker outputs back to a certain point, the Main NFB circuit. We found the Celestion Dittons affected 2 very different amp designs, one uses a very different NFB circuit to the other. But it's not as simple as changing the NFB resistor to double when switching the 8 ohm to 4 ohm as other circuit considerations are needed. So for the point of selling an amp, to say "8 Ohm only" makes it clear, if some amps could work fine with better designed 4 ohm speakers. See a Celestion Ditton review HERE highlighting the "Hard To Drive" and "Needing A 4 Ohm Capable Amp". Clearly the 1970s Dittons have a low dip in Impedance around 2kHz, see the second waveform with the harsh dip on the right side, there's where the amp gets trouble. Bad designed Loudspeaker that could head towards 2 Ohms which overloads the amp. Or we can see the Impedance problem is sometimes below 50Hz & severely reduce Deep Bass like designs originally have. For the fact that we've sold over 200 amps & never had any complaints until these two using Dittons shows the problem is probably only with Dittons. From what we've found online Celestion Dittons have a known Bad Impedance Curve as the above link shows so it appears they are the Problem. The Dittons have 3 drivers & an over-complex crossover that's where the problem is & the fact 3 drivers lose the midrange despite the dubious idea of adding a driver to better it. Celestion Dittons are lousy speakers therefore if they cause amps trouble. ↑
Upgrading Usually Gives Far Superior Square Wave Readings.
Since trying Square Wave Tests on several amps including the ones we are selling, our Square Waves at 100Hz, 1kHz & 10kHz are way more "square" shaped than what Hi-Fi News/RR reviews are giving on the vast majority of the ones they fully test. Sadly they don't test the Yamaha CA-1000 of maybe other Hi-Fi Mags tested more. Note we don't say "always" as the Sansui AU-G90X proved upgrading revealed weaknesses that sounded & tested fine, but Square Waves brought it out, if we've sorted it since. The general Square Wave that HFN/RR finds is far from accurate like we've read on our upgraded amps. The 100Hz is sloped down to the right showing Bass is rolled off too early. 1kHz is usually the best if not always & 10kHz is often seen with a slow rise with a noticeably curved rising edge. This means the amp is "slow" & the spec is mediocre. As an example the April 1974 HFN/RR reviews a 20w Metrosound ST40 amp that's £59.40 so not a budget one but a midprice one. The 1kHz is even sloping down to the right showing bass is very limited to show on 1kHz. The 10kHz has a poor rise-time with a slow reaction up & down. There is no 100Hz waveform as it'll be very tilted downwards from Bass limiting. Metrosound to us are Budget Junk, even at Midprice level. Cheaply made UK amps with big writing on the basic fascia. The other one they review is a Philips RH 720 receiver, 30w into 4 ohms which they read at just under 20w into 8 ohms, but at £225 it's very expensive compared to others on our List of Receivers page. A 30w Yamaha CR-600 for less & far better quality was £11 less. Philips is EU made stuff we're not keen on as mostly it's Budget Quality, even at £225, with none of higher power. Again the Square Waves are poor, actually the same on 1kHz as the Metrosound if the 10kHz is even slower. Even the review says the amp is noticeably dull sounding to some who listened to it, at last a bit of subjective opinion. But the reviewer reckons you can make it better with adjusting Tone which suggests Tone is inaccurate, "turn Contour (Loudness) to 1 & use half bass cut", ie Bass at -2.5. It'll sound awful. But these two are amps we'd not even consider trying or upgrading, they are just General Audio gear if the Philips one is very expensive to be so poor. ↑
Square Wave Tests Are Useful But Not The Only Valid Test There Is
Leading on from the above post... Bearing in mind these are Domestic Amps, not PA Amps, to have a "slower sound" suits the Domestic User better. We can make certain amps sound like PA amps with the higher 'Master Volume' but they are too loud if great to hear, but not really suitable for Domestic Use as you'd annoy & the background noise can be too high. Some amps are tailored in design to give a perfect 10kHz waveform, the 1965 Sony TA-1120 does this, but ours still has the original resistors circuit & it can sound a bit grainy compared to other amps. To make a perfect 10kHz waveform on another amp is nearly possible without limiters, if then as we found with the Luxman LX33 the amp is almost flat in gain up to 200kHz. When our new Audio Generator arrives we'll test how much further it goes. Square Wave tests are a good one to know, but to test by Ear is how we've done upgrades before & it reveals how right we are on Upgrading. ↑
More Early 1970s Brands Made By Hidden Others.
