Home  
  Vintage Hi-Fi Blog

• Hifi Home Page •   • Hifi For Sale •   • Quality Hifi Upgrades •

All contents of this Website are Copyright. Original research, photos of our hifi & all unquoted text is ©2011-2018 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.

  • Search For Hifi info 
 


Hi-Fi Blog... Page 2

See the MAIN PAGE for the Jan-July 2017 Blog plus INDEX.


August 2017 Blog.

Misleading Amplifier Power vs Frequency Range Tests.
As the 1970s go on, more tests appear in the HFN/RR. Square wave tests being the main test if by Dec 1974 they show other Oscilloscope screenshots. How the non tech reader would have a clue if the amp suited them is beyond us. You just bought what you thought was good in your price range & lived with it, as with buying a Fridge or a Car. Not many learn the technicalities or particularly care. The gripe here, not just for this amp, but the general ideas of reviewing we question, is as on a Sherwood S7900 review, a 60w receiver that came after the S-7200 we have as of typing. Only by understanding these screenshots will you get an idea of the technical capabilities of an amp, but not have any idea if it sounds dynamic or flatter sounding. HFN/RR test the Power output at 20Hz it reads 64w, 1kHz it's 72w & 20kHz it's 69w per channel with both channels driven. A good rating for a 60w amp, if it doesn't say if 1kHz plays 72w what power is at 20Hz & 20kHz. You'd think it was the 64w & 69w, but not so. All amps as we say with Upgrading improve in quality & most often Bass is much improved. According to the tests 20Hz lowest bass is only slightly less, so it's very accurate you think. But in reality, 1kHz might have the Volume control at "5" yet at 20kHz it might be at "6" and for 20Hz it'll likely be at "8". Not so good then is it, but it's the reality, but the specs & tests mislead. So in the case of the S-7900 look at the Square Waves as that can be telling on frequency response & how good the spec is. Not exactly, some amps can be craftily designed with NFB to give wonderful square waves yet still sound flat & boring. All these advanced screenshots led to the Spec Wars that were started in 1975 with the High End Luxman Tim De P gear as he designed them to have the best specs ever, but what do they sould like? The S-7900 is poor on 40Hz squarewave showing Bass is rolled off heavily. The 1kHz one shows a similar tilt down to the right showing it's quite a limited design for bass, if the 10kHz looks respectable. Then they show 5 sweep test traces which are useless as they have no number scaling. A 200Hz-200kHz test suggest bass roll off in the 200Hz region if too vague.


The 1974 Sherwood S-7900A Receiver service manual is findable
...
This makes a compare to the review better explained, so from their tests we can Circuit-Gaze & estimate what it'll sound like. The manual gives a lot of hints on test gear to use, if the circuit is an awkward one to trace. But it has IC output stages SJ1902-SJ1903 with 2 transistors, 2 resistors & a diode, some sort of Darlington plus a Double Transistor & a MOSFET in the Tuner, be sure all long obsolete. These sort of amps as with V-FETs & any IC output stages we'd avoid as "unrepairable" as parts are 'unobtainia'. Bass is severely limited in the S-7900 design as the square waves revealed. Looking at the S-7900 we hear a lot of "sigh" noises being made as we type this, very dumbed down design. The sight of Zener Diodes in designs to us is rubbish as it's a lazy & poor way to set voltages as said above, a few here including one on the power amp. The Square Waves tell the story a little, but on getting amps as with the S-7200, to look at circuits to see it's a decent one, if the S-7900 we'd never want to try for the obsolete parts. This is the problem with the Higher Range amps of the 1974-77 era, a lot have these issues that we'd avoid. It's why we tried so many Yamaha as their designs in this era are more to our taste.


Earlier Transistor Amplifiers Need Time To Settle Voltages Once Upgraded.
We put this on the Sales page & Upgrades page. From testing one amp below, to at least allow the amp 1 Minute to settle before use. Why do we say this? The earlier amplifiers with a single voltage supply of +60v to +105v take longer to charge up once upgraded as the main capacitors are higher spec as is the design itself, because it is design based upgraded. Upgrading means it pulls more current which is why you can't just upgrade part of an amp, it all has to complement the rest to not be a weakness. This is redesigning of some sort. The +105v HT was the 1967 75w JVC Nivico 5040, the highest power Transistor amp we know of in the 1960s. The Sony TA-1120 & STR-6120 work on about +92v. Most later amps past 1970 used Semi Complimentary designs with the familiar ± voltages, if the 1967 Sansui 3000A could run at ±38v to give 45w. The other Semi Complimentary early amp is the 1967 National Panasonic SA-65 of similar ratings. The design was critical to be adjusted right & later designs by those brands went back to the Capacitor Coupled & + HT only. Another thing on later amps is they use multiple transformer taps with multiple power supplies, ie a Receiver with one at ±12v for the tuner, ±25v for preamp stages & a ±55v power amp one, usually this runs from 2 taps. These later amps use regulators to drop the voltages & even after upgrading they start up quickly as less voltage to charge to. The earlier amps 1965-69 were still based on Valve Amp ideals & if you look on many Valve amps they use hot resistors to drop voltages. So this is what the early Transistor designs used. It can take 1-2 minutes for the voltages to charge fully & in that time the amp may make noises as it's not ready. As an example one amp with a main + voltage, a resistor drops the voltage to another capacitor if it's not used in the amp, then that voltage is dropped via another resistor to a capacitor to provide preamp voltages. You could probably just use one big resistor but it'd get too hot, so two is better. Ideally the amp's transformer should have another tapping, but it's early. How long does it take to charge the voltages to the Stable Working Voltage? There are no regulators in this design. The Main +HT voltage is 89v, the intermediate +HT voltage is 48v and the preamp +HT voltage is 24v. So we'll time the voltages to see how long they take to settle. 89v jumps instantly to 88.4v & settles to 89.3v after 20 seconds. On turn off after about 1 min it's under 10v if likely takes a few more minutes to get to zero, this is the same for all capacitors as they are linked via resistors. The 48v is much slower, at 10 sec it's at 28v, 20 sec it's at 38v if climbs to 48.2v after about 2 minutes & still climbs to 48.5v after 3 mins. The 24v voltage for the preamps is even slower, 6.5v after 10 secs. 13v after 20 secs, 17v after 30 secs, 20v after 40 secs, 22v after 1 minute & settles at 23.8v after 2 mins. In this amp, the 24v powers the early power amp stages so you can see why the amp needs time to settle, in this case leave the amp for 1 minute before changing inputs, adjusting Tone, if putting Volume up or down is fine.


Our Vintage Hi-Fi History Started Here.
In 2002 we got a few white Garrard 301 turntables & a high grade Quad II amps-preamp-tuner set & got a top auction price of £1600 that buyers never touched for over 12 years, because we photoed & sold it properly. Vintage became more interesting than new if swiftly-sold Arcam & Musical Fidelity amps were our last tries with new gear. The first Vintage Amp we worked on was in about 2003 getting a Sony STR-6120 for £10 on ebay. It looked nice, but didn't work. Years before that, the Sony TA-1150 was one that we first got in about 1990 at a car boot for a fiver, looked like a skip find & in those days too far gone to be fixed if we did try, today we'd sort it easily, but that's 27 years of learning later. The TA-1150 on getting one in about 2003 we did get the Manual so did upgrade it a bit & found the preamp IC had sloppy design adding to the rough sound. But it sounded good, better than the modern amp we used for the computer. Looking at other Sony to see the earlier TA-1130 to buy that, oddly an exact amp we've had back three times as buyers didn't understand it & the last time it needed repair. The TA-1130 bettered the TA-1150 so to look for other Sony & found the big STR-6120 being given away that cheap as it's not an easy one to fix. Got it going again, but eventurally it got parted out in 2010 as it had too many bad repairs before we got it to be reliable if parting it out got us enough to buy the STR-6120 on the site front page.


Setting The Standards In Hi-Fi Restoration.
Where do we get our ideas? We work it out ourselves... All we've seen is bad TV-Repair guy repairs in getting all the amps we've written of, beyond ones untouched. To see poor work repeatedly & know it deserves better. The Standards we decided upon were to use the Best Sensible Components, no need for the needless Exotic parts as we soon found the Panasonic capacitors we mostly use are of very high quality. Make it look nice, do a tidy job, put the capacitors neatly unlike the often-seen amateur jobs using cheap unbranded caps & left standing on long wires when no need to. Attention To Detail is the thing, because it looks more Professional. In 2011 the USA History channel showed "American Restoration" aka "Rick's Restorations", the ideas of "doing it right" as also seen with "Wheeler Dealers" shows they like to go the extra to do a good job. Convincing buyers that you do a good job needs Photos & our Gallery of Sold Hifi shows nearly every amp we've sold, if some we have had duplicates of. Very few who claim to sell "Serviced" Hifi dare to show the inside pictures of their work & the quality of parts used. There are still lots of Hifi forums that go on abour Restoring Vintage Hifi, but there are very few who actually do it properly. A few ebay USA sellers do rebuilds on the'Monster Receiver' era amps, but we see they don't upgrade, they just rebuild to spec, a wasted effort that likely sounds no different to a little-used working one. The Skill of Upgrading takes learning Designs as well as having the nerve to experiment & upgrade really into untried territory. An amp we can design-upgrade won't look out of place beyond new components, buyers again trust on seeing detailed photos. We are still learning as anyone doing this sort of work should say, if the learning curve position is much flattened out now & a lot of the Blog page shows new ideas as we find them. Speaker Matching will always be the most difficult part of Hifi simply as there are so many different speakers as we found above. Our efforts are bringing a Quality into Hifi that is still pretty much unknown for How Great It Sounds, except by those buying or getting their amp upgraded by us.


Planned Obsolescence In The 1960s.
A BBC4 2012 documentary "The Secret Life Of Rubbish" fascinated us. Secondhand goods are other people's unwanted goods or rubbish at some time if dealers & collectors evaluate them as Gems Of The Past as we've done. All of the Amplifiers we've had were unwanted, maybe not all rubbish, but many were stored-ignored for decades before we got them. Buy Junk and Sell Collector's Items is the game. In the 1960s & well into the 1980s goods apparently "improved" with newer models of Domestic items including Hifi seemingly "better" every year. The Peak Years for Hifi as we see it are 1965-73 which is based on Boom Years & before heavy Cost Cutting of the mid 1970s. Today you get a new Smartphone on a 2 year contract & the last few we've had the older phone seems so ancient even though it was a marvel 2 years before. Even needing a new camera LCD display recently, we used the Phone Camera that does oversaturate reds-pinks but overall it makes the camera we usually use seem so old fashioned. In Hifi Valves were swiftly overtaken by Transistor amps as our List of Amplifiers page shows. The 1959 list shows the huge growth of Stereo, if many stayed Mono into the 1970s. The 1963-65 years show the growth of Transistor if most were mediocre UK ones, only the 1965 Sony TA-1120 that UK didn't get until 1967 was the trend setter. Year by year after 1966 Amplifiers & Receivers apparently were better each year than the one before. People believed the Hype & bought the new one, unaware the one they put in the attic was better sounding & would be more wanted decades later. Thankfully attics, lofts, cupboards & garages are where "rubbish" is stored, they don't really want to throw it out if it works or is broken, so there it stayed for decades. at one time in around 2010-2014 these attics were raided as the internet was now big business & there was a glut of good stuff around, Hifi & Vintage Annuals especially then. There have always been Records around as these don't often get into the attic as small items as 45s & LPs. The attic means "it is rubbish" & be sure plenty good things ended up at the tip or in a skip also, if there are always those who will rake through skips who will find good stuff. We remember getting a great piano black laquered late large 1950s TV from a House Clearance, it still had the label tag on it & all the books. This was about a year before the typist moved out of home so nowhere to keep it. Sadly it ended up at the tip if "you bastard" at the one who pushed it off the truck. Hopefully it got rescued if perhaps damaged from the drop it wasn't... Today such a TV in the 'found' grade would make a few hundred quid, but as with anything, where do you keep it for a few decades? Those kind souls who put their "rubbish" in the original cartons with the paperwork & stored it away are the ones who provide for those who now seek out these old items. UK life does move a lot faster than some countries & some items in Hifi are more often found overseas. Planned Obsolescence is seen as a joke today if it still goes on. But if good Hifi from 40-50 years ago can be restored to be used daily as it's useful, spare a thought for the kind souls who kept it in it's "Wilderness Years" when it had no value. We rarely hear where Amplifiers came from, usually ones we get are a few 'pickers' away from the source. As with the Rotel RX-800 we can only assume the woman who used it for a year or so put it away for 40+ years only for it to get refound maybe only at a recycling centre. There used to be Secondhand & Junk shops, but sadly that scene faded in the 1990s, now you just get Antiques Centres stuffed full of overpriced stuff no-one really wants, except 'Bargain Hunt' buyers.


Quadraphonic Sound From Vinyl Records 1970-1975
The tedious threat of Quadraphonic ('Q') sound taking over from Stereo was pushed down the throats of Hifi Mag readers for those 5 years. It grew steadily until about 1972 it got more "popular" as in lots of Amplifiers & Receivers were made as 4-Channel to cope with the multitude of Formats as recorded on discs. Marantz & JVC made the most 4-Channel amps & receivers if most main makers jumped on the idea, some wisely ignored. But despite a last push in 1975 as the May 1975 HFN/RR shows, it all died off by 1976-78 with likely loads of these unsold amps discounted in the last few years. It failed. It wasn't what the Public wanted, many were just getting into Stereo Separates from the days of the Radiogram. Letters in HFN/RR tell of those aware of good Stereo who heard 'Q' sound & found it unnatural & poor sounding. If you hear Live Music, it's in front of you, you don't stand in the middle of an Orchestra or sit in front of a Drumkit in a Rock group. Foolish idea. The worry we've thought was the fact a Vinyl Record has a high frequency carrier signal, will amps be able to even reproduce that recorded groove pattern right? There is a photo of a 30KHz CD-4 record groove in that magazine, it shows obvious groove wear so after a few plays on the typical 3g-5g playing weight of cheap turntables, the high frequency carrier wears off leaving only the Stereo info. The idea that 1.5g to 2g is the accepted weight, be sure many never bothered to adjust things causing heavy groove wear on a very fine groove moulding on soft vinyl. The stylus tip will get very hot in use & the wear is the tip being too hot melting the grooves. The 30KHz groove pattern even magnified hugely is a pure VVVV pattern. Like a metal file, it wears out on the 'teeth' of it, the record wears similarly in the contact area of the stylus. As Record Dealers we barely saw any Quadraphonic LPs, for the hype you'd think they'd be common as unwanted like most 70s LP vinyl is, but the public wasn't buying them. The idea was you sat in the middle of 4 speakers with then toed in conforming to the outdated 'Brittain' idea. Hardly practical in a semi-detatched British house & the power ratings aren't enough for huge rooms. So it died & the world is littered with useless 4-channel amps that can be bridged to Stereo, but the bridging idea is more for power than Hi-Fi Quality, so the general idea is unless you want a soft blurry sound, avoid those 4-Channel amps. Decades later we got 5.1 & 7.1 surround, equally useless beyond DVD & Blu-Ray movies specially mixed to add "Excitement". To us, Audio Sound is In Front Of You, so why bother with anything beyond Stereo.


Marantz Paid Shops To Directly Over-Promote Their Hi-Fi In A 1975 Scandal.
Yes, it's true. It's printed in April 1975 HFN/RR in the Editorial by the usually conservative John Crabbe. He's outraged by this. The problem was a brand was offering "cash bribes to retailers to sell specific brands & models". It's sort of an In-Store advertising, but the deal in shops was you took Advice from the Salesmen. He was in simpler times seen as 'your friend' & you trusted him to give you the best advice. But here you're being advised to buy Marantz because the Salesman gets a backhander. Not so different today with the dodgy deals such as selling unsuitable cladding for tower blocks, someone is on the take. But naive to think in 1975 that this is new. Biased advice is sales spiel but in this case to buy a Marantz if you could afford it, you get quality, if we've found the Marantz brand is well overhyped, if again with Pioneer as blogged below, they do upgrade well. John Crabbe doesn't directly mention Marantz but says "stop it" or we'll publish the brand name in June, allowing only 4 weeks or so for printing deadlines. Comes the June 1975 issue, under the heading 'Spiffing News' which is the term they call these backhanders, they reveal Marantz is the culprit, but also publish a reply by the UK Pyser Distributors. The Executive Director of Pyser calls it a "Direct Incentive Basis" & reveal they've cut back on Magazine Adverts, which always seemed a bit 'superior' in tone. The idea is with an 'incentive' the Salesman does the sell on the item better, regardless of if it's what the customer wants or needs. The Spif (Sales Performance Incentive Fund) deal is actually to promote Marantz Speakers more than just the amps & receivers, to buyers of the amps, not so unfair perhaps if try name a Marantz Speaker model, we can't. The 1975 HFYB only lists a few Marantz speakers (price each not inc VAT) Imperial 4B 40w music £35, Imperial 5 40w music £49, Imperial 6 100w music £66, Imperial 7 100w RMS £88. The Imperial 7 is a 12" bass, 3.5" mid & 1.75" tweeter, 45lb weight with adjustor switches. DEcent speakers of the era, if the 3-driver ones never sound as good as 2-driver ones. 'Name us then' is their closing note. In July 1975 issue they found another brand doing this but they were kept anon as they stopped the idea. One defender of the 'spiffing' idea says they lived with their head in the clouds by going on about it. their response was "We'd prefer the clouds to the gutter." Looking at this with 2017 eyes, certainly a little naive of how business works, to publish seems foolish & the Pyser reply shows an honesty but a foolishness too, if time showed Pyser soon got dumped as UK Distributors.


Audio-T says Pioneer SA-9100 Sounds "Foul" In A Dec 1974 Advert
This one is true also, page 223 has an Audio-T advert. They don't say the brand & model but do say "In a review about a £250.00 amplifier the reviewer said 'it is probably one of - if not the best integrated amplifier I have ever tested." His figures were impressive and so were ours when we tested a sample 65 + 65 watts 0.02% THD. IT SOUNDED FOUL (in block caps on a separate line). Another unit gave the same results". They then go on about not finding out why it sounded "foul" & decided that Lab Tests were pretty worthless. Oddly much as we've thought. Just because an amp gives great Square Waves doesn't mean it's the Best Sounding, though that will mean high quality. What Audio-T in their tactless way are doing is realising the Low Spec Cost Cutting that crept into Hifi. Now we've had a SA-9100 & upgraded it for a customer. A wonderful amp it certainly is, great looking, all the controls. Our review is cautious at the start about "silly hyped opinions" on this amp. We wrote a lot on that amp as we saw it was trying to be a good one but needed a lot of upgrades & if it was ours today we'd have gone much further. We gave it a "Recommended-Very Good" suggesting that as-spec it's not as good as it ought to be. The truth once upgraded it'll probably be amongst the Best Amps, but as original it's disappointing. "Foul" is an ignorant description, we don't hear what speakers they tested it with. To state the review, price & power rating makes it easy to see the amp implied. Of course Pioneer weren't pleased with this & the Director of Shriro Ltd the UK Distributors gets a letter reply in the March 1975 issue on page 95. They rightly criticise such a foolish opinion in an advert. Audio-T later said the Lecson pre-power was "Reliabity Was Always Suspect" in an ad if changed it without complaint later in May 1975 instead saying "Japanese Standard Reliability" which is questionable too. Got to love it though. Maybe that was the Banned Brand as in our Blog above? But back to Pioneer, they try to bluff about going on about 'crossover distortion' that was never an issue with a 1965 Sony, only cheap amps got that. Then the useless TID (transient intermodulation distortion) that only exists with no NFB on an output stage as mentioned above. Goes on about overloading so use a higher power amp to get clean highs which is true. But the BS line is "There is still so much we all have to learn about how the ultimate sound can be influenced by the components of the system and their interfaces." Yes, Pioneer were supposedly still "learning" after making the great 1966-67 Receivers. Not an admittance of the amps being cost cut using the lowest spec so we can fool the reviewers but not please the listener. Audio-T may lack subtlety, but we do tend to agree with what they mean, if you can't go round saying it so directly in a time when the item is new. Hifi Mags can review badly, but they tell you an item is rubbish, as with a few including a very expensive tuner, but still end on a positive note as they don't want to lose advertisers who won't read the harsher opinions. We await the next Audio-T outburst with sheer joy at their punkish ways, if wonder are they still trading? Shops in 1975 in Eton, Berks, Huntingdon, Cambs & London NW6. Yes they are, 50 years of Audio-T if at all different shops after 42 years. They probably tamed down the ads with a new ad manager, but to still be in biz with many shops shows they are a popular shop & not many Hi-Fi street shops left now.


The State of HFN/RR in 1973-75.
It's a very dull magazine with regular columns inherited from the RR side that are endlessly boring with nothing to interest 99% of those who bought the mag just to see the lastest deals. There is still loads about 4-Channel that no-one cares about. Some interesting adverts on specific items, but still lots of Lists of gear in-stock with all similar prices. Together with the tiresome Classical Cover-Version bias that takes up so many dry pages as the need to have 20 versions of a symphony seemed good sense and the unreadablesness of the Non-Classical reviews which we used to read but their style of just leading into them with not even the artists highlighted isn't worth the effort. Then the tediously waffle-y replied Help section & only really the Letters section can be interesting. Reviews are still just about worthless, the worst review in it's content was in the May 1975 edition about the Sanyo DCX8000 receiver that we've had. The review is utterly worthless, you'll get as much from a Sanyo brochure & their tests are growing but really of little use to the reader. They don't say a thing about how it sounds or even if they recommend it or not. Gordon King never a great reviewer as we've seen other reviews of known amps & why would you buy from that review? We need to try some other Magazines as HFN/RR in the 1968-75 era is hopeless. Thankfully after a few years away since the Duette & Lindair ads, the good old sexist adverts return to break up the boredom. Fuji Film on page 176 have a nude female on the beach with their state of undress obvious. What's the point of that? To advertise their new Cassette range, Fuji who? Who's the bird with her baps out? It gets republished the next month if oddly Fuji don't appear in the advertisers' index. And that's not all, page 179 with a Howland West has a Bunny Girl with a tray of drinks wearing 'Waferlite' headphones. as if the little dear would know if they were good or not... We await the letters of complaint & hope there are more cheesy ads like this.


What Else Is There in UK Hifi Magazines?
Reading the HFN/RR mag is very dull with grey old men & their "my friend & colleague..." type fawning as the bore Donald Aldous does repeatedly, the June 1975 page is a brown-nosing affair with name dropping aplenty. He's the leading writer in Audio & Domestic Electronics don't you know. Hope he retires soon (as in 1975 mag reading) taking most of the dull bores with him... no such luck, DA is still boring us into 1980 if one of the bores goes if his 'Things I Hear' column is taken over by another. The 1980s HFN/RR with Ken Kessler & Barry Fox were rambling but at least they were on your wavelength. It really does seem HFN/RR is a dull magazine that leads the way until "What Hifi" arrives in 1976 reducing the magazine size which is obvious by mid 1975 already. But having tried one per year of 1981-90 found them not interesting enough to get the set. There are other Hifi Mags such as "Hifi Choice", "Hifi World" & a later "Hifi +", also "Hi-Fi Weekly" which seems optimistic, "Hifi Answers" which is a Haymarket mag as is "What Hifi" as is "Hifi Sound" which we have a few 1968 ones of. "Popular Hifi" another pre What Hifi mag, they certainly tried a few formats all which didn't touch HFN/RR if they are more down to earth. One called "Audio" that seems more tech oriented by the cover, as is "Wireless World" the kit making mag that ran for decades. But as with other things we get into, there at the right time. You'd not build a set of HFN/RR today as sellers put £5-£10 each on them. Once we've read through the HFN/RR lot to Dec 1980 we'll look at "Hifi Sound" if buying more at £10 each is pointless, a year of a Hifi Mag is about £25 plus post.


July 1975 brings the Dreaded Naim & Linn Adverts.
We don't like these UK brands. The whole idea of their "Hair Shirt" way of selling what is fancy overpriced 'Lifestyle' Budget Gear as it has no user controls & isn't that special at all, much like Bang & Olufsen and Bose. Imagine a TV with no Brightness, Contrast or all the other features LCD ones now have. Yout Computer Monitor similarly has lots of adjustments. But to Linn & Naim you don't matter, you accept their forced ideals once you've been foolish enough to buy it. You do need Tone Controls as no one room sounds the same. Even new amps still have Tone & the less useful Loudness though we know even with our Upgraded Amps that some still use Loudness like it's a Tone stage. So an ad in HFN/RR by "Hi-Fi Corner" in Edinburgh which is an early Russ Andrews venture, a known Snake Oil vendor. The ad wastes 2 pages duplicating things but £1300 gives you NO tone control, NO filters, NO speaker controls, NO auto lift-lower device, NO 16, 45 or 78rpm, NO speed adjustment & NO interchangeable stylus assembly. Not much different to a 1970s Amstrad Stack System really, if it has multi speeds. the arrogance of 33rpm only is insulting & the rest is Budget Gear as they don't have to bother designing Useful Features that Hifi has had since the 1950s. Sadly this Linn + Naim stuff was believed into the 1990s as better. How often did they listen to their 'Stereos', not much we'd expect as it wasn't friendly sounding. £1300 in 1975 bought you a Nain NAP 160 power amp, NAC 12 preamp, Linn Sondek LP 12, SDT 180 transformer likely to cover the poor motor spec, Grace G707 arm, Supex SD900E cartridge & Linn Isobarik DMS speakers. "The Closest Thing To Real Music On The Market Today" it bleats. The new face of British 'Budget' Hifi, but sold at a very high price for what it is. We've never had these to try but enough online shows they are all nothing special. Buyers of our amps & readers have told us they used to subscribe to the Linn & Naim ideals, but on hearing Our Amps they realise how much time & money they wasted on this stuff. From those who bought it & believed the HFN/RR hype that bored us when we bought HFN/RR from about 1992-2000. By now Bose are plugging their useless reflective Bose 901 speaker. The overhyped averageness in Hifi that we are Crusading against really takes control from July 1975 & much of the "Hair Shirt" stuff at overpriced prices you see today springs from this, simply as people believe it & will today spend £10000 on this hopeless dream. What do we mean by "Hair Shirt"? Accepting that to suffer huge inconvenience that Linn & Naim offer is better as others have told you it is better, the Sheep effect of today. The amount of expensive "upgrades" Naim & Linn offer should tell you something...


Later Stories With Amplifiers & Receivers We've Upgraded & Sold
It's surprising to see ones we've upgraded being resold on ebay, and even hearing how the buyer trashed it by doing careless things with it. But Electronics of any type are susceptible to damage by just using it or not treating it with respect. The Sony TA-1130 we first got in c.2007 we've had back three times, even saw it for sale again before we got it needing a minor repair. Clearly a misunderstood one, the first time we got it back the first buyer half trashed it also, if we sorted it as these sort of amps are forever repairable. The Yamaha CA-1000 we've seen sold once, the buyer of it we know didn't understand it & needed helping which started off our 'After Sales Help' section on the sales page. We've recently seen a Sony STR-6055 we partly recapped being mis-sold as fully recapped so put the note on our Reviews page. One bought a Akai AA-8080 amp & needed to sell it again despite clearly liking it, maybe moving countries? The Trio-Kenwood TK-140X on the Gallery page we got back in a trashed state after the buyer did something to cause it to catch fire after using it regularly for nearly 2 years. We thought it was too far gone & cut the cable off, but then decided to rebuild it which was too big a job to charge a customer as work done would have eventually cost way more than we resold it for. Then the Sony STR-6120 that's on our site front page. We sold it to one buyer who used it on Celestion Ditton 66 & 1980s big Tannoys, but their changing needs meant it had to be sold so we had it back then resold it to another who apparently used it for 3 weeks & it got turned on with volume up full after their kid messed with it. Needed a huge rebuild after they got another to try to fix it instead of sending it to us, the idiot repair guy shorted 90v on the power amp causing lots of (repairable) damage including the main capacitors from the huge spark. We wanted it back so offered a good trade-in amp for it, as STR-6120s aren't around now. Seeing the awful repairs & using incorrect parts plus other stupidity shows there aren't many capable Hifi techs out there. It'll live again, but as with the TK-140X, the rebuild job is too high to get a customer to pay, the STR-6120 rebuild will likely cost 1.5x the price they bought it for, so far it's exceeded that. We finally get it going March 2018, it got tried then left as others came along & the amount to keep it reliable more than others would do, new transistors, capacitors & resistors is just doing it properly not knowing what may be 'slightly' damaged. Then the Trio WX-400U 10w 1963 valve receiver. We rebuilt & redesigned this to perfection, great tuner once redone, but the buyer unwisely tube-rolled it as said elsewhere so it half trashed it by severely upsetting the voltages & currents that we'd designed DC heaters to work spot on, Got it back & with the glass broken so got one made from perspex. But it needed a huge amount redone. It's sad to see an amp that had a lot of effort put into come back wrecked by user misadventure. All Hifi needs to be used carefully & respected. People are Careless with Electronics & it's why selling Premium Hifi on ebay is too risky as it invites them to damage & return it, which is why we gave up & now only sell on this site. Here we get buyers far more aware for having read us.


The First Subjective Group Test - July 1975 on Seven Loudspeakers.
HFN/RR at last takes the concept of Subjective Opinions on a Group Test. This appears to be a World First if many Hifi mags copied the idea later, because it's a good one in theory. But here the idea is they wasted their time choosing mediocre speakers by 7 makers, none of which have any Credibility in later years, as in we've never heard of them. Prices range from £155 a pair to 5 being under £200 with one at £375 & another at £590. In price order they are SMC AL 12 £127, Sansui ES200 £155, Quasar Q52 £170, Marsden Hall 3522 £176, Goodmans Acromat 400 £198, Omal TL6 £375 & Dalquist DQ10 £590. A poor selection of Speakers with only Goodmans being a 'proper' speaker brand. No Tannoy, Wharfedale, KEF, Richard Allan, Bose, B&W, Celestion, Ferrograph, Gale, JBL, Leak, Lowther, Luxman, Mordaunt-Short, Pioneer, Quad, Rogers, Sonab, Sony, Spendor or Technics as the 1975 HFYB shows of brands recognised as worthwhile today, plus lots more obscure or budget brands. Their 7 speaker selection is greatly flawed as is proven by the opinions. Get the magazine to read more, but overall opinions of all regardless of price are "mediocre" with some good bits amid bad speakers. We know the 1968 Tannoy Gold Monitors, we hear a beautiful smooth sound that plays deep sub bass correctly, all with no colouring, no edginess, fully open sound, unlimited transients, no boominess, no boxy sound or huge dips in the response. But here all are notably poor. They rank them on Smoothness, Mid Frequency Coloration, Overall Tonal Balance, Transients, High Frequency Performance & Low Frequency Performance with some silly "weighting" to give the first two 1.0 weighting by Treble as 0.71 & Bass only 0.66 so poor bass & treble isn't marked down. The results are pointless as you'd expect, all are obviously "not very good" yet the rating in 1-6 order is Marsden Hall "poor presence, rough treble & dull", Quasar "colored midrange, unsmooth treble", Goodmans "coloured midrange & edgy brittle treble", Omal "muddled & cloudy, smooth vague sound", Sansui "boxy, poor bass, smooth but coloured sound", Dalquist "unbalanced, smooth but dull, coarse sound but open" & SMC "peaky, compressed, tiring upfront sound, harsh, thin & mid distortion". Those are summarised opinions of 10 who tested these, clearly some contradictory remarks. On the basis, all the speakers are poor, none sounds crisp, smooth, balanced, not coloured or boxy with fully extended deep bass like our 15" Tannoy Golds do. This is why we've never bothered with any other speaker in 15 years now, just about all other speakers are rubbish. Some of the better brands we noted just above could have the odd good model amid ranges, but we have no real interest to try lots of speakers. Their test covers objective tests like Frequency Response off axis and 2m away etc, Amplitude Distortion, Doppler Distortion which is a mythical thing like TID, Impedance, Efficiency if that's shown as 0.5% instead of 90dB later ratings, Crossover frequency. Then they pair one speaker of one brand with another to see which sounds best, a worthless test as results disgreee with any other results. They plot sets of Frequency Response direct, off axis & 2m away which is pointless as every room differs. The Sansui has an obvious midrange peak & poor treble-bass readings that we'd suggest it mismatched their amp from our Speaker Matching Tests. Here we see Impedance Curves if their graphs need care as not all are at 0-25dB if only the Sansui dips to about 3 ohm at 7kHz & Quasar to 4 ohm similarly. You need to be careful reading Impedance curves as some are smooth like Omal, & the Goodmans and quasar are all over the place, but it doesn't really relate to sound & the choppy curves are often the 3-driver ones. These group tests with 10 opinions is just too confused. It takes an educated ear, not puffed ego to tell what sounds good or not. We don't know the speakers they use at home or even what amplifiers they use as clearly to us the Sansui doesn't match. You're reading a site written by a Tannoy 15" Gold user who knows there is no better speaker now or then as 15 years daily use with them proves. We've tested them with lots of amps as our Loudspeakers page shows. Who you'd trust recommending other speakers is the thing, they'd need to know the "Best 50 speakers" 1968-2017. We only pick up from reading reviews, books & more that Tannoy are the King of Loudspeakers. Other brands from the 1975 era that go back earlier & are into the 1990s we highlighted in blue as "worthwhile" ones that are noted as popular. Google "Best Loudspeakers In The World" and you just get lists of $5000+ modern speakers. The Best Loudspeakers In Our World are the Tannoy 15" Golds in Lancaster cabinets. some of the modern Tannoys that just about copy these may slightly improve on 1968 Perfection, but they are out of our price range as yours likely too. We'll note any further group tests with our criticism if we did on a 1977 article... 1977 Hifi News 8x Pre-Power Reviews - Our Opinions. Similarly we spent ages reading through & typing all that, but decided it was a waste of time & didn't put it on the site for quite a while as it seemed pointless, but it shows what 1975-1977 readers will have thought "We have no idea what the result is"... A letter in a later issue saw the whole effort as pointless too, if more for the huge price differences. HFN/RR replied saying having a group opinion (to them) seemed better. We disagree, multiple opinions in the review dilute it heavily. People have different hearing capabilities beyond learned knowledge & egos. But Loudspeakers are very personal, a lot more than Amplifiers. Some may love the flat lifeless no-bass sound of some speakers as they only have a limited knowledge of hearing sound. We heard a Fatman valve amp play 'music' through tiny bookshelf speakers in a shop once used to the Tannoy Golds. It had abslutely no definition to the sound at all. "It sounds awful" says we which upset the sales guy who made excuses that made no sense. We've not been in a Hifi Shop for a few years if in later years most were more into selling AV gear & whole room installations, or the megabucks huge amps that we heard & didn't think too much of. The Hifi we hear are amps we get or are sent to upgrade & we write about it here.


The "Real Thing" In Loudspeakers First Heard in 1963 At A Trade Fair
Interestingly the HFN/RR Editorial that same month as the 7-way tests above goes on about hearing "The Real Thing" in Loudspeakers over 12 years before, so in 1963, a "wonderfully open uncoloured sound". The speaker was in production until quite recently they add. Yes of course it can only be the Tannoy Monitors, the Silver Monitors introduced as early as 1959 were replaced by the Gold Monitors in 1968, then replaced by the very different HPDs in late 1974. A speaker so good there are still "Classic" versions of it being made, at prices that seem high, but reflect the quality & the cabinets are going to be expensive to make. Get some 12" or 15" Tannoys of any era & you'll never care about other speakers again.


More On Square Waves: What Do They Actually Tell You?
September 1975 HFN/RR with the Harman-Kardon 430 receiver tells a lot on this. Now we've had the highrer power HK 930 & it's a Dual Mono power supply if this is for the Power Amp only, the Preamp runs from only one Transformer PSU. Sadly most HFN/RR reviews tell you nothing more than user features & tests that mean little to most, as many are about Tuner Stages. Here the Harman-Kardon receiver is sold with the Square Wave Analysis Of Audio Amplifier Performance booklet that is selling you a better product it appears. On getting our HK 930 it needed recapping. It did seem a good amp initially to upgrade if ultimately some design especially the power supply we felt was best left as it wasn't so good. Here the HFN/RR review tells about Square Waves, for an amplifier to replay the square wave it has to be capable of delivering harmonics to square the wave edges, as in 1kHz needs a 11kHz bandwidth which is easy as 20kHz is the usual Hifi amp limit. To get a squared 10kHz wave is much more difficult as the amp needs 110kHz headroom to deliver the harmonics. Anything less & the rise time will be slower which if poorly designed gives a dull sound, similar to using High Filter on the best amps. So to get a perfect 20kHz your amp needs 220kHz bandwidth without high losses over 20kHz. For Bass tests the HFN/RR reviews use 40Hz which is always far from square shaped showing heavy bass limiting & phase shift from doing that. It can be done as Sony found out in 1965 with the complex Sony TA-1120 amplifier that uses certain design as nearly all amps do to get these "perfect square waves" if in reality the sound can be a bit flattened if sound more pleasing to most users than the huge dynamics sound we prefer, a sound that's only found in our upgrades. The HK930 uses similar design tricks & the HK 430 will too. Their rise time is 1.9µs when other amps are more like 7-12µs from seeing earlier reviews. We know how they do this & it didn't upgrade so good, suggesting a bit of a compromise here. The slower rise time curves off the 10kHz+ square waves on the leading-rising edge. One reviewer of another amp thought the design of one amp could do with "faster transistors" which reveals they don't know what they are talking about which is a worry, there are no 'slow' transistors by 1975 or 1965 even once Silicon was used. So most amps can get respectable square waves by tailoring the design & not really needing to go too high spec on it to get good Test Results. Sadly by 1975-76 Test Results were all that mattered yet at the expense of Sound Quality, but it looked good on paper & buyers believed it. So initially Square Waves tell you how good the amp is, but manufacturers got wise so tailored the designs to test well but who cares about the sound? This is why the majority of Hifi past 1975 does not sound very good. The trouble with fast rise times is you need good spec to deliver it else it's that harsh thin no-bass grainy mess like the 1985 Yamaha A720 sounded. Good Spec is Expensive, or it's rolled off on Amps you buy once "Special Ones" are used for getting Hifi Mag tests to sound less grainy. You think makers don't make better ones they know will be tested? As with any good test idea it gets abused so the A720 can boast 0.005% THD distortion in tests but in reality the sound was so awful it could be 33% distorted to what a better amp can play it as. Just proves Specs are utterly useless if they can be manipulated.


It Started The Amplifier Spec Wars In 1975: Luxman C-1000 Preamp
Continuing from the above with Square Wave Tests, Tim De Paravicini designed this in 1975 under the idea of getting the most Spec-Perfect design possible. Good to find these things out, but it messed up Hifi. Be sure it's not going to sound fresh & open, it'll be hugely tailored. We knew of this & the matching power amp, as from the 1976 HFYB...
M6000 300w power amp £1375, C1000 preamp £475 as they stand out in the List of Amplifiers page we did. Will we like it? Hard to follow the Manual is likely deliberate 'Time Muting Section' is the Relay. The 'Winker Board' isn't a typo & a Flat Amp. Looking at the rather awkwardly shown circuits, there is some obvious "sound shaping" that plenty of other amps use, the Aux input design is unusual as is the next stage, probably is a transistor version of an op-amp. The power supply of the preamp is very unusual too, it mostly relies on regulators to be sure it's as well behaved & safe sounding to give excellent specs. We hate it already. It does have 2 main capacitors after the rectifier & limiting resistors. The Phono stage looks more like a Power Amp in design, Differentials & Push-Pull stages means 12 transistors. Yamaha CA-1010 used a similarly over-designed preamp that ultimately limits the quality of the amp as we upgraded our last one fully & that's the weakness: Overdesign in search of high specs for Mag Reviews. The Flat Amp section of the C-1000 is where the real sound shaping goes on, the design is laughably complex & impossible to work out unless you have a degree in electronics design, it's as messy & self-correcting as the later Current Mirror type IC nonsense. The C-1000 has inputs from the power amp to control headphone & speaker switching. It has 4 stages of Filter which in 1975 will have been little use, but again showing off & excess circuitry, if it's passive. You may be impressed with the specs, but it's so unnatural unlike a good early amp based on valve design that uses just a few transistors with honest circuitry to give a clean sound. The Luxman M-6000 300w power amp uses tripled output transistors, ones custom-made for Luxman which will be unfindable. It has two sets of Differential Comparators as they call it & a Relay Output Protection. Poor Circuit diagram that's blurry makes it hard to follow. The odd input stage on the power amp is like the Aux input, it's labelled as a Voltage Regulator again to tame to get the high specs if it will sound boring. The power amp for 300w will sound quite soft, it's not a 'hot' design, works on ±87.5v. Probably the Power Amp sounds better than the Preamp, but at the prices when new, you'd likely just buy the pair due to the speaker switching preamp. We just can imagine how tame it'll sound in search of it's Perfect Specs & it's not upgradeable too much either. This sort of Preamp & Amp ruined Hifi is a fair comment.

Do You Want An Expensive Hifi Repair With A Guarantee?
A 13 Aug 2017 listed 1969 Rogers Ravensbourne amp on ebay shows the Service & repair sheet plus £370 costs to service, check & replace a few capacitors. The amp is from 1969 & in very high visual grade, but it's 48 years old. The seller now optimistically wants £475 for it to cover their 2012 repairs. Note "Repairs", if we had an amp like this, it needs a full Recap as it's 48 years old, to have failings means the rest is on the way out as we've found out enough times on testing amps. At £370 no wonder they can guarantee it for a year, For that sort of price we'd just about recap & service it to be good for many years. Our 'Guarantee' of it being redone new is better than a hope & prayer that nothing else 48 years old will fail. The seller got it back & never used it for some reason. We have a certain amplifier to upgrade here as of typing. We found after recapping the lot of this 1969 amp that one of the output transistors was faulty in an odd non-electrical way. No good to us, we throw out the set of 4 & replace them with a set of working ones. If one is bad from a batch, it's not worth risking the others. We happened to have a set of the exact same ones so put those in as part of the job. Most Hifi repair techs are nerdy types who have no attitude or experimentation. You've read our site, we are a different breed with an ability to fault find, redesign, upgrade & still give an authentic looking item as our sales pages show. We do it properly.


Use This Integrated Amp as a Preamp & Another Amp As The Power Amp.
You're doing this as neither are any good in your ideas of sound. It's a waste of time really, sell both & go buy something more what you want. Using 2 amplifiers as one for the preamp, out the pre-out sockets & into the power-in sockets of another is never a good idea, except to cover when one doesn't work right so to at least have music. But then you're using a faulty amp? All Terrible Ideas & just a quick fix that probably doesn't sound very good, because it's unlikely the output level or impedance of one will be right for the other. One using a passive preamp is wasting their time. You'll also find a bad preamp to amp match & it'll be hissy because the volume outputs differed & the impedance differed. We found this with a high gain power amp matched to a low gain preamp. The whole idea of using Pre & Power Amps is to use the one designed to go with it, anything else will be a mismatch. We've compared Yamaha amps that have pre-power in-out sockets & between the models we tried neither sounded the same as itself used as an integrated. The preamp is designed to compliment the power amp & the power amp likewise. We tried a 25w Leak 1978 amp into the 110w Yamaha CR-2020 early on & it still sounded like a 25w amp because the Leak Preamp was designed for a 25w power amp. Swapping around the CR-2020 preamp into the 25w Leak sounded mediocre as it didn't match well.


Passive Preamps are A Wasted Effort On Nearly All Integrated Amps.
What is a Passive Preamp? Why do Hifi Mags hype them as so great. It's BS as you'd expect except to a tiny few high gain power amps. A Passive Preamp is just a switch & volume control box. Who cares if it's silver wire, it's utterly meaningless & of use to only Modern Amps, as in post 1986 that have No Tone Stages. It's No Use to use one on Vintage Hifi simply as Vintage always has an Amplified Preamp. Amps with "Source Direct" button you think are Passive Preamps? No they aren't, they amplify the signal still. If a power amp like the Quad II with 1.4v to get full power is used with a Passive or Low Gain preamp, the sound will be small & low volume. Some power amps with 0.4v to get full power will play much louder & will be suitable for a Passive Preamp. But how you live with no Phono or No Tone Stage is your choice. Those who swear by Passive Preamps usually haven't heard good Vintage & prefer their flat lifeless sound, likely rarely playing music as it sounds boring, but the Mags say it's good. Most Vintage preamps have 2 transistors giving gain & tone control, some add buffers. A Passive has nothing & you'll most likely be playing music too softly & think it sounds better when in fact it's not giving the power amp enough gain.


Car Audio Systems In The 1970s.
The HFN/RR October 1975 issue has an article about In Car Entertainment. In these days it was pretty basic. USA had started earlier with Radios in cars to Record Players even a 1930s 'Laurel & Hardy' has a 78 player if it's likely a comedy thing, but a RCA record player for a car is a reality as were smaller sized Philco Pocket Records. But the 1970s UK Car Scene the typist knows as much time sat being driven about. Car Stereos start about 1972 by the Ads, brands like Harry Moss & other budget type ones. In those days the Car Radio was a set size to fit in the dashboard or a Console with the two rotary switches with fixing nuts on. It's the only design there was well into the 1980s until the bigger fascia digital type ones just pre CD arrived, the pull out type you hid under the car seat. In about 1974 a Car had no real fittings for a Radio, more expensive ones will have had a console fitted, but on cheaper cars the middle column by the gear stick was just carpeted. To buy a chipboard & vinyl covered thing you could fit a clock in to go with the obligatory 'Go Faster' stripes was the dream of 1970s man. Before that, Portable Radios often had the Speaker on the back & a car aerial socket so you could put it on the dashboard & use it as a radio. Later cars with radios often had a central one-speaker from this idea. One L-reg 'Scimitar' the family bought in 1976 was more flash with an 8-track & four speakers, 2 in the kick panels or door cards on the front doors & 2 on the rear parcel shelf. It sounded awful as when an Aretha Franklin 8-track was put on, her loud voice was painful so a book over the speakers was required. 'Motown Gold', 'Country Life' plus Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck & Jack Jones were much played over the next few years. Did remember hearing a 1970s era Elvis & thinking Elvis Was Rubbish if that was before he died, to hear the better earlier stuff. The HFN/RR article doesn't add much more to that, beyond saying early 12v valve radios needed a voltage oscillator to make DC battery into AC which seems a bit odd. Car Speakers were just those small Big Mac sized boxes with no tweeter or damping so poor sound was guaranteed. Even a 1983 Ford Sierra we later had was just the 2 tiny speakers if by now built into the car fittings. Big speakers cutting holes in the parcel shelf was the only way. But Car Audio was always lousy, FM Stereo lost signal, MW lost signal in tunnels or in weak areas, DAB of today breaks up badly. Then over the Car Engine Noise & road noise with open windows you're not going to get much Hifi, but it was the musical company you wanted, aware it'd not be very good. The front speakers in cars were always down low so detail wasn't going to be heard. The days of CD players you could pull out or ones that turned the fascia to 'hide' it long since replaced by built-in ones that no-one bothers to steal. Stealing Car Radios was a nuisance & in those days be sure if it showed it'd be stolen, we know that one, the window repair costs more than the things were sold for by the chancer. They also nicked our great Reggae tapes we recorded from the Radio which was more annoying. Car Stereos live on today in huge power whoomp things, but generally today it's rare to hear music in cars on the road, the elephantine 800w amps for morons is a thing of the past. As with a lot of things today, the fun in it seems to be missing...


What Is Vintage Hi-Fi Used For? Are There Hi-Fi Museums?
Some amps we get are in barely used grade. They still work & are all original, if they are 40+ years old. We had two Fisher amps that were in this 'almost new' grade, but it was later found the wood cases were repros. What do you do? The owner of one bought it to be upgraded, they didn't mind the repro case. A dilemma of to keep it all original but still 1966 spec on 1966 capacitors? Are there Hifi Museums? Are we butchering old amplifiers that are this original? The answer is like you see on 'Counting Cars', they get highly original high grade cars, but the owner wants it upgraded to be like driving a modern car & some will lose a huge amount of originality from original paint to numbers-matching engines. But it's what the customer wants. They want to use the Hifi, not have it as an ornament. They got the amp all recapped as this was their reason to buy, the fact it was higher grade than expected isn't of any importance. There probably are Technology Museums with mint and boxed gear on show & those rare finds are best sold on as Collector's Items. But when it comes to Hifi, beyond the Valve era, people want to use the item. You used to see £3000 being paid for highly Original Rare 1950s Valve amps, but be sure they'll never be used & is a market far from us. Valve amps are mostly best left original as the preamps are so poor you'd never really use it. The other valve amps pre 1967 need so much to upgrade & redesign it's unlikely we'll try another for ourself. These all-original amps from pre 1970 will never be reliable to use more than briefly & even then plugging in 60 year old electronics is risky as we've found with old Radios & Radiograms. The capacitors on 1930s radios 20 years ago were mummified & long since dried out & useless. Those trying 1950s-early 1960s valve gear are risking major damage by plugging them in, Rogers Cadet capacitors are dried out & on the edge of failure. So why are we writing this now? We had a Sansui 3000A owner who wants it upgraded but wants to keep all the original capacitors in it. Yes. Missing the point totally of Recap-Upgrade is to Refresh & Modernise an amp to be useable daily. You can't have it both ways unless you go back to 1967 when it was new, in 2017 it's 50 years old & to use regularly even if it looks good is with a high chance of failure. A Sony TA-1120A we had recently looked barely used inside, but all the capacitors were bad as unused for decades kept in a warm place & once recapped we found out why it was unused, it crackled which needed fault finding. You either get it fully recapped & upgraded or keep it original but don't use it. But the thing here is they are in the USA meaning shipping both ways puts them off & are just fishing for free advice of what to do & will get their tech to do it as they already mention. No reply necessary...


Hi-Fi Gets "Modern" By Late 1975.
The adverts tell the story, the big Japanese brands like Sony, Sansui, Trio-Kenwood, Technics & Pioneer are clearly doing well selling reliable gear. The UK brands have almost died away by now, generally the UK budget stuff was very average at best & the Japanese Amplifier brands brought better quality & reliability at similar prices. Through 1975 the shop ads lose the cheap gear that littered the ads from 1970 onwards. Leak is almost finished, Rogers trickles on but neither in the way they were in earlier years. The only UK brand to the fore is Amstrad with one shop 'Major Audio' in Essex & Surrey putting that brand to the fore. But by now, the big Japanese brands are putting sophisticated adverts extolling the virtues of their goods, Wharfedale spending 5 pages of waffle seems a bit desperate. The Cassette market now has 3 brands offering front-loading cassettes & the top loader ones swiftly go out of fashion, even if they were very expensive to buy new, they were densely & heavily built compared to the later IC designs that could be a lot cheaper. British Hifi brands seem to be more Loudspeaker based now for the importing of Japanese brands would add to the cost. Quadraphonic thankfully has died off after a last effort early in 1975, but no-one cared. These big brands continue well into the 1990s as the brands most people bought, but with heavy cost cutting the "Jap Crap" term was fairly put, if brands like Sony catered for both ends of the market. The UK buyer still thought anything by a brand should be good quality, but by 1975 the ideas of cost cutting were advanced so even Sony's V-FET amps still have that cheap look like their low range amps, the thin aluminium fascia marks up too easily. Hifi Came Of Age by 1975, the hard years of 1973-74 taught lessons & generally the quality of most brands weren't as good as you hoped. Yamaha with their 1973-78 ranges we found interesting & clearly helped revive the brand with our site, because they were better quality on their higher models CA-1000, CR-800, CR-1000 especially & CR-1020 and CR-2020. European brands continue such as Bang & Olufsen (overhyped) and Philips (budget quality) despite their 'Simply Years Ahead' tag line. Tandberg seem to sell more cassette decks than amps, we've not liked their gear to try one even after our years trying amps. Soon the budget end as Amstrad did seeing sales of their separates drift away to the Big Names, will turn more to Music Centres & the dreaded Stack System one piece smoked cabinet chipboard junk. Teleton were already offering acceptable one-piece turntable-amp-tuner-tape table top units, some were better than others if they were popular. Most houses the typist visited in this era into the later 1980s still had these Console type units, if by the early 1990s it turned to CD players & ghastly flashing light double tape efforts that won't have sounded as good. But 1975 is where a clear turning-point in what buyers were buying. Those buying the big expensive high powered amps & receivers were still the minority.


Bad Capacitors From 2006 Still Causing Problems: Our DVD Player...
We've written before about the Rubbish Quality of Capacitors used in DVDs & Computers from 2004-06 era. Ones on some amps from the 1990s can be as bad, the cheap quality cost cutting went too far. Notorious for failing & exploding. It affects Hifi too & a NAD amplifier we saw had the caps in a terrible mess. Our 2006 Panasonic DMR-EX75EB-S DVD-160GB HDD recorder is now 11 years old & you can still buy a similar 500GB one as the DMR-EX97EB-K which is a similar Freeview-500GB HDD & DVD recorder. Not much change in 11 years beyond HDD size as with computers. Watching the DVDs of "The Bill" as the Early 1984-86 series are heavily edited on the current Drama TV repeats. But the Panasonic buzzes when the fan is on so needed a weight on top. Why does it need a fan thinks we as it still hums. Last fixed it in 2013 when a tiny IC under the main board blew up from a failed cap hidden under the top front board, Ours has heavy heatsinking & top holes drilled, the feeble heatsink means this is probably the only one left on permanently for 11 years that still works. But looking at the power supply it's just 2 small heatsinks that get warm to about 50°C of the heatsinks will be enlarged to lose the fan. All caps we checked & marked & found one that's swelling up ready to explode & probably damage the power supply if not more. Caught it in time. C1150 a 68µf 35v capacitor is the problem. By looking at the circuit, if it failed possibly it'd take out a complex switching IC1150 & Q1200 which is a 'Photo Coupler' LED-Transistor item, some sort of safety type thing that's not findable by it's part number. It's on the timy mains transformer too, so if it shorted or went open circuit, it'd be a big repair. You'd not get it fixed as part not findable. Not looked at the insides for 4 years by our work dates, so good job it was noisy else it'd not last long. Ah, but why bother checking things, you can go & buy a new better one for £260.00, it's only money. A 450v 47µf is the only other electrolytic cap on the 'Live' side of the power supply, C1143 is the power supply cap, the value is hopeless like 1960s valve amps as AC ripple will be high. The brand are ones on 1960s-70s amps that we'd rate 'reliable' Elna & Nichicon, but for another 8 caps on the power supply, redo the lot as 10-11 years old. We don't usually put tech stuff on this site, but as a warning to those still using electronics of this era, get it checked or you'll end up buying a new one. Working on tiny surface mount boards makes a regular soldering iron seen 5x too big, some of the ICs are so tiny you'd need skill to solder. Time to check & recap, 3 hours plus parts. Servicing is the thing. Most don't think it's worthwhile. Ours works good now but how long will it last? 11 year old DVD player with limited HDD size of the era, you'd not pay half the price of a new one just to keep it going to avoid certain failure. By the dates we wrote inside, it failed after less than 2 years buying new in 2006, we got a cheap working but damaged case one to cobble good bits into ours, build a better heatsink & have serviced it a few times since. In terms of a customer paying for all these repairs, sadly use it a few years & buy new is the thing. Built In Obsolescence is so cynical.


Poor Design & Construction of Modern Mains Powered Electronics.
We've found that the items themselves can be good, but as ever, they are severely dumbed down to be cheap & to convince you a more expensive one is worth buying. You can be sure we take no notice. TiVo box has no Audio Outputs, only a Digital out so needs a DAC. You can easily spend £200-£300 but we know how advanced & standardised Digital is by finding £20 OEM DVD-CD recorders for the computer & £99 Soundcards good enough. The £99 Soundcard has a very low noise floor if the Square Waves it outputs are far from Square on the Higher Frequencies. So to be mean & get a £10 DAC with a Plug Top Power Pack, the nuisance of today. We recap ours with better capacitors to give a cleaner power supply, the AC ripple from these cheap transformers is unacceptable. But then the £10 DAC sounds fine, so why spend more. Looking at the 2006 DVD player, the power supply is in that modern style, there is no big mains transformer as they are expensive. The Panasonic DM-R75EX one is like other modern gear of low power, it's adequate but mediocre. Low spec & excess heat build up is why the User Life of Electronics today is so short. Built in Obsolescence & deliberate cynical things to break are in Phones & Cameras so if you do try to fix or Service it, you'll break it. We'll not give too much detail as it's messing with the Live Mains side, but heat is caused by high AC ripple & improving the design does reduce heat. Input 240v AC goes to one fuse on either Live or Neutral depending how you plug it in, as with many electrical items, various bits to de-hash the AC, rectified "Live" at 240v AC to 329v DC with high ripple as original spec then hugely stepped down to 12v by a small transformer that finally isolates from the mains & then the rest to supply other voltages. Typical designs in TVs & Desktop Computers if probably the VHS scene helped create the slimline designs unlike the bulky transformers of old. The circuitry is good, the spec is deliberately poor to make you think you need to buy a more expensive one. Ours still plods on, only gets 5 digital channels now meaning more problems, if the DVD player is fine. Must be the only working one on the planet as it's not made to last 11 years & even the synthetic rubber on the HDD drive fittings has turned gooey so trimmed tap washers needed.


Was It Worth Recapping the DVD player with some upgrading?
We recapped it to a degree firstly, without upgrading too much. Watching the same DVD set that has been consistent in quality, now the picture is crisper, the sound seems of a better quality too. To upgrade as always is design based upgrading, you need to understand the circuit. Recapping improves the quality of the voltage supplies so what you see & here is more sophisticated, the basic GUI of a 2006 machine is a lot crisper than before & the picture is a lot smoother. But sadly giving it better quality revealed that really was only a temporary fix, the voltages now correct give the dreaded HDD ERR message & the clicking of the HDD drive whatever we try to do. The fact with these DVD recorders is they are now too old: the HDD is the old type plug in connectors & even if you could get a new one, the Operating System is on the HDD & from what we've read online, you need a set up disk to copy the OS onto the HDD. So a final take-apart to look under the board, no issues, so time to give up. In reality 11 years use is exceptional from a DVD player, we got 3 years more use by repairing it before & for the fact TiVo records all we want, no real need for a DVD recorder so to just buy another DVD player to watch DVDs with. Modern tech may be great to use, but for the short life of these things, it's a rip off as in reality this DVD player was known to be failing after 2 years use. Any new electronics we get we take apart to look for areas that will be the first to fail... On breaking it up to recover useable bits, how easy it is to break, drop the thing & it'll never work again. Feeble construction.


Is It Worth Upgrading The TV Similarly?
Service Manuals for LCD TVs or similar will be available, if some easier to get than others. Looking at a basic Fault Finding page on our LG one, the idea is either replace boards or Repair/Replace the Power Supply. It gets warm inside & we've already added extra heatsinking on a few places & drilled case holes as the picture driver board was just hidden behind a closed cabinet. The quality of plastics used in any goods these days can be very poor, they age & crumble away or they smell. Stuff made Last Century would go yellow on white plastic but unless it got hot, like the c.1977 Marantz receiver light sections, the plastic would stay solid. The Marantz ones got too hot, went brown & just crumble away. Looking at the circuits for the boards is a job, where's the Power Supply board one? We're seeing 5v, 2.5v, 1.8v, 1.2v so the boards on such low voltage are unlikely to go wrong as with much modern gear, but only external damage or power supply failure kills them. Old CRT glass TVs used to need 8000v+ to energise the TV tube. Low Spec & Overheating. The 53 page manual is apparently findable, if it's actually a typo & a smaller screen one, but there is no Power Supply circuit diagram in our correct one. The nature of Service Manuals is often "Secret" and "For Training or Servicing" or "For Internal Use Only" as they are giving away all their tech ideas. In the case of the TV, to work out. Having worked out how the DVD player power supply works, the TV power board looks very similar. Based on the DVD failure, we'll leave the TV alone, unless it needs repair.


September 2017 Blog


Ebayers Overpricing Raw Unserviced Aged Hifi Is A Problem.
The section above with the "Expensive Hifi Repair" shows about Unrealistic Pricing by ebay sellers. A 5 year old service doesn't add anything to the value. A 5 year old recap & upgrade done like we do does, if we can get premium prices as our stock is fresh from us, rather than used since by a buyer. The biggest problem we see in the last few years is those who see the Prices we put on Serviced & Recapped-Upgraded Hifi that has had many hours work plus parts, not to mention the skill to do this, but think their Raw Attic Find is worth Top Money despite being dirty, untested & unused for decades. One Sony TA-1120A is on ebay for £550 currently. It is filthy & appears untested by a supposed Valve amp seller. It's a huge gamble at any price, to ask that much with no info is totally clueless, but they list it for Free so sit & hope. You could message them offering what we'd consider a realistic 'gamble', ie £150-£200, but you'll get ignored or abuse. Let it sit until reality hits. You can see how many amps we've had to try, upgrade & review. We still find ones but the more that we try the less there is that we haven't tried. Some like the Realistic SA-1500 we're selling very cheap for mostly recapped, but it only looks what it is, if the sound is a lot better than you'd expect, it just sold to one amazed that we'd sell it at that price for recapped, but we do experiment & gamble, the sale price covered costs. The amount of work in it is about 1.5x the sell price, but it was one to buy cheap & see what it was, this led to buying the Realistic STA-220 which was an excellent find. Ebay is stuffed with overpriced stuff, much is worthless junk in any category, but those with good items pricing Raw Gear at Restored Prices are stagnating the market. All Hifi needs servicing if 20 years old. Hifi needs recapping & upgrading if pre 1970 so those 1971-1997 you can use as original once Serviced & Checked, but not at Serviced Prices. To service a complex amp or receiver can be £200+ easily for the amount of taking apart it needs plus adjusting & checking with use. But Ebayers putting £300-£400 on a £100-£150 raw amp aren't going to sell it. Tired cabinets on hifi reduces the price too, we priced the SA-1500 to sell & reveal it was a bargain. SA-1500 sold now & sounded as good as some £500 amps we've tried.


Growth Of The Vintage Hifi Market Since 2011
In terms of "Used Hifi" before we started our First Record-Players Page all buyers wanted were the same few 1977-80 Monster Receivers, like Marantz, Trio-Kenwood Sansui & Pioneer. Big high power things yet of low spec & high risk of ICs. USA buyers were more aware & they had McIntosh which has to be the most wanted Vintage Brand, if not much known in the UK as limited distribution. When we started getting amps to review in 2011, the UK World was one of clear out & get some cash, or take it to a recycling centre as space was needed or estates being cleared, unaware of any value. We've seen amps with "thrown in the air recently" type dents, which is too high risk to buy. Ones that are good amps but in ghastly corroded condition are too risky too. What is an unknown attic find amp worth? We had a few Sony TA-1140 amps buying for £30-£50 early on & serviced the resell wasn't much over £120 then which seems very modest now. Today prices for the interest online which we know We Are The Ones telling more than anyone else, if Manual & Info Sites are invaluable, the truth is no-one took interest in Early Sony, Pioneer & JVC-Nivico or 1970s Yamaha until they read our opinions. We just bought them as they looked good & see how many Pioneer, JVC & Yamaha we've had. Interest ups the prices but it limits the amount out there that are in limbo or in attics forgotten. With Records we deal in, the 1950s & 1960s are long enough ago for the original owners not to be around to have them, the records have new owners with collectors or dealers having them. The Hifi 1965-80 era is still recent enough for original owners to have the later ones, if a 35 year old buying an amp in 1973 is now a scary 79 years old, you see why they've been sold & moved on. It makes the supply less once an item finds a new owner who keeps it, if with this site we've cetainly created Interest from Nothing on the pre 1977 era, to get Hifi to Service & Recap-Upgrade means we still see more amps than those we sell. But to see a £600 good mid-late 1970s amp that's raw grade to buy & us recap-upgrade will put these big complex amps over the £1000 price. We've found the £600-£800 level is where buyers want to be in today's economy. Plenty of £1000+ exotic amps on ebay that never sell, see the July "State Of The Market" section. See our Sansui AU-G90X, it's there to show "we can do later amps" if finding a buyer at the price is another thing. We know we have to do work to a realistic level to not outprice for buyers, similarly with upgrades we offer levels of upgrade to suit them. One recently we said to the owner that there are more upgrades at £xxx cost, but the reality is the amp will sound way better than they imagined for the job done so to go the last upgrade they'd probably not see the benefit to.


There Aren't That Many Really Great Amplifiers.
We started getting most of the amps we review in 2011 which isn't that long ago, but in terms of Vintage Hifi Coming Of Age, it's prehistoric in reality as we say above. Our Reviews Page shows Recent Finds plus Ones Revisited. Having up to 20 amps here at once early on before we got deeper into Upgrading, some good ones got Sold Too Fast. Plenty of Amps we rate as "Very Good" as original & "Excellent" as upgraded. The level of Excellence does vary from "Just About Excellent" to "Really Excellent", if which ones is for you to read & try. Finding some previously hyped later amps to be disappointing compared to the earlier 1965-72 era, a point came when some needed revisiting. A few we didn't think much of earlier on yet another of the same amp revisited was found to be far better, especially when we started trusting them on our Tannoys after wanting to learn them on Headphones which Levels The Field as Speaker matching can vary a lot. The Leak Delta 75 receiver we got 4 of & only one survived, a truly awful messy design. The biggest change of opinion were on the Yamaha CR-1000 & Yamaha CA-1010, if ones like the Goodmans Module 80 we thought was a good midprice amp but found it couldn't cope with high upgrades like the USA & Japanese amps could. Worth pushing it to see what it could do, but ultimately the limited design is cleverly crafted to be mediocre but still sound quite decent. Another reason why we don't go much for UK or EU amps. We don't like the Linn Naim type amps but would like to hear them if anyone dares to send one in to service, if our opinions as on the Other Amps page are a bit cutting. We've looked at the Quad 33/303 & Pioneer A-400 a few times by understanding the circuits & seeing inside pics online. We aren't going to change our opinions so won't buy one as we know we'd not like it. It'd be hypocritical to get one, upgrade it & try to sell it after we've put it down. Some amps we'll get again because they upgrade well & are reliable, even the NAD 160 that overheats, we sort it & it's fine then. Some brands we've had enough of such as the 1969-77 Bang & Olufsen as they are overrated. We know the 1971-80 Marantz are overrated & certainly overpriced too, but they do upgrade well.


Budget 1974 Sony TA-1066 Amplifier We Were Told Was Good.
It's a smaller version of the Sony TA-1050 type amp from 1974 with 20w. A later version of the 1973 Sony TA-1055 which has an IC for the Phono stage, if the TA-1066 has 2 transistors. Both 1055 & 1066 look pretty similar with Aux to Volume to a Buffer stage with Tone in the Differential Power Amp, then to the power amp with Push-Pull with the main NFB into the Tone stage. A simplified circuit for a 20w-23w design. No true Aux on the TA-1066 if Tuner in does the same thing, Aux is only a 6.3mm Jack input probably for an Open Reel Tape Recorder. The designs are well tamed throughout with deep bass limited, if as we found with the JVC Nivico lower powered amps, it likely will sound very musical, but at the power it's not going to be too lively for the tamed design, if the JVC were. These sort of Better Budget priced amps are what helped get rid of the Budget UK brands as the sound per pound was better. Both are probably scarcer than the TA-1040 or TA-1050 & were replaced in 1975 by the V-FET series that had similar low powered models in the updated styling, like the Sony TA-1630. These sort of amps go very cheap on ebay auctions, if as always we'll say they are 40+ years old & a service will improve them a lot. But if you're paying £50 or less, to spend more than double on servicing when it still works means it'll not get serviced, it's just a cheap amp to use. Looking on ebay for Sold prices, the cheap prices some Sony amps make is quite surprising, the sort of ones we'd bypass as many will have ICs, but for the newbie to Vintage, there are your bargains, even the Leak ones are getting more expensive.


1968 Luxman SQ 1220 Amplifier.
We've seen this 50w amp around if not had one yet, £123 new in 1970. We write more on it on the "Other Amps" page & consider it "interesting" with... It looks a bit haphazard in places, empty spaces underneath & awkward axial capacitors to make upgrading less easy, but overall looks pretty decent it has a Variable NFB Damping selector of 2, 10 or 80 so the circuit needs a look as Valves are usually about 15 giving their open bass sound. Still achingly plain even in the wood case. Unusual speaker connectors & what looks like a MM step up stage on the back. But no circuit diagrams easily found. One on ebay with a tatty but restorable case shows it up close. Odd looking amp for sure. Very plain fascia with just a raised line, 8 rotary controls & 6 lever controls. A power light & headphone socket. The rear is where is looks like a Pre Amp as where are the Speaker outputs? They look like Phono Input sockets but are 4mm sockets which is a lot better, if very closely spaced. Tape Head, Phono x2, Aux x2, Tape by Phono & DIN plus. Needs 4 power output sockets which is unusually high. Pre Out-Power in sockets with a level control for the Power In. The ebay one shows the rear panel paint faded with some cleaner used once. Two big holes looking like Valve holder sockets are a MM Phono step up option, try finding those after nearly 50 years. The ebay one is tatty & looks matter to get best prices for upgrading, so for how we'd redo it, needs to be better grade, not one covered in scratches & stains as it'll never remove unless you reveneer it. Still one we'd like to try, but another time. It sold in rough grade for £320, but the trouble is a full rebuild would put it over £1000 & at that sort of price, buyer wants high grade looks. The grade of this externally is poor if complete, could be tidied if a reveneer is probably required. Comparing to a high grade one visually shows how tatty it really is.


