Hi-Fi Blog... Page 3
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June 2018 Blog
Hi-Fi in 1963: A Digest.
shows there is already steady progress, as 1962 details, towards more familiar items, the HMV Stereoscope amps first seen in 1962 were a step towards Hifi & make good prices if as with most 1956-64 Valve gear we do wonder why for the circuits are still very basic. Sony with Tape Machines & other brands like Gevaert (pre Agfa merge) & Ampex show the non UK brands. Goldring turntables look far more modern, if these are armless ones you'd add an SME to, Revox Model 40 amp, 10w valves, is an early EU import with UK branch even, KEF Celeste, Tandberg, Sherwood S-5500II integrated amplifier is one of the first USA amps to get UK distribution. Pioneer SM-Q300B Stereo Receiver another first. Pickering 380A & Shure M33-5 cartridge from the USA. Progress by Jan 1963 indeed all show how trade restrictions that were recently lifted brought in the Best Of Worldwide to the UK & soon many UK brands couldn't compete on price or quality, as their gear it has to be said was old fashioned, crude, ugly & still without much progress since 1958. But here the Valve Amp was still King, if to a standard now that the Rogers Cadet & HG88 III from 1965 would progress on, the earlier Rogers were still crude & all British slow progress. Feb 1963 still has a huge amount of ads relating to Tape machines & blank tape, despite it being a small market, the machines were 3 times the price of an amplifier on average, so competition was fierce. World Record Club ad highlights Tapes over LPs any 3 for 30/- introductory offer, if WRC was always tame on what it had, a Platters R&B LP being the most interesting on their selection. Goodmans report their new 12" Axiom 301 was popular, probably used by many Beat Groups if 20w via a PA amp will still be loud. Purchase Tax was reported to be reduced on many items, not Amplifiers but Records, all to help The Beat Era along, how kind. BBC Stereo broadcasts were expanding to Snday Mornings, if the amount with Stereo MPX Tuners will have been tiny. A London shop called 'Politechna' must have confused several or more to read 'Polite China'. Goldring 88 turntable is another new no-arm one if it's not one of the more wanted ones today. The Decca Separates speaker mentioned above gets a review to say how smooth it sounds with 6 tweeter units, large surface area of the 6 x 4" cones, if sadly it's 15w and 15 ohm rating keep it away from being much wanted beyond early Valve Amp users. Rogers Cadet II gets a review, one rarely seen, it's a small sized preamp with just 6w rated power amp, for building into cabinets, the earlier Cadet III was a 2 part unit if most you see are the later one piece unit. Mar 1963 have Lowther with the top-handle PM4 speaker & the Acousta enclosure, 'famous' they say yet no specs or price shown. Lowther made very few items & as the List Of Amps page shows, they still had unsold ones into 1970. Not much new in this issue if the Sherwood S-8000 II receiver rated 30w which is likely 15w per channel for £138, never seen one for sale, as with the early Trio & Pioneer receivers few will have sold in the UK. Apr 1963 has a bizarre front cover with Louis Armstrong trapped in a huge valve amid circuit diagrams, some night that must have been. Audio Show edition means a thicker issue if later 1963 ones match it for size. Hotel Russell in Russell Square London WC1 was used for several years until interest grew. Largs is another of the big London WC1 shops sellin g Hifi & Cabinets. Sherwood announce the First Public Demo of Stereo Multiplex, the BBC will have broadcast more Stereo to make this possible. Sherwood XP-1 a "200w fully transistorised receiver of the future" also shown, if 200w is likely 50w RMS, but nothing on Google shows it was only a prototype, if someone has it still, maybe, it's pictured on p773, a long slimline unit with coupling transformers first seen at the 'New York Audio Fair last Autumn' they say. The article on the fair says Radford have transistor gear with SC5 preamp with 5M, 6 & 6M versuions if the power amp isn't named or on our List of amps page. A SC4-20 transistor integrated 20w amp expected by May. Tannoy York & GRF are newly out as standard box versions instead of the corner units as previously. Just to show the lack of progress by UK makers, a 1958 looking box Derritron (Chapman) 306 8w amp is unlikely to have impressed many compared to the 'new stuff' of the last year or so. The 'Paraline' DIY kit speaker is first mentioned & must have been popular as it's heard of for a few years with updated versions, if to us it's not so good with a speaker driver at 45° facing up towards a wall to reflect sound, Stereo imaging will have been limited, if it was made as a budget price speaker, the double version is nearly 7ft long at 82" total, a space waster too. Again the USA amps are way ahead, the H.H. Scott 299C at 136gns (£143) if we assume a wood case was available too. Also shown for many years are the Cecil Watts products, the infamous Dust Bug today is useless & leaves marks on Garrard 301 plinths, if at the time pre perspex lids, you left the disc to collect dust & the Bug picked it up. The Disc Preener velvet tube was popular too, if in reality it just dragged dust over the record more than remove it. May 1963 shows the 1963 Hifi Year Book was out earlier in the year, if later the difficulties of making a book with new Audio Fair items in April meant the book could be out of date, so later it came out in the Autumn. Mullard Control Unit pre amp by Stern Radio as a new product still looks so old fashioned, yet the ads show this strange mix of outdated UK gear & flashy USA amps & EU tape recorders of more sophistication. The UK stuff just looks tired & through the 1960s many UK brands deservedly fade away for not updaing their looks or circuits. The HMV Model 655 10w Integrated Amplifier has better looks & is available as the 657 power amp & 656 preamp, if it's still valves, the HFN reviewer says it's a good looker, if in reality still way short of Sherwood, Pioneer & Trio. Jun 1963 has the Audio Fair report, but the inside cover has a big USA Fisher X-100 amp looking so classy, £59 17s buys the non cased version for a 20w USA rated Amp, likely 10w if the X-100-B is 15w. We have the slightly later X-100-B looking similar to upgrade as of typing. The UK Rogers HG88 II for £40 on a following page with 12w just looks so basic in comparison. £40 in 1963 is £800 in 2018, would buyers today spend £400 extra to get quality? The Sherwood Stereo test is revealed as them playing a Stereo Record & using their own local transmitter of low power, no BBC help yet. In this era, "Readers' Hi-Fi Installations" pictured the gear people actuaslly used, most was UK gear built into ugly cabinets & the amount of Quad gear pictured shows that the Hi-Fi Press had sold the brand very well to the Public. The Naim-Linn type of Press Hype was years before with Quad. The fact that a Hifi Mag tells you how to build a 'Transcription Pickup Arm' seems impossible, but here one is, if you'll need an advanced metalwork shop to make one, unlikely many bothered to try if we've seen some laughable home-made arms that came with our cream Garrard 301, bits of wood & crudely shaped metal. Pioneer SM-500 is a 25w valve amp we'll blog on below as we have the circuit diagram. Jul 1963 has the Eagle advert as seen a few months before, but no info on what they are, amps, tuners & an early double tuner Receiver by the looks of it, the early way to get Stereo FM so obsolete by now for Multiplex. Aug 1963 Wharfedale get on the Compact Speakers "with Clean Bass" they say, if 23in high is a lot bigger than the tiny 11" Goodmans Maxim out in the previous year. Sherwood are advertising every month of recent issues, if how many they sold doesn't match with the ads for what you see trying to find one as they are rare. Probably booked a year's ads in hope of big sales that didn't come. Sep 1963 has Eagle again if finally realised they needed info on the ads. the double tuner rec eiver with 2 Magic Eye tuner 'meters' is the SM.Q141 with '14 watts' which may be 7w RMS per channel or only 5w. The tuners are one per channel it reveals to get the obsolete FM Stereo that was half on FM, half on AM. Eagle SA.150 says "15w" but on looking at their valve amps on our 'List Of Amps' page for 1964 probably 7w RMS per channel. Ortofon SPU-G/T-E Moving Coil Cartridge is reviewed, Not quite the later MC type as 2mV output & it's a headshell unit of the Technics type connector used today still, not just a cartridge £29 or £26 without the transformer. Oddly they reviewed the SPU-G/T only in Nov 1962 so the E is Elliptical of 0.9 thou major x 0.31 thou minor & must be the First Elliptical Stylus if the sizes seem to be Mono Compatible as the review tells & tracks fine at 2g. H.H. Scott 299C amplifier at a hefty £142 new (£2800 2018 equivalent) gets a review, a 40w amp if it's still got a Valve Rectifier which is a pity.Oct 1963 has a Trio (Kenwood) advert, the first one of theirs in the UK has the Trio W-41U amplifier we've had, if no Trio WX-400U yet, also has the Trio W40J 10w RMS receiver, Trio W38 7w RMS, Trio WE24 5w RMS integrated, Trio W45A 9w integrated, Trio WE8S which is about 4w RMS & Trio W10-10.S unrated receiver, a lot of similar powered models a few turn up as Trio were still trying to sell these in 1967 when they were long out of date in looks if great retro looks now. The UK brand 'Jason' shouts on a full page of Expansion, if are still selling 1962 amps & soon faded away. UK Hifi manufacturers really did fail to keep up with the USA & EU progress at the time, the newly imported Japanese amps kept the USA quality seeing how good some of the best gear was. "Transistors In Audio" is a comprehensive 14 page section, not including ad pages, that we'll blog separately on. More Pioneer amps with the obsolete Eagle idea of Double Tuners, some crafy salesmen flogging obsolete gear, the Pioneer SM-G204E & Pioneer SM-Q300E likely 8-10w RMS by the 14w-17w max power ratings. Fisher X-100 gets a review, GZ34 valve rectifier as we noticed on looking at the X-100-B when we helped a customer buy a Fisher valve amp. HFN like the styling if don't say anything about the sound as typical, if hearing the X-100-B as original, the buyer of this will have stepped up several flights in quality based on more average UK gear. Nov 1963 shows a typical way the adverts are now, here for expected Xmas sales a big run of the main dealers & brands is interesting. Imhofs has a double spread as the first pages showing a range of the best items if probably only for the richer buyer, Imhofs show they are the Best Hifi Shop in the UK for importing Fisher & the range they stock. Cecil Watts with the Dust Bug, Parastat & Disc Preener all out of date by the end of the 1960s. Revox, Largs, Goldring, Stern-Clyne amalgamate for their Kit amps, Dulci (Lee Products) & their 1958 looking UK gear looks so old fashioned now, Goodmans Axiom 10 gets a page ad if only 10w, Modern Electrics of London W1 are one of the first to do those densely worded ads covering many products, Garrard, Tele-Radio of Edgware Road W2, Eagle, Heathkit by Daystrom more kits on a double page, Brenell with their 1950s looking tape machines, Clarke & Smith with the 655, 656 & 657 the same as the HMV ones from earlier if rebranded, Decca Anti Rumble Pick Up Arm sounds a bad idea as the arm must lose energy in soft construction to lose bass & more than the bass, C. C. Goodwin another densely worded ad, Sony distributed by Tellux of Essex & of course Quad get the page facing the Editorial. Further in Driitron-Chapman announce a "New Range Of Elegance" if it's far from the USa & Japan styling, still using 1950s white bakelite knobs with gold inserts is still looking no later than 1960 to us. Armstrong by this time look better, we did buy the Armstrong 221 hoping it'd be a good one based on these looks, if the circuitry was mediocre as we reviewed, looking at the prices shows they are much cheaper than competing UK brands. H.H. Scott 299C ad "here comes... and there goes 136 gns... and worth every penny of it". Aimed at those who must have the best, if how it compares to the Fisher of a lower price we'd like to know if USA ebay doesn't really have any & the age will mean so much to rebuild. The amount of Teak Hifi Cabinets that are Radiogram shaped interests, a big market in these as build-in amps like Quad needed them, but after 50-60 years how many got thrown out unaware of the good stuff inside. Explains the rarity of early gear if usually ones kept behind doors & lids are in high grade as the Quad II system we had in 2002 was from an unseen cabinet with 2x Garrard cream 301s. Nagra III tape recorder is the first UK showing of this premium Swiss made professional machine, price £339 is £6600 today. The review says it's world class & probably for an open reel machine today it'll have many wanting it in a similar way to the best cameras, if ebay shows £300-500 is an expected price today. Dec 1963 adverts add Stentorian-Whitely speakers ad that's an occasional regular, Philips Tape "it's ready packed in colourful Christmas wrappers", Telefunken tape recorders, Vortexion with their high power pro gear, Kodak with blank tape, Agfa pre the merger. Leak gets their ad after the editorial "lowest prices highest quality" which means we sell decent midprice gear, a cabinet with the Point-One stereo preamp £21, Stereo 20 power amp £30 & Trough-Line II FM tuner £29. Why they call it 'Troughline' is so ebay sellers spell it wrongly. Trio has the Trio WX-400U if a typo as '4004' hides it, 99gns to you nearly double the price of most of theirs expect the 79gns W38. Scotch even have an ad, 3M as their long Minnesota Mining & Manufacting Co Ltd & they too have colourful xmas packing ion their blank tapes if they use an outdated 3-letter word to describe it, if looking at the 4th Santa maybe it's the right word, yeah like anyone'll see the ad to understand that. Ferrograph don't advertise much "The Incomparable Ferrograph" is a weak slogan. A 2 part article on the USA Audio Scene will get a blog below. The Hampstead High Fidelity cabinet is a big teak, walnut or mahogany cabinet. Well laid out with a Turntable & Tape Machine under a wood lid, no perspex yet, but the problem of where the Tuner & Preamp, at this time the Quad or Leak would be fitted is given a pull out section that tilts forward to show the fascias to use. a good idea, but the trouble is everytime you open - bump - everytime you close - bump - is what the Hifi gets as it's a full width section masybe with 10kg weight. Bumps mean Hifi fails & for valves to be shook up, it'll have had repairs often if likely the shop offered repairs unaware their design caused it. A Bizarre Mains Plug idea "Universal Mains Plug" to use older round pin plugs that we saw around in the 1980s if they should have been upgraded long before plus the modern square pin plug that's rectangular. The idea is the pins carrying mains retract, but again the problem is after a few uses they'll wear & could start sparking causing heat. Pre British Safety Standard Kite Mark days. Braun CSV 13, a smart all-white amplifier is a 12w valve amp for £75, likely these are rare & expensive, if ebay reveals not too much as £250-£350 will buy one, a German sold one shows it's very plain looking made just of bent metal panels, DIN connectors on the back & the insides do have that "European Radiogram" quality to them if it does have Bias adjust pots & no valve rectifier. One supposedly restored by a pro tech only made £250 & seeing their poor effort it explains the price. The Braun L60 speaker for £50 is futuristic-minimal looking, a white box on chrome leg square hoops like chairs. Then to see a Bryan Model 400 amp 12w for 60gns looking old fashioned back to the dated reality of UK amps. Trio W-38 receiver gets a review, 7w is all it is for the nice looks, ECL82s with 221v, Double Tuners AM/SW & AM/FM. the reviewer notices the 220 ohm 'stabilizing resistor' unaware it's in the WX-400U to keep headphone use safe, if thw W-38 has no headphone explaining why it wasn't understood. The 0.005mfd coupling caps were considered very low & they pick up on issues that the WX-400U had when we were trying to get the best from it, MM Phono lacked bass as did the WX-400U. The looks impress, worth buying for the looks alone even. Another shop that grew over the 1960s-1970 gets an early ad, R.E.W (Earlsfield) as they called themselves for years in Upper Tooting Road, London SW17. Telesonic end the issue with one of those densely packed ads if with photos too & with Monthly Payment terms being the first time if the Sept 1963 ad is similar. Buy Hifi on HP starting the Buy On Credit world. Overview of 1963: A long blog section here shows actually more things of interest than we'd expected, a big increase on 1962. But again for the Modern 2018 user there's not really much you'd want to use. There are interesting amps but they are 55 years old & not to be trusted for more than brief use. 1963 Speakers & Turntables that are useable are still limited to just a few.
The First All-Transistor Amplifiers Of Higher Power Were By Fisher.
Jan 1965 HFN shows a review of the 35w Fisher TX-300 amplifier. This was only imported by the big 'Imhofs' London shop & a $329 amp cost the UK buyer £169. This will have been the first Transistor Fisher to get to the UK if the earlier Valve ones Imhofs imported. 35w power for 1964-65 is very high, most other Transistor Amps going back to 1962 were usually 10w Germanium ones mostly of UK manufacture & not ones we'd consider trying for the low power. This clearly predates the Sony TA-1120 which arrived Nov 1965 if UK didn't get it until 1967 by the time the 1120A version was out if there will have been some earlier models. To know the USA Hi-Fi Scene better to find when McIntosh, HH Scott, Marantz, Trio-Kenwood & Sherwood first had early higher power transistors if sites showing this info take some searching. McIntosh first Transistor Power amp MC 2100 105w & MC 2505 50w in 1967. The MA 230 integrated amp in 1963 was transistor preamp & valve output hybrid & MA5100 45w from 1966 was all transistors. Marantz first transistor Power Amp is the "15" 60w from 1968 & the "18" 40w receiver.