The Fisher 205 receiver on ebay currently, so to have a look, Oh, it looks like our Realistic STA-150 made by Hitachi, because it will be. Metal case, different fascia but the back connectors & most obviously the output transistor plastic covers are the same. Fisher sold out in 1969 to Emerson after making a lot of good quality amps & more, if later ones get the opinion of not being so good & sold to Sanyo in 1975 & then Panasonic in 2010 says Wikipedia. The Fisher 205 is stated as 1972-73 says HFE which matches Realistic & Hitachi. The Fisher 205 manual on HFE covers the 215 also. The manual gives a list of parts including prices which is unusual. The manual is still in the style of the 1966 Fisher 600-T. 66v suggests it's much the same as the Realistic STA-150 in power, 30-35w. The circuits do look different to the Hitachi-Realistic though. One forum thinks Hitachi is likely, but we're the first to prove Hitachi on the Realistic, only from having Hitachi SR-1100 & IA-1000 to compare the board numbers. So therefore Fisher will be high quality as were their pre 1969 models, only the Sanyo 1975 era-on will be the Budget gear. We had a Sanyo DCX-8000, it wasn't bad but still clear to see it's cheaper build quality. One photo of the insides of another (later) Fisher shows the Hitachi logo on the transformer, if other parts look less like the 1971-72 Hitachi-Realistic. But one of the Fisher 205 is very similar looking to the Realistic STA-150. The STA-150 transformer has 2217761 & the Fisher 205 has 2217451. Appears Hitachi custom made more amps, are there any more they did? ↑
McIntosh Hi-Fi: Why Is It So Rare In The UK?
Info on the brand evaded all the UK Hifi Yearbooks. Few shops actually stocked any. We've found a May 1974 HFN/RR ad by 'Southern Audio Services' in Kingston-On-Thames, Surrey. First one we've seen. The Prices tell you why McIntosh gear is rare, as the typical Audio Buyer was into £50 amplifiers & general Budget gear. The MAC 1900 receiver £605, MR 74 tuner £453, MR 77 tuner £492, MR 78 AM/FM tuner £605, MX 113 tuner-preamp AM/FM £492, C26 preamp £250, C28 preamp £350, MC 2105 105w power amp £467, MC 2300 300w power amp £934, MC 2505 50w power amp £323, MC 250 50w power amp £271, MC 2100 105w power amp £359 & MA 6100 integrated amp 70w £430. Expensive, but quality worth paying for, we've had the C26 pre & MC 2505 power amp, in the Pan-Loc wood cases they look very classy. The Best Brand in terms of Quality, outdoing Marantz. We'd like to try a MAC 1900 or MA 6100 but these are always around £1000 which is nice to try, but all upgraded & recapped it'd put it into a higher price that may alienate buyers who may want it "all original". Proper Hi-Fi Upgrading is still a growing scene. ↑
1974 Bose 1801 250w power amp
Yours for £498 in 1974 also in that ad mentioned above, a brand that may be good early on but is a bit of a Glossy Sunday Mag Ad brand of today with 'Lifestyle' products that are not Hi-Fi at all. The Bose 1801 HFE says is 1.5v input so needs a louder preamp & is a hefty 82lbs 37kg. It's in the same sort of league as the bigger McIntosh power amps. What use 250w power is remains more a low sensitivity speaker game rather than using it as a PA amp. LED display is early & it has Tripled Output Transistors to get 250w into 8 ohms & 400w into 4 ohms. Disappointingly it has an IC op-amp on the input stage & remarkably a high 100k resistor limiting the input, explains the 1.5v input. Two bad things already is a bit unexpected. Despite all it's power the early stages suggest it'll not be PA quality at all, but a softer sound. Bose & BS design started early it seems. Service Supplement updates show R3 runs at 150°C & often fails, er, why not use a 50w resistor to run cooler? But it's left on the Board to cause problems. R3 drops -85v to -16v with a reference zener diode, rubbish design says we. "Bose, Better Sound Through Research"... sounds like they didn't test it properly to keep needing Updates publishing over a few years . To repair one could be a big job for overheating parts & failures.