Vinyl Record Woes: Where Did The Cartridge Stylus Tip Go?
Usually a Stylus needs replacing for 2 main reasons, first is you naffed it so bent the cantilever to make it useless. Straightening it out can be done if you squash the bend flat, else the cantilever tube will snap, but it's way off standard so best to just replace it. Second we've only seen a few times once on a 1965 UK Soul 45 & just recently on a 1963 UK Ska 45. The arm got dropped on the record, the stylus tip broke off and stuck into the record itself. To pick it out will wreck the grooves & leave a hole to upset future play, but if it's left in it's probably a Sapphire one that could damage a Diamond stylus as it smacks into the remaining bit & either clicking or jumping. Generally the records are in well-partied grade & common ones so it doesn't matter, but these two were Rare & wanted titles. You'd only tell a stylus tip pushed into the grooves by finding a loud click & using a 10x magnifier to see. Autochangers can wreck a stylus tip too, the autochanger mechanism drops the heavy head onto the record leaving run-in marks & one time it'll break off. When this happens the glue cement on the remains of the stylus assembly will leave ugly worn groove marks that may or may not hiss with a standard stylus. The heavy 1950s record arms are often on springs with the autochanger, think you can outdo the changer & pull the arm back to not wait for a changer cycle, but the arm may slip & gouge your record. In terms of Record Players, only when Magnetic Cartridges became standard by the late 1960s with the Goldring G-800 being introduced in 1968 with Shure doing similar a few years before. Rare to see a gouged Classical Lp as they rarely got played if ever. The Wanted 45s loosely in the "Pop" scene are the ones that get damaged. The Elvis HMV & Bill Haley 1956 LPs we've seen often with ruined first tracks. Even seen a 1969 Rolling Stones LP with these bad scratches. Another thing with 7" records especially of the 1960s is the owner of a non-autochanger or switchable record player annoyingly yanked the stylus out as the music was fading leaving an annoying 'click' on the fade out that's there forever. You only find out by playing it. As for people replacing the stylus as it's been used a lot, they don't care until it breaks is what we see, even old steel needles will be used well worn & greying the grooves. Another one is a record with odd minor tiny burn marks that radiate out from the centre. This is from cigarette ash falling from someone looking to see what the title was & dropping hot ash on the record. Probably happened quite often on party records & they will click loudly so got thrown away, but did see Ska one like this & it took a while to work out what happened. This is why High Grade Vinyl can make such high prices on Name Artist vinyl, most were well played. That was the idea in the 1980s, you only found the rough copies, today to find high grade copies of Hit 45s is easy. Only the EPs & LPs covers are the hard things, rare to get EX on anything 1950s or 1960s beyond MOR stuff. We got an unpicked box of 300 singles just recently, you never know what you'll find, but it looked like the dregs of parties over several decades, records left behind & the slow ones that weren't good Party Tunes. One nice grade Beatles 45 with shoe heel dents & scrapes on showed it got thrown on the floor & staggered drunk over. Odd to find a box with nothing later than 1984, but a few things of use, but not much as too bad grade.


Want to buy a $20,000 Valve Amplifier?
Our initial advice is... Don't. The Whys for Sound are all over our site. But mostly we say "No" for the problems of repair & revalving. One asked about an expensive VAC Phi 110 Integrated Valve Amp made in the USA. Cautions in the Manual say not to use without a Speaker Attached or Load Resistor. That is poor design for a start, the 1963 Trio WX400U had a load resistor built in that didn't affect the sound if the 1967 Sansui 500A didn't & as we found that trashes valves. The VAC amp in the manual shows all the valves are encased in glass with just holes in the top over the 18 valves, 4 of which are KT88 output valves. Based on how hot our 100w monoblocs with 4x EL34 get, they need to be in the open air & unsurprisingly the VAC never models are open cased. Buy any item that is complex, the Phi 110 uses fussy circuits to auto adjust & sense things, all pointless to us, but there's the selling point. But what if it goes wrong or you damage it? The asker is in the UK, so go look on the VAC site for UK Distributors who can help, oh there aren't any. They say theirs needs new Valves & is faulty, be sure the poor ventilation caused problems & the IC based logic circuits or similar are damaged. You'll not get parts in the UK is the reality. You've bought a Turkey. Regardless of the merits of the amp, the brand does appear decent if it's far too fussy. Our 100w monoblocs had a delay circuit that there is no point for as proven by our 10 years use it of with the IC circuit removed. So what do you do? You ask around to see who could fix it. We had the Prima Luna one here a few years back, the design wasn't so great & it had an IC based autobias. If it fails, what do you do. With no circuits the only option is to use your knowledge & get a new IC. This is why we don't like ICs as they quickly become obsolete or are cheap general purpose ones. We could get it sent to us & there is a good chance we'd say it's not repairable unless you get the parts. The VAC manual recommends it's own valves which isn't actually a money-maker, but they designed the amp to known valves & all versions of a particular valve do differ slightly. But the main problem here is a specialist item with No Service Base in the UK. You can send it to France or Hungary & expect a huge repair bill for the fact new valves of a custom type will not be the price you expect. Only buy Specialist Goods if there is a good distribution & service network in your Country. Email them. Spending big money & being left stranded if it fails is a waste of money. Our opinion on these overdesigned valve amps is ditch all of the fussy circuitry & design it properly so it works "old style" & stays reliable for years. This is what we did with our 100w monoblocs. The only problem with altering things losing original features is buyers won't trust it or like it, which is why we keep our upgrades looking nice. Our Luxman LX33 is totally rebuilt & redesigned so only the case & transformers are the original & even then we ditched Ultra Linear as it's a lazy design that loses the 'real sound'. The trouble is any amp buyer today expects Digital Capability & the obligatory Remote Control on modern gear. The VAC offers what the buyer wants, but it's not reliable & is too complex, as with Cars today. Research well before you buy Expensive Goods. Will you get it repaired by anyone?


Why is it $20,000 when it was New?
The model for "High End" Hifi is the buyer expects a certain build quality, remotrs, digital & the kudos of good design visuals. Musical Fidelity A308CR we foolishly bought in 2002 was exactly that, expensive casework of admittedly lovely quality & high on Man Appeal to look the business, but can't imagine women think much of the all-metal looks. But the inside circuitry was disappointing to the point it looked the quality & with cheap op-amps of a midprice unit, even using cheap ceramics instead of poly-type caps. There is a lot of Hype in any Prestige Items, the truth is the many of the sort who buy them are just buying for the Ego & showing off, look at Diamond Clad I-phones. We've seen some very high quality gear in awful grade found in certain types of non-ebay Auction as the arrogance of some treats it with contempt almost, the "we can buy a new one so who cares" idea. With Valve Amps the Audio Note Ongaku type amps with exotic capacitors supposedly better than the sensible stuff we use. Buying a dream is a lot of it. Inside any amp, a circuit board is still a circuit board, the Tube Technology ones use a thick fibreglass one, but with Valves the high voltages aren't so great on PCBs, hard-wiring is more reliable or you'll naff an output transformer & then the amp is finished. High quality or Vintage in high grade is pleasing to the ego & after a while these items will be your items to keep as they make you feel good to have them around. But as the above says, reliability can upset your dreams. In buying expensive cars, such as a Rolls Royce the build quality & performance is way ahead of a Ford Ka, if the old cliche of both get you from A-B, some like the style. We've not heard many of these 5-figure type amps, but two buyers who had several of our great 1960s transistor amps took them to compare with these huge expensive amps with friends & all agreed the sound from our upgraded amps beat any amp for Music Pleasure. Yes a 20w amp plays music more pleasingly than a £50,000 500w amp. Interestingly the 20w amp must have had enough volume to play loud enough to show itself. You buy expensive things for the Kudos & it's nice to have them around. But how long will it last?


The JJ EL34 Valves Are Still Crackling.
Nothing will stop the rustling noise. It comes & goes even depending on music played as we play records often. Nothing found online via Google, but asking a Guitar Guy, the EL34s by JJ are notorious. Others call JJ's "Edicron" which used to be ones Maplin sold years ago & were always reliable, so why is the EL34 a problem? Maybe in Hifi amps of gentle spec they are fine, but our valve amps are designed to be more like PA amps which is with guitar amps so the problems that an aged 1960s amp wouldn't reveal. Got to go therefore. So what do we buy? Did use Svetlana winged 'C's for years if these aren't made anymore. The JJ EL34s seemed more dynamic on Bass & Treble, which suggests they are "tweaked" to sound more impressive & cause bother with amps that don't need that, or maybe are just neutral without roll-off as other brands do. The JJ EL34s actually sound great, a lot better than the Winged C's or 1979 Matsushita ones did. Ebay shows 'Golden Dragon' we used those in the 1990s with the Rogers Cadet III & found them unreliable. Shugang at £61 for a matched quad set is another brand, sounds Chinese rather than the Russian made ones, the EL34B is marked China & is another tweaked design. But another seller has a quad for £39 which seems too cheap. Svetlana WCs are £132 for a quad, they were £20 each from Maplin in about 2002. Electroharmonix set for £76, Mullar reissue ones for £149, these are Russian-made ones by a US company who bought the brand, not real Mullards.


EL34 Spec Sheets JJ & Svetlana Winged C's
We asked the seller we bought ours from before for the JJ spec sheets as couldn't find on searching before & straight away we see the "Ca" Cathode to Anode(Plate) capacitance differs. On the Svetlana it's 0.6pf, on the JJs it's 10pf which is the sort of value you see used in FM tuners for coupling in the front end. A Valve has a Cathode to ground, an Anode for HT Voltage & Audio output, via a coupling capacitor & the Grid for the signal input. The JJ & Svetlana are just about the same on "Cg1" at 15.5pf & <16pf respectively and "Ca/g1" or "Grid No 1 to Plate" 1.3pf & <1.1pf. How extra capacitance to 'ground' affects depends on design, amps with cathode bias or a low value resistor will differ in design. Using Ultra Linear or Pentode mode will too. Both our amps were Ultra Linear but are the superior Pentode design. The JJ-Edicron are a popular brand. Any Guitar User just wants no rustling, but we've found out the problem, the Pentode mode 'G2' HT resistor needs altering slightly which we already have done that lessened the noise, but clearly needs more. We don't really want to buy loads of EL34s when we know the JJ ones sound great.


To Properly Solve The JJ EL34 Crackling-Rustling Noise?
Looking at many EL34 designs & for the fact we prefer the superior "Pentode" mode, not the lazy design "Ultra Linear", the issue is the JJ valves are wider bandwidth than Svetlana & the 1979 Matsushita which was very noticeable on first trying them. The problem is Bias to not only have the correct Current but the supplied Voltage at the valve, not just the supply. Get that balanced right with the G2 voltage & then the sound gets noticeably better. The 10pf spec is unlikely to be the problem. Ultra Linear is lazy as it doesn't need such accurate design. The Luxman LX33 originally has the - Bias HT pulled from the Heater supply is laughably bad design, so we added another transformer inside for the ECC heaters with regulation too. Our EL34 Pentode outputs are slightly based on the Fender 5E5 guitar amp design, that uses 6L6 or 6V6GT Beam Tetrode output valves that are similar to EL34s in some ways, plenty online about these valves. For Valve Amp design, we've always found Guitar Amp sites are far more detailed & the designs are "Classic" ones that many modern amps copy. We used the LX33 as Ultra Linear until earlier in the year & it does reveal how accurate design must be, the UL design is lazy & lacks the 'life' of the Pentode mode. The LX33 is push-pull if looking at the Single-Ended one EL34 output type amps, the Pentode P-P is much closer to that idea than the Globally Accepted but lazy Ultra Linear. The Trio WX400U was a Pentode type design on smaller EL84s & the sweet sound in that is what got us considering the Pentode mode. Now to look at the 400U circuit to compare. That we put DC heaters & adjustable bias in, so actually not unlike the current LX33. Putting the amp back in the usual place, not an unwanted sound from it, yes the headphones are plugged in. Just a very slight transformer low noise, a lot quieter than some transistor amps. There is no rustling or crackling at all. To play some 45s with loud treble plus the needle drop sub bass can trigger the rustling as it upsets things.


Our Earliest Hi-Fi Exploits To Those That Started This Site.
The Family Stereo was a Philco Ford M1500 amplifier with a Bush Arena cassette deck that the pause didn't work so the then-11 year old typist took apart & fixed. No-one noticed it worked again. Came with a Garrard SP25 Mk III & Goldring G-800 plus the Philco-Ford elliptical speakers that probably had tweeters fitted across. 12w basic stuff, the amp we had since & the power amp is decent but the preamp is poor. the SP25 Mk III we had on getting the Hacker again, the Mk IV is far better for rumble & hum, the G-800 we've revisited above & still use one today if a bit modified. All DIN plugs with the 3 mains wires remarkably twisted together with black tape onto a longer cable. Not even soldered. Adapter plug blocks were buyable so why no separate plugs to be safer? Within itself it offered a decent sound that was basic but clean. We certainly played a lot of Vinyl on that until it got sold & not replaced. So to the Family Junk Shop that had Record Players, Radiograms & naturally Records. The one that stayed around the longest early on was a Stereo Pye Black Box, the table looking one with piano lacquer top. why it got a hole cut in the top to fit an 8-track is best not mentioned so we won't. A range of music centres & other radiograms never sounded so good as the valve Pye. The first "Stereo" we got was a Hacker GAR 550 & then a GAR 500 when it packed up. Both were the perspex top ones if usually the wood lid ones are found. The speakers were corrugated foam fronts & having seen them on ebay since, the foam long since crumbled away. The Hacker getting one later had a decent sound for what it was, again the Preamp was a weakness. The speakers were boomy & on playing 45s that had a certain sound, on a proper Hifi they sounded very different. Rubbish speakers on a good Hacker. The first Amplifier we bought was the Realistic STA-2280 & we got one a few years back. The sound was thought very lacking in bass so as a late Teen to use Loudness & the awful IMX expander brought more bass. On trying it more recently played like that sounded a ghastly thick mess of fuzzy sound. We recapped ours to try to give it a better sound which partly worked if the cheap design & ICs stopped it be anything better. Speakers we used were Sony APM 22ES silly square bass driver with a honeycomb woofer with less surface area as flat not conical, the treble from the Realistic was very rough which appears to be more amp than speaker on retrying the amp. But by then our amateur amp fiddling got the Realistic going bin-style & then a Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 3000 was found for £20 & was thought much better sounding. A progression of amps like Marantz Stereo & Dolby Quad receivers, a Harman-Kardon 1978 receiver led to buying a new Marantz PM 62 that we got back a few years ago. Again limited by the power amp driver IC it upgraded to sounding better than the Realistic. But on the speakers we had the sound got boring. Then found a Rogers Cadet III in a charity shop for a tenner & up goes the sound quality. All were "improved" in a way of working things out & realising weaknesses in the Rogers preamp, worked out without circuits in those days. Then to buy the Tube Technology Monoblocs & Preamps that sort of remain if unused for a while & monoblocs foolishly sold for the Musical Fidelity A38CR pre-power crappy things if sold & another TT set back strangely fast. The Buying Vintage Amps game started with getting the Hacker GAR 550 back & wanting a better sounding amp as the Sonys STR-6120, TA-1130 & TA-1150 had given. The first STR-6120 was a rough one got for £20 on liking the TA-1130 that we got going but it's a difficult amp & it ended up getting parted out to buy the one on the site front that we have back again half wrecked now. To find the modest first version of the Trio-Kenwood KA 4002 & think how nice that sounded, to get more Trio, Bang & Olufsen, a 1986 Sony TA-F550ES was thought lousy & quickly sold on. Tried several Leak Amps including the 75 & 2000 receivers. The prices back then appear so low now, but that was the market on pre 1977 amps back then, few were money beyond the 'Monster Receivers'. Confidence soon grew with better prices for some of the bigger amps, Yamaha & Pioneer. Soon we were way ahead of the Market, offering Serviced & some early recapped and upgraded amps. But the trouble with being ahead is the ebay scammers want a piece of you. So for a few years now we've only sold Hifi on our site. Not with as many amps as going more specialist, but still keeping it real & offering Upgrade Work brings more amps to try out also. Have we changed the Vintage Hifi Scene? A lot, look at Forums pre 2010 to see how it was then, if it's still got a ways to go regarding Recapping & Upgrading, as only on buying or getting yours done will you see how worthwhile it is. Credit certainly is due to sites like 'The Vintage Knob' that used to be the only site telling of 'unknown' amps, some German ones similarly, the Service Manual ones like HiFi Engine & elektrotanya, without them these amps wouldn't be understood so well by us. As for Forums, these can still be useful, if to be careful of the random unqualified advice. We first read 'Audio Asylum' if there are a few better ones like 'Audiokarma'. Google brings images of amps so we can see the insides & understand if an amp is worth trying or getting here to work on for a customer.


Amplifier Rise Time, Settling Time and Slewing Rate 1: Thinking Aloud.
The HFN/RR reviews have been noting this for a few years by 1976. Initial write-up about it showed 'early days' so to leave them learn what is good and bad, in their opinion, before researching it further. By July 1976, the start of that Very Hot Dry Summer, they review the Audio Reflex AGS 150 receiver that was 50w & £250. We have looked at this rather dismissively on the 'Other Amps' page as it's visually a rip off of Marantz for the typeface & tuner fly wheel on the top half of the fascia & the lower half is a rip-off of the Yamaha CR-1000 lever switches & CA-1000 rectangular rotary controls. Also it has a 5 band 'tone control' strangely like the JVC 'SEA' idea. Even has a reverb unit inside. The review says it's overall decent & good value. The specs on the AGS 150 seem decent, 50w, Damping Factor of 100 is typical of the era if can be drier sounding than earlier amps. Rates well on power output at 50w-55w. The review shows the rise time & settling time oscilloscope readings. Settling time is like a ball bouncing the initial overshoot to level off doesn't look good on either, but what frequency are they using & at what voltage? Pointless not saying, if probably 10kHz at one third volume, could be your guess too. Settling time is 25 µsec, Rise Time is 3.5 µsec & Slewing Rate is 7v/µsec. Without comparing to any other HFN/RR tests very fast rise time without enough 'weight' to tame it suggests a typical 'grainy sounding' amp. Slew Rate seems very fast similarly. But what does that mean? First to find a Yamaha amp review & hopefully the tests... March 1974 reviews the Yamaha CA-1000 & it shows 7µsec Rise Time, if no other values. But Dec 1974 has the Sherwood S7900A which is based on the later NAD 160(A) with Rise Time of 7µsec and 4.3v/µsec Slewing Rate. May 1975 review of the Sanyo DCX 8000K that we've had has 6µsec Rise Time with 6.67v/µsec Slew rate at 40w into 8 ohms with a Damping Factor of 40 if no Settling Time test yet. Those three amps suggest 6µsec Rise Time is good & 7v/µsec Slewing Rate is a good standard for the 1974-76 era. A faster Rise Time can sound cleaner but without good design behind it, it sounds rough. This is what we deal with with our Recap-Upgrades, designing the circuits to have better quality without price restraints, if keeping looks tidy still. Based on how these amps sound is another thing, the Yamaha has a clean sound but a bit dull sounding. As Originally heard, as in after Servicing but still original, the Sherwood/NAD has a good sound if does sound a bit slow as the Slew rate suggests, "Slow" also means lack of Kick, but at 40w it's designed to be within 40w & the costs provided. The Sanyo we thought had a clean lively sound, not the highest quality but a "fast" sound that pleased so we upgraded it more, if it's still no better than a good midprice amp. The Yamaha CA-1000 is basically the CR-1000 if the CR sounds very different, the CA sounded clean & nice but a bit dull, the CR again clean & nice but a much bigger PA sounding volume. The fast Rise Time is revealed in the 'Kick' the CR-1000 has at 80w as the HFN/RR review tested it at. The reviewer of the Audio Reflex with 3.5µsec says "too small" as in 'too fast' for the spec & quality in the amp. Slower amps sound smoother, fast amps, as Our Upgrades bring are very fast amps with enough quality to control.


Amplifier Rise Time, Settling Time and Slewing Rate 2: What's It About?
The above looks at the ideas of what 1974-76 amps brought. Some are faster so have more kick but can still sound a bit dull. Feb 1976 HFN/RR has Gordon King with "Three Amplifier Obscurities". His reviews we've not thought the best of, if to be fair he is in the transistional era & they are still finding things out, but rambling waffle is a problem with HFN/RR in general. This does start to lean towards the Subjective Opinions rather than just Objective ones that few will understand, we type this as we learn what it's about. Square wave tests we've covered above & these are what's used to reveal AR, ST & SR credentials. The article says Rise Time was used in the Williamson 1940s Valve amps with 5µsec which mostly betters the few above. The idea got forgotten as is typical of good things & good ideas, if USA Amp makers are now using 'Rise Time' as a good way to tell a good amp. Rise Time is the time it takes for a very fast start transient, such as small percussion instruments, to rise from 10% to 90%. It's similar to Reaction Time in driving a car & applying the brakes once you need to do an Emergency Stop, too slow & you crash, too fast & the car flies up, if brakes aren't that fast. a slow amp blurs the leading transient or clips it, one very fast needs enough 'weight' behind it to control it. Settling time is as stated above. Slewing Rate is less obvious, it's told in the Feb 1976 HFN/RR as "slewing rate is the fastest rate of change of output voltage that the amplifier can provide before it runs heavily into high frequency distortion". This is partly the "grainy sound" if there are actually several factors involved all at once or singly to give "grainy sound". You can make a grainy amp "slow" so it sounds smooth, a cheap way of designing. We know what tricks they use & how to overcome it in our upgrades. "Slewing Rate limiting applies essentially to the Power Amplifier section" says HFN/RR, if that's not actually true as we've found. They also go on about 'slow power amp output transistors' which again is nonsense. But it is a 1976 opinion here. They tell how to test Slewing Rate is to test the amp at it's highest rated frequency (20kHz, 100kHz etc) & then to raise the test frequency amplitude (gain, volume) until there is the start of clipping & see how far it goes until heavy clipping. Some may call 'heavy clipping' the Music Power, as in a 50w amp may put out 25v clean sine on 35v HT but can go to 35v with a huge amount of clipping, then it'll trash the amp or as we tried this on a relay amp, the relay cuts out, if your tweeters would be long since fried. To then use a maths formula to work it out. Slewing Rate is therefore related to Music Power as we just described. Pretty useless to know if you want undistorted music. Amps like the 30w 1990s NAD with 'soft clipping' use a limiting circuit to apparently improve the Slewing Rate/Music Power capabilities by not allowing fast transients to 'crash'. 7v/µsec Slewing Rate appears to be a standard value, to work out the Amplifier HT to clean Sine Output is a similar thing, if again useless. Only Rise Time & Settling Time are the ones that matter therefore. We've been improving these Rise & Settling values on our Upgrades, if you'll not upgrade the Slewing Rate without much major redesign, as inincreasing HT with a different mains transformer. Amps we upgrade will increase in Power as more current (I) available, but the Clean Sine Wave voltage (V)is never any different unless the amp has severe limiters. Power (P) = I x V. Watts are Voltage x Current & often tested into a dummy 8 ohm speaker load at 1kHz.


How about Rise Time, Slewing Rate & Settling Time Values By 1980? Pt 1
To look at the last few issues of 1980 to see how the tests read. This is now after the Monster Receiver Wars of 1978-79 & just before it gets boring as the Big Amps vanish to be replaced by Midprice plain silver boxes, often Pre-Power combos in this era as the 1981 Hifi Yearbook review shows on another page of ours. Well that was pointless, by then they are reviewing groups of Speakers, Tuners , Cartridges etc together rather than more randomly as before. to find an Amplifier-Receivers group test. The only 1980 issues of any use about Amplifiers is the Jan 1980 reviewing 8 amps from £80 to £800, sounds a bit unbalanced & the June 1980 with 4 Receivers more similar in type. We've put this into 3 parts as the below gives differing results based on the person doing the test. Gordon King vs Martin Colloms. This is our condensed version of what HFN/RR gives & what we conclude from the tests & their opinions. We know some of the brands, if we've not had any of these amplifiers. Maybe it'll help us try some later ones as we've not got many earlier ones left to try, beyond the big money ones.


How about Rise Time, Slewing Rate & Settling Time Values By 1980? Pt 2
So the Receivers, Gordon King testing rather than the more precise Martin Colloms. The receivers are 50w Marantz SR-4000L £189, 50w JVC RS-7 £203, 60w Yamaha CR-840 £285 & 120w Trio-Kenwood KR-8050 £499. These are a bit alien to us & by 1980 these will have been selling in much smaller amounts so we've not really been aware of them. They look good still in Silver & certainly worth trying if the risk of ICs & Power Amp STK output blocks is the worry, the Yamaha 1980 range we ran screaming from as 'Other Amps' tells. The test results are 1.5 pages of Tuner specs, Power Ratings in dB gain & (Watts), how pretentious, Headroom at 1kHz & IHF (Music Power) bursts is how bad it got in tests & specs, Recovery from 10dB IHF burst overload, Harmonic Distortion, Small Signal Response -3db Aux input, Slewing Factor at 8 ohms, Damping Factor, Input to reach 0dB level (full power), S/N (signal to noise) ratio, Stereo Separation on Phono, DC offset voltage. Some of those specs are pointless. No more Rise Time which matters more we see, Slewing Rate is now Slewing Factor with just a number, assuming "v/µsec" as Wikipedia states. Stereo Separation is a good one, if better to test on the main amp as some amps are very narrow stereo & others are unlimited, if very few amps have that design. Recovery From Burst is similar to Settling Time if "Burst" means whacking it right into distortion. We're not pleased the Rise Time value has gone, it's the Most Important One. But Slew Rate/Factor is >5 (5.3 approx) on Marantz, >5 on JVC, 4 on Yamaha & 5 on Trio-Kenwood. But by 1980 the cost cutting was well established & maybe Rise Time wouldn't be very good, a Slew Factor isn't as punchy as the 1974-76 amps.


How about Rise Time, Slewing Rate & Settling Time Values By 1980? Pt 3
The Amplifiers has a good range & is a Martin Colloms effort. The amount of data MC puts here has to be seen to be believed, what readers thought at the time... they didn't buy many of them as they had their big 1978-79 Receivers still. NAD 3020 20w £80, BGW 103 pre/410 power 200w £730, Exposure III pre/IV power in Mk II versions 70w £750, SAE 3000 pre/3100 power 50w £440, Quad 44 pre/405 power 100w £450, Sony TA-F70 90w £350, Pioneer SA 8800 80w £300, Rogers A100 50w £300. The 10.5 page review is typical Martin Colloms, very in depth but totally alienating to the majority of readers & still not really have an idea of how they sound. Only by raking through the test charts do you find the Watts Power & Prices, many will have given up on after being scared off by too much fact but nothing Subjective (until later) beyond the typical describing features & build. No wonder nobody bought them as little easy to see idea of basic facts given. Interestingly it shows mechanical noise level, some amps can hum if put on a resonant surface like a table or sideboard with Rogers & SAE being quite audible which is not acceptable if the Sony was silent & others very low to fairly low, if not a dB noise rating. Interestingly some have high DC offset Sony & SAE tested 35mV which in use is no problem, only once DC offset gets over 100mV is that unacceptable, 35v DC offset is the amp damaged & speakers fried in comparison, if Capacitor Coupling (pre 1972) & Relays (post 1971) will save yoour speakers as will inline fuses. The Slewing Factor is >7 on NAD, Exposure, SAE, Pioneer & Rogers suggesting a punchy sound, if low values SAE at 1.6, Quad at 2 and Sony at 3.5 suggest they are safe/slow sounding to the point of boring, so Slewing Rate being the only factor does tell to a degree but not as worthy as Rise Time. The Transient Overload on the slow amps is not good, so again that tells, 30µs-100µs is good on NAD, SAE, Pioneer & Rogers, the 0.5ms (500µs) on Exposure & awful 10ms (10000µs) on low frequencies with Quad show they are slow, our opinions on Quad amps as on 'Other Amps' now have facts to prove, current dumping Quad 405 is a bad design as the Intermodulation Distortion ratings are very high compared to the others. Other factors like THD, S/N noise level & frequency range are unimportant, only the S/N on the pre 1970 amps may not be as good as later amps. A 'lost' Subjective section is hurried over with only Phono input rankings which is pretty useless as Phono stages are often mediocre in amps that sound great via Aux as the results show. So via Aux the rankings are NAD, SAE, Pioneer, Rogers, Sony, Quad, Exposure & BGW. The 'fast' amps sound better if the 'slow' amps can often be well crafted amid the slower sound which can please some listeners who find the bigger dynamics sound a bit too overwhelming. The final opinions are the NAD is great value & sounds good as proven by huge sales of these grey beasties, the Quad wasn't liked "the Quad 44/405 combination presents a difficult case best resolved by stressing the unusual versatility of the preamp". The power amp is seen as the weakness, not great for driving 4 ohm speakers for 1980 isn't acceptable, too expensive, bandwidth is not as wide as the others. It's junk made with ICs is why, we've never liked these as 'Other amps' tells. Pioneer & Sony are liked. Some amps like the Rogers are considered "bright" meaning bass is low & mid-treble sound exaggerated. The tests reveal the British Amps aren't in the league of the Japanese ones as in Quad & Exposure, the Rogers being the better, if generally the Japanese amps appear way advanced. In reality we've found Pioneer to be very cost-cut & sadly low spec with a limited & grainy rough sound if they do upgrade to be far better as the designs are good. The 1980 era Sony were safe & boring sounding, the concept of Quad is poor, Rogers were always worthwhile if the transistor era were just budget amps until the A75. NAD were always known as a good sound if the NAD 200 & 300 aren't good. The SAE, Exposure & BGW are unknowns to us, SAE & BGW seem interesting if Exposure sounds poor. As for looks, Quad & Exposure are pre-power ugly things, SAE is a bit too gimmicky, the others look decent if perhaps the silver Pioneer even with blue flashing LEDs has the best 'classic' look.


September 1976 Finally Sees Hifi News/RR Get Modern.
Firstly it's interesting for the front cover, as for the first time it has an attractive female on the cover. Usually it's balding guys with combovers or dull-serious Classical types, but later issues actually feature proper Hifi on the cover, of a Hifi Magazine, if only a few did before. She certainly has an impressive pair of... headphones on & there appears the need to do 3 photos of her expressions. The pretty faced Miss probably only 20 there, if in 1976 means she's now 61, time certainly races on by. We wonder who she is, no name given in the staid cover photo comment or the headphones article. Here's the cover, maybe you recognise her? We know guys of a certain age will remember when women were like her, a nice face to look at from the era of Lynda Carter's 'Wonder Woman'. Scanned ready to print & frame... or cut out & keep. Also it finally brings Subjective Opinions as first started by Martin Colloms if a new writer Paul Messenger introduces 'Subjective Sounds' that's only covering speakers on the first one & the "luvvy" Donald Aldous writes the Editorial as John Crabbe doesn't do much. Donald's column 'Soundings' is amusing mostly for all the 'my colleague' name dropping as said earlier & the fact he can write a whole page without really saying anything.


Technics SL 1200, SL 1300, SL 1400 & SL 1500.
By Sept 1976 these have been available for a while, if no shop ever prices them & neither does the Hifi Yearbook. But a shop 'Radford hifi' does, if they're unrelated to the Radford brand & a bit of fuss HFN/RR wise tried to get the shop to change it's name. The Technics Record Decks are priced at SL-1500 £105, SL-1400 £133, SL-1300 £168, SL-1200 £124 & SL-1100 at £173. The 1976 HFYB lists 1300 as a direct drive automatic, it's the same look at the 1500 with start & end automatic features. SL-1100 is a direct drive early version available as SL-110 without an arm, 1200 is the DJ's favourite as it's a smaller sized unit & has sliders for speed adjust, actually first released in 1972, SL-120 is armless & SL-1210 is in black with multivoltage. The 1500 is the one we have as mentioned on the Turntables page. 1400 is a semi automatic with a line of controls on the front edge. 1500 comes in Mk I & revised Mk II as well as an armless SL-150 to fit a SME arm in, if you want the slanted gap base plate not the vertical one. To see more on these, see 'Vinyl Engine' site as the HFYB doesn't give much or pictures. We had an early SL-2000 that's a 1976-77 like the SL-1500 but it's a cheaper version, ours was faulty as the speed controller IC wouldn't work right. There are lots more Technics turntables, the SP10 being the 1970 introduced professional version that got 3 versions & an external power supply.


Why the Akai AA-1020 gets a poor review: Settling Time issues
To look at these factors in the reviews, to see what the waveforms show. The Akai AA1020 20w receiver is the next one down to the AA1030 we've had. Our review thought it "
Adequate silver fronted amp that could upgrade up well, but it was just nothing special at all but certainly not bad either & well enough made, not just a one board job." August 1976 HFN/RR reviews it. The Rise Time (small signal) is 2µsec "Unnecessarily fast" they add. Settling time is 50µsec which is very slow "Protracted and excessive ringing" they say. Slewing rate 6.5µsec "Good for power output" But the waveforms are terrible, it's like an undamped trampoline with huge ~~ waveform slowly fading, instead of a clean rise, compare to the Settling Times above. Slow settling rate together with fast rise time & slew rate is therefore a basdly Damped Amp if the Damping Factor doesn't reveal this with a 57 to 44 rating at 40Hz & 20kHz. To us, it shows the amp is of typically low spec & this amp will sound grainy on hearing one now. It's too cost-cut to offer a AM/FM 20w receiver for £154 in 1976, if there are cheaper ones. To look at the AA1020 circuits which we only looked at a few weeks before as we were asked if it was worth upgrading, the answer is it's a Budget-Midprice Quality unit that would upgrade better but at 20w you'd be better buying at least a 40w for the benefits. The design we'd consider decent, a lively design as is proven by the specs, it'll sound fresh & lively, but clearly it's lacking to have it be ringing so badly. Overall the circuit is fine, bass won't go to deep but as with other amps of the era, the 'finesse' of earlier amps is noticeably lacking & be sure they use ceramic capacitors which are useless for Audio. This cheaping out in a few areas spoils what should be a good amp. This is what we Upgrade. The AA-1020 would upgrade well, if again just 20w limits it. They cost cut it too heavily, as Pioneer do. Quality designs with not enough quality parts is the problem.

Really? The Sansui 9090 Receiver "One Of The Finest In The World"?
Our Verdict: No It Isn't, Not Even Slightly. HFN/RR Oct 1976 adds a Supplement about making various Hifi systems from Hifi separates, a very belated thing to be doing & by now the "What Hi-Fi" effect is certainly wising up this often dull magazine. The 9090 was one of the big Silver Monster receivers that until a few years ago, pre 2011 when we started our Hifi site perhaps, was all that Vintage Hifi meant. Now the writer Angus McKenzie, MBE you can read about in a Stereophile article, he created Olympic Studios if was blind by 1959 when 26 & he's a long running regular in HFN for his 'Stereo/FM Radio' section that is a very specialist page, but the guy knows his stuff. How many amps has he measured? He says 100 if this will be Receivers as FM radio is his bag & at the time a FM Receiver was a bigger seller than the Amplifier-only versions. We'd need to see how far back his reviews go to see what era he knows as "the last few years" doesn't suggest by 1976 he knows much earlier than say 1972. In 1966 A.H. Uden did the 'Radio' page & Angus started "Hi-Fi Choice" in July 1983 by later numbering if he started writing in the "Early boom years of the 1970s" which will have been 1972-73. So the guy only knows the post Capacitor Coupled era, doesn't know valves. To see where he's coming from to make such a claim. One who knows the 1963 valve era to Modern Hifi will have a broader view than one who will have known Hifi pre 1972, but not gone so indepth until c.1972. But we have found the quality in Hifi is heavily on the wane past 1970 if there still are decent ones. We did look at the 9090 on the 'Other amps' page if what we put we'll revisit... Oh dear, it's got useless ICs in the Phono & Preamp. 9090 & 9090DB are the same amp, DB version adds Dolby as did some Akai of the era. "
Flat Amp-pre Tone board F2543 has 1x BA312; another Tone board F2544 has 2x BA312; Equaliser (Phono) has 2x BA312 as well as 5 more in the Tuner circuit is not so bad." To put aside the deadly ICs to see what the design has to be able to tell it's sound. We did have the 1979 Sansui G8700 that was generally good but very low on the bass & still a bit too cost cut with a messy power amp stage, if the 1969-71 power amp stages were similarly too small to do neatly. It is depressing to see ICs in a preamp of a Top Range 120w receiver, there is no need to cheap out, but that's the deal here. The power amp board at 120w is a plug-in type board with both L+R plus 4 fuses in total. The power amp board circuit brings sighs as we look at it. Bass light with a high resistor on the input isn't a good start, typical differential pair, main driver, bias-protection, PP drivers to the typical doubled output transistors. The small power amp board certainly has weaknesses & not much space to upgrade so probably isn't one we'd try for our own ways to see how far it could go, even if it didn't have the preamp ICs. Some of the IC boards design is ghastly & appears very tailored to initially sound pleasing but to one who looks at amps from an upgrade perspective, the Sansui 9090 is a real stinker. It'll sound nice, not too involving, no real kick or excitement to the music if it'll sound smooth but ultimately boring, the design signs are obvious to us. The 1979 Sansui G8700 was similarly safe sounding, nice sounding but it'll not excite you & bass has no chance of flapping your speaker cones. Not wanting to totally rubbish another's learned opinion, but to give such praise to the 9090 from one who has only tried post 1972 writing in 1976 it probably does sound great, but with zero awareness of Valves & The Early Transistor amps, his opinion is rather a limited one. It's not one we'd even consider to upgrade & 'max out' to see how good it'd be as the ICs ruin it. The rest could probably upgrade pretty well if it would need to be a compromise. It's an attractive Monster Receiver with black tuner dial & a sensible layout that isn't too cluttered. It certainly has Man Appeal for being a 'proper piece of kit' but now you've read this far, the innards are compromised. What a pity, we do look hard for good later amps & would like to praise one, but as the tone of 'Other Amps' page shows, we're just not really finding them. 'Yet' hopefully.

October 2017 Blog

Elliptical vs Conical Stylus On The Goldring G-800 plus Goldring Elektra.
We have compared this before & found the Conical slightly less detailed as above tells, if to compare again after playing an early 1950s USA Mono 45 the sound was more together. A UK Stateside 1963 copy of Martha & The Vandellas 'Heatwave' on SS 288 is very well mastered from the Mastertapes, not a rough sound like Marvin Gaye 'Can I Get A Witness' on SS 243 is. Recording 'Heatwave' intro onto the computer shows the Elliptical is 2db down on the Conical if the stylus cantilever is the same. Adding 2dB gain to make them the same volume, you'd expect the Conical to be less crisp on the treble, but not so, the sound is more upfront sound, focus appears stronger. The Elliptical sounds a little looser with focus less balanced, but is that an illusion from the conical being too upfront? Still got the Goldring Elektra, it sounds better for the valve Phono preamp changes, if it does sound less dynamic than the G-800 on either stylus. So to record 'Heatwave' & compare once normalised to 0dB. After playing the 3 versions together, the G800E is preferred as detail is better. G800 conical is a bit harsh on the treble as the groove detail isn't read. Elektra with an elliptical stylus is less detailed on high treble by probably 3db estimating by ear if maybe it's more neutral as the midrange sounds good? The waveforms on an early treble patch of the track are telling, see here for the image if putting a MP3 will just be compressed, the waveforms are real to see. The G800 conical is noticeably different as it misses detail & adds treble distortion, no good in reality. Which one of the G-800E & Elektra is the most accurate is less easy to tell from the waveforms. Play the Elektra first after 10 minutes typing this, it's acceptable but not the most lively sounding. The G-800E has the fine crisp detail that we've not heard from the SS 288 record before. The G-800E is preferred as it gives low distortion as compared conical to elliptical & has better crisp focus than the rather dull Elektra. The Elektra can sound rough on some Phono stages as it lacks the crispness. There you can see how misleading first impressions of Hifi Sound can be without reasoning & testing behind it. The neutral & detailed sound always wins out, the dull one can sound rough & the over-bright one becomes tiring. The dull Elektra as found on other Phono stages hides a midrange roughness that our valves can resolve better but it's still found to be dull as a design feature to try to lessen a more limited sound on transistor preamps that aren't as high resolution as valves can be. But any cartridge can sound rough on an average transistor Phono stage, we first tried our 301/SME/Roksan on a Trio receiver & it sounded worse than the Elektra which suited it better. Horses for Courses perhaps, but the fact a 1968 Cartridge buyable for £20 used plus a £15 elliptical 'unbranded' stylus can sound so good is great to find, the new Roksan Corus Silver we find is £400. The 301/SME/Roksan we tried on our Luxman Phono stage & it would need a different design on the EQ section as too midrangey with different capacitive loading needs. On a different preamp the Roksan combo gives a subtly smoother more focused sound than the G-800E but in reality it's not far off. The G800 to Roksan Corus will have different specs in inductance, internal resistance & capacitor loading needs, but to find these specs appears hard on the G800. To find a Goldring G-800SE April 1969 review shows the response dips 1dB between 1kHz & 10kHz if over 10kHz back to 0dB with a peak around 17kHz. This is probably where the Roksan is heard to be midrangey for the phono stage designed by ear to suit the G800. Nothing in Hifi is perfectly level response & it shows how items can be matched to a 'perfection' by fine tuning. As the above shows we designed our Phono to RIAA test tracks from a record & then made it suit Vintage Vinyl to what we consider as sounding right.


1976 Electrical Safety Regulations On Hifi.
This was supposed to tidy up sloppy design regarding Live Mains & High Voltages to make things safer for the user from Kids to any Average Joe who used them. It's the reason why mains plugs have the plastic bit on the 2 smaller prongs, Live & Neutral, to stop fingers touching the pins whilst still connected. The typist knows that one unplugging the Xmas Tree lights & getting their first taste of Electricity, some older properties still had unfused round pin plugs & that was one. Some electronics past 1976 still have awful designs like one tape deck with mains going in thin board mounted links exactly where you'd pick it up with the lid off. Others seen from 1975 with clumsy fuses soldered but onto wrap wires sticking right up so easy to be touched with the lid off & even a 1971 Marantz with a line of fuses poorly fitted officially so they were right on the easy-to-touch area, we put fuse covers over as ridiculous & too easy to touch. The 1976 regulations tried to get the 'Double Insulated' idea which is little more than the item not being able to have a live case, such as a hairdryer, if some Hifi is with the Double Insulated 'Class II' square symbol under the idea no fault can cause the case to become Live as it's isolated, see Wikipedia for more. Live parts must have basic insulation & another layer of insulation between the Live part & any exposed metal casing. Some amps we've seen with Mains Fuse holders with the uncovered metal part 1cm away from the metal casing & no Mains Earth. The old Japanese-USA type cables with 2-core cable with just one layer of insulation were outlawed, if in reality these continued on Imports, the 1979 Sansui G-8700 we had to Service just had one of these 'skinny' cables & no earth on a 160w amp, we advised they get it rewired properly. This is why we rewire most amps with 3 core mains if there is a stray "floating" voltage, because today with few using Record Players, there is no ground connection & be sure TV-Visual gear has this floating voltage, as in Meter to Ground to the Case often shows 80v-160v stray voltage. It's isolated from the mains by the transformer, so isn't Live but can give a minor shock & cause other problems. On modern gear you will find plastic 'boots' on the back of switches inside the unit, this is a later Regulation. some amps only had a layer of card between mains switch terminals & bare casework. Many of these things are hidden away under casing with 'Do Not Remove' warnings, if inside some amps, the designs can be poor so leave mains parts too easy to touch. Even the 2007 DVD player has a mains fuse & Live parts, no insulator over the fuse if there is no lid gap to even poke a knitting needle in as was a popular hobby for some. A Workshop in a Commercial Premises would have a Mains Isolator, so if you touched a live 1970s TV Chassis you'd not get a shock. You at home can risk touching mains.


Rebuild Ratings on the Hifi Reviews Pages.
This is worth adding to give readers a better idea of what's involved in rebuilding, recapping & upgrading amps as we've done the work on them. It's fine people thinking the Sony TA-1120(A) & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 are the best amplifiers & ignoring the receivers, but these are major rebuilds as so much to do to do it right. The TA-1120A is easier, but a TA-1120 is one of the biggest rebuilds. So to add a brief idea, worded to say "It's gonna be expensive" or more a typical job. We get customers buying an amp & wanting it upgraded, this gives an idea of what to expect.


What Is The "Tape Head" Input On 1965-69 Transistor Amplifiers?
A short-lived idea was to take an output from an Open Reel Tape Machine direct from the Tape Head, so you didn't need to buy a Tape Player with amplifying electronics in. The output level is basically the same level as a MM Phono Cartridge & the Tape Head amplifier is part of the Phono Stage with a different 'NAB' or 'IEQ' spec equalisation. The only trouble with this is the Tape Machine won't be able to record as no Bias Circuit for the tape recording requirements, so by 1968-69 the Tape Head input became obsolete as the Tape Machines added the full circuitry to give a Line Level output. Line level is CD, Cassette, TV or any other Digital player output including a modern DAC. The Sony STR-6120 early version had a Tape Head input, if by 1970 it was obsolete, so instead the 'Aux 3' version has an extra line level input.


What are DIN Socket Inputs-Outputs On Amplifiers For?
On a vintage amplifier 'Line Level' is Aux, Tuner or Tape Input. But not DIN input as that is to a different spec again. The DIN inputs & outputs are often much lower for an early 1970s cassette idea & aren't compatible. The Hacker GAR 550 record player from 1970 we had in the late 1980s & the DIN socket was fine for the early Top Loader Cassette Decks that were old fashioned by then, if buying a new one, the DIN socket output was too low. It goes through a 100k ohm resistor as typical which will just limit the dynamics similar to Amps that put Aux through a big resistor into the Phono stage. DIN for a Phono input is the regular level, DIN for Tape only suits the early spec of Tape Players. If the Amp has Phono sockets for Tape as the better ones do, this is Line Level Input & Output. DIN sockets for speakers are the standard level, if to be careful using old cables that may be faulty, only use new ones you can still buy. Old ones were often home made or with screw connectors that could be badly done or aged & can short out the amplifier damaging it. DIN sockets on Speaker Outputs are usually found up to 40w, if the skinny cable really isn't thick enough, explaining why DIN speaker amps aren't popular in the UK, if Bang & Olufsen use DIN on nearly all amps.


Classic Vintage Amps Are Getting Very Old Now.
A little obvious as the years pass by, but the fact the Amplifiers that we rate, especially the 1960s ones, are turning up very aged looking. We just got an early 'Tape Head' Sony STR-6120 to rebuild. Bought from a USA auction the fascia & wood case are like new but the amp itself is rather tired looking with old repairs & leaking capacitor mess. The early 6120 chassis wasn't plated like the 'Aux 3' one so it can get corroded. This one was built into a console of some sort with the base plate but the top lid was unwisely left in the original box with the wood case explaining their high grade. By the cobwebs underneath & corrosion probably long stored in a damp outhouse if the fascia is unmarked, not sure how the grades differ unless someone has swapped chassis & kept a high grade one. The top lid being missing on receiving it if strangely a minty lid was findable & likely the one that came with it but got forgotten, or not realising the metal lid goes inside the wood case as standard. Aged corroded metal, worn out capacitors, old repairs never done very well & a 'graveyard' looking amp, yet the seller put a YouTube video of it playing, if clearly they had no idea of what needs doing so moved it on fast. At least we know the Tuner works & the amp does too, but we'd never plug it in looking that far gone. But this is how non Tech people treat old amps, unaware they could damage them by just plugging a 49 year old amp in. The early 6120s are always way past their best. We had two of the wonderful 1966 Akai AA7000 receiver, both were in awful condition inside, one fairly sold as 'not working' as a resistor smoked so they wisely left it after unwisely plugging it in. The second was said to be working, a total lie as transistor legs rusted away & idiot unsoldered transformer wires that we only redid knowing the other one here at the same time. These 1960s amps often have long been stored in attics or damp places & are very aged inside. Like 'Barn Find' cars, they need a lot of work to bring back to life. They were used maybe only a few years & for the "New Is Better" hype that continued into the 1990s in Hifi, the 'better' was stored away unawares until life brings these items out again, usually deceased estate clearances. Some old amps are often filthy inside from open grilles & 40-50 years of dirt we've seen on a JVC as a thick grey blanket of muck, like your Vacuum Cleaner bag contains. It gets damp so the muck gets moist so sticks to the insides. Extreme cleaning needed if we're not putting how here for safety as people will do that unawares. Like any forgotten finds in Hifi, Cars, Furniture, Records, Coins & Books ageing of things can seriously deteriorate the item. Not all Hifi is restorable if in rough grade. Some 'dead' looking items can restore up well, depends on your skills & determionation. Ebay sometimes shows ancient valve items that are often too far gone, but may be useful for spares.


Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable Review From October 1976.
As HFN/RR gets modern for the 'What Hi-Fi' threat, it at last brings the group tests where amps are requested, bought in or borrowed to test them. Before this HFN/RR only used to review what a Manufacturer sent to be reviewed & ideas that "well tested & chosen" items were submitted for test & moans that big sellers like Leak transistor amps got no reviews under the basis of 'we're already selling enough...'. The Linn Sondek LP12 is a famous turntable where few are. Infamous perhaps, but it's only for 33.3rpm use which is no good to us as 'select45rpm'. We do mention it earlier on this page as the Ariston RD11 is very similar as designed by the same person, Hamish Robertson. It's a good looking design that stayed in production since 1973 if today it's a Linn Klimax LP12 with many variants in between in that cynical Linn-Naim way. The review by Frank Jones may delight Linn Haters as it complains how ridiculously awkward it is to set up out of the box. LP12 is belt drive from a 24-pole brushless motor with a servo to regulate speed & is locked to the mains supply frequency, as is the Garrard 301 needing 60Hz spindles for the right speed. Heavily made with a quality finish that'll pick up fingermarks easily though. It's got decoupling springs, which is obsolete when a 301 can be fitted on a heavy ply plinth with sorbothane feet. Springs are a pain as the damping ages & one collector we knew used a Thorens that wobbled around alarmingly, sold by a Vintage Hifi Shop probably telling them it was normal. A lot of work to Assemble the LP12 sounds a poor deal on the buyer, if dealers usually set things up. after assembly & adjustment is needed too to make the platter ride at the right height by adjusting a screw so it doesn't scrape on the plinth. What a nightmare, not acceptable & likely it was improved after a bad review like that that says there are no instructions to tell you about adjusting, bizarre. Possible to still scrape the plinth even after setting up, poor design with hopeless & needless springs. Springs damp the sound of the music too, just like the lousy 'soup strainer' SME black holed headshell. It appears to bounce around in using the controls too. The reviewer is trying hard to not say it's rubbish as the sound is affected by poor design, a lack of rigidity is where Turntables, arms & Cartridges lose quality of sound. Nut then the reviewer says despite the suspension issues it can be thoroughly recommended, really? Later the fact LP12 is only one speed is seen as a cheap out to bother building a 2 or 3 speed changer. To prove that's not true, the closing line in testing 2 other turntables is this: "Personally I can see no reason for opting for the Linn unless the styling and very conservative engineering approach appeal to you", as in wear that hair shirt if it makes you feel good. The Fons CQ30 is the recommended one if the looks are not so modern, a bit 1960s Dual looking, it plays 30rpm to 100rpm via three push buttons & adjusters, with 50Hz or 60Hz not affecting use. The LP12 sounds poor value when the LP12 with Grace G-707 arm is £160 complete & the far more versatile and better sounding Fons is £144 with an SME arm. The Grace arm looks like a 1950s skinny rod thing, yet it used to be raved about.... by those too cheap to buy an SME.


Restoring Vintage Turntables - Is It Worth It?
As with any Quality Vintage Hifi, 'it depends' is really the only rough idea here. we got asked about a 1973 Philips GA-212 turntable, a belt drive unit with electronics for the speed regulation, seems a fad idea trying to be halfway between a Direct Drive & a typical Motor & Belt or Motor & Pulley design. Beware Forums as every bit of Vintage greatness or junk will have someone raving about it as they paid $10 for one in a Thrift Store. This one had a loose arm we were told, we don't know the turntable & unless it's screws or bolts loose, it could be broken. Broken means 'no good' as you'll not find parts unless getting a parts machine to cobble one good one from, if risking needing 3 or 4 to make one good. For Philips only being a General Audio quality company despite their "Simply Years Ahead" they are just every day gear. For us to get a midprice turntable to work on has no appeal, time again proven with these with CD to Tape to more tried before that it's wasted effort & not good for the customer. To fairly say sell it on ebay for spares-repairs & go buy a working one & probably get a working one for your selling amount plus £50-£100 is better than spending £200+ on a rebuild only to find out it's not reliable on the electronics as we found with a cheaper Technics SL-2000 from 1975 mentioned just above. Again it's back to us turning down general quality gear, getting a reliable item is often more trouble than it's worth & not worth spending on. But if you have Quality, which means no Belt Drive turntables even if Linn think that's quality, then quality is worth spending on. Look on ebay to see what a Turntable sells for in good condition, if it's under £100 it's not worth bothering with, but with Technics SL-1500 at around £150 these days, this seems to be a good start idea with some 'Classics' going £500-£1000+. Even then you may need rare parts from a spares unit or to buy remade parts as is possible. Just don't bother spending fixing up budget-midprice gear.

Buying A New DVD Player Isn't Quite So Simple
Continuing from the Sept blog about the DVD that finally got binned mid October, what to do to get a DVD player? You want HDMI, 1080p upscaling & a Digital or even better Line Level Audio Outputs. The first two are standard, but the Sound on even a £50 player, very cheap if ones for £27 are on Amazon. We had a Multiregion Sony DVD player got in about 2007 for £50 new & it had Phono socket Audio Outputs. Very cheaply made thing, is it worth getting one so cheap? Never push the DVD drawer on cheap players, always use the Remote as they are so weakly made inside. The picture quality wasn't as good as the Panasonic DVD, if better than expected but it felt cheap in use with feeble GUI on screen. We'll need to research better what there is, but that's the thing today, dirt cheap for poor quality is the normal & we do not like cheapness in anything. Bargains are great, but cheap goods are a waste of money, always go for at least midprice unless you have the cash for the top range gear. Not an item worth buying used either as be sure it'll be on it's last legs ready to fail. On Amazon £169-£199 is the higher price range, but you can get a DVD-HDD recorder for only £100 more. Multiregion players shows no-one cares about DVD regions which is good & how it should be. A 2012 year Sony DVPSR760H one has Phono outputs for Audio at £64, weighs 1.4kg in the box tells how flimsy it'll be. A 500GB Panasonic DVD-HDD recorder is £269, if a HDD recorder player by Panasonic is as low as £120, a PVR with no DVD player. We'll stay away from Panasonic as the quality ain't what it used to be 1990s-2000s. We got a LG TV a few years back, not the greatest one but with careful adjusting the picture is way beyond what you'd think. Maybe LG is a better choice for a DVD player.

Now Bought A DVD Player in 2017.
In the end we get an LG DP542H DVD player with 1080p upscaling & Phono Outputs for sound for a modest £45 delivered from Amazon as the spec was better than the Sony & the weight of it better at 1.7kg. Says it's Multiregion. We'll use it for a while & then seeing it's OK to see what can be upgraded to keep it going, if the TV had decent quality electronics we found. No point buying a DVD-HDD recorder as no use for it & it's all there is out there. Our LG TV bought in 2012 was good value despite the plastic sheet behind the light bars getting smelly, so we wallpapered the metal casing & painted it white to have the correct brightness so no plastic smell now. Inventive is us. You can see Brand Loyalty there as with us trusting Panasonic from the early 1990s VHS days to 2006, if we'd not buy their stuff again. It arrives, small box, what's that but seller's address tells. Titchy thing. Now we're used to getting quality things as the Amps we like were expensive in their day, so to get Modern £45 delivered DVD player is a bit like going buying 2p sweets (if they exist still). Weeny thing with a slim drawer, 360mm x 200mm x 42mm high. A fixed mains cable at least, instead of another annoying plug-top box, Phono sockets for RGB + audio as per older & scart compatible connectors, Coaxial out by Phono for Audio, if not Optical, plus L+R at Line Level plus the expected HDMI. 9w power consumption & 3 '+' head screws to hold the lid on. Front has a USB socket & basic controls. USB cable included shows LG are making an effort to please users as with old style Video outputs, for the price it's pretty good so far. Remote is small but of a better quality than the cheapo Sony one we had, it'll not embarrass you & has 2x AAA batteries included. Register Online or by Phone for a Guarantee if it's a typical 1 year one & be sure you'll be spammed forever. The reason for the cheap price becomes obvious, the paranoia of today means people want Warranties & Protecting, the cost to "protect" your £45 DVD player gets 3 years' Protection for £68, if it covers ones to £500. Be sure there are those who'll pay it too. The 3 years includes the Free 1 year plus £68 for 2 years extra which is even more daft. The first TV we bought in 1986, a Salora one got a 3 year warranty said "to be a good idea" & guess when it got it's first fault... 3 years & 1 month later the Teletext module naffed costing about £80 back then. Be sure manufacturers know it'll last 3 years if it's fine for the first Month let alone a Year. Only a Fool buys a Warranty on anything. Picture quality seems decent if only watching will confirm. 'Set Up' on the Menu does certain things if they don't tell you what they are, so "DRC" is On by default but that's Dynamic Range Compression for Cheap Stereos & "Vocal" is likely Vocal enhancement EQ at around 2kHz again for non Hifi use, also On by default. How anyone would easily understand the settings is a mystery, but be sure at £45 few will even look. But realistically this is the market of today, so for the advances in digital tech of today, why should it be more than £45, if only watching & listening will reveal more. Verdict after playing is the Sound is as good as any Digital source. Picture takes a little TV adjusting to the 11 year old one. Then you see it has "Resolution" button which selects Upscaling levels, 576 original, 720 & 1080 with either "p" or "i" settings, meaning Progressive (True HD) or Interlaced. We found on a 1980s 'The Bill' DVD that 1080 is too blurred with unnatural picture movements as in it almost seemed to distort the image as the upscaling was too slow, so 576 was preferred as it was less filtered & looked the most realistic in use. The picture does appear too noise-reduced in all settings, people's hair lacks definition up close & there is no setting to alter this. Overall it's decent enough picture wise, colours these days are standard as is sound via Line Level outputs, but a bit too soft, watching the same episode initally as last watched on the old player which was set with noise reduction not full to have noticed the difference, here noise reduction is 'max'. For the money, it's good enough for most users, but we noticed the 1080 upscaling was poor to the point of distracting so can tell a good picture even on 30 year old TV show from DVD. Maybe there are codes to get 'inside' it to alter this. On looking at HDMI AV2 input on the TV which you can set by Input on most TVs, to turn off all Noise Reduction & Digital Noise Reduction makes the 576 version a lot better & now we'd say the picture betters the 2006 DVD-HDD recorder. It's all in the Settings. To get the full User Manual of 24 pages you need to download it online, as seems the way these days, a 24 page booklet too expensive apparently. BLE is 'Black Level Expansion' if it doesn't seem to do much. After watching regular TiVo recordings, the DVD looks very unrealistic in picture colour even with Sharpness set to the AV1 setting & Noise Reductions off. To use the TV settings to lose the greenness of the picture helps, but this is advanced setting skills to know how a picture should look good, or at least it's best. The user of this DVD player as 'out of the box' will have by default poor unrealistic sound to sound too midrangey & compressed & poor unrealistic picture quality especially if using the poor 1080p upsampling together with poor colour balance. But that's why it's £45 so 'average user' goes to buy something better, or so they think. So by some years-learnt skills in Picture & Sound you can make it into a far better picture & sound, but most will never even realise. Read on...


Fake Enhanced Picture And Fake Enhanced Sound Of Today.
But that's not the full story, continuing from the DVD review above, to see how the same show we watched looks like "raw" on the Computer with no 'Improvements' that TVs & DVD players show. It's not very sharp, the colour isn't too strong & the 'Part 2' idents on "The Bill" which are dark & sharp on the DVD-TV are far from that here. So a 42" TV has a lot of picture processing to look good, we've put our custom settings in & the LG DVD clearly does a lot to give sharp edges, deep contrast with noise reduction. We did notice this 'effect' with restoring picture balance on old cartoons & what looked right on the Computer could be too dark & over-contrasted on a TV, even the old 36" CRT one. As with Sound as any Soundcard reveals, you can add an exciter 'Crystalise' to fill out dull sounds, add Bass, Graphic EQ & mess around with Multi Channel sound from Mono which all sounds awful to us. You can mess around with Poor Picture sources & Poor Sound to get better than you could 10 years ago. We've got decent sound from whisper quiet Cartoon soundtracks hidden deeply in a Sea of Hiss which is not easy as all the harsh 'Restorations' of 78s on CDs prove. Even the Disney Early Cartoon DVDs a few years back we found their sound was lousy so did our own Restorations, instead of their hissy muffly quality. The Audio Source you hear today is a lot more straightforward from Digital Sources as so much development money has been spent on Computers, TV, CD, DVD etc so why bother with a CD player & transport, if some still believe that older stuff is better which it's not anymore. You'll only get the Sound the CD mastering gives & often CDs are so bad sounding, we don't play music from Commercial CDs as the sound isn't real, only Vinyl is on pre-CD era music. But getting Top Sound from Vinyl, as you'll hear on YouTube is generally awful with their 'Stereo' giving ghastly EQ via cheap IC op-amps & no Mono button. The idea of Multichannel is pointless to us, as in 1971-77 ideas of Quadraphonic, you sit in front of Live Music, not amid it, so any Quad 4 channel. or modern 5.1, 7.1 etc is just fake as you don't sit amid whatever the sound is. But it gets you buying loads of speakers & those huge unreliable AV-Receivers stuffed with ICs & worthless on ebay once they fail.


There Are Still 1960s Sounding Amps As Late As 1978.
Yes, you read that right. We'd love to be able to say lots of late 1970s-onward amps are great, but most we've heard are uninteresting & lifeless compared to the best we've found. The late 1970s amps in general are more Musical than early 1980s IC jobs, by 1978 generally the Old Quality had gone. So a casual buy of a NAD 3030 30w silver fronted amp surprised us with a great fresh open sound with wide Stereo. See the Reviews page for more. But there are two others in the range: NAD 3060 is 60w & NAD 3080 is 90w. Are they any good? Never seen them to even have got the Manuals. The NAD 3030 is Silver & later Black fronted, maybe the others were Black only? A NAD 3080 on ebay in black for £330 is actually the dark grey gunmetal colour as the 1976 Technics was & it may have hidden them as it looks more 1985 style. That sale has an old review that says much as we do on the 3030, but often the later amps sound sweeter on 30w than 90w. The NAD 3030 is on ebay with several in either silver or grey so not so rare, just ignored & unknown by the prices. But the NAD 3080 doesn't please us... the Phono & Tone-Pre has typical overdesign of the era, fixed Bias on the power amp you'd think, but actually the manual shows to read values & solder in different resistors which is an odd one. But the killer is an IC on the power amp first stage, plus related zeners which are lazy design. A CA3100 early 'can' type IC like in Tuner stages is a long-obsolete op-amp, says HA2525 is a substitute. Don't like op-amps for audio so sadly NAD 3080 is a "no" to us which is a pity, but this is typical by this era. NAD 3080 works on ±50v which seems modest for 90w when 45w Sansui 3000A from 1967 works on ±45v. The Slew Rate is wrongly put as "40v/NSec" which is a typo of µsec, 40v seems unlikely too with 50v supply, the NAD 3030 gives 15v/µsec which is already very fast if it sounds it. The NAD 3030 is a throwback to better designs, probably why it still has Semi Complimentary outputs. No manuals findable on the NAD 3060 so whether it's got the overdesign & ICs is unknown.


Speaker Placement: Ignore The Old Ideas.
In older speakers such a Tannoy & others, there are Corner Speakers. Are these any good? The cabinets will be a different design & the internal volume won't be as big as a typical Tannoy Gold Lancaster cabinet. There were no Corner Speakers made in the 1970s by Tannoy showing it's an old idea from the Mono era where just one speaker being used, to put in the corner would be often done. The old fashioned Hugh Brittain idea of "Stereo Seat" to us is useless, so we'd advise with bigger speakers put them flat to the wall with no toe-in & have them firing down the room. this gives far better Stereo than the awful idea of a "sweet spot" where the Stereo image would get closer to a point & then be apparently incorrect beyond that. A Stereo mess & why this idea still continues is because nobody thinks how poor an idea it is. Personally we've never toed-in speakers since the 1980s on realising it was pointless & looked messy.
For smaller speakers that can't really fill the room with sound, to site them on stands to be the right height in a seated position with the treble driver height a little lower than in-line with your ear height. To have the speaker actually pointing at you, rather than just put somewhere that's easiest. Bad ideas like fitting speakers in the ceiling or mounting high up on speaker brackets not even tilted down like PA systems in a Disco etc would do show how little thought goes into speaker placing. You see on TV shows they have a tiny micro stereo & the speakers are 2ft apart high up on the shelf, being little better than a portable. This is only TV & the systems are never used, but as with putting Flat Screen TVs high above a fireplace so your neck is always looking up & then these unthinkers wonder why their neck aches. TV should be at a height that is visually central when sitting down, no neck bending & probably why TV stands of earlier years were just that height from early 1950s TVs to the CRT TVs that needed a strong stand, but today the Flat Screen comes with wall brackets so it's put anywhere. Look on any House Selling site & see the TV today is usually put way too high up.

Can We Restore Amplifier Casework & Fascias That Are Scratched or Rusty?
You'll have seen TV shows like "Rick's Restorations" who can recreate artwork & only the Ted guy does it properly. He takes a tracing of the artwork on paper plus photos, if to photo or scan parts will be a more modern way. Previously they used to get it wrong as with the Toy Train in an early series & the bad idea of stretching a Font to fill out, instead of looking for a Narrow Font to do it properly. If an Amplifier fascia is scratched then your only options are to put up with it with a bit of tidying or paint to hide it, go buy a spares amp to get a better fascia, or to recreate one as mentioned above. Fill & paint the fascia & apply the lettering to look as near original. A big job & who will make the lettering is the problem. We saw a 1970s Technics amp recently on ebay that would have had the dark brown-grey fascia, but the person polished the anodised colouring off & made it shiny aluminium. Some fascias have embossed lettering which could make this easier, but here it was printed so clumsy added lettering in those rub-down transfers made it look truly awful. Scratched & Rusty casework maybe is easier as it'll be more plain, lids can be repainted or powder coated, to use Paint Stripper not sandblasting as the metal is thin. But unless you match the colour & do it to a high standard, a blotchy streaky paint can job will just look rubbish. The back panels with lots of text need recreating & will never look good unless done properly. The idea really is do not bother buying rough cased gear, buy a higher grade one in the first place. If you can only get a scratched fascia rusty amp then if it was fully rebuilt inside & sounding wonderful, it'll still look rough & you'll have wasted your money on it as the looks will put 95% of buyers off. Wood cases can be refinished & vinyl wrap can be reveneered in wood to look better, but to keep original looking. We're at a time in Hifi History where Good Amps are rarely broken up for spares as the amps themselves make better prices. To buy carefully in the first place if looks matter. We had a 1986 Pioneer C90/M90 pair in scratchy grade with a front flap missing. Used by idiots to do that to expensive gear & the owner got it in a storage unit type auction & used it for a while without having it checked until it failed. It could have been repaired with a lot of work & cost, but it'd still be tatty. So we just sold it on for them as it stood & the optimist dealer who bought it never offered it for sale as repaired. If you want High Grade Hifi, buy it like that to start with. Bad Grade insides don't matter unless badly burnt or broken, they can be tidied, but the outsides will only be what they are.