1969 Sony TA-1166 & TA-1144 Rare Non UK Sony Amplifiers.
A reader in Sri Lanka recommended the TA-1166, if we didn't know of it as being in the UK, this "missing link" of the Sony Amplifier Range strangely didn't get imported if Google finds info & pictures. We consider it a Missing Link between the 1967 TA-1120A & the 1971 TA-1130. There are similarities to both & this amp is a Semi Complimentary one without the output coupling capacitor having ±40v HT supply. The styling on both is very different to the 1120-1130-1140-1150 design, looking quite like the early 1970s Marantz amplifiers with sliders & a black middle panel on a silver fascia together with some UK looks in other ways, not one you'd instantly see as a Sony. Back panel looks more like the Sony STR-6050 with pre out-main in connectors & a switch, not connecting cables as the TA-1120(A) had. As with the European styled Sony STR-6850 we had, the experimenting in styles by Sony around this time shows in the Brochures of the era, if clearly only certain countries got the TA-1166 & TA-1144 as an 'Export Model' has DIN sockets duplicating the Tape Connections. A Japanese brochure found online shows a Sony ST-5300 tuner in the same styling. The TA-1144 manual we have & it's a 30w one, the TA-1166 assumed to be 45w-50w. There is also a similar looking Sony TA-1000 that is likely 15w. Inside images on the blurry manual show it's all on one level as the 1120(A) & 1130 are. The TA-1144 will be a midprice amp, what the TA-1166 is like is unknown as no photos found. The circuits will be quite similar if build inside could be different. Still built on several PCBs & the Tone Sliders are unusually stepped sliders, not just a continual slider, assume it must be notched in use to be precise. Phono stage is more basic than the TA-1120(A) or STR-6120 with 2 transistors, Tone is 2 transistors & quite like the STR-6120, Power Amp is 7 transistors, no Differential. Regulated Power Supply with 4700µf is decent for the era. Overall it'll probably sound like the Sony STR-6050 which is an earlier 1969 design, a clean sound if limited deep bass & spec quite modest. One that would likely upgrade well.
Germanium Amps: Are They Any Good?
As all original, a Germanium amp has a soft pleasing sound, if not exactly fast & the circuit will be limited to keep it within it's limits, as well as being generally aged & a recap needed. The 30w KLH 27 receiver from 1967 is all Silicon except the Power Amp Drivers which we found were "not capable" for a 30w amp with a typical upgrade, so put Silicons in instead, plus the TO3 outputs were found to be Silicon too, so now the whole amp is. The Fisher 600-T & Fisher 440-T are nearly all Germaniums including the Output Transistors. An interesting design that sounds very pleasing with it's detailed if slightly retro sound. Tailored to fit the Germaniums spec is an unusual design, if very well created, it's not so honest. Another Germaniums amp was the Duette SA-500W which was a 1966 Japanese amp imported into the UK to be sold off cheap in the early 1970s. It was a strange one, nice sound if some crudeness in the design, but no circuits to see where. We recapped it, found some oddities & as the driver Germanium was hissy we put in different ones. The Germaniums did hiss a bit, the S:N ratio is not so good if the Fisher again was cleverly tailored to get the best from them. The buyer found it a wild amp on their speakers for the scary bass they said, if on our Tannoys it was fine, clearly it needs well damped speakers. The 1966 JVC MCA-104E was a better Germanium design than the Duette & it had a pleasing sound if again a slight hiss. The current Germanium amp the 1966 Rotel 100AMP appeared to have bad PNP Germanium outputs despite being the same number as the JVC MCA 104E 2SB 407s. We bought some NOS ones that were reading bad C-E as our old ones. To change the amp to NPN Silicons was a bit extreme if the Rotel 110A manual helped. The sound difference just for changing PNP Germanium to NPN Silicon took a rather blurry aged amp, even with the pre-power recapped, to sounding a lot better & we're playing it as we type. The softness & hiss of the Germaniums is noticeable & on playing bassy Reggae the amp with the Germaniums & still the original power supply can't cope occasionally. The Rotel pre & power amp has Germanium on all except the Driver which is a Silicon as is the Phono stage. 15w amp here & usually a Germanium amp of the Japanese design, which the USA Fisher 600-T & 440-T are very different, are usually at 10w for a reason, so they can cope. Higher power is a Silicon design which is why the KLH 27 was so poor until we rebuilt it. But the Germanium sounds softer if still detailed which may help hide rough sounds on less good inputs & edgy speakers. For the fact the Rotel 100AMP is much improved for Silicon outputs & with the tuner it's cute in the wood cases, as well as a rare one, to initially consider to upgrade it all from Germaniums just to see how good the design which is much like the Rotel 110A can be, but we wanted to have a Germaniums amp. The real progress in Hifi came once Germaniums were abandoned is the reality, if the Retro Sound is nice, it's a small & wallowy sound on the Japanese amps. UK-EU ones with known bad Germaniums we'd not bother with. The Rotel 100AMP gets the whole lot of the resistors on the tiny pre-power board replaced just for the hell of seeing what happens as there was a fault that wouldn't reveal without too much unsoldering. It solves the strange Balance Control issue so turned to L the R silences as the design suggests. The Rotel 110A is only similar on the Power Amp, the 100AMP has an extra transistor in the preamp likely as a Buffer. Sounds more stable with new resistors if still has the 5 Germaniums per channel to see what they sound like. The problem with Germanium is the S:N ratio is poor which is why they are so tailored in the Fisher 440-T/600T. The background hiss sounds like a seaside with a bit of a mainsy hum too. Wouldn't call it small & wallowy now with new resistors & new caps on that board too, if the rest is not recapped, the thick Retro bass is obvious if not excessive as part recapped. Is there a way to live with the Germaniums, the JVC must have been quite tamed to not be hissy. JVC MCA 104E is tamed quite a lot, the Germaniums sound being smooth is from tailoring of the design to give the best sound & least Hiss. The truth of Germaniums is out. But the Rotel 100AMP on the pre-power board Germaniums is a pleasing Retro sound, a bit crappy before Power Supply Recapping with limits but maybe that's the "warm vintage sound" others like & our upgrading to give a more precise sound isn't everyone's taste, but once you hear the upgraded as we'll put in the 100AMP, the cuddly Retro Sound will be forgotten about. But to try the amp with the hiss, hum & leaky stereo on speakers first. Hum is more noticeable than Hiss, if the amp itself sounds nice & there is a clean sound in the amp beyond the Hiss & Hum. It needs more work, but is it worth keeping?
But You Said... "Retro Bass & Germaniums Sounded Nice".
This is based on a Germaniums amp on the Pre & Power Stages if Silicon Outputs were needed. Recapped only partly on the larger caps as ones to order in. Beyond the Hiss & Hum it does sound nice like the sound you heard on lesser Audio Gear when you first took notice of Music, old Valve or European Transistor Radiograms rather than Portables. One Note Honky Bass with no Deep Bass but not thin sounding, a surreal sort of swishy sound & a bit rolled off on high treble. The Bass is bearable on some music if annoying on others. Playing 1960s Ska it has that 'Dancehall' flavour to it a bit like an overplayed valve amp & sounds rather Authentic. Here the Rotel 100AMP has new resistors & capacitors on the pre-power plus Silicon outputs & now a new main capacitor, if still the Pre-Power board is still Germaniums & will stay that way. Look on the better Audio Restoration programs like DC7 & they have a Virtual Valve enhancer to give the Harmonics that music Digitally Recorded when made has, to give it some character, in the same false way Crystalliser & Bass Enhance does on Soundcards. They need to add a Retro Bass & Germaniums limiter to DC7. The Fisher 600-T had this sort of sound, precision with the Retro sound that was an interesting one to hear on speakers, if not as honest circuit-wise to get the best from the Germaniums, but you could just hear how The Beatles 'Revolver' & other classic LPs of it's 1964-66 era would have sounded. The Rotel has that sort of sound too & we could upgrade it to Silicon but it'd lose the Retro Sound & just be like a 15w version of other amps. So if it's still noisy once other work is done, why not get the same Germaniums the JVC MCA 104E had? 2SB22 & 2SD30 are still buyable for the drivers, as are the originals. The Rotel is better without the TO3 outputs as Germanium, as the Sanyo ones are aged to almost short on C-E. The 100AMP has ceramics on the power amp still that will add to the Retro sound, on Tone the Treble gain they sound lousy, if on Silicon ceramics always sound gritty. After sorting a bizarre problem that stopped us playing Stereo tracks, we now can. This does reveal the limitations of Germanium more as louder 1980s treble can get caught out by the design & it still sounds softer than Silicon transistors can. Stereo tracks do make the amp sound inadequate, but on 1960s Mono tracks it suited better. Heavy Bass on the 470µf outputs doesn't come through too well & some ends up as the thick Retro Bass which is hard listening. But more to do still. Once the Capacitors all redone, interestingly some of the "Smooth Germaniums Sound" is more for aged capacitors as it's a lot crisper now. But 'thankfully' it still sounds Retro, the Ska is punchier but the dynamics a lot smaller than an upgraded Silcon amp we tried just earlier on the same tracks. No more lumpy bass either. Trying it on more demanding 1980s Stereo tracks, again the smaller dynamics if still a nice sound & doesn't embarrass itself now. It's a 15w amp & still has some background 'Sea Noise' hiss & slight hum, after all it is a modest 1966 design. It could be upgraded with all Silicons, but the idea was to have a Germaniums amp, if the Outputs didn't work out, the rest still has enough of the Retro sound.
Hi-Fi Sounds Best... With Clean Ears.
As people get older, past 40 or 50, their ears get bunged up with wax & debris. This creates a plug of dust, fluff & hair that you can still hear the full range past in lesser cases, but it's like "putting a sock in it" on an old Horn Gramophone as it reduces sensitivity, or you may be quite lacking in your hearing range but over time not realise. They put it down to aging so ignore it & say "aye?" all the time annoyingly as they can't hear you clearly. We've heard of those who can't stand Bass as it makes their Ears Buzz, no, it makes your earwax lump buzz, ugh. Another doesn't like to get their ears wet as it causes problems, actually it soaks the earwax blob to temporarily block your hearing canal. All rather nasty if unnecessary to suffer it. Use Cotton Wool Buds some say, no it just pushes the debris further up yor ears to block the eardrum & create the plug. To see those big metal Ear syringes & thought they just sucked your ear clean so avoid them, but no, it shoots warm water into your ear canal to clean it which is less traumatic than thinking your brains will be sucked out. To use Otex to soak the debris leaving a fizzy sound or just to spend an hour with warm soapy water syringing to soak & loosen the build up leaving it to soak a few times if the effect doesn't feel right yet & then see what's causing you bother in the sink to know you're done. But you remember as a kid you never needed this as you had a bath & soaked your earholes to clean them. So keep your lugholes clean, syringe wash them regularly, never use cotton buds & hear how sweet your Hifi sounds, or how rough it sounds perhaps.
Flatscreen LCD TV Problems: They Get Old.
We got our LG one in 2013 & it got upgrades to keep hot areas cooler by adding heatsinks, the plastic behind the rows of log thin Fluorescent tubes smelt bad after a year so we Wallpapered the inside with A4 sized paper stickers. Sorted. Not looked inside since 2015 say our dates inside. But now the Freeview Tuner doesn't work at all, not that we use it with TiVo but on BST arriving it still says GMT time on turning on. Also it's developed a slightly dark shadowy part that is obvious on bright scenes, but as Unserviced Hifi Users know you learn to put up with it as you're busy. So today we take the thing apart which despite 3 years since last doing it's remembered if needs careful handling of the big LCD unit, on the bed is best. LCD off, looks fine, two thinner plastic layers are fine too if them the darker areas are seen, it's on the thick plastic diffuser that's facing the long Bulbs. It has the typical Charged Dust issue & a wash cleans it off, surprising how dust gets in, we'll try to seal it more on putting back together. But a problem with that thicker sheet is, like most plastics, it browns with age & heat, which is noticeable against a white surface & the edges are lighter. It'll just keep getting darker if probably will last another 5 years, you'll need to adjust the TV settings which we can do to make it look like a big money TV beyond the Blacks not being quite Black, it's good enough. Another issue is the thin flat ribbon cables that drive the LCD, if these get loose you'll get Vertical Lines & for the amount of times we took ours apart to solve the smelly plastic liner issue, ours got slightly loose. Don't glue it as you'll lose Electrical Connection, we just taped a bit of thick card over it to hold it down so it's worked fine for 3 years. Many would just throw a 5 year old TV out & buy a New One as the World Wants You To, but us being resourceful will fix an item forever to get use out of it. The Boards look fine, no burst capacitors or popped ICs, to service it & put it back together is all we can do & see if that solves the Tuner issue. The tube lights gather that 'fine black electrical dust' slightly, like old CRT TVs used to insides & on the screen until the grounded flat screens arrived. No dust on the rear of the LCD panel, if the Power Supply panel is where the dark patch is & appears even with the plastic sheet backing it to be an issue that all will likely get. Plugged in, the picture without the dark shadow patch now, no lines shows our bit of card fix holds solid. Freeview now shows a picture, if only 6 channels instead of the full range, TV Forums say as Digital TV channels are together in 'multiplexes' as in grouped on the old Analog ones, the few we got only appeared late on in the Tuning suggesting some are weaker than others. UHF CH 35 has 6 channels, no Radio. Manual Tuning says 'No Signal' on going through each other one 21-69. More searching says the TV Channels altered & possibly the aerial is misaligned now, but the Freeview page says not despite the channel change noted. 18 March 2018 said to be a DTV changeover date & to do a Factory Reset which we have. Ch 61-68 now not DTV ones & Ch 31-37 & 49-60 are highlighted as the main ones. But "No Signal". Answer is likely the Aerial for the block is out of date & no-one else uses Freeview so no-one bothers complain. Leave it be as TV not damaged, if servicing the TV, resetting & using the same settings we devised in 2015 the picture appears brighter & clearer which will be partly the fine dust it collects inside. A LCD TV improves after being last serviced 3 years ago.
1966 Kenwood KW-1100 Valve Receiver.
One on ebay interests. "37w per channel" says HFE & it has 490v HT as 7591 valves can put out 43w in Push Pull as the Valve Museum site states Sylvania & these were used in a Hammond Organ amplifier. But these are shorter versions of the EL34 & others state 19w per valve maximum. 37w we assume is "Music Power" & a pair of EL34s in our Luxman LX33 is only rated 30w, probably a 20w-25w RMS amp by the size of the Output Transformers, probably nearer 20w. You need to research these early amps as the Power Ratings were misleading then as are now & people just blindly quote without putting a reality on things or seeing transformer size tells the power. The amp is tired looking & some new caps underneath if generally original. Receiver as was our Trio WX400U & the underneath is chaos as is typical. Phono stage has 2 valves & appears a little uprated to the WX400U one, lots more stages to the Power Supply reveal it's 3 years later but very complex. Has an extra valve for better gain as the WX400U seemed lacking if it was only 10w. ECC82, ECC83, 6AN8 triode-pentode for the Power amp first stage-splitter & 7591 push-pull pair. The 6AN8 is only available as NOS or used Vintage so it's obsolete. DC heaters on Phono & the Preamp. A plainer looking amp for 1966, looks more like a Sansui if the lid type is like the WX400U. The mix of valves in it is messy, they put 2x EL34s by the looks which aren't fully compatible. Simplified Tuner compared to the busy WX400U one. Grade of the insides shows bad storage so it'll never be a pretty one. If we'd not had the WX400U to know what a huge rebuild these are, it'd be one we'd try, but the reality is these amps don't get rebuilt, they just get patched up, sound too aged & mediocre so they aren't coveted. The results after a huge rebuild of amp & tuner including recap, upgrade & redesign will give a great receiver, but to do it properly to be use daily would be a very expensive job a way into into 4-figures. Would anyone dare to pay for an extreme upgrade like that? Unlikely, the amp will sell for £200-ish & the buyer will likely not do anything to it beyond a clean up & just add it to the collection to try once a year. The reality of the 1962-67 Receiver-Amps like this is the Rebuilt is just too much, a Valve Amp by itself to rebuild is more affordable if still an expensive job. Sells for £233 which on the face of it for a 20w valve amp is a good buy. To see amps like this first time will overwhelm at how messy & complicated it looks, only by taking time to learn the sections does it make sense & then is quite logical, but there are no manuals pointing out the parts in the unit. Advanced stuff, but rewarding if you can do the job right.
Comparing Two Mostly Upgraded Amps: 1970 Trio Kenwood vs 1972 Akai.
We compare Amplifiers a lot to decide which to upgrade further & keep around longer. This comparison session is with the 1970 Trio-Kenwood KR-6160 a 55w amplifier that uses the same UA1384 power amp board as the 1969 TK-140X II, the receiver version of the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000. The Akai AA-5800 appears to be their best 45w Amplifier from 1972 based on the 1970 Akai AA-8500 receiver. Both 6160 & 5800 have the same sized transformers if 55w vs 45w, the Trio we have found underrated in power for how welll they upgrade. KR-6160 & AA5800 upgraded to the same level, if still need big caps to order. KR-6160 differs from the KA-6000 circuit quite a lot as 2 lots of low NFB instead of one larger, the only amp design that does this. AA-5800 has a buffer on the input stage that no other amp has, at least of the 1965-80 era. Comparing back a few times with Bob Marley ‘Is This Love’ a much used test track as wide stereo & also his "Jamming" both recorded from the UK 1970s 45s. Both very close if the Akai is just slightly fresher & more open losing the slight blur of the Trio, if Trio does still have 1970 output capacitors which are likely the difference, Akai is direct coupled. KA-6000 in comparison beats both if more upgraded, if it's nearer the Akai sound. The hardest amp test is resolving 60s Mono Ska & it is better focussed on the Akai. KR-6160 upgraded more could match KA-6000, if the Akai is more unknown if could better KA-6000 & after KA-6000 the Akai still sounds good. KR-6160 we’ll finish & sell, if not upgrade more, still a great amp & betters the TK-140X in several ways including looks. A test on Speakers tells a different story though. The AA-5800 has wider Stereo if apparently not the Drive of the speakers on Bass that the KR-6160 does if that lacks the crisper detail to give the more detailed Stereo imaging.