Square Wave Tests: Quality 1972 Amp, Left Unused for over 40 years as Damaged, now Repaired. How Your "Attic Find" Amp really tests.
We got a Rotel RX-800 receiver, a quality model & one that will upgrade very well. 55w. The UK model without DIN sockets. Needed quite a major rebuild to get it working so unused since at least 1975. As on the Review we found it sounded very "asleep" & as unused for so long, hours running in won't revive it fully. The risk of dried out capacitors does happen as the last Sony TA-1120A from 1967 got very rough & noisy quickly to find even the smallest capacitors were bad. To get a better sound balance +2 on Treble & -2 on Bass showed how far off it was. The amp is Unserviced, the Power amps run cool & all works on the amp. But it sounded very Aged & very Tired, a soft sound with little life to it was unusual to hear. We tried it the day before so it might have improved after 30 mins use. It actually does sound a lot better as voltages on the capacitors have to a degree "reformed" themselves with a voltage, if it does sound better now with Tone flat. So now the tests will reveal what an unusued for 40 years amp tests like after 30 mins use a day before. 1kHz is square if curved on the rising left edge, if not bad. 10kHz is much more curved on the edge revealing how aged the capacitors are & at 20kHz it's quite 'cog-shaped' so has slow rise & fall time. 100Hz is very slanted down to the right showing Bass is limited if it did have a "retro bass" sound on first try, thick & wallowy. Possible to Square it up with about +1 on Bass Tone. Here 100Hz to 10kHz readings shows a drop of about 15% on the 10kHz reading. Overall not a terrible reading if obvious that Treble is noticeably dulled off & Deeper Bass is lacking, if some of that will be the original design. You probably could live with an amp like this, but the dull treble won't improve unless with recapping as we've found with many amps testing the sound before & after recap-upgrading one stage. This is quality amp, if you bought some budget 20w amp from the same era unlikely it'll sound or test anywhere near this good. The listening test improved it for 30 mins use & overnight sitting once reawakened. Do you really need to recap? Actually this amp is quality made with Elna small electrolytics & Nippon Chemicon main capacitors. We've found Pioneer & Trio amps with these going back to 1969 still sounding acceptable as this does. But you're not getting the best out of the amp & for one left unused or used for 30-40 years, we'd not recommend it goes into daily use. The unknown becomes the reality when faults occur, again enough testing amps & keeping some with original capacitors until we felt they could do better. The Sony STR-6120 we kept all-original for over a year & the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 similarly, if once upgraded, the difference in quality & confidence in the sound was very noticeable. So keep it original & below it's best with treble lacking, not much kick to it & bass limited, or recap-upgrade it to see how good it'll be. The Rotel is waiting on the printed manual surface post from Canada as the pdf ones are lousy, so we'll find out in a month or so.
BBC-Rogers LS 3/5 Monitor Speakers arrive in a May 1974 advert.