Amplifier Comparing: Slew Rate & Sound Opinions Plus What to Sell Next?
To use early 80s Rock and 60s Ska are the best test styles for Dynamics & punch plus Ska for the Dense sound that not many amps can focus. In playing a Spectral DMC-30 pre & DMC-90 power amp, to try a few amps in comparision. The Spectral as the Reviews page reveals was very accurate but needed Bass Gain & slight Treble cut on the Computer Soundcard. A 100w pre-power combo, it is as-original if serviced improved it a lot. We didn't think it was as fast sounding as the NAD 3030 as reviewed & in the '1978' section just above. Then onto the Sansui AU-G90X that's up for sale if it's clearly an unknown & you don't know what you're getting, if plenty we've written. The Slew rate is massive on this amp, to the point of being intimidating on headphones as Dynamics so huge, it'd suit a big room is the idea. Spectral, with some Bass Gain & Sansui are certainly great amps up there with the best of their era. But to try the 70w Yamaha CR-1000 that we've upgraded a lot to get the best out of it. Here the sound is more of the sound we like, that sort of sound the NAD 3030 has, more effortless, more friendly & scores high on Musicality which is the only purpose of Hifi really, if understanding it takes a lot of amp comparing. The CR-1000 as upgraded has a huge slam, fast Slew rate if not as unnaturally huge sounding as the Sansui is. The fuller bass lacking on the others is welcome, this amp is the preferred one of the three & it's the best looker too, oh why do have you dust on your buttons... To our ears after many amps Valve & Transistor, the CR-1000 is accurate & neutral, an amp to play on headphones for hours, if the Sansui can make you weary. The problem with the CR-1000 is the Tone stage is poor, the Bass goes way too thick sounding as we found out early on with the Yamaha CR-2020 Bass stage & Treble hasn't the same amount of gain, so it's one we'll try more with someday as on speakers with Tone added it's not quite there. Going to the 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000, again much upgraded with doubled outputs too, the sound is different again. The midrange seems a little further back but it adds more depth & gives wider Stereo, plus more open Bass. It sounds more Trebly than the Yamaha with knife-edge accuracy on high treble, if that's our upgrading. As for speed of the amp, it's not as fast as the Yamaha giving the extra treble as found with the Spectral & the recovery time gives a slight blurring that we can hear from the Slew Rate research above. The KA-6000 does sound great on speakers. To find out how to better the Slew Rate on an already much upgraded amp is the Design Challenge. Sony TA-1120 the 1965 one next. This again sounds different, it scores near-perfect on Square Wave tests if the circuit is a bit more 'designed'. This amp is all upgraded with new capacitors & transistors but still has the original circuit & resistors. This does show as a blurring to the sound on headphones if it does sound great on speakers, just a bit more upfront than the KA-6000. The TA-1120 does have a lot of 'slam' to the sound showing a fast Slew Rate & could be made better with some circuit redesign, but we kept it original to have an amp more original sounding. We know it could be made to sound a lot cleaner, but working on it is a tough one with wires soldered to board backs & the case needs taking to bits. Next the Realistic STA-220 at 60w which sounds similar to the Yamaha CR-1000, this has a fast Slew rate & a good kick to the sound also, if the Yamaha does it more confidently with Rock, the Realistic comes close. CR-1000 puts out 37v clean sine, STA-220 does 32v & that increase does set them apart if 70w vs 60w, the CR-1000 has been tested in the Hifi Mags of the day as getting 90w. STA-220 as we've put elsewhere has been on the speakers most of the year as it sounds so good on speakers. This write-up helped us sell the STA-220 as it's very like the CR-1000. So why not try the Realistic STA-150 too? 32.5w rated with 24v clean sine. Actually much the same sound if the Bass isn't as strong to not overdo it at the power rating, but it still does Rock well. The STA-150 has less circuitry & actually sounds crisper than the 220 if the bass weight is the obvious difference. Two great rare amps here & as the STA-220 later sold we tried more with the 150 as below. So after playing the NAD 3030 the day before, give it a fresh listen after this lot. This is serviced but all original. The sound is in the league of the Realistic amps, bass isn't as strong as not upgraded but it has the same Musicality the Yamaha does which is why we played it for 2 hours the day before typing this. At 30w the dymamics & speed of the amp is not what you'd expect at all. One to upgrade & sell as at 30w we don't want to overdo it, but it's certainly a surprising one. The Sherwood S-7200 35w receiver which the NAD 160 receiver is based on is serviced but not upgraded, one to sell once it's done. It obviously needs recapping so not fair to tell more than the review shows so far. The purpose of testing is to see which amps we need to keep as references & those we like but can sell. On the basis of this the Sansui is useful but to sell it wouldn't hurt, the Realistic STA-220 we did sell.

Comparing Transistors To Valves -plus- The Question of Harmonics.
The last one to compare with the above amps is the Valves Luxman LX33 at 30w. First hear it's in the league of the Yamaha & Sansui with a fast rise time & a clean open sound, not that the 'raw' LX33 sounds anything like this. Valves do sound different to transistors for the minimal gain stages, as in Rock has the bass weight on guitar if the midrange-lower treble of it is less upfront but it has a faster sound that nears how the Sansui sounds with it's 130w. This suggests there is a Valve Sound & Transistor Sound, but in reality Transistors with extra circuitry can reduce the lively sound, if the Sansui does it's best to recreate that. After playing the above amps, the tonal balance of valves differs for going through less amplification. In tests in HFN/RR about 'Musicality' it shows Valve amps have a better range of Harmonics to Transistors. The question of Odd & Even Harmonics we can compare on an audio program DCArt, so using the Virtual Valve, to enhance Odd Or Even Harmonics on Vinyl recorded by Valves played on an Amp with Valves, with the settings similar, makes no difference beyond adding a bit more "air" to the recording as you'd expect from enhancing any frequency, so that didn't tell much. One thing that is noticeable after playing those Transistor amps is the Valve sound took a few songs to get used to, the sound seemed a little less trebly but now with the deeper more effortless sound the treble is more natural. This we've noticed often with using the 100w Valve Monoblocs over the years, the effortless sound of Valves designed right is your Best Transistor Amp with a few veils over the speakers removed.


Why Bother Servicing, Recapping & Upgrading?
"A 1974 Yamaha Still Works Fine. What Should We Do with It?" we were asked. You have a quality amp, but the reality is it's 43 years old. You can still use it if it pleases you, we're not here to get you spending money. But the reality is, why do we Service, Recap & Upgrade amps? Because we know how much better they sound even after a Service. A 20 year old amp we had recently we tried as it arrived as the owner said it made odd noises, we played it until we heard the noises & then turned it off. In this case it needed a deep servicing only. As arrived we thought it sounded a bit boring & lifeless. Once serviced to try it again & it's far more fresh sounding totally transforming the sound, if it did reveal some weaknesses in the design. This amp was actually the Spectral preamp & we'd already serviced the amp for the customer as they tried to find out where the problem was. Another recent one the NAD 3030 we thought sounded great once Serviced if it hums slightly & as it's 39 years old we'll recap it if maybe the main caps are still good as they are a decent spec, if in reality to replace them is a better deal for the future buyer. To sell the NAD as serviced it makes only a certain price. Once recapped it puts a lot more confidence in the amp for the buyer plus they get our upgrades giving a better quality of sound. Upgrades bring cleaner midrange, crisper more extended treble & a fuller bass as most amps are limited on Bass to stop complainers as was found in the earlier 1970s. Better spec will give a faster cleaner sound overall. The NAD will sound great once upgraded & the buyer will have a better version of the original that should give years of use as basically it's been renewed with better quality parts to those in 1978. So for a 1974 Yamaha, to get it Serviced we see as a wasted opportunity & who knows if we'll find parts that need replacing. If the amp matters, get it renewed, service-recap-upgrade & the amp will sound so much better than the tired one you've been playing. It all comes down to Money is the reality. But look at how much you'd spend to get even slightly near the quality of the Yamaha & realise your old amp is a far better bet to get refreshed than buy New Disposable IC stuff that has a dull boring safe sound as we found with the 2007 Marantz PM 6002 that as you'd expect was a "What Hifi 5 Star Amp".


November 2017 Blog

Hifi Stupidness Gets Excessive By 1976.
Sadly it starts to get a bit silly by 1977. The above things like Slew Rate & Rise time are important to know & put into terms what we see as a Fast Amp or one With A Good Kick to it. As shown above Subjective Sounds & Musicality are what "experts" are trying to match up with oscilloscope readings & pages of dry data that we look at but think "who cares" to. Paul Messenger with his "Subjective Sounds" column talks more sense if soon comes to say the 'bouncy' Linn & 'stick' Grace turntable-Arm is "the best" which is odd as we share the opinion on both as early reviews above show. The "SS" column does ramble on quite like Ken Kessler of later years but is interesting for the fact PM is playing old valve amps, which in 1977 were still probably all original & unserviced with 1959-64 ones with 13-18 years use, so as for direct comparing new to aged & used sort of loses some cred to us, but it's a start. The Real BS starts with a French-Japanese man Jean Hiraga in the March 1977 HFN/RR, from a French Hifi Mag "Revue De Son" who worked in Japan at the time. He helped reintroduce Valve Amps into Japan with Luxman being the main name doing well with Valves. He believes in musicality as we certainly do too, but how do you quantify it? Here they use "Amplifier Harmonic Distortion Spectrum Analysis" which instantly glazes over the eyes of many readers. It just shows a 200Hz test signal is being used & showing the low level harmonics. Do we listen to Sine waves in music? It's as limited-worthless as Square Wave testing can be, the 1965 Sony TA-1120 gives near-perfect Square waves as designed if we can hear deficiencies in playing it, if to 'upgrade' it with resistor circuit changes like we have with other amps would lose a good Reference Amp. They are trying to justify Harmonics often 70dB down on the signal as being important, but just using one test tone. Harmonics are unwanted extra "echoes" of the sound & are said to be better than others as in Odd & Even Harmonics. In a Valve section just a few sections above we tried to hear the difference adding Odd or Even harmonics & found with Valve recorded Vinyl to digital played back through Valves there was no difference beyond a mild treble gain, neither sweeter or rougher. Nice idea to test for these things, but pretty pointless, as only comparing amps tells the differences. But by July 1977 HFN/RR takes this as good fact & bores us with "New Amplifier Tests Proposed" to further confuse beyond the excessive Martin Colloms testing mentioned above. "Measuring What We Can Hear" is the article by Gordon J. King who we've not found such a consistent reviewer reading years of mags in months. Here it adds Harmonic Waveforms at various levels with the noise floor coming up in the lower level ones. To us this is still pointless, our trained ear can tell when an amp is "clean" sounding which means without blurring from poor design, low spec, weak power supplies, dumbed-down design & less importantly with harmonics having some effect. But the waveforms don't reveal the amount of amplifying stages or NFB used, we look at circuits to see ones we call 'overdesigned'. Some can sound accurate, but unnatural. The Sansui AU-G90X is overdesigned, it has a very clean sound once upgraded, but it's 'too loud' as in not matching realistic levels of gain as in the real world, everything is 'too dynamic' & it can become wearying on headphones, but if you have a big room it'll suit well. Here the amp has too much amplification, a "Master Level" higher than reality. The need to want to quantify what is heard as good in terms of numbers, graphs & waveforms shows how pointless most of it is. It's taken us years to learn about good Hifi sound & on speakers only getting Tannoys first in 2002 & playing a Sony STR-6120, the various McIntosh preamps & power amp plus the Quad II & preamp did we really first taste "real sound". Pages of tech data we don't remember from HFN/RR when we used to buy it in the 1990s, most reviews were waffle about unrelated things. The only way to tell if an amp sounds good is to be aware of it through use & comparing to other amps that are known references. No amps sound their best until serviced and older ones need to be recapped & upgraded is a truth if it sounds like an upgrade service advert, but still an amp like the NAD 3030 with mild hum can still impress as original once serviced. So 1977 started the Hifi BS In Earnest says we... it brought acres of boring magazine pages as we'll tell as we read through HFN/RR until Dec 1980 & it brought the 'Monster Receiver' wars where Marantz made a 300w receiver but just had to make a 350w one too.


Looking For Vintage Amplifiers & Receivers On Ebay + Our Upgrade Ideas.
We've sourced quite a few amps from ebay over the years & to look to see what there is shows we still find Hifi very interesting, as this Blog page reveals. We've already said in the first October Blog, it's expected as we've helped Vintage Hifi grow that prices will rise, but overpriced is another thing. A decent looking Sony TA-1140 for £120 is what we used to sell Serviced Ones for in 2011, now it buys you a working one in typically unserviced grade. Not had once since 2013 & never properly upgraded one. The preamp board with the Power supply on too was a bit miserable if the Power Amp board was like the STR-6055 receiver more or less. See, we know them well & the amp will upgrade well, but again as with the Toshiba above, it's not a New one to try. A valves Leak Stereo 20 "with new capacitors & resistors" they say. Not done very well, spot the amatueur who puts coaxial capacitors instead of bothering to find the correct axial, wire at each end, ones. Blue main caps of the two-caps-in-one-can low-spec type which are buyable on ebay, but blue instead of gold painted is again amateur. £800 for a 10w valve amp is overpriced & 10w is not enough even on 95dB speakers, you'll need 105dB ones & then hear the background hiss. The seller we got a Rogers HG88 Mk III from via their buyer who saw how untidy it was so got rid at a loss as too much for them & again we see feedback saying they sell rough ones that need a lot of work. £450 for a HG88 III in a nice case as original is typical, but they need a full recap & some redesign, so naturally the buyer of a 1966 amp will be out of their league. Feedback comments these known sellers we've bought from get we see as revealing Buyer Ignorance is often the issue. Explains why we put so much on the Sales page as Vintage can need understanding even all Upgraded to Use Daily Quality, no-one else offers this quality. A cheap Quad 303 amplifier that looks original seems cheap, but we've looked at these too many times to even bother now. The circuits are just not very good & if we were asked to upgrade one as recapping will be needed, to be realistic about what it'll bring as upgraded. We nearly fall off the chair seeing an amp we've wanted to try, it sort of works & gets bought. 1967-68 Pioneer SX-1000TD 50w into 8 ohms, not seen one of the high power Pioneer in years, 2013 as our Reviews page says. Had the later 1968 Pioneer SX-1000TW before in the wood case, if the TD one has early IC for the Tuner as the label shows. These usually came from Army & Navy stores as did the 1960s Sansui. Hums loudly & smoke comes out a bit, but to us, who cares, we'll rebuild it, but this is advanced stuff & likely a fairly expensive rebuild for a customer with risks as any amp has, this may need more work than even we expect. See the Reviews page for more. Pioneer tuners usually work as this is said to. Later than the SX-1500TF we had & before the less exciting SX-1500TD if based on the 1966 SX-1000. Now this is Interesting Hi-Fi again, we've not successfully upgraded one of the early 1967-68 Pioneers, the SX-1500TF had too many bad repairs to be reliable, if the 1969-70 ones upgrade well. To work out how to do Speaker Connectors better than the awful weak plug-in ones too. The only early Pioneer we've tried on our Tannoys is the 1970 SX-990 28w one. The SX-10000TD turned out to be in very high grade but an advanced repair. One seller has two of the same Decca portable radio from 1964 that we have, but sadly they never work as they have 'bad' UK Germaniums in as we say elsewhere. A Leak TL 10 'Point One' Mono amp someone found in a hoarder's back bedroom lost for 35 years, probably longer in reality for the item, the seller wisely just brushed the dust off & didn't plug it in as people often do. Pre 1958 Mono amp of basic looks, but a Rare Survivor, does it get brought back to life or just kept for Historical Purposes. At £1195 it's yours to decide, now reduced to £995, in reality to spend over £200 on an aged untested Mono pre & power amp would be too much of a gamble but it apparently sold so expect someone to have paid at least £700 for it on an offer, not a good buy. All original underneath if the yellow cap is a later replacement so it's been well used in it's day. What would we say if we were asked to bring it back to life. Here we'd not go for upgrades, to recap as best as is possible to keep it looking decent, but it's not original then. It's not upgraded either & the reality is the sound will be very nice, but very ancient sounding as is our 1932 Pye G/GR gram. So it's a 'decorative piece' if it's not attractive like a radiogram can be. The preamp was built into a cabinet with doors & the power amp was hidden away to be never seen. What do you want it for really is the question? These usually get bought by a dreamer who thinks "one day I'll get it going" and it stays in their back bedroom for decades longer. If you did get it recapped without upgrades & all checked, you'd play it once or twice, think "that's nice" & never play it again. We believe Valve amps should be recapped with upgrades to be used daily as the Rogers HG88 Mk III on our 'solds' page from 2013 when the buyer got a bargain compared to the value today, that was our earlier times before prices woke up. But... if the valve amp is too early or power is under 10w, it's probably best left original, we'd not upgrade a Quad II as there are too many difficulties with it as our review says, you'll not like the clunky noisy switching on the Quad 22 preamp. A Rogers HG88 Mk I or II we'd not consider worth upgrading as too early & only 8w. To repair is the only option & it'll not really be what you hope it'd be. Why so many Rogers Cadets & HG88 IIIs for sale is likely the same ones bought, tried & sold on seeing it's beyond what was expected. The one we looked at a few days ago is the Consort CA4000 with matching tuner. Early on we thought this sounded pretty good for what it was, but it's Laskys sold decent budget gear, if the ebay one looks tatty as the fascia paint wasn't matched to the metal to stay put. After trying several Bang & Olufsen Beomasters, this amp didn't sound confused on midrange like the B&O did, so it may be basic inside to the point of cheap, but it was interesting at the time, if not worth upgrading, seller wants £140 delivered on both which is probably fair if in high grade, but scruffy it'll be under £100, so expect to see it for months unless they are realistic, we still rate the amp 'Recommended-Very Good' so it's a better buy than some. These amps are from ebay sellers not us, we're just putting ideas on what's available if readers are thinking to buy to get serviced or upgraded.


The 1968-70 Sony STR-6120 Receiver. One Of The Best Ever Receivers.
Yes it is, but it's one that's nearing 50 years old & like all higher power amplifiers of the earlier years, it'll need a rebuild to be it's best. The 1971 HFYB shows this was £387 to buy new which is at least £5000 in today's money. We have the 'Aux 3' version back as written above, but we also have an early 'Tape Head' version we're rebuilding for a customer. It was fitted in a console without metal lid or wood case, if they got the wood case & the original box which is a rare find, the wood case stayed in the box since new. Had to get them another metal top lid which completes it. The amp itself has high grade fascia, knobs & rear panel, but the inside is very tired looking as stored somewhere damp for decades. Cobwebs & leaking capacitor mess underneath, if despite that it can be tidied to a degree. Amateur seller showed it worked by a YouTube video so the FM Tuner is good, a rather loud hiss as is typical & once we recapped the main caps it did work if with the hiss & some rustling a bit hidden amid. The issue of people just using old amps without getting them checked is foolish, one here had leaked a lot leaving a rusty mess inside the base cover. The sound on a quick test was better than some STR 6120s we've had beyond the noises, suggesting it wasn't used much. The 100v main caps are usually in poor condition & smelly. The front one was all crusty inside, way long gone if the rear one with an easier job was fine. The output caps similarly crusty with lots of powdery growth. The amp would be working possibly an hour, day or week & then you'd get failures. So this is why the 6120 always needs a proper recap, every 6120 we've cut the caps open once removed & it's always bad. Elna brand caps are good ones, but 50 years old they are no good on non-tuner sections. The badly leaked one was still a bit damp inside, with more use it'd leak more. We've seen old capacitors in valve amps similarly crusty & nearly dead. You need to replace them even if they "look" ok. Or just use it & hope for the best until it fails, gets damaged & costs more to repair. Some lower powered amps going back to 1969 we've found still with good capacitors once cut open, but only by cutting open will you know. So there are the problems capacitor wise. Again with all the 6120s we've had or worked on, none ever have the original 2SD88A output transistors as all have had repair. The 2SD88 inside under the amp is a regulator. The output stages run on quite long wires from the power amp board & can be over 30cm long. Not the best design if it doesn't affect the sound, it can be a real pain once you get bad old repairs & the wires come loose, this is a big problem with working on a 6120. Only one fuse, a wire soldered thing hanging in the air is odd, better tidied. So it can look quite ancient when dirty & unused, the 1965 Sony TA-1120 looks prehistoric. It's the first Real Vintage Amp of Quality we got in 2002 so we have a bias to like the thing. It can be a difficult amp to repair though as just one fuse can cause quite a bit of damage. Buy carefully, get it properly rebuilt & you'll have an amp to treasure.


Those £4 USB Desk Fans... How To Repair One.
Useful small desk fan that plugs into a USB save having a bigger noiser mains fan on. How they can make, sell with a profit & deliver for £4 is a mystery. It arrives by RM24 which even for Bulk Users must cost £3 so where's any profit? The motor & casing is fine, but the very thin USB wire isn't & they break so easily as it can be pulled apart when trying to strip the wire with fingernails to reveal 7 strands of very fine wire likely thinner than a hair. So as ours broke suddenly late on a Friday, to scrape Four Whole Pounds together will not get one until Tues-Weds which is an 'eternity' wait when you've come to rely on it especially with blowing solder fumes away. So in our usual way, let's fix it. The motor has thicker wires if the skinny USB cable breaks either inside from stretching or pulling away from the switch, or just if you look at it too hard. Get another unused thicker USB cable & fit that. To find which wires give about 5v DC on 4 wires in a regular cable, here we use the Phone charger block not the computer USB, is a quick meter test, if one pairing gives 5v AC, you want the DC. Wies found, others cut if not to short against the inner foil shield & a bit of Heatshrink to tidy. Wire to the fan & the switch. Fan works again, the "I" is the 'On' position. So just to fit something to 'strain relief' the new thick cable to not pull it sharply & get similar, a cable tie with a bit of superglue to stick to the cable if not the case completes the job. All for a USB cable that's likely about £3 to get a stronger one, our found one says "Pluscom AWM 2725 80°C 30v High Quality USB 2.0 Cable" so it was a broadband USB extension cable if a few years old now. There, enjoy your fan & it'll only fail when the motor seizes up & then you can oil it & it'll likely work again. Cool. Yes we are, we've got our fan working again. UPDATE: The new one did arrive, the thing with these fans is the blade isn't always balanced so our old one could vibrate more, but the new one barely vibrates, so swap blades over as the new one pulls off the motor easily. But the older orange one has a different motor with the coils visible, so the only way is to put the thick cable on the new white one. Same outer but different inner. Turns out the orange one with the coils visible runs faster than the more simple white 'Kingavon' one & the blades are a different shape. Noisy one better. Now you have a choice or maybe the USB cable wiring we did gives it more power?


By 1978 A Certain Type Of Overdesign Becomes Noticeable.
Amplifier designs from Phono, Tone, Preamp & Power Amp all seem to get overdesigned by now. Ignoring the budget gear or lazy companies still offering aged designs, they try too do too much to try to get that "perfect sound & specs". For all the amp circuits we know, we can see a lot of this was first done by... Yamaha. Don't get us wrong, some more complex designs can still sound excellent, but more often than not by 1978 the designs are rushed, low spec & cost cut to lose the better early sound if still be able to get high THD ratings yet sound miserable & unmusical. Bass limiting was still done even on 160w amps like the Sansui G-8700DB revealed. Here the excess design comes from Differentials being introduced, the design done well is possible but not common. The earliest amps that are findable to have a Differential are 1969-71 TEAC that used the same basic circuit & the 1974 Heathkit AR-1500. Differentials done well as the AR-1500 & Yamaha CR-1000 reveal, if only once much upgraded, that they are neither bad nor better or really that needed when late 1960s amps can match them, again much upgraded. The fussy designs are power regulators & even lazy zener diodes to pull a voltage down. Then by the early 1980s more 'rubbish' like current mirrors & op-amps become common, apparently adding more circuitry to overcome bad or weak design. It gets further away from the Valve styled designs as more circuitry is added. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X appears overdesigned if it's a balanced design, but why does it need so many differentials & push-pull preamp stages, 17 transistors, when we know the Preamp on the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000, with just 7 transistors on MC to MM phono, pre, tone of which 3 are buffers, sounds so much more natural without the 'too loud' dynamics of the 90X. "Why" is because showing off complex circuitry with ridiculously low THD despite having a grainy edgy sound is more important than how musical the 1978 NAD 3030 with some slightly excessive circuitry & the awkward edge soldered boards as Yamaha first did with the 1977 Yamaha CR-2020. But the worst idea in modern amps that means they'll get a fault & wreck loads more to make the item unrepairable at a reasonable price is the awful idea of DC coupling with no coupling capacitors as was typical even into the early 1990s. Found this nasty one with the 1995 Sony, one part trashes, as in shorts & so does the rest. DC Coupling or not was an option on 1977 Marantz amps like the Marantz 1152DC. A pointless idea if it means cost cutting as no need for coupling caps, until you need to repair the thing & 'give up' is now an opinion unless you replace every transistor. Built-in Obsolescence.


Beware Those Amplifiers With Nasty "T" Bass Filters.
We really see no need for these & as it only is on a few amplifiers we've found, we've only actually heard The Effect of a "T" Filter on speakers with the Sansui AU-666. It sounded really awful, bass was thick & limited, one-note bass. The AU-666 upgraded removing this circuit which isn't easy to do transformed it. Why anyone thought this was a good idea makes no sense. It's usually between Preamp & Power Amp. "T" Filter is the circuit design shape to ground the deepest frequencies. The heavy Bass Filters seem to be an old idea from the Valve days if in reality there is no need to limit bass if the amp is high spec, but in 1965-67 as the TA-1120 & Pioneer 1967 range have them, the spec was still modest & just out of Germanium era. The Sony TA-1120 from 1965 actually has one if not hard to remove the effect it's not a 'feature' that many will have realised ruins the bass. So far 1965 Sony TA-1120, 1970 Sansui AU-666, 1970 Sansui AU-999, 1975 NAD 160a (not all of the run) plus 1966-68 Pioneer SX-1000TA, SX-1000TD & SX-1000TW have this, probably the SX-700TF does too. Heavily reducing Bass is often 'built in' to Amplifiers anyway for tiresome cheap-ass complainers using Rumbly turntables on better quality amps, so realising most Loudspeakers can't play deep bass, manufacturers past 1967 just decided to just limit bass in general to shut the whingers up. You gets what you ask for... and probably never realised unless you use 15" speakers not tiny bookshelf ones. But us in upgrading these amps, out come these nasty bass limiters & for all the amps we've sold & upgraded, no-one has ever said bass was too much. Extended Natural Bass rather than excessive unwanted slow bass. See below about "Retro Bass".


Buy It - Use It - It Fails - You Feel Cheated - Throw Away - Buy New.
From what we can see this sort of way of Hifi Life seems to have started around 1995 with Built-In Obsolescence getting more & more cynical. The price you paid doesn't matter anymore either. With Domestic Goods like Mobile Phones, the one 2 years later is so much better as we've found, if the Apple scene is a known bad buy. Fridges may last 5-10 years, Washing Machines can last 20 years, Vacuum Cleaners can last 15 years, Microwaves can last 15 years & all still be going if the last 4 we've needed to Service & repair to keep going. But the "Throw It Away" scene we've found after 11 years with a decent DVD player as unrepairable as the HDD failed as said above. The Desk chair we got was a John Lewis "Leather" one if it seems none of it is leather just fake vinyl so a dishonest sale. The wheels break if you lean over but new wheels not in crumbly plastic are buyable. The £4 fan we fixed above because why not fix it. Our Oscilloscope was a Hand-Held Velleman one but by that nature it got dropped too much so to get a desk proper type one. But Hifi is like Computers & anything Audio Visual, buy it knowing it'll be thrown away in less time than you'd hope. In some cases new is better as Quality, Formats & Connectors change purposely to outdate yours so in TV-Visual market it's expected. But with Audio we can rebuild amps from the 1960s & use them daily. They can be "forever repaired" as long as parts are available & maybe more importantly someone has the skills which are dying off in the Disposable Tech world. Give it 50 or 100 years, it is likely any Non-IC based Amplifier can still be made to work. Note "Non-IC" as this is where the problems start. Most ICs are custom ones from V-FETs to STA blocks & once the spares supply is gone you have very little option, some build a module to replace a V-FET but it doesn't look reassuring. The post 1995 scene shows Computer Techniques in building, surface mount components were in a 2002 Arcam FMJ 30 preamp which we thought was 'not Hifi' so sold it on fast. Ceramic chip capacitors & other 'rubbish'. Bad Design sold to you as "Better" is the big lie of this, Direct Coupled Amps such as the Sony TA-FA3ES from 1995 will be unrepairable as we sadly found out because if one transistor shorts it just about trashes the lot as without capacitors the full voltage can cause damage, just as the makers want. The The Base Line with Hifi is... if it has ICs it will fail & likely unrepairable as ICs are often no longer made as custom designs, if sometimes they can turn up. The ICs with lots of hair-fine pins you'll never replace. Any item with Computer type very thin track on double sided boards is Unrepairable because you cannot unsolder them without a high risk of damage, we tried on Computer sound cards, you can only tag one on top messily or bin it as they want you to & go buy a new one. Any Custom V-FETs or Transistors beyond a usual findable type are 'Unobtania' as some sites say & Not Repairable. We found with the 1993 Marantz PM-62 that after 3 years main parts were said to be "No Longer Stocked", yes just 3 years, based on either stocks running out or just discontinued so you buy something else. But The Hifi we like on this site is "Forever Repairable" because it uses traditional components that are still widely available. Be wise when buying your Next Hifi, see if it can be repaired, email the makers & see what they say. If it's 110v only & needs shipping back to the USA, then don't buy it. If it's priced £200-£1000 accept that it's probably Unrepairable & use it until it dies like with Domestic Goods. You can see our embarrassment on buying a £45-delivered DVD player & not thinking it was so great, but that's the Market Place of today. What the Scene of Performance Cars is like with £100k+ cars all run by computers, well how long do they last? A traditional popular car we found usually lasts 10 years from new before becoming a moneypit & very few end up as Classic Cars as TV shows prove. A look on the road shows you the Year Plates to see that not many cars are over 10 years old now.


Do We Still Not Like Monster Receivers?
We'd like to like them, they are the biggest amplifiers physically of the era with the highest power output. They certainly have a look that has Bloke Appeal as these were really the only Vintage amps considered worth having when we first started writing on Hifi in 2011. Yes just 6 years ago seems a whole Hi-Fi generation away, because it is. The first one we heard in 2002 was the massive coffin-sized Pioneer, either a SX-1280 or an SX-1980. Even through mid 1970s 12" Tannoys it didn't sound very good, slow & blurry. It clearly needed a service we'd say now. The trouble is the 1976-79 Monster Receiver era was right in the depths of Cost Cutting & despite huge power & huge cases the lack of High Spec in build is noticeable. We had the Sansui G-8700DB 160w receiver, as with the Pioneer SX-950 that started it, we early-on considered these "oversized tin cans" as huge size but not the expected weight of it, as in meaning if the "Original Monster Receivers" 1973 Yamaha CR-1000 or 1968 Sony STR-6120 were that size they'd weigh 30kg+. The Pioneer SX-1980 weighs 35kg, the Yamaha CR-3020 weighs 35kg & the Rotel RX-1603 is 33kg to show the biggest ones are not just the tin cans of the earlier models. The Sansui G-9700 200w amp is only 22kg. The Marantz 2500 250w is only 27kg as is the crazy 300w Marantz 2600. We saw the Sansui G-8700DB as with a lot of potential to upgrade as the low spec was so obvious, but the power amp boards were a messy small design & other cost cut ideas. The Pioneer range gets heavily cost cut to undersell other brands in the Comet type shops which lost the quality. The Pioneer SX-828 we had to fully upgrade to see how good it could be as with the Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I amplifier. These were shockingly low spec & to upgrade to a standard we consider worthy was an enormous job on both. But it proved Pioneer were good designs if just excecuted to cut the last penny. The SX-850 & SX-950 similarly would do well. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X 130w amp we saw quality & much upgraded it again to see how high models upgrade, A huge improvement in the sound from the cold original sound, just a pity they don't match 1969 Tannoys too well. If they could be designed to match we'd keep it on the speakers for a while to really hear the amp, but mismatch means "midrange too upfront". The next big problem with Monster Amps is ICs. Some use them as Output Stages, others use them in the power amp or preamp. To us this is not going to upgrade well as we first found out in 2011 in upgrading the 1986 Realistic STA-2280 that we first bought as our first new amp. The poor construction & ICs just ruin the sound with slow blurry lo-fi unpleasantness & every amp with ICs or Op-Amps in the Audio Stages still sounds this way. Today ICs are everywhere & for the huge advances in Computing they can deliver decent sound in Line Level terms, after all a Soundcard or DAC is based on ICs with no other option. We'd love to get one of the huge 35kg Monster Receivers to upgrade, it'd be a no costs held sort of project & not really one a customer could get into as the job price would be too wild to estimate. But then once it's done to perfection, what would it sell for? The buyers of Monster Amps don't understand the Sound based on Valves & 1960s amps & won't pay the price for it. so as with our upgraded Sansui AU-G90X even priced very modestly, it sits unsold & unasked about for a year, whilst the earlier amps which can be upgraded to a better resell price are going out & leaving it behind. We'd just outprice ourselves, as in upgrading a Leak Delta 70 amp.


Rotel RX-1203 Receiver, Any Good?
This is the smaller 120w version of the huge 33kg Rotel RX-1603. We never looked at these on the "Other Amps" page for some reason. The RX-1203 is all Transistors beyond the expected Tuner ICs, it looks a good design & not excessively overdesigned, still a sane design. Power Amp has Doubled Output transistors as typical to get to 120w, the main power amp board has 2 differential pairs with only 13 transistors including Bias so not too busy if working out the circuit is always a challenge to see what they are used for. The circuit diagram found is in bits & hard to follow not in one big sheet, but the preamp has no ICs & no FETs either which don't belong in Audio beyond Tuners & later output Mosfets. The preamp looks overcooked with obvious signs of a controlled design so it'll sound nice but not particularly exciting. We thought the Rotel RX-603 to be a good clean sound but similarly not having the fresh fast sound. The design is well tamed to not really give the full effect of what 120w should have. Undoing the taming as we've found can be done to a degree but without complex redesign it'll still be what it always was & this is what we've found with other High Powered amps before. The Yamaha CR-2020 we upgraded a few times but it just couldn't lose a slow soft sound, if the Yamaha CR-1000 is a different beast & upgrades to perfection if a total rebuild & redesign into that was excessive but just to see what can be done. Monster Receivers & Amps of the 1976-79 era will never sound as fresh as the 1965-73 era, as they were tamed in the first place.


A Review Of The 1965 Sony TA-1120 Amplifier & 1967 ST-5000W Tuner.
These are both the early Rare ones of limited production before the TA-1120A & ST-5000FW arrived. Amplifier Power on, after about 5 seconds a relay clicks on. This doesn't mean music plays yet, there is a delay circuit that takes 30-40 seconds to bring the Preamp stages on, often one chanel arrives before the other. quirky. 'Safety' light is always on if the bulb is still working, so goes Off if there's a problem. This has no Headphone socket if we had made a box to use with the suitable circuitry & to connect to the Speaker outs. Volume in use on speakers needs turning up to around 10-11 o'clock position for the design of the volume & is similar on the TA-1120A & STR-6120. A tight accurate sound with the rich sound that not many amps can do. Noise Level on this amp is as low as modern tech, as low as -110db says the manual, even with volume up high barely any noise compared to some amps. A real no expense spared design & it gives near perfect Square Waves even on higher frequencies which shows how good the original design was & for our upgrades. In use the Balance control may need the occasional rotate back & forth even after servicing which we did again on taking lids off to photo. With Stereo tracks, Stereo is very wide & the amp is very punchy & fast sounding. There is minor heat on the left of the grille as voltage-drop resistors put out some heat as designed. Plays Rock with convincing weight that not many amps can do. It sounds well controlled if certainly can kick too. To be aware it's still a 50w amp so 95dB speakers like the Tannoy Golds are means it'll be at it's best there. We're writing this as it's time to sell these on after a brief test of the market & had 2 interested, if the price is not for casual buyers. We've not altered the resistors design beyond losing the "T" bass filter & some amps can be even crisper on treble, but why alter this more when it's an awkward one to work on & to hear how good the original circuit is after 52 years. Benchmark Design for sure. On goes the ST-5000W Tuner & even with a basic T-antenna it pulls in Stereo with ease. The Tuner we got with a TA-1120A from a Studio so the Tuner was kept serviced & working. Tuner sounds crisp & detailed. The STR-6120 tuner based on the ST-5000F sounds as good as this, if perhaps treble de-emphasis is still set to the non-UK value, if we're not altering. Pulls in Stereo through the whole 87-108 tuning range & with a basic aerial that is very unusual. The Tuner if recapped as we did with the STR-6120 we have back sounds very fresh. Tuner has all bulbs working. A wonderful creation inside, build quality is ancient but high quality. Tuner has the original 2-core wire with USA type blade plug to use on the Amp's Power outputs to not have 2 UK plugs.


Realistic STA-150 & STA-220 Receivers, Top Sounding Amps.
We had both of these, both upgraded similarly & they sounded very similar too if the power rating is 32.5w & 60w. On comparing to the Yamaha CR-1000 as we rebuilt it, the STA-220 just about duplicated it except the CR-1000 is rated up to 90w in tests. So to see which Realistic sells. The STA-150 has no takers since listed in June if the STA-220 went within 2 days of listing as it's the 60w version. We've used another amp on the Tannoys for TV sound since & we found it punchy but a little distortion shows it needs more work, if ours is very experimental. So as the 220 was sold to get the 150 out. It sounded great on speakers as does the 220, if the 220 does have more weight to the sound. So as a buyer decided which we kept, to try more upgrades on the 150 to give it a bit more weight. The main HT voltage, on a late capacitor-couled output design, was 66v on the 150 & the 220 has about 85v which is quite close & shows the current of the STA-150 is kept limited. The 150 has a little less circuitry on the preamp & power amp which does give a slightly sweeter sound so trading power for more detail is the deal. The 150 was designed first as the board numbers revealed. 220 output 32v, 150 output 24v. Some upgrades later, the amp already has the spec to cope, else upgrading is a wasted effort, the punchy sound of the STA-220 is in here now & it actually has more punch even, if it's all in the upgrades. Would say the 150 is a faster sounding amp & it certainly is very dynamic for a supposed 32.5w amp, it's probably nearer 45w now as the clean sine output suggests with other amps. The idea of volume sliders may not appeal, but it gets rid of the Balance control & it's resistance between L+R on some designs before the 2 gang later ones. In comparing to the Sony STR-6120, the Realistic STA-150 is a little sweeter, if the Sony does powerful deep bass with more confidence, if otherwise they are very similar based on our upgrades which are similar too.


Pioneer SX-650 Receiver Needs Help... Any Good To Us?
One looking a bit sad on ebay, if £60 delivered for a non worker is certainly worth considering. Not looked at the lower models if 35w is worthwhile, we know the bigger SX-850 & SX-950. Service Manual quickly tells it's sins so it's not for us. IC for the preamp & even worse a big IC output block. It's an SP-40W, a custom made one if like a STK block. As you'd expect "out of stock" after a search, if these can turn up as old stocks are found. A Sanken 8 pin unit with a contoured silver case. Preamp-Tone is a TA7136P that was used by lots of amps so you'll still find that as it's unlikely to fail, these are an upright SIL type IC with 7 pins findable on ebay USA for not much. So the SX-650 despite looking a nice amp, what do you do with it? To fit a new power amp or cobble other amp bits into a working one that no buyer would trust. Only good for spares if in reality the spares aren't much good beyond parts that are shared with other amps like knobs & switches. Disposable Electrical Goods with Built-In Obsolescence one again. It may need other work & the output block is OK, but a big gamble with bad odds, even if got working & recapped it'd be an earner, not for us.


Sony STR-6120 Part 1: What Does It Sound Like As Sort Of Original?
We've got an early 'Tape Head' one to rebuild, so to hear what it sounds like as near original as we can get. But as the above says the Power supply had to be recapped with our upgrades & then it revealed there was an impressive Sea Of Hiss so to update hissy transistors. Now the Hiss has dried up, to hear what it sounds like on the original Elna grey capacitors. Output capacitors upgraded bring a fuller sound than having heard other 6120s as original, when the poutput caps are bad it sounds very limited we've heard on other 6120s. The boards are tricky to work on as the wires don't give enough movement, if the Aux 3 one has longer ones, so the risk of loose wires is guaranteed which can cause big trouble in some places. The Headphone circuit is poor so once it's altered the sound via headphones is much crisper. We did start to write a review of it on the original Headphone circuit but found it was a bit slow & dull sounding needing +2 on Treble, but then altering it gave such a different opinion. Sony STR-6120 on original Headphone design isn't showing it well at all. But the Sony TA-1120A Headphone circuit is useless. The amp wasn't heavily used to try it on the original Elnas if we'd not trust it for a long use. The design is different to the Sony TA-1120 or 1120A & we are rather surprised how good it sounds even on original small caps. There is some 'retro' bass in the design which we've not altered & to work on it like this was deliberate to see what the amp sounds like nearer to original. It's a little tailored in design as are the 1120s but it sounds very balanced which we didn't expect on original caps. why bother upgrading & recapping? Oh, because you want to use it daily & have it reliable. We'd not trust it on our Tannoys until fully recapped shows our wise caution, but it does sound great. It's certainly fresh sounding, punchy & the slighly retro bass does certainly please. Upgrading we've done before & it can lose the richer sound until upgraded a lot more with redesign which is a difficult one. We upgraded the Realistic STA-150 a few days before & the STR-6120 sounds very like it, if for upgrades it has much more weight to it in the deeper bass. Trying hard to find fault in the sound, but it's not easy. The STR-6120 we've raved about since getting one in 2002 for good reason. Trying 'Start' by The Jam is a very telling track with the clean intro, here the amp on original spec can't play it with the dynamics of upgraded amps if it has the richness to do Rock guitar with weight if again the dynamics a bit limited. Be sure the amp as all original wouldn't sound like this, there is a lot of upgrading in it already & new non-hissy transistors. The rear "Bass Boost" switch isn't necessary on headphones or big speakers if it would fill out small bookshelf speakers. We found it sounded a bit unnatural on big Tannoys as the mid bass gets thicker. The rear "Bass Boost" switch just alters the main NFB loop, it adds a thicker upper bass to suit small speakers that sound lacking, but on Headphones & 15" speakers the Bass Switch is unnecessary.


Sony STR-6120 Part 2: Comparing to the Upgraded Realistic STA-150.
So after playing this a while, to get the Realistic STA-150 in to play the same tracks & hear what's different. The STA-150 got a big upgrade as a buyer decided which one of the Realistic we'd keep & the 60w STA-220 sold fast. It's far more dynamic than the Sony with a more natural deeper bass & Stereo is wider. Dynamics extend further as Slew rate is audibly faster, the STR-6120 was sounding good within itself with some design tailoring, the STA-150 has had all the upgrades the Realistic STA-220 had. The STA-150 is perhaps a little scary sounding for the dynamics & the Sony is maybe a little easier on the ears. We remember a relation couldn't take the huge sound of our 100w Valves on the Tannoys, because they weren't used to it, only playing Car or Portable Cassette CD Players. But once you're used to the big sound you'll crave it. The STA-150 was rated 32.5w if the spec was unusually modest. The 24v clean sine suggests 45w-50w & it certainly sounds like that now, if not quite as loud as the 60w STA-220 on trying louder to see where it flattens off audibly. Back to the Sony reveals the slightly tubby retro bass & the smaller dynamics if it's still very similar to the STA-150, the old caps not quite as extended. Turned up louder on headphones, the Sony doesn't quite get there, it sounds a little restrained, volume in the 'wipe area' of the 'Volume' word doesn't give much gain & towards the higher it flattens off with less volume than the STA-150, the 31v clean sine is higher than the 24v of the STA-150 if the STA-150 plays louder with more punch. This is what upgrading brings. Here the STA-150 is equal to a 50w amp from a 32.5w original rating, if that's not a typical result. As we put just above, the bigger sound of the STA-150 is wanted again, but it's in the other room again. Next time we'll play the Sony recapped with upgrades, if nothing too much altered to reveal what full recapping does, plus another STA-150 compare.


Sony STR-6120 Part 3: After Recapping The Power Amp Board.
Recapped with upgrades, the sound is very different to how it was the last time. For a start, the Volume pointer is set lower to give a good level revealing aged caps limit the gain. The sound will take a few tracks to waken up the new caps, about 20 mins does it, if initially it can sound pretty lousy & vague. The 6120 quality is clear to hear, if the preamp & Phono caps not done so to hear the aged original caps that sound blurry on busier treble tracks giving a vague grainy sound. So to do them next. Gone is the vague sound & it sounds great, finally brought the quality out. Gone is the retro limited bass too & it's still quite like the bass of before if more natural & extended with good weight for Rock. Earlier the same day we wrote the Sony TA-1120 review if that's further up as sections get re-read before putting online. The STR-6120 is a much crisper fresher sound if beyond that not so unlike if 50w here does leave you wanting more power perhaps so you need 95dB sensitivity speakers to do it justice. Be sure the STR-6120 was designed for the Tannoy Golds as no other speaker of that quality in 1968. This amp can be a real tough one to repair if it goes wrong & the board wires don't leave much movement, but this one has behaved well as have other ones, if not all. This early amp despite tired looking inside upgraded well, if it reveals old repairers just use any old transistor, one was very wrong spec for the section. Upgraded to a sensible if not extreme degree, the amp sounds Wonderful, all you want from an amp with the original design hiding higher quality. Deep unrestrained bass hit on playing a TV show wasn't matched by another amp. The Midrange on this amp is so smooth & treble fresh and detailed. A good reminder why we rate this Amp so highly, if it needs an expensive rebuild to bring the best out, but you'd not regret the spend.


What Is "Retro Bass" As Mentioned Here?
Beyond the needless "T" filters mentioned just above, "Retro Bass" is what quite a lot of Vintage Amps have, even into the mid 1980s as the Realistic STA-2280 has this. Some call this "Coloured Bass", "One-Note Bass" or "Bass Hump", it's a thicker upper bass with no real deep bass & can vary a lot. Part of the reaction to fools complaining about Rumbly Turntables, manufacturers just limited all deep Bass to stop complaints & realised it actually sounds "better" on first listen. Limiting Bass causes it to "ring" electrically meaning it slightly boosts the lower frequencies it allows through, similar to Cartridge Loading ideas. Similarly as heard in the Rogers HG88 Mk III it can when done too harshly cause quite nasty midrange distortion, the HG88 after dealing with that became very smooth. Retro Bass can please on first listen, gets the buyers in but then they tire of the sound, but compared to an amp as original without limiting or once upgraded, the deep bass that was missing is now heard & comparing back the Retro Bass is a One-Note bass. The only problem here is deep bass needs higher spec so it's not just a quick upgrade, the rest of the amp needs to be able to control it. So if you're thinking it's easy to deal with that, you could end up with an unstable amp as we found upgrading the 1963 Trio WX-400U still using the original design. This is why most recapping will just use the same values as trying to better just one part will get problems, such as instability which is very wobbly bass, volume changing as the amp can't cope a sort of 'motorboating' & this isn't what you want on speakers as you'll probably burn them out. An amp is designed to be good amid itself, to upgrade to lose "Retro Bass" needs a lot done. Will Retro Bass suit you or annoy you? It depends on what size speakers you use. Some use bigger Floorstanding speakers of 10"+ size whilst others use smaller even Bookshelf speakers. Big Speakers are more honest sounding in general, the retro Bass will sound a bit false if maybe only on comparing amps will it show, maybe you'd prefer that. Small speakers are generally 'Top & Mid' only with even the better ones having very reduced output below 100Hz Upper Bass which is why many waste money on Sub woofers. The Retro Bass here will make your small speakers sound fuller & the deep bass below 30Hz-40Hz won't be heard on these. So which suits your needs? We asked one customer on finding Retro Bass on their amp which speakers they'd be using to give them the option. They chose our upgraded version & the amp for our upgrades coped very well & became far more natural on speakers.


Tone Controls: Are They Essential Or Nasty Rubbish?
We had one ask if Tone Controls or any sort of Sound Shaping as in EQs do not belong in High End Hi-Fi. Sadly this reader has not read our site more yet still believed the hype of Hi-Fi mags as their Amp proved. We've heard the dull boring sounds of those who claim Tone Controls are bad, a flat lifeless sound & we notice they don't play music much as it's uninspiring, if on headphones they played it lots more as the Headphones have the Sound Shaping built in. You can see nearly every amp we've had & reviewed has Tone Controls. But we don't use them in testing with Headphones, as for a quirk of recording music since the 1990s, the tracks on the computer are recorded with no RIAA Treble cut if the Bass is right. This means we can play any amp Flat & not have to rely on the Tone Controls which is a far better reference than the varying Tone Control designs. On the Tannoys we need Bass & Treble gain for "our sound" watching TV not loudly. The Loudspeakers page reveals amps we've tried & how they match, plus effects of Tone on some. The trouble with Tone Stages is there are no accepted ideals & amps differ from a feeble ± 5dB to an excessive ± 18dB. Tone stages can also be too thick sounding on Bass which the Yamaha 1973-78 amps have & some despite saying ±10dB sound nothing like that, if played flat it sounds good on speakers, adding Tone doesn't do much & neither does it on Headphones. What can Make or Break an amp if you are needing some Tone Gain is unsurprisingly the Tone stage. Some can sound great on Headphones played flat but on Speakers can be lacking in detail if the sound played flat suggests the amp should sound better. Some brands use cheap Ceramics in tone stages, Marantz remarkably do so they sound soft & blurry. The best Tone Stages we've found give the right sound at plus 2-3 allowing a bit extra if the TV source on older shows is a bit dull. The worst give little gain or sound too thick on bass suggesting no-one bothered to test what they sounded like. Any Tone stage with ICs is never going to be any good, the decent 1976 Technics SU-8080 had a lousy IC Tone Stage that was fine played flat but lost a lot of quality with Tone on even set flat. This sort of later IC design is probably where the 'Tone Is Bad' idea comes from. The non-IC designs if done well as the 'NFB' design can sound excellent. The earlier 'Passive' designs we've found are not very accurate even playing flat. When Tone Stages are Essential they are worthy of being called Hi-Fi. If Tone Stages are bad, with ICs & Ceramics then they are Rubbish & best not used. Bad Tone stages sound weak, grainy & unpleasant. Good Tone Stages don't sound of anything.


Strange Transistor Design Stages: Complimentary, Cascade, Differential.
As we started taking an interest in Hifi more with Valve Amps, this site was us finding out more about Transistor Amps, to see later amps from about 1971-72 adding extra transistors to "do things better" appears a bit pointless to us, but this is basis of later Hifi where Current Mirrors & Cascade Bootstrap circuits amid the 1992 Marantz PM62 power amp early stage IC. More on this on the Valves & ICs page. Buffer Stages aka Emitter Followers are worthwhile as these isolate a later stage from altering a previous one, such as Record out & Tone Stages which we know affect a design unless it's well tamed. The earlier ICs page didn't look to deeply at what these do & you can find Wikipedia is a good source for info on tech matters, as is wiki.analog.com. The design of the Sherwood S-7200 receiver from 1971 was later used in the NAD 160 receiver from 1972, the same makers of both using a good circuit. But we see the Tone Stage of the S-7200 just has 2 gain transistors before & after the Tone Controls, but the NAD 160 adds a second transistor in a 'Complimentary Cascade Pair' type circuit. We need to understand "why" this is considered better, as we actually found the NAD 160 tone can make extra rotary 'fff' noises on using Tone, if once upgraded, but the S-7200 is silent in use. So the 'improved' design is worse, right? On the Common Emitter-Collector Cascade the input resistance aka Impedance is High & the output is Low. Gain is nearly independent of load resistance. Why not design it better in the first place we think, why use extra circuitry to make up for issues that need not exist as the 1965-70 era amps prove? With the Complimentary Cascade Pair issues are known so they are trying to be clever adding more design to cover weaknessess of over-saturation aka distortion. But one single transistor does the job fine. It's just a load of nonsense if probably gives better specs as it's messing with the original signal. The Differential is mentioned often above, it becomes Standard for nearly all amps with 1969 Teac being the first big brand to use them. If designed well it's as good as earlier amps, the Yamaha CR-1000 proves that if it can be adjusted to be right which is rare. Differentials are usually 'Long Tailed Pairs' going back to valve era for non-Audio uses, so why is it needed now? It gives good specs as in THD Distortion readings still with average design & low spec parts is what we see. The Differential is partly a Buffer & it involves NFB as the Differential has one main output but 2 inputs, one is from the volume control signal as 'V neg' and the NFB side is the 'V pos', diagrams show the signal is 'inverted'. But look as we may, to see why a Differential is needed is the Mystery. Earlier designs used NFB easily enough & one amp even used 2 stages of NFB. But looking at earlier designs, these are more complex, the Differential is what the Op-Amp is, easy to design & with IC versions who needs to design it well? We've now looked at enough Differential designs & they vary a lot, an IC is fixed design. The Differential means NFB is used, it gives better specs but it also flattens the sound. Overcooking designs with dumbing down to be Universal & cost-cutting is why so much later Hi-Fi sounds boring.


Protection Circuits: Are They Any Good?
The idea is to not fry your speakers if the amp gets user-damage in use or parts age & fail from owners not getting Hifi serviced even if 30+ years old. Early amps like the 1967 Sansui 3000A that's direct coupled had a pretty hopeless circuit that muted the preamp so a fault would mean the amp silenced. That's all, you could still get ±40v on your speakers which would be DC so would fry them. The 1965 Sony TA-1120 has a relay & if you totally short the outputs this is said to turn the amp off via a Circuit Breaker circuit involving the relay, we don't fancy testing it though. For 1965 this is very advanced tech, if it does take about 30 secs to play music on turn-on. Here you are further protected by the output Capacitors as these block DC, so even if an output cap fails the relay will do the job if it's adjusted. Onto later amps with Relays, some have very basic circuits that only sense if Bias Current is too high like the JVC 5521-L & turn the relay off, if ones like the Yamaha CR-1000 & CR-2020 won't turn the amp on if voltages are wrong so really will save your speakers. So with Capacitor Coupled outputs to speakers this is an added safety assuming the caps don't fail & Relays can vary in what they do, if likely by the 1977 era they became more sophisticated, if only circuit gazing will tell for sure. Capacitor coupling can still fry tweeters as we found with the Dynaco ST-120 amp when an input cable got pulled & amp put out a loud shriek as only the + was connected & fried some high power bullet tweeters as very loud audio will clip & put pure DC on the clipping peaks which on a high frequency will be as near DC for it. You're not protected at all really are you?


Acoustic Research Amplifier, 50w from 1968
No model number, ARA is the model name. Heard of the brand but as USA never seen one to try. So to be asked about repairing & upgrading this. Manuals findable, but seeing the inside is the thing, it's an amateurish random mess & will use big axial capacitors & other outdated parts like UK-EU amps of the era. Not the slick quality of USA or Japanese amps. This all seems built into a metal box with 'dodgy mess' being the opinion on the customer saying that is the amp. We've seen UK-EU amps with this sort of build & didn't fancy trying, some we found had strange designs that you'd have a job getting parts for let alone working, as in one had high value bipolar capacitors that no-one makes. 1968 Reviews rated it highly, but that's nearly 50 years ago. The 1965 Sony TA-1120 is ancient inside but it has a logical design so we could deal with it. The early Fisher & Akai similarly. The ARA is too random & to get it to the high standard we'd want to give to a customer, we just see it as an expensive job that in reality is better spent on a better made amp. It has possible Multivoltage connections, not by a plug but several wires & resistors to solder as per the manual. Built this badly we'd be wary of it if it was ours, let alone a job for a customer. As it stands, we'll not offer a rebuild & voltage change on this as it'll cost them too much & results may not be good. There are just better amps out there. Not all Vintage Hifi is worth rebuilding.

Here's Where The Cables Lies & Hype Starts...
The Hiraga guy is at it again Aug 1976, now saying "Can We Hear Connecting Wires" plus 'proof' of square waves being different. But we know this is down to the LCR characteristics of cable & using 100kHz test tones the mindless fool sees how some cables at this high frequency mis-shape the square wave. Basic stuff if you've ever looked at a square waves & use a Low-High Filter or twiddle the Tone controls. Sadly this "gee-wow" stuff influenced a whole Industry telling half-truths to spend your money in believing 'experts', but we've mentioned this before above & the page that has 'Cables' info on. It is BS as is all the Harmonics testing, it means nothing if the amp doesn't sound good & only one who has listened to many amps & redesigns-upgrades can really know what sounds good & even then comparing several amps in one session needs doing as your hearing can be fooled or misled. A later HFN/RR reader's reply compared Cables to Transmission lines says for Speaker cables, they make No Sound Difference, if later years proved the higher capacitance & induction can tame badly designed amps. We know Ferrites do make a big difference on speaker cables blocking RF hash.
The whole idea of Cables is deceptive, the more basic cables of good quality are better as the LCR effects are limited. The more expensive cables are Designed with higher LCR values & will make poorer amps that sound rough appear tamed so "better" in the ears of the inexperienced listener. For us, a good basic Speaker cable with Ferrites on both ends is all you ever need. For Phono connecting cables for Turntables to CD players etc, the LCR effect we found as shown above & on the Turntables page can again tame the sound, but by bettering the design, we found these Expensive Cables then sound too dull, if only on a Turntable Cartridge output. On Line Level there is no difference as the signal is louder. Sadly the Rubbish about Cables still continues in the Hifi press, but be sure these 'Reviews' are little more than paid adverts. reading the News Media online, so many stories are sponsored but this isn't revealed. it's like "Black friday" it's all a Con based on Consumer Hypnotism & the promise of Loss Leader Bargains that oddly are 'Out Of Stock' before you get there. They never existed is why.

1977-1978 Hifi Amplifier Arguments In Hifi Magazines.
HFN/RR has several articles about this. It starts from the Jean Hiraga guy, then Paul Messenger who is briefly HFN/RR assistant editor until John Atkinson takes over later in 1978, the job was advertised we noticed. Martin Colloms is the third one of the New Breed. Most of it is certainly interesting, but as a Jan 1978 letter by John Lindsey-Hood who made the less than great 75w amp mentioned above, he is spot on about amateur Loud Opinions being taken as fact, the "Hifi BS era" really starts in 1977. Peter Walker of Quad isn't pleased by the nonsense either, but the Quad 33/303/405 amps around at the time are seriously flawed & limited designs as we put on the 'Other Amps' page. The Old Breed stuck on out of date British Hifi disagree with The New Breed who are still in their early 20s so don't really have enough experience. Don't discount the older Hifi Pioneering Names though, they started it all if are now too old to get new ideas. So we look at this from 40 years on, we do upgrades that no-one else has ever worked out because we are crazy enough to try & don't mind trying things with the knowledge to upgrade further to satisfy it or get out of it if it's going too far. Design Based Upgrades on Hifi is unique to us. So we know that cost cutting & low spec is the badness in Hifi of the 1977 onwards era plus overdesign to get silly specs but the amp sounds boring. Based on seeing the parts in Yamaha amps of around the 1977 era CR 800-1020-2020 & CA-1000-1010 there were better spec parts around, big 10000µf capacitors were in the 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 but makers like Pioneer, Sansui & Trio-Kenwood chose to cost cut to save pennies & hope you'd tire of their amps & but next year's model under the Sales Hype of "Better". An amp like Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I should be a great amp, but like the big SX-950 types it is so cost cut where it doesn't show too much that Sound is Poor. No wonder writers like Paul Messenger raved about late 1960s Radford STA 25 valve amps as the design was honest & fresh on an amp probably still on spec after 10 years light use. The Musicality Debate seemed to head into Sounds More Liked if not Sounds More Correct with jokey cartoons about finding the simple valve amp in a Dansette or the Decca and EAR portable record players as on our Solds Gallery. We still have another of the EAR one & the sound may be basic but it is listenable in Retro Consideration of what it is with 4 speakers inside it was way ahead of a Dansette. To us knowing upgrades, no amp we rate higher than "Very Good" as original because none even as Serviced are as good as they can be Upgraded. A few may rate "Very Good-Excellent" in reality & the grade "Excellent" does mean just scrapes excellent to high excellent, without narrowing the ideas too much. So the Arguments about Hifi amplifiers are a bit pointless. Get 50 of the Best Liked Amps of 30w or more from 1975-79 era. Throw out the ones with ICs in preamp or Power amp. Throw out the ones with No Phono or No Tone which means the Naim type stuff. Throw out most of the ones over 160w meaning the 250w-300w+ Marantz & Pioneer as you just don't need the power & the sound will suffer in quality. We did put "Small Ones Are Much Sweeter" on an earlier page section & this is still true, the 30w-40w amp isn't usually overdesigned so has the sweetest sound. The 18w of the Coral A-550 & JVC MCA-104E was a delight, if power was only just enough on speakers. Ones 50w-75w can sound less open & by 100w even with the big Yamaha CR-2020 & CA-1010 with all the upgrades we couldn't get the fresh sound that some earlier amps can do. So overall arguing in 1977-78 about Amp designs seems rather pointless as they miss the whole idea of Low Spec from Cost Cutting. All is interesting to read & it explains "Why" the later Hifi Scene is so difficult to pick out the few Good Amps from the majority of nothing special ones, which do include 'wanted' IC type amps that we'd not bother trying ourselves.

HFN/RR Reviews 'The Sex Pistols' 1977 LP in January 1978.
"Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols" yells the very basic yellow & pink LP cover, naturally with the early Blue label. We had a copy to borrow only very recently so recorded it & the Xmas 1977 Benefit Gig film on TV shows how important this lot were. "Bollocks" you scream, what is the meaning of this outrage? Either their trousers were ripped, or they meant the Bollocks in the Charts under the term "Rock & Pop" since 1970. Shite like Glam Rock, Prog Rock, Country Rock, AM-Friendly Rock & Teenybopper Pop, the worst years of the genre if thankfully Punk gave us 5 good years 1977-82 if it rapidly descended into 'Live Aid' & more shite like Stock-Aitken-Waterman if briefly reviving for Britpop if not for long. Three utter classics "Anarchy In The UK", "God Save The Queen" & Pretty Vacant" we play often on testing amps to see if they can bring the detail out in these. The LP version of "Anarchy" is a re-recording if well crafted to fool 99% of you. It was released 28 Oct 1977, so HFN/RR's Fred Dellar in Jan 1978 probably wrote his in Nov-early Dec 1977 after having the chance to see what The Popular Music Press had to say, if not sitting for too long. The review gives it a "B" for Sound Quality & a "1" for Music Quality which may have you thinking he's trying to be 'Down with the Kids'. "And even if what they are saying is sheer nihilism, expressing distrust and disgust but offering no solution - which is a downright inane attitude to adopt" if then says the Hit singles are "gut grabbing". Overall says it's excellent in parts, no shades of colour or pace in the music as it's blockbusting riffs all the way. To close he wisely says their deliberately disposable music may not be so disposable after all. Written a bit dryly by Dad it appears & checked by one years younger is the idea, it's a considered if rather square opinion. But it's HFN/RR so it's acceptable & probably braver than was expected at the time, if The Stranglers & The Damned LPs were previously reviewed, the Damned one got bypassed too easily. We found the LP beyond the 45s tracks the same sort of energy, the standard sort of lyrics, a few 'fucks' to upset Grandma, but that's the point & a love ballad would seem out of place. Their point is to shake up the stale tepid music scene, far from inane to awaken minds & it's for others with power to offer solutions which they never did & never do. Sadly Punk burnt out very fast & most of what is called Punk is New Wave or the sort of Sham 69 type Oi-Chav-Punk that is moronic, unlike the wiser Sex Pistols idea. A good time will have been had blasting this LP out in 1977 & it's as much a classic as "Sgt. Pepper" is today, if with the pretention exchanged for raw energy & attitude.

Oh Dear: Pioneer SX-6300 - The Idiot's Way To "Upgrade"
This laughably bad effort is on ebay late Nov 2017. The person is a dangerous foolish amateur, fair comment when you see the pics & see the ghastly Forum & Hifi Mag unskilled ideas of "Upgrading". Notice none of our amps use any of these "ideas" as they are all totally unnecessary. Ripped out the Multivoltage round fuse block & fitted a 'Kettle' type mains socket leave hole gaps. Removed feet & put huge conical spike feet. Say they took out all the internal wiring & replaced it with £75/m silver plated cable plus other types of 'fashion' cable, but unaware of the basics. They took out the 8 speaker connectors & fitted 4 gold plated ones yet left the other 4 holes open, they took out the original Phono sockets & put... Gold Plated ones. They took out the Headphone socket too. Now they say it has Mains hum which is from their bad rewiring, earthing inside amps is a fine art to get right. Look at their photos inside, their "expensive" cable is actually unshielded so will pick up hum & it's done very messily. Still with original capacitors we see. Absolutely None Of This will make the slightest difference to the amp beyond making it sound worse as they found. It is worthless beyond parts & to say it has been independently safety checked is ridiculous as open holes aren't safe for a start. The person has butchered this decent budget-midprice amp & it's only good for spares. You'll never work out the bad rewiring inside. They've just read forums & think they know what upgrading is cobbling together half ideas, this is the worst one we've ever seen & we've seen some bad 'upgrades' on ebay which we'll never go near at any price, or want to rebuild properly. They seriously got it wrong here & think you will buy it. Upgrading is to offer a nice tidy looking product like the Car Rebuild shows offer, not some hacked about ghastly mess by an amateur. What is the Pioneer SX-6300? The amp is only worth about £75-£125 in good working 'raw' condition, a 1975-77 20w amp that's basic but not junk either. Phono has an IC which is typical for the age & level, Tone has one transistor plus a typical selection of Filters & User Controls, Differential Power amp input with Driver, Push pull Driver then Outputs all as Transistors. Design is modest for 20w if it'll sound pretty good & would upgrade well. It's not a high-end model but it looks well made for a 20w amp & seeing a worthwhile amp trashed this badly is just sad.

1974 Sansui 881 60w Receiver - Any Good?
This 1974-1976 range is often on ebay, if usually the lower power models. These are in the HFYB with misleading "Music Power" Ratings, not RMS... so to look at the Manuals to find the RMS at 1kHz rating, some models show a reduced 20Hz-20kHz rating but for us upgrading these the 1kHz rating only matters as the designs must be rather limited, 771 40w or only 32w. The actual Power compared to the Music Power to fool you into thinking it's a bargain, the 221 is 30w Music power yet only 8w RMS. Full Range is 221 8w £96, 331 12w £106, 441 12w also, 551 16w £139, 661 20w, 771 40w £221, 881 64w £286. The looks on all these are that fairly generic Pioneer SX-828 and Akai AA-8080 style if smart looking. Only the 771 & 881 are 40w or more, the others may be fine if low power is acceptable if under 20w isn't going to do much, an 8w transistor amp is a bit pathetic, but kept the price under £100 in 1976 for a Stereo Receiver. 221 & 331 sold well & be sure many believe the 'Music Power' ratings from misinformation. The 881 gets looked at. The ebay one is never going to sell for a ridiculous £275, broken top grille & out of storage rough look, £75 to us seems expensive even. Typical ebay overpricing by amateurs. But what is it? Inside photo shows Transistor outputs, Power Amp section for L+R on one plug-in board under a metal case, Main Selector at the rear to avoid the long wires inside if they make no difference if done well. Looks a good amp & some early use of ideas mentioned. Still an amp with separate boards unlike the later one board efforts did even on higher models. But the Circuits reveal all isn't so great: IC Phono stage & even worse IC pre-tone stage. The BA312 IC used here, a 7 pin inline one with 3 transistors, 1 can be designed as it has no resistors on it, if the other two are fixed resistor values to be generic & pointless but it's cost-cutting. NFB in the IC plus on the design will five it that 'boring' sound. No point looking any further perhaps, the Preamp is hopeless with ICs, but so much of the post 1974 era is so to look further to tell the story. Oddly the 551 has 2 transistors not the IC on the Pre-Tone if it's only 16w. Even better the 661 20w has No ICs at all in the Audio stages, the 771 similarly, so the 881 with ICs is a lesser beast showing the Top Model is trying to be clever but fails for ICs. The 221, 331 & 441 have IC power amp STK type blocks if with no other ICs, a real mix of design amid the range. 881 will be lacking in Bass if not too severely, 661/771 more limited. It's just why we don't bother much with these later amps as they are too predictable & don't always upgrade as good as we hope, plus resell price as Upgraded is limited as the amps are nothing too exciting. The 551/661/771/881 will probably sound 'nice' to the average listener, deep bass won't trouble them too much but they'll not be using 15" speakers to hear it anyway. That sort of lively if thin bright sound without much weight to it is common by this era & likely the deal here. A 64w amp for £286 in 1976 was on the cheaper side & some looks decent but the design is just 'cookie cutter' as Pioneer & most other brands became. Just not very exciting stuff.