Comparing Amps Via Pre Out & Power In Sockets.
Continuing from the above tests if worth a new header, as we've not compared pre/power stages for a while. Tests between pre & power need Blanking Plugs on the unused part to avoid difficulties as well as caution in putting the volume to zero on both to allow for level mismatches, as well as plugging things in right. The Akai AA-5800 pre-power level similar to Sony TA-2000F/3200F so why not compare pre of one on power of the other & vice-versa. Sony pre on Akai power shows Akai power is good & perhaps better than the Akai pre, if the Sony pre is a bit lower output as later found. Akai pre on Sony power is louder than the Akai fully as the volume control is set lower if the Sony pre sounds best. The Trio-Kenwood KR-6160 has a very different pre-power level so as blogged above it won't compare well, if does tell the Akai Preamp is weaker than the Power amp stage. Designs being designs the Akai pre maybe won't upgrade anymore than we have done already. But we can swap around the KR-6160 & KA-6000 pre-power amps so to try that. 6000 pre on 6160 power amp is good, if 6160 pre on 6000 power a bit limited if we know the circuit. So as 6160 & 6000 power amps differ in design as per TK-140X versions, try the 6000 power then the 6160 less upgraded power to see. 6160 still on original power & output caps yet it's crisper for the different amp board matching the Sony STR-6120 & Sony pair type detail. KR-6160 is the TK-140X II amp board & even not fully upgraded it sounds fresher than the KA-6000. The Trio-Kenwood KA-5002 looks like it may have the KR-6160 board but it's a later Fully Complimentary 1972 design. This test also tells the Sony TA-2000F is great, if the TA-3200F isn't as bassy as it could be. With these further tests, the Akai shows the preamp as with limits & the Trio-Kenwood preamp similarly. Which one to upgrade more?
We're Selling our Garrard 301 & SME IV Arm.
As Record Dealers we wanted the Best Vintage Turntable & from 1998 with a Silver-Grease Garrard 301 bought for £30 in an ugly cabinet with Dynaco Pre, Tuner & Amp, there it started. 301 was a NOS early one first used probably around 1968 & in high grade for being in that cabinet. To read the 1998 Hi-Fi News Vintage Supplements got us the Maxplank plinth that was the best one out then, beyond using the cold slate ones. The 301 came with an SME 3009 Series II that we thought was a bit lousy for the feeble Headshell that was like a Soup Strainer & lost too much energy in the 'soft' design, plus the awkward loose knife bearings. Put a more modern Headshell which improved it to a degree. We had a Garrard 4HF that was first out in 1959 some years before, the one with the steel platter & speed control that always burns out, if the Arm we thought was worth getting as the Garrard TPA arm & we got a nice boxed one & fitted it to the Maxplank plinth. It was a big improvement over the SME for being strongly made & rigid. But it was based on a 1959 design & weight adjusting & fitting a modern cartridge wasn't good enough so that got sold, the 3009 came back if still dissatisfied. So for reasons obscure we bought a SME IV in silver to match the 301. Lovely solid item, takes a bit of setting up if sounds were great if oddly not far off the old TPA arm. Soon a Cream-Oil 301 pair come along in 2002 with the Quad II Pre-Tuners & Amp system, the Oil Bearing is far better sounding than the overdamped Grease which slows the music. 301s apart fully to service as you'd expect from us. But since moving to where we are now, the 301 was only getting used to record new records stock, we'd tried a Hacker GAR 550 for the want of having a different record player by the Desk & this led to getting the Trio-Kenwood KA-4002A in 2011 that started our Hifi Pages. The blog shows our testing of the Technics SL-1500 with it being serviced & several upgrades, plus trying the Valve Phono on Goldring G800 & G850. The sound from the SL-1500 & G-850 despite them being buyable under £200 showed the 301 & SME to not be that far off, even using the Roksan Corus which has the original Corus stylus, not a Goldring 10-series one. We'd been watching Prices for years, if the prices on ebay for 301 & SME appear to be based on Fake Bidding, where a unscrupulous seller "sells" gear to themselves to try to create a price on gear that otherwise isn't making those prices. The sort of sellers that see our price on a Rebuilt & Serviced High Grade Sony STR-6120 & think their raw tatty one is worth the same, work & parts doesn't figure to be of value apparently. The 301, SME & Plinth look very classy, but from using the SL-1500 again, we had one we got from a Charity Shop in 1993 to know it was one of the better Vintage Turntables, the 301 & SME started to lose appeal. The 301 relies on the rather clunky lever switches, to turn the motor off to change speed isn't so bad, but to cue a record by hand, you have to rest on the pointed end of the lever. Other problems are the Strobe Platter relies on an Incandescent external flickery bulb to work, none built in like the 401, but the modern ESL Fluorescent or LED ones don't work the same so the strobe doesn't work. A more tricky one was even when freshly serviced, the 301 in colder weather runs slow until it gradually warms up over an hour, so if recording tracks to watch the Strobe. The 301 first came out in 1954 with the Silver finish & Grease Bearing, the Oil Bearing is on some later Silver & the Cream one arrived by about 1958-60 with either Silver or Black finger panels & was replaced by the Garrard 401 in 1965 if supposedly a better unit, the looks & plinth shape at the rear corners keeps it less expensive. The SME arm doesn't have as much travel as the SL-1500 one & the fixed headshell instead of the SME detachable one isn't so user friendly either. The SME arm cable that plugs underneath is actually a bit poor quality for the high price we found, if maybe the later ones improved, one cable broke at the feeble Phono plug & the wire was a type you can't solder neatly, so we made one from a Reel of Shielded Cable we had & found it sounded better as lower capacitance than the SME one, why bother getting a £200 new one? Cheaper if still good quality cables aren't designed with LCR features to filter the sound & this we've blogged on before. So the 'record player' parts are to be sold, if we'll keep the Roksan Corus Black as we have several custom stylus sizes as made for us by Expert Stylus Co. The SL-1500 is 33 & 45rpm only, but we devised a 78rpm setting on the pre 1998 one & did one for a customer fitting a subtle switch on the lower plastic plinth which worked well, so ours will 'go 78' too. Now why do people buy expensive 'High End' turntables & arms when we've proven what can match it? The truth is our Valve Phono stage is our design unlike any other for the detail & focus it has. The typical Transistor or IC Phono stage, as on the Turntables page, we've shown a few can be good, if most including ones with MM are blurry poorly focussed messes. The extra precision of the SME-301 will give a better signal to the blurry Phono stage, but our Phono stage is of a different quality that the differences 301 vs SL-1500 are so close. We've not said we had an SME IV before as our site is not a 'High End' site, aiming for a more aware audience than just throwing big money at items, so to not confuse by mentioning it, if mentioning the more affordable Technics system ones. But now we have proven as blogged that we don't need them now, to tell our experiences with both. As you can see, a Quality Direct Drive turntable with a metal plinth & a decent bearing can actually be as good as the 301 with some subtle changes & upgrades, but easier to use & more stable, once serviced naturally.
Upgrade A Decent Turntable Into One Much Better.
Is it possible to make the Technics SL-1500 towards the Quality of the 301 + SME? You'll actually be able to do quite a lot for following a few simple rules. The technique of Damping means softness or lack of rigidity that the vibrations from the Record Groove as travel to the Cartridge get lost in poor design, construction as well as poor designs like knife edge bearings like the SME 3009, non-rigid headshells as the SME 3009 'soup strainer' one is. Some others have rubber mounts in various ways supposedly to dampen vibrations & reduce Turntable Rumble, but these are going to lose a lot more than the deepest bass that can be on some records, the slightest damping of Stylus to Cartridge to Arm to Bearings to Plinth & how the arm is fitted will lose quality. The Cartridge fitting can be fiddly to set up & only really those with bolt holes to fit are easier, the ones with lugs often don't tighten as good, if never use the plastic washers as it's damping. The Hex nuts are better than the Round Notched ones as more surface are to grip solidly. The idea of springs to decouple a turntable now seems laughable if one Record Guy with Expensive Rock LPs used the most wobbly turntable we've ever seen, the dealer sold him a bad unit that didn't have the foam spring damping. But they wouldn't hear our advice neither would one who put feeble foam rings around the 301 platter to damp it, we said they were rubbish as they did nothing & took them off, but they returned next time we saw as people will believe 'Experts' not Free Thinkers. No Springs, No Rubber parts. As of typing we still keep the thin rubber ring on the Technics headshell we notice so remove it & surprisingly it's better sounding without it, just that tiny area of damping does matter. Even a spacer made of plastic will damp the arm softening the sound. Unfortunately a lot of Turntables & Arms are of Plastic, Composite or Wood based manufacture. An arm with rubber or plastic bearing parts is never going to be the best. The Technics SL-1500 arm is all metal where it matters & once serviced it's probably better than the SME 3009 II that many use with these, for the rigidity is superior, if no SME owner will believe it until they hear it. SL-1500 is Direct Drive with all-Transistors driver board, unlike the later IC ones & once recapped is very reliable. The bearing on the SL-1500 is a quality piece, a much thinner one than the 301 if still decent once serviced. The rounded end runs on a plastic piece that we noticed ours was with an indent from use, so perhaps this 'pressure pad' could be bettered to reduce the surface area, if to look at the 301 bearing end, it's a 1cm plate "Thrust Pad" with flat to flat with the oil to float on. A Turntable & Arm needs to be as Hard & Solid as it can be, if the SL-1500 base cover is only thin plastic, this isn't important as not coupled to the arm & platter, merely covering the underneath so no need to alter that, if perhaps a little more solidness would help. The arm has rubber decoupling on the rear plastic weight post, the weight of this piece is crucial so not to mess with it. The weight itself rattles as the plastic tab with the tooth to grip has flattened to lose grip. The Technics feet are hopeless, either spring ones or a rubber cup type. To fit big rubber feet, add a Sorbothane layer & a Felt pad over that is what we've done, or you can buy Gold Plated efforts if we prefer our custom way as those Gold type ones are expensive & often not as good as you hope. For Cables we fitted Phono Sockets if kept the captive Mains & Grounding lead. Why spend more? The Harder & More Solid the Record Player construction is, the finer the sound & adds more solidness to Bass as less energy is lost throughout the frequency range. Playing Records not played for a few weeks, they are sounding a lot 'tighter' in sound than before. The Mat, as we've said before, is a piece of Cotton Velvet over the Original mat, the old 78rpm players used a Velvet mat so it's what we chose many years ago. The idea to try with no mats direct on the metal platter makes no real difference, to disprove those bad designs that suspend the record in mid air, but a higher or lower mat does alter the VTA-Vertical Tracking Angle which does make a difference to sound if ours with both mats rides the cartridge flat to the mat with no tilt. There is a Garrard turntable, possibly the Lab 80 that was first out in 1965 that had a lever to raise the arm bearing end to 'Track Better' which by taking the rubber mat away does alter the height & angle slightly. One to play around with but we'll stay with the 2 mats. So there's the inspiration to "improve your turntable", but as with any Vintage gear, if it'll look messy, don't do it, sell it on & go buy one of the Technics Direct Drive players. There are very likely other name brands with good Record Player units that could upgrade, if with some you may see it's all metal to find a hidden plastic bit that spoils the idea.
Hifi in 1964: A Digest.
We're going to do these for at least to 1969, as it does condense each year in Hi-Fi nicely, the Year Books & reading a year of magazines does dilute the interesting developments & the 1963 one above was much longer than expected. So to Jan 1964. Imhofs of New Oxford Street do seem to be the Biggest Hi-Fi shop at the time if there were plenty more smaller Hifi shops around the country. The Chapman Derritron company gets a full page ad where they are trying to update styling towards the USA looks if not quite getting there with an 8w amplifier not in the league. The Kit scene with Heathkit & Stern-Clyne must be thriving the 3w Mullard 3-3RC Mono basic integrated amplifier despite the low power gives a taste of valve sound as we had one in the early 1990s. A surprising article is how to make a Unipivot Pickup arm if you'd need a machine shop & skills so unlikely many were made. Eagle SA.150 amplier gets reviewed, 15w says the hype if 3w is the tested power & oddly the amp is discontinued as a footnote adds saying "it does not match the standards of their other products". Substandard Japanese product is the idea here & a little embarrassing, if Eagle Audio gear never lived up to the brand name, strictly budget. The scene as we saw for late 1963 is actually more advanced & steady for the Overseas influence if making the UK brands seem rather old fashioned in comparison. Feb 1964 starts with Imhofs sale & the Decca pickup arm. Nice Sony ad for the Sony TC.500 tape machine with Stereo speakers, 106gns (£111) complete with 2 mikes, if still a very expensive item when a typical amp or Garrard 301 was in the £30-£40 range. "New Heights in Hifi" say Armstrong with the Armstrong 227 Tuner-Amp 10w, at £48 it was still in the budget price range though & probably their usual quality. Leak with the new design 'Varislope Stereo' predates the Stereo 30 transistor amp that arrives shortly, for UK 1964 gear it has the right look. A Transistor Amp Circuits shows the Design of this time, All Germanium with Transformer in circuit for the Splitter stage to the Output Transistors, quite like the Akai AA-7000 design from 1966 did in Silicons & if done right can sound very nice. Pye HFS 30 TC Stereo Transistor amp gets a review, 12w RMS is the real rating & uses obscure transistors NKT226 & NKT401. Opinion is it is liked, well made but poor on high frequencies as the 10kHz Square wave looks like a Sine showing difficulties in design & Transistor quality as was known. Interesting but stay with the valves is what we see here. Mar 1964 again Imfofs but Armstrong the second ad shows they are doing well, perhaps their early stuff was comparable at the time if medicre in comparison by 1966 standards? Another flashy Sony ad for a Sony TC200 tape machine & speakers, this is clearly where Sony made their start with good looking gear if always tape machines the 'suitcase' type design. Goodmans Maxim tiny loudspeaker 10.5 x 5.5 x 7.25 inches at 8w was a Groundbreaking Mini speaker if of limited use today, 45Hz to 20kHz is impressive but it'll still sound what it is compared to a 15" Tannoy driver. Test gear at this time like Heathkit MM1U meter & AVO Model 8 are very basic, the AVO one in cast bakelite still looks like 1930s kit, if today they'd look nice as Retro shelf fillers. A rather odd Thorens TD224 turntable newly out, it's an autochanger that plays records individually picking from a stack next to the turntable section. How this works is vague if mentioned a few times, only one stack so where does the played one go, but we just remember the 'Tom & Jerry' cartoon where an animated Radiogram does similar & throws the records off. actually gets a review too, records picked up by the centre hole for LP hole or USA 45 holes with a rising adapter if required. To use you Select Speed, Start it, a disc is picked up swinging it onto the turntable which then feels for the disc size before it hits the mat. Once played it picks the disc up & puts it onto a lower shelf rather than just chuck it across the room. Likely it would need regular maintenance to work right & still piles up dusty discs to scratch together. A nice automated idea, but not one you'd want & 3.5g playing weight is required. Pioneer SM-83 amplifier looks interesting, all valves, says its 27w RMS per channel which may be 20w RMS both channels. Apr 1964 is a bigger issue as the Hifi show Preview issue, this time Imhofs & Sony are the first two ads, if the rest are the usual lot as since 1963, not too much new in 1964 so far except Beatlemania & Ska. Saying that, Teddy Bear-Faced Harold Leak introduces the Leak Stereo 30 Transistor amplifier & be sure the Audio Fair had much interest in it. The early Stereo 30, not the '30 Plus' is a one-board All-Germaniums unit, for 1964 it will have been like no other UK or USA offering a 15w Transistor Amp for £49 10s. Unfortumately by 2018 the poor EU Germaniums have faded away & despite some making good prices as Mint & Boxed on ebay, the amp will have deteriorated. But this amp is a Milestone in Hifi for it's progress & affordability compared to the USA Transistor amps at much higher prices. Harold Leak introduced 0.1% Distortion in Amps & now this Transistor amp, neither totally his fresh idea, but he's the one who brought these ideas to the public. Another interesting early Pioneer SM-G205 receiver for 85gns (£89) quickly replaces the outdayted Double Tuner ones, 12w per channel if not saying Peak or RMS, we'd expect it's a 8w RMS one for the price. Then to see ancient Tripletone & Chapman tuners brings back how out of touch the UK manufacturers beyond Leak were. Rogers didn't go Transistor until the 1967 Ravensbrook-Ravenswood average efforts in comparison, the Pye one didn't sell & various other UK brands with budget looking 5w-10w efforts that don't compare. Danish B&O 609 Stereo amplifier we've seen online before & thought it was just too crude, a hybrid amp & being asked to upgrade one to see it's just not worth it for the low power & cranky build, if the case styling & 'movable line' is perhaps the interest in it. Around 15w output if the 10kHz squarewave is poor revealing the circuit still isn't the quality of amps that were around by 1966. Eagle SA.80 is the replacement one