We've read many saying how wonderful these BBC monitors are, but we do wonder. They are TINY, just 18.5cm x 16.5cm x 29.8cm. Frequency response is claimed to be ±3db from 80Hz-20kHz & ±4dB 60Hz-20kHz. Hardly proper Monitors if they have no deep bass. How would the BBC hear windy bass noise on microphones? It'd go unheard. The Definition of Bookshelf Speaker but hardly going to compare to Tannoy 15" that most Studios used as they are full range. This sort of feeble speaker leads to ghastly subwoofers & satellite speakers of today, this is where it started to go wrong. Low sensitivity speakers needing higher power. But these are only 25w at 8 ohms. More in the series appeared, a larger LS 3/6 was out at the same time in 1974, but this little bastard started it all & it gets far too much praise. It seems the LS 3/5 was only short lived as the LS 3/5a is what you find info online on. Wikipedia says the manufacturer altered the drive units so needed to be revised. Professional it's not. They don't know of the May 1974 advert on p.170 with the speakers made by Rogers themselves in London SE6 who soon sold up with another company taking over Rogers & others later making this under licence too. Wikipedia adds it has "little or no bass" and a "peak at 160Hz to give it the idea of bass" also "a nasaly quality" which is a midrange peak and "rising volume over 5kHz" shows it is again where dishonest speakers with boosted fake bass, sucked-out midrange & scratchy treble begin. The LS 3/5 is a Hifi Killer in all the bad ways. Now we know why we don't like them. It's not an honest "Flat Monitor" speaker at all. 1969 Tannoy Golds are called Monitor Golds & their flat smooth open sound was used by Recording Studios, TV Studios etc as they trusted it as a True Monitor. We never realised how dishonest these nasty LS 3/5 speakers are, yet they are used to review amplifiers for many years, hiding how poor the sound got as you can't hear it properly. It's sad that mediocre goods are hailed as being Classics, by those who clearly know no better, even reviewers.
The Problem Of Speakers Being "Hard To Drive".
Some speakers are just not compatible with some amplifiers clearly, but to explain further. The speakers with two drivers as one Tweeter & One Woofer won't be the problem. Those 3-driver Loudspeakers, not including passive Bass driver ones, that wrongly think adding a Midrange to possibly "improve" the specs we know sound WORSE as the crossovers are too complex with heavy gain losses which spoils the sound. Instead of giving a better midrange as they offer, they actually sound 'sucked-out' on midrange, we've heard this on speakers we tried in our earlier days & similar with ones with Boosted Bass & Treble as the LS 3/5 above give. Many budget & midprice Loudspeakers & Headphones today offer a false non-flat response to make cheap gear apparently "sound better" by building in a 'Loudness response' tailoring in to the speaker. To remember we've sold over 200 amps & some of those we had the same model 4 or 5 times, we ask the buyers what they think & until recently with Celestion Ditton 33 & 44s we've never had any issues with speakers causing amps problems, causing overheating & odd noises. The buyer of the Sony STR-6120 used Ditton 66s with no problems if he then bought some later large Tannoys after reading our page about 3-driver speakers sounding weak & he totally agreed saying Midrange was far more natural. The trouble with 3-driver speakers is the Crossover has to be overdesigned & it loses what it thinks it improves: it's poor design & be sure there are a lot of 3-driver units out there & you're missing the full 'voice' of the music & probably complain of scratchy treble. It's the speakers. One expensive one with a ridiculous 6 drivers we said to the owner they'll never sound as good as Tannoys but they don't want to hear that as some 'expert' says how great it is. Similar with the lousy BBC LS 3/5 above, there will be those that think there is no better. Here these multi-driver crossovers need to be designed right & the drivers well chosen, the Ditton 33/44 fails here to get a big impedance dip at around 2-3kHz it's using 2 drivers at once at this frequency which causes the problem. All with 4 ohm drivers, 2 must run in parallel at a certain frequency means a dangerous 2 ohm dip. The 33/44 have been around since 1973-74, how many amps have they wrecked? Look on Google there are Crossover Circuits for these 3-driver amps, look how heavy the designs are, shunting most of the Bass Driver upper range to ground with big capacitors, the Midrange is high-treble limited by Capacitor & Choke & the Treble is more typical. In limiting any sound via LCR there is overlap & ringing, here is where the Ditton 33/44 are poor as they never tested it properly to release such 'difficult' speakers. Read on, by 1980 all Celestion speakers were 8 ohm. They got complaints & quietly changed the design...
For Pre 1974 Amplifiers, Avoid Multi-Driver Speakers That Are Known as "Hard To Drive".