December 2017 Blog

Buying Raw Untested Unserviced Vintage Hifi Online Is A Gamble.
We've bought quite a few of the Amplifiers we've had from ebay, the days of finding junk shops with the Old Stuff is long gone & ebay opens the country to you. But the risk of overpricing as we put on the September blog is only part of it. The Amps we are interested in are Old. The ones we look at are 54 years old if 1963, 44 years old if 1973 & 34 years old if 1983. Amps that may have been gently used occasionally for all their years or more likely shoved in a cupboard or the Attic where the extremes of weather do age things. The Warm Cupboard or Home Amp may look better grade if usually the capacitors will have aged more. The Attic Amp will have been overall cooler beyond the few hot days UK gets, but the Damp Air & Attic Dust means it will have aged more externally & internally with open grilles letting in all the muck. So that's what Vintage Hifi turns up as. But sellers on ebay even ones with Used Hifi Shops are Notorious for over-describing tired amps as "working well". Of course Caveat Emptor is the thing, but "working" to some can mean the Bulb lights & that's all they've tried. We've bought enough amps & had enough to service & upgrade bought this way to know usually the lids aren't even taken off to check, yet they paid a high price for it. Some say the amp is "Serviced" based on seeing buyers liked our Serviced Hifi when we trusted ebay & before we got into recapping & upgrading which gets those wanting to take advantage, so we've only sold on our website since 2014. "Serviced" can mean anything from Dust brushed out to one who's looked at it more, changed bulbs & cleaned switches etc, but only by seeing inside photos that few offer can you tell. Some sellers we see just put "Used" and no descrpition at all, so it's in perfect condition but still 45 years old? Not many can look at an amp & say "that's been changed", "that's not the correct fitting" or see the parts that have been changed, one apparently 'nice' Rogers valve amp had lots of alterations & missing parts, yet undisclosed & a very high price. The one who saw it was going to buy it for us to upgrade, but on us telling them of the problems they wisely lost interest. They could have bought it without showing us the non ebay listing & ended up with a much bigger rebuild bill as parts would need correcting & replacing missing parts. We can buy interesting amps & not really care too much if there are problems, if it takes a lot longer to work on than expected, but there's a profit in it. Got a Sony 1970 era amp here now, needed a new fascia, missing a rear Phono control knob, power switch lever broken & soldered. Inside it's greasy from nicotine & dust so needs a good clean as it's not nice. Parts to get to fix the switch sometime, unlikely to get the missing knob & the fascia was found to make the amp worth getting. We got the Sony as the first buyer was told it worked great, but it sounds aged, tired, dull on treble, a bit rough up louder, it's an old amp that is in need of a recap as a service won't be economical. They compared it to Upgraded Amps they bought from us which made the differences in sound wider. We see the potential but the first buyer takes a loss as it displeased them. The reality is buying anything Used comes with Risks. The only real 'guarantee' of Hifi being as you'd expect is when the seller says they've tried it, it hums a bit & crackly controls, here the amp is in need of servicing but is likely to be good. The cynical ones that lie saying it works & it arrives with transformer wires unsoldered & rusted transistors with the pins fallen off does happen if rare. Then they pack it badly even after giving good packing info so you get a dent on the fascia that lessens the resell price. But don't despair, look at our 'Sold Hifi Gallery' to see some amps looking smart in & out that arrived looking sad & tired.

An Ebay Seller With Some Great Early Sony Gear

We were asked what's the deal, are they really that good inside too? Seller says they are "perfect" & they are real beauties in the wood cases plus the other early Sonys, if not got a STR-6120. The thing is the outsides & wood cases can look to be in Top Visual Grade as not stored in an attic, but as the above to this section shows, the insides could be extremely aged with the usual noise faults & tired sound. The Sony TA-1120A we got with the ST-5000W tuner hadn't been used in decades & was in extremely bad condition if the insides looked good, the capacitors were all bad & to see one that bad was unusual. Full recap needed. There is No Perfect or As New in Vintage Hifi overall as similar to Cars, simply as they are Old. To just say they are "perfect" and not describe working condition may suit a collector, but there are sadly no Hifi Museums & the interest is from those who want to use these early amps. To use a pre 1977 amp, over 40 years old, can bring up issues over time, be it one hour or three months. The typical buyer just plugs an amp in & uses it until it goes wrong. 'Chasing Classic Cars' recently found some quality 1980s cars long stored unused & in remarkable visual grade with very low mileage, but the show revealed these were not 'key in & drive', they were aged under the bonnet with engine & brakes etc issues. Vintage Hifi is no different. We've yet to get an amp sent to us with "I just bought this, an you check it over fully to let us know if it's reliable for regular use" because if it's over 20 years old it will need some Servicing which seems a waste of money to a buyer if it works si they just chance it. Unserviced amps from the amount we've had will never sound as good as after servicing & a full check. But we say this a lot on this site, but only ever hear if the amp gets problems & even bad failures from use without realising issues were already inside.


Pioneer SA-9100: Beware Taking Advice From Forums.
We've mentioned plenty of times on this Website about being very careful what you believe on Audio & Hifi Forums & especially Taking Advice on "Modifications". Not to do us out of a potential job, but these Forum Types are amateurs who glean bits of info from many sources & think it applies, as well as scaremongering about errors they make, but publish & have others believe it. No Tech would bother with Forums or bother posting answers to amateur's questions, if also the Pro Tech started as an amateur, got Qualified & then really is a Pro Tech once they have paying customers, if in reality the Qualifications don't give you much Practical Experience, only years applying the skills do. Odds are you'll Wreck the Amp is the outcome, or not be able to sort it & sell it on as Broken as we've seen these sort of amps. For us to remedy bad work is a pain & takes ages as we've found out several times. One seller with the SA-9100 & the TX-9100 quotes "Common Faults Rectified" but dares not to show any of what they've done as they've recapped it too. They have also have "replaced the parts as per the recommended component lists" which may be the Forum ideas or the Pioneer manual ones, who knows. The asking price for both in wood cases is either overpriced, reasonable on the base items or a bargain for the work done, if you'll only know by buying. The worry should be the Forum Ideas put into the amp. Why do all that & sell it? Looking at our SA-9100 review, we were certainly 'gloves off' with it because of the silly hype it was getting. The majority of amps that were in the Discount Stores got cut to the bone on costing, notice Yamaha never went into Discounting, if even Marantz did by 1978 with new distributors. As with anything you read online, be careful what you believe if you can't see what else they know. To think you can upgrade Hifi as this seller thinks they have, based mostly on Forum Advice as they admit, is one to steer clear of. Who knows what they have done, if it was done well they show photos, right? The Pioneer SA-9100 does have issues, but many amps of the era do too but can be sorted out fine, the overheating, the strange circuits & low spec as well as taking it apart is a bit of a job. Replacing Transistors is usually done incorrectly, we had one just recently with a mid 1970s power amp repair evident with one wrong spec transistor that worked for sound, but there was no Bias which will affect how it plays & matches speakers. We've had a Yamaha amp with "any old transistor" shoved in, again totally wrong spec. Buyer Beware.


February 1977: Consumer Research & Customer Satisfaction in Hifi.
This is an interesting one as it reveals from a survey which brands sold the best & which were reliable in the years when still recent, rather than us looking 40 years later & only seeing ones that survived. This may only cover Cassette Players but in general you bought the same brand of Hifi for all, unless you were a deep enthusiast which by 1977 was not many as they just bought as recommended by magazines & shop staff. Firstly it shows that in 1977 the idea of "New Is Better" was still believed, as proven by many great amps stored away after only a few years' use & the latest thing bought, an idea that carried into the 1990s when people really believed one piece stack units with flashing lights were better. It shows that 1-2 year old Hifi was mostly owned, if a huge drop off on older gear with what appears only 0.5% still using pre 1971 gear. Shocking in reality when the Best Hifi for Sound & Enjoyment is the earlier stuff. It also lists the Brands of Hifi in the survey in order with a "per 1000 respondents". Bear in mind Cassette mechanisms were generally not made by UK makers if they were imported from Japan to be built into UK machines. This stil gives a good idea of what was popular, but UK brands like quad, Leak & Rogers don't get a looki in as they didn't do Cassettes. So out of the 1000 the numbers are: Sony 167, Akai 89, Amstrad 58, Philips 56, Pioneer 56, National Panasonic 48, Sanyo 46, Hitachi 45, Technics 43, Aiwa 27, JVC 25, ITT 25, Bush 23, Goodmans 21, Grundig 21 etc. These show a lot of budget items & portables mixed in with Hifi units, but Sony are way ahead, if you look at the Catalogs of their products, Sony by 1975-77 had gone mass market & doing very well. Sadly there are no similar ratings for Hifi Amplifiers & Receivers, if by 1977 beyond adding in the 3 UK brands, Yamaha, Bang & Olufsen, Sansui & Trio-Kenwood you'll have a good idea of what was popular. as for Reliabilty, you'll be yelling "Amstrad" but despite the early amps not being so reliable explaining the Mk II & Mk III versions issued quickly, in their era Amstrad were trusted, if after 40 years only the strongest or forgotten ones survive. The rest of the table relates to brands & models of cassette player & at a rough idea the cheaper ones aren't as liked as the more expensive ones as you'd expect. Cheap gear like 'Waltham' is low rated, but it's mass market fodder. Interestingly an "Upgrading" Table shows brand dissatisfaction with 34% wanting to swap brands. The idea of buying cheap & tiring is a fool's game, to buy good midprice or better is where you should buy. You only regret cheap stuff, not paying more for quality as is the thing today.


Subjective Sounds, Musicality & Irresponsible Reviewing
It would be fair comment to say Jean Hiraga & Paul Messenger are the two most blameable for the "Hi-Fi BS" that continues today. Mentioned more above. PM champions the Linn-Naim-Mission gear that Hair Shirt Wearers adore, but many cannot stand. One letter writer gets annoyed with the "Musicality" debate saying another system betters the PM raved about one. All opinions of course, good to bring new ideas but the April 1978 article mentioned below shows where it goes wrong. But one leveller of an article by Gordon King gets the idea spot on: Musicality is easy for the untrained ear to say "it sounds better" but the fact is a 1950s Dansette can sound more Musical than a poor sounding Turntable, Amp & Speakers that tries to sound more detailed but is poorly designed so sounds rough & "unmusical". For us Upgrading Amps, Musicality should be "Sounding Right Because It's Designed Right & Sounds Accurate". The blame of lesser amps being more "musical" because the detail is less hiding roughness is the problem GK sees & is spot on too. Unfortunately in that May 1978 issue he reviews 3 receivers Rotel RX-603, Yamaha CR-620 & Trio-Kenwood KR-4070, of which we've had the Rotel & the CR-820 version, but his review is so boring with none of the subjective opinion that is worth backing up dry technical matters & regurgitating the user manual as most of the 'reviews' are. The review is 7 pages long, seems more interested in the Tuner than the Amp stage, graphs of frequency response appear perfect on deep bass yet restricted on high treble with the Trio appearing too rolled off on treble. Spectrograms of the amp with a 200Hz test tone showing harmonics will mean nothing to most & no results of Slew Rate if Damping is shown if it rarely means too much to the amp sound unless very high. Do these 'better' reviews actually add anything, we think it's a wste of time in these HFN/RR trying to judge if an amp will sound good or not. We can usually predict how an amp will sound from the Circuit Diagrams, if that's based on years listening & looking at circuits to see why that sounds good whilst that hyped one doesn't. The Objective Tests we do on amps to see how they match up, but only once upgrading with tried ideas & hearing it sounds good, the Square Wave tests merely confirm or sometimes can still reveal a little more upgrading is needed, if the amp can actually take it. Educated Subjective is what this Website tells you of, if we are 40 years later than the Reviewing Battles on 1977-78. See below for Martin Collom's opinion on this.


Sexist Hifi Adverts In the 1970s.
Thankfully these do appear evey now & then, because that was the advertising ideas of the time. It appears a little quaint & embarrassing now, but that's History for you. Howland West Audio proves it on p63 of the Feb 1977 HFN/RR with a well-appointed bikini wearing one standing at 3 angles wearing headphones, as if anyone noticed that, under the dubious guise of "HW headphones for weight watchers". Sadly not in colour though. Opposite page another bikini wearer on Paul Messenger's "SS" page if it's a woman thankfully, not some Jethro Tull hippy. Always in these ads no cables, nothing playing music, but nobody thinks that far. The Nov 1977 HFN/RR on p162 has a "birthday suited" blonde woman looking right at you as she presses a button on a no-power Tungsram 3F receiver with the line "Try running your fingers along Danish LEDs". Considering we've never seen a Tungsram receiver doubt anybody bought one yet probably wrote into complain about some 'starkers bird in an advert' & that Mother spat her tea out all over the cat on seeing such filth. Amusing because it's done tastefully & isn't sexist to 1977 eyes. The pretty faced Pixall record cleaner one appears monthly by now. May 1978 has Ampex with yet another bikini clad 'Rambo' styled ad "The Ampex Invasion is on!" those with blurry eyes may have misread the brand name as something else. Considering the HFN/RR readership as revealed by a survey a few years before shows most were 35-50 & in the range of Office to Professionals, these sort of ads you'd think would be more plentiful.


Can We Hear Connecting Wires & Turntable Mats says Jean Hiraga.
Aug 1977 HFN/RR has the wires one to be follwed a few months later by the Turntables Mat one. Getting rather silly by now & the letters pages find this to be nonsense with jokers saying a pancake or raw sausages make ideal turntable mats. Cables we've mentioned they are just LCR circuits, some badly designed & usually British amps needed high LCR spec cable to not get into problems, revealing a supposed 'better' cable that some believed. The article shows square waves on 100kHz affected by levels of LCR to lose the squaring, how surprising. Just buy some good basic QED cable, ignore the expensive fancy stuff & clip Ferrites on the cables. End of that. Turntable Mats is another early years of guessing. From turntables that balance the record in mid air on a few points or arm bars leaving the record undamped are poor designs. A rubber turntable mat needs to dampen the metal turntable platter & support the disc. But we ignore that & use a piece of old Cotton Velvet from some old curtains as a Turntable slip-mat over the Garrard 301 & Technics SL-1500. you don't need anything else except to be sure the Stylus Set Up Geometry is right. Any hype about one being better will depend on how well it damps the platter, the Technics decks with a cheap bit of foam as a mat miss the point of damping totally. You can hear differences, but it's all it is. Keep it sensible & most of all, beyond buying the Hifi, keep it inexpensive but never restort to cheap quality.


When Did Hifi Racking Systems Appear?
September 1977 HFN/RR has an advert by Amstrad. They had recently introduced the Amstrad Executive Range that we cover the EX-330 amp on our "Other Amps" page, It's Japanese looking gear but still the same cheap innards, but it looks the part so on a budget it still looked purposeful. Amp, Tuner & Cassette Deck with a Turntable on top in the "Executive SR 301 Hi-Fi Racking System" is just that, four unit audio items in a chipboard tower cabinet, if no smoked glass door yet. Pioneer did a similar Stack if the adverts appear after Amstrad, so to assume Amstrad either copied Japan-only units, ones based on Rack Mount gear or did start the Rack-Stack system with the cabinet. Toshiba do one with separates Turntable, amp, Tuner & Cassette plus 2 probably mediocre speakers that don't do the rest justice by late 1978. Naturally being Amstrad, to quickly see they could make a cheaper one-piece unit pretending to be 4 units became popular by the early 1980s together with the ubiquitous smoked glass door. People were proud of these in the day as the lie of it being separate units wasn't realised, but the quality was budget as were the similar CD era ones. Musically fills a budget hole, but to get one today to keep for Nostalgia or Retro needs, the odds are Tape Decks long failed, rubbishy plastic turntables & STK amp blocks means 95% of the silver-era ones must be disposed of by now. What a pity...


What Has Gone Wrong with Amplifier Evaluation?
Martin Colloms asks this in the Oct 1977 HFN/RR. He's spot on, in response to the "Musicality" Paul Messenger idea & good to see one magazine take both sides. MC is a very thorough reviewer & does put some subjective opinion in, but on the main his reviews are far too technical & will have alienated most readers as shown above on a multi amp test. MC raises the points, but we give our opinion on them, these are not MC's views, get the mag for those. The article starts by criticising Amplifier Design, not quite realising the Dumbing Down & Cost Cutting of the era, but noticing things are not what was once familiar. Cost cutting started with 1973-74 ranges & to find Quality Hifi after this date is not so easy. Bad designs getting too much NFB applied to hide bad designs to give good specs but not sound too exciting, the lack of "musicality" in a simple way without quantifying what's gone astray. Crossover effects of Push-Pull amp we've never seen that on Oscilloscope tests if we don't get budget gear. Noise Floor aka S:N ratio improved over the years by extra NFB & manipulating designs, the 2007 Marantz without all it's limiters still had the amount of hiss a 1970s amp does so the transistors aren't better as is claimed. Bandwidth meaning 20Hz to 200kHz+ needs good design to do right, the hearing level is to 15-20kHz but to roll off much before 100kHz causes square waves to be less true even at 20kHz as we've found testing. But some earlier amps are very rolled off on high treble that even the treble sounds dull, nothing new here then. Excess output over 20kHz creates the rough grainy sound that tests good for THD on sine waves but is musical sandpaper that has low enjoyment value. Power Supplies on earlier amps could be well designed, later ones could be very cheaply made adding to the rough thin sound if once again the THD tests can't tell poor design. The rise of Differential Designs in all Pre & Power stages helps get better THD but if poorly designed they again can sound awful. The "TID" transient intermodulation distortion idea MC sees as a 'red herring' & probably only found in cheaply made amps. All of this shows Specs at the expense of quality design is why amps got sounding worse. Traditional Tests like Distortion, Linearity & Power Bandwidth really tell you very little & hearing the amp will reveal those. Square Waves are useful to a degree, but amps can be designed to give perfect square waves by limiting & NFB design, but still leaving a roughness to the sound that reveals the 'overdesign' is only there to fool you into buying it, not long term pleasure. The Difference In Amplifier Sound is admitted by MC as he did the amps test a few years before & we certainly agree to 'waste' so much time upgrading amps, never really knowing how good they will be until upgraded as some amps can be tricky, yet others upgrade wonderfully. So to see Peter Walker of Quad, by now an aged gent of 61 years, to say that Amplifiers Don't Sound Different & try to prove it will be interesting, when we write that up. You can do every single test on an amp, but only comparing amps, one day start with one amp, next day start with another so to test 3 amps over several days is the only way to compare. Group tests with different personal awareness levels are too vague as those MC tests revealed. "I Like This Amp" or not is the basic test, but it's who is listening to say that is the thing. Each upgrade we've found brought Higher Resolution, to then be aware of that to listen back to other amps. In the same issue "Old Amps For New" by Richard Elen 'takes a light hearted view' at the amplifier performance criteria. the trouble is he adds 'Richochet Effect' to the terms & it is then accepted as Letters over following months prove, an idea of the sound made by a speaker is richocheted back to it to add a distortion. You might as well say on a Hot Day Hifi sounds different or adding Rubber Balls to furniture to diffuse the sound alters things. Oh they later did. Hifi reviewing starts to disappear up it's own ass when articles like this are published, this was when Paul Messenger was Deputy Editor & propably why he got The Boot soon after.


Paul Messenger & Subjective Sounds April 1978.
This was written after he left HFN/RR as by March John Atkinson takes over as Deputy Editor & he stays with the mag for many years through the late 1980s. Unfortunately & rather unfairly PM is apparently made to look foolish at an AES (Audio Engineering Society) debate on Hifi, brave man to try new ideas in front of Learned Fellows who have been into audio since Pre War & have fixed ideas. They appear to have disagreed with him on Hifi Fact & Fiction matters & his page tells he tries to point out "No Loss" and "Musicality" in Hifi, both of which are good things, but also says some Shyster Hifi Maker is selling questionable speakers sold as 'with added musicality'. "Information Retrieval" and "Niceness" appear to be what makes up 'Musicality", which is true to a degree. To be accurate sounding, to be well defined with no apparent loss to the audio source but still have enough good spec to sound pleasing is what we see as 'Musicality' but in reality very few amps we get once serviced can deliver that. Cost Cutting, Dumbing Down, Low Spec, Overdesign & noticeably 'Tweaked' designs to get good specs at the expense of sound are what our Paul is coming up against. PM's efforts are the brave actions of the Younger Man with good ideas, but ahead of his time & too wild with ideas that people aren't ready to accept. What do people think of our Hifi Writings? We tell it like it is with 40 years later from PM to focus things & you can see just by the interest in Vintage Hifi that we have made an impression, if it'll never go mass market. PM may seem random & Linn-Naim-Mission loving, but he was looking at New Ideas that were just starting out, the 'Alternative Hifi Scene'. Anyone who tries to to shake things up is fine by us, but it seems HFN/RR as Deputy Editor & the AES debate was too early too soon. You can read a recent bio by him & he actually ran HFN/RR for 6 months as John Crabbe was away with surgery as it only slightly mentioned in the mag at the time. But from reading the dry pages of waffle by many writers in earlier years, Donald Aldous even modernised his 'my colleague' style to be a better read in later years, the shake-up in the Hifi Scene from 1976-78 was needed, if at a time when Hifi was not sounding as good as it had 5-10 years before for the Discount stores forcing Cosat Cutting. This leads to the strange Peter Walker & Quad face-off about "amps don't really sound different" that'll follow below. As if all amps sound the same, we'd just buy one & never upgrade, a Dinosaur view from PW if respect to the guy, we don't like the Quad transistor amps...


MOSFET Amplifier by Hitachi Arrives May 1978.
The first appearance of a MOSFET (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor) Power Amp Output Device comes after other manufacturers like Sony & Yamaha used V-FETs which by amps remaining today don't seem very reliable & spares are long gone. The MOSFET has the'negative temperature coefficient' as a highlight, as in if you misuse, misadjust or just damage the transistor it won't get very hot, but it'll still fail anyway. A strange way to test a MOSFET is found online, nothing like testing a regular transistor & they need careful handling for Static Electricity issues as do some ICs. In buying spares the MOSFET may suffer from "not findable" on the early ones & to buy findable replacement ones can be more expensive than silicons. The amps are HMA-8300 200w power amp & HCA-8300 preamp at £410 and £220 in 1979. Hitachi say the benefits are 'extremely fast switching', if we've not found any 'slow' output transistors beyong Germaniums, 'Increased bandwidth' will be dependent on design as spec sheets on earlier TO3 silicon transistors reveal huge bandwidth. 'Amazingly less distortion' based on 0.001% not being low enough plus the lie of amplifiers taking 15 mins to reach optimal use, 1 minute settles nearly all non-valve amps. so Hitachi are playing the game of hype, mocking other makers by name as they got there first as Hitachi make semiconductors. It's just a New Thing & for some years a MOSFET amp was the thing so throw out your nasty old amps because MOSFETs are better. In reality a MOSFET amp sounds like any other amp, if by the 1980s probably cost cut even more & op-amps used more. MOSFETs aren't that wonderful really, or bad either, if appear to use less power in operation as looked at further in FETs blog below. FETs use Gate, Drain & Source & can be likened to Valves Anode, Cathode & Grid as well as Silicon transistors with Base, Collector & Emitter. Wikipedia will explain more on MOSFETs.


Two Big Group Tests By Subjective Means: June-July 1978 in HFN/RR.
We were hoping for something interesting, a pioneering review in both cases, the first being Peter Walker of Quad comparing groups of amplifiers such as the Quad 33/405 & Quad 22/II to "prove" that all amplifiers sound the same. We'd like to see any proof of that. The next was a test of a Quad 22/II, early Germanium Pye TGS30 & the Quad 33/303. As with most 'great ideas' the results were hopeless, the first one did a big & meaningful write up & the Conclusion was put as a Stop Press with "there was no conclusion" meaning angry words on being made to look foolish so they'll not conclude the experiment. The second was no better, there was no conclusion on which amp sounded better, which was liked more or preferred. Utterly totally Useless. You cannot do Tests of Hifi based on more than one person's opion. Take one opinion, take the second & third and publish all to let the reader know. But the second test was pointless as they got Students to give opinions. We'll condense some of the articles to show how clueless it all was. They reckoned on the second test that the least amp was the more favoured one after tasting two before. Nonsense in the extreme. More on these sort of tests as further articles appear in HFN/RR.


How We Test & Compare Amps, There Is No Other Reliable Way.
We've been testing amps for several years now. Take any amp we rated "Excellent" as serviced & recapped-upgraded, beyond there being levels of Excellence as in just scrapes it or high excellent, the amps even upgraded with our own ideas will still all sound different. Firstly we get to know the amp, this is after Servicing to see what can be upgraded. To hear a quality amid the mediocrity is the gamble of upgrading & not all upgrade well. In Comparing tests, to first play one amp to Use Headphones Only firstly for at least 30 mins using certain music as we've stated elsewhere. Be familiar with that amp. Then try another amp, note what it betters or is lacking compared to the first. Then try another, then another, to try Seven Amps is possible. But this test is with known amps & the only real way to rate amps is by multi tests, it's how we decide which ones to sell. It's not a one-day test, it needs to be over several days o reset the hearing & take away the guessing that can creep into tests. So one day try a Sony first, next day try the Sansui first, next day try the Trio-Kenwood first etc. To keep testing all the amps to be able to rank which is best. One amp may be more neutral & sound duller compared to a brighter sounding amp, one may be too loud & make the neutral one seem boring even. Generally on Headphones, the amp you can play for 2 hours or more is the better one, as you don't tire from it. Many many hours of amplifiers on Headphones listening by us over several years, you learn what to listen for. The amps we prefer are Fast Sounding, shown by higher Slew Rate. But with a Sony pre-power we found it sounded fast but had poor focus & detail with a false Retro bass, this is one to upgrade. The amp needs to have a good kick to it, very few "stock" amps of any age can do this, but it's what upgrading & redesign can bring. Treble has to be sweet & clean, any harshness or leading into musddled midrange is not a good sound. The sound to be effortless with depth & wide Stereo separation. Amps do very noticeably differ on this even once upgraded. It can take years to learn how to compare amps & as we said we start with headphones as this brings far better detail & the drivers are right on your ears. Amps on Speakers Testing. After finding the best of a bunch of Amplifiers, then to try them all on Loudspeakers. This can instantly alter things as not all amps match speakers the same way. An amp can sound high Excellent on Headphones but not match your Speakers too well. One amp we tried to see if it was worth upgrading we tried as barely Serviced & despite it sounding quite poor on Headphones it surprisingly sounded great on speakers, with some issues in consideration. As with headphones, to try the amps for a few days, few weeks, few months to see what you like. Some can be a bit tiring as not quite matching right so the midrange can be a bit too overwhelming, some can sound nice but then seem too nice & you find the sound 'wrong' on trying another amp. To live with the amp & get used to it. Of all the amps we've had in the last 2 years, the 1966 Akai AA7000 with 2 of them lasted for months on the speakers & then the Realistic STA-220 & currently the Realistic STA-150 for upgrading it further matches even better.


Forum Advice: Put In Bigger Power Supply Capacitors.
This is the most common 'advice' Forums give. Is it a good idea? Not always so it depends where you start from: Take the Realistic-Hitachi STA220 & STA-150. These had a 2200µf 'low value' main cap as do quite a few earlier amps, some like the Pioneer SX-1000TD we're working on only has 1000µf if there are two to double the value. The sound quality of the amps were still found to be very high based even on the original spec, it's all in the design therefore, if 1000µf-2200µf is too low & can be betterered, if higher than 10000µf is generally not needed unless you are over 100w & pushing it very hard. Amps past 1977 have high enough values to keep them if still working fine. Big caps take longer to charge too. One asked if an amp we upgraded that had 10000µf should be upgraded more, we said it's not worth it & turned down a job by not misleading the customer. We see ones on ebay as upgraded & they just do the main capacitors leaving the smaller ones, often they do the awful 'capacitor stuffing' or fit in weeny ones for like-for-like. We've cut open enough big capacitors to see how they age & some can be as good as new yet some are dried out & crusty. You'll only know that by replacing so on amps that have capacitor coupling & the 80v-95v HT then these can usually be too aged. So for the 10000µf amp guy to pay to get the amp 'upgraded' to bigger values, the first problem is the original ones are a smaller diameter so that limits the task straight away. You could put 4x High Grade "Licked By Mermaids" exotic type ones, as your Forum no doubt will recommend & in reality it'll sound no different. The usual reason why recapped amps, especially Valve ones, are sold is because it doesn't sound any better just doing basic work renewing parts. Trying to glean bits of info from what Amateurs on Forums say is a risky game as said above. "People Believe That It's True Just Because They Read It" says a 1965 song by John Bryant. Read our site, we're not giving away upgrade ideas because there are no universal upgrades, each amp is different & even getting another of an amp we've upgraded before, we can do it very differently having found new ideas with other ones.


1993-96 Technics SU-A900 Mk II: Repairable or Disposable Modern Gear?
The Electronics Tech world of today we find depressing. You can only buy cheap stuff as getting a DVD player above revealed. Some gear is good, most is mediocre & even hi-tech Smart Phones are badly designed but that doesn't matter as you'll get a New One after the 2 year contract ends. The SU-A900 was a 90w integrated amplifier in 2 versions, Mk I must have been lousy as no manuals found. Pics online & the manual show it's a typical generic looking one board job, it's got microprocessor control, relays, the stuff users want. About £400 new at the time so not a budget amp. Standard minimalistic black fascia with a flap hiding controls. We don't like the flap type amps, even Sony did this on a 1960s receiver that we've not bothered trying. But of course "Disposable" is sadly the only thing once it fails, we certainly don't want to work on an amp with IC for Tone Control & even worse a one-block SVI3205B IC amplifier stage, like those ghastly STK blocks. One unit for a 90w amp, be sure the spec inside is very low & the amp as always with IC will sound thin & grainy with zero musical pleasure. But buyers bought this stuff as the amp looks decent on the outside, but inside it's crap. The IC block you apparently can buy for £32-£35 on ebay from China, both look different & if you really trust a 90w IC bought on ebay, then that's your gamble. Odds are one or both is Fake or at best a generic knock off. Once again the post 1990 stuff gets you again, buy it use it bin it or flog it as spares-repairs on ebay for £20 as someone may want the case fittings. We advised the one who asked about it, thinking the amp may not be what we'd work on or upgrade, to just sell it on & go try something earlier that sounds more pleasing. The reality is the thing is 21-24 years old & you got all those years use, so go buy a new one is the manufacturer's opinion, ".... but next time, throw it out after 5 years as our new ones are improved compared to the earlier one you, huh huh, bought before....". Cynical we know, but it's tech today. Look how few 1980s & 1990s cars are around, disposable similarly.


The Overpricing of 1973-78 Yamaha Amps on ebay. 
No-one took notice of the Classic Era Yamaha until we got our first CR-1000 for a mere £90 in 2012 just as it looked nice so why not try it. Yamaha in Hifi got a bad reputation for not so good AV gear in the 1990s so the brand was just about ignored. Look how many we got. But This Website got Yamaha it's cred back as we got quite a few of the higher & second highest models. They upgrade nicely, look great & sound rates them 'Excellent' once Serviced & Recapped. So the market tags along, intitally going wild for the CR-1000 because they didn't read how upfront it sounds & it doesn't match speakers as well. A harder-edged rewrite to our review got the message through, if it does upgrade nicely. But the Yamaha CA-1000 Mk I/II, CA-1010, CA-2010, CR-800, CR-1000, CR-1020, CR-2020 & CR-3020 are really up there with the best 1970s amps. As you can imagine if you've read this site, the Yamahas need Servicing to sound right, the CR-1000 we first got sounded very ordinary so to fully service it brought back a lot of it's life. It upgrades very well too as do all the Yamaha including lower models like the CR-400 we still have for sale. So to now see CR-2020s for £400+ in 'raw' grade knowing all will fail from overheating is pushing the prices too high for us to buy & recap. We offer a rebuild to stop the overheating which will always fail & the relays stay off, it's not a quick fix to do right. CA-1000s offered on ebay now for a hefty £600 to £900 from Japan is way overpricing. The CA-1000 featured on this site we recapped & then sold on a bit too quickly on getting the CA-1010. It reappeared for sale about 2 years ago & only made about £300 as the seller who never understood it sold it badly too. As great as these Yamahas are, to recap-upgrade is tricky as most are with tightly packed boards, the CA-1000 has a crazy cramped board under the inside black metal cover for example. A Yamaha is an amp to cherish, but it needs servicing at least. On the border of needing recapping if on these it's not as unreliable as Pioneer or Marantz, so you can use them. But the hideous overpricing of the CA-1000 meaning Seven Are On Ebay should tell these dreamers something. We know the prices recapped-upgraded CA-1010s sold for in the last 2 years & these ebay prices are way too high for raw unserviced amps. In auction they'd probably sell for £180-£250 from what we've seen if most of the amps we've dug out of obscurity & rated highly are pretty unfindable now as they were expensive new so limited amounts around. Only time with these not selling will get prices reduced, but human nature means they only look at offer prices, not the £168-£319 (with midprice tuner) real 'Sold' prices.


Earlier Amplifiers May Make A Thump Noise on Turn On.
This is how some amps are designed & upgrading can bring it out more. The Trio KA-6000 does this on ours as we upgraded it a lot further, if we'd not do a customer's amp to leave it with issues that may cause bother, responsible upgrading rather than just do whatever & worry the user. These noises are annoying or at least unpleasant but having read the voltages with a simulated Speaker load, it puts a typical thump or click noise from a sharp voltage transient. Will it damage speakers? 6v-8v RMS from a 50w amp that puts out 31v RMS show it won't cause bother beyond the noise. This is only found with upgraded amps of the Capacitor Coupled type & the issue with the KA-6000 is the main Speakers aren't connected until the amp turns on, the HT voltage & current haven't settled yet as there are no regulators if the voltage has nearly fully risen if lacks the power to be stable instantly, so this noise is heard connecting speakers by the internal switch or even plugging them in with the amp off. Solution on the KA-6000 is simple, put speakers on the "B" set not "A" set & turn the amp onto the "A" set, leave it settle for a minute or two & turn the speakers "B" on, similar to a relay action if done manually. No nasty noise at all then, so sorted. Other amps like the Sony STR-6120 have no thump issues as the power supply is regulated if still takes 1-2 mins to settle. The Capacitor Coupled amps don't have the lower ±HT of later Semi Complimentary or Fully Complimentary amps, these have one higher voltage & the 'mid point' voltage, ie half HT, is on the Coupling Capacitor blocking the DC HT from the speakers. Some amps have different designs & no turn on thump, but to let the Capacitor Coupled amps 1-2 minutes to settle before using the controls is what we have long suggested on Sales & Upgrades pages. These issues can be sorted in the circuits so it's useable in seconds, but it involves dumbing down the design which can almost negate the ideas of upgrading, a short wait to use the amp makes sense.


Bad Sony Soldering c.1972-1973: It's Bubbling.
We've noticed this on the 1971 Sony TA-1140 that was available for a few years until the 1973 V-FET style range replaced it & to narrow the years down, the second version of the 100w Power amp Sony TA-3200F has this. It may exist on other Sony amps of the era. The problem is they used a Wave soldering Machine, typical for the PCB era, but here they either didn't clean it out properly or used a bad batch of solder. The evidence is a thick gooey but dried mess of Flux on the boards as the Solder had far too much Flux in it. This is a big problem as it creates Dry Joints which means the solder joint is poor & not soldered right. For the excess flux, the Solder on resoldering actually Bubbles as the trapped flux burns off. It leaves holes & dips in the flux. Flux is not conductive so get a bad looking joint & you could have a dry joint meaning circuit errors. The TA-3200F actually had one joint so bad it didn't carry the 62v to a Push Pull Driver transistor, if oddly it still worked which makes no sense. So for the TA-3200F there is only one way to be satisfied with it, take the board out meaning unsoldering about 26 board tags with wires & resoldering the whole lot. Solder Flux should only leave minor traces in use, the huge flux mess & then allowing it to be sold is sadly the result of cost cutting & probably why Sony TA-3200F power amps are usually in poor grade. We hear that Sony TVs had issues on more recent TVs, perhaps the awful Lead-free solder was to blame then.


Six Amplifier Test October 1978 HFN/RR.
The HFN/RR past 1976 really doesn't have much for us to get interested in. Arguing about Subjective Sound that in later years of HFN/RR seems to be all ones like KK talked about, when he actually stopped rambling. Here in 1978 Martin Colloms does this test like a 1977 one as on our Books Page done before we started the Blog. After all the vagueness of Paul Messenger who quickly got booted from Assistant Editor & his 'Subjective Sounds' show he was given a severe talking to, ended up in July 1978 reviewing a budget Dynatron Music Centre & clearly not pleased with having to do that. So to see a MC article is initially a bit of a relief as his word in the early years we see as the Authoritative one, if his 1990s writings were far too constrictive we thought at the time. The pre-power amp combos, no integrateds, are Harman-Kardon Citation 17S pre 16 power £880 for the pair, Technics SU 9070 pre SE 9060 power £515, Exposure III pre & IV power £500, Boothroyd Stuart Meridian 105MC pre & 101 power starting from £520, Hitachi MCA 7500 pre & HMA 7500 power £640 and TVA Prototype pre & Export power, Power is £640, pre isn't a production model which is a bit strange to review, if it's a Valve system. Looks-wise the Hitachi is 2 big silver units with rack mount handles & analog meters on the power amp, the other non Valve ones are rather dull looking black-grey boxes looking like early 1980s gear for not being silver. Meridian needs 5 boxes to do the job properly it seems by the photo with the 'upgrade power supply' nonsense starting here. Linn-Naim-Meridian are the "Hair Shirt Hifi" that we've never liked the concepts of or looks of. To open the article, MC neatly sums up the Subjective idea as marginal, suggesting all amps DO sound the same & listeners must be "mad or fools". This isn't helpful & we'd have expected better as opinion, as we can clearly tell big differences in the Sound of Amplifiers based on Headphone & Speaker use. Some may not drive speakers universally well, if Headphones is the leveller & where we start. It's all opinions though & the more to read however wild they are or however shuttered they are adds to the understanding of the 1970s Hifi Scene. If Hifi really was all the same sounding, we'd be happy with the original designs & never wish to upgrade or alter things to try to find 'better' in it. Some amps can sound quite ordinary yet upgrade to magnificence, if the only way we find out is by being crazy enough to try things, get good results that test well & sound great. We don't just think Outside the Box, we think outside the Factory the Box was made in. (To be continued...)


Electrostatic Loudspeakers & Headphones.
These have long been known as Difficult Loads for amplifiers as the HFN/RR tests show they usually have trouble in tests, which they simulate with an 8 ohm resistor plus a 2.2µf capacitor in parallel across the speaker outputs. This usually gives a solid square wave in tests but with quite an obvious overshoot that suggests the amp isn't designed for Electrostatics (ES). The only ES speakers produced for many years were the Quad ELS 57 which were made from 1957 until the ELS 633 arrived in 1983. Read more elsewhere about these, if the very sweet & open midrange is the strength if bass is weak & treble is dependent on positioning so a flawed gem. Suited to the Quad II & the later Quad 33/303, the power handling is never really quoted if the 33/303 is 45w. the problem with the ELS57 is the Impedance Curve is rather brutal, the crossover on a 1972 'Studio Sound' review found on HFE shows despite a 15 ohm rating, it dips below that at 20Hz area & even more severely from 8kHz upwards, with 20kHz being around 2 ohms which is too hard a load for many amps that are rated 8 ohm on one or two pairs, 4 ohm on one pair but not 2 x 4 ohm as it'll be 2 ohm & overload the amp.


January 2018 Blog.


How Much More Blogging Is There In Hi-fi?
The 2017 blog is huge as so much was found reading through the 1970-78 Hi-Fi News/RR magazine & it helped put facts to the ideas of how Hifi changed, as good as living it at the time. As of now we are on the November 1978 HFN/RR & we have the set up to Dec 1980, matching the Hi-Fi Yearbook 1981 end. After 1981 things changed a lot as out went the Monster Receivers & in came low powered Pre & Power combos that seem a bit pointless & that era that is riddled with ICs never has interested us having seen enough years back. The Silver Era ends gradually & by 1986 perhaps a Silver amp is a Hifi Leper, ones we used to see at Car Boots in the early 1990s were £20 regardless of how good they were as 'unwanted'. The lucky Silver Amps stayed stored away... So more blogs until the HFN/RR is read through & then blogs will be far fewer, unless we go back to 1956-1969, if that probably needs a different page as it's less relevant to Today's Hifi, but the 1956-62 era were interesting, so worth writing more on & the HFN & HFN/RR mags pre 1980 are long gone now despite some selling 50,000-70,000 copies not many survive as with most magazines.


Do FETs Belong In Audio Preamp Stages?
We have long thought FETs were the weakness in the Sony TA-1130 & other amps that used them in Audio Stages. But it's actually not so, read on. The NAD 300 huge receiver had FETs in the preamp & we couldn't do much with the amp, but on later looking at the circuits, the whole power amp is a bad design. Usually the FET we saw was a bad idea trying to cover bad design as the Yamaha CR-1000 uses them on the preamp to mute a power-off click. But as with Differentials, we need to find out what is bad & what is good, no-one else tells you info on these things & for us to find out is the only way. Progress in Upgrading gets a 1971 Sony TA-2000F here, to see what a preamp with so many FETs like the TA-1130 has can be upgraded like. We really didn't expect too much from it, so to leave the FETs & not try to replace with Silicon even based on the earlier TA-2000 preamp yet upgrade the rest. FETs are in FM Front End sections of a Tuner & this was an idea first used in c.1968 with the Sony STR-6120. We've found Differentials are fine in Audio, but the trouble is, the Differential Era generally starting from 1971 is where cost cutting takes place, the Differential gives good specs if the sound can be awful. But it's not the Differential that's the problem, so how about the FET? So to try upgrading the TA-2000F with all our ideas but leave the FETs be. It sounds as punchy, crisp & deep bass as a Silicon Transistor preamp. FETs may only have low spec in comparison, but a FET for the principles of it does not need much power to work unlike a regular silicon transistor. The TA-2000F FET noise levels are comparable to transistors, if not totally silent. Based on how they sound, the FET is actually 'no bother' and no limit to a preamp as we found with the Differential. The big problem though is Bad Design, Cost Cutting & Fear of The Real Sound to wrongly blame the FET in preamps until we reseached it fully in upgrading. Is it better to have a FET or Transistor in a preamp based on Sound? Actually it's no different on a well designed & properly upgraded amp. The 'Fashion' aspect of adding the "F" was a Sony thing & they progressed to V-FET output stages a few years before MOSFETS arrived in 1978 as noted above. The only trouble with the TA-2000F FETs is they are awkwardly numbered & sorted into gain groups, if one fails or goes noisy, to replace is the difficulty. So FETs are fine in Audio Stages, but the design has to be good & the Sony TA-2000F & TA-1130 don't do the FETs justice.


The First Of The Dreaded "Improved Sound Quality" Hifi Adverts.
Fascinating to see where the Nonsense starts in Hifi, above we reveal the two names Hiraga & Messenger, and be sure these sort of "dreams" will translate into the tiresome "Improve Sound Quality" by buying something that's not quite what is seems. Previously Cecil Watts & the Pixall type ads together with Bib cassette care kits had a clear purpose. But in November 1978 the 'R.E.W' shop starts with "Definite Improvements" where a £200-£300 'upgrade' is offered by Buying a £50 set of 'Monitor Audio Sound Cable' for speaker cable. As we've said, it's just the old LCR effect. But what is that? As an example, your Record Player MM Cartridge has exactly that, the 'L' is inductance in the winding of the coils, the 'C' is the loading you add in the amplifier plus the tiny amount in the cables from Cartridge to Amp & the 'R' is Resistance of the Cartridge windings. The typical 47k resistor MM Loading is part of this too. If you have an amp to adjust the 'pf' capacitance loading it 'pulls the focus in' by limiting the highest frequencies & adding a 'ringing' as it compresses the higher frequency range with the 'L' effect having a basic effect alone if the 'C' tunes it, much like a traditional Radio is made with Tuning Coils. So Why Do Cables Need To Do This? It's because the Hifi you are using isn't very good. You've been sold mediocrity by believing a 5* Review-Advert. This ghastly 'Grainy' sound of blurry & rough upper midrange-treble we've heard in UK-EU Hifi from the 1960s-70s if the Japanese & USA Hifi is far better designed so even some cheap 30w 1978 Japan non-IC amps can still sound acceptable to us. But by the 1979-82 era even Japanese amps got that grainy sound & the 1983 Yamaha A720 was very unmusical for this cost-cutting. So the 'Fancy' LCR-effect Cables just add a Tuning & Compression effect to the amplifier, taming the roughness. It papers over the cracks & on the budget-midprice type amps it will have an effect & it will get 'Wonder Cure-All Drug' hype attached to it. The slimy ad execs hype these items because you believe these things are true, so we thought we'd explain it in terms here to show the deal. Yes, it's all "Science in the Name of Hi-Fi Hype To Spend Your Money Unwisely". A similar 'Wonder Cure' are those cynical TV ads to reduce wrinkles on Sun-Dried Hags that they bring on. They use a Hydrating Gel that fills the Dry Wrinkles & takes off 20 years which is cruel, but they just want your money. But 1 hour later the effect has worn off. Wise Man in Hi-Fi has bought Hi-Fi of High Quality which can be done cheaply if you read our pages closely, and we only use the Basic Good quality Cables avoiding all the Expensive Hyped Junk, but we Upgrade amps to do the Fine Tuning on the Inside of the amp, so cheaper cables can be used. One using high LCR-effect cables on highly priced gear will wonder why the Electrical Wonder sounds boring, you're choking it's design with Silly Cables that you don't need. Today to spend £100 on a fancy Cable to connect Turntable to Amplifier as we found in an earlier Blog will make a Cheaper Cartridge sound more refined, but we just upped the design in the amp to realise the 'High Choke Qualities' of Expensive Cable can reduce the quality also. You do not need Mains Conditioners, Expensive Mains Cables, "Hi-Fi" Fuses, Expensive Speaker & Line-Level Phono cables if your Hifi is a good design. Put your Money into Better Hifi than wasting it on Silly Filter-Effect Cables.


1960s Fisher Valve Amplifiers.
These are a High Quality range & were only sold in the UK by one shop from 1963-66, probably 'Largs' of London. The Fisher Valves Range has similar numbering which gives later versions but is a confusing issue so to try to understand this, but often sellers misquote the 'Music Power' rating which is a lot higher. There are no 75w valve amps in 1963. The 1964 HFYB as on our Amps page lists these... Fisher get a range now X-100 stereo integrated 20w EL184 (? typo EL84) £60, X101-C stereo integrated 27w £100, X-202-B stereo integrated 35w £137 uses 7868 output valves, X1000 50w £161, only X-100 is stocked rest are special order. Power ratings on Fisher are easy, it often says the RMS & Music Power rating on the amp itself, so no excuses to hype the Music Power ratings as RMS. From info found online & manuals the 1963 X-100-2 & X-100A is 17+17w RMS & 20+20w IHF (Music Power) as printed on the amp, so the HFN 20w is 17w RMS. But HFE wrongly says 40w per channel. 17w RMS per channel is likely 15w RMS both channels. X-100-B has bigger output valves to the earlier & X-100-C is the last version. X-101B is a different amp with valve rectifier from 1961, the X-101-C we have pictures of, a front-flap type amp with larger output valves so 27w per channel with ECC83 & 7591 valves, so this is 25w RMS both chanels used. X-101-D is the final 1965 version. The biggest one is X-1000 at 50-55w if the manual only gives "110w Music Power both channels" so 50-55w isn't RMS, it uses 2 pairs of EL34 which can get 50w, if probably 30-40w RMS is the real value. X-190 is a basic amp with a single output valve per channel ELL80 must be a double valve as it says Push-Pull. No power ratings if could be 5w-8w by the looks. X-202-B is 35w RMS per channel so likely 30w RMS both channels. So X-100 15w, X101 25w, X202 30w, X1000 40w-50w RMS both channels driven. The early pre 1963 ones with Valve Rectifier are less upgradeable, the ones with Diodes are the better ones. All are still early with AC heaters for some sections. *We get the Fisher X-100-B to upgrade, see the Reviews page.


Fisher X-100 Valve Amplifier Range.
Of the Fisher Valve amps made 1963-66, this one seems the easiest to find as it's a 15w one, so to look closer. Firstly there are several versions, later Fisher kept updating the designs but changed manuals by Serial Number as the following shows it's too confusing. We have Manuals for X-100-2/X-100-A second version X-100-3/X-100-A third version, X-100-B fourth version & X-100-C fifth & last version so there must be a X-100-1/X-100-A too. There will be changes in Output Valves & possibly 100-117v plus the ones that can be rewired to 220-240v that have extra wires. Probably not hard to tell which version you have of the "A" version & the A/B/C will be marked on the fascia. The "A" version has 7189 valves running at 390v, the same valves were in the Sansui 500A running at 420v which is far too high for the valve specs. The "B" version has bigger sized 7868 running at 435v. These bigger valves can be run up to 30w say some, but the X-100 is still a 15w amp but with better headroom, rather than pushing 15w out of valves that are only rated at 15w. The "C" version has the same 7869 & voltages. The "A" version is 8-16 ohm only, the B & C are 4-8-16 ohm for an extra transformer winding. Note on Using Headphones, you need to select the 'Headphone' output to add a Load Resistor to the Transformer, else as we found with the poorly designed Sansui 500A it brings big problems. The Trio WX-400U/W41 amps have a load resistor always in circuit which is a more sensible design. Some Transformers don't appear to need a load resistor if some do, the designs of Valve Transformers is quite an art, if you'll not find details on transformer spec as it's design. The "A" version has smaller main capacitors, not a problem for us upgrading. The Heaters on the "B" & "C" version are AC on the Power Amp stages if Preamp ones are DC on the Bias Circuit. The "A" version is all AC heaters. AC is ~ which adds Hum to affect the Signal-Noise ratio & can mean a background noise is heard on sensitive speakers. Adding DC heaters to the Preamp is good, if on our 1979 Luxman LX33 the original design was awful, so we did all Preamp & Driver-Splitter as DC leaving AC for the Output Valves as is standard. Therefore the "B" & "C" ones will upgrade better than the "A" for Output Valves & DC heaters, the "A" version is the 1963 first one & Valve design improved by 1965-67 if the 1966 Sansui 500A is strangely poor.


New Test Gear: Oscilloscope & Frequency Generator.
We've got on fine with a handheld Velleman HPS 10 Oscilloscope, it was reliable & gave worthwhile results, if it is quite old now, got annoying for auto shut-off & for the size it's working but tatty, the weak folding stand long gone & now the outer window cracked time to move on. To get a proper desk Oscilloscope used to mean those big TV type CRT tube ones if now you can get some smart LCD screen ones that don't take up much room. The LEC College we went to used RS (Radio Spares) gear so on looking to see what was around in Used & New, to buy a new RS IDS 6052U suited for the price & uses, it has USB connectivity if we ever want to go further so a good buy. It takes a bit of learning if then is easy to use. It shows the HPS 10 was taking RMS readings which was never clear, the booklet doesn't tell much. The RS one has lots of settings & reading capabilities. To use 'Autoset' to match the input source Trigger to stop the sine wave running around L-R was a problem the HPS 10 had as well as autoranging on the wrong range. A useful feature we've learned of with Amp Testing in HFN/RR is Rise Time is important & the RS scope reads this which will have uses. Double channel display means we can compare input & output at the same time. For a Function Generator, ie Test Tones Generator, a big range of ones with some too fussy in use, but a barely used Thurlby Thandar TTI TG 120 20MHz generator will do fine, it was only recently discontinued as no USB outputs, so is modern enough for us, if it'll not generate FM frequencies for Tuner testing if to go to that spec is a huge jump in cost that we'd not see use of. The idea was to connect the TG120 to the amp to test plus another output to the scope to compare in-out but that's not directly possible. The TG120 has Main Out plus Aux Out that's just a TTL/CMOS square wave logic gate plus a Sweep In that requires a Sweep Tone generator to 'do what it does' to create as Rising Tone type of signal as Test CDs have. So we could do with 2 outputs M to 2F, a doubler which does exist as the BNC connectors are used in other areas of electronics. BNC male is the bigger fitting one with the centre pin & BNC female is the centre hole one with 2 locking pins, all for reasons & names not too obscure. BNC male to Female Y splitter as the 'T' block ones are too close to use neatly with side connectors, if we see one with connecors next to each other on the 'T' which is better. To connect the Generator to Amps via Phono sockets required a BNC to single Phono & then a Phono Y splitter to give 2 inputs, all a complex cabling game. Once the BNC splitter arrives we can test how accuate amps are inputs vs output & much more.


Comparing A 30w Valve Amp to High Powered Transistor Amps.
We've got the Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F pair, the Sansui, a Yamaha CR-1000 & the Luxman LX33 valves to compare. The three transistor amps are much upgraded & play detail in a different way to Valves. But the Valve Amp is the purpose of describing here, why bother with Valves? Hot things that need maintenance & the power tubes need rebiasing before you need to replace them. After playing the Sony & Sansui the longest, the Valve Amp does sound quite different. 30w Valves on EL34s without the typical Ultra-Linear weak design that we don't like the sound of, as described elsewhere on the blog. The Transistor amps are 100w, 130w & 70w, the 30w valves plays as loud as the 70w Yamaha if we found it does flatten off a bit trying to match the Volume of the Sony-Sansui power that was got used to on Headphones. Before we overdid the volume making us quit as it sort of disorientates, the difference playing Valves was very noticeable. The sound is more natural, more effortless, not so in your face but still with the fine detail. The slam of certain test tracks is delivered well if in a different way, a little like it sneaks up behind you unexpectedly from being more polite & kicking you up the behind. But we play Vinyl a lot currently & the Valve Amp can do 5 hour sessions without any fatigue beyond headphone ache. Valves done right can be very neutral & 'matter of fact' that takes time to understand, but then see the Beauty in the sound. Vinyl played on Valve Phono Stages gets a detail out that Transistors can't do & a feeling of 'being in the groove' is apparent & crackles appear firm & solid sounding, not the blurry soft crackle, but tuned in well to not sound as annoying as a Transistor design that can make scratches sound louder for the forced RIAA designs that often sound dull & lifeless despite being RIAA-accurate. The Valve amp can deceive you with it's subtlety on first listen as we've noticed many times with the 100w Valve Monoblocs that haven't been used much in years now for trying Solid State amps more. The valve amp can sound duller even, especially if you've used a Transistor amp on Headphones. Valves can be treated in a design way, running Hot, that Transistors would fail at which means Valves always win on Phono Stages for detail resolution. The 30w valves could play as loud as a 70w Yamaha, the 'flattening off' is soft clipping, a valve amp will clip better than transistors which is why Guitar Amps prefer Valves for Overload Characteristics. Plenty more on Valve Sound ideas on our 'Valves' page.

Are Valves-Tubes or Transistors the Best?
Both can be as good as the other overall if Valves are better on Phono stages than any Transistor amp for how you can design them where a Transistor wouldn't. But Transistors can deliver more Current to drive Speakers, so the Bass on Transistors is more powerful. We've got 15" Tannoy Golds, which amp type is best? The 15" bass driver is a big thing to throw around in a musical way so it needs good current to control & deliver deep sub bass that few speakers can. We've found amplifiers with Double-Pair Output Transistors such as the 50w amps Sony TA-1120 drive the speakers better than a Single-Pair amp. We've noticed this with the 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 which is Doubled also. But the reality of Doubled Transistors again is revealed by hearing the upgraded Sony TA-2000F/3200F 100w pair which have Single-Pair output transistors. The Doubled Output Transistors give the sound of a higher powered amp if the amp itself is 50w in the case of the TA-1120 & it still will flatten off past halfway on the volume, maybe leaving you wanting more. These Doubled Output Transistors are in very few amps such as the Sony TA-1120(A) & Fisher 600-T, if the idea was more to get a reliable higher power rating using transistors that were at their power limit, as in the TA-1120 originally had 50w transistors & was rated 50w, so no 'Music Power' headroom. Not to be confused with Single-Ended which is a Valve amp that's not Push-Pull, we mean Doubled has 4 output transistors per channel & Single has the more typical 2 per channel. Therefore there is no "Best" either has it's merits, the Valve amp as in the section above excels in a sweetness to the sound, it can play very loudly if not quite getting the weighty bass of certain Transistor Amps that only reveal this once upgraded. All this is based on Upgraded Amps done by us, those comparing Shop-Bought original designs that are always limited to not be too good & to keep universal, this is where more disagreements will be found & none are right or wrong. For Vinyl, we only play Valve Amps & have done since getting a Rogers Cadet III in about 1996. Hear Vinyl with Valves done right & Transistors will never come close. For TV sound we found the Luxman Valve Amp we use for Vinyl not quite as rich sounding as some transistor amps, such as the Realistic STA-150 & 220, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000, Sony TA-1120 & Sony TA-2000F/3200F pair. The 1968-70 Sony STR-6120 sounds great on the Tannoys, likely designed with them in mind if the sound can be too upfront for some who aren't used to detail revealing they are used to muffly sounding amps, or at least mismatched Hifi. So many different sounds in Amplifiers, to find one you can listen to for Hours on Speakers or Headphones is where you'll find your Best.


Hifi News 1978 Amplifier Tests. More Of Them, Why?
In the November 1978 issue Martin Colloms is on about Amplifier Testing again. Awful ideas of forcing a group of several people to listen & rate amps is never going to work, look how Paul Messenger got treated for daring to be radical, if got a bit carried away leaving his opinions a bit unsure of the worth. The Peter Walker-Quad amp test above that really didn't say much is done better by MC as is his way. He actually means Testing Power Amplifiers alone to see which sound different, not including the separate preamps & using one preamp on all Power Amps which will get mismatching of sound levels so again hardly ideal. Power Amplifiers have an Input stage which may be a Transistor or two or a Differential type one of some sort. Then comes the Driver, the Bias-Splitter stage, Push-Pull Drivers & then Push-Pull Output stages. The big differences in sound come in the early stages. With Preamplifiers these vary hugely in sound & it's a reason why Passive Preamps, just a switch box & volume control became popular, if often the Power Amp didn't have enough gain to drive it so it sounded sweet but with no kick to the sound which some will prefer & say is more natural, but it has an incorrect gain. The "Tone" of an amplifier, even one with no Tone Controls, is created in the Preamplifier stage. The MC test uses 13 people which is a bad idea as peer pressure, unease at sitting with those you don't like & the pressure too of hearing music you don't like to know what's good or bad. The article is a real bore to read, the Adrian Hope intro is just pages of waffle that say nothing. These 13 people, just one female, had to tell which amp was sounding the best & they repeated the same amp more than once to apparently show how useless the panel comparing game is. We say above how we compare amps, only to be familiar with the amp over weeks & regular use, as well as comparing to known Reference Amps helps tell good from average. One panellist was derided as 'guessing' & another just down to chance, no names told though. The stupidity of the experiment concluded that "Good Power Amplifiers - with the emphasis on Good - all sound much the same". You can imagine the words we're thinking, not ones we print here but that opinion is lazy & uninformed, revealing little familiarity with the amplifiers to make such a vague sweeping comment. Shop Bought Hifi will be sold to be universal & by 1978 the complains had been heard for 10 years so much like samey 2018 cars, to the untrained ear, they all can sound alike without time with them & learning them properly. The early stages of a Power Amp dictate it's quality, as does parts spec, power rating, power supply design plus whichever Preamp it's designed to match. A 20w amp will be designed to suit it's needs & not get into distortion, so expect Bass & Treble to be tamed, plus a limited Slew Rate to not need too high spec a design, ie keep it priced within the expected range. A 50w amp can be designed very differently, but still need to be limited in some way, the few Doubled-Output transistors give a taste of the Higher Power sound, if they are still 50w & don't try to push them too hard as you'll end up flattening out the sound to sound unpleasant. In an ideal world, a 100w+ amp should be designed to perfection with very high Slew Rate & unlimited Deep bass, but a Sansui G8700DB 160w amp we had to service was still very cost cut & limited, a frustrating amp to try. The 1972 Sony TA-2000F-TA-3200F are 100w but are so dumbed down in every possible way, especially the preamp. We can upgrade amps to sound what they 'should' sound like, but not to go too far & have them be unreliable. So to say "they all sound much the same" to a degree is correct, but they are playing Shop-Bought gear that is limited, we by knowing Upgraded amps know otherwise, some Amps can upgrade a huge amount to really reveal how good Hifi can be. We've rebuilt & much upgraded the Sony TA-3200F 100w power amp & initially it was rather safe & boring sounding, but now it compares with the TA-2000F preamp to the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X.


Why The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X Is The Best Post 1980 Transistor Amplifier.
We've written the amp up deeply on the Reviews page, yet we've offered it for sale for a while over the last 2 years as it doesn't match the 1969 Tannoys too well. No-one ever asked about it, nobody knows what it is & it's a Rare amp already. We left it to show what we can do in upgrades as if it doesn't sell within a week or so it can sit for ages as it proved. Why did no-one go for it? 1980s big brand Hifi is generally derided as Mass Market Crap because it generally is. The 1986 Sony TA-F 550ES was the most boring amp we'd ever heard, the 1984 Technics SU-V707 with computer control bias & heatpipe in a cheaply made amp, the 1987 Yamaha A-720 & 1985 Realistic STA-2280 were all rough thin sounding disappointing things as we wrote. The 1986 Pioneer C90-M90 200w pre-power we thought the preamp was very poor & the power amp, from what we heard was unexciting. But the 1982 Luxman L-410 75w amp we upgraded in 2017 despite it's midprice build, still had some Quality to the sound So there is hope, if like us, where do you start looking. With 1960s & 1970s amps we review from having them, to check out the circuits in the manuals to see if they are worth a try, if there are ICs in the Preamp or Power amp, they are no good to us. a Phono stage often is an IC but most use Line Level playing from a Digital Device or Computer, so the Phono stage from rarely sounding too good is generally seen as a secondary feature like a Tuner. The Sansui AU-G30X we got just to see how the 30w version is & beyond poor construction it was pretty decent, if we didn't recap or upgrade it as not seeing the value or interest in it. So the AU-G 90X... we got one from a Strange but apparently Wise Oriental guy who didn't even want to spend to repair bad caps, but that's their choice, or cash-flow issue, but we'd tasted the amp & heard quality in it to go find one for ourselves. His devotion to the amp yet not get it repaired was disappointing, if we had recapped the 110v version of the Technics 1978 3-box set, but the UK 240v they had too we though far too dangerous to work on or offer as our work which may have seemed wrong to a customer, but Live Mains to a Resistor sort of thing isn't safe so we passed on them, who needs comebacks when it's obviously a bad dangerous design. The 90X we bought shortly after by the luck of things was a typical bad ebay seller lied about faults one that had it not work right on first try, but easy to sort for us. The Design of the 90X is the thing, it's way beyond the typical amplifier design, it's like it was a mad perfect prototype they dumbed down to not make it too good but swiftly moved onto a lesser design, this one is based on Pro Gear. Based on Balanced Amplifier design that is with XLR connectors these days, the "X-Balanced" amp had no Audio Ground connection. We found an ad in a HFN/RR issue that didn't really explain the design too much & with all the 'Design Fads' of the era, it appears to have got overlooked. The design looks to have a lot of transistors & differentials, but it's not overdesigned. It has the Best Sounding Phono Stage we've heard in Transistors too. The amp has the typical plasticity of 1980s amps & oddly bulbs in the selector area not LEDs. the output connectors look like 4mm sockets but aren't if we fitted proper 4mm sockets that was a lot more tricky than expected. The Sound of the 90X has influenced our Hifi Upgrades since 2015, the 130w design once upgraded which was a very advanced job is one that can sound way too huge as we've written before. But with getting a 100w Sony TA-2000F-TA-3200F & upgrading those to their best, the surprise was how similar the AU-G90X sounded to the Sonys. The Bass was different, the Sonys a bit richer sounding if the 90X has far more slam in the bass. The 90X was even more smooth on the midrange, a sound that can be considered 'hard' or 'cold' if the amp doesn't have good Bass weight, the 90X didn't as original, our upgrade does. So coming full circle & hearing the 90X with a very similar sound to the Sony pair, it needs keeping as a Reference. We've moved on with certain amps once we've upgraded & learnt from them, were not Collecting them if many we'd keep if we did. The 90X has finally met an equal in our upgraded Sony pair, they all sounded disappointing as original, but again to see beyond that. Are there any 1980s to Now amps that come close to the 90X? The design was a progression if you look at slightly earlier Sansui as our review says & the next range was much simpler, back to the less wild designs. Sometimes you can be too good & realise it was too good to sell at the price. HFE has a brief review "Excellent Powerful" if we've not looked at other's opinions. Hifi Shark says 2 are For Sale, if you trust buying from obscure sittes in non English language. What Does The AU-G90X sound like as Original & Serviced? That was 3 years ago so here's what our Review says... The sound on this amp is very precise with huge dynamics, it could benefit from a little warmth & tidying some rough edges, but for what it sounds like, the depth of soundstage, does make this amp very special amid 1980s hifi, if there are certainly earlier ones to better it in terms of musicality. The Sansui just has that 1980s upper midrange harshness & that lack of 125Hz bass was noticeable, if it has deep bass kick if certainly lacking higher up. the low spec really does sound to us yet it does have a sound that is appealing if a little contrived for all the circuitry and/or low spec, if a better 1980s amp for sure, so Is this the Best 1980s amp we'll get? We've not finished doing Hifi so who knows, but the fact of the 1980s having ended a while back means if there was a better 1980s amp we'd have heard of it? For the CD era, the huge amount of Amps we'd bypass as with ICs, the odds are limited. If you know of any Great 1980s or 1990s Integrated Amps we'd love to know & have them to Service as well as Test. Any great amps we'd Service For Free (not Repair, Upgrade or Courier costs) for having the chance to try & find them, but suspect there aren't any that come close. In an age when 70w can still be Midprice quality & those huge Pre-Power 500w things that probably never see 50w output are where others think good sound is. We remember in the mid 1990s seeing the Rotel Michi range with the curved wood sides, the classiest lookers by far, but today to see there are no Tone Controls & the need to buy a separate Phono stage, we wonder. RHC 10, RHB 10 pre-power. But buying the lousy Musical Fidelity A308CR pre & power huge amps that have great outer caees but everyday cheap parts were a sign of why we rarely dig into post 1980 as it's usually not for us. Except the AU-G90X.


Tests: Buying New Phono 1m Connecting Cables & Comparing Them.
Needed a cable pair for the Sony TA-2000F-3200F & the Straight Wire ones we got in about 1998 are getting aged so down to 3 cable sets now & they aren't repairable. The Plugs get loose & even squashed back they are too used as soft now as well as the contacts breaking off & inside connections weakening, but 20 years use. The Cable to Plug Housing connection isn't the greatest & once they break, you're done. So to go onto ebay to see what cables there are. Cheap junk by the truckload as you'd expect, even the cheapo ones as Gold Plated saying they are 'High Quality' if no better cable thickness than damp string. The Straight Wire ones are long obsolete so to never know the LCR specs is a bit difficult. So to just go with what makes sense, ie look at the £15+ ones to see what there is. We don't want Designer Cables with heavy LCR effects as it's not needed on our Upgraded gear. To find good but basic ones, none of this Silver Plated nonsense, with better construction cable to plug saw Neutrik ones. Van Damme Hi-Fi Interconnect with Neutrik/Rean NYS373 Phono Plugs caught the eye at £17.99. Specs are •Part 268-500-000 •Conductor: 0.63mm bare ultra pure linear crystal oxygen free copper (UP-LCOFC) •Insulation: Foam skin polyethylene •Capacitance: <97pF/m •Screen: 93% optical coverage LC-OFC braid •Jacket: PVC/Neoprene composite in Sapphire Blue RAL 5003 • Overall diameter: 16mm x 6mm. OFC is standard for better cable. The 'Straight Wire' maker has a website with various ranges if no specs at all which is hopeless. SW Chorus (Blue) & SW Sonata (green) are the old ones & no specs found anywhere. The only way to test is to use the Van Damme ones on the Phono Cartridge to Amp to tell if high or low capacitance & the LCR effect. You really need a reference with cables & those reviewing cables on Shop-Bought grainy modern Hifi seems so pointless as the LCR effect tunes the grain as we've put above again in the November Blog "Cable Lies & Hype". The Van D cable does have good plugs, the Neutrik Pro connectors are well made with extra parts inside to make a very strong cable & these Rean ones, a Neutrik brand, are very similar to put up with Pro use without breaking easily. The Cable is not as big as the Straight Wire which are actually a bit of a con as the outer plastic casing is most of the cable size with only a typical inner cable size, you think big cables are more metal cable strands inside sort of misleading. Paired together with a small plastic thread separating the L+R conductors, to give the idea of better crosstalk values, if it's pretty meaningless of you look inside amps with cables all tied together. In the tests below, the Van D Neutrik connectors fit easily if with the style of construction fit more solidly than the SW. So to try them on the Phono Cartridge to Phono Amp Inputs as this reveals the differences & comparing to the old Straight Wire ones, we could do with replacing those if the Van D one is good. The test record is 1966 UK Decca 45 John Mayall 'Key To Love' which is mastered very loud & not exactly Hifi but the loudness reveals the differences better. No Ferrites on the Cables save swapping & record the tracks to compare easier. When Recording the track, they sounded different if which was the best is impssible to tell without swapping cables many times. Recording the track, editing to 30 sec & Normalising to 0dB to allow quicker compares is the way. The SW Blue is the one we usually use. The SW Green is very noticeably filtered & rolled off. so the Van Damme one is the interest. It sounds close to the Green one if we'd say it's a more balanced sound than the Blue without the high LCR effect of the Green. On a Loud Cut track the Van D does sound a bit tidier. Rejecting the SW Green, to get a cleanly mastered 45 with a Hifi Sound, this is a 1967 Dale Adriatico 'I Hurt Too Easy' which is mastered at a Hifi Level with treble sibilants & detail to the sound. This time an edit to 45 sec to allow for the louder section. A few replays reveals the SW Blue is the more detailed. It may make the loud Decca 45 sound rougher, but it's the more honest on a Phono Stage. Adding the Ferrites pulls in the Treble a little to focus better if it's very subtle, an extra air for the focus is noticeable adding the Ferrite, as in those big white clip on ones already mentioned on the site. On the Loud Decca 45 the Ferrite tunes it in very nicely. The Van Damme cable therefore is fine as a Line Level interconnect as the LCR effect is a little higher than the SW Blue & for the £18 price if your Hifi can take the detail, it's a Bargain. No silly directional arrows either, if some will think the text direction means the same... The only minus is the cable joining mid section will need cutting to fit a ferrite. Tests using Goldring G-800E modified, plus cables into Luxman LX33 Valve preamp, our design. Recorded via the Soundcard.