advertised to try to get away from the awful review & withdrawing of the SA.150 in January, if a mere £9 10s buys you an 8w Stereo Amp, it will have met a need but HFN are taking an ad for non Hifi gear here surely? May 1964 has Shure as the second page ad, to match Shure & Garrard turntables appears to give Garrard a free ad, but it helps the buyer know which cartridge suits. The Shure "studio Stereo Dynatic Integrated Pickup" arm just looks like a stick with a post through it, not very sophisticated or not selling it well. We've never seen Shure brand gear until on later 1970s gear. Still the old fashioned 1950s looking Tape Machines, not the modern lookimng Sony by Brenell who by their ads were a big brand at the time if quietly faded away not too soon after like a lot of UK makers. Truvox TSA 100 amplifier announced, "an important amplifier" they say if the Leak one deserves that. Truvox on ones we've seen online were just budget 10w Germanium efforts if looking contemporary for 1964, not worth bothering with today, in 1964 for 49gns you'd buy the superior Leak at the same price. Ferguson "makes for happy families" is as bad a tag line as is the early Philips one mentioned earlier, but perhaps it is, 33gns (£35) for a basic 4 track tape recorder is good value when others are 3x the price, if the quality of the Frequency Response isn't mentioned. Audio Fair Report hits with a Grundig SV50 amplifier that looks interesting, if pics online show it's a hardboard backed DIN socket & typical EU build if apparently 20w, not really for UK buyers with the DIN is the problem. Leak Stereo 30 was compared pre-show to Leak valves we assume & proven to be what it claimed, without the USA type 'transistor sound' hype. Shure M44-5 Cartridge is reviewed, one of the first Modern Style ones with the removable stylus assembly for around £14, if the 1963 Shure M-33-5 was an earlier similar version if not with the 15° angle as was now standard, so the M44-5 can be seen as the First Modern Cartridge, if the response curve on midrange & treble rolled off over 1kHz to a 'slight' dip of -5dB around 7kHz if peaked up to the level of 1kHz with a peak around 14kHz. A dull sounding cartridge with 68k ohm loading, but progress 7 probably ground-breaking for 1964. June 1964 has Revox as the second page ad, another expensive tape player. The amount of ads for these things chasing the few will have needed or bought them. Whiteley have a "new range" of amps & tuners, looking years out of date, preamp & two power amps that was clearly still selling for Quad but people wanted Modern if they could afford it, not this 1959 looking gear, who designs such aged looking gear for a 1964 range... a company that soon closes for not keeping up with the times. Facing page is futuristic Goldring-Lenco GL 70 turntable to show the big differences. Quad still have the ad page facing the Editorial by Miles Henslow if he's gone within the year. Trio still with the W-38 receiver, the same ad likely booked in advance as it never changes. Dual 1009 transcription turntable with Autochanger, if not the arm-across 1950s type. We've had Dual turntables & found them clunky awkward things, if like much Vintage some swear by them, we swore at the one we had to service as bits were found broken needing more repair than expected. A bizarre 5w Transistor Amp Kit, fixed Bias if design looks familiar to many later amps good value for Home Construction perhaps, if 5w transistor power is limited. Goodmans Maxim Loudspeaker gets a review, low sensitivity & only 8w handling is only for background music, you'd be fooling yourself it was room-filling as the hype about tiny speakers suggests. To say 'speech sounds natural' from such a tiny speaker is misleading similarly, if HFN do. Pioneer with yet another new model, the Pioneer SX-82 begins the long0running "SX" series, likely 20w valves for the "80 watt" hype, if looks interesting, an earlier designb to the ER-420 is likely as we looked at on 'Other Amps' page. Jul 1964 has an anechoic room on the front cover from Shure in Chicago. Mullard gets the second ad for Transistors "The Sound Of A New Era" if sadly the Mullard Germaniums are useless today as they age badly, AD 140 was the power transistor. Another First is Philips with a Cassette that is Loathed or Hated as a music format if loved by Hipsters for decoration. Cartridge Loading Philips EL3300 battery portable machine is yours for 25gns (£26). Decca ffss Mark III arm looks good for 1964 with the square block cartridge-stylus, probably a good match for the SME of the era. Armstrong 222 amplifier gets a review, 10w for £27 is budget priced, 10kHz square is reasonable for the era at the price & value for money is the opinion. Aug 1964 has a selection of Hifi Furniture based on the Radiogram shape still for building in the UK Quad gear, if the free-standing USA & Japan gear has no use for these, if you could still take the lids off & cut a template hole out & let the amp age without it's metal lid. Armstrong gets the second ad page, Imhofs always the first, the Armstrong gear strictly budget if the bigger pics show it's freestanding gear that is plain but functional with perspex fascias. metal lids & wood side cheeks. Report on the Los Angeles Hifi show show USA tastes differ, building a Fisher receiver into a lower drawer on a desk, KLH portable gear, KLH Model 16 amplifier, (Trio-)Kenwood KW-70 receiver, KW-100 tuner & KW-200A amplifier showing Trio made quite a few similar receivers if not many amps or tuners. An insane Fisher-Lincoln 70 autochanger like the Thorens but a lot more Steampunk styled. KEF Duette speaker was advertised often in 1964 & gets a review, if at 15w of limited use today & wood grille will only limit the sound if this design was much used. Akai M7 is one of the first Upright Standing Tape Machines, like the famous Revox type the hipsters like, if at £139 this is one of the most expensive items beyond the Fisher & HH Scott amps, if there will always be a market for Prestige Goods. Sep 1964 has ADC turntables, arms & cartridges distributed by KEF as the second ad. Double spread on Shure M44 cartridge range "excitingly beautiful sound". Dynaco new with Kit or Ready-Made SCA-35 amp, PAS-2 & PAS-3 preamps, ST-35 & ST-70 power amps, the amps especially much noted online, appear to be all Valves. Philips with a budget 24gns (£25) tape recorder EL3552 break from the rexine covered wood to plastic case, did the earlier Cassette one not sell? Scotch get the ad facing the Editorial with 3/4 the ad a huge baby face. Is that you, you're 54 now. BBC FM Radio first on 2 May 1955 if over 30 by 1964 & 25+ planned for the Future. A silly idea by Pye "Stereo Projection System" is just a desktop record player with side speakers & flaps to reflect the sound plus a Loudness control on the Volume. Oct 1964 has City & Essex Tape Recorder Centres as the second ad, "over 300 models from 15gns to 243 gns". Imhofs on the first page has a Fisher range ad, Fisher XP-5 Free Piston Speaker System with 8" bass, Fisher X-100-B "20w" £59 from the updated fascia, Fisher TX-300 "36w" £159 transistor amp, Fisher X-101-C "27w" £99 & Fisher X-202-B "35w" £137. But where are they? The higher priced ones you can only find in the USA suggesting UK sales very low. Armstrong with a Double page spread on their "200 range" with the 226 tuner-amplifier at £61 being the top model. Radford have a half page ad with just text in telling of the STA 15 & STA 25 range plus the mono versions trying to convince that Valve is Beast still & say they recently introduced the ISTA 30 & ISTA 60 'Reference Standard' range. To find out more you had to write for leaflets. Early Mordaunt (pre Short) speaker Arundel Mk II for 29gns looks quite like a smaller Tannoy case. "Look what's Here From Denmark" yells a TO-R S-15 advert for a tuner-amp, looking a bit Legoland as was the typical EU design, but to say "The Finest Tuner-Amplifier On This Or any Other Market" for a 6w thing is going too far, bugger off back to Denmark you liars thinks us, but we won't type that here. "A Touch Of The Ultimate" is an interesting article by a Cambridge Hifi enthusiast who imported a Harman-Kardon Citation A + B fully transistorised unit built into a 1930s pillar cabinet with a turntable atop. 40w power RMS is impressive for 1964. Turntable is a Thorens with Ortofon cartridge & Dynatron tuner. Turning on gives silence for 20 seconds, similar to the 1965 Sony TA-1120 as it lets voltages settle before use, the sound on Tannoy 12" & 15" is described as "very smooth, well-balanced & tightly controlled" if this is 1964 & compared to later years may not be quite so impressive, but for 1964 it's State Of The Art as the closing line agrees. New out is the Garrard 401 that divides opinions if has improvements & weaknesses as later HFN reveal. ADC Point-Four & 660 cartridges continue the Shure ideas of the more modern cartridge. American Letter by John Berridge is about 'British Equipment On The American Market'. Wharfedale & Goodmans speakers sell well if surprisingly Tannoy are lesser known, the Quad ESL isn't popular as Bass is too weak for the USA ears as well as being $350, Leak Sandwich sells well. Only Quad & Leak amps are popular, the rest doesn't figure as they say & Quad is getting overtaken by Leak for progress in Transistors. The Quad system of many units seemingly old-fashioned as is a lot of the UK gear by now compared to USA & Japan gear. Garrard sells tons of autochangers. Garrard 301 & Connoisseur turntables sell well as do SME arms. Looks like USA cherry picks the best if tastes are finding the traditional British gear isn't keeping up with better styling elsewhere. Nov 1964 the usual adverts if "This Man Saba" attemps to be James Bond yet sells cheesy Radiogram Innards as Hifi, we don't think so with Saba Stereo Studio 1 a feeble 9w for 89gns & Saba Freiburg Studio looking like a 1950s table top radio for 135gns, if it uses external speakers. An article about the USA 'Console Stereo' scene is a late arrival, the USA with big consoles by Fisher, HH Scott & others was a cornerstone of the USA Audio Market as these were no mere Radiograms, but proper seperates quality if with huge wide cabinets with built-in speakers & usually a gap to store 30 LPs as a Radiogram offers. The Console never made it to the UK beyond ones imported personally, the cheaper Radiogram as with Budget Stereos being more the UK scene. Koss SP-3X Stereo Headphones show what was around in 1964 as Amplifiers by 1963 usually had a Headphone socket that is compatible with Modern Headphones. Still looking like the WW2 era Headsets with a thick padded band. The sound is reasonable if rolled off & with some coloration, which suggests the Headphone wasn't yet used for serious use, the Koss one here is fed from the Output Transformer direct, so not quite the match of today's 40-100 ohm type ones. Dec 1964 all the usual ads, impressive overall for 1964 if still plenty of old styled gear including Jason with a late effort to shift their stuff, you'd think with a West end Showroom in Tottenham Court Road they'd bring out some more modern gear, but they don't & fade away, yet Leak & Rogers kept fresh ideas & carried on into the 1970s. Rogers Cadet Mark Three introduced, 10w valves for £32, initially a two-piece unit if one piece fairly soon after is the most common 1960s amplifier around still as it sounded good & sold well, priced cheaper than the Leak Stereo 30 transistors that many would have been uncertain about. "Transfiguartion of a Quality Amplifier" is apparently a first about Upgrading Amps, 'obtaining a modern performance from an old circuit' is the claim & doing similar is our game. Here they look at a 1944 design with PX4 valves, directly heated Triode for 15w, pre the Williamson design, if 6w is the actual power. But if you've read any books on Repairs, there is nothing said of what they do, a circuit diagram shows extra gain & NFB have been added, but to us it's not really doing very much.
July 2018 Blog
Original Capacitors Condition on a 1960s Valve Amplifier
We're rebuilding the 1965 Fisher X-100-B valve amp for a customer. It has 6 capacitors in 3 cans. Here is the Photo of the Decayed Insides, if some of the muck inside fell out. To redo this requires redesign & problem solving, it takes ages to get right. So on a high grade little used amp there is still going to be 53 years of aging & high voltage or high current caps age badly. These are Never Suitable for regular use & one try away from failure. Light Use or Heavy Use, any sort of Use will age High Voltage Capacitors. The three in the Fisher are C1 with the card outer as the case is live, it hadn't leaked but was dried out with crusty earth inside which is dried out electrolyte fluid that oxidises. It smells sharp as it's stale & is useless, if will work to a degree but without seeing inside by cutting open, you're just gambling. C2 is a double capacitor in one can. To take it out showed how easily the pin broke off & it's even drier inside with crusty deposits if not as smelly as drier & no trace of leaking. C3 is a triple capacitor, it had leaked & traces of cleaning the chassis done by a previous owner as it leaked quite a bit. On opening lots of stuff came out, it looks like garden earth, barely smells & is just about mummified. Explains the rustling sound on the stage it supplied & it might last 1 day or 1 year with these severely decayed capacitors, the risk of Trashing The Transformers is the Gamble for not getting them replaced. The reality is 50 year old 200v-400v capacitors are ALWAYS TRASHED inside, we've cut open all we've had. Any HT capacitor be it 16v or 450v if it is pre 1969 will be Gambling as they always are in bad grade. On some 1969 era Transistor Amps they may still be OK inside, as in wet with no crusty build up, but more often than not they are well past their best.
Damping Factor In Amplifiers.
This is mentioned variously on the site, if not as a section, so worth telling more on. For what Damping Factor is, see Wikipedia as the learned-booksmart types keep technical pages accurate & well written. We go beyond that to say what we see with Damping Factor. Firstly it's related to Output Impedance of an Amplifier that is not a Factor measurable with a Multimeter, how you find what the Damping Factor is by looking at the Amplifier's Data Sheets & Specifications. Damping Factor of say 250 is in Modern amplifiers. "Good For Controlling Loudspeakers" say some, but not us. High Damping is Restricting the Amplifier, like the Design in a Strait Jacket. If you use cheap Flappy Cone speakers then a High Damping Amp will tame them, but you're taming poor quality speakers. The accepted idea of Flappy Bass Drivers from seeing the same on 1980s-1990s Music Centres or Ghetto Blaster Cassette Machines that made it clear the Cone Flapped if oddly you never heard much Bass. Cone Flapping is usually in the 10Hz-30Hz region of the Speaker Resonance. What a 250 Damping Factor Amp sounds like on Quality Speakers is So Controlled & Damped it doesn't have much life & therefore sounds boring as be sure the rest of the amp is cost cut now they don't have to bother much about Deep Bass. Cynical but true. Going back into the later 1970s you find some Amps with a DF of 70, these sound more lively with "The Rich Vintage Sound" that once you hear, you'll not care about Modern Amps again. This is still a fairly high Number & Bass will be controlled but enough life in it to please. In the early 1970s values vary around 40 to 70 & again a little less restriction livens up the Bass which may not suit your cheap Flappy Bass Driver speakers, but on the right speakers, to hear a more open sound. The Earliest Transistor Amps from 1965-69 quote DF values from 15 to 30, if the Sony TA-1120 quotes "more than 70" & the 1967 Sony TA-1120A quotes "180 at 8 ohms". The DF of 15-50 requires good quality speakers or as one buyer told us about the Duette Amp with it's low DF sound that it was a bit wild on some speakers. But DF of 15-30 has that rich full bass, limited by original design, but these upgrade to sound wonderful on 15" Tannoys. Some level of Damping Factor can be apparently upgraded to give the lower DF richer sound, based on knowing the sound of a DF 30 amp to a DF 70 one, if without measuring it to know for sure, it likely is no different. To choose a DF value to match Speakers depeds on how much the Speaker Cones move, the 15" Tannoys barely move in an Infinite Baffle Sealed Cabinet, if our previous 15" Fane ones with a rear port shifted a lot of Air if never really gave the deep bass. Low DF to Highly Damped speakers & High DF to Low Damped Flappy Cone speakers is the obvious choice if Amps Mid DF 70-120 would best be suited to Speakers that move a little if not much. Never a Precise Science in Matching Amps to Speakers if based on the Many Amps we've tried on our 15" Tannoys, generally the Low DF ones 15-50 suit better. 1977 Yamaha CR-2020 with a DF of 40 sounded good if the 1973 Yamaha CR-1000 at 70 didn't match so well. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X doesn't match our Tannoys if no DF given, by the sound we'd estimate it was at least 150-250 DF. Based on upgrading that amp, it's not possible to upgrade to alter the DF if you can alter the sound, the Mismatch would require more redesign.
1963 Transistors In Audio.
Oct 1963 Hi-Fi News has a large 14 page section on Transistor progress, 14 pages of info not including the Ad pages is unusual to put all in one issue instead of a 4 parter. The overview is in the Portable Radio market, Transistors have taken over. From what we see here & from knowing early Transistor amps, the limiting factor to stop Hi-Fi amplifiers was the Germaniums & the odd idea of using PNP transistors with Minus Voltage HT. we've blogged on Germaniums just above & the problems & pleasures with them. Difficulties in getting Good Frequency Response was mentioned often in this era of HFN & some ingenious if not so honest 'Sound Shaping' circuits could make use of Transistors that had High Frequency Roll Off. High Power Transistors were Expensive too so only really a few Transistor amps of 10-15w were made by this time. Hybrid amps with Transistor Tuner & Preamp but Valve Output were the usual item at this time beyond the 10w or less amplifiers like the Bryan 304 integrated, Pye HFS 30TC, Hart, Vectron, Henry's Radio & Radon R600S seem to be the only ones going into Power Amps with Transistors. B&O 608 is a hybrid , EMG DCU5S & Lowther SS2 transistor preamps. a few Tuners & Tape Machines as all transistor. The USA scene shows a lot more advances with decent looking Acoustech 1 if the real only competitor is the Harman-Kardon Citation A-1000-T "70w" Stereo amplifier. Interest in this in 1963 will have felt like a New World, if in reality only the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & the Fisher 600-T & Fisher 440-T seem to have sold by 1965-67, the HK one will be a rarity today.
USA Hi-Fi Scene in Dec 1963 into the Later 1960s.