We put 1974 as this covers non-differential amps with different NFB, if ones as early as 1967-69 can have differentials or be direct-coupled, as in no output capacitors. Amps with Relays that started appearing in 1971 will 'protect' you here. The "hard to drive" speakers will be known about as there will be comments online, where Forums can be useful as it's direct knowledge of an item used with another & be sure they are always 3-driver ones or very low Sensitivity ones. We do get the idea buyers spend more on amps & use cheap speakers, we do the opposite having had the Tannoys for 15 years & using home-made 200w 12" & 15" ones for 10 years previously. We can play a good budget amp on top speakers & the speakers make the amp sound better than expected because the amp has a good design. This is why we rate amps that seemed unwanted once as being great because they have enough quality to not embarrass themselves on top range speakers. Play one of our top upgraded amps on cheap speakers & they'll not sound their best & there could be compatibility issues. Odd thing is the 15" Lancasters in 1974 were £144 a pair & the Rotel RX-800 that was available at the same time was £178. But buyers could get £50 speakers & think they were good enough as some salesman on commission said they'll do & so you never heard how good the amp could be. The RX-800 is an 'unknown sleeper' though it'll be found now we like it, one on ebay recently sold for just £60 as collect-only, Tannoy 15" Lancasters are now 42x that price & prices are forever rising, yet the speakers were less than the amp when new. Why even bother with Multi-Driver speakers? Treat your amp to something better with the superior 2-driver design. There are so many Speaker Brands & Models, looking at the Hifi Yearbooks the Loudspeakers section is always much bigger than amps & receivers combined, until 1973 as shown in the next section.
What Ohms Rating did Celestion Loudspeakers & other early brands use?
The Celestion brand has been around since the Radiogram days as Celestion-Rola & Wikipedia says they formed 1924 so one of the very earliest UK brands. Together with Goodmans, an early brand that was popular for Audio & PA speakers, as was Tannoy. To look at their Hifi Speakers via the HFYBs to see what there was. Plenty of earlier ones as drive units only predate what you'll find as on the Loudspeakers page so to look from about 1965 when the Hifi Separates scene grew so a Speaker in Enclosure as it was then called. 1965/66: Ditton 10 tiny sized bookshelf speakers 10w £16. 2 drive units no ohms rating given, if looking in the Drivers section both Studio Series CX1512/CX2012 were 15 ohms 15w-20w ones. 1966/67: same. 1967/68: Ditton 10 now stated as 3-4 ohms & 15 ohms versions; Ditton 15 slightly larger bookshelf speaker 15w £24 rated at 4 ohms, both 10 & 15 are 2 driver speakers. 1967/68 looking at Other Brands also has ARENA HT-range as 4 or 15 ohms versions. Norwegian DNH B-445/T is 4 or 15 ohms, EMI EL.100 & others are 3 or 15 ohms. Goodmans are 15ohms, Grundig are 5 ohms, KEF Cresta confusingly says 4-8 ohms, can't be both, it's 4 ohms. Leak Sandwich is 15 ohms. Philips are 8 ohms when mentioned. Pioneer CS-51 is 16 ohms if CS-20 is 8 ohms. Rogers 15 ohms. Sansui 8 ohms. Sugden 15 ohms. Tandberg 4 ohms. Wharfedale 8-15 ohms again confusing. Makes no sense at all & many brands don't state the ohms rating either. You get the idea no-one had a clue & you plugged it in & hoped for the best. Some 4 ohms ones could have easy to drive impedance curves & not cause any bother seems to be the idea here. This will continue through the 1970s no doubt. 