Do Connecting Cables Make any Difference For A Pre-Power Amp?
We've only used the Sony TA-2000F-3200F with the Straight Wire Sonata Green ones, these have a higher Filter Effect on using for a Phono Stage. a Preamp is not outputting Line Level until you play it loud so to see if it has any effect using the Van Damme cable as described just above, why we bought it. After watching the weekday TV shows again, the Sony is noticeably more detailed with the Van D cable than the SW Sonata Green which is a high LCR effect cable. At Line Level such as TV, CD or from a Soundcard, the voltages are higher up to 2v if quieter parts will be a lot less. If you have Good Quality Hifi, but think it sounds a bit dull & your cables were more expensive ones... you can "improve sound quality" by getting Cheaper Cables of a decent quality still that do not limit the sound so much. There. Improve by getting Cheaper rather than buying more Expensive. A First in Hi-Fi.


300w Sansui G-33000 Receiver On Ebay for £14,000
We've already had a look at this on the "Other Amps" page & found it a bit unnecessary. But there are those who need 300w to brag as with other 'Small Man' syndrome, so it has a purpose. One we saw auction for just over £2500 so £14k is ridiculous.
Easy to mock these amps, but to see further into this one from knowing other later Sansui. The ±86v HT for 300w plus 4 pairs of output transistors, 2 per channel, when the 100w Sony TA-3200F is ±60v for 100w shows this sort of amp was used by Hair Shirt Wearers for those equally pointless 84dB very low sensitivity speakers, under the delusion it was "Better". But for being reminded of it & see it claims "The Highest Slew Rate In A Receiver" & now knowing the Sansui G-8700DB we need a closer look, knowing how limited that 160w one was. The amp splits into 2 units with a fan in the middle reveals the £14k picture, er... fans are noisy so there goes the Silent Noise floor. But split in half it fits on a sideboard shows the User Brochure found online. Not a great looking amp for the Boy Racer Cred. The fan half that's the Power amp looks like a 1940s Bakelite Radio, how pleasant. The Hype write Up in the Brochure is the usual Fluff & to Justify why you need it. No we don't. The usual words.. "Thanks To...", "No Need To Worry...", "Ingenious Design", "Hand In Hand Factors", "You Can Rely On Them..." & similar sugary waffle. DC design means No Capacitors in the Signal which makes amps very hard to repair once damaged as so much gets damaged, see more on DC coupling below. It claims 175v/µse Slew Rate, on 86v HT means Slew Rate is to the 90% limit in half a microsecond. Read more on Slew Rate in a Blog section above. For 300w a little surprising it has Plug-In boards as the Brochure shows, but the 160w G-8700DB did & we didn't like the sloppy build quality on the power amp stages. Damping Factor of 60 is interestingly low. Boards are named oddly, "EQ Mother" is Phono, "Flat Mother" is the Preamp, "Bax" is the Tone Stage as in tone stage designer Peter Baxandall, if it comes after the Pre & before the Tone, so not exactly the same thing as the Baxandall tone is amid NFB between two valves or transistors, tone here is Passive. Power Supply is actually called Power Supply not "Energy/Life Generator" as the silly names suggest. The Preamp-Power Supply is busy as are Yamaha of the era, but care in here if a lot of Transistors & Differentials with some FETs. Onto the Power Amp & for knowing the Sansui AU-G90X some early hints of that design in here, if not balanced. The Power Amp has one Power Supply per channel plus the one in the Preamp half, so 3 transformers. All Designer Overkill, but maybe not as Dumb as it seems, but like a lot of High End Prestige items, will you ever see the best of it in use? The output Transistors are just Doubled as the circuit shows. How it will sound based on knowing the AU-G90X & G-8700DB is probably not as great either, as original. The G-8700DB
didn't sound too good at low volumes & bass was limited & 'Retro' false sounding. The AU-G90X as we put just above had the huge dynamics if very cold sounding without the more natural friendly' sound we upgraded it to. The G-33000 & G-22000 as with most better quality amps would likely upgrade pretty well, if the huge amount of circuitry is a worry for what could be got from it. Only hearing one would we tell. We'd not be afraid of working or upgrading an amp like this, if we can imagine the work involved would be huge & costly, but if you're splashing £2.5k-£14k (supposedly) then you'd expect work to be expensive. We do wonder about these 200w+ amps, the odds of them having a friendly well focussed sound is likely to be lost amid the 'Muscle' of huge power, we hear Krell amps are cold & sterile even. Go on, give us one to try...

The Purpose Of These Big Brand 'Monster Receiver' Amplifiers.
Often it was to try new ideas & go All Out making the Best Possible purely for Research. We've seen great design in several amps over the 1965-1984 era from the 1965 Sony TA-1120 to the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X, but the 1965 Sony was released without dumbing down & swiftly simplified to the 1967 TA-1120A. The 1984 Sansui was a development of ideas leading to this "Best Ever" design, but it was rather heavily limited in spec that doesn't show, big transformer for show but some heavy dumbing down. These huge 300w Sansui & Marantz amps were Prestige Items, few were made & not many are around. But the design ideas were often diluted into more Mass Market amplifiers. It wasn't until the 1990s with the UK Cottage Industry Hifi that the idea of ridiculously high power for the Market then & the Valve-Tube Revival together with Shysters selling Classy Crafted Casework filled with mediocre electronics. The purpose of Shop Bought Hifi is to Sell It & be as Compatible as possible, never giving away the best ideas without dumbing them down. Our exploits into Upgrading are Gambling, to see what these amps can do upgraded, to see the ideas as were prototyped possibly but dumbed down to sell.


New IHF Hifi Standards in 1978.
Dec 1978 HFN/RR has an article about the IHF updating it's standards to quote Specs. After having read it, the idea of "Who Cares?" and "Who Would Bother". IHF is often quoted as 'Music Power' which means we ignore it. Only RMS into 4 or 8 ohms both channels playing means anything & buyers understand "Watts" as meaning just that, if older amps often get Power Ratings misquoted. The way to find out THD was often including residual low-level noise, ie the Sound Floor, but THD in Transistor amps is pretty meaningless as 0.003% can still mean the amp sounds thin & grainy. Distortion can be heard by The Ears which in an extreme way everyone should tell such as a Portable Radio turned up too loud sounds harsh as too distorted. In Amps 0.1% THD is the Standard created by Leak in the Post War era by using NFB in designs & this became the standard. Cheaper Stereos could be with higher distortion, if again, who cares, as man buying cheap audio gear must expect it to be much less than the Hi-Fi end of audio. But here the new THD was is ridiculous & likely manufacturers mostly ignored it, if a few used the 'THD+N' based on "the square root of the sum of the squares of the individual harmonic components, and not the reading of a conventional distortion analyser". No doubt it'll expect every harmonic to be read based on the Hiraga type tests from recent boring articles that everyone dismissed in HFN/RR letters as "who cares". Strange as by 1978 the Monster Receiver Wars were taking hold yet by 1980 they had gone. We don't remember many Tech Tests in reading HFN/RR from c.1993-98 either, if they were there to find the 1998 Marantz CD-R machine (CD-R 615?) had bad jitter so Marantz revised the design. This was the first commercial CD-R machine & we bought it at the time starting to keep CD-Rs of Vinyl that got us over 20,000 tracks now. TID (Transient Intermodulation Distortion) that was seen also as a bit of a red herring even by the HFN/RR guys is renamed 'TIM' for some reason, but again "who cares?". By 1978 all Hifi is Standard beyond RCA Phono vs DIN inputs differing signal levels, only the pre 1972 era gear can have adjust pots for level or be non-standard like the Leak 30-70 ranges are. Most specs are really of little importance past a certain price level. Once rather tedious idea is to now Quote Power Ratings in dBW which is meaningless to review readers if Martin Colloms uses this in reviews & appears pretentious & superior for it. 10w is 10dBW, 20w is 13dBW, 100w is 20dBW based on a Logarithmic scale. Watts in ' xxW RMS' is all buyers understand yet again IHF are not in touch with reality. The idea of dBW is "Loudness Of Sound" 100w is 20dBW yet a 300w 'monster amp' is only 24.7w and a 500w 'tea-chest size amp' is 26.98dBW. The Maths here shows none of the Vanity of 100w+ power & the 300w-500w only ads 2.2dBW, when 10w to 20w adds 3dBW. Not impressive on paper is it? A 25w with 300w PMPO on 1980s nasty plastic Music Centres gets the unwary thinking it IS 300w.


What Hifi Specs Do We Take Notice Of In Choosing Amps To Try?
Firstly, to look for RMS Power such as 20w or more on 1960s Transistor amps, or 15w on Valve Amps. Past 1970 to see 30w as the minimum as lower power ones are more budget with 40w by the mid 70s so to tread carefully as much is junk. Then to look at Damping Factor, usually 30-70 is typical, if over 100 means overdesign if not always. Slew Rate is rarely shown but the 'Fast' sound is high Slew Rate-Rise Time, a high slew rate amp should be of a higher quality. Tone Stage ±dB gain is useful, typically 10dB if some can go 15dB, if later ones with only 5dB are usually not useful. Of secondary importance is 4 or 8 ohm capability & Relay outputs on the Differential-era amps, ie those without Capacitor Coupling. The rest such as Distortion matters not once seeing the standing of the amp, as in Budget, Midprice or Top Of The Range. We'll try Midprice or better if Budget isn't worth our time, if oddly the 1960s Rogers Cadet III was Budget Priced, if in a different era, so to consider only on Transistor amps. As for THD, we aren't bothered once knowing the rest, it's old, it'll sound aged & for us to buy it, a quality will be seen which will bring the best out in the amp. Shop Bought Hifi will meet standards of similar contemporary Hifi, if we've found the UK-EU gear is always lacking the quality somehow & often ugly rather than Cool Retro, so we only go for USA & Japanese gear as it's far more sophisticated. Then things like buying price, how much to upgrade & the likely sell price, if that's further away from Specs.


The Battle of The 100w Transistor Amplifiers.
When younger, the thought was a 100w was the pinnacle of Hifi. It meant an amp of serious power & of a quality, or at least you'd expect that. Years later we've had 100w+ Amps & that Ideal is surprisingly rarely found in Amplifiers. The 110w Yamaha CR-2020 still sounds quite soft for it's power, we tried upgrading one a total of 4 times with increasing ideas if never really found what we were looking for there, if it can be much improved, the busy preamp limits. The 100w Yamaha CA-1010 again got upgraded hugely to try to get the Magic from it, if it was not so great again on the preamp which was seen as the weakness & the first one we got we thought wasn't very good at all if a later one changed opinions. They still rate 'Excellent' as upgraded though. The next 100w+ was the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X that has again had so much upgraded. Without much else to compare it to beyond 50w amps that upgrade very nicely but are still 50w after all, only the ones with Doubled Output Transistors giving a taste of the High Power sound if still the 50w. We did get a 160w Sansui G-8700DB to service but not upgrade. On speakers & headphones it was found to have promise but was very underspec cost-cut sort of late 1970s sound, a bit frustrating to not hear it upgraded but to see some construction was 'difficult' means we'll not try that one to upgrade. The AU-G90X has been thought great if still lacking some warmth & friendliness to the sound if further looking to upgrade after deciding to keep it after all offers hope. Why it got reassessed was it found an Equal. The 1972 Sony TA-2000F-TA-3200F as original isn't very good at all, the amp upgraded properly is truly high excellent, but the original is so dumbed down & limited we wondered if we wasted our time getting it, but the right attitude to just upgrade it to see what it brings is the only way. After finding the Sony pair especially good, how about the AU-G90X again. Last time we played it it was thought to be "too big on the dynamics" but the Sony pair was a very similar sound if with the more friendly sound the 90X still was missing. The Sony pair on the Tannoy 15" Golds sound excellent, sweet clean detail at low level, but on TV shows that get noisier, the explosive sounds of "Robot Wars" really bring you to the THX tye theatre amplifiers. Of course we do know that sound via our 100w Valve Monoblocs if the preamp that is now a 10 year old design is the weakness so we use Transistor amps more to try them out. Many transistor designs we don't find to our taste on Speakers, if the Sony Pair really does have that sound of the 100w amp as we imagined years ago. So many of these 100w+ amps offer power but not the Fidelity or Clean Sound due to overdesign & cost cutting. But to have finally found 100w transistor amps worthy of the 'High Excellent' as in the Sony & Sansui. It's all in the comparing & we've only once tried the 100w Valves via Headphones if that was about 5 years ago, just to learn the Transistor scene by itself firstly.


Direct Coupling In Amplifiers.
This was a 'fashion' in amplifiers by 1977-78 as Marantz 1152DC & others used the idea of not having Capacitors between Transistor Stages a benefit. Some stages of Valve amps don't have Coupling Capacitors if generally the voltage is under 100v. But with the 1968 Toshiba SA-15Y we just got, it has Direct Coupling which is a first. It's not foolish like later designs where one failure trashes the whole amp, the amplifying Stages have a Buffer & only the intercoupling ones are DC coupled. Toshiba in 1968 say coupling capacitors can cause Phase Shift & other issues. The 15Y amp uses this design in 10 places if the Outputs are Capacitor Coupled, by using NFB it keeps the stability & performance better. With the amp sounding aged, to tell it sounds good, but to only really tell once recap-upgraded. In a Dec 1978 HFN/RR test, Martin Colloms tested some DC amps & found the DC offset & stability wasn't as good as it should be, if by 1978 cost cutting & less of a personal touch to even test amps before sale. The 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 uses similar DC interstage coupling, if the Sony TA-2000F only does on part of the stage. As the risk of putting things like this online gets amateurs thinking 'let's rip out all the coupling capacitors as it's better'... don't. There are there for a reason in the circuit & generally it makes no difference to be DC or not as MC found in 1978, it's just a selling point. Unless you know amp design, then if a coupling capacitor is there, leave it there, else you could put 25v to 150v onto switches & output sockets, depending on amp design, causing bother.


Naim-Linn-Exposure-Meridian Owners Are Now Trying Vintage?
We hear of those looking into Vintage after knowing these sort of Amps. They are cold, dry & lifeless much like the Spectral Pre-Power sounded. Precise in some ways, but not enjoyable. Do you play your Naim amp much? It doesn't inspire you does it? We've looked at these amps on 'Other Amps' if only from what online Photos show as these companies don't want you seeing their designs, or realising how ordinary they are. The sort of Amplifier Breed that goes on about Silver Plated Cables & Handmade quality, because few buy this stuff so no production lines & of course Silver cable gets the sales hype. Seeing one awful amp that had Valve Drivers with a very feeble power supply but it looked like it had an IC output block, or possibly 2 smaller ones as bigger than any transistor, why are Buyers believing this nonsense? We hear of Vintage amps being compared to these Overhyped amps & the Vintage always wins for Sounding Better. If there is a word to describe 'Tactile' sound then this is the pleasure in Vintage. Not just our Upgraded ones, but the sort of everyday £50-£100 late 1970s amps even bring more Musical Pleasure than these. The days of Hifi Mags having a big influence for Paid Advert Reviews certainly brainwashed many & to hear they are considering one of our Upgraded Amps saying stuff they use already... Will Naim Users Like Vintage is the question. They'll be upset it has Tone Controls & Loudness, Tone can be set to zero & Loudness does nothing in the circuit if not used as it sort of jumps up the volume level with a filtered circuit, it's not amplified. Tone Stages with ICs are best avoided, ones with Transistors are fine. The rich realistic sound compared to that cold sound that's ultra precise but often called "Clinical" we heard in the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X if are still upgrading it three years later as the above shows. We've heard other Hifi set ups in Shops & Homes, the general idea is "we don't like your sound" on post 1980 gear, if the owners have been told "it's better & improved" yet believe it. From Cold & Hard to Muddy & Blurred, they are used to it. We had the 2007 Marantz PM 6002 & with taking out 120 spoilers, it sounded & the design then looked like a 1977 Yamaha. Progress in feeding you lies, designs & noise levels still the same. The days of Washing Powder "washes whiter" kept the lies going for decades & many can't deal with the biological stuff as it makes them itch or worse, yet it's "better" as the advert says so. The Naim User will find say the Sony STR-6120 up for sale as of typing, a very alien sound. It's very musical & we've liked it for many years as it was always a great reference amp. The upfront if smooth sound with fresh treble & lively bass is far from the cardboard flat lifeless sound of post 1980 audio that is dumbed down to be universal & cost cut to sell you a supposedly better product than your buying price suggests. No, you get what you pay for as did Pioneer buyers seeing 30% of RRP in Discount Stores by the mid 1970s, Pioneer just cost cut to sell more, the dip in quality shows. The Pioneer SX-690 "is an AM/FM stereo receiver with 2 hybrid ICs power amplifier output containing bias, driver and output stages in quasi-complementary circuits. Output is direct-coupled OCL following a first-stage differential amplifier." Yes, it has those nasty STK type amplifier blocks, if you rip one apart as they deserve before you bin one, it's just a board with insides of transistor bits on it plus other tiny components. Not going to be the best quality or design, it's just generic. But buyers believed this which led the way to that thin sound being accepted as time moved on & CD players giving a sound that was unlike anything real or before. So will the Naim user like Vintage? Unlikely they will understand it. Best advice as you're looking to get a better sound is to try a cheap £50-£100 ebay silver late 70s amp & get used to that. Even ones with ICs will still sound more musical than those boring sounding amps & if you like the overall sound, then jump into better Vintage & Upgraded.


Other People's Attempts To Repair... Oh... How We Do It Properly.
We see this sometimes on amps we get & as said before, you never trust what they did as it could be wrong. A Toshiba 1968 receiver with hiss & hum wasn't properly repaired so the seller gave up. It takes skill to do repairs & upgrading, you can see if we are any good at it by our Hifi Gallery Solds pages, we like to show the work we do if hardly anyone else does. To do each amp neatly with quality parts is the only way, having upgraded many amps we do it to a very high standard that we'd keep the amp & trust it on our Speakers, all Upgraded amps as ours or a customers gets the same standard, which is very high but attainable once you know how & no need to do less. So the Toshiba, signs of where they tried to undo bits, some success, but a tatty job. Clearly they used any capacitors they had & even left 4 of them as they didn't have that value & others are a mix that's rather amusing, 100v & even 250v ones where that's hardly needed plus Bipolar ones that weren't used originally. Amateur poor work, messy soldering & with no care or checking done. We'll just take the whole lot out & redo it. Thankfully they only tackled that stage, didn't learn the circuits which is admittedly pretty advanced here. Others can do Hifi work, but to us it's usually the poor TV grade "use whatever there is" game. They use any old transistor not checking if it's suitable & plenty more horrors. We keep a good stock of often used parts including Transistors, we can probably redo most of the amp with parts here if we order in bigger capacitors as needed. To never trust another put the ± of capacitors correct or even used the right values as often it's any old junk as shown here. We have seen other people's work on ebay that we were pleased to see they did it nicely, if that's generally not the case & why we initially saw buyers not want to buy Recapped Hifi, so we give good photos to show we do it nicely using good parts. We used to see Recapped Amps make Less than Original amps, they showed no photos of the work done & still rarely do. Do it properly, show your photos of work done & buyers will trust your work, as in any Outsourced Jobs.


AT LAST... REVEALED: Why All Hifi From 1980-Onwards Sounds So Awful.
A blog section six sections above about the new IHF Standards, we didn't like that or see the point to it as you can read, no cosy opinions here. But the Feb 1979 HFN/RR continues & the penny drops. these "New IHF Amplifier standards" to replace the earlier 1966 ones, are what ruined the great 1960s & 1970s Transistor sound. It all makes sense now: Manufacturers had to follow these unrealistic & pointless guidelines for Fear of their Amplifiers failing to meet these new standards & getting bad reviews. But the Earlier Transistor Amps especially those pre 1974 are the Best sounding, some can be a bit crude, kooky, or unusual, if they played the music with a Friendly Sound that Vintage Hifi Buyers are discovering. These Dictating Standards we've read the second article & it's all showed & Manufacturers are expected to adopt these New Standards. The trouble is by 1978 Heavy Cost Cutting is the norm for the Devil of the Discount stores & stupid buyers (yes) who expect more than their money's worth & still think they get it, no you don't. What the numbers are for this IHF Standard aren't printed, the earlier DIN standard ones were & they were easy to better as was the idea at the time. But Google "IHF Amplifier Standard" & you'll find more on both the 1966 & 1978 IHF Dictates. As you can find the Edward J. Foster article online, we'll not repeat it, but the ideas of Dynamic Headroom, Sensitivity & S/N ratio, Frequency Response & filters, Input & Output Impedance and Damping Factor, Transient Specifications, Real Life (Speaker Test) Loads, Multichannel amplifiers & the Primary & Secondary Ratings is the last one. The ideas may help better the cheap end of the market, as in obliterate it as too cheap isn't possible, but 1980s Hifi we find to be Thin Sounding, Grainy, No Bass & Unpleasant, if there are exceptions like the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X as blogged above. Of course these nasty sounding amps tested great to satisfy the standards, but it killed "The Good Sound" forevermore. Be sure manufacturers as with the silly 0.01% THD distortion tests could penny-pinch designs to the bone to keep the test results good & What Hi-Fi giving them all 5 Stars as each one was always "better" in those days. You bought nasty sounding crap whilst your lovely earlier Hifi sat in the loft with the Spiders. By the early 1990s the sound had bettered as much more dumbing down to hide the rough grainy sound was found, as shown by 120 spoilers we could take out of the 2007 Marantz PM 6002. As with life today, a tiresome extreme Morality unaware of reality is the mood out there & by 1980 to tow the IHF line on Hifi to not get bad reviews yet give poor sound is no different. People accepting stupid ideas because they are Dictated it & don't have time to think or question, well we do. But it takes decades for the Good Ways to be noticed in the way Vintage Hifi is being rediscovered & we know we've played our part, telling things that nobody else writes of or has ever considered. IHF is The Institute Of High Fidelity, no doubt the same clueless stuffed shirts that mess up anything that was great for their narrow ideas of what "we" should be accepting. But by the later 1970s, Hifi Mags we already realising how good Amps from 10-20 years earlier were & by the mid 1980s HFN/RR with Ken Kessler's 'Anachrophile' was doing similar. The Good Stuff always returns. A Good Song will reveal itself as good again, eg Dire Straits 'Money For Nothing' we liked this when it was on Capital Radio a lot but way down in the charts, but then the Video got seen & a huge hit so we hated it as it was now Mainstream. But in getting lots of 70s & 80s hits to record to the computer, a few years back it sounds great again, if it took 30 years & not listening to the Radio to not be bored of it. Probably doesn't get played now for certain words in it that 'offend' the snowflakes. The Best Things in Life are the Wild Things that were allowed before they had to Tame Down or make lots of money & debase themselves. But read on, we have a deeper look at this...


The IHF New Standards Continued.
The actual number specs don't seem findable, so a look at the article to see what ideas are apparently better for us. Dynamic Headroom is Music Power redefined & before those useless PMPO Peak Music Power Output that became standard for crapply flashing light CD systems by the late 1980s. The Burst power tests of 20 milliseconds supposedly showing peak power, all pretty useless as the low spec amps will be too slow & just clip the peak. This time the Peak Power is in "dB headroom" which we don't remember seeing quoted as 3dB tells the buyer nothing, if 25w RMS with 100w Music Power does & fools them. IHF-A-202 standards replacing the IHF-A-201 ones from 1966 it says. Sensitivity is the input voltage to make the amp, set at full volume, reach peak clean output. amps described as "250mV input" just confuse as a CD player outputs 2v max we were asked & probably wrote that here already. Signal-Noise S/N Ratio is where "A-weighted noise measurement" comes in. weighted means 'not the real value read' but contrived to fit their standard. what does A-Weighted mean? A-weighted system, the decibel values of sounds at low frequencies are reduced, compared with unweighted decibels, in which no correction is made for audio frequency says Google. So an amp in theory could put out excess 5Hz or 100kHz & the weighting would hifde it as we can't hear it. Frequency Response loses the '±1.5dB' & instead the '+0dB - 3dB' is seen as more accurate. It's supposed to reveal amps that only sound good loud, as be sure you've heard amps that sound poor at low level & why the Loudness button is still on amps today. Input & Output Impedance is probably only useful on Phono stages as many earlier amps don't use the correct 47K ohm loading. For Pre & Power amps with different models & brands not designed for use together it may offer numbers to decide, but buyers haven't a clue & Impedance isn't readable on a Meter so to go by "As long as the input impedance of a device is much greater than the output impedance of the preceding equipment, the two will normally be compatible". Impedance is a known difficulty, which is why some better amps put a Buffer stage on the Tape Output to stop the Recording Device affecting the overall sound of the Amplifier, some we have noticed do affect the sound. Damping Factor is now read at different frequencies, if HFN/RR have done that for years revealing poor damping at frequency extremes that gives the grainy sound. Transient Specifications is about Slew Rate, Recovery Time & Overloading as Blogged above. But 1980s amps can sound fast but the sound has no weight behind it, but the IHF tests can't tell that. Real Life (Speaker Test) Loads tries to confuse instead of the accepted power at 1kHz usually. HFN/RR again have tested at say 40Hz & 10kHz to see how the Power of the amp does. 40w into 8 ohm means it plays into an 8 ohm test resistor as the Dummy Load. Your speaker may hit 4 ohms for it's impedance curves & it could be 80w which is why those badly designed 3-way speakers that dip to 2 ohms can pull 160w from your amp & trashes it, or protection comes on. The Sony TA-1120 is a 50w into 8 ohm amp, it makes sense of what to expect, so why complicate with Reactive & Capacitive loads that Mr Buyer won't understand. Multi Channel amplifiers has an interesting one about Channel Separation. Not many amps do really wide Stereo, some can be like using a Mono Fader at halfway compared to the best widest sounding ones. Again the A-Weighted testing. The rest on 4ch isn't relevant to us. To Get The IHF Specification involves Primary & Secondary Ratings. Nothing to do with Transformers, but it's their standards & these tables are found online, Primary are ones you might care about, Secondary are ones you'd not really consider, if we see Stereo Separation as important & mention it in Amp reviews, also 'Slew Factor' a contrived Slew Rate test is worth knowing if it meams fast amp or softer. all this IHF dictating just complicates things & by the 1980s 'Hi-Fi' sound you can see it was not a good idea, if what the criteria in numbers are you'd need to buy the IHF paper. It's always the well meaning bores like Mary Whitehouse that force ideas to control things that most are happy with. The IHF having such control over Hifi Specs has proved a damaging one we feel.


Upgrading Amplifiers: What Does It Bring To The Power Amplifier Stage?
All the above about HFN/RR saying "all (Power) Amplifiers sound the same" is unaware nonsense. In 1978-79 they were listening to Good Brands but ones now heavily cost cut on parts & spec used, penny pinched to sell in Discount Stores. Not surprising they sounded much the same as the limiting & low spec was universal. But because we don't believe much of what is accepted as General Opinion, here we go again with Clear Proof Power Amplifier stages sound very different, if perhaps only as properly recapped ignoring cost-cutting & the benefit of upgrading which is design based. The Sony TA-3200F upgraded with a very moticeable improvement, bigger dynamics, smoother & less harsh sound with crisper Treble & extended Bass, all that Hifi should be. But that amp has L+R channels on one board so not being able to compare as L+R both done at the same time. The impressive 1968 Toshiba SA-15Y 30w receiver is our one to upgrade next so as it has L+R Power Amps on separate boards, the ideal opprtunity to compare Our Upgrade to the Stock Design on all original parts. The music played with a gentler track didn't really show too much difference, if deeper bass better & treble fresher. The big reveal was a track with close-miked Drums at the start, these sounded fresh & open on the upgraded side, using headphones with 1 channel playing & swapping the headset part to swap L+R. The upgraded side sounded natural, but back to the Original Side, it was soft & stodgy with a clear muddiness to the sound, like a thin cloth on the drums itself softening the detail. Not unlike a greasy window then cleaned to show a fresh window, a noticeable difference. This change does show on speakers too as the sound opens out more & gives the extra reality. Now this amp is 50 years old, but as we put on the Reviews Page, the power amp was tested direct through the Power In sockets & it sounded fine with no hiss, hum or distortion. Using 'Marcon' brand capacitors, not familiar ones but they were actually Toshiba's own brand.


February 2018 Blog.

Graphic Equalisers: The Reason Why They Became Popular.
In recording, mastering & archiving an EQ is useful to balance recordings as there are enough Vintage Records that are mastered with no Bass or too Dull sounding. In Recording Studios the huge panel desks are Faders & EQ to do similar, the Music is often altered in balance to cut a Disc from if CD masters as was found in the late 1980s only had the Master Tape versions not the Vinyl Version so extra effects & dubbing was missed. The May 1979 HFN/RR editorial gets rightly annoyed at BBC's "Tomorrow's World" in January for doing what can only be called 'Poorly Researched' segment about apparently making a £250 Budget System sound like a £2000 one just by using a Graphic Equaliser. Now we've EQ'd Vintage Cartoon soundtracks up from Raw 'Archive-Reference' DVDs for the tiny low volume sound lost in a sea of hiss as whoever copied the Films didn't check the Sound Heads were aligned. With EQ today on Digital you can do a lot as well as removing noise & bringing at least a Natural Balanced Sound from very poor sound. It's a skilled job to do right & we even bettered the Disney Early B&W Cartoon Shorts DVDs that weren't restored as only a limited market would buy. So 'Tomorrow's World' saying that a cheap system could be made into a top range one is just foolish & clearly aimed at Non Hifi Viewers as you can add Bass & Treble to make the sound "more exciting" but it'll never better what was poor. It may help balance mismatched equipment, but it's a compromise for doing it properly as is any quick solution. We remember going into Tandy to see what they had as well as buying resistors etc from their limited supply. The guy in the shop said he couldn't listen to Music without an Equaliser. It shows you the rubbish "Stereos" that were around at this time c.1990. It is unlikely he ever heard "Music" with the poor Stereo & EQ, but just a glossed over bass-thumping idea slightly better than a Portable Radio. One viewer of "TW" bought the Graphic Equaliser & found that they could not 'Magic' the desired "Improved Sound Quality" this way & felt cheated. His cartridge still mistracked, his cheap tape player still had wow & flutter sound distortion. The Irresponsible TV show gave the idea 'everything could be improved'. Michael Rodd presented the segment & said at the end "everyone must decide for themselves whether or not expensive equipment sounds better than cheaper equipment" which is a get out disclaimer for serving up nonsense as fact, but he's only the presenter. Sadly by the early 1980s every cheap system had a Graphic EQ. Hardly anyone knew how to use it & some made pretty patterns from the sliders having no idea what they did. By the early 1990s these cheap Stereos had flashing light displays in an attempt at a Spectrum Analyser to impress the non Hifi buyers. Thankfully most of these crappy things since made it to the Bin as the next tacky delight appeared & be sure today's Mini or Micro systems that were first introduced 1978-79, as that awful Technics 3-part one we had shows, are pretty much what most people claim they "Listen To Music" on. Interesting to find out what Bad Idea influenced the Hifi Generations. Interestingly in the April 1979 issue 'Compact Disc' is announced for the first time by that name.


Goldring G-850 Cartridge from 1971: 8mV Output With 7-Thou Conical Stylus.
The G-800 as mentioned in previous Blogs & on the Turntables page is one we've been using for a while now. It's decent enough but it's not perfect so to look at other Vintage Goldring. We do hear that sort of 'squishy' sound that suggests it doesn't track as good as the Roksan Corus & the G-800 output is a bit low with Sensitivity @ 5cm/sec at 5mV. The G-850 is actually as early as 1970 as it's in the 1971 Hifi Yearbook, it's output is 8mV to the same Sensitivity. The G-820 is seen more in the Shop Ads so we looked for one but found a BNIB G-850 with the original Conical stylus, the replacement Stylus still found. Frequency Range of the G-800 (called the "800" in the 1972 HFYB) is 20Hz-20kHz, the G-820 is still the lower 5mV & is 20Hz-20kHz if the G-850 is 20Hz-18kHz. In 1972 the G-800 was £13, the G-800E £18.82, G-800 Super E £26, G-800H £10.65 & the G-850 clearly the Budget one at £6.50 with similar pricing by 1975. So it's the Budget version with Higher 8mV output that is better as the Volume Control is at the same position as on using Line Input from the Computer. Tests in HFN/RR showed there are no signals on Vinyl over 15kHz, before the Quadraphonic Era, so no issue. So recording the same Record with both G-800E & G-850 to compare them on the computer. The Recording Level is about 6dB louder on the meters, which helps on quieter vinyl like LPs, the 5mV output wasn't enough. Once both recordings Normalised to 0db, the 'squishy' sound doesn't appear with the G-850 if more vinyl to play to compare. The G-850 sounds better with the G-800E sounding a little softer on detail with the 'squishy' sound, the G-850 has a better realism, midband presence allows better detail. We were reading Moving-Coil (MC) cartridges in 1979 HFN/RR, not things we've tried or see any need for. The reviews with a Listening Panel didn't find them too good beyond the Ortofon MC20. These output a tiny voltage 0.07mV or 0.09mV for Mk 1 or 2. These need more amplification adding in weaknesses of a Phono stage. The higher output gives the Signal 'a better chance' to sound clear as the supposedly budget G-850 compared to the G-800E proves. There is the issue of using an original Goldring stylus & a Generic one that the G-800E has as the originals haven't been made for years. This same idea is why CD took off as it's Line Level output easily bettered the lousy IC Phono Stages of 1980s Stereos. G-800 has 0.005" (5 thou) stylus, the G-850 has 0.007" (7 thou) so there is also the larger stylus to suit 1960s Mono 45s better. The G-850 Conical Stylus sounds great on 1960s UK vinyl & to lose the 'squishy' sound is the stylus sitting better in the groove, tracking better. Just playing one 1968 record that was just too rough sounding, here it sounds much better. The G-850 clearly better for 1960s Vinyl, if maybe not for 1980s Stereo LPs. Who'd think a Budget Cartridge with a Conical Stylus would sound better than the Roksan Corus Black, the Goldring Elektra & the Goldring G-800E. The G-850 fits better in the modern Technics headshell once aligned, the G-800E overhung looking untidy. The G-850 certainly is the better sounding for us. Bass for having Midrange more upfront is still tight, if it may appear less Bassy. "Designed for budget systems, the 850 offers all the advantages of a good quality magnetic cartridge at a very attractive price." We see no reason why it's cheaper, Goldring gave it away cheap. But the G-800 & G-850 are Vintage Cartridges & we've heard the G-800, the exact same cartridge, when played on Transistor Amps, to sound blurry & lousy as it's not like 'designed' sound of later cartridges, much like Loudspeakers. It only suits our Valve Phono from what we've heard, or the earlier type of amplifiers before overdesign or cost cutting took over. The Roksan Corus Cartridge used on our Valve Phono, designed for the G-800 doesn't match it so well. Next day to try it again, the higher output does make it a little more upfront losing the bass as said above, so a little EQ adjust balances it back. Read more below the folowing Blog...


LED Lightbulb : "Could Last Up To 20 Years"... No It Doesn't.
Technology today is full of Lies & Built-In Obsolescence. Try a LED bulb that looks like an old glass bulb. We got a Canyon LED 15w E27 1550 lumen bulb "GLS" General Lamp Shape at the start of May 2017 & it cost just over £10 delivered. So for it to just fail on 2 Feb after 9 months use is rubbish for the "20 years" claim which is clearly False Description. The other ELS bulbs we use last longer than that. The Bulb has failed, it flashes on & off in a strangely scary way as some part inside it has failed. Is it repairable thinks us. No, it's sealed & no way into it. So to break the glass outer to get inside, but it won't smash. Doesn't smash tightened in a vice either, it squashes as it's some type of hard silicon type plastic that now has a big dent in it. So to break it open, in the vice & hammer on the plastic bit. Some little angry men come running out, "Here Wot You Doin' That's Our House!" so we told them we wanted to see what was inside. A scream like someone seen in the Bathtub as we tore the plastic dome off. Inside the dome was nothing. Just a yellow ring part that's the LED part probably like Car Bulbs of today, not the cluster of standard LEDs some earlier bulbs had. With the plastic gone it was just an aluminium cup with a flat lid pushed inside that the yellow bit is on. That top lid bit comes off as it's been knocked out of shape & about 100 more tiny people came out, Made In China tells who they are. Inside it was an empty as a 'Steps' reunion gig, 2 bits of wire & a bad smell, one of the tiny people must have had a funny cigarette, but as for electronics like the glass twist tube ones are, not much going on. Were the insides stolen? All there is after cutting out some of the rubbery sealant bed & pulling out the metal bulb fitting base is a tiny PCB 11mm x 22mm if it could be longer, a small 4.7µf 400v capacitor, a tiny transformer with 16/07/13/HY and TF-T80112 on. The board goes further in with another bigger capacitor & 2 chokes, all which break off very easily. The track side of the PCB with a Rectifier, Resistors, a tiny IC & a Diode. The yellow ring LED part looks like a Piezo Tweeter in Portables of old, a rubbery covering over lots of tiny dots which are the LED parts as in the 30mm bulbs we use in amps, but these are more advanced tech. The LED bits scratch away easily showing how tiny they are & why they are sealed over. The bulb base still gets too warm in use & with the Components sealed in Latex Rubber they'll not cool so it's why you get 9 months use. If you never used it more than once a month then it would last 20 years, but Daily use it just fails like every other overheating cheaply made stuff does. Will be spend our Tenner on another one, when the parts etc will be well under £1 each for the amount made? No. but you now see why China is so rich, selling false hope with new improved inventions. But after the Bright white of ELS bulbs the old yellow hot ones are unwanted. Just buy these ELS type new & expect 6-12 months use, much like the old bulbs. For the better light they are worth £5 each but £10 is too much.


Comparing Goldring G-850 back to G-800E & Roksan Corus Black.
The extra sensitivity is partly for the longer stylus square tube that plugs into the cartridge, so the cartridge coils receive a better signal. The inside looks the same & beyond the 5mV to 8mV output the tonal balance is mostly the same if as louder just clearer on midrange which does need the EQ slightly adjusting. On 45s that are rough & harsh from poor mastering they sound clearer on the G-850 for the extra gain & the G-850 sound is better defined for it. Have to try the Roksan compare next as the G-800E didn't compare so well as blogged before. But now the similar output level of 6.5mV sounds the same level as the G-850 at 8mV by the volume setting, go figure. The Roksan with a Goldring G10xx stylus does track better than the G-850 so a rough track is far better defined, if the Roksan is on the Garrard 301 & SME. Whether the turntable & arm combos have much to do with at the resolution of our Valve Phono stage, or is it just the Cartridge? To play several 45s on the Roksan combo then go back to the G-850 one. The Roksan sounded very matter-of-fact, a bit cold even as it lacked sweetness, if it appears the Phono stage loading isn't optimal for it. G-850 played one 1965 record enjoyably, the Roksan was lacking sweetness, similarly with a more subtle 1967 one the Roksan left it a bit 'so what' but the G-850 brings out it's allure. The 45 with the rougher sound that the Roksan tamed the G-850 loses a little of that focus, but again the sound is more inspiring. Still prefer the G-850 version from the vinyl. Crackly records are useful as the fast rate of the Crackle reveals how fast the Amp is, if crackle blurs into the music as we have heard on some amps, it's slow & muddy. Roksan internal Inductance 570mH & internal Resistance 660 ohms. G-850 doesn't show this if those values can be read on a multimeter. 495 ohm & 470mH. G-800E is 400mH & 475 ohm so a little extra gain from more windings G-800 to G-850 also. The Roksan is noticeably different & will need different loading values to the Goldrings. Any cartridge will have it's optimal loading values & amps like the 1979 Pioneer SA-9800 have adjustment switches to optimise. For the price of these Cartridges being so hugely different, the Corus Black is discontinued & even the Goldring G-10xx stylus is expensive, we are pleased with our cheapo Goldring G-850 on our custom valve Phono stage, if be aware it'll probably sound lousy on an average IC based phono stage which is why you buy expensive Cartridges, to overcome the poor Resolution of the Phono stage. Phono via Valve Amps of the 1960s, even with the hum & no-bass sound will show how much better Valve phono stages are for resolving detail.


1978-80 Pioneer A27 120w Amplifier - Any Good?
We were asked to look at this from the Circuits to see if it's any good. 25.6kg hefty lump of an Integrated Amp, the follow-up to the Pioneer SA-9800 possibly, if it seems it was a Top Model on Special Order as HFYB doesn't list it. 'The Vintage Knob' Hifi site has it if Japan did make Top Range Amps that didn't always get fully exported. Pioneer in 1979 Adverts seen in the HFN/RR as we read them currently tells about "Magni-Wide" technology as this amp boasts of if it doesn't make too much sense to the typical reader or gain much value to read deeper. This May 1979 ad covers only the SA-9800, SA-8800 & SA-7800. RET transistors are 'Ring Emitter Power Transistors' so they are likely long obsolete & generally any new Power Transistor type is just a fad rather than anything new despite the hype. "Magni-Wide" is about Signal Duration, Intensity & Pitch relating to Ultra-Wide Bandwidth of 200kHz. What that means in more understandable terms is the amp has high slew rate, fast recovery & low distortion, much like some amps have done since the 1960s really. It's a game of hype & blinding with science, if the trouble with Pioneer is their designs can be great on the 1975-76 ranges, but they are so mercilessly cost cut the sound is thin & edgy with current limiting & low spec the general deal as the 1975 SA-9500 & 1976 SX-950 show. Great amps to upgrade, but as Stock Design they will disappoint us. The Pioneer A-27 itself wastes a lot of space with a sort of hexagon type thin heatsink in the middle, the SA-9500 rear one was fine & adjusted right heatsinks rarely get more than slightly warm, so again hyped ideas to appear 'better'. A sigh at seeing the front controls are behind a flap, we don't like this sort of design & avoid amps like this such as Revox did on their earlier ones. The design looks more mid 1980s than 1978. Double Transformers to give a sense of better again if never the entire pre & power as separate halves. One of the earliest with Double Power Supplies is the Harman-Kardon 930 & it's not a big improvement really as the 930 has other limits, if good for sales hype. Hype & Fads are the deal here so far. Doubled Output Transistors like the SA-9500 will give good speaker control. On the circuit there are Double Transistors, not Darlingtons which are poor, plus FETs if not actual ICs with extra parts inside. The Phono stage shows needless overdesign, the Input is split to 2 amplifier halves & combined at the output for the MC half & the MM half is similarly overdesigned with 20 transistors-FETs total per channel. The SA-9500 phono was busy if a lesser design & didn't sound much to us, knowing the Sony STR-6120 & TA-1120 phono stage sound. The Preamp-Tone board named 'Volume' is again an overdesigned mess. Yamaha do this overdesign (see below as we found the origins of this design) & the sound is never as fresh & open as a more sane design, it's soft & blurry which is not real sound. The only post 1977 amp that we know of that looks overdesigned but actually is decent once understood is the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X. Another 18 transistors-FETs per channel with the typical Push-Pull type circuit. All that fussy nonsense & then to see what they still do to the signal. This is just lazy overdesign in search of useless high specs. Power Supply a typical overdesigned mess with 21 transistors-FETs if again Yamaha appear to have started this idea with the CR-1000 power supply if the A-27 is way too much. Power Amp has 2SC2323 & 2SA1003 outputs which are long obsolete if appears there are equivalents, if those old lists we've found can be inaccurate. 22 transistors-FETs per channel, too hard to work out as it has the sort of Current Mirror type circuitry & isn't easy to figure out unlike the AU-G90X which was seen to be good design. So it's another overcooked 'monster' with little chance of sounding Natural, if it's likely well tailored to give remarkable specs if sound very boring. The Yamaha CR-2020 we just got one to Service & Redo the Power Supply & even a very high grade one-owner amp to hear, it sounded ghastly on the grainy blurry vague treble. The CR-2020 we have fully upgraded before to see how good it was & like the CA-1010 it just didn't give the sweet sound that the 1965-72 amps can. Even the Yamaha CA-1000 we still have is now revealing it blurs the detail even after a deep upgrade, but not finished with that yet. These later amps are too 'smart ass' for their own good, they are based on silly hype, pointless Specs, Ford Capri type blokes being impressed but giving nothing of that sweet vintage sound that can be got with far simpler 20w-50w designs. We did have the 1986 Pioneer C90/M90 combo & it had very little musical pleasure to it beyond 200w to impress the unaware. The Pioneer A27 is just way too overdesigned, it'll never sound fresh & sweet even if maxed out upgraded. It's Hifi for those who've not heard Valves or Pre 1972 amps to know better, one sold for $1499 / £1061 in the original box just the day before we typed this. Looks wise from that ebay sale, the fascia looks nice, the flap is a glass one which teases & the rest is just typical 1979, metal case, thin metal back & a captive mains lead & what looks like proper 4mm speaker sockets. Looking for the original sell price, the tedious "Audiophile" and "The Best..." type hype on sales of the amp shows Audiophiles actually haven't a clue what Real Hifi really sounds like. SA-9800 was $750 & the A27 was $1250. We've heard enough earlier amps, upgraded enough amps to know what is actually in these beyond the original designs.


So Which Amp Is The Best Ever To Us? Revealing Some Favourites...
You may ask us "What Is The Best Amp Then?" After comparing amps for several years now there doesn't appear to be any one amp (yet...) that is the Ultimate Best even as fully upgraded. Some early amps can sound wonderful & be found as not totally accurate designs. Some can have nearly all we seek in an amp but then be needing far too much work to take to a higher level. Some can be found to be 'Perfect' designs but seriously dumbed down to not sell such good designs. Fashion & Hype plays a big part in Hifi by the Mid 1970s & generally none of the post 1972 amps reach the sweet pleasing accurate sounds of pre 1972. We're not going to put Names & Model Numbers as that can create a false hype itself, we remember how crazy the Yamaha CR-1000 prices went for people not reading our review properly. For Amps as Original, if they are useable fo their current age, the playing field is a lot more level. But once you get into Upgrades some amps can hugely improve. The 1970 Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F 100w pre-power as original sounds mediocre as so dumbed down, but it upgrades so well & we have ours on the speakers as of typing. We've enjoyed these recently as upgraded by ourselves: Realistic STA-150/STA-220 plus the Akai AA-7000 on speakers for an extended time as they sounded so good. The Trio-Kenwood TK-140X & KA-6000 similarly got used as liked as did the Sony TA-1120, but of those we only have the KA-6000 as there is more to upgrade in it. If we were collecting amps those plus others like the Coral A-550, Sansui 3000A & National-Panasonic SA-65 we'd keep plus the JVC MCA-104E and JVC 5040U. But all those amps as original are showing they have more to them but still sound rather limited as the original designs. The pre 1972 amps do upgrade further than the overdesigned post 1972 & especially post 1975 amps. Others we'd keep similarly, Fisher 600-T, Trio WX-400U, Rogers HG-88 MkIII, KLH 27 (still for sale...) Pioneer SX-700TF, SX-1000TD or SX-1500TF, Sony STR-6120, Hacker GAR-550 only as it was our first record player, Heathkit AR-1500 & possibly the Luxman L-100 as it could upgrade more. Plenty of others were liked too but to pick the ones that still stand out as favourites. The only post 1977 is again the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X, it's provided more standards to upgrade to than we realised, until comparing it to the Sony TA-pair.


A Look at Hifi in 1979 aka "Where's The Good Stuff Gone?"
The shop ads give the best idea of what was available & selling, if the last few Hifi Yearbooks were always out of date as well as full of errors & omissions of entire brands even. So Comet, the Discount Warehouse Store Kings with their early-mid 1979 Ads are the most telling. UK brand 'Alba' has a new range, after the success of the Alba UA 700 15w into 8 ohms & later UA900, 40w into 4 ohms & 33w into 8ohms, they bring a fuller range of amplifiers, receivers, tuner & cassette deck. In a Budget Amp Recommendation just earlier in 1979 Martin Collims actually recommended the Alba UA900 & it did get good reviews, if not forgetting it still is a budget amp. Here the Alba 2150 Receiver at 50w, 4 ohms again likely for £144.90 Comet price is a huge bargain. The other UK budget brand Armstrong faded away only a few months before early in 1979 with a silly range of ads about Japanese buyers preferring Armstrong over their own country's gear. We did hear of a later Armstrong amp just before they closed, if no info says it could be mythical. Here the Alba range looks better than the tacky UA900 if the UA 700 was more like a Rogers. Alba today is a chavvy brand but must have done well with 'Stereos' in the early days much like Amstrad, if few will survive. Brands & Prices. The HFYB doesn't price these so as Comet does, to get a better idea of how the quality dropped off by 1979. Comet has Pioneer with much cheaper gear, SA-506 25w £82, SA-606 40w £112, SA-706 60w £149 if still all transistors on these. Marantz have ditched the big silver amps for cut-price gear, MR215 15w receiver £98, MR230 30w receiver £149, MR250 50w receiver £189 & they look as uninspiring as the cheap prices suggest, if there will still be the 1978 range unsold big models around at discounted prices. Sansui with an unexciting range too, all with black fascia, rack mount flanges & handles which looks very tacky in a Domestic setting. AU-117 15w £73, AU-217 30w £110, AU-317 50w £161. Herts Hifi of Watford have a broader range & a quick look shows the Big Money items are Stereo Systems & Packages ie Rack Mount gear & Music Centres. Aiwa, Ekco (the 1940s radio brand revived), Garrard, Goodmans, Sansui & sharp as well as larger ranges from Hitachi, Pioneer, Panasonic & Toshiba. So much for all the Hifi Hype of IHF Standards & Musicality, they just want you to buy a Music Centre & when younger most people's houses did have Music Centres, only the typist's Uncle has a JVC system of plain tin cans & plenty still used Radiograms. Generally the Big Brand prices we quoted aren't too far off 1970 prices if you get the same amount of power, be sure the quality isn't there. Market Forces dictating what is made & the 'Receiver Wars' must have lost those brand a fortune for daring to make 200w-350w amps that only a tiny few would buy. This is why the Big Brands nose-dived in quality to just make what sells, huge Yamaha CR-2020 receivers appear easy to find, but odds are many were sold cheap in Discount Shops, one we got to Service was sold very cheap in Singapore as late as 1981. The real Budget brand that Comet & others have is Solavox, the 20w SA-2020 amp is £48 & the 20w receiver SR-2220 is just £70, if they have that typical Japanese look if in black which is cheaper than getting high grade metal to show on the fascia. The Silver Era appears to have been just too expensive when black painted metal & plastic was cheaper. So from this, the actually very brief "Receivers Wars" probably only lasted 1977-78, HFN/RR does report of a slum in sales if the Disco-Grease-Saturday Night Fever era gave the hugest sales, likely that most of those Records got played on Budget or Midprice Music Centres, not big 100w Yamahas. Other ads go for cliches such as "You can Rely on Pye" for their brief range of decent looking Hifi & even ITT get on the bandwagon, if they are usually TV grade, their Hifi range looks a reaonable midprice selection. Even Amstrad get into the Micro System with black fascia system that actually looks pretty good, if it'll still be the Made in UK type lower quality build. The amstrad Micro we've never seen, it's the T101 £85 tuner, A101 £55 25w power amp, P101 £33 preamp & LS101 £45 speaker pair. They look mid-late 1980s in design & likely have a following, assuming they survive as Budget Brands had a hard life by careless owners. July 1979 sees the Audio Pro Sub Woofer as by now small speakers with no bass were the thing, £495 for an 18" box with 2 drivers, it sounds a bit created to us, for that money you'd do better buying big Tannoys or similar even in 1979. Shades of the Valve Amp Revival with Grant Lumley valve amps GL100A 70w £585, GL40A 40w £290 which are Stereo power amps plus GL100AM a 100w Monobloc power amp £185, prices less VAT sneakily, suggest interest grows as does the Radford TT100 100w valve hybrid £575 suggest a market that would slowly grow into the 1990s. An earlier July 1978 Quad ad shows they got "The queen's Award for Technological achievement" for the Quad 405 current dumping amp that we don't like, The Queen likely had little idea of better Hifi either, one of those Token Gestures like giving MBEs out today when there's no-one else to get them.


A Fresh Look At The Golden Eras Of Hifi. 
We do mention this on another page, but we've had lots more amps since then. To put it simply the "Golden Era" in Hifi Made in Japan & USA is 1965-72. There are so many great amps & receivers in this category, if some of the earliest can be a lot more difficult to upgrade, the results are worh it. The 'Differential Era' starts in 1969 with Teac & these still belong in the "Golden Era". FETs in Preamps like the Sony TA-1130 & Sony TA-2000F preamp are too dumbed down showimg Sony didn't understand them or was just scared of them, but upgrading a TA-2000F recently proves FETs are no bother at all. From around 1969 the circuits do get dumbed down on Deep Bass Response as thoughtless buyers complained when using cheap rumbly turntables yet surely their equally cheap speakers wouldn't have played full bass? But seeing the production changes in the 1971 Leak Delta 75 shows they had lots of issues. As for UK & European Hifi from 1965-72, sadly most is still made like Radiogram Innards, some is better than others but overall the quality is way behind the Japan & USA gear. The Leak Stereo & Delta 30/70 plus Sugden are the best of UK. Bang & Olufsen are a Danish company marketed more on looks & prestige than sound quality & the Beomasters 1969-78 do improve but still are crude efforts once you've known better. The Era past 1973 we'd call "The Silver Era" for Japan & USA gear, still lots of good Yamaha, NAD, Rotel, Akai, Luxman & Pioneer. These do vary year by year & amid the same year's range such as not the same sub-manufacturers made the high model ones compared to the lower ones. But by now the "Comet Cost Cutting" disaster business model took hold which initially had buyers get bargains but soon Pioneer were cost cutting so heavily to compete for bad decisions on pricing it's actually a huge job to upgrade those properly, if they do then reveal they are great, but not at Shop Floor-bought level. These amps sometimes don't match earlier Speakers so well, if there were so many models around by now there was enough choice assuming you bought the lot new & stored the rest. The quality does gradually dip in the 1973-78 era with one-board construction & cheaping out in build in all ways. UK brands swiftly fade away by 1975-76 if Armstrong & Amstrad sell well, these amps we've looked at online via photos & circuit diagrams & just don't fancy trying them. Quad gear does not please us as we've said once or twice, the designs are crude & limited. The Bronze Era is 1979 to early 1990s in Japan-USA hifi, to the c.1995 era when surface mount components & computer boards start to arrive. This gear is made to be disposable at the lower end of the market & even ones that would have been seen as more expensive or even big money 'High End' gear is the same way. The sound by now is cold & boring as cost cutting is the normal, pleasure in sound doesn't matter as you'll buy a new one next year or so, you probably don't play it much as it doesn't inspire so you forget your old music & get miserable without it. For the Sansui AU-G90X to be upgradeable out of the cold hard original sound is more our determination with it & the main design was not in other amps & then swiftly forgotten. You get Technics SU-V707 with computer control bias if the amp is so cheaply made it sounded awful. The Yamaha A-720 similarly cheaply made with a nasty grainy sound that only improved with Class A being used. You were really being lied to by this time if CDs were the main sound source, the 'difference' was put down to CD. Reading through the HFN/RR shows how quickly it changed as the blog looking at shop ads above shows, all the 'Good Stuff' had gone by early 1979. Be sure lots of "The Good Stuff" was still being used, even if it was a 20w mid 1970s Music Centre these still sounded better than 1982 gear & also you could find huge reductions on these still decent 1977-78 amps in shops as end-of-line gear.


Turntable Hype Begins in 1979.
Hi-Fi buyers are fed a lot of Nonsense. This Nonsense get them thinking they must spend more. They spend more & feel better about things, if forever keep looking to 'upgrade' because the Hifi Mags by 1979 are feeding you a lot of Nonsense. Paul Messenger's at it again in the June 1979 issue in his 'be careful what you believe' "Soundings" column. The idea without quoting the waffle is "People have just discovered how important a turntable is & it plays a major part in the sound quality". Fair to say that a lot of Vintage Turntables are clunky junk, the early 1970s Dual one we had to service a while back we didn't like at all. Beyond Garrard & Thorens there weren't many Studio Quality ones by 1970 & even Garrard had huge sales with it's clunky Garrard SP25 Mks I to V, the V a rare one before Garrard closed, the Mk III the most commonly seen one. But by the time the Technics SL-1500 comes along, these are really not far off the quality of the Garrard 301 & 401, those aren't the most user friendly, the SL-1500 & others similar are much nicer to use. But by 1979 as with anything, to build hype so all those megabucks turntables have a market. The sort of huge items that won't have been nice in use but 'they are better for you'. To us, once you hit a certain quality with a turntable, metal plinth, the typical 'S' shaped arm with counterweights & bias adjuster, you have a decent turntable & arm, we noticed this as a teen playing a better quality music centre, brand forgotten, but it was decent kit & made good cassette recordings, unlike the cheap stack units. You can spend more, but we are wondering if we really need our Garrard 301 anymore? Read above about the Goldring G-850 & G-800E with compares to the Garrard 301 & Roksan, are they really that much better once you get the correct loading for the cartridge, you can go higher in pf values than the recommended as long as the sound isn't flattened.


So Where Is The Biggest Difference In A Hifi System To Be Made?
We used to think Loudspeakers were the biggest nuisance to pick right, but from Customers who buy our amps or get their upgraded, they already have got Speakers that suit their uses. Probably done over time & they got that one sorted years back. But now more are reading & hearing how much more 'Friendly' pre 1979 Hifi sounds, they are starting modestly & then decide they want to try something better. "What Do We Get For The Upgrade?" is asked. Our upgrades are done to bring the Best out of an Amp's design, but not to overcook it or have it be unstable. We put in the Quality that was never used in those days, it was around but costs were always kept low. You were buying Shop Bought Goods so it has to be Universal to stop customers complaining & satisfy the usually meaningless Specs & THD hype. Bass we extend to give the true Deep Bass Fundamentals, not false or boomy bass, if some older amps do have that. The treble is much sweetened, read the 3-part Sony STR-6120 upgrade as we wrote up the results as we upgraded it. This sort of upgrading is design based, it's not just a one-size-fits-all as forum types may think, those who say put higher power output transistors hoping to make a 25w amp into a 75w are missing the basics of design. Amps are upgraded to suit the power rating, not having it great at low volume but unstable & scary at higher volume as the amp runs out of power on deep bass & fries your speakers. It appears in Transistors that 18w is the starting point for getting Hifi if one 40w ckeap Panasonic ICs amp was lousy.


Loudspeakers: Tired Old Ideas Still Being Considered Relevant In 1979.
Surprised to see several pages over 2 articles about the outdated ideas of Speaker Positioning starting in June 1979 HFN/RR. The awful Hugh Brittain idea of Toeing in Speakers to give a Stereo Seat is frustratingly useless, it will date from the 1955-58 early Stereo era. But as with most things we see in Hifi, it's just accepted as right because no-one questions it loudly enough. If you buy Bookshelf size speakers & then put them on stands, you're missing the point of using floorspace wisely, the small speaker & stands may not be cheaper than a floorstander, but it's universal now. Small speakers with 6" drivers have long been considered Hifi, but they miss so much of the richer lower notes, once you hear 12" or 15" speakers you won't want that thin sounding crappy thing anymore that has very little richness. Small speakers you'll need to sit nearer to get the best sound as the lower frequencies drop off too much. In 1958 people still used 8"-10" speakers regularly if often with no tweeter, so Stereo imaging will have been Poor as most Stereo detail is in the higher frequencies, plus the poor mixing of Stereo from that early. The HB idea is to stand the speakers at 45° which is across the corners, it explains why Tannoy made Corner Speakers until the early 1960s for this use to look neater. The sense of Stereo is to have sound coming from two distinct points & remain as separated as possible, but here the speakers fire into the middle of the room creating the supposed 'Stereo Seat' & a blurred mess for everyone else as the L&R will have overlapped. Now we've used 12" & 15" speakers since 1990, the sound fills the room with most amps & loss of bass as you move further away happens much less. We've always had these speakers in the corner flat against the wall, square in the corner with about 30cm away from the wall side & rear. Why do it any other way?


Ebayers Think Their Aged Amp Is Worth The Same As One Recapped & Serviced.
An aged Vintage Amp is a gamble, some are a real pain to get to our standard, they need cleaning, servicing then recapping & upgrading. This takes Professional Skills, Parts & Labour to do right. Plenty out there thinking they can do what we do & then we see the insides of a Yamaha CR-1000 that's just recapped like-for-like with cheap parts, pointless effort. Then we see the Yamaha CR-400 we just sold from an Australian seller as the Exact Same Price as ours! Do they have no comprehension of "Added Value"? Lots of Nice Amps on Ebay, but all priced way too high as we've blogged before, only the Auctions reveal the Real Selling Prices. Ebay is full of chancers as is obvious, we get such problems with severe overgrading like they grade in the dark, one told us the light isn't too good in the music room? How much is a Desk Lamp, £20. We know we'll not get the Money back for Work we put into some amps we have to or want to go further with, the 1967 KLH 27 has £1000+ of work in to it, but it's offered at £495, because we price to sell, not be unrealistic. The overpriced raw CR-400 is in decent grade if a case scratch would put some off. What it's worth is what a realistic seller either offers a faulty one at or auctions one at as pricing unsure. To price at the Highest Price found online, if that amp has had Recap-Upgrade-Service specialist work done, to think yours is worth the same reveals their ignorance of the market or what work has been done, but they are just general dealers. Another online at £130 is a more realistic buy for a good working if original one. Only the "Value Added" ones get higher prices as with any restored & upgraded items. All you do is let the overpricer realise they aren't getting any interest & see the price drop, but then try an offer, you may get a deal.


Why Put Metal Covers over ECC83 Type Valves?
We got the impressive 1965 Fisher X-100-B to upgrade for a customer & it has these aluminium tube covers with a spring inside to put over a few of the ECC83 valves, if not all. Previous Blogs reveal RF woes with the Luxman LX33 & having done everything there is to do, the thing still crackles badly on turn on & can occasionally in use, it gets only slightly better from previous efforts. We find that extremely annoying on headphones, but for the sound of Phono valves to endure it & it's not heard on recordings, so is the Preamp-Tone or later Power Amp ones. Seeing the Fisher ones were the push & rotate type, to see what to do with the PCB board of the Luxman. The type of amp to use these is old, so the valve bases are wired ones not PCB mount. The Luxman actually had some of these as made, but illogically they are for the skinny Matsushita ones only, not every other valve made, so sadly useless. So to get 4 to see what that does, find it's worth getting more to shield the lot, if by taking springs out & fixing in another way to ground the cases. RF is everywhere these days from Mobiles & Broadband if you are crazy to make your amp so wide range, it's what causes the crackly noises. The Results on playing some Vinyl is interesting, it's like the RF even through the Glass Tubes was wasting energy & reducing the Fidelity of the sound which is more focussed with Bass seeming better than before & Treble just a bit smoother, if checking the Tone is at the usual setting, that one can mess opinions up. Hum is slightly reduced too, if not by much as it wasn't humming for all the work in it. The original idea in the Fisher on looking at it again was that 4 of the 6 valves have the extra can fitting on V1-V4 which are 2 for Phono stage & 2 for Pre-Tone, if the Power Amp Driver stage has none. A few weeks later the LX33 crackle is still occasionally heard, if overall much reduced & with valves shielded the S:N ratio is improved. Update Mar 2018: The interesting thing is the LX33 valve holders can take these push on sprung valve shield cans as the part to take the locking notch fits the part used to fit wires to hold valves in place, if not used on the LX33. The only thing is the metal part of the valve holder isn't grounded so a subtle ground wiring system needs adding. This is the sort of thing you assume is grounded & we just used it for about 6 weeks until the crackle got annoying again. So now the cans are properly fitted & grounded with no chance of shorting as grounded which is important with about 250v on the ECC83/ECC81s. With valves to use it one day after it still crackles on turn on, to allow it to get used to differing conditions, valves can be fussy, so next day on it goes to see the result. On turn on this time guess what, it still crackles if less, it's still got that rustly noise. To hear how it starts up, the EL34s come on first & the power amp ones & then the Preamp-Tone ones arrive as does the crackle. Allow voltages to settle & valves to warm up to pull the working voltages & currents. It still sounds like a rustly old valve radio if the crackling noise isn't on Phono if you record it. After 4-5 minutes it settles with a very quiet background if still the occasional low level noise. This is on a Sunday as of typing & factories not polluting the mains, so wait until Monday to try again.


Why a P.A.T. Test Is Just False Hope.
We got a Luxman L2 amplifier to recap-upgrade. It had a 'Portable Appliances Test' label dated 2013 & with the online seller's name. Google finds they are on ebay still & to see their seller name... "Oh, them..." with a waryness having bought from them before & felt it was a poor deal. The L2 as we put on the review is "impossible" to get the top lid off as foam & rubber pads stick over time & we were the first to test, so they never even checked inside. The Mains Plug was one likely fitted by the Seller, but we don't trust any plugs until we check it. The Fuse was 5A, should be 3A, the Earth wire wasn't tightened up enough so was a bit loose on the screw as well as hanging out a bit from the pin hole & the Live was twisted up instead of cutting it to the right length. We just chopped the wire & rewired the Plug properly. None of this is desperately unsafe as of seeing it, if the Ground Earth cable will just work loose & the mentality of not opening the item to PAT test shows the Tester is just cheating. P.A.T. tests which are only half done 'as no-one will know' may miss Mains wires 1mm away from ungrounded casing, if perhaps not on this type of amp, who's to say what's happened over 39 years? We check these things visually. P.A.T. test has zero value to us & be sure we've seen some shockers like Nails in Fuse Sockets, Soldered Wire in Mains Plug Fuse section, Coins posted through case slots, Tin Foil in Fuse holders plus many more that we'd not accept as safe & put our name to. Fussy we may be, but it doesn't take long to do it properly, even Wiring a Plug. Strip the outer covering to reveal the 3 inner cores, Brown, Blue & Stripy Green-Yellow. Cut the outer covering to get the right length for the Earth, the Neutral is usually the same length if the Live needs cutting shorter. Some plugs are easier than others & then fit the right fuse.


Your Hearing With Amplifiers Has A Compensating Memory.
We've noticed this before & written about how easy it is to fool yourself with Hifi comparing. We've been playing 2 amps on Headphones a lot the last few weeks & then they are The Reference Sound. But then we get a Trio-Kenwood KA-2002 & Luxman L-2 to recap-upgrade. Naturally we do some servicing to those & have a listen to understand the Amp's sound. But they aren't upgraded & both are on the dull side. The trouble then is your Hearing Tonal Balance has adjusted & an Amp that was a reference sound now sounds a bit bright as does the other amp we use for playing vinyl. The amps haven't suddenly got worse, it's Your Hearing compensating still for the duller amps. This Phenomenon is annoying & it takes resetting by listening to daytime noises & then music on a known amplifier for an hour or two until you've 'Reset' your Hearing Compensation EQ in your brain. To know that your Reference amps are 'your sound' & ignore the problem is the only way. Those amps will get upgraded & then they'll have "Our Sound" so they'll sound closer to the Reference Amps than their original sound. We play TV Sound through the Tannoys so keep a good Sound Reference, but back onto Headphones after a dull sounding amp, your hearing has added brightness so that extra bright sound is in your mind. Has anyone ever done a Technical Report on this, or are people just forever confused by Hifi without a True Reference. We typed this hearing one amp was now too bright sounding & since playing music we've 'realised' the hearing balance wasn't right so to consider known tracks on a known amp as "correct" then the Hearing Balance is reset. Shop Demos will be caught by this, your dull sounding aged amp into New Items will have the New sounding too harsh. Hypnotised by Sound & be sure it is very easy to be fooled in the short term, but live with an amp for a week or more & then & only then will you understand it, for being good or lacking in some way.


Beware The Gushing "Forum Quoted" Hype & Fake Bids On Ebay Sales.
Harman-Kardon 630 receiver getting excited bids, er, why? We had the HK 930 which as with the 630 has no power rating in the HK user or service manuals. The 930 is 48w & our clean sine 32v output confirmed this, it works on ±39v HT. The 630 is a lower model & works on ±32v so to expect it's 30w-35w. But not on the sellers Auction, they quote those sort of "wow this is the best ever" type forum waffle & say it's 60w, but that'll be 30w+30w making it a 30w RMS amplifier. Buyers just blindly believe. The hype of Double Power supplies we wrote of on the 930, it wasn't a bad amp but not one of the greats, some design was strictly mid price quality, the tiny board for L+R power amp is one. They say it's "High End"... As we've said before, Hifi Forums are Amateurs, only the Valve Guitar Forums we see as more Professional. Quoting gushing Amateur opinion, from those just out in the daylight hearing Vintage for the First Time after their boring IC riddled amplifiers is a bad thing to believe. It's Bloke Down The Pub type opinion. Do your research on things, believing hype is for fools & the Power Rating misquoting is a common one. The HK 630 makes a suspicious exact £200 & another one as a Leak 2000 receiver, a budget amp that's rough sounding made with TV grade parts makes an equally suspicious exact £150. They are not worth these prices. Beware one hifi "seller" who appears to "sell" items to give themselves great feedback yet to see the same amp relisted multiple times shows what foolish fake nonsense goes on on ebay. Look for a Technics SE-A900SM2 & SU-C800UM2 it gets sold often & great feedback yet up for sale again. The fake bidding is to try to "create" a demand for items to then hope to get a real buyer next time they list it. Caveat emptor.