HFN in Dec 1963 sums up how the USA market is. You'd need to get into the USA Hifi Mag scene to see further about these early years. Interestingly UK Leak restyled their cranky looking Troughline tuner & Point-One preamp for the USA market by getting more appealing fascias, aware of comments on how drab, amateurish & old fashioned the UK brands looked. The big difference really is the Styling, USA made the products look very 1960s Bachelor Pad with Big Loudspeakers, Hifi Consoles that are a big step up from the Cheap UK Radiogram. USA homes larger than UK so bigger items with bigger power were needed. This exact scene with Fisher, Marantz, KLH, HH Scott & Lafayette is what The Japanese saw & soon took over to dominate the Hifi Scene, giving modern looks & better quality at prices that saw Japan start to dominate by the late 1960s with premium brands like Sansui, Pioneer, Akai & Sony leading the way. They gave the buyers what they wanted, if at the time their customer service & backup was revealed to be poor until they got UK agents to manage the brands. At the time the USA wage & cost of living was higher, if more free money to buy these goods, the UK at the time wasn't buying the amount compared to other countries, often the Best 1960s Vintage stuff you have to buy today from USA, Canada or Germany as it sold there if really didn't sell in the UK, Fisher were advertised by the Big London Shops & got imported a lot apparently, on Special Order is likely the truth, yet you only see the USA voltage ones saying big ads don't make sales. The UK readership of HFN isn't revealled until the early 1970s, there may be just 1000-2000 who buy HFN or the Yearbooks, but how many bought the best stuff? In our HFN archive, some are marked with items the reader wanted to buy & usually it's the cheapest items. The thing with Blogging is you start to realise you've said similar in other sections already. To look at HFN articles from 1963 & expect there to be more to write about & find the article didn't really say much after all. The Pages Of Waffle in some HFN articles hides the fact "ain't much happening".
Quadraphonic & Amplifier Bridging plus Parallel Outputs.
4 channel "Quadradial" as Marantz calls it is part of the 1971-76 attempt to get Multichannel audio into peoples homes. The Reality was it Failed Dismally as many had barely got out of Mono or cheap Radiograms. The amount of 4 channel formats on Records was a mess so the Public stayed away. Amplifier Bridging is a strange concept where the 4 channels can be Bridged into 2 channel Stereo, certain 1990s era Power Amplifiers are bridgable as apparently is the 1973 Leak 2000 receiver, if we never tried the Leak as the circuit description sounded lousy, read on. So as we always say "Avoid Quadraphonic" or "Avoid Bridging Amps" to get a fresh opinion & get a 1973 Marantz 4070 Amplifier, a 2x 35w or 4x 15w one. More on the 4070 on the reviews page. So to read Wikipedia about 'Bridged And Paralleled Amplifiers' to understand what that does & we realise the Sansui AU-G90X is quite like this with it's Balanced Design & having a 'Floating Ground' as described, the 90X doesn't like mains grounded test gear & the HT on the Capacitors is unexpectedly low for 130w. The Paralleled Amplifier section doesn't relate to this amplifier, if does relate to Doubled Output Transistors that some amplifiers use & these do control speakers so well with a better bass than any Single Push-Pull Output pair does, the Double Push-Pull Output pair we put into our Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 as it had extra spaces & the 1965-67 Sony TA-1120(A) has these fitted, more to cope with 50w as the early Sony transistors were only rated 50w not giving much headroom for peaks. Usually a 200w+ amplifier has these Parallel outputs so has more Current available if usually they don't go that much louder, as in voltage gain, for the Power rating. What a Bridged Amplifier does is it phases the second of the Amp pairs the opposite way to the first one with the speaker connected to the Positive Connectors only, if you introduce Ground into the Speaker Circuit you'll get problems. But the Leak 2000 with it's "High Power" mode isn't all it seems... the Service Manual says "In the High Power mode, the Output of the Right Channel main amplifier is connected to the Input of the Left Channel Main Amplifier and the signal is fed into the Right Channel Input socket. Hence with a Speaker connected across the Outputs the System operates in a High Power Mono Mode" meaning to use only the "+" connections & the resistor from R out to L in is 820k ohm. This actually doesn't appear to match Bridging as the Wikipedia page shows with in phase & out of phase signals into two amps with the Speaker on the "+" running through 2 power amps equally. The problem with Bridging is it requires both Amps to be on Spec & equally matched which from having tested many amps for Output Power, the Amps are never usually identical, if within Tolerance. This inaccuracy causes one half of the output to not match the other so creates the soft blurry sound. We still say that Bridging unless critically adjusted will not be so good, but adjusted right after recapping then to hear the Marantz 4070 to see what it does. In theory if upgraded & adjusted right, the Bridged Output should be as good as a 2ch amplifier & with halving the Damping Factor, it may actually be pretty good. Once the 4070 is done we'll blog more about it.
Repair Shop Label On Quality 1970s Amp Says "Too Far Gone" But Is It?
As we are Amplifier Specialists doing stuff that no-one else is doing as in Upgrades & Redesign, we look at amps in a different way. Sadly a lot of 1980s-Modern gear is not repairable as we blogged before, but 1970s Hifi if of Quality we don't give up on easily, if nasty ones like the 1971 Leak Delta 75 receiver are just so badly made that we only ever got one working right. We may be just Gambling, but as with anything, the more challenges you get, the better you get. So the Marantz 4070 quadraphonic Amplifier mentioned above we see it has a Repair shop sticker on & after reading it upside down it says "Too Far Gone". Now this shop is still trading, they are the TV Repair Guy quality as is obvious, today they'd just swap boards or tell you.. "It's Too Far Gone" because they are Not Specialists, but TV repair guys trading for 35 years. The 4070 review we've already put it could head into 'unrepairable' territory for how difficult it is to work on, but we've checked it over, it's all there, no damages, no burns, fuses still all good. It'll get more serviced before plugging in as the seller who was probably glad to offload it did say it worked. If it had damage to transistors then it would head into the difficult territory of being Uneconomical to Repair which means if you wanted to chuck money at it until it's fixed, likely it'll be fine but it'll probably outprice it, a clean one part serviced-recap they say if no crumbly speaker connectors is £300 with 2 sold for similar if one higher as with the wood case. Here the Repair shop looked at it & gave up, too much a job to fix the crumbled speaker connectors & too stuffed with parts to even attempt it which is lazy. Did that shop even plug it in? They didn't check the cheapo UK made 'Legrand' one Plug as Live & Neutral were swapped, the plug bulged midway as the fuse barely touched the pin as misaligned plus a 13A fuse. Worst plug we've seen in a while, to cut it off & fit another. Of course it's repairable, not the easiest, but plan it right & there it can be, if we have done many amp recaps. But as first try of it revealed the L channel with severe low frequency pumping if music could be heard in a choppy way & the R channel silent, there is no way to just do bits of it to see if it's any better. So it gets new Speaker Connectors, the Power Amps, Preamp, Matrix-Buffer-Power Supply board & Phono all done before it sees Mains again. First try redone the R channel is fine if the L is distorted so needs fault finding. Too Far Gone? To most... yes it appears a wreck electrically, but we see the potential & for it being a 1973 Marantz, work into it will make a good amp worth the effort to fully recap. It takes many amps to be able to do complex jobs like this plus much checking, there is no 'hope it works' in Hifi. The faults will be found, we'll try it out & probably sell it on sooner or later. It's not What It Used To Be... It's What It Is Today. To fully recap & replace all the preamp transistors is the job & an advanced 'repair' that would probably outprice a restoration to a customer, but for us to try what's involved. See the Marantz 4070 review for more, as well as more Blogs below.
We Are Looking To Buy A Top Quality Amplifier To Upgrade.
This is what we're doing having sold the 1984 Sansui AUG90X. To get a mid-late 1970s amp of around 100w is the idea. The market in Amplifiers, as opposed to Receivers is one of unreality & lofty expectations based on none selling.
Receivers with the Tuner are nice Retro looking if we have no need for a Tuner so to just look at Amplifiers, Integrated not Pre-Power ones. The Sansui for all the work & research into it didn't make much in reality for the buy-in price plus all the work done, disappointing really, but one to move on to try others. Our Research amps get a lot done yet it shows the Market doesn't know the amp or really understand the Upgrading work. So to look what's on ebay. For getting the 1973 Marantz 4070 4ch amp, the Marantz range is severely overpriced for the highest model the Marantz 1300DC at £3500 in a repro wood case, we saw one sell for £1800 a few years back & though the buyer who bought several of our B&O amps was insane paying that much. We had the Marantz 1152DC before & found it difficult in several ways if now we'd look at it very differently. A Marantz 1150 with a badly resprayed lid for £450 compared to overpriced £900 ones elsewhere is the best out there, no wood cases. Sansui AU 9900A for £1800 with those awkward side connectors is only an 80w one from 1977-79, all Transistors but the design by now with so many Differentials does leave that rather dry sound as the AUG90X had that needs so much upgraded. Other Sansui AU-999, AU-888 are severely overpriced for the power & need of rebuilding, the sellers just copy other overpriced non selling ones. Pioneer we've done well with the Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I to know what they are about, good but not the greatest again needing so much upgraded. Harman-Kardon only has more modern amps as only the receivers of the 1970s had better power. Sony we've done deeply if there are STR-6120 & STR-6200s at very high prices for raw gear, we've sold two in recent months to know the real prices for rebuilt ones. Rotel has the usual late 1970s high power ones if looking at a RX-1203 recently, the build quality is a bit midprice which we found a bit disappointing plus those naff rack mount handles. None of the 'Michi' series ones from the 1990s when Rotel went 'High End'. Trio-Kenwood we are wary of for the amount of ICs & the 'Other Amps' page has looked at these enough. Trio with the early valve receivers at £400 are dreaming, they need a full rebuild & redesign. Yamaha we've done very well already, in the days these were cheap & unwanted, like many brands we get them, say they are good & then can't buy into them now. Technics (Panasonic, National) only really got into Pre-Power Amps into the early 1980s, we'd really not want to get into 1980s amps for the risk of ICs & overdesign. The integrated amps are just depressing plain tin box type ones. How about UK & EU brands you say? We've looked at many, the UK stuff we just don't like as it's not of the quality, EU brands similarly with the best being Tandberg TR 2075 that we didn't like for the bitty construction. Overview. The amps we like are now too overpriced if Auctions are where more realistic prices are, Buy It Nows are mostly dreamers. The difficulty also is we've had the Best Stuff already, there are Monster Receivers that we've not tried but having had a taste of those, such as the 1979 Sansui G-8700DB there are difficulties in these that perhaps are not worth upgrading to see how good they are as we can see the limits.
Got Money To Spend & Want To Spend It?
We're Record Dealers & at one time Collectors, into Coins, Hifi, Furniture, Signs etc. The thing is if you have ££££ to spend usually what you want won't instantly be there. Gimme Gimme but beware you'll waste money if not buying carefully. We'd like a better Computer, to start from Scratch to get a High Spec one. So we look at the High Spec Gaming Computers, not that we game beyond Spider Solitaire (W7 versions) & Angry Birds. As an example £850 buys you a refurbed Dell computer, but we want the specs of what they offer. Today the Intel i7 is the current processor range, Wikipedia tells of dozens of variations from 1.5MHz to 3MHz+, how do you know what to choose? Our computer is limited by RAM to 3.75GB which is useless for Windows 10 even using the 'Blackbird' program to stop all the spying crap. We compare specs, our 7 year old i3 2120 at 3.3GHz is actually faster than the i7 6700 in the £850 Dell one. The Dell has Hard Drives, RAM, Display & Sound Cards better than ours if it's not such a good deal really. In the end current computer spec isn't much better beyond RAM, so why bother buying new, leave it another year. **Computer Update: after looking for years for why RAM is limited, the fact is your 32 bit Windows is ancient 1995 tech, you need the 64 bit version, so we downloaded it to do a clean install from a DVD-ISO you can get as the x64 version. The 2011 motherboard & i3 processor can cope & 64 bit processors can run most 32 bit programs. Free upgrade to get the full 8GB of RAM fitted now. Why is this info So Hard To Find? As for Hi-Fi as above, you want to buy something good, it's not there or it's overpriced. The Specs disappoint as did the i7 processor, you realise you'd be paying £850 for a 2015 year processor & likely the Display & Sound Cards are a few years old & for the 'progress' today, they stop issuing updates, our Display one is only a few years old but no updates now. We use our 2002 Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, 2003 Office Outlook for emails & don't like the newer versions. A 64bit Windows 10 installation likely wouldn't suit those & a lot more, so more money to go buy newer versions you don't like. It's very hard to Buy Hi-Fi if for us we look for diamonds in the rough and unknowns & bring the quality back, but outside cases must be in good order for the work we'll put in. No point having a great amp with ugly damage unless you can buy the parts as spares as some sellers break up amps. So the idea was to buy an amplifier a little different as the AUG90X was to try out more upgrading ideas. So What Do We Buy? Nothing (as of typing), but Time to buy more carefully & get what we really want. To chuck a £50 gamble on that Marantz 4ch is worth a try, but to put £499 into a painted lid one is not a good buy as it'd need a full rebuild & still not get the overpriced prices others hope for. A firm grip of the Reality of Buying & Selling is needed.
Awful Restoration Ideas: Restuffing Capacitors.
This idea is really bad, the amateur can't work out circuits to properly upgrade Valve amps, so what they do is cut open the original 1950s-1960s capacitor, take the crusty insides out & fit in modern ones of the same value, seal the can with tape inside the capacitor clip & soldering to pins somehow so think that's a good idea. It's a very bad idea for several reasons beyond being unprofessional. You'll never see if the capacitors leak, get hot from miswiring plus the idea is redundant as you can actually buy the old value capacitors as Guitar amps use them, probably NOS ones from the 1970s. To use the original pins means awkward soldering as the bits inside the cap are aluminium & don't solder. Strictly amateur job & don't forget, they are selling it as they don't think it's very good sounding. Seen on a Sansui 1000A valve receiver with a "professionally powder coated" lid is poor as they didn't strip the old paint leaving dents in the paint from missing patches. Their recap is mediocre just replacing like for like as again these early Valve Amps need a full rebuild & redesign, we've just done a 1965 Fisher X-100-B & it takes a lot of work & planning to do right to then look deceptively simple. Done right the results elevate the Valve amp to a standard of today for daily use. We'd not buy a Valve Receiver again, the amount to redo one as the 1963 Trio WX400U got is extreme, the results especially on the Tuner are great if limited by the power rating. The Sansui 1000(A) valve receiver we looked at on 'Other Amps' & for knowing how bad the Sansui 500A was, to keep away, but nice to see inside pics to confirm to stay away. There is a price limit on Hifi we've found & their hopeless like-for-like recap for £825 is not good value. The idea of it may appeal, but once you hear it sounds aged & mediocre, you'll want rid quickly too. Vintage Valve Amps are not a good buy unless you plan to get one rebuilt to a more modern spec to bring the best out. We've done two valve amps like this now for customers & results are certainly worthwhile. But to buy a raw one, like many Rogers Cadet III for £300+ you see as these sold well in the 1966-68 era, they are just too aged to be what you hope they are.
Very Overpriced: 1970 Sansui AU-999 Amplifier.
Seeing this amp at ridiculous prices just for the High Model Number we find a difficult one to understand. Ones £900-£1200 on ebay July 2018, there they'll stay too. We got one in 2012 so know it & there are a few pics in our Gallery. Firstly it's a 50w amp from 1970. It has a lot of switches & controls that you'll never use. Compared to a Sony TA-1120A at the time we had both, the Sony had a higher Sinewave Output as the AU-999 was a bit low for the power. 50w it output 25v sine before clipping if the TA-1120(A) does 30v which is quite a difference. The Sony easily sounded better was the opinion in comparing both. We got ours for £175 at the time & felt it was overpriced for the grade & power of it & the amount that needed redoing even for us in 2012 just a year after starting these pages. Lots of outdated crappy hissy transistors was a big problem. The back panel with those Spring Connectors for Speakers we had difficulty with as the things break off, ours was still minus one cover if useable. We partly recapped it, if now we'd go a lot further, but the reality is the Sony TA-1120(A) & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 better this amp easily. It's a Semi Complimentary amp, ie no Output Capacitors which is unusual for 1970. Looks wise if in top grade it looks nice, if more used it looks a bit tatty. To have in high grade with the rare wood cases & the matching Tuner is a nice item, but Way Overpriced. For a 50w amp that needs a lot done to us we'd not pay more than £200 on one to be sure to cover upgrade costs on resale as a lot needs doing. These £900-£1200 prices are insane & in reality even rebuilt, it's not 'worth' that much as we found on selling ours in 2013, if prices for our website interest & others have upped the prices, buyers are not confident to pay the prices on Hifi & the risk of outpricing needs careful thought in choosing amps to upgrade. The Sansui AU-666 as the AU-999 is capable of a great sound, if read our Review on the AU-666 to see problems there too. Only when these greedy sellers see there are No Sales will prices be lowered, but ebay is stuffed with way overpriced amps, look at Yamaha CA-1000 as another foolishly overpriced one, we have had that to Review also.
Buying Vintage Hi-Fi Online: The Cynical Reality.
You see how we sell Hifi, pictures with detail inside & out, all faults noted & there you know exactly what you're getting. Buying on ebay where we & others who send us amps to upgrade reveals that often you are Gambling.