1968/69 brings Celestion Ditton 25 & the first of the "confused" ohm ratings, 25w at 4-8ohms, It's 4 ohms. "Studio Quality Monitoring Loudspeaker" they say with 12" driver at £55 each. A photo shows 5 drive units & described as 12" long-throw bass driver. Throws what, low compliance so it moves more? Two pressure-type midrange HF units & pressure-type ultra HF unit. The extra 12" bass driver is just a passive radiator. This pointless 'radiator' design was much used in the 1980s-90s. Photo findable online shows it needs 5 chokes & 4 capacitors. Why would you buy that 'junk' when a vastly superior Tannoy 15" Lancaster at 50w was just £60 each? 1970 gets Ditton 10 Mk II now rated 4-8 ohms after 3-4 ohms on the earlier version. What is different? The specs are the same as the 1965 one if just 6/- more expensive after 5 years. 1971 All Ditton 10-15-25 are rated 4-8 ohms. 1972 Adds Celestion Ditton 120. Not heard of this 20w one if bass, tweeter & passive only, no midrange if still rated 4-8 ohms. Did they test it or just putting the 'cover-all' 4-8 ohms? 1973 has a huge 55 pages of speakers including photos. Just to compare 28 pages inc pics of Receivers aka Tuner-Amplifiers as they call them & 33 pages of Amplifiers. Celestion range grows adding 4 more: 'County' is a 25w bass & tweeter £21(each), Celestion Ditton 44 floorstander 44w arrives with bass-mid-tweeter £54 & Celestion Ditton 66 bass-passive-mid-tweeter 80w £99. The 66s were no trouble on a 1968 Sony STR-6120, if note the big leap in power so these ones will be new designs. The Ditton 44 is known to be a difficult load. All get the usual 4-8 ohm ratings. The 44s are cheap to buy in 2017 as £100-£150 seems the ebay price, hardly compares to Tannoy prices & once you compare them as the STR-6120 user did with 66s, out go the recessed sounding Dittons! To be fair, they do look good & are an effort towards better Hifi speakers, but they are nowhere compared to Tannoys. Save up & buy some Tannoys from 1968-84. 1974 same. 1975 adds a 'Hadleigh' budget £19 speaker, no details. 1976 we see Cerwin-Vega! speakers, the mad loud ones, these are 4-8 ohms. Celestion add a new 22 & 33 but no info. Adds UL6 20w, UL8 25w & UL10 50w with varying drivers but no Ohms rating mentioned. 1977 Celestion Ditton 33 are "40w peak music power" which looking at ULx ratings is 20w continuous. 1978 has lots of models, not good idea to confuse the market with 10 models: Ditton 11, 22, 25, 33, 44, 66, UL6, UL8 & UL10. They now rate all at peak music power falsely doubling the Wattage ratings on the non-ULx ones, hmmm. 1978 adds Hadleigh Mk II small bookshelf or music centre speaker 4-8 ohms, 10-20w. The only Power Ratings that matter on Loudspeakers are Watts Continuous. 50w Continuous could mean 100w Music Power on peaks, but play a 100w amp very loud into it rising to 100w+ on the meters & you'll trash them. 1980 Celestion go 8 ohms only. This Yearbook has 78 pages of Loudspeakers, many modest priced but some going over £1000 like the Boothroyd Stuart Meridian M1 active speaker, power rating not stated but £1400-£1500 to you. Also the ghastly Bose 901 in 'IV' version, the idea of scattering omnidirectional sound onto wall corners & backatcha is a poor one first hyped in the early 1970s. But sadly Celestion feel the need to add yet more speakers, so we'll type it up, if sod doing a whole page on speakers like the Amps/Receivers ones as Speakers don't interest us much except this for finding out how bad some match amps. Ditton 15XR 10-60w oddly says 8 ohms, Ditton 551 20-140w again 8 ohms, Ditton 442 20-120w 8 ohms £340 & the biggest Ditton 662 20-160w 8 ohms £584. The last 2 have 13" bass drivers plus a similar passive. 1981 same. It's interesting how Celestion finally put 8 ohm proper instead of the confusing 4-8 ohm when they are really only 4 ohm. 4-8 ohm implies they are compatible which the Ditton 33 & 44 are clearly known as bad speaker to drive.
Speaker Mismatching Conclusion.