Cost Cutting: A Disgruntled EMI-Thorn Technician Writes In.
This is in the Sept 1979 HFN/RR. Cost Cutting we've mentioned often & it does the consumer no good, if they fool themselves they are getting better quality for the money. No you're not, if you did then Manufacturers would go broke fast. The Cost Cutting starts around 1973 with Comet getting Pioneer & we found the 1974 Pioneer SX-838 a tough one to upgrade, it had overheating parts & low spec plus a cheapo vinyl wrap lid. The 1972 Pioneer SX-828 was still of a good quality, the SX-838 was price chopped to the bone & it showed. Comet grew since their modest beginnings & got huge buying power & foolishly most big brands, except Yamaha, got with Comet. The HFN/RR letter by an Anon writer is by one probably in his late 50s by the words so has seen standards drop. Not to quote sections, but that letter is the basis for the rest of this blog, he sees the Market as Solving All Problems, as in what people will pay & what they will accept for the money, is a blind biased one. Quality Goods can't be made as the Market has settled on wanting cheaper yet supposedly still the quality. Look inside any 1979 amp even high power ones & see the cost cutting. Forcing a Stamp Of Mediocrity is very true, you may want better quality but it's not out there as the 'Market' decides what you should get. At least in Hifi in 1979 you had a range of brands, here the HFN/RR tech writer works for Thorn-EMI that make Ferguson & ITT, actually EMI only took over Thorn in Oct 1979, Radio Rentals & Rumbelows were their shops selling mostly mass-market Electrical Goods including 'Stereos' if there don't appear to be any Hi-Fi items made by them. He complains of penny pinching to fit cheaper components that will fail sooner, cheaper finishes just making Inferior Goods, not that Ferguson were anything more than Mass-Market, but all brands cost cut, look how poor the 1980 Yamaha range was, loads of IC blocks. Cut-Throat Competition was the deal, as the May 1979 HFN/RR blog above on goods being sold shows. It had already gone too cheap by early 1979. Only really the Cottage Industry Hifi made by the likes of Linn, Naim & Mission plus some UK Valve Amp makers into the 1990s did an alternative to the Cheaped Out Big Brands that led to Marantz & others with "SE" versions supposedly superior for copper plated screws & other nonsense, based on the small brand ideas. One good idea spawns a million imitators.


HFN/RR Content by Mid 1979.
Several Articles on Digital and "Compact Disc" with a surprising array of competing formats that never arrived as the clearly superior Philips version was the one. Articles about Reviewers having Secondary Interests in Consulting for Hifi brands & the HFN/RR worry about impartiality & they said they will be sure of fair reviews, if in reality their reviews tell little to help you decide to buy. A trend for £200+ Cartridges with some double that with a hefty new stylus replacement, these will be Moving Coil MC ones that we don't see the point of. As the above blogs show, not so much the Cartridge but the Phono Preamp & we rarely bother telling how Transistor Phono Stages sound as most are dull & muddy. As for 'Sexist' Hifi Ads, surprisingly few if Sept 1979 p7 with a Lux (Luxman) ad has a man pulling his caveman wife by the hair, her flat on the ground with a cassette deck trying to lose her ample clothed modesty as it sits on her chest. Surreal & one that would annoy today's tiresome lot. "Into The Iron Age With Lux", why Lux? The gear is labelled 'Luxman' & there was a Lux soap around at the time too. New Zealand had no FM Radio even in 1979 is surprising, if UK was very slow until the early 1990s even. HFN/RR do group tests but the reviews are still dry & it just seems pointless. A strange trend of 'Record Cleaning Films' where you spray a product onto a Record, let it set & peel the film off to pick up all the filth seems bizarre, Discofilm & Diskmask didn't last long clearly. A sort of Silicone with solvents that evaporate, did they react with the vinyl soon after like PVC sleeves did? Not a thing we'd use. A Jan 1980 news article says others are making this & it's a water soluble form of Poly-Vinyl Acetate, but does it react with the vinyl? PVA glue used to line walls & as glue is a DIY product today. But by Sept 1979, there's less to read, long boring articles. Back in the days of buying HFN/RR in 1993-98 it was just something to read pre-Internet, you'd read some articles again if generally it didn't lead to buying much, if the more Populist 'What Hifi' was more aggressive in selling Marantz CD52 players by the truck load. HFN/RR generally left the Selling to the Advertisers, many with dull printed lists of goods without photos if the idea of Manufacturers with colour pages of new goods was slow in arriving. HFN/RR has been interesting to see how things changed over the 1970s if to re-read this 1970-80 era will not seem so interesting. Late 1979 brings TDK 'MA' metal tape, far the best Cassette tape & we used these tapes often in the late 1980s until CD-R arrived. One of the best adverts is for 'Maxell' blank cassettes, someone went to the trouble to Knit a cassette to be able to mention 'wooly sound'. Very cool & an ad worth framing. Appears as a back cover & then inside the mag by Dec 1979.


The Joy Of Restoring Old Unwanted Junk Into Classy Desired Gear.
We get amplifiers & receivers that often seem a pile of dirty old junk & by the prices, no-one wants them. Who has the skills to do the job properly these days? Watching 'Wheeler Dealers' the Saab 96 episode with new guy Ant & Mike has great nerdly pleasure as you can see with Ant, who is a more precise technical-minded guy than Edd who was more creative in a DIY-way. He fabricates complicated rusted-out panels on the lower windscreen edge & does it to perfection, the door shut lines are perfected. The Saab 96 we thought was an ugly piece of scrap & why they wanted it seemed a mistake. But the more you watch, you see the good ideas by Saab, not all lasted 47 years if the car is quite basic & low power it grows on you. To see it all repainted with all the trim in & out but still bright yellow went from an embarrassment to a Cool Ride you'd be proud to be in. Now restoring Hifi relies more on the electronics & cleaning as there are no spare parts & to try to get even a plain lid repainted or powder coated isn't as easy as you'd think unless you know Car guys. We got the Toshiba SA-15Y a very tired amp that the previous owner couldn't work out & their soldering and parts choosing work was laughably bad. No proper circuit diagram as the one found was a bad photocopy so unreadable. We think the amp deserves a proper rebuild & to buy a Printed Service Manual for £50 was very expensive, but the only way. The junky amp slowly gets rebuilt & done to our standard so it's looking & sounding great again. Surprised it sounded that good for 30w rated if like the Realistic STA-150 it's more a 40w amp for the read outputs. The wood case needs some tidying if the rest is sorted if we didn't like the flickering LED bulbs so got some filament type bulbs from Germany. A lot of work put into this amp, we used it for a few days on TV sound on the speakers, thought it was great, but our job is now done, so time to sell it on, price to be decided once the wood case is sorted. It'd be nice to keep a few dozen favourite amps, but we only use 2 amps so to not really need more than a few extra reference ones. Several of the amps we've had are remembered fondly as the 'Some Favourites' blog earlier this month shows. But soon decided the Toshiba was propably one of the last decent 1960s receivers & it needs a bit more work done as it certainly did impress on the first uses of it.


Where Do We Go In Hi-Fi Restoring From Here?
Finding quality 'unknown' amps gets harder each good one you find & past 1972 there are not really that many that would interest. The big brand Pioneer, Rotel & Sansui are very cost-cut if can upgrade well they need a huge amount done, beyond the resell value often. Some like Sony with V-FETs & other custom output stages we avoid as parts are long gone or insanely expensive. All the HFN/RR reviews & adverts are just confirming what we know past 1977, the quality just isn't there. The best stuff to upgrade is 1965-72 with care needed to pick better ones 1973-78 which is why Yamaha got so many amps tried. Valve amps we've tried several & they all need so much rebuild & redesign, if we have an interesting Fisher X-100-B to upgrade & see it has good design that we'd not expect this early, like DC heaters. The 1963 Trio WX400-U had a rudimentary DC heater on the Tone valve if it wasn't too great. We get more Upgrades now so to see what we get offered, there have to be other amplifiers that are post 1978 that can upgrade as well as the Sansui AU-G90X if that took a long time to lose the thin 1980s sound. Wherever it goes be sure it'll be typed up here, it seemed like it's come to an end of progress several times over a few years, but then more interesting stuff comes along.


The First Overdesigned Amplifier: Trio Kenwood KA-8004 From 1972.
We thought Yamaha got this one for the Differential & Push-Pull design in the Yamaha CA-800ii & CA-1000ii, but these were 1975. The first amp to have this overdesign that we see as unnecessary is the Trio-Kenwood KA-8004 from 1972, the same year as the KA-6004 we had. The KA-6004 isn't with this overdesign, if we found the filter stages limiting if the amp itself was pretty decent, though the tiny power amp board was not so good. The KA-8004 is a 60w amp, one on ebay, overpriced at £345 with the typical broken levers, the flimsy plastic ends missing off 5 of 7 of them. The KA-8004 Phono Stage is designed like a Power amp with Differentials, a Driver & 2 Push-Pull transistors. Two versions of the amp exist as the Service Data shows, the Tone, Phono (named as Preamp) & Power Amp get altered, as did the 1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X if the number stayed the same. The Power Amp board still seems small & is a plug-in type one by the looks of it. Would expect it to be a good amp overall & we'd try one at the right price. But for the Overdesigned Phono stage, the KA-8004 from 1972 gets the "First Overdesigned Amplifier" Award.


Our Transistor Hi-Fi Exploits Started With a Trio-Kenwood KA-4002.
We had a Sony STR-6120, Sony TA-1150 & Sony TA-1130 several years earlier after finding them better than some modern thing on the then Computer amp & speakers. Plus many others like B&O, Marantz, Harman-Kardon in the early 1990s. But the amp that started off our Hifi Website is actually the Trio-Kenwood KA-4002 of which we have the KA-4002a as of typing & found it's sound as Serviced but Original surprisingly punchy for it's 18w. We did have the earlier Trio-Kenwood TK-150 aka KA-2000 which is the 13w one, but only finding 2011 info confirms which one we had. It was a £35 buy on ebay, we cleaned & serviced it if in the end sold it for a modest £50. At the time we had the Hacker GAR 550 that was 14w, to want to try a Record Player we first got in about 1986. After recapping it we still found the Hacker a bit lacking as the preamp stage wasn't proper Line Level for DIN sockets, so to go see what amps were around to try to get something better sounding. The Trio KA-4002 was only bought as looking good & cheap. To hear the same 1972 KA-4002a which is the 1971 KA-4002 with an updated fascia & controls to think it sounded great the day before typing shows we certainly found a good starter amp with the KA-4002 back in 2011, the joy to find that it was the one that started all this. To think that sounded great in 2011 so to see what else there was. We bought some amps we didn't like, the 1986 Sony TA-F550ES was swiftly sold on & a messed with Marantz 1152DC amp was a bad buy that we could deal with now. Then Leak Stereo 70 + tuner in the long case we thought was rough & crude, Bang & Olufsen Beomasters 3000 & 4400 we had a few of, found them better than the Leak if still not quite the Trio KA-4002 sound. Then got a Trio KR-4140 18w receiver that was rather soft & boring sounding, far from the KA-4002 sound so that got sold on. Trying more Trio as the KR-33 receiver, Leak Delta 30, Leak 2000 receiver, Armstrong 526, Goodmans Module 90. Then into Pioneer SX-850 that was so cost cut & limited it sounded nasty, if these will upgrade well needing a huge amount done, NAD 160 receiver thought decent if biasing made a big difference to the sound, then 1968 Pioneer SX-1000TW that was thought a nice sound if dull sounding, we'd recap it now. The first Yamaha we got was the CR-1000 in 2012 & got the CR-1020 soon after if sold that on. The first Recapped-Upgraded amp we sold was a Yamaha CA-1000 in 2012. Prices back when we sold on ebay are modest for the Recap-Upgraded ones, if the thing back then was no-one else was doing this or even Serviced so we really led the way on this. Look on ebay now, you see those saying 'Serviced' but notice few show inside pics even for recapped. Sellers are slow to realise that buyers want to see the quality of work done & with good parts.


1978 Sony TA-N88 Power Amplifier & TA-E88 Preamplifier.
These appear Important Developments for Sony in Hifi. 160w RMS rated & £1120 the pair, as £560 each. The idea of these is looking towards Digital, if the whole idea of them we think is a poor one. But Technology has to show off & constantly innovate, if Sony never bettered the 1965 Sony TA-1120 for sheer Music Pleasure, if the much upgraded Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F is their best product, if not as original. The idea here is to convert the Analog Signal via Pulses as in today's Sampling to "create" a waveform via Digital. Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Class D type amplification. The idea is obscured as we aren't told the Sampling Rate if a 1kHz test signal reveals a huge amount of low level spikes, digital noise mush & the idea of using a Low Pass Filter to try to tame the mess is not done well, if CD players do similar. The amp did rate 160w, but at low level it will have been 'not very good'. Dampling factor is telling too, at 40Hz it's '28', but at 20kHz it's '2.3' showing the Treble will be a grainy mess. Switching Speed of Transistors. Despite all this & it not testing too well, the sound was liked, but they noted the "tizz" on the very highs & overtones, ie grainy treble & blurry on complex Rock or Full Orchestra. History notes that this sort of amp didn't reappear (as far as we know) so an experimental amp for sure & not a success we'd say, took 7 years to sell the first batch is likely. The preamp appears better liked if severely overdesigned as it has 30 FETs, 174 transistors & 29 diodes in the whole preamp. Off to HFE to get the Service Manuals, this needs looking deeper into. Sony TA-E88 preamp 1977-84 the Manual shows photos & the circuits & we've never seen such a busy design as they try to control & shape what remains of the sound. Overdesign to The Extreme. The Phono has multiple options of loading the cartridge. The actual circuits have to be seen to believed, the amount of differentials is extreme & very overdesigned power supplies to regulate. How Sony got to this from the 1972 Sony TA-2000F preamp, which is actually a sensible design once all the dumbing down is sorted, to this crazy mess is quite mindnumbing. No Tone Controls on this makes it of limited use. Sony TA-N88 power amp is next, a HFE review says it's got V-FETs & "an awful power supply", so one to avoid as they are long obsolete. Inside pics show it has 13x TO3 big transistors, some will be regulators, line of 5 & the rest as 2 pairs of 4 for Output Stages. Slimline so it's got a thin but long main capacitor. we hate it already on seeing an IC for 3 differential stages per channel working on only 9v. The 500kHz oscillator & shaping circuits are suitably obscure, yes let's alter the original signal why don't we & try to tidy the mess we made, ugh. Power Transistors are V-FETs 2SJ28 & 2SK82 both which must be Sony Custom ones & no datasheets available. The Power Supply is that ghastly Pulse Power Supply nonsense the Technics SU-01 micro system has, no Mains transformer but Regulator stages & then small transformers later on, not unlike how our old DVD-HDD recorder is, but that had 30 years of improvements. An amp like this Sony TA-N88/TA-E88 is one we'd not like to get involved with, parts unavailable & what can be lethal mains dumb ideas like the UK version of that Technics was. 1977-78 did bring some design ideas that have progressed to today, but First-Effort amps like these we consider are best left alone & not suitable for daily use even if yours was good. Verdict: Run a mile.


Loudspeakers: Most Are Mediocre with Harsh Peaky Upper Ranges.
Sadly most Speakers are average at best. Plenty are rubbish even, if your speaker sounds boxy & shrill, then it's garbage. But cheap speakers on Music Centres to midprice speakers is what most listen to. Be sure you don't play music much as it's not pleasing sounding. Not listening to Music makes you Old. If a big speaker appears lightweight in picking it up, it is junk. If it's small but heavy then you can get a purer sound but then the weeny 6" bass speaker will not give you the full richness of the sound, so you go buy a Subwoofer & set it up wrong so it's thick & boomy sounding. Even "Experts" in Hifi shops have little idea about Good Sound, those expensive AV systems that Hifi shops turned to by around 2000 we used to hear often & "where's the midrange" says us after knowing the Tannoy Gold 15"s. To be told no-one's ever said that before, they want more bass & treble but to not realise speaking voices of themselves don't sound like the Film Soundtrack does even set at a higher volume. The Tannoy 15"s you can see the Response Curve is very smooth with ±2dB variation, the curve does undulate but in a smoother way. The HFN/RR reviews have shown speaker response curves since Hifi started to get big by the early 1970s. Some of the response curves are really bad, the old trick of reducing the graph scale to 10dB graduations makes the response look better in adverts, but the Tannoy one is on a 5dB graph. Look on HFE for 'Tannoy DC Flyer 1968' to see this, if this shows the earlier 'Silver' not 1969 Golds. Don't seem to be any Monitor Golds flyers around if 1969 HFN had adverts, we'll have to dig some out. The Problem Speakers are the early-mid 1970s ones as blogged before that have bad impedance curves from poor design causing 2 ohm dips that will cause many amps problems as they can't drive 2 ohms, the Celestion Ditton 22 type ones being noted as "hard to drive" more like dangerous to use unless your amp is rated for 2 ohm use which means only a few post 1980s ones. These bad impedance curves, see here, are slowly realised by the makers as the impedance curves we've seen on later 1970s are generally "nominal 5 to 6 ohm" just like the Tannoy Golds are. These multi-driver speakers get into problems as more than one driver handles the frequency where the impedance dips so causes a similar idea as running 2x 4 ohm speakers from an amp that says, on the later 1970s ones, to not use 2 pairs of 4 ohm. Mutidriver speakers are a poor hyped idea supposedly better on midrange for the extra driver, but the reality is the midrange is more reduced by complex crossovers. Avoid multi-driver speakers if you want good detail in music.


HFN/RR June 1979 does a 13 Loudspeaker Test : A Digest & Our Opinion.

This big test has a representative 1979 selection of £130-£320 midprice speakers. A Martin Colloms review so expect a lot of detail & tests of Frequency Range, but don't expect much sense from it as we concluded. On & Off-Axis Frequency Responses, Distortion & Impedance told of also. To use eight panellists sort of loses the point as too many opinions dilutes any review. They use a 75w Valve amp made by MC plus other sensibly priced preamp, turntable & cartridge plus it appears Spendor BC 1 speakers, £280 in 1979, are their reference ones. Pictures show a mix of design types. The more interesting ones to us are 2-driver ones that are Cerwin-Vega R12, Audiomaster MLS4, Tannoy T125, Lentek S4 if the KEF Concord III is tweeter plus 2 bass drivers not one as passive. The below shows actually 2 or 3 drivers doesn;t mean good or bad, it's all in the design of crossovers & driver selection for the design. This big HFN/RR review will have fried minds as it is 15 pages of text, photos & graphs, not including the advert pages, a full 15 pages of data, so we'll just look at these from the photos, graphs & the text to pick out ideas, so you'll have to get the June 1979 issue if this interests further. Note on all of these for the size & price range, Bass under 100Hz is steeply rolled off on all, some are said to have better bass but it depends on other factors, so we'll only mention the Midrange-Treble ranges. Impedance on all but the Wharfedale stays over 5 ohm, the Wharfedale goes to about 4 ohm on treble which is still acceptable. Allison 4 (£320 price for a pair in 1979) is an odd upward facing woofer & tweeters on the front, not even worth considering we can see. Stereo will be poor, the peaks over 1kHz are ridiculous, with big dip just over 1kHz & a wildly choppy 2kHz+ range giving 12dB variance, it will sound awful. MC says it sounded vague with little to be positive about, if kept mannered as 'not recommended'. Appears to be the first Rubbish one to us. Cerwin-Vega R12 (£230) are the big loud but quality USA brand that later had 105dB sensitivity speakers. This looks far more interesting if the frequency range is not very even with a 2kHz dip to 10kHz peak of around 10dB so it will sound a bit lacking in detail where it's needed but a bit hard on upper treble. We'd consider these ones depending on how bright the amp is, too dull an amp will bore, you need an amp with a better midrange & not so much high treble, MC notices this too so isn't keen. Not ideal then. ITT 8073 (£220) is a brief Hifi range from the TV-grade makers, slanted front & level controls on the front not a great look. Frequency response is better than some with ±5dB higher frequency variation & smoother. But MC says Stereo imaging is poor & it's peaky on midrange sounding boxy, so better in someways but still not great & he doesn't recommend it. B&W DM2 II (£293) looks like a modern slim tall speaker on a short stand, but 3 drivers. A little choppy (as in 'vvv' shaped response) on the midrange-treble with a 2kHz dip spoiling what otherwise seems decent. MC is more positive on this one & says you may like it. Audiomaster MLS 4 (£180) is a 2 driver with a front port, looks very current in style, but the frequency response is uneven & choppy even under 1kHz, saw-tooth looking waveform over 1kHz is going to be a difficult listen. We write this from what we see & then see what MC said. Tizzy & Bright some said plus midrange colouration, again it's not a good one. Goodmans Achromat Sigma is an odd one, flat coned bass driver, midrange not much smaller & a tweeter, it looks a bit like a typical 1970s Music Centre looking speaker, ie a bit naff. The frequency response is awful, a huge 2 to 3kHz dip, choppy above that & a boosted bass over 80-200Hz. It will sound ghastly. MC agress saying it sounds dull & thick, but is playing safe, but we can see it's a Boom & Tizz speaker, far from Hifi. Rubbish therefore. Tannoy T125 Oxford (£199) is the interesting one. But it's one of Tannoy's lowest price ones at £199 in the range tested so it's not going to be so good, do we see an anti-Tannoy bias putting a cheap one amid higher priced others? Frequency is pretty steady but a 5dB dip at 2-5kHz will limit proper detail, the settings switch gives an odd mix of unbalanced detail over 1kHz which we are surprised to see, but the reality is they're not giving to 'good sound' away on a cheaper speaker & this doesn't seem to have impressed anoyone by the words they use. Sounds like they are surprised Tannoy makes mediocre speakers & that's what this is. It's why you buy their 12" & 15" better speakers, that's where the reputation comes from, not mass-market gear like this. Wharfedale Teesdale SP2 (£130) again a big respected name tested using a budget speaker which is unfair. Typical limited midrange dip around 1-3kHz & a peak around 4kHz will be harsh. A good budget buy they say, if again Wharfedale bigger & earlier speakers are Quality like Tannoy, so don't be put off. MC says good value but clearly it's far from perfect for 'coloured sound' issues, so it sounds boxy, rather than being good for Reggae. Sony SS-G1 (£180) again a big brand with a cheaper item, frequency response is lousy as so choppy 3kHz dip to 4kHz peak will sound harsh & above that it's choppy too. But it still gets a good rating, if more on price than the limits of sound. Lentek S4 (£225) has a minor upper bass peak around 80-100Hz that may be good or tiring, but far from neutral, a bit choppy above 1kHz if not as harsh as others if the highest treble is a bit down. Overall not as uneven as some if MC hears it as "bland inoffensive & neutral" which means it does the job but it's boring, yet he recommends it at the price. NAD 8080 (£195) is an unexpected brand to see in Speakers, some of the range with designer's names Hifi readers will recognise. But this appears a lousy effort with a huge 16dB dip down from 800Hz to 2kHz, up 10dB by 3kHz & a bit choppy above that. The worst example of the Midrange Driver being badly designed as the Bass runs to 800Hz & Midrange takes over above until the Treble over 6kHz, how could NAD offer such rubbish to buyers? MC opinion looked at next with bad words used like boxy & boomy, muffled etc. A Hard Shallow Image as MC says is what severe Mid Range Suck-Out brings. He calls it 'quite poor' we'd call it Rubbish. Radford T90 Tristar (£310) is very different, this is the smoothest response curve so far from the above ones, beyond a bit of a 1-2kHz dip & 100-200Hz 5dB boost, this is approaching Tannoy Monitor quality, if as we said earlier bass is sharply rolled off under 100Hz, this looks a good speaker. So MC opinion next, a little unfairly gives it bad words then says 'not particularly severe' negating it really, which as with the choices of models on big brands isn't very unbiased we'd say. Says it fairly clean & neutral as we see yet doesn't recommend it. What criteria is this guy using, sounds a bit weak to us to see a decent response so we see it is worth trying, which is unexpected for seeing it has 3 drivers. KEF Concord III (£175) sees another big brand represented by a cheaper model. The frequency response is smooth here if with an overall 3-4dB dip 350Hz to 4kHz which will make it sound smooth but a bit more on the Bass & Treble, a tailored sound. It is much liked in the tests, if the therefore tailored bass & treble boost will fool & it appears to have a bit here. Not perfect says MC but says it's a recommended one, to us seeing the boosted bass & treble it may liven up a dull amp, but couldget tiring otherwise. Conclusion (by MC) lists 4 Tables for Accuracy, Sound Quality, Overall combined first two tables & Sensivitity ranging from a low 83dB to 95dB by Cerwin-Vega as you would expect, but half are under 86dB which isn't very efficient. The "Winners" from combined ratings are Audiomaster, KEF, Sony, Lentek, Goodmans, Radford, B&W = Wharfedale, ITT, Tannoy, Allison = NAD & Cerwin-Vega last. Our Opinions just from looking at the Frequency responses you can read above, three we consider Rubbish as Allison, NAD & Goodmans. Radford & KEF appear the best two here. But we've not heard these & there is no mention of whether the Valve Amplifier matched these speakers well or not, the Cerwin-Vega appeared dull but on a different amp it could be far better. Speakers are the Hardest Hifi Items to match & this we show on our Loudspeakers page with amps we've tested on the Tannoy Golds. Our Conclusion is that by just using one Valve Amplifier & a custom made one at that to test these speakers is pretty meaningless. To test 13 speakers & not use at least 2-3 amplifiers of different age & type doesn't tell you much about how they match. As with other Reviews Of Reviews we've done, we really think it's time wasted to not really know a better range of amps was used. Opinions in Hifi should have a better grounding than that. Look how many amps we've tested & how many we've tried on One Top Loudspeaker that we are familiar with. The tests here done over Three Sessions involving eight people with variations in opinion & hifi experience are just too vague.


March 2018 Blog

The Only Way To Buy Loudspeakers

To be sure you have a good match speakers to amp you need to get a few sets to try, use them for a few days each if they appeal & then compare back the ones you liked best. This in reality means going to buy them, trying the lot over a few months & then selling off the unwanted ones. The best ones will match your amp best, the ones you didn't like may match other amps better & your favourites may not please others. On getting speakers to test, don't just crank them up loud as they will sound better than playing lower volume you watch TV at. At the lower volume, you'll hear the bass is missing from smaller speakers & the peaky or limited midrange-treble will get annoying on many of the ones above. You'll say things like "it's too boxy, it's too harsh, midrange is too 'up', midrange is too soft, it sounds smooth, it sounds metallic (from harsh high treble peaks)". If you get the match right you'll feel so pleased, you'll know the moment that is realised. But looking at the above 13 speakers tested, How can they offer such inaccurate speakers for sale? Because buyers often don't know what Good Sound from Speakers is. But put 12" or 15" Tannoys on an amp of the right era, ie Golds on pre 1973 & HPDs etc on post 1973 & you'll love how smooth & natural they sound with fully extended deep bass (amplifier design permitting). But beware, once you hear these big Vintage Tannoys, all other speakers will sound lousy. We first heard Vintage Tannoy via a Reggae guy with HPDs & a big Pioneer, once heard, no way back. Unfortunately the 1960s Tannoy designs are just getting more expensive, if the bigger HPD & later models into the 1980s with Dual Concentrics are a lot more affordable.


Tannoy Golds & Other 12"-15" Big Speakers: Are They For Me?
The price of Tannoy Gold 15" in Lancaster cabinets just keeps getting higher if they did sell well at the time, the prices New on them compared to Today's Prices have grown well compared to other speakers of the same price New in 1969-74 that are still cheap as not much wanted. But are they for you? They suit 1965-72 Transistor Amplifiers & the 1960s Valve-Tube amps the best if not quite the later 1970s Valve-Tube revival amps. See our Loudspeakers page as we've tried many amps on ours to tell how well they match & generally the post 1972 era ones can still match well if not as perfectly as the earlier amps, plus a few don't match at all. A big speaker has a bigger bass cone & with Dual Concentrics the 'voice' of the speaker mostly comes from the bass cone, to disconnect the bass driver & just hear the tweeter section shows it really only adds the higher treble, no midrange sound from it like some later ones do. The 1992 Tannoy 609s have a lot of midrange from the tweeter, the bass driver without tweeter, as in using the biwiring posts, sounds very dull. All that midrange from a tiny tweeter but it's horn loaded as a Dual Concentric. The big area of the Tannoy Dual Concentric Silver & Golds bass cone means you hear detail correctly, after having lived with these Golds for 16 years they just sound like speakers should do, there is nothing unwanted & nothing missing, they are neutral to us, using the 1965-72 era Transistor Amplifiers. Small speakers the bass fades away fast as there isn't much to start with, big speakers still sound rich & full to a degree even outside the room & be sure they can rattle the front door. But within the whole range of amplifiers, some are flatter sounding for more NFB in the amp's design that will suit smaller speakers better, but the higher NFB ones on big speakers don't sound quite right as the NFB design isn't as fresh sounding. We've found only certain amps sound really great on these & it's not predictable for power as 18w (Coral A550/JVC MCA 104E) to 100w (Sony TA-2000F/TA3200F) had that 'right' sound. Age of amp isn't a clue either, you need to know designs & where to look. But find one with the higher NFB it can match the speaker correctly but still sound a bit hard & tiring on a big speaker. The NFB is what makes some amps sound impressive on first hear, but they can sound tiring & even disorientating as they don't quite sound natural. Hifi should not confuse, but be sure it does in many ways. On smaller speakers with a 'smaller voice' you'd not tell this difference or know of this NFB issue that small speakers never give the full rich sound as they are audibly limited under 1kHz regardless of what response curves tell. If you want to get into big speakers, they can make some modest amps sound great, but to beware some amps that head towards 'overdesign' will be shown up for how they manipulate the sound. The 50w Tannoy Golds are best suited to Well Designed but Simpler Amplifiers & Valve-Tube amps.


Valve-Tube Amplifiers On Loudspeakers.
Valve Amp Transformers do vary over the years, as in how they match speakers, as do the pre 1972-post 1972 era transistor amps matching earlier or later speakers. The 1960s output transformers were wound to match Tannoy Reds, Silvers & Golds, but the ones of the post 1978 era like our Luxman LX33 from 1979 are wound to suit the post 1975 type speaker ie Tannoy HPDs so don't quite match the earlier Golds is what we've concluded after using Transistor amps for TV sound & the 100w Valve Monoblocs just gather dust now. Having heard the 1965 Fisher X-100-B on the Tannoys, it matched perfectly even as aged & original, the LX33 is a bit too 'up' on the midrange like post 1972 amplifiers can sound showing it matches good enough but not perfectly. The 1963 Trio WX400U sounded great on speakers if 10w in valves isn't quite enough power, the 15w of the 1965 Fisher X-100-B as with the 1966 Rogers HG88 Mk III is enough power.


1980 John Lindsey-Hood 30w Amplifier.
He had previously designed a Pre-Power Amplifier for HFN/RR Nov 1972-Feb 1973, mentioned by us previously, so to see another one in early 1980 seems unusual. Now the idea that an amplifier claiming to be of good quality could be bought by you as a kit, or even constructed from scratch by yourself, the joy of making something now may seen old-fashioned, but at the time DIY & Crafts were very popular as it gave Hifi listeners a chance to save by making it themselves. Heathkit, Dynakit & Knight Kit all thrived in the late 1960s-mid 1970s. Later Maplin started with the Velleman Kits that also included their Valve amp kits as did HFN/RR with their own ones too, if now all sadly long gone. JLH we don't think much of as a designer, he is still using very out-of-date design plus attempting to get modern by using op-amps. Look at the coupling capacitor values, they are very low to stop deep bass & keep design parts low, after all he is designing a budget priced kit, so don't expect the best design. The Power amp input is similarly limited & it's circuit isn't too great either, it'll sound acceptable but doubt you'll use it much as it'll be uninspiring. Why he puts a large resistor to limit the MM Phono input again is illogical for 1980 plus using nasty Zener Diodes to regulate the voltage is poor design if then uses a regulator to drop for lower voltages, if we recently saw similar zener 'design' in a 1968 amplifier. You sometimes see these as built kits as two companies sold parts for the 1972 one & likely this had kits buyable, but overall the JLH amps are best considered as budget to mid price quality.


1980: All Clear. Is Hi-Fi Perfected By Now? No, They've Given Up...
Fron reading HFN/RR at a pace far quicker than time passing as the mag was published, we can see the problems in 1978-80 Hi-Fi grow quite rapidly & sadly it became accepted as the Normal by the 1980s. So to highlight the difficulties but explain why we see them as more Gimmicks than actual progress as was made in the 1965-72 era. Some items listed here as 'a bit pointless' will not please some, but to see our reasoning & perhaps think are you just being spoonfed by Hifi Mags hype? We've heard some tell us this over the years now & they are converted to Vintage as it just pleases the ear more. But this is our opinion knowing the Valves to 1972 Hifi scene brings the best sounds in Amplifiers. According to the Hifi Press, Hifi is now at it's best & because people weren't told by an unbiased voice, they bought the 'Fashionable' gear that was on offer, thinking really only to buy mostly by price & media-advertiser's opinion, plus availability. The mediocre Armstrong amps were in all the shops so sold welluntil the company faded away in 1979. UK Mags did have a 'British' bias & Quad especially were still hyped if a letter tells that few dealers wanted the out-of-date Quad amps but wanted the ESL 57 electrostatic speaker, so to get the lot. The expensive false dreams were just well hyped & with no real way to know what's good for your needs beyond buying, money was spent & probably regretted at some time soon after, by then the Hifi Press championed something new anyway & some must have felt cheated spending good money on non UK goods that were now 'outdated', except it wasn't, that's the Hype Advertiser's game. Items such as Graphic Equalisers as 'Tomorrow's World' had overhyped & misled as blogged earlier. The idea was you used them as fancy tone controls, not to Archive Music to balance the sound. Graphic or Paragraphic EQ's used op-amps to rather crudely shape the sound, a Graphic isn't even like a Tone Control if you see the peaky responses, a Paragraphic on today's Digital Sound programs we find is far better as you can use a smooth curve, if the analog 1980 versions will have still been IC jobs. JVC did Graphic Equalisers not with ICs but with LCR components, but despite how great the 1967-71 JVC are, the limited EQ range wasn't as useful as a traditional Tone stage. Pioneer made a Reverb feature on one amplifier with the old delay springs, it's just trying to put back what wasn't there in the first place or trying to make cheap stereos sound more 'exciting'. A big suge in Graphic EQs is noticeable by 1980. It fails. Noise Reduction was pretty hopeless if even HFN/RR reviewed them but were too 'kind' to say don't buy this it's a waste of money. Early Click Suppressors like the Garrard one are too crude & slow, as was the early 1990s Marantz one we got cheap as the item wasn't wanted, it coped fairly well with clicks especially if you put in a faster clock, but left annoying 0dB fill-ins to make an uneven wobbly sound sometimes. The earlier ones working on bucket delay lines make even more mess, don't bother with them. A Bass Harmonics Synthesiser to add extra false Bass harmonics is going too far, the "dbx 100 subharmonic synthesiser" adds a 25Hz tone at half the level to a 50Hz tone to 'boost bass'. Feb 1980 HFN/RR reviews it & the reviewer doesn't like it, if like the similar Stereo Expanders that Tandy-Realistic later did, it just makes a mess of sound. This sort of idea is related to a Subwoofer, not a bad thing if small speakers by the size will only sound small, but only if it's set up spot on with crossover frequencies to match the other speakers it's used with, even one Hifi shop had theirs playing very loud bass that is only supposed to subtly fill in the bass under 100Hz with small speakers, not be a heard item by itself. Moving Coil Cartridges. These low output cartridges may not please some to be dismissed as a gimmick, these require step up Phono stages when the Moving Magnet Phono stage was still poorly done with transistors as our tests of many amps reveal. We've read MC tests in HFN/RR & these reviews show the sound via the late 1970s overdesigned & IC Phono stages really wasn't very good being criticised as uneven & harsh when better MM cartridges were better rated. The only one that was seen as liked was the Ortofon MC 20. So why were they briefly popular? Hype. MC ideally if money is no object should be good, but 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 is one of the first Amps to have a MC stage & even a 1970 HFN review finds the background hiss noise was too high. 1977 Yamaha CR-2020 uses an IC to boost MC to MM level & it's going to sound as muddy as the MM stage does. MC can't be done with valves as the noise background would be too high. To get the sound from a record at a higher voltage output like MM is will always get the best results, whatever the Hair-Shirters with their overdesigned MC stages say, so sadly MC is a fail. 0.06mv level is too low. Later MC stages beyond external cheap ones just used a lot of ICs & overdesign if the 1984 Sansui AUG90X one is actually far more advanced with a transformer & no ICs, the MM stage was good if not perfect. Note at this time CD was being heavily discussed if it didn't appear until 1982 with a Billy Joel CD in Japan & 1984 with Bruce Springsteen. Needless Pre & Power Amplifiers for 50w amps, just a way to make you buy an overpriced 50w amp appears the deal here. The 'fashion' by 1980 was Slimline so one big Integrated wouldn't be slimline, but a Pre & Power would be, it really was that shallow in fashion. You pay more for 2 boxes than the 50w integrated naturally. Pre-Power for 100w+ should be a limit surely. But Quad were still selling their old-fashioned crude Quad 33/303 for most of the 1970s until the 404 power amp arrived 1978 & the 44 pre in 1980. Even Sugden with their ugly pre & power looking like a 1960s lab kit, not Domestic Hifi. Three-Way Loudspeakers with an extra midrange driver to supposedly "improve" midrange yet with an overdesigned crossover losing energy that created "midrange suck out" boosting bass & treble. Manufacturers really just do follow fashion as what the marketplace wants & expects. Compare even highly rated 3 way speakers to Tannoy Dual Concentrics & you'll never want the 3 way ones again as the 'presence' is missing for the crossover design. The naff looking multi driver speaker became the norm & it was just accepted, if not questioned for poor prescence like we do. One tiny mini speaker even had 3 drivers which even HFN/RR thought was a bit pointless. Cable Hype was still not so popular yet if HFN/RR had covered this & got ridiculed. Once you get past bell wire & using 5A mains wire, the 'budget' speaker cables of today are the best buys, see earlier blogs. Direct-Cut LPs the brief 'craze' pre CD with the idea of no tape stage or post production to give the best sound actually rarely worked, the best ones sounded wonderful if musically tame, but many were muddy sounding as not mixed correctly & the biggest problem playing live was it was too precise & mannered to not make mistakes, making for uninteresting listening. Some Direct Cut LPs needed 10 versions done until the 'engineer' was satisfied, imagine how bored & tired the musicians would be by Take 4 let alone Take 10. A fresh spirited recording edited & mixed brings the best music. Then 1980s came "Half Speed Mastered" LPs that were seen 'better' to master busy detail better & frequency tests revealed the dynamic range was indeed superior, but the trouble is mastering at half speed the Bass needs a huge boost to sound right played at the correct speed, so again a Fail. To see a Peak Level Meter project described in Apr 1980 HFN/RR shows how wrong it's gone. Good for studios & mastering, but in Domestic Hifi, utterly useless. A HFN/RR cartoon in May 1980 says about 'if you get bored with the music, you can always watch the coloured lights". Bored with boring sounding Hifi so Flashing Lights & Controls Twiddling became the 1980s idea. HFN/RR "Subjective Sounds" column is responsible for quite a lot of the nonsense the 1980s brought, it just hypes the once-loved Linn-Naim-Meridian gear telling you that you don't need Tone Controls but lovely IC Op-Amps are better. Silly ideas like £500 cartridges got a lot of bite back as seen as needless by Letter writers. By 1980, The Marketplace Drove what buyers got, it had gone mass market gradually since 1972 for Discount Stores & by 1979-80 we just don't see any good Amplifiers or Receivers worth trying, again see the following Amps reviews. We do hear from Linn-Naim-Meridian users who have since seen the light & heard good Vintage Pre 1979 amps & they are awakened in their interest with music, after decades of finding their 'better' hyped amps probably stopped them listening critically to music as it sounded boring, but 'experts' told you it was 'better'. They believed the Hifi Mag hype that still goes on with 'hopeless' modern boring amps. The Apr 1980 HFN/RR letters page has a remarkable USA vs UK battle that needs covering in a blog soon... well we read it thorough & the Apr 1980 Ted Meyer vs John Crabbe argument is worthless, Meyer just mouths off in New-Yorkish way saying UK Hifi isn't loud enough or good enough which is what we say, but don't expect High Volume from 30w. But Crabbe is "my dear chap..." type politeness to answer him fully & easy to see who should be quiet. But HFN/RR publishing nearly 2 pages of this is utter rubbish & they should not have bothered as Meyer is just a troll with no reasoning. We say we don't like things & reasons why are given plus facts to give a balanced view as Crabbe does in his replies. We blog here often if it gets a re-read to make sure it's worth putting online. Some blogs get deleted as not worth putting here, like this Meyer-Crabbe one we decided not to write up.


Into The 1980s With Gimmicks and Market-Led Mediocrity.
Gimmicks & Things You Don't Really Need were the thing by 1980 & it only grew with more 'Flashing Light' amplifiers as started by the 1978 Luxman receivers R1040 etc & 1979 Blue Fluroscan Pioneers, by the early 1990s flashing lights of Level Meters, Peak Meters & Spectrum Analysers to impress low-end 'Stereo' buyers were the norm. The Stack System by Spring 1980 was 'the thing' as many major brands had one, in those days true separates styled to look together in a nice chip board & fake wood vinyl cabinet with one or two glass doors. Hifi in cabinets behind doors means you don't use them much as it's a chore, but the market simply lapped these up, leading to Amstrad & other budget makers making one-piece units that cheated by not being separates but still looking that way. Leads to nasty lightweight plastic turntables & double cassette decks without the cabinets by the late 1980s. Hopefully they all got smashed up long ago as be sure their lifespan was limited once you heard better & threw it out the window, truly Disposable it is. Another Gimmick was the Micro System as the 1978 Technics one we had appears to have led the pack. The idea overall was not a bad one, but not as good as it could have been even in the limited space. The Technics preamp was very limited on bass, the power amp as 110v was fine but the 240v version was ridiculously dangerous, live mains onto a big resistor is an awful idea. Of course these micro systems became popular especially with CD meaning no need for a Record Player. The trouble always with budget or midprice systems is always the speakers are poor, even in the 1980s the Hifi Mags recommended you ditched the 'sold with speakers' junk & bought something better, if the reality is a cheap 'stereo' isn't going to sound good on better speakers as it reveals all the nasty IC & low spec. Ideas from 30 years are still around, mediocre amplified speakers that were used for Cassette players now are around for MP3 i-pods. The marketplace seems to buy this stuff & perhaps it's best not too many hear how good Vintage can be as there is only a finite supply & yes, it all needs servicing as 30-40 years old. Today if funds are tight, go buy a 1979-82 era amp & hear despite the limitations, it'll still give more music pleasure than the dumbed down boring stuff of today.


What's Wrong With The Actual Sound Of Your Hi-fi?
This tells what unpleasant sounds you are hearing & helps narrow down what the problem is. If your Hifi sounds gritty, blurry, flattens off to sound awful or has no proper deep bass, then these are due to your Hifi being aged, cost-cut to the penny or just dumbed down too much & upgrading with design knowledge can remedy that to a degree. The fact of Speakers matching or not matching to Amplifiers will be revealed by this also. But what this Blog is about is Identifying The Frequencies (Hz/kHz) that are giving you the problem. We test all amps on our Tannoy 15" Golds and some match so well that the sound is smooth & we have no want for anything better in terms of smoothness. Apr 1980 HFN/RR has an interesting if brief chart by Martin Colloms, that puts it quite well of where the problems are. We can tell the frequencies by ear that are lacking from doing EQ on old Cartoons & Music. But most won't know these details. so here's our version of the article's table adding more to it. The Frequency is the Audio range that with a boost or cut causes these problems & the description is what imabalaced sound you'll hear. It also gives ideas on how to use a Graphic EQ properly.
20Hz-40Hz ... Bass fundamentals, gives bass you can feel if not many speakers can play this to a good level so many really won't know of this sound plus many amplifiers are heavily limited in Bass under 60Hz, if our upgrades bring back this 'missing' bass. If boosted too much, if your amp & speakers can play it, you can risk burning speakers out, but this area of sound is what Sub Woofers can bring if correctly set up.
40Hz-80Hz ... The lack of this makes music sound thin & most bookshelf speakers can't do this mid bass well at all, but people get used to it & think it sounds realistic. If boosted it sounds Boomy & thick sounding which can be tiring, the one-note 'Retro Bass' is in this area and the following one.
100Hz-150Hz ... Again small speakers play this area of sound poorly, it gives weight to voices. If boosted it can make voices too chesty & plummy, old 1940s valve radios have this sound which is fine from a 1940s radio, but on hifi it'll tire you.
150Hz-300Hz ... On the male voice range, if smaller speakers will play this better, there is the risk the design boosts this range & the previous one. Here is where the dreaded "Boxy" wooden sound that can spoil even quality small speakers. The Tannoy 12" we review on the Loudspeakers page had a cheap cabinet & even the mighty Tannoy 12" Gold in it sounded boxy. We got better adding 25kg weights, if not many will have a Bag Of Potatoes weight around to try. If these frequencies are reduced the hifi can sound hollow as the opposite of boxy. The balance between the two is why good speakers are expensive & don't have 3 drivers.
400Hz to 600Hz ... Here is where careless use of a Graphic EQ boost brings a drainpipe type sound, kids talk down plastic tubes & this range is boosted. As with the previous, if reduced it sounds hollow & lacking definition to male voices.
700Hz to 1.2kHz ... These frequencies are strarting to rise in how the Human Ear hears them, becoming more sensitive so the slightest changes will be heard far more than the previous ones. Strangely as the 13 Speakers blog shows, most speakers are poor where precision is required the most, that's why they are cheap & be sure they are designed to be cheap & not sound as bad as possible, ie imprecise. The sounds here HFN/RR calls honky & cup like, it's Sea-Shell to the ear frequencies & "The Sea" is blood in your ear being heard much louder by the horn qualities of the shell innards.
1.8kHz to 2.5kHz ... This is where Amplifiers to Loudspeakers matching shows the most as Great, Good, Average or Poor. If Hifi sounds "Hard" or "Harsh" it is with these frequencies plus the ones below & above, Nasal & Clangy add HFN/RR. An Alarm Bell or Siren is purposely designed to be within this range to be the loudest as Human Hearing is the most sensitive here. On amplifiers with Midrange controls, this can be tamed but we've noticed it softens the higher frequencies too making the sound softer, if a midrange control needs learning how to set it. If boosted this range will be harsh, if reduced it can be more Late Night level so here's where you adjust amps to sound upfront or mellow.
2.5kHz to 5kHz ... In Sound EQ this is where you add presence to the sound & some amplifiers have a setting for this, if Loudness is very different. To reduce these as the previous brings a softer mellower sound. Boosted these can head into Metallic & if you add EQ excessively at this range it is unpleasant. Play it on speakers boosted too much & it'll give you a headache, as will the previous range.
5kHz to 8kHz ... Humans can hear 20Hz to 20kHz so an amateur EQ user will think this range needs a big boost on dull sounding music, Not so, these frequencies are covered by the Tannoy Golds Tweeter section & playing only the tweeter gives a very thin sound, far less music info here than you'd expect. Boosted it can be Sibilant or Sharp & for lower powered amps to use too much Treble on Tone can get into Clipping Distortion & you'd possibly not realise what sounds so lousy.
10kHz to 15kHz ... This is really high treble. Many amplifiers make a right mess of this for cost-cutting & low spec, as well as rolling it off to hide bad design, yet we've seen big Graphic EQs with this range heavily boosted. Fizzy, edgy, grainy & gritty mess. This is why nasty UK amplifiers like Leak use their heavy Filter stages into the 1980s when no-one else fits or uses them. It's to tame the rough edgy sound that poor amps bring by messing up the sound. It's what ICs do to sound also. Later Hifi amp tests show these high frequencies in poorer amps are with a very low damping factor compared to the rest of the ranges, but as is typical, HFN/RR soon stopped telling readers of this as it reveals how rough the amps are.
17kHz to 20kHz ... We can still hear 17kHz if it needs turning up quite loud, but as a Teen we could hear 20kHz as the whistle that Building Alarms put out & there is an Antisocial Scaring Device to play this very high frequency to scare off delinquents. But Music has nothing beyond harmonics in this range & if you boost the 16kHz slider on an EQ it sort of goes surreal but makes no apparent difference, as what happens is you just overload the EQ to make it gritty & edgy. Similar is done on Digital Soundcards for "Exciter" mode to put artificial 'life' & harmonics back into boring sounding music, as the listener may choose.


What Does The Vintage Hi-Fi Buyer Actually Want?
Watching the New Series of 'Wheeler Dealers' with Ant who is a more experimental tech type than Edd who was more precise & traditional, we can relate to that with upgrading amplifiers more in the Ant way, if keeping Originality more the Edd way. But what will The Hi-Fi Buyer accept as Restored Vintage? We used to see ebay listings for Recapped Amps & Buyers generally stayed away for the unknown & still do. Where are the inside photos? Why haven't they cleaned it & tidied it if pictures were seen? Our ideals of Restoring Vintage started with a Sony STR-6120 that we got in about 2002 & to see untidy insides revived subtly is a good thing to see. That Tatty Old past-it's-best thing is That Nice Reliable Thing now. 'Wheeler Dealers' do that on all the cars & it's a good story to see how it gets to the end product. But in Hifi, the Vintage Buyer doesn't like Custom jobs, we saw some Tannoy HPDs a customer was considering, the price was far too high for what were reconed HPD driver, even if done by Tannoy are they the original ones or a later version? Not original is the risk, so only get HPDs refoamed on the edges. The case was redone in formica 'to tighten the sound' says the seller. Why are you selling them with their unsuitable cloth fronts that looks like a bad 1990s idea? We told the one asking, who had bought the Hitachi IA-1000 amp from us a few years ago, to pass them by & look for something more original. We replace capacitors, transistors & resistors in amps, some we rebuild the whole board in some stages just to see how good it can be. But to keep it looking authentic. We saw a 1966 Fisher 600-T online when we had ours, the fool had taken it apart totally to replate the chassis but replaced several boards with their own IC design which is not going to be popular as it's a bad 'upgrade'. The Vintage Hifi Market does seem to prefer better Speaker Connectors though, until the 4mm plug ones arrived by the Mid 1980s many types aren't good to use as in the 1960s-1970s to use thin bellwire was still the normal. We've replaced quite a few Speaker Connector sets, but we choose ones that still look Retro, the Red & Black plastic ones suit well for using close together, a metal case one could be shorted too easily, ones seen on ebay with 1-2mm gap are just unaware. We have the 1971 Sony TA-3200F power amp with hopeless 2.5mm spring connector holes, we can fit a temporary wire & 4mm plug block, see the Sales page, but to fit proper ones now is needed. The Sony TA-1130 as on the Gallery-Solds page we fitted metal 4mm sockets as the spacing is better & original ones were metal. These are the dreaded "Gold Plated" ones, but the truth is it's a very thin Gold Dip & as we got the amp back three times since plus repairing it for the owner who since sold it again, those 'Gold' sockets aged badly, see a 'Buying 4mm' blog a few below. To get Chromed ones if possible for our TA-3200F knowing the Gold wears off isn't possible. To make the amp User Friendly is worthwhile, to replace certain Speaker Sockets & rewire to 3-Core Mains is typical now, if with some Speaker connectors that are still useable, to let the customer decide. To tidy wood cases to look pleasant is woodworking & finishing skills, if to reveneer or rebuild cases we avoid as in not getting amps like that to try. The Customer still wants Authenticity. Seeing one later 1970s Technics amp with the usual Gunmetal probably scratched up, they stripped & polished it to silver putting bad lettering on it, who would want that unless very cheap? The era of Customised amplifiers with Blue or Green LEDs we've seen & not liked. Some LEDs are suitable, some are not as they are seen to flicker too much. Some fascias with plastic between the visible sections can hide the flicker, but some are too obvious, so again we pick & choose what is best, LED if possible but only if it isn't flickery. The Market does decide how you do Hifi Restoration by whether it trusts your work to buy it or not, this is why we've always shown inside pics showing how nicely we do these amps. Sadly, we don't see many taking our lead on selling or upgrading, probably we never will which is a shame as these amps aren't getting any younger. What we do you can't teach, more can do the theory but the practical as we found out at Electronics College, few have the mind for it. But then you see 'Robot Wars' and the techy ones making great Robots, but there are very few with these ideas as the limited amount of teams shows.


1971 H.H. Scott 55w 'Stereomaster' 387B Receiver.
We had the 1967 Scott 344C/13 receiver in 2015, a 32w receiver. Strange looking amp as you can see on the Gallery-Solds page, aluminium case & looks like a Kit amp with a lot of quirks, as well as tricky to recap & upgrade, especially without any Service Manual. One we liked the Sound of, but as no Wood Case & No Schematics, not to understand it was the outcome so to sell it on & the customer was very pleased with it. So onto the 387B, we were told of this by one who likes trying Vintage Amps as well as has bought from us, so to look closer to understand it as it's researching it. For an amp being sold in 1972, it looked very late 1960s kit with boards exactly like the Heathkit AR-1500. Rated 55w we didn't believe for how it was built & the transformer size. Finding the Service Manual it reveals it works on ±43v as a Direct Coupled amp, no output capacitors, if no Relay or Differentials either. The build quality as with our 344C was quite random, if the outside looked like the 1971 KLH 52 & a bit like the Sherwood S-7200 that we still have for sale. Forums tell that the Power Amp blue adjust pots fail, so sadly they had been replaced rather than a tech seeing if that was the real problem, usually we don't replace these items if they do need servicing, mostly as you can't find the right sizes, again keeping Originality if it's reliable. The rear panel has a Voltage Adjust switch 110v-240v but no cover over it & very easy to switch by mistake, careless design. It tries to be modern with FETs in the Pre-Tone, but the Power Amp has some awful design where only a Pot is after the Driver Transistor with the audio on it to Bias with. This is probably the only design to use this awful idea & maybe why the Amp is found with the adjust pots bad & outputs shorted as it'll need servicing more than some amps. More bad design is unshielded twisted wire for Inputs which is going to cause problems if upgrading, if it'll be designed to keep it tamed, but poor Stereo separation & Hum is hiding here. Overall a late H.H. Scott amp, not very good at all to us, if in it's day it will have sounded good, but the problems in this amp mean we'll not try one as it's poor design will not bring good upgrading.


Why Doesn't Everyone Upgrade Their Amplifiers?
Not paying for it to be done, but to actually do it themselves. Forums show plenty out there want to better their amplifiers, but as Forums are usually Amateur advice, the truth is they don't know enough to do it right & if they do experiment, they get it wrong & make a mess, sometimes you see these messes on ebay. It takes years & lots of Amplifiers worked on to know. We've picked up all the ideas that no-one else does over the last few years for having the nerve to try things, push the boundaries, question what we see as not being right & actually trying. It doesn't always work out as expected is an issue to consider & it needs 'fine tuning' which is a mix of fault finding & redesign. Not for many to try & also not for every amp to be able to deal with to keep it stable & sounding good. We've found Relays for Speaker connecting are a pain as once upgraded they often don't work right, they turn on too soon or go on-off-on which isn't good to use & some make noises on turn on or turn off. Some can be redesigned but not all, which does mean the great upgrades that made it sound much better have to be tamed down, or the customer gets an amp with 'problems' such as the on-off-on or speaker thumps. One long established Hifi Repair guy won't recap as they know these problems even replacing like-for-like with new capacitors can bring, to know what causes these 'changes' & to remedy can be a nightmare, if we must find out what causes that, some may just give up. It is true that some amplifiers can be upgraded fully & behave perfectly, whilst some "don't like it" & act strangely needing the deep fault finding to remedy. To see a good 25w amp & think it could be upgraded much more, but 25w isn't high power so upgrading too far will bring problems. You're reading the site of one who will dare to try things & know if it goes too bad it can be fixed, but the learning curve with years of perfecting these techniques is likely what no-one else will try. A pity as buyers of our upgraded amps really do like them, but past finding amps for us to experiment on that get far more work into them than can be translated into a sell price, it'll just be upgrading to keep prices realistic & just doing that alone doesn't progress things. We've done most of our experimenting now it seems, be sure new ideas will appear though, some buyers got some of those amps we spent far more time & money on than the sell value showed, but it helps us put the best value upgrades that bring the differences, rather than ones that are labour intensive if don't bring too much improvement. Who else is going to learn like that?


1975 Rotel RX-602 35w Receiver.
Sold in silver or Black fascia, silver preferred. Rotel RX-802 55w £222+VAT; RX-602 40w £173+VAT says the HFYB for 1976 if it's 35w not 40w
. Next range to the 1972 Rotel RX-800 receiver that we had & saw it got outpriced for the quality of construction so was only a limited release to not lose money for the Discount House pricing. So the 1975 range was trimmed down to keep Rotel in profit, the cheap looking fascia, Phono with ICs tells where money was saved. The design is safe & it'll sound pleasant but ininspiring. It's not a rubbish amp but neither is it an interesting one or one you can upgrade too much. Just typical everyday 'Hifi' for the masses.. next...

Electrical Safety: People Seem To Be Too Trusting These Days.
News stories about Phone Chargers burning the House down, Phones overheating causing burns to people & other similar is just a sign of the electronics today. We've blogged about overheating Lightbulbs & earlier the Hi-Fi Safety page told of the cynical ways Manufacturers deliberately design items to run too Hot so they have only a limited lifespan, Built-In Obsolescence. We don't like being cheated for our money, to make things be sure to fail is cheating, but we buy new things, see how they run & the LG TV we got several years ago got dealt with as certain sections just got too hot. But the more Portable Devices of today use those annoying Plug Top Adapters. Some like the recent Energizer 'Smart' Battery charger CH1HR3 have sealed mains adapters so you have to break it to look inside. It senses if a battery is weak which means it won't charge it & you throw it away, if previous chargers would charge it fine. 'Buy New Chargable Batteries' is the deal here & some that are being rejected could be 10 years old. But actually gets the Batteries very warm in use, speed charging 4xAA in about 20-30 mins instead of several hours with no way to know it's charged, so progress. The problem here is the plug top with long wire means the charger unit has to somewhere well ventilated or it will overheat if covered or falls behind something. To be cautious of it in use therefore which is not good. Everthing these days is Charged, few give any idea if it's done & the trouble is you need to use the Right Mains Block with the right gear. Some are high power, the Energiser is 12v but 1.3A. Another Energiser Universal Charger 'Cheuf' model it says uses a switch mode power supply 12v at 600mA needed to charge 9v batteries if it doesn't say when finished so odds are you leave it on for far too long. Hair Trimmers one is 3.2v 1.5A and another 3.6v 1A so if the fittings don't differ as these two do, you could use the wrong Charger. The Sony Xperia phone charger is 5v 1.2A & it doesn't get warm at all, in fact we use it for the USB fan as it has a USB socket & charge the phone from the Computer USB. The Phone if doing a big update gets very warm too so again to put it somewhere to ventilate, ideally with it raised to cool underneath as Heat Reduces Electronics Life. This is us using the Correct Chargers & still finding Caution Is Required. People seem to use Phones 24/7 these days, privacy & quiet time vanishes, but the silly Mini USB type cables must break, get lost or chewed by the Dog so they have to get a new charger, if more recent ones you could just buy a new cable with USB to Phone plugs. Phones are universally 5v as per Computer supplies, the Plug Charger typically 1A & the USB charger 0.5A so it takes twice as long to charge. But sadly people go into dodgy shops to save a few pounds & unwisely buy a 'Bargain' Charger. These are often not the better 'Made In China' quality with CE certification, that still allows this "too-warm" situation, but are more or less Bootleg Fake Counterfeit quality. On ebay 'Phone Charger' brings up 380,000 items, many are cables or accessories, 80,000 are Chargers/Docks. The danger is here if you sort by Cheapest as Auctions/Buy It Now. Plug Top ones from China are Auctioning for 38p (£0.38) & have sold as low as 10p Free Post from China. Whoever buys these is beyond foolish but think it's a bargain, oops the house burnt down. USB car chargers 99p free post appear popular. People really are thoughtless buying this rubbish, but it's money & how there are profits is crazy. Avoid the Unbranded/Generic chargers, these are 34,000 of 44,000 listed. Ones found with eg 'Sony' find the Generic ones so care needed, of 1440 listed, only 25 are Real Sony ones. But the Real Sony charger, no cables is only £4.00. Why buy a dodgy Generic one for 99p in shops to £2.20 online when you get the Branded one for not much more? Probably as years have dictated Branded parts are going to be £10-£20 when they are clearly not. Buy Safely & Use It Safely, if it gets warm in use Never Trust It if you go out & make sure it's ventilated in normal use. Not too hard to understand is it? Don't you believe it...


Getting Bored Working On Some Amplifiers Is Inevitable.
Always Worth getting interesting amplifiers that we've not tried. To look for ones without ICs from 1963-1990s if sometimes IC Phono stages can't be avoided. The deal with working on Hifi, to us, is that it's interesting. The day you just work on boring amps is a waste of effort & there are some that we could buy to restore & make a profit, but why bother, they are boring amps. We've done enough Bang & Olufsen 3000, 3000-2, 4000 & 4400 to know these amps we'd be glad to never see again as they aren't so good & importantly don't allow for upgrading like many other amps do. The UK & EU amps we look at but usually avoid for these reasons. A B&O 3000 on ebay for £60 delivered, but we bypass it as it'll just be a chore. We saw a Leak Delta 75, but despite it having good Retro looks, the design inside is messy garbage & we have 3 wood cases in the loft from how bad these amps are. Armstrong are another we avoid. We did one nicely as the Solds Gallery shows, but there are so many alterations in the amp having seen 4 of them to stay away. Some amps we'd get all day long to do as they give Satisfaction to the Tech to recap & upgrade, you feel like your work has made a good amp & kept it alive. We do prefer the Japanese & USA amps, some of the brands on the higher models are always welcome as the Reviews page shows multiple models of some brands. If your job becomes a chore doing boring things, then the quality of work you put into the item will suffer as you don't like it. We like to do amp work to a standard like it'll be the amp we'd keep ourselves & trust it on our Tannoys.


Buying Metal 4mm Speaker Connectors For Amplifiers: Pt 1.
Part 2 in the April Blog... The Sony TA-3200F needs better Speaker connectors than the small hole push button ones, the temporary wire & block-plug type is not for permanent use. In about 2007 we had the Sony TA-1130 so fitted some metal ones that you can still buy. We found a bag of spare ones bought then & interestingly the "Gold" has gone quite dark, yet Real Gold never tarnishes. It's not Gold & explains why the TA-1130 as on the Solds Gallery doesn't look so Gold either as finger use cleaned it off. The ones we prefer on older amps are the VOSO ones which go nicely if have no bare wire holes & the Solder Tag needs preparing before it'll solder properly. Here the Sony spacing of the Speaker Connectors allows the Metal ones as the originals are. You can buy Gold Plated ones with Plastic Covers in smaller or larger size, not so keen on these as too modern looking, but what else is there? They are all Made In China-Hong Kong as you can buy cheaper direct & there really isn't much of a choice. There are large Gold ones with a big hole for bare cable with a top tigtening bolt if these are for Speaker Cabinets not amps as we put these on our Tannoys years ago. The thing with the Sonys is they have small holes in the metal casing & the gold-fading ones fitted neatly, save drilling holes which can be awkward, also the TA-3200F has parts fitted to the sockets beyond the cable & space is limited. So what do we do? To see how the ones here will do firstly. To be continued in a later blog...


Trio-Kenwood KA-9300 120w Amplifier From 1976.
Found this looking at the 1972 Trio-Kenwood KA-8004 & saw this 9300 one that doesn't appear in the UK HFYBs. Looks impressive for 1976 still with some of the 1960s look in places. 2 toroidal transformers as dual power supply if still an integrated amplifier. Possibly only sold to limited places for this appears a top of the range one & UK only got the KA-7300 65w, KA-8300 80w as the 1978 HFYB shows. Not on HFE or TVK oddly. Unfortunately can't find the Service manual on the usual places so it must be a rare Japan-only or special order one. Photos found online show it has Transistor outputs, if only one pair per channel on 120w. Try find one as it might be a good one, if still a risk of ICs elsewhere. But we can find the similar KA-8300 so to have a look at it as ideas will likely be quite similar & make a blog of it. 16kg, 1975-1979 80w with 50 damping factor. Oh... the KA-8300 has an IC output stage, hardly worth looking at for our interests, the same sort of bad thinking that we were not pleased in seeing on some on the "Other Amps" page. We've looked at the KA-7300 already to see those nasty IC amp blocks before. The later KA-9400 is Transistors on the Power Amp but ICs on the Preamp. The 'Joy' of finding an unknown amp fades away fast for IC ideas we don't like as this tells... "The circuit looks pretty decent, all transistors & not overdesigned, but the killer is that IC output block TA-80W no specs findable, but it appears to cover the splitter, driver & output stages as a 10 pin STK type block unit, one per channel. Be sure these are long obsolete, so the amp is unrepairable if one is damaged, unless you fancy building a proper power amp? Amps with proper transistor power amps you can forever repair, but IC block dead means no repair possible." is what we thought of the KA-7300. The KA-9100 has naff rack mount handles.


Post 1980 Amplifiers Often Head Into "Gamble" & "Open Cheque" Repairs.
We get many questions about post 1980 amplifiers. These are now getting old, 1980 is 38 years ago. From using Computers & other TV related equipment, Modern Gear needs Servicing quite often, our Computer needs looking at a lot, 2-5 times a year. So Hifi of higher power & regular use bought 10 years ago will be in need of Servicing is the likely issue. But generally owners only start to look at Servicing & Repairs when it's needed, the Remedial Check-Over like a Dentist gets you to do isn't done with Electronics until they get problems. So we get asked about a 1990 90w Sony TA-F770ES amp. It has ICs in Phono, Tone & Protection, for a 23kg amp that's cheaped-out design using ICs for audio, but typical of the era. The problem we found with another Sony is the awful Direct Coupled way with lots of Fuse Resistors is usually in "Uneconomical To Repair" territory. The fault damaged so much & then to find it still didn't work right as another section on another board was also Direct Coupled, you're just chasing your tail here, the only sure repair is to replace every transistor. But that sounds unprofessional you think, sadly the reality is these items are purposely made that way, you damage it, you bin it. It didn't help that the customer lied saying it worked fine just before, when from the amount we replaced based on their comments proved they lied, their choice & we can only go by what is told to decide if we should take the job on. The TA-F770ES one we offered to Service & Check it but to warn it could be a Gamble even on that,, can't be fairer than that. Another the same day asks about a 38kg Krell KSA 80, a 90w power amp capable of 600w into 1 ohm whatever use that is. Very well built, but it's a Class A amp so it's very warm-hot always. Must cost a lot to run & be a pain in the Warmer Months. But one channel doesn't get hot so it works but doesn't go into Class A, result you may think, if it must sound wrong too. They've spoken to a Krell 'expert' who oddly didn't want to repair it themselves as they know the amp is a pain to work on. 38kg amp on our desk is a bit much. These Krell amps as most post 1980 amps are usually with No Service Data, the KSA 80 has a poor one we couldn't work from, the Unavailable Parts. The Krell experts in USA would deal with this better as they know the brand & it's problems. If they bought it as Faulty then they were told, but if they can return it, take it back. We'd like to see one of these, but to have it here to repair with poor service info would be risky for us to consider, so we'll pass. These sort of Post 1980 amps of "Monster Power & Current" are a bit pointless to us, who needs 600w into 1 ohm? Macho Posing type of amps as we found borrowing a pair of Sumo Power Amps before getting the Valve ones. We get asked about these later amps, spend time looking at what the amp is about, tell the potential customer it's a risky job & they don't even reply back. How many others did they ask before? No-one else will even look at it for you, we look to get a Blog subject, but we look at some of these amps & despite Reputations of old, they're not all that. The owner of these has 'Disposable Hifi' sadly & they can only really sell it as faulty & do as the Marketplace wants: Go Buy something new.