At one time Sellers packed amps badly & they still do, if overall they've learnt the hard way to pack better if some arrive safely by luck more than good packing. Descriptions are usually painting the item in a better light, some of it is outright lying, the Marantz 4070 was said to be partly working & they tried it on speakers, total lies as it would have trashed speakers if the broken connectors even worked. As a "For Parts or Not Working" amp we just took that it generally worked, saw the photos & for the £50 price plus their overcharging £20 for UPS courier, to gamble, if £70 could still be wasted in reality. Further up the ladder pricewise, ones said to be working yet wires loose & dangerous to plug in are just insulting. Ones said to have "been repaired" but badly patched up leaving loose wires & loud hiss & hum we've had a few times. Ones said to be "Serviced" yet no sign of it in the dirt inside. Ones said to be "Repaired" by putting wrong spec transistors in that cause instability or stop Power amp Bias. Ones said to be "Recapped" using cheap rubbish Made In China capacitors that we'd not trust & using severely wrong values & voltages. Mains plugs miswired with 13A fuses or the Fuse removed & soldered over as an early 'Cash Converters' buy by us found. Beyond the quality of the Amplifier you are buying, quite often you end up with an item substantially less than you expected. Of course you can get bargains in lovely condition that don't really need anything more than Servicing, if that is rare. The Sansui AU-G90X we bought from a EU country, it didn't work on first trying it. At the time ebay didn't do the Returns like they did & try to get anything from the dodgy seller was impossible. If you bought that, you'd have got a 'dead' amp as it wouldn't click the relay on. The 'fault' was one that was likely intermittent but shook up by the Courier this stopped it working. To get that repaired by you lumbered with an expensive 'dead' amp might have cost you at least £200-£300 to get it working as it had other aging issues too. It's like the world of Buying Used Cars, you can often end up with a dud. One car we got from a "reputable" trader had the battery compartment badly rusted out from battery leakage if sneakily hidden plus the alloy wheels they just put regular nuts on if later said we should get some proper alloy ones that have the washer parts on. Water always leaked in if that could never be found. We scrapped it in the end once the heater fan failed as not worth putting more ££ into for the next MOT. You only learn what can be bad in any used gear by getting stung by shysters. Unawareness of the item must make people overpay millions.
Trio-Kenwood Supreme 1: Is It Really Worth €9999?
Quick Answer: No, Hell No. But what is it? It's an early one first seen in the 1968/69 Hifi yearbook, "Supreme I 33w bass - 23w midrange - 15w treble crazy multiamp system ignoring ideas of phase-shift £280" as on our List Of Amplifiers page. What it is shows here it's a Tri-Amping idea of 1968. It's not a good idea to Multiamp if Hifi Mags used to hype this... to get you to buy more amps. The Power Amps in the Amplifier are 3 separate ones with Bandwidth limiting to suit Bass, Treble & Midrange. On amps with Output Meters, such as the Yamaha 1977 ranges, the meters show that Bass can jump the meters very high but Treble can actually hit higher Peaks, so to put Treble power as less than half the Bass wattage is wrong for a start. The ideas of Phase Shift with 3 amplifiers driving 3 drivers in a 3-way speaker are again ignored, the timing of going through different circuitry can create Phase Shift & minute Timing errors giving a blurred sound. We've actually blogged on this before in Feb 2017 here looking further into the amp. We know & like the early Trio-Kenwood amps, the KA-6000 & TK-140X Version 2 are their best ones once upgraded. But as original they are quite a way back from what they can be upgraded to. The Supreme 1 is a rare item of limited use. One we linked to before made £400 in 2017 which is probably it's value as a Collector Piece if not one you'd really use on realising it's not very good. The €10k price is a seller severely taking the mick & trying to hype something in that sinister cynical way. There's a lot of it out there as just blogged above.
Beware Vintage Amplifier Circuit Diagrams Have Errors.
You'd think you could trust Circuit diagrams aka Schematics, but there are occasionally Errors as in Misprints that can trip you up. There are also updated versions of boards with similar numbers but alterations to navigate through. Misnumbered components we've seen most, why are there two lots of R702 sort of thing, marked on boards or diagrams, which one is the real R702? what is the wrongly numbered one then? Capacitor +/- connectors on one Luxman amp was wrong on the Circuit, Marked Wrong on the PCB if the original capacitor was fitted the other way round making it correct if not corresponding to any data. On one of the Yamaha amps the power supply PCB is marked +/- wrongly on one capacitor if the Manual is correct. Another Yamaha circuit completely misses one Power Supply line to join 2 sections on the Diagram. To blog this now on seeing the Marantz 4070 amp has errors. The H809-810 transistors are PNP if it's marked a NPN code. H711-714 are NPN-PNP pairs if all 4 are marked as NPN ones. Be sure there will be more errors out there, so the rule is understand circuits & question what doesn't seem right. How can a beginner make sense of these big errors that will cause problems? How would anyone fault find them from misprinted data?
1970 Pioneer SA-900 Amplifier.
Smart looking 50w Pioneer amp, aiming for the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 market with an amplifier version of the SX-1500TD amplifier, if 50w compared to 45w for the receiver. Two on ebay currently, one got bids to the same price as the Buy-Now one, shows they're not aware of the other one. But it is 48 years old & needs more than a Service to be it's best, if usually capacitors in Pioneer amps last better than some brands. SA-900 the first better quality Pioneer Amp in the SA-500 13w £54, SA-700 34w £91 range in the 1970 HFYB & the SA-900, misrated at 60w if 50w+50w both channels in the manual, for £133 belatedly in the 1972 HFYB. Photos online show it's much like the SX-1500TD if the Power Amp board is better without the several problems the Receiver version has. Still a very small power amp board half hidden. SA-900 adds MC Phono as does the KA-6000 if usually too hissy on the transistors even from tests at the time. No wood cases on either look a bit plain with just black metal, only with small side wood pieces on the fascia. It'll sound nice as do the Receivers if Pioneer at this time don't upgrade as good as Sony or Trio-Kenwood. We'd like to try one but we know what it'll be like so to rebuild & recap it'll still only be a certain price with no wood case, so ebay prices don't leave enough in it for us which is often the problem. The buyer of these will get a nice amp, for the age it'll sound a bit soft & lacking in life as other early Pioneer do as original. Most early amps sound soft as original but upgrade to be a lot better. A worthy amp though, a good one to get to then get upgraded & it led to the bigger Pioneer SA-1000 of the next generation by 1972. The only minus with early Pioneer until 1972-73 are those awful speaker plugs that are only for thin bell wire, use anything heavier & they fall out. We've yet to devise a better speaker connecting way as our 1968 Pioneer SX-1000TDF isn't working yet, but it'll be worked out then.
McIntosh MC275 Valve Amplifier On "How It's Made".
Series 23, Episode 9 has this 75w Power Amp being made. The show can often be as mindnumbing as it's overwhelming in how fast they chuck info at you, if there are often interesting sections amid the same-old predictable ones. "How Is It Made?"... Much Like You'd Expect. The UK Voiceover guy Tony Hirst a Coronation Street actor with his cheery bland puns gets very saccharine sometimes & the generic Musak backing can be annoying in it's blandness. The MC275 shown here is the modern version based on the 1961-73 original, if the Mk VI is the current one with modern connectors. They show the top case being cut out & bent. The Transformer making is interesting, the plastic bobbin part is wound with wire & then the thin metal "E" shaped laminations are put in from both sides to create that metal outer part. Then the transformer is put in a case & sealed with pitch much like ones made many decades ago, if for Audio the idea probably started Post WWII. The circuitry standard is as you'd expect these days, on a PCB which for high power valves is less good than Hard Wiring, as long track instead of short if often untidy old-style construction is far better for reliability. The Valve heat on PCB joints is not as reliable. The Main Capacitors are 4 fairly small ones for the size, possibly 330µf which seems low spec to us. All very easy to manufacture compared to the better quality of earlier construction. Be sure the 'VI' version has more adjustables & ICs to monitor things, if manuals on HFE appear for 1980s ones at latest, McIntosh aren't giving their designs away as it typical of modern Valve amps. Looking at the underside of the PCB, there are 3x ICs for control & likely bias settings, autobias perhaps plus other modern type plug-in cables & a small transformer which may be a Choke or a secondary TX for other uses, bit vague with no circuits. They use the typical red Wima & yellow Vishay type coupling capacitors if these appear small meaning still using low values as per the early designs, instead of realising how much further these old designs can be bettered, if they don't want you having that. It looks a compromise in design & space too limited to upgrade to 'our standards'. It uses the big KT 88s x 4 plus a line of ECC83 type valves if with a green LED underneath? A closer view of the "Rev E" board shows loads of surface mount resistors, transistors & as 5 pins some sort of IC. This is a valve amp with 'lots of modern crap' sadly. Because of the PCB, the transformer leads are pushed onto the PCB pins. It actually looks "unrepairable" beyond valves, bigger resistors & film or electrolytic capacitors, if the 'control' parts fail you're stuffed. 7x smaller valves are 12AT7 & 12AX7 are ECC81 & ECC83. The severely naff Green LED under the smaller valves to show they are working, but not a good look. Today's user wants these things though, we think they are cheesy on what's supposed to be a Top Quality product. We're Not Impressed with the current McIntosh MC275 as you can see, unlikely the sound is as good as the early ones for the dumbing down will be in the circuits to get the "CE" label.
1966 Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 1000 Tuner-Amplifier.
This is the first of the B&O Transistorised Receivers, previously the B&O 608 was a valve-transistor hybrid. We've had quite a lot of the 1969-1977 Beomaster 3000, 3000-2, 4000 & 4400 & we are tired of them as construction is poor, components are poor & sound really is not much better than average as well as these are not worth upgrading like many Japan-USA amps are. To bypass ones at a good price that we should buy at tells we don't want B&O gear & all that again. £82.19s buys you a 15w output amp, no clue of RMS, Peak or Ohms, if later the tests show 13w into 8 ohms. As with B&O the looks please, the performance is considered good, but you can't help but notice their harsh closing comment is "... had not the electronics be rather better, we would have returned the Beomaster to it's importers - unreviewed". Scatching comments done politely hit harder than any negative terms, but what don't they like? The FM tuner is a good one, it tests fine on Power Tests if Square Waves "were rather poor" meaning low spec & feeble design, just as their later gear suffers. Phono doesn't match RIAA with response steadily rising from 400Hz to a +6dB peak at over 10kHz if a dip below 100Hz. But the construction gets this comment "From the handling and mechanics angle, the Beomaster 1000 is among the worst we have had in our laboratory for review". Ouch to that, EU amplifiers we tend to avoid as this is found true when the Japan-USA gear is so much better made. But... to tell the review is by A.W. Wayne of 'Shirley Laboratories Ltd.' who made their own amplifiers, a UK company that didn't keep up so failed as a comment on our 'List Of Amplifiers' page for 1970 says... "For Shirley to still offer the 1960 looking Jupiter in 1970 will have looked so out of place, it's a build in a box type amp, but only £23 for a 12w amp." to fairly wonder on impartiality as the same person's reviews on amps we know are good are often of a similar 'jealous' tone. The facts here are they suspect damage in shipment as the Buttons don't stay down & the tuning pointer has issues. B&O were popular, they sounded good for the money & looks were ahead of many & for the fact B&O are still going with their "Lifestyle" products that may not please Hi-Fi users or us as Techs to upgrade them, they please many & you get the idea the review is unfair for blaming for damage as the row of buttons if knocked out of true, as with the Beomaster 3000, need adjusting back on screw fittings to work right again. Our verdict, Amp is a good one for 1966, reviewer with a slightly damaged one is using the review to again unfairly put down non-UK manufacturers.
The Aged Sound Of The 1977-1978 Monster Receivers.
We first heard the huge Pioneer SX-1980 with a Reggae guy in about 2002 who used it with mid 1970s Tannoys.
The Tannoys sound impressed so we got the Tannoy Monitor Gold 15" Lancasters & the guy swapped amps to show what a McIntosh 2505 power amp sounded like that we bought plus whatever else more modern he used as a preamp. The SX-1980 sat on the floor like an abandoned coffin with huge 560 x 211 x 497mm size with 35kg weight. The Sound of it we were not impressed, it was heavy, slow & dull sounding with little character or detail to the sound unlike the other amps tried. The SX-1980 power supply is very poor for the 270w power output via the triple-paralleled outputs. But several of the mid 1970s receivers have similar overheating such as the Yamaha CR-2020 that we've devised a cool running upgrade to. We've not really had the chance to try any similar "Monster Receiver" until the 1979 Sansui G-8700DB that we found a bit disappointing as the cost cutting from the 1977 ranges to 1979 was obvious. The Biggest Monster Receiver is the 1978 Sansui G-33000 with 300w, 45kg & 636 x 227 x 553mm which is beyond insane really as is the Power amp with 5 differential pairs per channel & quadruple parallelled outputs. So to try the huge 1977 Marantz 2385 receiver, 185w with triple paralleled outputs & 26kg, what does it sound like to us as All-Original & Unserviced after all the amps we've upgraded. Interestingly the same sort of sound as the SX-1980, rich weighty sound, treble lacking with slight grain, deep bass lacking & a lack of depth & not much Stereo width. It sounds slow, tubby & after a while the rather flat soundstage got a bit tiring, if we can hear it would service, recap & upgrade well. This is playing with Tone set to Off, with Tone switched On the quality noticeably lessens, as the Tone is a poor design & led to the false marketing idea that 'Source Direct' was better when the Tone is made with sodding ICs. The thing is these huge amps are 40 years old, one on HFE with the Marantz 2600 proudly tells "it's in repair every 2 years" showing it's aged & their lazy tech just repairs it rather than suggesting a rebuild. These Huge Monster Receivers really are living on borrowed time for the age they are. "A Rich Warm Vintage Sound" Sales Hype as seen often actually is a tired out unserviced amp to us, detail is lacking, it runs a bit warm as not biased since new. The thing is with amps so huge is they need a correspondingly huge amount of work, for us to redo the Marantz 2385 would tell how many hours are needed to clean, service, recap, upgrade plus working out all the circuits & design. The cost to do that to our standards would likely be about what one would cost to buy as raw, are there buyers out there for one once rebuilt?
Turntables: Technics SL-1500 vs Technics SL-120 + SME.
Currently the SL-1500 sells as used for more than the SL-120 when it has no arm included. Both the 1975-76 versions. It's because we've said the SL-1500 is a great turntable in comparison to the Garrard 301 & SME IV. But to try the Technics SL-120 the armless version of the SL-1200. The SL-1200 Mk I was first out in 1972, the SL-120 & SL-1200 Mk I are more Domestic turntables, if since the SL-1200 Mk II it's become a DJ's favourite that's at Mk VI & spawned the similar SL-1210. The Turntable used for early Hip-Hop scratching as high torque compared to feeble belt drives. Direct comparing of SL-120/SME & SL-1500 using the same velvet mat, the same Goldring G-850 conical stylus, with the Straight wire 'Blue' Cables on the SL-1500 & the original SME cable on the SME 3009 II Improved Version arm. We add the Ferrites on the Phono lead as it does make a very noticeable difference to perfecting the Focus as blogged before. We'll compare the decks more later, but first the sound. The SL-1500 with our several upgrades playing a 1967 UK Psych 45 by 'July', it's a loud & dynamic recording, plays "very nicely" with good detail & musical pleasure to the sound. We've played the G-850/SL-1500 combo for a while now & it's pleasing enough to play 4 hours vinyl sessions on Headphones until the Headphones get tiring physically on the ears. The next 45 we've chosen is a 'Stan Kenton' Mambo-Jazz vocal 45 from 1955, very cleanly recorded with strong dynamics & a female vocal. Again it just sounds right. Some of the louder parts are not as focussed as the 301-SME can do on similar tracks which shows there is still better, if in reality the percentage improvement is likely no more than 10%-15% "better" in ultimate detail retrieval. Not that Transistor or IC Phono stages can do the detail our Custom Valve phono does. So to try the SL-120/SME next for this review, if we'd played it earlier with a few 45s to see it was set up right. There is an almost surreal difference as the SL-120/SME brings just a little more focus on the 1955 track, just a step closer to the performance. The 1967 track similarly has better focus. A sort of audible difference like using a modern aluminium step ladder that does the job but you're a little unsure of it, compared to a vintage c.1970 steel ladder that you feel at ease balancing on one foot on the top platform. Playing a recording of the 1967 track via both players for quick comparison the difference on a distorted busy track is very subtle. The 1955 track cut cleaner shows the difference a little more clearer. The idea is the SL-1500 as upgraded is 90% of the SL-120/SME. For the price of a serviced SL-1500 compared to a serviced SL-120/SME, the SL-1500 at under half the price represents awesome value at the price. Would you actually hear the 10% difference with a 'normal' Phono stage? SL-120 vs SL-1500 build quality. Both are the same size & height, the SME versions have that odd 'bubble' on the lid to accomodate arm height of certain cartridges if ours barely extends into that space & other cartridges of lower body height wouldn't really need that extra space. The original feet on the SL-1500 aren't very good as either the spring or rubber cup version, we fitted solid rubber feet, sorbothane pad & felt pad which is a good improvement. The SL-120/SL-1200 feet are more substantial, plastic pillar feet that attach to the metal plinth with very slight springing & felt pads. These are much better & no need to changer those. The weight of SL-1500 as stock is 7.8kg & SL-1200 is 10kg with most of the extra weight in the plinth & bigger motor. The SL-1500 platter is 1.68kg if it has a part of the motor fixed to it & SL-1200/120 is 1.7kg. Hinges differ, some with screws others with a fixed bar piece if the modern Technics lid springs are easier to use. Mechanically the heavier plinth is the main difference if the SL-1200 motor is more substantial & is quicker by a tiny amount in settling on speed. Therefore it would be fair to assume the SME arm probably counts for the tightening of focus. Again the SL-1500 for it's price with the Technics arm, if serviced & adjusted right is still great value.