The above shows that Loudspeakers can be rated 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 15 & 16 ohms. The 6 ohms we saw on a 1990s speaker pair so there's the full run. what matches your amplifier. Some early amps state "8 ohms only". The Fisher 600-T gives away the amplifier difference, the NFB can be too high to run a 4 ohm speaker so NFB has to be less to suit an 8 ohms speaker. We see that Designers were aware of this by 1971 when Differential amps arrived as usually the NFB was a different value to earlier amps if the amps usually had more transistors in the output stages too. How do you know if your speakers will match your amp or overheat it by overloading it? Look at the User Manuals for both, these are usually found online on sites like HFE. As with power ratings, only trust what the Manuals state, not the site who we've seen putting '8 ohm' on Celestion that are '4-8 ohm' which means '4 ohm really if you test it with a multimeter'. Based on all the amps we've had & sold, the odds are most speakers will electrically match most amps. Some obviously won't, but it's only Celestion Ditton 33 & 44 that have been found as 'difficult loads' aka 'bad designs'. It is a vague case of "try it and see what happens" if you use any non 8-ohm speaker. Amps we sell are serviced & adjusted so they don't even get warm on the heatsinks, if the amp suddenly gets hot & "complains" audibly then your speakers are a bad match. But if any unserviced amp gets hot, it can be because the amp is in poor condition. A Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 we're upgrading for a customer, they said it got very hot on one side. The KA-6000 has L+R heatsinks on opposite sides. On getting the amp & trying it, it was in very poor electrical grade if it played music with bad noises & crackles, didn't try it for long as too rough. It got hot for them if they used speakers as it was in poor condition inside, if the speakers were the problem overloading it, both sides would get hot. Maybe it sounded better for them if the overheating got it sounding rough for us. Amps with Relays that started appearing in 1971 will 'protect' you if you overload an amp, if these later ones will generally be fine on 4 ohms. Can you damage the amp with mismatched speakers? If you don't notice it as a point of 'too hot' will come, but if it still plays music when you've noticed it was 'complaining', it'll work again when it's cooled down & you use headphones or different speakers that match. An upgraded amp should be fine, but one all-original may be aged already & pushing it too far could damage it. But here it's entirely your gamble to try it again once you've realised you've overloaded the amp & let it cool down. Sometimes there is only one way to find out, to try it, but with your hand on the Power Switch ready to turn off & don't use it on good speakers, use cheap test ones or headphones.
1974 Rogers New Cadet : Rare & Ridiculed?
We've been looking out for this in the HFN/RR mags & at last it appears as a prototype pictured in the June 1974 issue. See Here. As nothing is found online, worth adding the image. We did see one several years ago on ebay & it looked a bit different. The picture shows it's case is about the same size & height as the older valve Cadet III. Black fascia with full symmetry of one large control knob with 4 buttons below on each side with 2 sliders in the middle, a Headphone socket & oddly a matching screw to hold the fascia on to keep the symmetry. Here the rotary & push button controls are silver aluminium if the one we remember had the big rotary ones in black, if they may be replaced from an 1980s amp as they were plain styled. HFN/RR describe it as a 10w 'no-nonsense' unit retailing for around £40 suitable for the hifi beginner. Seeing it's modest status & price compared to the Ravensbourne & Ravensbrook perhaps we are being mean... The reason why it's ridiculed is as we saw how very basic it was. We thought it was a 1968 design initially, it is mostly a big STK amplifier block & the construction was poor. So it was 1974, at the same time as the LS 3/5 speaker was launched if Rogers brand went broke so was sold via a receiver company to Swisstone as Wikipedia states. The dates we'll find more accurately as HFN/RR reports on it as sad that this brand failed. The New Cadet has little found beyond our pages if one says a matching Tuner was made too. The New Cadet was swiftly ditched so will be a real rarity if Rogers continued with the new owners having success with the Panthera A75 amplifier that was an update of the Ravensbourne with the same layout in a black case. Looking at the HFN/RR the Rogers LS 3/5 ads run until July 1974, nothing Aug-Sep 1974 if return Oct 1974 with the new Panthera A75 & that ad continues into Jan 1975. Suggrests Rogers changed in Jul-Aug 1974 & the New Cadet was abandoned, maybe only a small amount made.