The Best Way To Play Vintage Mono 45s.
On the Garrard 301 - SME - Roksan Corus turntable set-up we used to get Custom Stylus Sizes made by 'Expert Stylus Company' involving a 1.1thou Mono plus others to play Difficult USA vinyl of the early 1950s like early Sun 45s that were mastered with a 2 thou Transcription Stylus not a proper LP one causing "Sun Hiss". Not to use a 78 stylus as that's larger & will wear these records. But we don't want to say go buy expensive things, do it cheaper as our previous Goldring stylus blogs show. We still have the Box of Varied Stylus Sizes, but we've noticed All are Elliptical even on the 78 size one if only the larger pre-war size is Conical. We still have some of our 50s R&B 45s that needed bigger custom stylus sizes. Now we play one that sounds fine with the Stereo Conical Stylus, the stylus fits the groove well & despite playing a few times recently, the conical stylus picks up dust deep in the grooves that haven't been touched by other stylus size types. One we sent to Expert Stylus Co in about 1998 for them to measure the Groove Sizes, still got it as it has a centre chip, the high grade Earl Forest on Duke, the A side plays with minimal surface noise & a full rich sound. The B side clearly is cut with the 2 thou transcription stylus & sounds awful, if this we used a 1.8 thou stylus as recommended by ESC & playing the recording of this 45 it sounds clean. For USA 45s we got a 1.1 thou elliptical, a 1.5 thou elliptical & a 1.8 thou elliptical. The Blogs above mention the Goldring Elektra which is still buyable new with an Elliptical, plus the Vintage Goldring G-800 with an 'E' stylus or Conical and more recently the Goldring G-850 with an original Goldring stylus. The recent test we did revealed the G-800 was a bit soft & the output a bit low as S:N on Valves not suited to the output. The G-850 apparently a 'Budget' Cartridge, but a better 8mV output & with the Conical Stylus suits Mono vinyl very well. "Conical Misses The Information The Elliptical Can Retrieve" is the idea we've been told for Decades. The Elliptical will suit Finer Grooved LPs better is what we believe. But the G-850 with it's louder output, about half a notch louder than the Elektra catches you with the Comparing game, after the G-850 the Elektra sounds smoother. But as typical, next day the Elektra is found lacking in treble & not tracking some 45s as well as the Conical G-850. So after a day with the Elektra, the G-850 is back.


Playing Cartridge & Stylus Types On LPs & Stereo 45s.

We have only a few LPs, to try one 1966 UK Decca one. Beyond the fact the LP is mastered thin needing Bass Boost, it's clean sounding & detailed with the G-850 Conical. Played with the Elektra it still sounds good if not as immediate sounding for the 6mV output & other characteristics. For 1960s UK Decca LPs use either Conical or Elliptical. But to use a 1966 Indie pressed UK LP, the difference is more obvious. Surface noise with a less detailed sound is noticeable with one, yet far more solid with the surface noise strangely gone. Here the Conical betters the Elliptical quite noticeably. So the opposite to try: a UK 1982 Polydor Stereo Soul 45 of that silver ink label type. First the Conical, sounds good with crisp treble & a good amount of detail giving a wide stereo on headphones. Next the Elliptical Elektra, the treble detail isn't so good with a little roughness noticed on a louder vocal section suggesting tracking isn't optimal. Detail is less if Stereo is still wide, the treble is less. It just doesn't sound as 'together' as the Conical one. G-850 again & it's more trebly so back the Tone half a notch to compare & it's still the better sound & it tracks better. Another Stereo Reggae 45 of a track we play a lot as a Test Track, it sounds quite different to the one we hear from the Computer, more rich & fuller sounding with the G-850. To the Elektra & upping the Treble to match, it sounds more like the Computer recorded version with the 301-SME-Roksan, it's a bit distant & again a slight roughness on midrange vocal louder parts from the Elektra, the 1kHz region the Roksan does very smoothly in comparison. The G-850 version is preferred of the Conical vs Elliptical once again. Sound balance differences apart, the 1970 'Budget' G-850 easily betters the Today "Budget" Goldring Elektra. Easy to see the preferred one here: Conical betters Elliptical every time. Elliptical, we found on getting the Expert Stylus Co 1.1 thou for Mono 45s, it didn't stay at it's best for very long if was excellent when new, it soon lost the detail the Conical brings in the comparisons. We do remember in the 1980s-early 1990s getting the German pressed LPs with grooves so fine a light scratch would sound where as on a deeper groove cut LP you couldn't hear minor scratches. These being so fine would perhaps be better with Elliptical, or would they? Remember getting the Elvis 1950s Box Set in about 1992 & the scuffed but 'Brand New' records were hopeless for the extra fine grooves & not exactly quiet, so we got rid & bought the CD version & better without the noise & fragile grooves. Interestingly on playing 45s that are new arrivals, as we are still Record Dealers, the first play of a Vintage 45 can be a little noisy even on High Grade Vinyl, but once played with the Conical, the next play is hugely improved after giving the record a wipe of the outed dust. The G-850 stylus is best wiped with the Microfibre brush, if the Elektra didn't really get much fluff on it. Remember the adverts in Record Departments in the Late 1970s "Look At The Rubbish You're Listening To" with a fluff covered stylus. The Conclusion here is Obvious: Go Conical for Vintage Vinyl, with Vintage In Vinyl probably up to 1985-90.


Buying Exotic Modern Hi-Fi? Check The After Sales Service First.
We were asked about a 2005 era 'Wavac 805' Monobloc 55w Single Ended Valve Amp. It uses a Single '805' large output valve, a 1930s type of valve design, Valve Museum says first out in 1936 & it's a Radio Transmitting tube of 250w in the HF region, so what is it's Audio rating? 60mm diameter & 187mm tall. These sort of big valves probably common in caches of NOS valves as of no use elsewhere now, so to make use of them to get 40-50w Hifi amps. Read the "Review" on enjoythemusic.com & not hard to see it's just Sales Hype, all the matey excited fluff to get Buyers interested. It tells you the valves it uses, but little of the circuit. Naturally these are very expensive as they should be to get that Crowd who think Big Money means Best Sound & they are hooked. But where do you go for After Sales Srvice & Repairs? Valves need maintenance. Your probable option is only to have to ship heavy items to Japan or USA, assuming the Company is still around after 2005. They actually are at wavac-audio.jp if with a very poor website. Your amp stops working, the one asking replaced the smaller valves & still not working, small valves just don't go dead, so it's the circuit & be sure these sort of designs use ICs to do Autobias & other types of circuit that are not possible to work out without any Service data. The 2004 Prima Luna Valve Monoblocs we had a few years back & quite crude they were with ICs for autobias & no way to repair or understand the circuit if they weren't working. So in reality, the Wavac 805 is use it until it fails & then what do you do? Spend a fortune on Shipping to USA or Japan if the Manufacturer will even want to repair it? If you can't get the Manufacturer to fix it then you've got a useless amp that no Tech could work out... "IITC circuit completely eliminates capacitors in the signal path" says the fluff page, IITC has no known meaning if you Google it. "It Isn't That Cool?" The same page instantly says do "Tube Rolling" which is irresponsible & dangerous as these know-it-alls mess up & put similar size valves in with the wrong characteristics & fry the amp as the Trio WX-400U got by it's buyer. Exotic fancy designs that sound Unrepairable. Be careful what you buy as first think how will it get repaired. Valve amps need regular maintenance, how much will a '805' valve cost, actually £20 to £125 on ebay, the cheaper ones are usually a poor bargain. If the Amplifier you buy doesn't give Service Data & there is no UK base for Repairs & Service, be sure you'll get a few years use & then it fails. Is it Disposable even for $7000+? People asking for these Exotic-Esoteric amps to be fixed get our reply & never even reply back, so be sure they've asked lots of others too. Timewasting perhaps, but it gets us a subject to blog on.


1980 Brings The Exotic Stylus Types: Van Den Hul, Shibata etc.
Just two blogs above we tested how different Goldring Conical to Elliptical Stylus Tips are. The Goldring G-800 we blogged previously with after-market Conical & Elliptical stylus types & with that G-800 found the E version better than the Conical, if that needs comparing again in light of the verdict. So seeing 1980 HFN/RR starts going on about Stylus Tip Profiles, the Aug 1980 one gives various names with the cartridges that use them. "Improving Groove Contact" is the article & it has quality colour photos of 15 stylus tips magnified an unspecified amount, could be x100 by comparing to x300 ones in an early HFYB. The interesting ones are Audio Technica ATSL20A an 'Over-ground Shibata' tip with contact line not square to the cantilever; ADC XLM III, a 'Vital' or PH tip if the diamond isn't even symmetrical in their sample; B&O MMC6000 a Pramanik tip with a non constant radius; Ultimo Dynavector 30C with Paroc tip similar to the B&O one; Shure V15 IV a Hyper-Elliptical if the contact are is just elliptical; Stanton 681EE a supposed Double Elliptical Tip. The last three are the Van Den Hul tip & a Goldring advert faces this page, the Goldring G900 IGC looks like a jagged bit of broken glass, the ad shows the Van Den Hul tip compared to an Elliptical. Quick explanation: Conical tip is just that, the stylus is shaped like a regular cone, larger contact area & larger volume so it'll take longer to wear if supposedly not retrieve as much HF detail. Elliptical is shaped like a Baked Bean with the more pointed end in contact with the groove walls to a lesser surface area to supposedly give finer detail. The Van Den Hul stylus tip is shaped more like a chocolate Smartie with a much smaller edge to contact the grooves, again supposedly giving further finer detail. This in theory at 2g playing weight will wear out at least 3x faster than the Elliptical & the elliptical will wear our 2x faster than the Conical, simply for Groove to Stylus tip contact area. We found the 1.1 thou Elliptical Mono Stylus wore out quite fast with certain records, such as 1960 UK HMV of Johnny Kidd 'Shakin' All Over' soon losing the very precise crisp sound. When we used to get Expert Stylus Co to make Custom stylus sizes, they always used a Truncated Tip, ie the sharp point of the tip was rounded so the Stylus tip wouldn't just ride the Groove Bottom missing touching the groove sides. the Van Den Hul stylus is obviously not Truncated so it's use will be really only for Recent Stereo LPs, it'll be useless on Vintage Mono vinyl & for the untruncated tip, it could actually cause groove damage as it won't track properly. The other ones are rounded off on the tips so are correctly Truncated, if it varies in how Truncated. Lots in Hifi Mags about "Van Den Hul" stylus well into the 1990s, but we wonder what sort of Records they played. The Untruncated Van Del Hul stylus appears to copy the original Cutting Head profile that cut the Record Grooves. The story if you Google 'Van Den Hul' is they still in business if the old story of Conical stylus being the one that wears Records is nonsense as the amount of High Grade vinyl we see reveals. Only those cheap players with weight over 2g or Chipped Stylus tips will wear vinyl. You can see the run-in groove marks from Heavy weight players, maybe 5g weight & the Record still sounds good after dozens of plays if once you get very heavy run-in groove trails does the sound start to deteriorate, or if they play using 10g or more weight not having adjusted right. Phony info found online, naturally from Manufacturers of Expensive Styli claims the Conical wears much faster than the very narrow types, is a Diamond not a Diamond? Grades of Industrial Diamond? Man-Made Diamonds? As with Cables & other Gimmick-Toy-Prestige items, beware who tells you the facts that one is "better" than the other. More on Moving Coil Cartridges below as HFN/RR has a group review.


Stylus Compare: Goldring G-800 With Conical or Elliptical.
Allowing for Higher Resolution of our Phono stage, to try a direct compare of Conical vs Elliptical on the same Cartridge. The white Conical stylus & the Grey Elliptical one are the differences on the 1968 Goldring G-800. The G-800 was still available as Cartridge with Conical stylus in 1990 if by 1992 it was not made, if you can still buy a Stylus today. G-800 set up easily with the Technics Overhang Gauge the SL-1500 came with & the weight easy to zero & set to 2g. Not played Records yet this day so to try the two Stereo 45s first. Reggae one first, Elliptical first. Fidelity is decent if lacks the smoother precision of the higher output G-850, higher output can be good, if a Stanton catridge we bought when getting the Hacker GAR-550 a few years back was just too loud so got this G-800. Soul 45 next with it sounding again decent if not great with some mistracking sounds on louder midrange. Swap to the Conical Stylus which as with the G-850 conical does sound better losing the mistracking sound, if the G-800 is still lacking the more solid sound as the output is lower. The Reggae 45 next & it is sounding better than with the Elliptical. The elliptical & conical have had about the same amount of use & the output levels are the same. Obvious here that the Conical again betters on Stereo 45s. On a 1960 UK RCA 45 the compare & the elliptical is better on tracking a louder midrange section, the conical sounds slightly mistracking. On a 1973 Pye 45 in Mono the elliptical doesn't track as good as the conical. The 1966 UK Decca LP with Conical is better on treble detail, the elliptical is a little soft. The 1966 UK indie pressed LP again is better on Conical if the Elliptical still picks up surface noise a little more than the Conical.


The Same Record Tests on the Garrard 301 & Roksan Corus.
The Corus has a Goldring 10-series stylus as the Corus ones got way too expensive once it was discontinued. A higher output than the G-800 at 6.5mV matching the Goldring Elektra. First try of the 1966 Indie LP had it seem a bit bright & not too smooth, the UK Decca LP similarly. The Stereo Reggae 45 again too trebly with midrange recessed, far from how the G-850 Conical played it. The valve Phono was tuned for the G-800 sound just as the other valve Phono pre was designed for the Roksan. The Stereo Soul 45 still sounds a tiny bit rough on the louder midrange with that mistracking sound that the G-850 conical played more convincingly. The 1973 Mono Pye still sounds a bit rough & blurry. The 1960 RCA tracks well on it's midrange. The thing here is one Phono preamp is tuned to one Cartridge & won't sound so right, the G-850 on the other Phono pre will lileky sound a bit dull as it makes the slightly bright Roksan sound smooth. The differences Elliptical to Conical still reveal that Conical overall is still the better for Vintage Vinyl 1949-82 at least, be it Mono or Stereo. Sort of makes the Van Den Hul & Shibata ideas seem a bit Hocus-Pocus as these are offered as "Universal Improvements". They are expensive & you can still read online about the confusion "why" these are still better, well we've proved on Vintage Vinyl at least, the basic Elliptical is often not so suited. The Roksan Corus Black originally had a "Gyger II Stylus profile" & if it mattered to us we'd not have gone with the Goldring 10-series one.


Vintage Arm And Cartridge: Garrard & Decca
Before we got a SME arm, we had the original 1960s Garrard arm & even one of the old Square Decca early 1960s cartridges. The TPA 12 arm was limited for adjustments & fitting of modern cartridges, if we first knew it via a Garrard 4HF that we got in the early 1990s, if the trouble with those is the Speed adjuster burns out & even ringing the 'Technical & General' guy at the time asking for spares, he groaned as long out of stock. The Decca cartridge, from hearing it late 1990s & selling on pretty fast we didn't think much of. It had a rich tone to it, but detail was soft & it seemed a bit clunky in use for the weight of it. The Garrard arm did sound good once set up the best you could, the rigid arm bettered the flimsy SME 3009 with the feeble soup-strainer headshell that came with our first Grey Grease Garrard 301. We got a later Oil 301 & found it was much 'faster' sounding than the rather draggy over-damped Grease 301. Written on these elsewhere so just a quick tell in one place. The OId Stuff may have Collector appeal, if mostly doesn't quite reach the Hifi standards later gear can.


April 2018 Blog

Hi-Fi News 1956-1980: What Next To Blog?
The Blog starts covering what we found interesting 1970-1980 but we're nearly finished reading the 1980 ones & really not finding much interest in the 1980 mags. Too much gimmicky stuff & now into Group Tests of Cassettes, Tuners, Turntables etc so not so much Amplifier reading or articles relating to it especially with Digital on the way. But... as we have all but 8 of the 1956-69 magazines, missing 2x 1956, 5x 1957 & 1x 1958, to pick out only the interesting, relevant to today & matters that have got forgotten about that tell the History of Hifi. Much of the 1956-62 Valve era is more for the Collectors, very few Turntabbles & Loudspeakers will be in use regularly. so to re-read & see what we find. A real potted History of Hifi, the sort of "ah, that's when it started" as the Blogs reveal.


Does Hi-Fi News/RR Have A Bias Towards 'Quad' Brand Amplifiers?
An interesting letter in a Sept 1980 issue confirms they accept Quad as perfection & won't question it. Not unlike today where certain 'peoples' aren't allowed to be criticised, you can see it's Biased & hiding an Agenda that some can see, if beyond the scope of a Hifi site. HFN/RR will not criticise Quad, whilst other readers write to say Quad is so out of date & shops don't want them, they look ancient for 1980. Quad are on the Hifi Yearbook front cover Every Year 1956-74, the early years of HFYB were run by HFN/RR until the creator of both, Miles Henslow sold out in the early 1970s. The Reader's Letter in the Sept 1980 tells the anon writer "P.A.D. of East Grinstead" is becoming tired of the sound of their Hifi & has been trying Transistor Amplifiers for 10 years they say & always finds all are with the same issues. Sounds like they've only been mostly buying British. They have a Quad 33/405 & had a 303 before, KEF 104aB speakers plus a Dual turntable with Ortofon Cartridge. a few blogs above we found a KEF speaker to be fairly smooth if with Bass & Treble boost. This will not especially cause the conditions the writer has. "The general tone I find somewhat "muddy" while the top end sounds "tizzy" and "edgy" to me". They go on to say it sounds "rather deadpan & lacking in life". We're not surprised by this, the Quad 33/44/303/405 amps we've looked at a few times to find the designs poor & we've never bothered to try one as knowing circuits it's easy to see the designs are way behind the superior Japan & USA amps. See our Pioneer SX-980 review, this sort of mediocre sound as the writer describes we hear often in cost-cut design amps however good they should be. The 405 amp is recent enough to match the KEF so unlikely a mismatch & Ortofon cartridges we've always considered good sounding if too light to match some turntable arms. So the "Crossover" group who answer Reader Problems are dismissive straight away saying unless the amp is faulty "we don't believe for one moment that the limitations of quality to which you refer have anything to do with your amplifier" unless extremely overdriven. Then the Quad "hype" as mid 1970s amps by saying a run of 20 Quad amps end to end with suitable attenuation would not alter the sound at all. Utter rubbish to state as fact, each Quad will add it's grainy bass-limited sound each time, but of course they only "prove" that with likely-1kHz Sine waves, not listening. Further on they have the cheek to blame Records for Multi-Mike recording techniques, but never question the lousy Quads. HFN/RR is often a very narrow-minded stuffy magazine in the 1970-80 era & only comes alive with losing the Old Guard who just won't believe what others see. Their reply in effect tells the letter writer they are wrong & how dare you question the mighty Quad.


How Annoying Is The Hi-Fi Scene By Late 1980?
There's really very little to interest us now. Most adverts are shouty efforts with the sort of sales patter to trap the unwary of how much better their gear is. You bought from the glossy picture it seems. Adverts are now about Stack Systems in Chipboard Cabinets with glass doors. Even Boots The Chemist gets into Hifi with Trio-Kenwood gear & later makes it's own 'Boots Audio' gear as amplifiers we've seen online. even the mighty Marantz with their classy 'Silver' 1971-79 era amps & receivers are now gone, with Oct 1980 with a Marantz PM 500 with a 5 band Graphic Equaliser. Just Toys & Gimmicks as blogged before. These sort of mass market plastic goods we avoid as hardly worth getting to upgrade & still be selling a mediocre sort of amp with those bland looks of the era. Thankfully Sharp-Opticona still amuse with a 'sexist' advert about their Slimline 100 series by just having to have a naked Kate Bush hair styled woman eating an apple as she lays on her front resting on elbows. Very dated ideas but typical of the 1970s if unusual for 1980. "There's Only One Thing To Do with Temptation" is their heading... "Yield To It" with 'Oscar Wilde' credited for the words. No airbrush needed on her. Same issue has a Boots Audio ad... "Tall Dark and Handsome" describing their Matt Black Trio-Kenwood range of 40w Amp, Tuner, Cassette Deck with Turntable on top, smoked glass door for the LP storage section if none over the Hifi which is more useable. To buy the whole lot for £342 was the deal to buy the lot. Add £115 for recommended Celestion Ditton 15XR speakers, or you'll not hear anything. "Oh we forgot the speakers..." Probably wasn't a bad setup for the money, but the mag reader would just go see how much cheaper Comet did similarly. The amp is Trio KA-3055, the service manual shows it's just midprice generic looking gear, ICs for Phono, Tone if the Power Amp is all transistors. A typical budget used unwanted-cheap amp these days no doubt. But a few years later these systems of at least Separates would develop into either one piece Amstrad jobs, or stacks of slimline units all of the same brand with Turntable, CD, Tuner, Double Cassette, Graphic EQ, Preamp & Power Amplifier. All connected with cheap thin cables. Brand Loyalty was forced to keep the same looks if Hifi buyers know some brands may be good with one or more items, odds are Speakers are just generic ones. Oddly the Sep 1980 HFN/RR after being the same front cover size 278x218mm changes to true A4 297x210mm. Not all advertisers realised & Teac gets it's wording chopped off on a double spread.


More 1980 Gimmicks...
Another one is a Record Clamp where you tighten the record hard onto the platter & mat using a clamp. Monitor Audio's "POD" is a plastic tripod to tighten & clamp your record down. "The improvement in stereo width and clarity was quite appreciable" gushed John Borwick of 'The Gramophone', which is worthless to know not knowing record, deck & mat type, if the full review would tell & still seem unlikely. Clamp Records Down? No thanks, odds are it'll mark the label & knowing vintage vinyl, the label area can be slighly dished if the grooves are is flat, causing more problems & be sure overtightening will have Cracked. Not for 78s or USA Styrene 45s.


Interesting March 1979 Loudspeakers Test.
This one is interesting as it looks at three more expensive speakers: Acoustic Research AR9, 175-275w £854+VAT; Mission 770, 35w-120w £357 inc VAT; and the SMC AL50 Studio, 25w-150w £555. To add in the flavour of the era by using a Graphic Equaliser to give the Correct Response by showing the Gain Settings on the EQ plus the graph of what frequencies are boosted is rather good & will have annoyed the manufacturers by showing up the speaker's weaknesses, so this is a one-off test by Trevor Attwell. AR9 is a 1340mm x 381mm x 402mm & 59kg (each or pair?). 2x 300mm Bass, 1x 200mm "low", one semi-horn midrange plus tweeter. The crossover will be very complex & with side facing L+R bass drivers, an odd one. Frequency response has a 5db dip around 2kHz, Bass is rolled off under 100Hz & Treble isn't too steady over 5kHz with an overall droop of 10dB by 18kHz. The Graphic EQ, to match to the Quad ELS boosts the Bass, Midrange & the Treble gets even more, but with the ELS being weak on bass it's not more than just making the speaker sound like another one noted for good Smooth Midrange if weak on Bass & Treble not quite as good either. Overall it's not a very smooth speaker even at the price. Mission 770 590mm x 300mm x 307mm 12.7kg (each?). Mission sold a lot of Speakers in the 1980s. Bass is steady to 60Hz if drops off heavily below that, again a 5dB dip at 2kHz with 4kHz & higher rolling off to be 15dB down by 20kHz. Not exactly going to be very detailed, if it'll avoid the "tizz" & "edgy" sounds of amplifiers of the era. The EQ settings aren't quite what you'd expect, an obvious bass boost, the midrange boost is expected if not much Treble boost doesn't match their graphs. Does get a good recommendation to prove the big sales, if it appears to soften sound to tame grainy 1980s amps. Hide the roughness & they'll not know. SMC AL50 is a less known brand to us, 737mm x 381mm x 432mm deep, 34kg (pair or both?) Best known for Labyrinth speakers they say. the Frequency response is very poor, the worst we've seen. 200Hz-500Hz has a 5dB peak, Bass is steady to 40Hz unusually, huge dip 1kHz-4kHz with about 12dB difference 250Hz to the 1.25kHz reading, then it matches the 100Hz level at 5kHz-15kHz if then swiftly dipping 10dB to 20kHz. This will sound truly awful, thick recessed but bright sound for £555 is a disgrace. So bad is the response, the EQ readings need to EQ cut the upper bass peak & a big gain for the bad mudrange if it leaves the treble flat. The review gets another speaker from SMC to test & finds it's better, but this is what you get in the shops & clearly the crossover on this Tweeter, Midrange & Bass Labyrinth design is too complex & it fails to be consistent. The review is so 'nice' about a rubbish response if it is surprised, but a different sample was found to be much better, but that's why SMC is an unknown brand, it's not recommended. Look at the Response Curves to see how accurate they are, make sire the graphs have 5dB divisions & don't expect a flat line, but here none are as smooth as the best Tannoys.


HFN/RR January 1980 Amplifiers Test... Plus A Deeper Look At Some.
We've been finding so little to interest us in the Magazine, in hope of finding Good amps we could try, but the reality is most since about 1974 just doesn't have much appeal, the huge "Monster Receivers War" certainly didn't have much effect in the UK. So to look at a 1980 mass comparision compared to one above & the 1977 8x Pre-Power Reviews on the Books page before we started blogging. As with most Hifi Readers, only by getting deep into a scene will you understand it. There is a similar Colloms Six Amp test in Oct 1978 but after reading it through to write up, it's mostly just describing the amp with a bit of testing done if very little subjective. As this told little it didn't seem worth blogging on. The 1980 Eight amps test has a varied range & we've covered it in the Sep 2017 blog above "How about Rise Time, Slewing Rate & Settling Time Values By 1980? Pt 3". To only expand on the interesting ones here that interest us seems best, rather than pretend to be interested in amps we don't know to compare them to anything, so to start with the NAD 3020. More on NAD 3020 just below as it's worth a blog by itself for the reputation. Quad 44/405 is an amp we've looked at before & didn't like for it's ancient styling yet supposedly 'suprior' modern op-amp ICs. The Tone stage is not what you'd expect or want, it has no Treble Gain only levels of cut & with filters. Bass is with over 10dB gain if only minor cut & more with steep filters. It has a MC Phono board option for it's plug-in modules but ICs again. The test results reveal the Current Dumping idea is assymetrical on overload & it's very slow to recover on low frequency tests. Other design features reveal it overloads the preamp from the Phono with 12% distortion. Why anyone would buy this in 1980 is the mystery. The frequency response shows the Quad is heavily rolled off over 10kHz, what are they scared of? We don't like Quad transistor gear & having looked further at their later product, we'll stay away from it. Sony TA-F70 is quite a ridiculous gimmicky amp. 90w with Switch Mode Power Supply like modern DVD players, this can't have been too reliable as ebay shows none only a spare fascia. Flashing Light LEDs for Power output, awkward build putting inputs to the Front Preamp section with the main body of the amp not the full width of the fascia. Inside it's 'half empty' with another gimmick, the Heat Pipe like Old Fridges had with fins to cool, the reasoning being the transistor legs may bring magnetic distortion is a bit lame. Controls behind flaps another gimmick & by seeing any unit that has flaps, they break off as not user-friendly. The design of this is MM-MC Phono with 2 boards, an IC plus varied transistors, Tone is an IC, Power amp is one of those likely "Unrepairable" type amps as Direct Coupled with lots of Fuse Resistors, you damage the outputs & the amp needs so much repaired it's disposable. It's quite a slow sounding amp by the slew rate. One of those amps we'd not want to get involved with, it could be repaired if money was no object, but hardly worth it. Switch Mode Power supplies involve direct coupling to the Mains as no traditional transformer is used, explaining the lightweight 9kg of a 90w amp. In terms of reliability, this has to be a low for Sony, but as we put, all the gimmicks & "great new ideas" would help sell it. Pioneer SA-8800 we've looked at the SA-9800 before on 'Other Amps' to find it interesting, if it'll suffer from the Pioneer Low Spec sound as all post 1973 Pioner do for being Discounted too hard, see the Pioneer SX-980 review. The Rogers A100 is one we've not looked at or had before, the previous A75 Panthera 37.5w & A75 Mk II 45w we have seen but finding one in good condition externally & at the right price isn't so easy, maybe suggesting reliability issues? Based on the late 1960s Ravensbourne model as the fascia layout is almost the same if in black. The A75 Mk II has all DIN sockets if some are with Phono sockets if less common. The A 100 is 50w & all Phono sockets. But with no Circuit Diagrams available online, we're not able to tell much here, maybe why we've not bought one? A100 inside pics found online & it's typical UK build, if done nicely like the Radford & Sugden, it's the tantalums, axial caps & looks hard to get into as typical of UK built amps. One that probably sounds better than the usual UK, but less upgradeable for the build. The A75 appear to be capacitor coupled if A100 is direct coupled, as in no output capacitor. A fast sounding amp from higher Slew Factor. Mechanical Hum an issue here & common with UK amplifiers, yet most USA-Japan amp are a lot quieter if few are silent. Subjective Test Results in the 8 amp group here seem pointless to tell as totally opposite ordering on Disc & Aux, but as today Aux is used most, the NAD, SAE, Pioneer, Rogers, Sony, Quad, Exposure & BGW are rated in that order. For the Phono input to differ so much is an issue we've found very often with amps, poor Phono but great Aux input, so we just disregard the Phono stage rating which is a pity as Vinyl played right on the few good Transistor Phono stages can be very pleasing.


NAD 3020: The Most Iconic Best Selling & Best Known Amplifier Ever?
No wonder it got big sales & a strong recommendation in the 1980 HFN/RR review as blogged above. This was a very popular Budget £80 amp in the basic style NAD were loved or not for, but they shifted loads of this amp as it was good value. Pioneer & Marantz did even cheaper £60 amps at the time. 20w with their 'soft clipping' design. Just seems to be a fast & lively sounding amp, if we haven't heard one in many years sice a Shop demo to know how it compares to earlier NAD designs. It's all Transistors, Phono with differential, Passive Tone stage, Pre Out-Power In, Power Amp no differential is rare by now. The 'soft clipping' adds extra circuitry if the rest is not what we'd expect for a 1978-80 era amp, explains good reviews & good sales. Maybe we should get one to hear how it sounds & to upgrade? There are plenty on ebay in A, B & E versions. The only trouble is sell price on a cheap easily found amp isn't going to be worth the upgrade-recap work we do, can't see one selling for upgrade prices for all our work into it. NAD 3020 has it's own Wikipedia page.. "iconic" they say & for the price & opinions it probably is, but in a minor budget amp way, don't think it in 'What Hifi 5 Star" ways compared to a recapped early 70s gem. Looking inside, it's a one board job with surprisingly TO3 output transistors that most lower power amps ditched by the early-mid 1970s. It looks budget made though & the ribbon connectors for Audio are the same unshielded ones in the 1986 Realistic STA-2280 that are just not very good & the design will be limited to not reveal hum on these wires, as did the HH Scott amp reviewed above. The rest is a bit untidy inside, but it is a Budget 20w amp. The Power Supply is feeble as Circuit & Inside Photo shows, 2200µf capacitors are very low. But it's All Transistors & with 2N3055/2N2955 TO3 outputs it suggests the design is an older one reused perhaps from a more obscure Silver-Era NAD? Differential on Phono, Tone is the older non-NFB one that's like the early 1963-67 Trio-Kenwood ones adding NFB. Pre Out-Main In connectors at 20w is optimistic, if it did let you put a bigger power amp, the reality is the Preamp is still designed for a 20w amp. The Power Amp is interesting, if a bit hard to follow for the Diagram's drawing, it reveals a fast design if one with quite heavy NFB to keep it sounding nice if rather tame also. What "Lab In" means isn't too clear if it's bypassing some of the Power Amp input circuitry if at 20w probably not a good idea, a user manual shows it with Rack Mount handles & the 'Soft Clipping' is switchable on-off. It's an interesting design with some taming to keep it within itself & to give what can appear a "great sound" until you listen longer & realise it's rather flattened off sounding as the dynamics are purposely limited. The design reveals it will have "that nice 1970s sound" which for a 1988 amp proves this design is at least a mid 1970s design, if maybe even a bit earlier. It'll please for what it is, but don't think it'll be better than it is when it's still a budget amp. We actually had the NAD 3030 the forerunner to this amp & thougt it sounded great upgraded but construction revealed it's budget class.


Pioneer A-400: Shall We Look at The Circuits?
This we thought was mediocre mass market product as the "Other Amps" page tells. We're not here to massage egos, but after seeing the NAD 3020 a big selling 'classic' as the Pioneer A400 gets in beginner Hifi circles, let's have a deeper look at the circuits. It takes years to learn circuits from upgrading, so this is a new look at the A400 just as we did with the NAD 3020. The A400 came out in 1990, a 50w amp with no Tone Controls. what annoys is amateurs saying "it's as good as a £1000 amp" which is nonsense. The "upgraded" A400X was derided as poor on it's release, so what does the A400 do? We've read our 'Other Amps' opinion & it stays, it's a bit harsh if probably deserves to be from the hype. A New Look... Inside photos online show it's a Budget amp, a large honeycomb heatsink helps fill in the space as the PCB only takes up half the space, all on one board job. The Selectors for inputs are a little random if are the typical way for Input Selection pre Relays & aren't a problem, if one loops behind the transformer showing it's a bit of a compromise. Power Supply caps are modest size if are 10000µf 50v values which is fine. The rest is just typical of the type, if no photos of the track side to see the actual track thickness. Phono is MM & MC which is optimistic-pointless at the Budget level, FET pair onto the obligatory IC. By having No Tone stage, there's No Preamp, so Aux/CD etc straight to the Volume control & then the Power Amp. Preamp gives gain from the Aux inputs to run the Power Amp at an easier level, here no Pre Out-Main In as no Preamp show the Levels aren't typical. The power amp usual Differentials & Drivers, nothing too special here. From knowing design we can tell how this amp will sound, it'll sound soft & a little slow but that cardboardy grainy blurry inaccurate sound will be the deal here, the typical "tizzy & edgy" sound is noticeable for a few reasons. We had a 1979 Luxman L2 with similar design if adding Tone & it sounded awful as our review tells, but that was an amp to upgrade for a customer & going a bit further brought a better sound out of it, if like the A400 with an amp like that to not go too far with it. So from looking at the circuits, the Pioneer A-400 will still sound awful: a thin, grainy, blurry, fizzy sound, a raw unsophisticated sound that may appear detailed to amateur listeners, but listen deeper knowing better amps & realise it has no depth or richness to the sound. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X actually had a lot of that 'limited' sound despite it's 130w advanced design & it takes a lot to upgrade out of it, initially it was clean but it's lack of sophistication is why we upgraded it so much & did further getting closer to the 1970s sound. On ebay Apr 2018 a A-400 sells £100-£195, if mostly around £125 will get you one. Do we recommend you buy one? Read the above.


Not Many Know What Great Sound Is. We Do So We'll Tell You...
The more we've read the 1970s HFN/RR mags it's clear that "no-one knows" how to tell what good sound actually is. Pages upon pages of waffle telling very little to the prospective buyer. The big clues about "Good Sound" are quickly forgotten about after Tests of these factors reveal what it is. One is Slew Rate which is soon confused into Slew Factor so it's not very clear what it means. Nov 1980 HFN/RR has a typically long & waffly article about "Listening Tests & Absolute Phase". We'll add about 'Phase' in a later blog. Here it says that amp tests have revealed "A recent amplifier review (in 'Practical Hifi' mag) observed that as the amount of reverberation on some records appears to be less when using one amplifier than another, the first amplifier - a transistor design - must therefore be suppressing the ambience" It goes on to say a valve amp was "adding more ambience". Are these people really aware of Hifi at all to say this? It sounds amateurish to us, but it was 1980. They are, but they are just using Commercially Sold Hifi. We in 2018 know exactly what the "Suppressing Ambience" means, we say it often enough about "Wide Stereo" and "Depth of the Soundstage" or conversely "Narrow Stereo & Flat Soundstage". It's all in the designs. It matters not Valve or Transistor, it's how Dumbed Down the design is as well as how good the Design is on several factors. A Recording is a Recording, take Yes "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" with it's deep layers of echo & reverb. we used this track early on to test a lot & many amps play the Soundstage quite flat with little echo & depth to the sound. But the first amp we heard the Soundstage & Echo go much wider, after trying UK & Bang & Olufsen amps was the Teac AS-100 amp. The Trio KA-4002a we got before was sold on before realising this & it will have given this open sound having got one again just recently to rediscover how good it is. To know what it is you are listening for. Some amplifiers are so dumbed down they are almost hopeless, the Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F Ver II we have now is the prime example & this is a 1970 amp in it's 1972 version. Everything in it was dumbed down, it sounded dull, lifeless & boring, why were they so scared of it? It's a 100w pre-power amp. We thought we'd wasted our money on it for the sound, but to just upgrade it as it was ours now with all our ideas. The guy we got it from has two of our upgraded amps so knows good sound & he wanted rid of the Sony pair he bought on a whim as it sounded lousy. Lousy was the design, it improved slightly for Servicing, if not much. Now upgraded we have it on the Tannoys for TV sound. Some TV shows have strong backing tracks to bring the quality out, the "How It's Made" one has lively wide stereo music always, if often it's overpowering to watch the show with. Here Stereo imaging is the widest we've ever heard, bettering the 100w TT valves even, if that design valve preamp is now 10 years old. The depth of the Soundstage, the width of the Stereo, the smoothness, the accuracy, the "fading away" of physical boundaries from you just listening to a speaker in a box to give a sound that's all around, if with detail & Stereo effects. In upgrading the Valve amps since 2002 the best changes gave a much deeper soundstage to the point it was a bit confusing like "it wasn't there & you couldn't hear it" as the veils of flattened soundstage are removed, if next day it was understood, but the changes could seem rather surreal on first hear. A Deep Soundstage can tell you the Recording Studio Acoustics, this is heard on Headphones too, the Dynamics & Speed of the amplifier need to be high, as per the Slew Rate & Recovery Rate. A very fast sounding amplifier with ample power & quality behind it if actually we have heard this with 18w amps too, so no need for 100w always. But sadly most listen to harsh gritty flat soundstage amps that are Current Limited & the Pioneer SX-980 sound as we put on the Review is what Others think is great sound for not having a clue of hearing better. For us upgrading & daring to really push ideas way beyond "what is accepted" we can hear a Sound Quality that tells the "Level Of Reverb" HFN/RR mention above depends on how fast & not dumbed-down your amp is. The best amps do open the sound up more giving the subtle detail, instead of a flat wall of noise that may suit most. It is possible to keep pushing the boundaries of Sound Resolution & then find out how badly mastered Records & CDs are, to hear the same Music heard long ago played on an "Average" system is probably all it was mastered for. We can hear BBC occasionally mixes it's TV shows badly with the voice-over too upfront, it shows they monitor on those small 'monitor' speakers still & not well sometimes. On TV shows like "EastEnders" that don't have a music soundtrack, on the Best Hifi the quieter sections sound good & detailed, but beware "Someone Having a Shout" as on Big Dynamics amps with Big speakers it is a huge gain in volume & not good for 2am watching. Even the 'History' channel turning the music up loud on trailer section endings is way too loud. Another 'problem' with unrestrained Hifi is TV shows can have noises that you think are in your home & having to replay to see it was the TV. The worst is TV playing Fire Alarms & Sirens, it's as loud as real life as the Hifi is too 'Real'. Do you really want that as Domestic Hifi? Don't fear it, if you play it at 2am levels it still sounds full, no need for 'Loudness' controls if still to beware the Loud bits, which is why TVs these days do "Dynamic Limiting" which we tried & didn't like.

Does Absolute Phase Actually Matter?
Nov 1980 HFN/RR has a long boring article about this & after reading it, you're just left with "try it" and "we don't know" type of pointless observation. Then they detail a kit to build to adjust Phase from Absolute to Relative with a Reset to the Input version. Phasing Speakers is important, swap the + and - cables & it'll sound very strange with the 'Grand Canyon' effect & be sure many listen to Hifi like this unaware it's connected 'Out Of Phase' & wonder where the Bass is. So check the wires are correctly labelled plus the plugs or bare wires are in the right socket. Absolute Phase is a different thing & probably of little real importance in Analog Audio Listening. It relates to certain audio stages inverting the phase. In easy terms does the first note push the speaker come in or out when reproducing it. For the amount a speaker cone moves it's not really going to matter. Read 'Absolute Phase' and "Phase (waves)" on Wikipedia for more, including Phase Shift which is a slight delay of a waveform. Mixing 2 signals, one of original Phase & another slightly out of Phase gives that wonderful Psychedelic 'Phasing' sound. Phase Shift does occur in amplifiers, the blurry sound is often the result of too many Transistors with too many NFB stages. Poorly designed Differentials & the Push-Pull stages in preamps that aren't quite balanced with no adjust pots to correct the errors. A Power amp with just 6 transistors per channel can exist, ones that have 20 or more are including fussy protection circuitry that usually doesn't protect much. Some amps despite all the upgrading we know can still sound blurry when compared to better designs with fewer transistors. Blurry sound is partly Phase shift where echoes of the signal are slightly delayed & blur into one sound. To upgrade amps like that will only go so far, the simpler designs will always be fresher sounding. One we upgraded as far as it could go sounded very nice, but then using similar techniques with other amps later comparing found it was still not as knife-sharp on detail as the compared amp was better at. The higher you climb up the audio ladder. Phase Shift you can see on Square Waves on an oscilloscope as the HFN/RR tests show, but this "slanted top" to a square wave is also seen when Deep Bass or High Treble is limted as the design shows, yet the "experts" still incorrectly think that's phase shift. Hifi Reviewers looking at Hifi not aware of Design & the many Limitations that Manufacturers put in to save money.

Loudspeakers Do Make Amplifiers Sound Better Than Headphones.
This is why buyers like, or at least accept, the rough sound of amps like the Pioneer SX-980. We're playing it on Headphones & the headphone speakers are right on your ears, so you hear a lot more detail. In any room the sound from the Speaker is spread around the room, it bounces off ceiling, floor, furnishings, the cat, your dinner & you. Sound is reflected around the room, so why do you need Omnidirectional Speakers? You don't & they just blur the Stereo detail. The first amp we noticed this with was a Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 4000, despite the designer hype, B&O gear is rather crude, not upgradeable too well & made with basic quality parts. The B&O 4000 is an adequate amp from 1972, it doesn't sound bad but it's only rated "Very Good" once recapped as the 'upgraded' rating. It's still soft & blurry, it doesn't have much speed or kick to the sound, Stereo isn't too wide & it's a bit grainy sounding, that's via Headphones. But on Speakers it sounds better, more lively sounding & better than expected as it matched our Tannoys well, if a trained ear can still hear the weaknesses, overall on speakers out of it's class to be used on, it's not too bad, if still only that 'Very Good'. Those buying these amps as raw or upgraded will enjoy them, the sound has the richer vintage sound & the Tuner & Phono are fairly good. But they've not heard the 'Excellent' amps & our rating of Excellent covers just scrapes Excellent to High Excellent, to not narrow the opinions too much. The Pioneer SX-980 opinion of the amp as original & part serviced was one that was grainy & tiring, to the point turning it off suited rather than pull faces at rough sound. It did upgrade to be much better, but as original it's not good.

Moving Coil Cartridges: The Big Names From November 1980.
This issue covers the "Heavyweight" Players in the MC cartrige craze of the era, the next issue covers more Midprice ones which we'll blog shortly. "Five Exotic Moving Coil Cartridge" reviewed by Martin Colloms. These have been Controversial in HFN/RR letters & also the pricing of these in other countries was found to be hugely different, with half or even a third of the UK price being charged, if it will include VAT, Import Fees, Distributors cuts & higher UK seller profits. We've never bothered with MC cartridges for the fact the Roksan Corus Black suited so well with the interchangeable stylus sizes. The fact a MC output is 0.045 to 0.09 mV/cm/s (realisticly 0.25mV) means that compared to a 5 to 8mV MM cartridge, you are having to amplify the tiniest signal, even less than a Tuner aerial signal. The fact of how poor nearly all Phono stages are in many we test, RIAA may be accurate to 0.5dB but they often sound muddy, blurred & dull showing a typical Transistor Phono stage isn't comparable to using an Aux input. Hum & Hiss must be an issue with MC Cartridges plus Cable Capacitance on such a tiny signal will have an effect as we have heard with MM cartridges & putting a Ferrite on the Cable from the Turntable to bring better focus. Surely the non amplified level of MM has to beat the 100x lower output of a MC cartridge relying on Amplification & Cable factors. The Test covers Koetsu £500, Dynavector Karat £500, Supex SDX1000 at £300, Linn Asak at £180 plus the Mission 773 at £160. Considering typical MM Cartridges in the 1981 HFYB range from our liked Goldring G-850 at just £5.65, the G-900 £60, Audio Technica £11 to £79, Ortofon £9 to £59, Shure £7 to £66 as well as many other brands, some having 20 models available, your choice is wide. Makes these Exotic MC cartridges a bit overpriced, but there will always be a market, based on the right Media Hype of them & the Mystique as with overpriced gear today. To see the reviews & make some sort of sense of "why" these prices will hopefully be interesting. The rest of the specs of these you can find online, we are more interested in the item, compared readings & opinion here. All are fixed Stylus Cantlevers, no plug-in stulys here, once it wears or you naff it, you either get it retipped or maybe an expensive repair. Linn Asak is designed for their 33rpm only LP12 & Ittok arm, the branding where you must buy all of one brand is the deal here, if matching of all 3 should be correct. The Linn is based on the Supex SDX1000 & earlier 900, Linn's design & with a Boron cantilever, we remember Boron in the 1990s on the Nagaoka MP11, they snapped too easily. 0.045mv/cm/s confusingly means 0.25mV as compared to 8mV so x32 less output, not x100 less. To read the cartridge leaves stray vibrations in the arm to be heard in the bearing doesn't sound good, the sound should all go into the coils to be amplified, not lost & damped elsewhere. Maybe this is how MC cartridges are? Frequency response appears smooth but with peaks & troughs & about +2dB gain on lower bass with more at the bass & treble extremes. It gets a high opinion here with good detail & transparency despite a bit grainy on highest treble. Koetsu MC 1 (Wood) is the Big One & Hifi Mags were still going on about it into the Mid 1990s, maybe the first batch never sold out as surely only Hifi Reviewers ever got to hear one. Handmade in Japan by an ex-Supex engineer & his family makes us wonder how close to the specs they were & interestingly HFN/RR gets 2 to check which give quite wide variations. But it does look nice made out of wood & you'll feel great owning one until you need to get the stylus retipped. Realistic output was 0.1mV which other reviews had said was very hard to match with Head amps, if Quad 44 plus others can cope. Frequency response is better than the Linn if quite noticable peaks as Bass & Treble extremes. Midrange being very smooth is the strength here, if the catridge varies too much amid different samples. The price put the reviewer off but they were pleased with it, but be sure for the lifespan of the stylus tip, why anyone would buy such a thing & not be scared to use it. Mission 773 is more usable with 3mV output if it's still too low when 6-8mV MM is typical. As with the 4mV Goldring G-800 the lower output will lose detail. Again it's branded-redesigned goods on another's base product, this time Dynavector. Interestingly here the higher output gives a far better Transient Response than the very low output ones & it's frequency response is much smoother too, confirms the quality is better with a higher output & a more typical 22k-47k ohm loading, unlike the 30-500 ohm loading of the very low output MCs. Weaknesses are not tracking the extreme disc tracking tests so well as too damped mechanically. This we've found is possible to correct to more than you'd expect by correct Cartridge loading in the amp & other internal design features, what sounds like mistracking therefore isn't always, it's your amplifier's weaknesses. Here the reviewer isn't too pleased with it as not too stable or focussed & could sound a little brash, exactly the difference 4mV G-800 to 8mv G-850, the amp needs more gain & 3mV is too low. But the reviewer doesn't mention that. Supex SDX1000 says the previous 900 was a highly rated one & this had their interest to try a new version. Output isn't mentioned if probably about 0.27mV based on the mV/cm/s value. But it changes frequency response noticeably depending on temperature. Back to low output means the transient & frequency response aren't as smooth as the Mission with a 8kHz small peak & rising bass extremes if not treble, the treble therefore tamed & rings a little is why the 8kHz bump exists. Overall the midrange isn't so good & it's not recommended for the temperature issue. Dynavector DV100D Karat Diamond with 'Diamond' meaning the cantilever is Diamond not Ruby as the earlier version. Once we stop laughing at how silly this is already & realise it's the other £500 one. output not noted in realistic terms if 0.07mV/cm/s could be about 0.4mV at a guesstimate. Frequency response is just about flat except for bass & treble extremes rise, the best one of the low output MCs. Actually the reviwer considers it the Best MC he's ever measured as in Lab Tests. Sound appears to get no criticisms but the price hike from Ruby to Diamond appears not worthwhile. Conclusion is... well HFN/RR don't give a conclusion if Colloms usually does. The price of these for the quality just doesn't seem to match if some clearly are excellent. To be scared to "put the needle on the record" will be a big problem here & we know being over-cautious causes more damage than just treating it like it's not anything too special. Handle a £25,000 vase like it's £20 & you'll care better for it in your Carrier Bag on the Bus to 'Antiques Roadshow' than by being scared of it on the way home via Taxi. In our gloriously cheap Goldring Cartridge comparing, we are designing & tuning the Phono stage to suit the Cartridge & getting great results. Here these Ultra-Low Output MC cartridges rely on a MC Step-Up stage & as the review lists some, we'll have a look at what's in some as well as ones we know.

MC Phono Stages as Step Up or Inside Amplifiers.
The earliest findable amp with a MC stage is Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 from 1969 if there are obscure 1967-68 Japanese amps with MC input too. The KA-6000 has a MC section with regular transistors, a 1970 review found the background noise was just too high to consider it worth using. Ones like a 1971 Yamaha CA-700 have a crude MC stage. By the 1978 Yamaha CA-1010 the MC stage was an IC & considering how soft & muffly the regular MM stage was, it's not going to sound very good. The only MC stage we know that is of quality in the MM stage is the Sansui AU-G90X one, it has a transformer as did a Pioneer SX-828 as an optional extra. There are external 'Head amps' as they are called. HFN/RR reviews some with differing conclusons if without seeing the inside circuits not worth detailing furter. The trouble with 'External' items is they usually have feeble power supplies, lots of ICs & generally are a lesser beast to what's inside an integrated amp using a MM cartridge. But Hifi Mag hype tells you the much more expensive MC cartridge & head amp is 'better'. Only by trying several MC cartridges could we give an opinion, but it's not our interest & likely most are only found as old used items with wear & issues.

Ugliest Hifi Ever Made?
Sadly as Residents of The UK.. we must say some 1960s-1970s British Hifi is the Most Ugly that we have ever seen. The Quad 33/44/303/405 amplifiers still being sold into 1979. The fugly Sugden range, the first Sugden A48 wasn't too bad if the wood case made cheaply lost it appeal, it at least blended in. But then sugden got into "Nextel" paint which after seeing one on ebay recently, the Nextel stuff is a soft sort of rubbery finish that isn't tough, it reacts with cable plastic & if you put gear on top the feet leave ugly dent marks. The orange fascia discolours similarly. It looks awful & thankfully is it possible to strip the bad paint off & respray or powder coat to look better as some sellers show. But the A48 II is still ugly like lab kit, no charm or 'Wife appeal'. To see in the Nov 1980 HFN/RR an advert for a matching ugly DT48 tuner in the same laughably out of date lab kit styling yet it has a digital FM tuner display. There are other seriously ugly Sugden. This we wrote in 2013 & now lost at the end of the solds Gallery page.... Sugden P51 Power Amp x 2, C51 Preamp & R51 Tuner c.1969 This set-up wins the award for fugliest Hifi ever. It looks as unwelcoming for Domestic use as having a cement mixer in your bedroom. Yes, industrial Lab looks with zero style & zero Domestic appeal. Plain, flat & fugly. Not even nice industrial looking as the Sansui AU-70 is, plain as can be if it'll do the job. We didn't like the Radford HD250 which this looks very similar to & Sugden get more ugly ratings below. Look at how nice Vintage Hifi looks, this is abysmal. On offer for £495 the lot in July 2013 on ebay, it's actually a good price, but not one to show the Missus. But the 1972 HFYB shows a different designed C51 pre with a black face & not dissimilar from the A48 as well as a black heatsinked sided A51 model now with a carry handle. 25w Class A into 15 ohms. The early light grey one is the fugly one. Some 1960s Amps like the Truvox TSA100/TSA200 are just rubbish looking, the Rogers cheaper Ravensbrook?? amp looks nasty too. Goodmans Module 90 with gaudy white buttons may be Glam Rock styled but it's vile if later ones got tamed down with black buttons.

Do You Want To Hear All The Detail & Find Bad Recordings Hard Going?
There are amplifiers that once upgraded can give you a full Pro Sound where there is nothing restrained or Softened to be more Domestic Sounding. This sound can be a joy as much as it can be weary as poorly mastered sound on Vinyl, CD or TV is sometimes heard & it's being delivered accurately but may not be what you want to hear. On Vintage 45s the harsh midband 'rip' as well as the badly dubbed from a USA copy for the UK copy where they just use a cheap player that's far from Hifi. A Softer Sounding Amp can give good detail but be 'pulled back' from that Front Row sound to give something easier going. In comparing Amps with this sound, the Softer One can be thought of as wonderful & amps like this we've used for months. But then to swap amps & hear the more Upfront one & on good Sound Source it can bring an excitement to the sound the Softer amp doesn't really do. After time with that amp even if does reveal the bad Sound Sources, to go back to the easier-going amp you'll not initially like as it's tamer. Overall the Softer Amp is easier to live with if you do find yourself playing it lower volume as you've not realised it doesn't stir the soul so well until hearing a lively one. A bit like a Midlife Crisis, do you want the lively & exciting young girlfriend half your age that'll wear you out or the familiar but not as exciting tried & tested loyal one. Only you can decide. From what we know in Hi-Fi Terms from how Amps we've heard as Original but Serviced, the listener would rather be soothed by Music rather than it Poke Them in the Eye when the recording quality isn't ideal.

Customer Opinions On Upgraded Hi-Fi We've Sold.
We usually hear back from customers telling us what they think of amps we sell that are upgraded by us as sale items or upgrade jobs on their amps. No-one ever complains they are too clean sounding or the extended bass is too much. From replies we get the amplifiers are much enjoyed & bring a new interest in playing music as the quality is a lot better than before. Over time we've found only two amps, actually receivers, do split the opinions. The 1973 Yamaha CR-1000 is a bit speaker-critical to match well to ones of it's era & doesn't match to earlier speakers too well, if does to later ones better & one customer said the one we recently sold sounded awesome on Dynaudio Contour, if which model of these recent looking tall speakers not noted. We found it doesn't match the Tannoy 15" Golds too well with an earlier production run version sounding even more mismatched. But if it suits good quality later speakers it'll do fine. The upfront & rather hard sound of the CR-1000 as original makes it a less pleasing listen we hear, our recent upgraded one we got a far more musical sound from, on using headphones. The 1968-70 Sony STR-6120 is another one that divides opinions. The one on the site front page was sold to a guy with Celestion Ditton 66s & then reading our site about Tannoy got some good early 1990s large ones & found it matched both well giving a great sound in a smallish room. The Dittons on comparing to Tannoys had a poor midrange as is typical of 3-way speakers as blogged above, the complex crossovers lose quality rather than add it with the midrange driver. The same 6120 the guy needed to sell so we had it back, sold to another & they found it was just too trebly & upfront, they had to pull the Treble Tone back 2 notches. This is the same one we got back again with damage if we eventually got it fixed to use it on our Tannoys. We found the sound after listening to the Sony TA-2000F/3200F pair a lot more upfront with better bass, the Sony pair need more upgrading therefore. The STR-6120 is a very accurate 'First Row' sound & makes others seem more Domestic sounding with a softer 'few rows back' sound balance. The one who thought it was too bright will only be used to softer sounding amps & they got a Rotel RX-800 as trade-in for the 6120, getting the better deal by far for the work needed. The STR-6120 as the amp is now once rebuilt after it's ordeal sounds excellent to us, to the point we saw weaknesses in the Sony TA-2000F-TA-3200F pair to improve it further. To have upfront Detail in a Pro Sounding amp or the more Domestic sound in the majority of other amps is the choice. Both the STR-6120 & CR-1000 do have the more upfront Pro Sound so may not be for everyone. The STR-6120 as aged & original sounds much softer as a 3-part Blog on upgrading one tells. Of all the amps we've had we've not had any that give such divided opinion. In comparing the Sony STR-6120 to the Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F pair, all as upgraded, again the sound balance is quite different. The quality for our upgrades is similar if the difference in treble-bass & midrange between them is quite different. But be used to either on speakers after a few days & both are great to live with, if only once comparing does the tonal balance differ.

1968 Hi-Fi Sound Magazine.
This is an early 'Haymarket Publications' magazine, later becoming successful with "What Hi-Fi" magazine, but this earlier effort isn't much known. First issue was November 1967, we have 4 issues February 1968-May 1968. From what we found on the 'Books' page this ran until 1971 & was replaced or renamed as "Popular Hi-Fi" until 1976 when "What Hi-Fi" appeared & certainly shook up the dated "Hi-Fi News/RR" by the changed they swiftly made. Clement Brown is the editor here, and after reading the 4 issues, he certainly had the right idea with the style of the magazine. The Feb & March 1968 ones aren't too special, if the April & May 1968 ones step up several gears in magazine page count & content. The aim of "Hi-Fi Sound" was always a more populist magazine, a more down to earth approach than the bores who wrote so much waffle for HFN/RR. The adverts show much more adverts of the better Budget & Midprice gear of the time. The reviews & features are of deeper interest to readers for actually telling of New Products instead of how HFN/RR brushed over it. In fact HFN/RR got as high as 65,000 sales per month in the early-mid 1970s for the huge amount of adverts, be sure many just bought for the ads to get info rather than read the magazine sections. HFS mag we like as it shows 'lids off' photos in B&W of the items they review, including amps, tuners, tape decks & even the Tannoy 15" Gold Lancasters. The reviews are as HFN/RR mostly just rewwriting the user manual if they give waveforms of certain frequencies that don't tell much. No subjective opinion at all in 1968. After the first two being fairly typical, the next two were far better & an idea of "wanting more" but the mag didn't sell & only a few expensive ones on ebay. Hi-Fi Magazines are very specialist, "who wants them" is the idea. Someone who blogs about them or wants the HFN/RR for the Classical LP reviews is the market so prices should be £3-£5 pre 1970 & less each decade after. It's strange that it took 3 magazine names to get the hit formula with "What Hi-Fi" if some will have thought "What..." is a part of the "Which" reviews & consumer standards magazine, especially as the earlier ones just happen to use a very similar name font.

Goldring G-800 Review in 'Hi-Fi Sound' April 1968.
HFS was better at reviews than HFN/RR was, clearly they either went out & bought the items or asked for samples to review. HFN/RR just waited to be sent them making very few "Classic" Hi-Fi items with reviews. The initial price was £12 7s 6d if by the early-mid 1970s it reduced to about £8. A 'Free Field" magnetic cartridge as the magnet is in the cartridge housing to induce magnetism to be picked up by the coils. Later cartridges had no fixed magnet but a tiny magnet on the stylus cantilever end. The Frequency response on seeing it for the first time matches what we found comparing to the G-850, there is a dip in response between 2kHz to 20kHz with the -2dB lowest point at around 4-6kHz if 1kHz & 20kHz are at relatiove 0dB. Also a slight bass boost of +2dB rising from about 250Hz with the 2dB gain at 20-40Hz. Extra deeper bass is usually useful, if the midrange drop is what has it sounding a bit dull. This was the first proper Hi-Fi Cartridge made in the UK it seems, with many further Goldring after, but before were more crude ones like the Goldring 700. The G-800 was based on earlier Shure & Pickering ones. The G-800 you could still buy new in 1992 if it was disconitnued soon after & a replacement stylus you can still buy today. Interestingly the review was written by Gordon J. King who did a lot of HFN/RR reviews.

Tannoy 15" Monitor Gold Lancaster Review in 'Hi-Fi Sound' May 1968.
Just shows how much better HFS was for reviews than HFN/RR, the best & most popular stuff needs a review, but HFN/RR touched very little of it. The Tannoy gets reviwed by Clement Brown & the same issue & the Apr 1968 one show the full page Tannoy ad showing response curves that no-one has online, so we'll scan it up & put on this site (soon). Here they take the back off & show the driver, crossover & switch box which will have pleased those who like looking inside as was the HFS standard policy on reviews. The Tannoy Monitor Gold in the Lancaster cabinet is an improved 50w 8 ohm version of the earlier 15 ohm silver & based on the Dual-Concentric design first out in 1947, the earlier Black & Red ones are big money Collector's Items. The Gold adds Energy Control & Roll-Off which you usually just set as you choose & use the Tone controls on the amp. "It is a lively and crisp sounding speaker, sensitive and now more responsive than ever to all the fine detail of the best of modern programme material. A pair gives marvellously accurate & thrilling stereo. The Lancaster system has fairly high efficiency and a bass response extending slightly lower than in the earlier version. Indeed the fulsome bass output at around 35Hz is an outstanding characteristic." Now that's the sort of Subjective Opinion that is hard to better in describing this wonderful speaker & Clement Brown summed it up so well here. A modern sounding speaker to cope with the superior amplifiers made by Sony, Pioneer, Akai, JVC, Fisher & Sansui, plus other smaller brands. The Tannoy Gold is the First Modern Quality Loudspeaker & the prices this good selling speaker makes shows how appreciated it is. Hundreds if not Thousands of later speakers wither in comparison to this speaker, hear one & you'll never want to hear any other. Says us having lived with ours for 16 years.

Tannoy Monitor Gold Advert From April 1968.
This Tannoy Advert announces this new speaker in the April 1968 Hifi press, similar is in HFN too. It gives the specs: 30Hz-20kHz, 15" 50w, 12" 30w, 10" III LZ 15w. 8 ohm nominal & 5 ohm minimal impedance. The Treble Roll Off & Treble Energy graphs show the output. Now as the 15" speaker is a large item & the 10" III LZ is a 10" the graphs will be for the 15" version & assumed to be in the Lancaster cabinet, if this isn't stated. The graph isn't a Log format so it doesn't compare to later ones that squash the spacing up differently, so to not compare directly to later response curves. The 1kHz to 20kHz is half the graph width like a typical Log graph but it's spaced more evenly, not squashed up more 5kHz-10kHz. This may give the idea the Tannoy is more choppy without realising the graph spacing. Taking into consideration it's not a Logarithmic graph, the Tannoy is a lot smoother than nearly all response graphs we've seen as blogged about above. There is about 1.5dB lift 250Hz-350Hz that is damped by the Lancaster cabinet but not by the cheaper 12" Chatsworth, see the Loudspeakers page for a comparison of both. A sharp dip of about 5db at 750Hz will give a little reduction in possible "honky & cuppy" sound as the "What's wrong.." blog above shows, perhaps cabinet resonances will fill this small dip & designed on purpose? Beyond that comparing to the "Treble Energy" graph shows how smooth the 1kHz to 20kHz region is, the strength of these speakers & few speakers are this precise. Treble Energy appears flattest set midway, with boost & cut. Treble Roll-Off just dulls the Treble, why that would be used is less obvious. In use we keep Treble Roll Off to give the brighter sound, no need to reduce it. The Treble Energy one ideally should be set midway, but most rooms with furnishings benefit from the higher setting & that's how we've always used them.

Worth Getting Upgrade Capacitor Kits For Pioneer SX-1980 & Others?
On USA ebay you can buy a upgrade capacitor kit for $89 including 84 capacitors if not the main power ones. This allows you to "restore" your amplifier with new capacitors. Great Idea & So Cheap? It offers no Upgrades, it offers no Servicing. It allows the amateur or intermediate non-pro to Restore a tired amp. The SX-1980 is a huge complex 35kg amp & if you are that cheap to spend only $89 (£63) on it, then you may be taking a huge gamble & odds are you'll make a mess of it. We're not touting for upgrades work where a proper Recap-Upgrade & Service would be over 10 times the price, it's for you to decide. Looking at the Bulgaria seller's feedback, one rude buyer left them a Neg saying.. "Did not improve the sound quality of my Luxman C-02. Bass and warmth is gone". His $39 upgrade kit on a nice $400+ selling preamp with his work gets the seller blamed, a fool to think a $39 kit would be perfection. This is why we only work on amps ourselves, no way can you trust another you don't know to do it right & they'd want endless help & hints for free too. On the SX-1980 the inexperienced user must take apart a very complex huge & heavy amp & get busy on it with a soldering iron. Is your Soldering any good? Do you know how to read Manuals & Boards, not all boards are marked. For the 'recap' jobs we've seen on amps we get, it's usually done poorly with none of the Pro Look like our 'Solds Gallery' shows we do. In dealing with these vintage amps, some are very hard to work on & often issues crop up for this. Even just Recapping Like-For-Like brings up problems as the new caps are higher spec than the old ones which can cause the amplifier to go unstable. We sometimes still get emails rather rudely demanding cheap upgrade & recap kits, they get no reply. So you have a go upgrading a complicated amp & now it doesn't work. We have had those who've tried to do it on the cheap & then they mess it up & either sell it on ebay very cheap out of embarrassment, a Yamaha CR-2020 we got like this at just £30 buy it now a few years back & it needed a lot to undo their mess. The Sony STR-6120 on the site front page got minor damage & a whole lot more by some supposed tech trying to repair it, undoing that mess & having to rebuild the whole amp on resistors, transistors & capacitors as so much was bad to consider the amp never reliable until it got the full rebuild which would be a job costing twice what we sold the last one for. It works fine now but we don't trust it enough to sell yet. There have been others, the Toshiba amp for sale currently had some amateur work on it messily, we just took out all they did & done it our way, no other way. So if you are competent & know hifi restoration, your $89 kit may turn out right, but you miss getting any upgrades & Pioneer are so cost-cut you do need them, to us it's a wasted effort. But if you make a mess of it, burn & tear bits of track off the boards, singe the inside cables & more, do you think any tech would willingly take on a job to do it properly? Undo the mess, learn what you did & then do it properly is a double job. We've never hung a room with wallpaper, you need the tools & skills to do it right. It could be learnt but to hire someone skilled to do it for you often works out best. Be sure you wallpaper the first few times & you get the messes some leave on walls, unmatched joins, bubbles, unglued bits etc. Those who tinker with Cars hoping to save money often make a mess similarly. If you think you have the skills to get an Upgrade kit, then in reality you should be capable enough to source the parts for yourself. Get the Manuals, go to specialist sites to get the parts, don't buy the Unbranded ebay junk & learn how to do it yourself. As for Upgrading, that requires years of learning amp designs to know what to do, to blindly just alter everything is not the way to do it. Skills that take decades to perfect to look professional. Look at Car Upgrade shows like "Wheeler Dealers", be sure each car Edd & later Ant get has had a lot of research & a lot of off-camera opinions to get to be the end product. It's like "American Pickers", you think Danielle is the genius who gets all the leads, but in reality it's two guys plus a research team as well as those who contact the show. The TV shows make it look simple & it's storylined. We look online for Hifi Upgraders doing even slightly like us, USA ones into the 500w Monobloc stuff do to an extent if don't know the earlier gear. Forums show eager tinkerers who never show the finished working item, as likely it never gets finished. Is it possible to Train a person to Upgrade Hifi? Unless they have the nerve & confidence to try new ideas & also know deep fault finding & amp design, with enough amps to try to learn all this on, it'll go like many Craftsman Trades... it'll disappear.

The Best Of Sony... STR-6120 receiver vs TA-2000F/TA-3200F pre-power.
Comparisons on Price when New. 2 versions of STR-6120, the 1968 'Tape Head' version & the 1970 'Aux 3' version. This 50w receiver was £388 including PT to buy in 1970 according to the Hi-Fi Yearbook price & featured in 1971 at a lower £323 if not in the 1972 book & the 1973 has the STR-6200F at £354 that was a slightly clumsy mix of 6120 & the newer TA-1130 type amp. The TA-1120A that was half of the STR-6120 together with the ST-5000FW tuner were £160 and £190 so the 6120 was actually more to have two in one. The 1970 book has the earlier TA-2000 preamp for £129 & the 50w small sized TA-3120 for £99. 1971 book has similar. 1972 has the TA-2000 only for £129 if the amp isn't listed. 1973 has no preamp but has the new TA-3200F 100w power amp for £112, so in effect the Pre-Power pair was £241 for 100w, the STR-6120 at £388 dropping to £323 is still way ahead. 1974 book doesn't list the 2000F/3200F if the TA-1130 65w integrated at £140 plus VAT. The TA-1120A was still called the 'TA-1120' & was £160 in the 1970 & 1971 books if gone by 1972. It had earlier appeared in 1967/68 book and 1968/69 for £141, the next book was the 1970 named one. So there's the facts: the Most Expensive Early Sony was the STR-6120 at £388 (later £323) & the Highest Power Sony at 100-110w was £241 the pair. The High Price of the STR-6120 dropped for the 'Aux 3' era one if these are usually found in Europe or the USA, few will have sold to UK buyers. The TA-2000F/3200F 1970-1972 pre-power comes in two versions, the better one is the one without the separate protection board as it was included on the main board. The Pre-Power amps seem too low priced for what they are as new, but similarly the Tannoy Lancasters were still only £63 plus VAT each in 1974. Today the Sony selling prices are rising, we've sold an earlier 'Tape Head' one in the darker wood case & the later 'Aux 3' version in the lighter case for nice prices, but in reality the rebuild cost of one is currently very near the sell price. The early TA-1120 & early ST-5000 tuner done well too, but remember our amps are rebuilt. The TA-2000F/3200F you can see the sell prices online of 'raw' ones as with the 6120 & generally the Pair, without wood cases, go for twice the price of a 6120 in the wood cases. It seems the Wood Cases for TA-1120, 1120A, 1130 & 1140 plus the 2000(F) & 3200F are actually pretty rare on trying to find another earlier one. The STR-6120 wood case is a rare one too, if what it adds to the sell price we've yet to find out. Not to confuse with the later clip together 3 section ones, these are the solid 4 sided box ones.