SME 3009 Turntable Arm: Reviews, Views & Setting Up.
We first got one of these with the Garrard 301 grey grease bearing in about 1997. The 301 was a NOS first used about 1966-68 by the ugly cabinet it came in, a home-made effort as was the way in thise days & with the Dynaco ST-120 & PAT-4 preamp plus the matching tuner, the Dynaco was first out in 1966 so not used until then. The SME 3009 in 1966 would have been the 3009 S2 non fixed counterweight with detachable headshell. The first ones were out in as early as 1958 & the S2 detachable or fixed headshell was introduced 1963, by info found online if reading through Hi-Fi News we could narrow the dates down further perhaps. We weren't keen on the 3009 S2 for the rattly knife bearing, rubbery plinth fixing washers & most of all the lousy "soup strainer" headshell with over 100 holes drilled in the top plus 8 graduated ones on each side. This compared to the Garrard TPA arm we found the SME with that 'flexible' headshell was blurring the sound. The modern Technics headshell you can still buy today improved it, but we found the 3009 S2 clunky in use so bought the SME IV instead & in the end sold it as it's a bit limited in use, is it really so great? Getting the Technics SL-120 with the SME 3009 II Improved, to at least try the thing out again, how is the 'Improved' version? Far less clunky, the arm still moves on the knife bearings but better held in for the changes. The SME underside oval case is very tricky to put back together still & it has to come off to service, if not an item to fully take to pieces as it'll have ball bearings that will cause difficulty most likely, or maybe they are a ball race like VHS heads used? Not going to find out as it works fine with no sticking, if one someone oiled may need work, don't oil it though. Setting up the Arm Geometry is easy enough, you need a Cartridge Alignment Protractor, the perspex mirrored one the best. Set it up to be square on the patterns which means it gets pushed back from centre usually. The right angled bar with a weight in the day we had that, er what does that do? But the manual which we have as well as it being online says to adjust the amount the angled bar sticks out according to your cartridge weight, as in the physical weight of the piece. Our Goldring G-850 'budget' one says it weighs 7g on the info sheet, so to set the arm to the "7g" position. The further right the angled bar sits, each line means 2g, so for 7g to show 3 lines 7 midway of the 4th. Then zero the counterweight by having the arm 'in equilibrium' as they say, removing the Bias weight first, if balancing straight as not too light or too heavy. All seems good, but not quite. The weight on the bar is adjustable, you poke a screwdriver to depress the sprung ball inside the small round weight to get it on the bar & each line adds 0.25g weight, with "0" with the weight pushed back. The problem is that only goes to 1.5g so you have to add an extra 1g tracking weight by adjusting the counterweight & using 1g on the bar to track at 2g, so you will really need a SPG to perfect it, an estimate will likely have you tracking too heavy. We've seen these with extra weights on that bar, if that will still not be correct & probably too heavy. Similarly the DJ headshells by Technics have a hole that takes 2g or 4g weights to track DJ cartridges like Stanton make for 'Rough Use'. The Bias weight has notches to allow variations, 0.25 to 1.5. Usually Bias number matches playing weight number if tracking at 2g there is no option. Bias isn't so critical so you'll just have to set it to 1.5 on the end notch. After just a few records played, bias is best set at Half the Tracking else it wants to slide off the run-in groove, so we set it at "0.75" & it physically behaves. Where to fix the Bias weight post, we fit it with 90° angle in relation to the outside edge of a 45rpm 7" disc to have the travel of it midway of an LP. The last adjust is to use the mirror of the protractor to see the cartridge tilt isn't off true & make sure the bias weight is in the pulley groove. Also the Bias weight post may be bent down too far, see the angle in the manual, the pulley at the same height as the bias thread hook post. Quite a bit to set up, but as we found with the SME IV, it stays put unless you change cartridges. But on testing further, the SME needs more than just belief in their method... see the blog below. Is The SME 3009 II Improved Easy To Play Records With? We didn't like the SME IV so much as travel as limited & it stopped us playing records so much beyond recording Vinyl to Digital is the truth of it. The Technics SL-1500 is nice & easy to use, good arm travel so you can use it without have having to worry about bumping stops. The SME 3009 S2 we didn't like as it was rattly on the bearings seeming unsure in use. But the "II Improved" certainly is improved, we're playing 45s like with the SL-1500 & realising that it's the SME. The arm clip on ours was "the wrong way round" as in you passed the arm up & over the clip to settle it with the opening on the right. Pics online suggest that's the SME way, if we don't like that so rotated it to be the way the SME IV arm does it, clips on the left of the clip post. The plastic clip automatically closes & locks the arm which can be avoided by not putting the arm fully in the clip to not forever be undoing the clip which is easy to do. Therefore no less restricted than the SL-1500 way which suits us.
Setting Up An SME Is Too Much Bother?
The Technics SL-1500 is much easier to set up, fit cartridge, use the alignment protractor the headshell fits in & then zero the weight to balance then dial in 2g. How accurate is it? Read on. The Technics SL-120 came with a circa 1978 Ortofon VMS 20 II with a stylus of unknown useage. Didn't like the thin scratchy sound of that... "The VMS 20 is probably one of Ortofon's most highly acclaimed cartridges, incorporating a nude, diamond elliptical stylus." says VinylEngine & other sites say it was 'high end' in it's day. Funny how we prefer the cheapo 1970 Goldring G-850 at a fifth of the price at the time. It's in the SME headshell & untouched in decades it might service up a bit better if the cartridge is a lower height upsetting the geometry & only 5g weight. Setting Up The Geometry & Getting The Weights Right is crucial as it makes quite a big difference for how the Diamond rides the Groove, fitting better you get better sound. We have a Garrard SPG3 pressure gauge, an early item that weighs up to 10g playing weight & needs a calibration with the 5g weight inside the compartment as it wasn't accurate, the SPG3 is crude, weighs up to 10g & for 2g weight how do we know it's accurate? To use the 5g weight to calibrate showed it was 0.25g off & balancing is all guessing with it. Digital Scale. So to charge up some batteries to use a digital jewellery scale that weighs in 0.01g divisions is far better & why we bought it years ago. Set level or sat on the mat higher up it weighs the same. What the SPG3 once calibrated said was 2g was severely out, it read 1.45g & was previously about 1.2g before calibrating. The SL-1500 zeroed & dialled in as 2g was far better, it read 2.11g. You have to work & have external scales to get the SME 3009 right. 28% error on SPG3 junk vs acceptable 5% tolerance by the fast setting of the SL-1500. Technics Arms are Designed for Fast Adjusting. DJ's don't usually use SME arms as too precise for these settings, the Technics arms in the SL-1210 Mk VI being much like the SL-1500 are adjustable with a different cartridge in a few minutes, the SME 3009 to do all the settings & weights as well as knowing the Cartridge body weight is at least a 30 min job, or 3 hours if you've not done one before. SME needs a small hex wrench, alignment protractor & digital scale. SL-1500 you can do on the machine with no extras beyond the "Technics Overhang Gauge" & get accurate results. The wikipedia page for the Technics SL-1200 is more about the Mk 2 to Mk 6 version with the Pitch-Speed control slider. Historic Turntable. Grandmaster Flash in the early 80s went on about ‘The Wheels Of Steel’ if actually the SL-1200 is all aluminium, but the Garrard 4HF 1959 turntable has a Steel Platter though & not good for magnetic cartridges, 4HF was used by Reggae ‘Sound Systems’ in the 1960s & possibly these 4HF were found first in finding old family gear. The SL-1200 & SL-1210 are given the credit for Reviving Vinyl for the DJ use with dodgy white label bootleg 'dance mixes' of the 1990s & of course the early 1980s DJs when Hip-Hop was still creative used these turntables for 'scratching' as the motor has good torque to not slow down like belt drive ones, if the idler wheel ones are even stronger torque.
Vintage Hi-Fi Needs More Makers Of Repro Parts. A
The Success & Popularity of a Genre depends on seeing how
Repro Items of certain parts that are needed to keep Hifi alive. The Vintage
as shown by the
TV Shows like 'Wheeler Dealers' shows
in the USA a lot of Custom Parts are buyable. Quality Varies but as the Car Scene
gets so many TV shows there is a lot of interest. NOS parts plus skilfully made
Repro parts are needed. In Hi-Fi we can see the advances in Hifi made over the last 7 years
since we started our Hifi Pages. You see Wikipedia pages for some Hifi like the
Technics SL-1200. The Service Manual Sites are probably the biggest help in getting
interest in keeping Hifi alive if that goes into Tech Work. We see our Influence
& there are other sites giving potted info on Hifi but none as concise as ours. Before 2011 the best-only
Hifi Site was the "The Vintage Knob" one run by a EU person who stopped updating
several years ago. They covered some of the early stuff but not much & at that
time anything pre 1977 was generally ignored as not understood to be worthy. Hifi Forums are hard going
as so much amateur input that is mostly waffling nonsense, bad ideas & opinion based on little experience. Those more professional who tried forums
don't stay for long as the audience are beginners & for that a Forum is a good
place to start as you'll get an idea of what people are interested in, if it's
really too random, so we started putting pages here to fill in these gaps in
knowledge & via Google we got found. Back to Repro Parts... The USA scene for
Repro McIntosh wood cases we knew of with buying some McIntosh amps in 2002. These Repro cases are worth having to cover the McIntosh gear that is with
metal casing not really for seeing as these were built into cabinets with the
Panloc fixings. Free Standing McIntosh needs the cabinets. But have originals
with the nice slanted feet or repros less well made & easy to prefer the originals
if now 16 years later these will be rare & expensive. We saw a basic 2 side boards
& top plank with large holes cut for the huge Marantz 2385-2500-2600 ones sell
for nearly $1000, you see why there are various repros made as there is a demand. For a Fisher
X-100-B amp we're rebuilding for a customer, to just think the caps are bad for
the L+R imbalance, but then once recapped to realise the Volume Control is bad
despite the amp's high grade. To never think some mean person would have swapped
their worn one in a bigger model for the nice one in that amp, but looking closer
revealed it had been unsoldered so swapped. Karma helps the customer who finds
a Repro Volume Control as the seller had similar issues so had to get a batch
made of a certain minimum order amount to get what they need. Custom made by
a company if unmarked as to by who,
these are not cheap, £100 delivered if at least no Import Duty somehow.
This is a well made part with a better turn-on click as the Volume has Loudness
& Power Switch too, the old one needed heavier handling to turn on so it wore
it more. Once the batch are sold there will only be more if another gets them
made or the seller sees the demand gives a profit to make more. Money talks,
demand talks, if demand is still growing as people see these Vintage Amps are
worth keeping alive. For all the amps we've had, it's rare to get a bad Volume
control if it can happen & to replace that means searching for amp parts or getting
another to take that part from, hoping it is better condition. Most of Amplifiers
can be renewed as the big sellers like Farnell & RS still sell capacitors, resistors,
transistors etc that are of the type used. But when it comes to cabinets, fascias,
lids, volume controls, switches, amp feet, tuner glasses & 240v transformers
110v, there is a lacking. We hope in years to come with advancing technology
repro parts will get made. Here's the Opportunity for someone to make a lot of
money by manufacting high quality Custom Repro parts. The difficulty is knowng
which ones will be wanted beyond the McIntosh, Marantz, Pioneer etc biggest models.
Will anyone make a missing lever switch for the Trio-Kenwood KA-6004 or 8004
as the originals break off? Actually we made some from pipes & rods, look at our KA-6004 gallery page, we made those. It just takes someone creative
& visionary to further Hifi by Manufacturing Wanted Parts. From Our Experience we find that Volume Controls can occasionally need replacing, we'd try to repair first but worn out track means you need a new part & possibly can swap bits around. Recent Amps with those Miniature Volume Controls & Balance like on the 2007 Marantz PM 6002 are very prone to failure & unfindable or very expensive. We serviced an early CD player, never again as they are just too much aggro & the ownder bizarrely used it often by the Headphone output amplified by an IC. The tiny Volume Pot was worn out if somehow via his Japanese contacts managed to get a replacement one as these tiny style ones are still used. Power Switches can be a pain too, these illogically have silver plated contacts which tarnish to black & lose contact after sparking for years. If you have an amp that makes loud cracking noises or the lights flicker with no sound, or flicker for about 30 seconds to settle, then the Power Switch could be bad, if it could be many other reasons too. To replace a power switch is as tricky as a volume as you'll never find parts if we keep amp bits from failed ones so have a chance to find one. As with any parts that may need replacing, to try to service & repair the original is always a far better idea.
Why Do Some Early Amps Use Paralleled Output Transistors?
The 'Monster Receivers' & similar High Power Amps get a lot of their Wattage from using Paralleled Output Transistors. This starts with Double, ie the Push-Pull Left Channel uses 4 Output Transistors instead of Two. It grew to Three, four & possibly even more in sone 500w Modern amps. Double Output Transistors theoretically Doubles the Current, if looking at the HT of the 1970 Akai AA-8500 is a Capacitor Coupled amp with a 76v HT. The Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 is a CC design too with 86v which is rated 48w RMS both channels if the similar KR-6160 receiver is rated 55w & the previous TK 140X of either amp board is rated 53w. 76v HT equates to ±38v in a (Semi-) Complimentary design & a similar ±40v in the Sansui 3000A from 1967 rates 45w. The Akai AA-8500 is rated 65w RMS which on Single Output Transistors rated about 38w with 28v clean sine as we read on the last one of this amp we had, as on the 'Power Ratings' page. 28v on other amps can be done by some 35w-40w amps depending on current output of the design. Take 40w as a base, Doubled Outputs brings 65w, not quite Double the Current if it depends on the Transformer & Power Supply. 40w to 65w is a 62.5% increase in Power. But Why Do Early Amps Use Doubled Outputs is the question... The answer on early amps like the 1965 Sony TA-1120, 1967 Sony TA-1120A and 1965 Fisher 600-T is simply the Wattage Required wasn't available in the Transistors at the time. The Sony used NPN Silicon transistors rated 50w & the Fisher used Germaniums if the 35144 outputs are probably 50w too, if no info is findable. To look at the Sony, rated 50w into 8 ohms & 120w "Music Power" as the specs are known, the very first outputs as the Manual shows were 2SD45 rated 5A at 50w. There is no extra power beyond perhaps 10w for Peaks & "Music Power" so Sony doubled the outputs to get that 120w rating, giving the amp better headroom in use, insteasd of just flattening out. The 1967 TA-1120A uses these too if by the time the 1968 STR-6120 was out, also rated 50w it used 2SD88 which were 5A with 80w giving the extra headroom to not need Doubled Outputs. The TA-1120(A) puts out 29-30v clean sine which doesn't really show doubled current as the circuits are designed a certain way to not give higher wattage as 30v is typical for 50w in other standard design amps. Both the TA-1120(A) & STR-6120 work on 93v HT, so in effect to only get 50w from Doubled Outputs shows the TA-1120(A) is designed safe if the STR-6120 is a more open design & once upgraded we hear how good it sounds, if the 1965 TA-1120 we can hear is tamed in the design & for sake of keeping it original, we didn't upgrade, but in theory the TA-1120(A) could put out about 80w if "maximised" in design. The Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 inside has spaces to add more transistors to do similar to the Sony TA-1120 if by the time it was released, the 2SC898 transistor was available with 7A & 80w to not need to used Doubled Outputs, if Trio had designed the heatsink to use these but just used what they made. You hear of "forum types" putting in the 250w MJ- type transistors saying they upgraded the amp, no you didn't, the power will be no different. which leads to this Old Chestnut...
The Age Old Question: Can I Make My Amplifier Higher Power?
It's One we asked starting into Hifi & "No You Can't, It Depends On The Amplifier Voltages". But that's strictly not true... the above shows The Wattage can be increased by Doubled Output Transistors. As the above shows, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 has spaces for Doubled Outputs to Increase the power by increasing Current, but not Voltage. to Bridge an amplifier increases the Voltage if not the Current if today there are Bridged-Paralleled circuits doing both. We Do Not Recommend You Do This... The KA-6000 is overspec as vintage amps usually are, so to make a 48w into a 80w amp is possible here. You need to understand how it's designed, look at the Sony TA-1120(A) or Akai AA-8500 designs to see how, but to be aware if you try this you may overload your Power Supply & get a wrecked amp. We're not telling how to do this more than this, but in Theory & in Practice, to make a 48w into 80w is possible. Problems you'll get can range from overheating on heatsinks, overheating the transformer from drawing too much current as well as the Power Supply & Fuses will need to be capable of the extra wattage.
So If 1965-67 Amps Needed Doubled Outputs, Why Does the 1970 Akai?
There's always one who has to ask difficult questions... By 1968 there were affordable Transistors capable of 80w & the Date Sheets show rare ones rated up to 200w if these wil have been very expensive. The 2SD 203 as originally designed is 6A with 50w, so the same problem as the Sony TA-1120(A) if by 1970 you'd think designs would have progressed, but the reality is the AA-8500 might have first been designed in 1968 as a Prestige Item, as it is, if only released 1969-70. Our one has 2SD218 with are 7A 60w. Akai here weren't pre-emting the "Monster receivers" with 2, 3 & 4 paralleled outputs, they just wanted to offer a higher power amp than just a typical 50w one. The Next Amp we see Parallel Outputs in that we are aware of is the 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 which is using a Fully Complimentary design as was the fashion by then & 2SB541 & 2SD388 outputs, ignoring the 'P' tag, means the 85w rated SA-9500 on are 12A 80w/8A 80w meaning here they are using Transistors only rated at about the rated power as 80w-85w is the rating on the SA-9500 depending on frequency. so here, by necessity or by using cheaper transistors as by 1975 there were higher power NPN if getting NPN-PNP pairs, as the 1975 Technics SU-8080 has too, is less easy so they must double them up. But by the 1977 "Monster Receiver" era receivers of 180w-300w made by Marantz, Pioneer, sansui etc were usng the Parallel Output transistors in threes or fours to get these very high powers. The Highest Power 340w Marantz 2600 sadly has no manuals findable yet as so few sold, if the 300w Marantz 2500 does & shows quadruple parallel output transistors, a total of 16 output transistors instead of the typical 4 & works on ±87.3v for it's 300w if the 185w rated Marantz 2385 works on ±75v with triple parallel outputs, the 2385 is either underrated-tamed or the 2500 is pushed to the limits. The Monster receiver era is all very silly as blogged just above, if it shows progress that can be made & led to even higher outputs using different design types. By 1980 the Hifi scene dropped all these huge amps that likely lost the companies a fortune, as who needs them beyond those wanting to try extreme amp design & power.
The Early Amps By Akai: Part One
For the amount of Amps we've had, after a while you can find which is their "Best Ever". To be upfront about Akai, they hide the quality of their amps on the ones mentioned, only by upgrading to they sing nicely. as original they are nothing special, For this section, we look at Akai, a Japanese company that started off very 'High End' for it's time if economic pressures of the early 1970s had to make them change their standards, ie cost-cut to keep going. The 1972 Akai AA-5800 45w amplifier is a particularly good one that was quite ordinary as Original but we know the designs & got a great sound out of it, but decided for the Midprice Quality of the case that we'd stay with the 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 instead. The AA-5800 has a great design if tamed down & limited to sound no better thasn they want you having, if before we have found great designs that got tamed to hide. The sort of "Design As Good As You Can Design" if then reduce it to not have it too good. Only our unique way of Design-Upgrading brings this out. The 1966 Akai AA-7000, the large sized slim profile one was a fascinating amp, we got two of them showing we liked it, if eventually did sell these as they are too big to have around. It upgraded well if as too aged we never heard it as original. They also run quite hot for the Transformer Coupled early design if this does sound great. So in 2015 we saw the 1970 Akai AA-8500, didn't know it but saw it was worth a try. Condition wasn't great & needed a lot done to get it to our standards, if it's one we didn't upgrade too much, an Unfinished Idea really & the AA-5800 reminded us of it. Fate has things come your way & to get another AA-8500. The design of this is pleasing, the fascia is very "Space Age" & probably the most futuristic classy design you'll see & no-one else copied this. It has a drum to show the Tuning, so the Tuner window is square with 2 meters to the left. Large Rotary Controls for Tuning & Volume, Big Sliders for Balance & Tone, a Lever for Tape Monitor & 7 large push buttons for Power & other Tuner, Loudness & Filter uses. On first geting it, we assumed it was quite a small amp, but in fact it's fascia is large 461mm x 147mm & the controls are all bigger than you'd expect. This as blogged above is one of the Rare Paralleled Double Output Transistor amps, initially done to give higher power for Transistor Spec if actually the Higher Current drives speakers better as per the 180w+ Monster Receivers. The Akai AA-8500 is their best early receiver therefore, but read on for how it sounds as Original. But it still is 1970 which is 48 years ago & the transistors usually hiss as the Hitachi 2SC458 that was a standard transistor hasn't aged well. Here the AA-8500 has Volume before the Tone stage so the hiss will always be heard, we'll just replace the lot. For 1970 the main capacitors are a high value, 3x 1000µf paralleled to give 3000µf, if the Sony TA-1120 in 1965 used one large 4000µf one as did the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000. The AA-8500 appears to one of the earliest Relay amps, if again the 1965 Sony TA-1120 was the first one, if the AA-8500 uses it for the 'Audio Mute' mode to silence, rather than protection, the "EPC" stage is the Protection, if with Capacitor Coupled Outputs it just Mutes the Early Power Amp Stage as there can be no DC voltage onto the speakers, assuming the Speaker Capacitors are good. It's not perfect though, the Filter stage is fussy if the AA-5800 one could be made good & the Tone stage is a bit tamed. Power Amp board is a pleasing design, pre Differentials & may possibly better the UA1384 Trio-Kenwood board, as in TK-140X Mk II & KR-6160 if that doesn't have Bias Adjust, only Midpoint Adjust. What becomes of the AA-8500 is to be found, we just see it's the Best Akai & how it upgrades with some subtle redesign is to be found out. Keeps hi-Fi interesting, if this is a Revisited Amp. See Part 2 In August Blog covering the AA-8500 further as we Upgrade Ours, the Sound actually isn't very impressive as Original.
Be Sure To Set The Right AC Mains Voltage.
Some amps are Multivoltage with easy ways to set the voltage, the Plug-In blocks, or Fuse-Middle round ones with a plug to adjust. No excise not to see that. The Quadraphonic Marantz 4070 & others are unwisely awkward to know what the voltage & the reason for this blog is telling the Marantz 4070 was bizarrely set to 200v which according to Mains Voltage sites is in some of Japan or Bermuda. Wherever it came from, it never worked again as the Preamp Regulator won't be the right voltage. What the Wrong Voltage setting using 240v does is trash transistors, wear out Mains Switches & generally cause a lot of bother meaning the Marantz 4070 as blogged above really was "Too Far Gone" if at last after replacing 2 transistors for the second time after wondering about the voltage settings if there is no info ecept in a we finally get it playing stereo. If it wasn't a Marantz we'd not have bothered with it if you'll not find another 4070 fully recapped as 4 channel amp in a modest sized case is too much & similar to why no-one fixes the 5.1 type Amps as it's too complicated, if today there are all ICs. Marantz of this 1973 era are a top brand & the work was worth it. Only the Marantz 2230 receiver shows these screw boards to set it right, if following the screw wires, not wire colours. So to get a 220v amp as some Luxman are only one voltage setting & use 240v, you may get away with it as 220-240v is 9% out, just within typical tolerance. But 200-240v is 20% out & this will more or less trash the amp.
1970s Quadraphonic Amplifiers Are Actually Worth Buying.
Earlier opinion on 4 Channel 1970s Amplifiers based on a Marantz 4230 we had in the early 1990s was that they sounded slow & blurry. But we're not happy leaving that Stone Unturned so decided to get the 4ch Marantz 4070 & despite the amount of work it needed, success was the only option, see blogs above. So after running it in for a while as technically it's not been used in decades beyond our new parts added & then we set the Bias & DC Offset, following our Bias setting ideas. The 4070 had locking paint & dirt marks to show the original settings so we left them set as that for the First Try of the Sound. The Power Amp is on the original transistors & not done the ceramics yet, the initial 4ch setting was a bit blurry on treble which was a bit imprecise but a good sound, switching to Bridged Mode the sound doubled the imperfections & blurred further. This is the Typical Quadraphonic Amp sound as Unserviced & still on original capacitors, the 2ch mode will make the sound soft & blurry as not adjusted right. In fact all Unserviced All Original Amps will age & go off spec, if few ever bother to get them Serviced, not realising that the sound isn't what it could be. Now Adjusted right, the 2ch or 4ch mode sound the same & the amp itself sounds a lot better than we expected if there's more we can do still. The thing with Quadraphonic Amps is 4ch Sound is pretty useless if you'll use it for 2ch by Bridging, the Marantz ones have a switch at the back, if the 2ch mode Bridged will sound twice as bad as the 4ch mode with half the power. Naturally to redo a 4ch amp is Double a Stereo one & even if Decoder & Matrix Circuitry doesn't get used, it's still part of the Preamp & needs redoing too. The Marantz 4070 was worth us getting to research, but the reality is for all the problems & rebuilding it needed, a customer would end up with an Upgrade bill higher than they'd want to pay, not realising it's Double the work. Look at the Circuit Diagrams, the complex circuit needs understanding to fault find from & this 4070 amp was one of the most difficult we've had to get working from being unuseable. The 1984 Sansui AU-G90X amp is an X-Balanced Design which is actually a Bridged design we discovered from learning the 4070 design. The 90X was a complex one to adjust as so many things to adjust as it's technically a 4ch amp Bridged to 2ch. When the Bias wasn't right it lost Bass & Treble to a lesser extent. Bridging can work but it requires adjustments to be accurate.
August 2018 Blog
Shuguang EL34-B Valve Review. Do They Better The JJ Brand Ones?
We got some of these for the Luxman LX33 as the JJ EL34 are still cracking. Nothing solves it. Bias Voltage & Current is set right. The crackling comes & goes but it clearly is picking up airborne interference for a design weakness which we've tried everything to solve. So to try a different Valve brand. Heard of Shuguang which are supposedly rated in Guitar Amps, they get further selected by other brands & rebranded at higher prices. They arrive looking like bigger bottle JJs with a 'Svetlana Winged C' look for the base colour & having the Wings inside the case, if otherwise unrelated. We plug them in, very tight fit & turn on. Such tight fitting means the pin wires get pushed about & time wasted wondering why the new valves manage to Bias so bad, blame them for not being run in properly & then the JJs bias up as badly, as a wire... came... loose. A wire to the Output Transformer meant V4 had no Anode connection & the valve is very noisy after that so it damages it. The Shuguangs sound extended like the JJs do, crisp treble & deep bass. Oh, and none of that Infernal Crackle the JJs torture you with. To set bias, play it for 20 mins & then to set AC Bias as detailed below. After doing all the settings after 1 hour+ use the Shuguangs better the JJs for treble detail & none of the rustling noise. we've avoided Made In China valves since the late 1990s with the 'Golden Dragon' ones & stuck to the Russian ones which sadly have lost Svetlana now. The Chinese valve is still under test in use & see how long it lasts, the LX33 amp was hard on the JJs probably the ultrasonic rustling wore them out fast even applying all the tricks. As for Musical Pleasure, the Shuguangs do sound better than the JJs, the better treble shows more finesse in the sound, the JJs last time playing .wav files from the Computer was found not as good as transistor amps, here the Shuguangs bring the 'transistor quality' to valves.
How Do We Bias Our EL34 Amps?
We put test points by the EL34s to adjust bias without having the amp on the edge as the original way had to be done, so easy enough. The Tube Technology 100w vave amps have Bias per Valve which is easier to set, but the LX33 way is OK. You have one Adjust Pot for the Master Bias on the Push-Pull pair & then another Balances them to be the same. Supposedly you buy Matched Quads of EL34s to not need to balance if these do age in use so balance may be midway true when new but can drift either way after use. Once that is done with the amp being on at least 20 minutes to get used to the settings & make sure it's correct, the Balanced way is less precise than the individual pot way. Then to do the AC bias which makes sure the driver valves are putting out the same level of Sinewave, the AC bias is on the Splitter circuit. To adjust that to use a 1kHz test tone & an oscilloscope on the output from the Splitter if before the Grid Stopper resistor. To use a Multimeter to read the DC voltage will only bias the driver stage which may differ from using the 'scope or Cathode Bias. Precise AC bias adjusting of the splitter gives very crisp treble to the point Treble needs -1 to a previous sound. This will likely upset the EL34 Bias values to a degree so you just need to recheck they are right & they will vary to a degree but not much. The Bias Balancing Way isn't perfect though, try to test it the next day & it'll be a little off, but it's within tolerance so no need to rebias daily. Modern amps with Autobias probably Autobias it every second & the circuit will limit the sound someway, so we're not keen on Autobias like the Prima Luna amp had, if the IC fails you have no amp.
How Rare Is Your Amplifier? How Many Were Made?
As with any good product, as in Records, many great 45s & LPs sold nothing as badly promoted or ahead of their time. It takes Decades to realise the Best Of The Past in any Genre & can only be done with hindsight by comparing it with the contemporaries. As an example, the 1966 Sansui 3000 receiver was out by Dec 1966, the 3000A version came a few months later, but why the 'A' version? The 3000 was a great amp but buyers wanted Two Speaker Pairs now as other amps like Fisher had on the 1965-66 Fisher 440-T & Fisher 600-T, Sansui missed recognising the want for this so swiftly updated the 3000 to the 3000A. The 3000 version is a rare find as few were made & few sold, the first small batch will have been made & distributed in the USA & selected EU Countries. It is possible that 100-300 were made, if you never see it. But the 3000A was a popular amp at the Army & Navy stores & sold well for there to be a steady amount on USA ebay, maybe 5000+ sold. It's a great amp & hearing an original one it was as good as anything Fisher made, if likely sold cheaper to get the sales. The 3000A is found with '1969' date codes & it got a 1971 mods supplement as it aged. It sold well & was still around when the rarer 4000 came & went. A manufacturer in Hifi soon learnt the trouble of the Television Overproduction that is mentioned in 1966-67 Hifi News magazine, don't overproduce, test the market that could be fickle & get an updated version out fast if needs be as Sansui did. It leads the question, how many did a successful amp sell worldwide. This info you never see published & we've read the HFN mag 1956-80, yet you do get the idea a popular amp can sell 20,000 as is suggested by the Quad II if that was sold 1953-68. Low sales on Lowther amps that were made 1959 & still 'available' in 1971 are revealed by very low serial numbers. The Japanese makers can number amps to not be so easy to follow as they number amid all their ranges as well as using different numbers, possible the Yamaha CR-1000 could have had 5000 made. But then the 1965 Sony TA-1120 is numbered to 4000 on the manual if ours was just over 5000. Did they really make 5000 of them? Highly unlikely, the serial numbering must include Tape Machines. The SME 3009 arm is numbered to suggest "Series 1 1959-1963 10,000 built. Series 2 1963-1973 180,000 built. Series 2 Improved 1973-2003 260,484 built." says one on a forum, and based on Serial numbers it is possible them numbering all product in the same series. As with Records we know some Beatles 45s sold 1 Million+ & these are very common to find, if SME really made 450,000 arms there'd be a glut of them which there isn't. Onto the huge "Monster Amps" how many of the Marantz 2385 were made? Six are on ebay with some 110v only & some missing original parts, they aren't selling. The amp was £977 new in 1977 the equivalent of £6000-8000 today. Did Marantz make 1000 of these & just sit hoping for sales? No, Marantz know marketing & sales so these Prestige Items were made in small quantities to test the market after getting Hifi Mag reviews where Sales will have been generated plus with a Waiting List as is mentioned in the HFN especially in the late 1960s, they made enough for the demand. Marantz will likely have initially made 50-100 for the Reviewers & big Hifi Dealers around the Country, assuming they'd risk buying the amp in. In the early 1960s, one UK shop proudly said they had the only Tannoy GRF pair in the country, if at the time it was a tiny market in the UK. For the EU market as is revealed by how Rare 240v 1960s Fisher Amps are, they may have made around 50 for the biggest Hifi Dealers & then waited for the reaction & sales orders. An amp on order taking 4 weeks is being made for you, it's not being sourced from another distributor, we know that on ordering a silver SME IV, there were none on the network the shop said, so a wait for one. It's like Cars today, Black White or Silver are in stock, other colours are Special Order which is why the roads are so tediously Monochrome. Soon Marantz found sales likely sold perhaps 200-300 worldwide & they're not going to make more to set up the factory if there are only a tiny few orders so it's out of stock & the distributors shuffle them around to the last buyers. The web presence of these big amps is high for their extravagant size & power, if how many are out there? We can only guesstimate. How many got thrown out when they got damaged, people do & we read of one being found on a kerbside. We had a 1977 Yamaha CR-2020 the buyer bought in 1981 in Singapore with the sales bill in the box still for about 25% of the list price as really the end of line in a market that fell off late 1979 as the 1980 ranges reveal, see our List Of Amps-Receivers pages. Marantz 2385s that went unsold would be discounted too, as the Quadraphonic amps were discounted minus the decoders & likely shipped to a different market that would buy them as cheap. As with any Collectable or Vintage item, even looking at those Sites that list old Auction prices, the odds are the same one reappears. Then to see how easy it is to find one to buy. Some UK pressed records on major labels, there should be 300 demos made at least, we've not seen in 25-30 years despite knowing them, they don't turn up. Look for the Marantz 2385, they aren't selling as overpriced & could be listed still after a few years. a 41 year old amp isn't for daily use, so why buy it unless you find someone who dares to work on these, how many even vaguely like us. A SME 3009 S2 Modified arm isn't easy to find, plenty will be with owners naturally, if turnover of items if 'scarce to common' is quite regular. The notorious & best at high prices turn over. In Records, a record that is genuinely rare can make a typical price each time, but the bubble bursts when all the 'Deep Pockets' buyers have theirs as the demand is satisfied, you only want one copy. We saw this on a £600 item in 2015 that suddenly only made £300 for a nice copy, then even worse with another decent one around £225 the next month & none seen since as this scared the market. Still one of the Best 1960s UK 45s. So however Rare an item is is pretty irrelevant, is it Wanted? Is it Overpriced? Will it be reliable despite being 40 years old?