Choosing Your Capacitors.
There will be those who prefer once type of the many brands. We go by what we’ve trusted in many amps transistor & valve over the years. We've upgraded more amps than anyone else to know which ones are reliable & sound right, without going into exotic & overpriced ones that show no difference. To find ones lacking & go find others was what we did earlier on. The yellow Vishay ones we first got in the late 1990s for Valve amps & they do well. UK Maplins used to sell these so easy to get, if under a different brand name then. Ones like “Ansar Supersound” we tried before for Valves but they are physically soft in construction & easy to break. The Panasonic small capacitors we use are the FC ones, bought thousands of those & no reason why anything more exotic is needed as these do a great job & are reliable. Other good brands RS & Farnell sell for larger value ones, used to be Panasonic on upgrading the Sony STR-6120 in 2013, if they don’t make them now so Epcos, Kemet, Nichicon, United Chemicon & Multicomp are trusted, but there are other brands that are too cheap which we avoid. Ones we see in amps bought with some recapping are too small for the values & too lightweight, easy to spot cheapness & avoid it. Other smaller companies offer high priced "exotic" capacitors for Valve Amps & Speaker Crossovers, if for Speakers, to suggest 630v ones when a 100w amp only puts out 40v max is excessive, here to use 100v ones will do. The excess size of the 630v ones should tell you they are not right. To spend wisely & keep Hifi looking tidy & original looking is important.

Buying Metal 4mm Speaker Connectors For Amplifiers: Pt 2.
Continued from March. The Sony TA-3200F only has push button bare wire connectors for 2mm cable. Even using our 4mm plug blocks with a short cable these are not good to use as the soldered wire ends don't last long before breaking off, if we move these connectors around far more by sawpping to different amps. To fit proper 4mm connectors is needed. The difficulty with the later TA-3200F you'll see inside, they have plastic bits covering a messy extra RC output section that is usually fitted on the amp board, actually it already has so why duplicate it? We see why... The amp board itself is very close to the connectors so to only really use short ones. We did get the All Metal 'Gold Plated' ones for the Sony TA-1130 in 2007, these we had an extra pair & the 'Gold' goes brown & wears off, because it's actually Copper dipped steel & even that wears off easily. On ebay looking for "4mm Binding Posts" as of typing there are really only a few types being made now, those 'Gold-Copper Wipe' ones, then the Voso ones we use often, A Pair of Red-Black ones that some amps have in similar types either with one black plastic holder or separate, plus other heavyweight All Metal ones more for Speaker Cabinets as we put these on the Tannoys. Then you get the Big Clear Plastic Covered ones like Modern Valve Amps use, these are only really suitable for well spaced original holes as on most amps they don't look good as they don't look well considered, if a customer wanted those so we put some on a Luxman L1040 receiver. Those are either screw or solder ones & take up space inside, one type has a very long screw part. Overall there are about 10 types, so enough scope to choose one suitable. The ones we had here from buying at some time but not using we've found, they are the Clear Plastic Outer ones with Gold insides & a 4mm side hole for Bare Wires. These fitted perfectly with just a little alteration, no soldering & they look new but not oversized & tacky looking, they are not much bigger than the originals. 'Small Binding Post' is what these are & a better idea than those big Metal Ones that are often seen badly fitted to amps with 1-2mm gap between. The amateur who did that doesn't realise if a cable accidentally drops to touch both + and - at the same time, you've Shorted the Amp which may a Protection Circuit saves it, or a big repair. We prefer the Plastic Cased Voso ones on older amps & now these Small Binding Post in Gold & Clear Plastic suit the Sony ones. Update July 2018: Ebay with "Small Binding Post" shows these but now you have to buy 20, 50 or 100 from China as no UK sellers have them & for some reason the main VOSO seller has vanished, if others have them still.

Sony TA-2000 Preamplifier: Is It Better Than The TA-2000F Preamp?
This is the earlier version before the TA-2000F we have. Very different in construction if looking quite similar. Five boards in the rear half, if the Phono one is on the Inputs for a direct path, the TA-2000 has all 5 in line with separate grounding panels & attached via notches in the chassis base & appears to be grey inside, not the black, so we've not seen this one before. Inside the front half it's like the 1967 TA-1120A with the boards of capacitors for tone. No plug in boards here, wires connect to each board, the TA-2000F plug in boards make it far easier to work on to upgrade. "Sony - Research Makes The Difference" is on the Service Manual, have to agree with that if to sell lots of cheaper gear too keeps research alive. Here a 53v HT, not the 38v & 160v of the TA-2000F. On the early TA-2000 it has no dedicated Headphone Amplifier, only the useless one from the preamp as the TA-1120A has, a strange idea that must have suited an obscure type of headphone or headphone amplifier. A MM & MC stage for Phono if an earlier design with one 2SC 631 transistor in the 'Head Amp' section, the standard type as used in the rest of the amp. The MM Phono stage has Tape Head & Mic inputs too. Volume is on the input passive stages before a Buffer stage as 'Emitter Follower', then a Flat Amp to Tone section & Tone Cancel, then a Buffer amid the Filter stages not unlike the STR-6120 design onto a second Flat Amp stage. These are still like the TA-1120A design rather than the very different FET design of the TA-2000F. The Meter Amp driver stage & an unusual Centre Channel amp stage isn't too useful. Then onto output level switch & to the Output sockets. Really not that much different to the TA-1120A overall with much of it's design. Is it worth us getting a TA-2000 after knowing the TA-2000F. No it isn't, the TA-2000 still has the NFB stages as the TA-1120 & TA-1120A do, if the STR-6120 doesn't have these. Neither the 1120s or 6120 are as good a design as the later TA-2000F that has a lot more to it if disappointing it was so dumbed down by Sony as was the TA-3200F 100w power amplifier. The early TA-2000 probably would have sounded very tame too, lots of limiting to the sound if not the "T" bass filters of the 2000F there will be a limited Deep Bass by design, likely a bit of the 'Retro Bass' sound as well as Treble will be far too soft. There's no point in putting the earlier transistor flat amp designs into the FET one for the different NFB levels, as we have wondered. The reality on circuit gazing is the TA-2000 is probably as disappointing to Modern Ears as the TA-2000F was as original. Of the two versions the later TA-2000F one is way better to upgrade for a fresher sound than the early TA-2000F which will always be limited to a degree. The early TA-2000 isn't anywhere as good as the 1965 TA-1120 as we would have expected. Now we know why the TA-2000, TA-2000F & TA-3120 aren't that appreciated & prices aren't what you'd expect for 100w & a superior preamp, because they sound very limited & don't do what you'd hope of them, having heard the superior TA-1120 (1965 version) & the STR-6120. These are prime for upgrading though, but from the huge amount we did on our TA-2000F & TA-3200F it's probably the most advanced upgrade we've encountered, beyond Valve amps. The TA-2000F with FETs is a high impedance design & we tried putting a transistor in to be more flexible with the sound volume, but the high level of hiss got that abandoned. Any alteration to give more gain just results in more hiss, instead of the silent background of at least -90dB that you'd expect on later amps, the spec is "greater than 90dB A weighting" whatever their weighting means, usually that means "90dB isn't the truth".

A Sound Quality View From High Up The Hi-Fi Ladder.
This is what Good Hifi can reveal other amps lack, even ones some rate as "Best Ever". As we upgrade with redesign techniques like no other, to tell what the differences are as readers will like to know. Firstly this Sound Reference we have got from quite a few Amplifiers from 1965 Sony to 1966 Coral to 1967 Akai to 1968 Dokorder to 1969 Trio-Kenwood plus others into the early 1970s & even after a huge amount of work the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X. So this sound is available in upgraded Amps & if you crave to hear it, you can "get in on the game". So what is this "Ideal Amplifier Sound". Firstly it's treble of full unlimited resolution, sharp as a knife but natural. Midrange smooth & natural with great depth to the Soundstage, not the flat cardboardy sound of the typical post 1980 amp. Bass full & extended going deep but not Boomy or limited. But it's the later Amps that we try so hard to get this sort of sound from, the post 1972 era is not so easy as our Reviews Pages show, to try lots of Yamaha amps & do well, but not quite reaching that Finesse of Sound that earlier amps can do. To see ebay listings with an amp we know being described as "the best we've ever heard" just shows their experience of hifi is limited. Some 1977-79 ones really are very overrated, well into the cost cutting era Marantz & Pioneer were both sold in Discount Stores if Marantz were always at least £100 more to not cheap out as much as Pioneer did. It is possible to upgrade the higher models of the 1977-79 era to get a good taste of "the best sound" but having just done one the sound was not as good as it would have been if it was a 1969-71 amp. What Didn't We Like you wonder... having a great reference amp in the Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F pair which have all the ideas it took years to develop in other amps, the difference is quite noticeable on our 15" Tannoys. The later amp was rather flat in soundstage, it was lively but it didn't sound effortless. A noticeable smearing or poorly resolving the high treble was bordering on turning the treble into a sibilance as the design couldn't resolve the treble well which is common from cost-cut designs. Midrange was smooth but lacked the depth & this is where the 'effortless' sound is noticed. The Bass went low & sounded much like the Sonys but it still sounded 'cardboardy' with little of the 'bounce' good bass has in well designed amps. The first amp we heard this 'bounce' in was the 1975 Luxman L-100 if the amp beyond that was just too tamed, if perhaps we'd go further with it if we had one now. The later amp you could listen to & not know these problems, you need to know better to realise what is lacking in other amplifiers. Would It Be Possible To Bring That Amplifier Up To A High Standard? is what you'll be wondering. The answer is "yes" but for the extreme amount the Sansui AU-G90X needed to get to this level & probably could still go further, it would just outprice an upgrade job as we're having to do 'Research & Development' by redesigning it. A Customer asks for an Upgrade, to offer a price that's the "Good Value Best Results" price & then a higher one to allow a level of the Redesign , if we do say the extra paid won't give such an improvement percentage-wise as the standard price. We've done this a few times & as we know the higher quality sound to judge, the Customer usually finds what we return to them is way ahead of their expectations & they love what they hear. So that's what we aim for in upgrades, to try to get "Excellent" as in our Reviews page standard, from amps we upgrade. On two recent lower power but still some quality amps we found even after upgrading they weren't really good enough, so for our interest to see what limited it & to give a better product to the Customer, we went through the designs & did a little redesign to finally get the sound we'd hoped the amp would deliver. Having maxed out several amps for our own interest, the cost in working out the circuits & resdesigning things would be far too expensive, if at least we can do this to see & know what can be done.

May 2018 Blog

Accuphase E-202 Amplifier: What's It About?
We had a look at the later E-203 from 1976 on the "Other amps" reviews page & were a bit disgusted that it was stuffed with ICs in all stages, multiples of them for reasons rather worrying. Accuphase is known as a Premium Brand, but so is Bang & Olufsen and Bose, if Hifi folks don't rate those. Accuphase amps are always in the high hundreds & for us to buy to try then upgrade, we could do a lot & then see the market interest was different on this brand. So to now get to Service & Upgrade one is where we'll find out the truth, if it ever arrives. After the shock of the E-203 to look at the E-202 we saw it was a far better design, if now we'll look deeper as we'll have to learn the amp to upgrade. Photos online show it's well made, the EU-UK type of Axial Capacitors that one didn't do right needs a lot to get the right sizes to look right, doing it with standard caps looks amateurish. So to look at the Manuals to see what it is. The HFE page shows they are a High End Japanese brand aiming for 'Accurate Phase' & true High Fidelity reproduction. The TVK site oddly doesn't show the early ones. We will only know for sure on hearing as with any amp, if the circuits tell a lot once you understand them. 19.5kg, 100w with Damping Factor of 50. All transistors beyond 4 FETs. By the HFE reviews pdf of a Brochure made by Accuphase shows this was a 1974 model, to be reviewed early 1975. The reviews seem positive, saying it sounds great, slew rate of 21.5v/µsec said to be very fast. One says it only rates 'very good' on aspects of sound like Bass, Treble, Midrange & Transient response. But scoring high on Specs isn't necessarily a good thing & why the sound wasn't 'Excellent' suggests the 1974 design may be straying into the "safe" sound of how the Luxman L-100 from 1975 sounded to us. Circuits. Aux & Tuner Inputs have a Resistor on the inputs, 4.7k, if that suggests already they are playing safe. Phono is 5 transistors, 3 for the Differential circuit, a driver & an output, if not the P-P type later amps did. It has some strange Subsonic & Enhance switches seen as 'pointless' by one reviewer. The circuit suggests Phono will be fairly soft sounding, not one for good detail. Volume & Balance come after the Input Selectors & then to a FET Differential which is an unusual one, only remember that in a 1986 Pioneer M90 Power Amp. The Preamp stage is 2 pairs of Differentials, the other is transistors, it has some limiters on that which seem unneccessary for a 100w amp, a soft sound with not much deep bass & lacking a kick to the sound is possible here. Tone is passive switched like the Sony TA-2000F uses & is bypassable. No Pre Out-Main in connectors unusual for the era. Select to Volume-Balance to Flat Amp to Passive Tone to Power Amp. Power amp is typical Differentials with Doubled Output Transistors. The circuit suggests the sound will be soft with not much kick to it plus heading into that thin grainy sound lacking the rich sound of the best Hifi. A Zener diode to set voltage on the Differential is poor design. There are some familiar (to us) signs that this amp will be Bass Light, Sterile & Unexciting, the basis of the 1980s Amplifier Sound does appear to start here. Headphone circuit doesn't seem a standard one & as with the Luxman L-100 it'll not drive headphones well, making a first try on Headphones a disappointing one. Power Supply has 2x 10000µf Capacitors per ±HT side which is high for 1974 plus extra for the Relay. Speaker Damping has a variable setting of 20, 5 or 1 if why it says 50 on the specs is from review tests. How different that will sound may be interesting. Overall, the amp needed understanding & to suspect it sounds nice as tamed, but still safe without much of a rich punchy sound is obvious.

More Proof Your Hearing Has A Built-In Graphic EQ.
The Phenomenon that gets you used to an Amplifier, if comparing many reveals all amps have a Different Tonal Balance, from slightly duller or brighter, to more bassy or thin on bass. This covers Bad amp sound from Grainy Treble to retro Thick Bass & Cardboardy post 1980 typical amp sound, explaining why people listen to those, they're used to them. We've been playing records the last few days & they suddenly seem too bright which is a bit wearying. But we know why. We used the Sony STR-6120 for a while just recently & on selling it went back to the Sony TA-2000F/3200F pair to listen what else it lacks in comparison. Improvements to the Power Amp made quite a difference, but still the amp for Records that has been unaltered in months now sounds too bright. The Sony preamp needs some redesign as the FET preamp doesn't have enough gain, in simple terms of where the Volume pointer line is for a typical volume compared to the STR-6120. For some changes with one channel unaltered as a reference, the unaltered side was found lacking the precision of the upgraded one which was spot on just for what appears a minor alteration, if it takes hours to perfect it as per design. It now matches the LX33 tonal balance, a sound that's so precise & shows up all the recording flaws as we want it to. So we were used to, from TV sound on the Sony pair, to a slightly softer treble than the Record Player amp (Luxman LX33) so the hearing compensates & therefore it's upped the treble control in your hearing so that the LX33 suddenly became tiring, when previously a 4 hour headphone session only got tiring for wearing headphones, not the sound. So for the change, to try the Sony pair on TV sound to see how the LX33 sounds next day. The LX33 plays a sound balance from records that we like having fine tuned it for the Goldring cartridges. On first hearing the results on both channels, it sounded a bit bright, but it sounded right, so to listen for a few songs & the sound balance is improved, if it takes until the next day to reset a different tonal balance & playing records is fine again, if the amp is no different. So if you hear a new amp & think it sounds bad... maybe it does, or maybe it was your previous amp sounding tired upsetting your hearing balance. Always play amps on speakers for 2-3 days for at least an hour a day, this appears to be the way to get into the amp's sound & then tell if it's accurate or not by other ideas of what you know about sound. In the years we've been upgrading amps, to learn a better cleaner sound & then find other amps almost unlistenable for realising what they lack in fidelity. But still find our 1957 Valve Record Player acceptable as it's not on headphones or speakers so not considered in the same way. The Ghostly sound from our 1932 Radiogram gets a play every now & then on Radio or 78s, yet it still intrigues for it's lo-fi but honest sound. That proves it's in the mind, accepting what it is once it's learnt.

Looking Back In Time: Hifi In 1956 to 1958 Mono Era.
As we have blogged the 1970-1980 Hi-Fi News/RR magazine & found a surprising amount of info that fills in the gaps of why things happened, time to look back to the earliest year of HFN & the Hi-Fi Year Book to see what the story was at the time. We'll be looking at this more from an idea of what there was that is still useable today beyond just being Ornaments as much of the early Hi-Fi has become, would you use any of it daily, if ignoring the fact 62 years old means most needs rebuilding. Would a Hi-Fi user of 2018 have a clue where to even look if they were sent back to 1956 to live? It may all be ancient looking & rather crude in places, but actually 1956 there is enough good stuff to still please, if perhaps the State Of The Art in 1956 is way less than that of 1968. The Hifi Scene came from WWII developments, Decca's FFRR in 1947 was a huge step forward as was Harold Leak with the first use of NFB to get distortion down to 0.1%. By 1954-55 there will have been enough Hifi gear to get the idea of the HFN mag & the Audio Fair. Interest from reading the mags is very clear, if in reality the Hifi Scene was tiny if with a strong interest. The idea of Home Made Audio including Kits was still strong at this time & HFN introduce several kits & ideas for home builders. Hifi News starts off with good intentions to only list "the best" but in reality this is too narrowing & will put off advertisers, the ideals are relaxed by the 1957 HFYB & by 1958 they are being asked for good domestic quality tape machines as these were often very expensive European ones if the UK makers made decent ones that may not be true Hifi of the era, there was a demand. To only list items that are of Good quality is admirable, but not everyone has the money & some cheaper items, being less quality are ignored, but were the items buyers went for. What's Too Ancient In 1956-58. The Loudspeaker ideal had yet to get a Tweeter as standard, if the Stanley Kelly Decca Ribbon Tweeter was around and a few top range ones had tweeters. Full Fidelity as was already on Vinyl Records was still hidden therefore. Turntable arms were crude heavyweight clunky things & most cartridges were still crude ceramic high output ones with high tracking weights, 3g was considered lightweight. In 1956 Mono was still the deal, if EMI released "Stereosonic" open reel tapes, you had to buy two large radiogram sized units to get Stereo. What's Not So Great in 1956-58? The fact nearly all Hifi for sale in the UK is British made means there are standards with Pre & Power Amplifiers that are always built into cabinets, the preamp & basic controls with a long cable for a power amp. The preamps were ugly, the power amps were basic as to be hidden away. What's Good in 1956-58? The Quad II pre & power amp, in Mono still in 1956, is a power amp that was still sold into 1968, if the Mono preamp still limits. Turntables there are a few good ones without fitted arms that you can still use today, the Garrard 301, Connoisseur and others. Loudspeakers there were some more advanced ones with Tweeters, the Tannoy Dual-Concentric had been around since 1947 & the huge GRF & GRF Signature speaker was the pinnacle of early Hifi as was the Klipschorn. Most looked very unspeakerlike compared to 1960s ideas. There actually are some freestanding Integrated amplifiers & freestanding Control-Preamps like the RCA Orthaphonic preamp that was probably the only non UK item mentioned in 1956. Who Is Buying Hi-Fi? By the music mentioned. which is only ever Classical or Light Orchestral, only what was considered 'high brow' types were into the scene. Gear was more expensive & knowledge of the scene was only really for Classical buyers, there is absolutely no mention of any 'Pop' music as that was beneath them. Even Records that were recommended were only of this type. But the quality of the pressings of 'Pop' were often very high, the Jazz & Sinatra music was often mastered & recorded as good as anything else, but even they get no mention. By 1959 the 'Johnny Staccato' TV series featured Jazz & Hi-Fi which will have helped further the scene. But most 'Pop' buyers used Portables, Dansette, HMV or the Pye Black Box, a squarish mahogany veneered turntable with Mono amp that cheekily had "Hi-Fi" on a Gold plastic badge on the front which caused annoyance as it's a better quality Record Player, but not Hifi. Later runs lost the badge & put a 'Black Box' badge instead, a range that continued with a transistor version even, with several changes of turntable as the years progressed. The Stereo Coffee Table early 1960s version, record player & amp but no Radio, with high gloss lacquer tops was the first Record Player we used beyond the home one. Hi-Fi News Magazine began June 1956 after it's launch at the First London Audio Fair. Clearly a well considered idea & by looking at the early issues there is a decent amount of what is clearly Hi-Fi rather than just Domestic Audio gear. It may seem all rather crude today, but for 1956 in an era where The Radiogram dominated, it is encouraging. Later years into 1958 cover the Audio Fair as this is The Venue for hearing new Hifi. The big thing here is all was Mono, one amp means one speaker. Even up to the May 1958 issue all was one channel mono with nothing else beyond the EMI Stereo Tapes. Of the Jun 1956-March 1958 mags we have all but 8 if generally you'll not be missing much not having those. July 1958 after the April Audio Fair show some Stereo amps, more in a later blog. The most interesting 1956-58 Hifi is on our 'List Of Amplifiers' page, a mix of pre-power & intergrateds, all in Mono still.

Early 1953-59 Valve Amps Are Very Limited In Design For Power Ratings.
You'll see high prices being paid for very early Valve Amps as Mono or Stereo, the 1953-59 era ones especially make very high prices. But what do the buyers want them for? Possibly they are just Collectors, these very early amps are not for Upgrading as so much needs doing to even match the quality of the 1965 era Rogers Cadet III or HG88 III. One example as in the July 1958 Hi-Fi News is the Pye Mozart HF 10 a 10w Mono Preamp-Control Unit & a Mono Power Amplifier. The big clue that these will only give a rather soft idea of music, the warm wallowy slow small dynamics valve amp sound that is far from what modernised Valve amps can do is revealed in the Power Output table HFN shows. Your "10w" amp reaches 9.5w at 1kHz, but the rest falls away steeply giving the idea you'll never get anywhere the modern amp sound you'd hope these amps can do, even one in top original grade. The design is going to have to be tamed to not get into distortion as the spec is weak & parts available are limited. So 100Hz is 8.1w, 10kHz is 5.2w, 40Hz is 5.1w, 15kHz is 3.2w, 30Hz is 2.8w & 20Hz is just 1w. The reality is it's only really useful at about 5w & turning it up louder it'll just go into a limited midrange sound, but the reality is at any volume the Bass & Treble extremes will be very limited. It may sound nice, but it's Bandwidth limited & far from accurate. Probably not much different to a Portable Record Player response, it plays music at you, but it's probably not considered Hifi even 10 years after being made. The reasons why are seen in the circuits. Having heard the Quad 22 & Quad II pre-power on our Tannoys in 2002 when we had a high grade all-original set, the Power Amp sounded better than with the 22 preamp which we thought was limited sounding & awful to use with clunky controls. Only can find the later Stereo HFS 20 manuals on HFE if these will be much the same if doubled from the Mono. The manuals show these were to be built into a custom cabinet & Pye made a Mozart one to hold amps & turntable. much like a Radiogram style. The HFS 20 preamp has the aged idea of all signals into high value resistors before amplifying, this can tame the sound for lower spec amps but is a bad idea otherwise. Very low value coupling caps will lose the Bass as the Wattage table shows, if you tried to put unlimited bass, as we found with the Trio WX400U, the whole amp is so low spec it'll go unstable too easily which has the sound fade in & out. Only a big redesign saved the WX400U, done by us just to see what could be done which took us 3 years trying it with new ideas, if only 10w isn't enough power, 15w is a minimum in valves for a sound suited to today's user. The HFS 20 is rated 9w & for the era the power supply is better than some if it'll never cope with the frequency extremes which is why it is so tamed. Lazy valve amp designers of today still use these 60 year old ideas explaining why they aren't very good yet are still cheap for what you think they may be. The HFS20 may have seemed acceptable in it's day & we knew the Pye Black Box Stereo coffee table Record Player to know it sounded clean but Bass would never trouble you, if it didn't sound thin, it just had enough volume & not much more. Turn it up louder & it just got into messy distortion. So if you are looking for a 'modern' sound from Vintage, don't bother with the pre 1963 stuff, it'll sound nice & Retro if rebuilt to spec, but don't think to upgrade it too much as it won't cope. Big clue is to look for the Valve Rectifier EZ type. The later ones are possible with better quality & we've rebuilt the 1963 Trio WX400U & Rogers HG88 III to a modern spec if these both needed so much done.

Matching Power Amps To Pre Amps: Not So Simple.
The problem is there is not one standard level for Pre Out or Power In requirements. On some amps the level is quoted as 100mV, 300mV, 400mV, 1v & 1.4v. The inputs have Impedance of 25k ohm to 47k ohm & 100k ohm. Yamaha CA-1010 power amp in is 1v at 25k ohm, Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 is 100mV at 50k ohm, Trio-Kenwood TK-140X is 100mV at 100k ohm, Sony are different with 1v 90k-100k ohm looking at the TA-1120A & TA-1130. As we found to blog this, the KA-6000 power amp used with the Sony TA-2000F preamp is way too loud & brings up loud hiss, the KA-6000 preamp into TA-3200F power amp needs the volume noticeably higher if doesn't sound as punchy as it should, as it's not got the correct main level. The Quad II power amps need the 1.4v level from the preamp so the Sony TA-2000F with 1v level will match. To use the TA-2000F 1v or 300mV output level, 300mv is reduced from 1v by a resistor which loses quality, the TA-3200F is fine as it requires 1.4v input for full power, but at the 300mV level it's too soft. Having tried a few amps including Yamaha amid the CR-2020 & CA-1010 the output levels matched if the tonal balance on the 4 options of pre-power & both as one unit all differed. Very Confusing Specs. All these 100mV, 300mV & 400mV as low level in/out are confusing if before seeing the 100mV we considered it the 400mV level not the 1.4v level. Similarly 1v or 1.4v are high in/out and are not interchangeable. We first found this years ago with a McIntosh preamp trying it on our Valve amps, the McIntosh C26 preamp has 2.5v output say the specs if the MC2505 amp is rated 0.5v. What does that mean? Are the McIntosh mismatched amid their own range? No, it's the rather foolish way of using specs, the 2.5v that can put out 10v clean is actually the peak value. The pre & power match fine but you'd just get confused by the specs which should be at least consistent. The Sony TA-2000F is rated 1v & the TA-3200F needs 1.4v for full volume. How are these specs read? Confusingly again, they are not mismatched amid the same range if it does suggest you'll never get full power with 1v if 1.4v is needed, just 71%. In Reality Between Pre & Power Amplifiers it appears you can't go by these published specs at all, as in what do they mean, RMS, peak or what? An amp has a fixed gain if some are with adjust level pots beyond the Volume control. As there is no baseline value if McIntosh put 2.5v out with 10v max yet 500mV in, but from what we've found the Low or High should be matched to the same, the Low 400mV preamp needs a 400mV Power Amp just as the 1.4v preamp needs a 1.4v power amp, if perhaps you'll only find out which is which by trying. If the preamp is too hissy, the preamp is High output, if the Preamp needs turning up more than expected then the Power Amp is Low input. Neither 400mV or 1v level is wrong, if they are incompatible, both can sound good if the 400mV one is perhaps better with a low output preamp to avoid hiss & the amplifier having more gain at higher volume also avoid the hiss. A well designed 1v level amplifier, the Sony STR-6120 oddly has no pre out-power in if the TA-1120A amplifier has, can sound as good as the 400mV one if it is harder to get the hiss levels to the expected -90dB. To look through lots of Power Amp specs to see what the typical Input voltage may show the 1v-1.4v level is more typical than the 400mV one. But little point in that on some as the specs even on a 1984 Yamaha A720 show CD-Aux etc needs 15mV (new IHF) which must be a typo for 150mV, you see how confused the specs are. 1986 Pioneer M90 power amp is 1v at 50k ohm, 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 power amp input is 1v 50k ohm, 1973 Accuphase E202 is 1v 100k ohm, more recent from 2011 Audiolab 8200a is 782mV 47k ohm. Many modern items say Line Level for Aux, TV, CD etc is 150mV but to read the RMS output on an Oscilloscope, you'll find Line Level is typically 2v at 0dB.

Quad ESL 57 Electrostatic Loudspeakers.
These were first shown as prototypes in 1954 & stayed in production for many years, lots more info found online about these including those who rebuild these into something more modern looking. These are the large flat old-fashioned looking things originally with gold-brown cloth covering & stick legs. Looks wise they may not please today & take up a lot of room as wide. But these are given much coverage in the HFN/RR magazine & the general idea from Hifi Mags & those at the time is that the midrange being so smooth, precise & open is the real winner here. The 'voice' of the speaker comes from the large side panels with the tweeter section the middle one so it will sound more realistic than an 8" speaker for the large surface area, similar sort of sound is found with 15" speakers after being used to 6" ones. So it sounds very pleasing amid it's limits & was designed in 1954 to complement the Quad II power amps & later the Quad 303 amplifier. The Quad 303 isn't amp we like from seeing the average circuits & obvious limited bass, but this suits the ESL 57 as the criticisms will reveal. The ESL 57 was sold worldwide & early on, USA buyers used to end up wrecking them by playing them too loud. A USA room is usually much bigger than a typical UK room. This suggests the ESL isn't very efficient, but the HFE page says 93dB sensitivity which is just 2dB less than Tannoy 15" Golds, impedance is 15 ohm to suit amps of the 1956 era. Bass is 2 panels & the Treble-Tweeter is the central panel as a 1990s HFN/RR supplement explained. HFE says HFN/RR called it the "Greatest Hifi Product of All-Time" which is their opinion & to need to see what else was considered at a time when Vintage Hifi was still ignored beyond the Monster Receivers & Pioneer-Marantz gear in the UK. The HFE user manual is a later one from the late 1970s 'over 20 years ago' it says, with more modern cloth to the early one & it states 45Hz to 18kHz as the Bandwidth aka Frequency Response if not at what -dB levels. It adds the sensitivity is 93dB at 50Hz to 10kHz but higher 100dB at 70Hz-7kHz which tells the amp is best for midrange, upper-mid bass & lower-mid treble if it'll be lacking on high treble & certainly on low to deep bass, 7dB less at the extremes will be noticed. No doubt the ESL 57 has been used with a Subwoofer & less will have added an extra Tweeter to fill in the missing ranges, if tuning those to match will be far from easy. Power Handling isn't noted, if the Quad II was 15w rated & the Quad 303 is 45w so the ESL 57 has to be a 50w rated speaker if there apparently is a harsh 'crow bar' feature some call it to limit power by apparently shorting the amp? Not sure about that, forum info, but it would explain why USA users 'blew them up' as one c.1966 HFN letter said. More reliable are HFN tests of amps, they simulate an Electrostatic load with a 2.2µf capacitor across the terminals, which some amps don't like as it apparently hits very low impedance at higher frequencies, as low as under 2 ohms, so only certain other amps than Quad's own are suitable. Explains why the Quad 303 circuit is tamed to suit the ESL specs, to not get into trouble or bother reproducing bass you'll not hear. The General Idea on the Quad ESL & later versions is it's a "Hair Shirt" type masochist's speaker, but Valve Amps often head into that territory. Try one, but be sure your amp copes well with a very harsh load or you'll damage the amp. One of the 1990s HFN/RR Vintage Supplements covers this speaker further, with ideas fopr building two of these into a tower speaker plus rebuilding one as these do age as well as being fragile & materials were not made even in the 1990s.

More On Preamp Output Levels.
The blog just above is still confusing to users as the specs differ so much. Easiest test therefore is to use a 0dB test signal & read on the 'Scope the RMS value before it starts to clip. Using the Soundcard with the Sony TA-2000F to give a typical 0dB level on 1kHz sine test signal, the rated 1v output you'd not tell, if it appears by Volume being exactly midway as is typical for integrated amps where the sound starts to flatten off past this, so 1v useable voltage. The max level before it starts to clip is much like the McIntosh one tells, here 9v is possible before it starts to clip which is with the Volume pointer at the 3 o'clock position, a large jump in volume past halfway if unusable & probably would either click relays off or get the amp complaining. The 1v switch setting put to the 0.3v one matches 0.3v well. We tried with the TA-2000F to get more gain to suit the 1.4v needs of the TA-3200F but here just got into hiss being too noticeable on speakers. the TA-2000F Giving 1v at just past midway is typical so there is no point trying to get more gain from the Preamp. Only the Power Amp needs to improve on it's 1.4v, if some amps don't allow much alteration. Trying the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 with it's lower output, is it 100mV like the specs show or it is more a 300-400mV level? Actually at the same just past midway it really only puts out 100mV just before midway on the Volume rising to 900mV at full volume without clipping. Hiss Levels aren't a problem here. The difference is one gain transistor less in the preamp & one more in the Power Amp. On the KA-6000 this with the complicated double Low Filter Switches directly on the Power Amp input isn't a good idea as fierce clicks can be heard especially for upgrading, plus the buffer stage is a pain. The KA-6000 takes in a 0dB signal of 1.06v RMS & at 15kHz with Treble up full it goes from 102mV at no treble gain to 500mV at max treble gain. Bass at 40Hz goes from 96mV to 550mV at full gain which is 10dB gain according to the specs if more like 14dB-15dB using a dB calculator, if this amp has been upgraded so will be wider bandwidth.

Stereo Starts appearing By Late 1957 & Launched Aug 1958.
The ideas of Stereo on records first experimented in the early 1930s & EMI released Stereo Tapes from 1955. The early 1958-59 Stereo scene was later considered by the early 1960s as poorly executed with rushed designs & quality wasn't very good. Stereo Cartridges, Stereo Preamps including a kit by HFN, if then all you needed was an extra power amp & extra speaker to get True Stereo. Classical LPs from the 1958-60 era especially Decca with the 'Blue Band' backs are rare items, there were lots of Pop EPs plus a few Stereo 45s including a few Pop titles on the UK London label made as Special Items not sold in shops as likely for Promotion at one of the Audio Fairs, again the commercial ones sold poorly. Probably the first taste of Stereo for most was got from Radiograms, the Blaupunkt 'Blue Spot' one with the glossy wood & drinks cabinet used to be often found. The reality in 1958 was Hifi was still so new, the few audio Fairs of 1956-58 had greatly increased interest, if overall the goods for sale hadn't progressed. The amp designs as a blog just above shows reveals if you bought Stereo LPs in 1958, you'd not really hear the best out of them until perhaps as late as 1962-63 when the USA & Japanese amplifiers arrived. Powe of amps was 5-10w which with large efficient speakers will give a reasonable volume & there were a few 20w amps around in 1958.

We Like The Original Sound But Don't Want It Different But Do...?
That's an odd question, the person needs to know what they want really, but to read through an email, the amplifier in question pleases in some ways but doesn't on others. To not lose the good bits but better the weaker bits. In real terms, our Recap-Upgrade will sort that as we try to upgrade to get "Excellent" out of amps, otherwise it's a bit of a wasted effort & we will tell you if the amp's probably not going to be good enough, especially with ICs in Pre or Power Amp stages. Only by having played enough amps as original & then upgraded to our ideas which differ on every amplifier as they must due to all amps being different in type & construction can we understand the point here. Some amps we've had, beyond being aged & past their best, we play for a while to judge what to do with them. What are the strong points of the sound? What are the bad points? The Bad points are usually Limited Bass, Soft or Grainy Treble, Cardboardy or Harsh Midrange & Upper Bass that have no "friendliness" or depth to the sound plus Rock guitar sounding weedy. Can we upgrade to give that "friendly" sound you want? Look at our reviews page & see many amps we rate as "Excellent" as upgraded. This means just makes Excellent or High Excellent, but not wanting to limit the interest to just two amps as we've found before. Of course Cost will be the issue, but as we've upgraded so many amps, to do a good amount that gives the best improvement for the money. You could spend Double yet not get the amount of improvement that the First Price can bring. Upgrading works on the 'Learning Curve type of graph, spend the First Price to get a strong improvement, but to spend Twice or Three Times you'll get better each time, but will you notice it, will your Speakers reveal it or will your Turntable or CD be revealed to sound poor the more you spend?

1974-75 JVC VR-5505L Receiver.
One on ebay, if only 12w not for us to get to upgrade as limited power means limited prices, not to outprice things, if it'll still upgrade a certain amount to please as it's not junk. In the 1975 HFYB, JVC remarkably have 13 receivers listed of which 7 were quadraphonic 4 channel ones. But it's interesting to see what it's about to fill in a later JVC range, before their Silver faced square box ranges of later 1970s. The fascia & rear panel looks great for a 12w amp, money spent here looking like a 50w amp quality, but that just hides the cheaply made inside as the seller's pic shows it's pretty basic with a hardboard base even, if a metal top lid & lower chassis, but may pick up Hum if you put it over other electrical items as the boards will not be ground shielded. The circuit is all transistors for Phono, Pre & Power, all modest for 12w as you'd expect. HT is just ±18.5v on a very modest 1000µf power supply which is feeble plus not allowing much space to better that, too cost cut for sure. The design is minimalist with only 6 transistors per channel in the Power Amp suggests it'll sound fresh if limited too. In it's day a good basic receiver to upgrade from a Radiogram with was the idea with these lower powered entry level receivers & at £109.45 inc VAT in 1975 probably good value. But not worth getting to upgrade too much as 12w just won't allow it as we found with the Trio-Kenwood KA-2002 at 13w if that did sound nice once carefully upgraded, 12w-13w isn't really going to do more than give enough volume into 95dB large speakers & then no more before it flattens off, or just as background music on the small lower efficiency speakers you'd typically get to then think it wasn't so good after all. A good looking amp that surprised us to see only 12w for the quality the outer aspect was.

Are We "Bohemian Hi-Fi"?
After watching the 3rd episode of Victoria Coren-Mitchell's "How To Be Bohemian" the realisation that this is us is an interesting one. Look at the Music we champion on this site, the then-undiscovered & obscure to us is far more interesting than the Mainstream if certain tracks like Arthur Brown's "Fire" being Number One hits shows the Underground occasionally does break free. We can't stand The Mass Market ideas of today, if have to use Computers as we can be obscure with them too. In Hifi most sites just praise the Original item not realising that Commercial gear will only ever be 'good enough' as well as tamed to stop complaints. We know about Cost Cutting & Having To Make A Universal Safe Product in the Hifi scene. We found the tedious control of the "Grey Old Men" in the Hi-Fi News/RR magazine into the 1970s a real drag for their severe narrow-sightedness & the joy of one experiment they tried but gave up once the results weren't as expected, as blogged above somewhere. "Our Learned Friends" often fight progress as it makes them look stupid, 1950s low-spec valve ideas carried on way past their useful era as the HFN/RR mags reveal. We have been learning Hifi since the late 1980s & to Question even now "Why Is That There?" to learn what it does & see it's just dumbing down. We see a narrow-thinking UK company, Quad, previously The Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Ltd, since the late 1950s have been using the "For The Closest Approach To The Original Sound" yet to us it's obvious especially for their 33/303 & 44/405 amps that these are just lying to you with mediocre limited circuits to match their limited bandwidth ELS 57 electrostatic speaker. Quad was considered very old fashioned by the mid 1970s as other Japan & USA amps compare. We'll never buy these Quad as there is just too much 'rubbish' to upgrade from close looking at their circuits that it wouldn't work out & the sort of buyers of these Ugly Things aren't the broad thinkers anyway to appreciate improvements are even needed. To Question the "Authority" of these Grey Old Men & see their aged ideas are merely gold plated is what we do if sadly we've yet to hear of anyone else taking this bullish approach to Hifi & being able to better it, as well as selling it to others who may not quite understand the ideals behind it, but be sure the messages we get back from most tell us they are delighted & rediscover their Music Collections. We like that, Keep Music Alive as Life Without Music is Death. Other Aspects of Bohemian life are too base, wasteful & 'not nice' to us, but the rare Free-Thinker unrestrained by an Asshole Boss or Pushy Missus will progress. But some of the Bohemian ideals are today called 'Hipster' and these bearded fellows appreciate the Craftsmanship in The Arts of today, upgrading amps is an Art as it making Historial Swords on those metalworking shows. Restoring items to be as good or better like "Rick's Resorations" & the many Car Shows, "Wheeler Dealers" with the new guy Ant is more progressed for his ability to design things from nothing, we do like to see this, the last Austin Healey one was great for his inventiveness, if the reality is a research team gathering much knowledge is behind this. We're not seeing anyone copy our ideas or even try to imitate us in the work we do, hardly any ebay sellers do inside photos even after recapping or servicing as they call it. More progress is made by daring to try new ideas & not just being Booksmart, which is just lazily accepting Other People's Ideas of decades-centuries ago as Fact, instead of having your own by researching yourself & realising more often than not, that They Were Wrong or are Out Of Date. So maybe as with other Bohemian talents, once the Artist gives up, away goes the Artistry...

Square Waves: We Test Our Upgraded Transistor Amplifiers.
Technical Stuff. The question of Square Wave tests is a difficult one, some amps are tailored to test good but don't sound so great. The Sony TA-1120 left to it's original design beyond recapping & new transistors gave perfect square waves on the Speaker Outputs at 100Hz, 1kHz & 10kHz, but it sounded too dull as the preamp circuit was rather tamed. It used NFB plus treble-limiting circuitry & even a 'T' Bass filter, hardly an honest sound. Interestingly this was tested before we got the Signal Generator, so in effect it hid the Soundcard heavy overshoot for it's dumbing down. Firstly, Square Waves are only reliable from an actual Signal Generator unit, the Sound Card actually puts a heavy overshoot & ringing on a 1kHz waveform, for whatever processing & circuitry is in it, so to use that will give poor results. The TTi TG120 gives good Square Waves at 100kHz with only a tiny overshoot which will be pf in the cable, 'Scope cables have a screw to adjust this. The 'game' here is to use a 'scope to show the input signal, the input from the generator into the 'scope & the Amp itself & then use the 'scope Ch2 to see the output. How messy is that to wire up? The much upgraded Sony TA-3200F set to the same display height, if at different voltages, via the front controls is truly square at 1kHz with a tiny bit of spiking on the falling edge of the square only. 10kHz is still perfectly Square if there is a little more spiking. At 20kHz the rise edge has a tiny curve & still the slight spiking if for 20kHz this is 'pretty awesome' you'll agree. To go down to 100Hz the Input matches the output, at 20Hz the input from the generator isn't square at all, it slants down noticeably, if the Amp output corrects this strangely. Suggests the Generator has a weak power supply to upgrade. No heat on the amp at all trying these, if the gain wasn't set high. To dare try 100kHz on the Amp briefly showed even there it put out a decent Square with some slowing of the input as you'd expect for 100kHz but still a decent square. The 'Scope has Rise Time so we can Compare Rise Time via Generator to via Amp. These we find interesting, for never having tried these tests before. 'Scope reads in nsec, 1000ns = 1µsec At 100Hz Gen about 8.5µsec, Amp about 8.3µsec. 1kHz Gen 0.850µsec, Amp about 1µsec. 10kHz has slight spiking generated if Gen about 0.08µsec, Amp averages about 0.3µsec if with spiking. 100kHz Gen about 0.041µsec, Amp 4.8µsec. That's what we get with upgrading, whether the Generator upgraded on power supply could better that is a question. This shows the Amp's speed & Bandwidth. What to compare it to? We last looked at Slew Rate in Sept 2017 blogs, Rise Time is related to that. 7v/µsec is considered fast Slew Rate, Looking online an IC op-amp is considered "fast" at 50ns for only for the 10%-90% rise time, we have values that are 0%-100%, the 'Scope has 7ns rise time itself. Nothing too easy, so to look at our previous Blogs... March 1974 reviews the Yamaha CA-1000 & it shows 7µsec Rise Time, if no other values. To suggest 6µsec Rise Time is good & 7v/µsec Slewing Rate is a good standard for the 1974-76 era. August 1976 HFN/RR ... Rise Time is 2µsec "Unnecessarily fast" they add. Can only assume they use 1kHz & if so our TA-3200F is about 1µsec. This speed will sound awful on an amp that is not upgraded fully, but it shows how good our upgrades can be & still sound great. Next to try the Sony TA-2000F preamp. This again upgraded as far as we can go, if the TA-3200F could do with a bit more gain. Tests on 1kHz reveal why amps are dumbed down, the signal goes through 7 transistors to get to it's 1v level, 4 amplifying as flat & tone plus 3 buffers, Switching out the Tone tidies the spiking to a degree, but spiking it is. Here Rise Time checked, 1kHz Gen has the spikes if 3µsec over 10 wave samples Amp averages about 4µsec. 10kHz is harder to read Gen 0.34µsec averages about 0.65µsec. 20kHz Gen is about 0.11µsec and Amp goes no lower than 22µsec which is not very good really, the rise is curved & the fall is spiked, so the spiking throughout shows it has difficulties. The FETs are suspected, if we couldn't do anything to better that, beyond duplicate the earlier TA-2000 circuit with transistors. Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 gets tested next, we'll use the preamp & power amp together to see how that does, as it sounds better than the Sony pre-power pair currently, the preamp HF issue probably part of it as is the power amp gain a little lacking. The Generator needs the Scope to show how accurate as the pointer is only vague, if a Digital Generator is a lot more expensive, this suits fine. 1kHz on Gen is 0.85µsec, the Amp with Aux in & Speaker out is with a tiny bit of overshoot if risetime averages about 2.8µsec, the TA-3200F did 1µsec. 10kHz has a slight curve on the rise plus a small but tidy overshoot, if oddly a steady undershoot point. This amp has Doubled Output Transistors. 20kHz Gen is about 0.08µsec with the amp getting a little warmer we can smell, with a smooth rise curve & that dip if still reading 3.4µsec showing it suffers pushed that hard. To briefly try 100kHz & it shows a steady but rather curved off pattern with 1.3µsec. The KA-6000 isn't as fast as the Sonys & could take a little more upgrading. The tests revealed weaknesses in the Preamp that we soon dealt with, knowing the problems. Try the KA-6000 Preamp by itself next to see what a 100mV output one does, using blanking plugs on the power amp, this will tell where the weakness is, if the KA-6000 is world class for our upgrades, it's actually got problems in the highest frequencies. 1kHz Amp is about 2.2µsec, 10kHz has a tiny leading curve & spikes averaging about 2µsec with 20kHz about 1.8µsec. 100kHz is quite curved if still the 2µsec level. This shows the Power amp is better than the Preamp. So try the Power Amp by itself, but the problem there is no level controls like the TA-3200F has, but the Generator can act as that, but not so, it still doesn't have a low enough output, being 175mV still so leave that. Conclusions. The TA-3200F power as our much upgraded version gives probably the best readings you'll ever hear of. The TA-2000F preamp is not so great, if 4µsec at 1kHz still betters many, the 20kHz at 22µsec just reveals it's weaknesses: The FETs. The KA-6000 at 2.8µsec for a 1969 amp is extremely good if it shows weaknesses in the 10kHz-20kHz region that we'll improve on. the fact of the 100mV vs 1v preamp level doesn't seem to be a problem, beyond not being compatible together. The TA-2000F preamp is a worry as it shows the FETs aren't so good as early ones, the background noise is audible on 95dB speakers in the dead of night, it should be silent like the KA-6000 is. The reality is a transistor stage with modern transistors would easily better it & there is the TA-2000 original design to copy. FETs were never used in Amps to the degree the TA-2000F does beyond the Sony TA-1130. Possibly modern FETs if the spec could be matched would solve it?

Square Waves: Valve Amp Gets Tested.
As Valves & Transistors do differ quite a lot in various ways, the amount of amplifying devices, different current & voltage requirements plus the Output Transformer, to test the heavily rebuilt Luxman LX33 of ours. It's just the chassis & transformers, the rest is all our design. It has a Pre Out-Main In so possible to test the Amp as a whole & just for the Preamp. Same tests as above, the Gen outputs the same rise time. 1kHz averages about 4.3µsec, so much for Valves being slow. 10kHz has slight tilting of the sides & a slight overshoot so reads 3.7µsec which isn't as fast as the Transistor amps. 20kHz goes more curved if steady & still tidy with 3.6µsec. To try 100Hz shows a bit of a tilt down to the right of the wavetop on the Amp output, this either means phase error HFN/RR said but to us it means Bass isn't quite true. Here the LX33 has Tone Controls if no Bypass, to try to straighten the curve reveals it is a Bass limitation as adding Bass on Tone rounds the top of the wave off & testing to 25Hz has the curve hit the zero position. This shows valves are great on 1kHz but there is some Bandwidth limiting at the extremes if Bass is still acceptable on the wave Tilt as 100Hz. At 100kHz the Square Wave becomes a Sine wave if at 40kHz it's still got some sign of Squareness to it. This shows the LX33 as it stands is equal of any at 100Hz-10kHz if some roll-off under & above. The Preamp by itself with 1kHz is slightly faster at about 2.9µsec if with a slight tilt downwards on the left of the wavetop. 10kHz has the tiny tilt similarly & a tiny spiking on the right of the wave top at 2µsec. 20kHz is still decent if with a tiny spike if averaging 2µsec. At 100kHz the wave is curved off but still noticeable as a Square rather than a Sine. Conclusion here is this valve amp is extremely fast, a slight limiting under 100Hz & over 10kHz could depend on the transformers as well as how hot you Bias the amp.

Square Waves Don't Tell That Much In Reality.
The above tests show Square Waves are useful to a degree, but the trouble with Electrical Tests is they really don't tell you much. We don't care about THD tests as we can hear what's right or not, THD is just based on sine waves, not music, so unimportant to us. Only by listening with a Trained Ear that takes years & many amps to get right, as well as Upgrading-Redesign will the Best Sound reveal itself. To listen for Background Hiss & Hum, Stereo Separation, Depth of Soundstage as Stereo or Mono, How Punchy the Bass is: Square Waves do reveal limits on Deeper Bass if not how it actually sounds. How Sweet The Treble Is: Square waves will reveal where Treble is slower on Rise Time & from the above Tests even on much upgraded amps the High Treble does stay at a certain Slew Rate beyond a point. We need to get a Grainy Sounding ICs Amp & see how that tests to see what 'Bad Sound' looks like. The Sony pair on the Tannoys again today after using the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 shows quite a difference in sound. The precision may be higher with the Sony but it lacks the extra bit of volume the 1v preamp to 1.4v power amp is, 72% is showing it's limited, to get more gain from the Power Amp is a tricky one. Square Waves don't reveal the Difference in Tonal Balance as every amp differs, even ones in the same model-year range. They won't reveal if an Amp & Speakers match. They only seem to show a certain quality & where there can be improvements made, the KA-6000 getting warm on playing 10kHz Square Waves shows it's not quite there yet. As with any Testing, to use your Ears as well as the Test results. Similar with Cars, how they handle at speed, on cornering or stuck in traffic, the Specs will never reveal that. Reviews of Hifi in the Hi-Fi News/RR were often useless just giving objective results that have no real meaning yet saying "First Class" based on what else was available at the time. State Of The Art is similar, the 'Art' can improve as it did over the 1963-72 era if then it appeared to get worse for Cost Cutting beyond the very top models which were still priced not to be the best.

Vintage Hi-Fi On "Home & Away" Set.
On the Aussie soap "Home & Away" the recently altered flat over the Diner that currently has the new cop Colby & Robbo you can't help but notice his huge Vintage Speakers that look home made, a Receiver amplifier & 1980s Turntable if we assume his Records are in the Army Cabinet they stand on. We got a screenshot of the amp TV Pic & it's a Realistic STA-82 as shown on the HFE Site after a little searching, if the sliders & a hint of the "RS" logo & Realistic wording on this clearer pic than seen before. It's only a 22w amp though & look how high the sliders are set which would push it into distortion. Previously the Braxton house had one of the mid 1970s Sony Receivers like a 1978 Sony STR-V3 style, so good to see the set has vintage gear as props as younger people would buy secondhand gear, if perhaps a 43 year old Realistic is too old. The Realistic STA-82 looks a c.1974-75 receiver with build like the SA-1500 amp from 1974 that we've had. Fairly basic as the era & 22w suggests, service manual is findable showing this one sold better than the early ones. One board for Phono, Tone & Power amp & another for Tuner. Differential power amp & probably much like the SA-1500 which was a bit cost cut in build on the casing if the amp circuit design was better, all transistors on audio here. The early Realistic amps had a quality sound if usually sold to buyers who didn't look after them, suggesting many only sold as big discounted items once the new range appeared in the Tandy-Radio Shack shops.

The Difference Between Repairs & Skilled Recap-Upgrades.
The Akai AA-5800 amp we just got shows differences betwen the Repair Guy & the Craftsman which is us. Repair Guy just does what it takes to get it working, as seen often care is not their concern, whilst it is ours. The AA-5800 originally had 2 core mains that we don't like as it has no Mains Ground & today the Amplifier is usually the only Hifi item with Ground connection. Whoever had this before fitted this modern over-thick 13A size cable. The Moulded plug cable is too thick & not long enough so we fit our usual 5A mains cable of a typical 6ft length as 4ft as here is too short we find. Their job was done fine though & a "Tested For Safety" label on the plug for the day we bought is a bit of a joke on seeing leaky capacitors inside, PAT testing is pretty worthless as we've said before. The repair seems to have knocked out the R channel so new output transistors of at least a compatible type but only one side replaced with ones of varying brand is just sloppy to us, we'd replace all 4 to have them new together. Two adjust pots seem to have failed on the Relay-Protector board & strange huge multi-turn ones fitted which will have to go. Transistors replaced only on one Driver Board may not be the same number as the original, again replace the lot L+R is what we usually do if it works fine here & spec is matched enough, to test further can reveal the repair put in wrong spec ones that stop the Bias voltage as we found on one amp recently. The output transistor resistors one had failed, if they just solder in a wrong value one of the double resistor type with the unused leg bent out of the way rather than go buy a correct one, again to match the set of 4 is doing it right. An amp using caps from 1972 depending on how heavily used you may get 10 years' further use from, if we can hear it sounds tired, not all can tell it's past it's best & will just use until it fails. The leaky capacitors tell us it'll not last long though. We'll just recap the lot to give a "as near new" user experience as buyers clearly do like, no point in just patching it up to work once it's over 40 years old. The person forever taking an amp in for repair will waste more than a proper rebuild could cost, from stories we've heard. They seem to like the fact "it's in for repair" like it's cool, but your tech is just wasting your time & money. At one time the only people buying secondhand Hifi were those who couldn't afford New, in the 1990s vintage Hifi was always £20 we found, today who want's New when it's disposable after 2-5 years & yet a 45 year amp can be rebuilt to last 10-20 years if done well. We've mentioned bad repairs before & to get an amp that's had repairs can be a big job to undo "the idiot's mess" if these days with upgrading all we get, their mess goes with the rest, but it's just when difficult parts are changed that it gets tricky. To see what else the AA-5800 has had done often only reveals once we get deeper. Even things like seeing resistors that are fitted end up to save space, they look like a Spider's been playing Battlesticks as all are not sited neatly, tidy it up as things may short as it's only paint on the resistor ends. Similarly wires underneath messy, a bit of tape long dried leaving loose wires so put several cable ties to group similar cables neatly. Presentation & putting new capacitors in evenly matters, a sloppy mess doesn't encourage confidence in a person's work. Often the wonky components are as-made, we had a Rotel RA-03 amp bought new before getting the Sony TA-1130, with the preamp IC not even pushed flat onto the board, half up in the air & legs still soldered, but just looks poor. To clean the insides & out matters as well as cosmetics tidying if required, without going to reveneer levels, just looks like Care has been put in, not a rush job like TV repair guys do with no care for Hifi standards. So far on the AA-6800, new mains cable to our standard, preout main in connector was just a bent bit of corroded junk so a lucky search found 2 real ones that fitted. The Speaker connectors will be replaced as screw ones are useless even with fork connectors. The top lid is the correct one but looks like it was paint brushed black over what seems the right colour. Again messy so needs tidying. The 'wood' sides are vinyl effect plywood if original. But to a general dealer.. "it works, PAT test it flog it", if their price shows where they are in the line, the many ebay sellers putting 5x the "raw aged but working" price on Attic Finds wonder why they never sell. Too much unknown is in a 40+ year old amp & we are gambling on every one we get & we've had some bad buys as you'd expect, these took a huge amount of work to get right to Our Standard to sell.

Why Don't We Have More UK & EU Amplifiers To Upgrade?
The trouble is as we've found with Bang & Olufsen EU & Goodmans UK gear is that the quality of the designs is just not as good as USA-Japan gear that can be upgraded well & give reliable results. The "Other Amps" page plus the Reviews page shows many have been considered, yet we have no Revox, Tandberg or Braun gear which is an omission. We've looked at these to buy before if condition stops it being worthwhile or price puts them out of reach. The issue here too is Axial caps can be recapped if it’s a lot more work to measure & find sizes, just it uses more general quality caps than the Panasonic Audio quality, to use those with long leads stretched across looks amateurish. The Braun Regie 501 & big 55w Braun CSV1000 are expensive for the retro styling, the ‘Snow White’s Coffin’ radiogram long a collector’s piece, if the audio quality heard is not so good like B&O gear. UK-EU gear isn’t as easy to upgrade as USA-Japan gear & as we found with Goodmans Module 80 once upgraded fully like a Japan amp would get just to see how it behaved, but it revealed how poor the design was in too many ways, so bad & basically the whole amp just couldn't cope except on it's low spec design so we just gave up & rescued the parts back. Bizarre unstable noises, hard clunks on switches, it’s why it was so tamed on bass. So to be wary of UK-EU gear, never tried to fully upgrade B&O 3000 seeing issues & the B&O 4400 similarly. Not tried Tandberg either for similar reasons. Revox & similar on the early amps we've looked, some have bad designs using bipolar high value capacitors that are no longer made. The amount of work to recap with Axial Caps is a lot more involved to measure sizes & order takes ages as we've found recapping Fisher 600T & the power supply of Trio-Kenwood TK-140X. So we'd not really search out the UK-EU gear having tasted enough of it & knowing the issues. Having a collector's piece like the Braun Regie 501 we'd not know how good it was until seeing it here & then the difficulties of upgrading. The USA-Japan gear is just so much better designed giving an endless amount of quality to upgrade as much as we like on some. The UK-EU stuff sadly is very different.

The Hi-Fi Scene From 1958 Stereo until 1964.
Progress is slow in this era, if it does start to grow more by 1963 in reaction to the superior Imported Goods, before that & even into 1967 the UK Hifi Scene was still not much different overall to the Post stereo 1958 era. We detail the interesting progress in Yearly Blogs below. In the non Hi-Fi scene Radiograms & Portable record players like Blaupunkt 'Blue Spot' radiograms & the 'Dansette' type probanly are what most are buying as Hifi is still a small scene not helped by the lack of progress over the 1958-64 era. Tape as Open Reel players of a Rexine covered portable type are hyped as 'the thing to have' & much is advertised & written about them, if the cost of them being 3x a typical amplifier to much more for a decent one will have kept sales low. Most of these were European brands & probably not many machines around now. 1958 to 1964 covered the later Rock & Roll to Teen Pop to early Beatles. On seeing used but not abused records of the era, the heavy run in marks tell what sort of players were being used, autochangers with heavy playing weight if by c.1962 the Garrard players lost the solid one piece arms for the lighter metal tube arms that were kinder on records, if there will have been many playing Beatles on an older Dansette. The 1964 Amplifiers list page of ours shows a few early Transistor amps, these will have been Germanium ones & the poor UK-EU ones that age badly. Only by 1965-66 do the better Transistor Amps from USA which were soon followed by Japanese ones that came to dominate over later years. The 1956-64 idea of British Hifi was to build into a cabinet, if by 1960 the USA brands that UK never saw were starting to be freestanding with self powered Preamps & Tuners, the aged UK amps were still drawing power for both from the power amp, the Quad II/22/AM-FM Tuners were all pulling power from the II poweramp which was a modest design. In Valve Amps the biggest break-through was by 1963 with the Trio WX-400U they finally ditched the GZ34 type valve rectifiers that used a lot of power & limited the designs. We see that only with 'solid state' power supplies, ie Diodes, can any amp ever be considered Hifi & be upgraded into something a modern user would want, the rest are nice but are for Collectors & too old to upgrade, if these are often seen repaired & recapped as like-for-like if not sounding as the owner hoped so they get sold on. The Early UK Transistor Amps were only 10w so not enough power, 15w we see as a minimum for an acceptable volume, plus the aging Germaniums, not to be confused with the superior Japanese ones that don't grow "tin hairs" from the method of manufacturing. The Germanium Transistor itself has a sweet & pure sound that is very appealing. The Birth Of Modern Hifi really is from amps like the 1965 Sony TA-1120, if UK only got it late 1967 by which time the simplified TA-1120A was around.

Hi-Fi In 1962 : A Digest.
Jan 1962
The Beatles' My Bonnie' was first issued on UK Polydor slowly heralds a new Era, gradually moving away from the mainly UK Hifi pre 1962 ideals as is the Pop Music of the era. Tape is much advertised & a Jason amp that stayed advertised until 1965 appears, trying to compete with the USA brands their J2-10 Mk III 12w stereo amp will still be valves if with looks that are better styled than some 1964 UK brands & had a Tottenham Court Road showroom. seems UK brands didn't really progress until Leak & Rogers by later 1964, the Rogers HG88 II is still an ancient looking amp, we had one & it was still an early sort of design if in a better freestanding case but not upgradeable as the next ranges are. January 1962 was still not much different to 1959-60, only the sales rules changing bringing in Competition shook up a staid scene. Overall the Hi-Fi Scene started to 'Get Modern' by 1963 & progress was good by late 1964, if as you can see there were actually not many highlights, Hifi was growing but until the Transistor era, it was still more a Radiogram, Radio & Record Player era for the majority of buyers. Much more to come on the 1965-69 era. Feb 1962 has a Philips 'Starmaker', soon renamed 'Battery Portable Tape Recorder' the first small portable Tape Machine sized like a Radio with the Reels on top. Aimed surely at Teenagers or Would Be Reporters with 8.5" tape. "Philips The Friend Of The Family" is their rather naff brand name slogan before "Simply Years Ahead" that was equally suspect if trying to endear the brand & for the Philips record label it did well. TSL have an early Transitorised Tuner if operates on 9 & 3 volt batteries, why not put a transformer in for mains as no-one would buy it. Radford DSM Control Unit & STA 12 power amp look far more advanced than even the Quad 22/II & we've seen high prices paid for this & the higher power ones which seem to be the best UK amps of this era. Mar 1962 sees likely the first Sony ad for the 521 tape machine with flaps to direct the sound from the built-in amplifier. Still the typical suitcase style if the Sony mechanism looks years ahead of the usual crowd, price 124gns = £130. Early appearance for Shure cartridges that look ahead of their time too. The Antex soldering iron looking nearly the same as the current 25w ones was new this month as a 15w version. One of the earliest Hifi Mail Order companies was C.C. Goodwin of Wood Green, London N22, their stock was nearly all UK product with just a few Cartridges by B&O, Shure & Philips. Apr 1962 which was the London Audio Show month gets more advertisers & shows how early Hifi still as as a full page ad for Brimar Valves of the ECC83, EF80 & TV valves shows. Garrard 301 in the strobe-white-silver panels design. Goodmans New Axiom 201 & 301 12" speakers get a double page ad. Vortexion with their Pro gear 120/200 is 120w continuous & 200w peak looking like lab gear, a 30/50w version probably used by the Beat Groups & a 12-way Electronic Mixer for 12 microphones, plus smaller 3 & 4-way ones, 2x5 way for Stereo with Echo Chamber output. Joe Meek type gear. Aceley Electric Ltd of Essex have B&O record player & pick up arm plus Avel-Dynaco kits or ready made amp & preamp. Tannoy ad woth the Dual Conentrics will be 'Silvers' at this time plus their cartridge range. Leak Sandwich Speaker was out by 1962. Wharfedale & Gilbert "G.A." Briggs advertising his books, see our Books & Mags page for more. May 1962 gets a big full page ad for the Brimar ECC807 valve as used in Rogers Cadet III & HG88 III if these were only made by this brand & the problem with Rogers amps is the availabilty of these which will be aged & used, old valve tend to burn in to the design & don't like upgrading as the spec differs. B&O ad with the Beolit 609FM radio that is still considered a good portable Radio, the B&O 608 amplifier with 15w we've thought wasnt so great on being asked to upgrade one. CBS introduce tape to compete with several other brands, Irish tape was another one we saw advertised often in the early HFN, distributed by A.C. Farnell who sell electronics components still. June 1962 has nothing new. Jul 1962 has Decca with the Decca Decola stereo Separates, the Decola originally being the 1947 PX25 Radiogram often ripped apart for the power amp which is a pity as the rest of the unit is very classy with felt lined interior. The 1962 amp version is a "24w" version, actually 12w per channel, with classy speakers with 6 mid-treble drivers unusually. Heathkit by Daystrom Ltd regularly have full page densely filled ads with kits to build in many Audio, Hifi & Portable items. The HMV 555 10w Stereo amp with Oscilloscope distributed by Clarke & Smith Mfg Co is one we've seen make high prices, i the innards as 10w is still pretty basic, why an Oscilloscope is needed & will it still work. The Collector type amps rather than use daily or even at all. The First Fully Transistorised Integrated Amplifier is the UK-made Radon R610 mono & R600 stereo, 10w with MM & Crystal Phono, full range 20Hz-30kHz & -60dB noise level which will mean too much hiss on most speakers which is a problem with the early Hifi, Signal:Noise Ratios of today & even amps like the 1965 Sony TA-1120 are -100dB or better. Another notable Turntable Arm is the Worden Articulated Pickup Arm, a woodern arm that starts the disc with the headshell section tilted in if by the end it straightens up. A good idea of sorts if it's suggested add 0.5g weight to typical tracking & it soon disappeared once the MM cartridge got popular. The reply to the review was very sniffy & revealed 3.5g tracking on Decca cartridges suited it as did 1.5g ADC. It failed is the historical reply. Aug 1962. One of the best sections in early HFN were the John Berridge sections including his later reloacting to USA, if sadly Nov 1964 reported his early demise in his late 30s. One of the best Hifi writers of his era. Imhofs of 112-116 Oxford Street London WC1 seem to be the biggest Hifi sellers in the coutry & later imported Fisher amplifiers confirming their importance, Google shows they sold TV, Records & Hifi until 1981. Just too late for us to see them if we saw the HMV shop at 150 later that year. B&O has the first modern looking turntable on the Model 608, a recessed platter on a plinth with thin type arm fitted, just the platter being undersized to a 12" LP dates it. Sep 1962 says "Someone Had To Do It!" if the Thorens TD.124 does what the B&O 608 just above does, if it has no plinth. Modern curved tube thin arm, proper 12" platter keep it a popular one today, if the Garrard 301-401 is still preferred. The Goldring-Lenco Gl.70 is like the B&O 608 if a larger platter. B&O got there first. Lowther LL15S 15w monobloc a amplifier gets a review with circuit diagram too, a GZ37 valve rectifier puts it in the 'too early to upgrade' category, if early stage voltages are 80-90v so no coupling caps need & the EL34s get 1µf coupling which is unusual when other amps still use 0.05µf, ultralinear mode. ECC82 is the only known use in a UK amp of the era says the review. Decca Mk II Pickup Arm is the first of the thin tube arms going back to seing on the very earliest Decca Stereo LPs from 1958-59, we had the headshell once & though it sounded nice but was very dull sounding & it does say 50k ohm loading too. Oct 1962 has the first Pioneer Receiver, SM-801, power is misleading, 90w is 45/45w max power, 70w is 35/35w undistorted, if these are USA type Peak Ratings, likely it's a 15w RMS amp to define it as 7591 valves are no more than 18w, like an EL84 if specs differ. 'Howard Tape Recorders' is the first HFN ad to show a Younger Teen-Beat Music Liking Person, a messy-haired pretty blonde early 20s woman with the mic going into a Pillar PO Box. Deal seems to be pay monthly type & the ad runs for many months. She'd be nearly 80 if still around. Nov 1962 has the first Sherwood ad S-5000II Amp, S-5500II amp & S-3000II tuner. Probably the first USA amplifiers imported in the UK since the mid 1950s RCA Orthaphonic range. John Crabbe, later HFN/RR Editor becomes the Technical Editor this month. Pickering & Ortofon have regular ads though the year for Stylus Cartridges or Pickups as they were called then. Dec 1962 has the Garrard AT6 automatic record player with arm, seen in better Radiograms of the era & the 1962 Pye Black Box Stereo Coffee Table version we used in our early record playing days, if as a 19 year old unit then. a more lightweight arm & it never scratched any records or wore them like the earlier Dansette could. Overview of 1962. The lifting of Trade Restrictions brought the better USA & EU gear into the UK & it's very clear this competition improved the Hi-Fi scene greatly. Still lots of 1950s looking UK Amplifiers if the style of adverts as well as the newer gear is very much improved from earlier years. 1962 is still very early but clear signs of progress.