Vintage Hi-Fi Gallery
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• PLEASE NOTE... All of These Amplifiers & Receivers above are now SOLD•
Best & Worst Looking Amplifiers 1963-1983
Buyers like Old Hifi Amplifiers & Receivers for their Looks as well as how they sound. Looks makes them more wanted in some ways as people like good Style & sometimes beyond how the item sounds. We like a few amps for their looks & they actually sound great too. Here is our Unique Beauty & Ugly Amp lists based only on Amps we've had, as with most things of Wonder, it needs to be in hand to appreciate. Good looks can mean good sound too as care was taken in all ways. Style costs money & for the Trio KA-6000 to look so good when all other Trio of the same era look like tin boxes is a great find. Oddly the ones that rate highest are the keeper ones. If an amp came with wood trim or a case, then having that will greatly add to it's cool value. Seeing amps that do have wood cases but only have the metal lid can look very ordinary & will hugely diminish in cool value appeal. The buyer either cheaped out or the Shop selling it never bought any in & buyer would be unaware the cases existed unless they saw them in adverts or Shop Windows elsewhere. Photos are below as you want to see them don't you? Oddly with pre 1980 amps, good Looks usually means good Sounds. The Consort amplifier looks very cheap but sounds wonderful & is a rare exception. But Looks of amps post 1980 are a different thing. We used to read the Hifi mags of Last Century & often design & pretty wood cheeks & similar hid the fact the amp was boring sounding.
There are clearly amplifier & Hifi buyers out there who have more Hifi items than they need for using. You need one for the main room & another for a bedroom-office etc. We're reading ebay listings with sellers saying they have too much hifi, they were clearly the wise ones buying up these great items in their wilderness years when they were old fashioned & considered junk. As happens with any collectable, those wilderness years are the hardest as no respect was given & at best they were shoved forgotten in a loft or cupboard and this was their fate for decades.
So what do these Collectors Collect? Beyond those keeping anything they never sold on after getting, buyers who Collect anything Radio & Hifi may like Music Boxes, Cylinder players, large Horn Gramophones, Crystal Radios, early Prewar Radios, early Radiograms, the early Mono valve amps, the pre 1960 Stereo gear, the higher powered UK brand names like Lowther & Radford, the early Japanese transistor radios, Germanium amplifiers, early Stereo Silicon Receivers. Post 1970 buyers will favour brands like Silver Pioneer & Marantz, the Monster Amps, the early Microprocessor amps & all that came in the 1980s. Buyers will seek out the most attractive looking items regardless of how they sound & naturally those they consider the best sounding.
Great Looking Amplifiers & Receivers
See the Hifi-Sold for many more Amps. This page now edited to show the Real Best Looking Ones... See Photos below. The odd thing is these all sound great. But the others we've been very reluctant to part with because they sound great & look cool. They are design classics, if not yet honoured & we've added some photos of ones we've had & are on the Top Amps page. Note most are 1960s amps & were Top of The Range back in their day. The earlier years of hifi before cost cutting & cheapness arrived & only really the Yamaha 1977-78 series carries this on & does it with style. Note most are Receivers as the Tuner window adds a Retro appeal with most amps looking a bit plain until the Meter ones of 1975 onwards, but by then styling was very cost cut. These really should be in a Museum of Classic Hifi, if anyone ever makes one beyond an online one.
1963 Trio WX-400U valve receiver
1958-1962 styling like a Cadillac, cream paint & chrome as well as Witch hat knobs looks so Rock & Roll. Will need a complete recapping but worth the effort. Of the FM Multiplex era valve receivers, this is easily the best looking. A decent valve receiver if still early. Others in the range are similar. It can upgrade into a remarkable sound.
1965/68 Sony TA-1120A amplifier
Just has a Space Age look to it, as in it's 1960s but sensible enough & timeless classy looking for any later era. Really needs the walnut wood case to set it off as with the STR-6120. The dark brown plastic switch buttons are from the 1965 original design & look more purposeful than the later silver tube ones on the STR-6120 that take it out of the 1960s. Also the earlier ones with smooth knobs, not the much lower class serrated ones. But as our Sony page shows, it needs modernising to bring it's quality in sound out. The TA-1130 is quite similar.
1967-9 Trio-Kenwood TK-140E or X receiver
The amp front on looks very Retro Groovy Pad if the plain black metal case is a little dull so a more marginal inclusion here overall. But with the real wood insert & those classy white or black piano lever switches similar to the KR-6000 amp it has a very cool look. It actually fitted inside the Teac AG-7000 case which did make it look even better but the Teac wanted it back. The amp as original on the first version pre the Tuner ICs update actually has Asbestos boards between the power amps & caps inside to prevent from fire damage supposedly if one were to short out the speaker outputs. The 'X' version is a better item though. the 140X is findable in the USA or Germany but not the UK so far.
1967 Sansui 3000A receiver
We have certainly rediscovered this remarkable gem & it looks really solid & luxuriously smart. It wants you. And you want it too. It delivers a wonderfully rich but detailed sound if done right. Big glass tuner window, the knobs have a saucer type front to them, purposeful rocker type switches, a strange push on push off power button that is not in for on, out for off, it stays out always & it just looks way cool in the wood case. Beats the 1960s Pioneers we had in the wood case as it's better made & looks very Bachelor Pad & a certain Mr Bond would likely have owned one. The 1966 Sansui 500A valve receiver looks very similar to this, but without the classy solid knobs & the Sansui 1000 valve is a plain thing. The amp before we rated it so highly was around in the USA for not much money. The wood case we have is the only one we've seen & odd for a UK model to have the case as UK buyers rarely bought or could buy them.
1968/70 Sony STR-6120 receiver
In it's walnut case this looks like the typical quality early 1970s stylish man's amplifier looking strong, big & purposeful. Sleek uncluttered design with a good amount of controls make this a winner in looks & sound. Just enough controls to be purposeful yet restrained, unlike the excesses of the late 1970s OTT receivers.
1969 Teac AG-7000 receiver
a more recent find after liking the AS-100 amplifier, this isn't dissimilar to the Sansui 4000 but with some nicer styling & a big wood case too. Predates their more industrial-looking 1971 range & the AG-6000 looks the same.
1969 Trio KA-6000 amplifier + KT-5000 tuner
One of the best looking amps easily & it's quite a heavy one too for it's size. Adding the Tuner really sets it off. It looks a bit 1980s high end until you know how old it really is. Even those we've shown who grew up with this era of Hifi thought it was at least 5 years later. Has features later amps use, it must be the first -20db Muting button amp. High quality sound. Still sits well in terms of sound with early Sony & Sansui, and ours is all original. Our amp oddly has Pink lights when lit too, if they look blue.
1970 Sony STR-6850 receiver
This is Sony's failed attempt to appeal to the EU style long receiver that was popular by variuos EU makers if generally their quality was budget priced. The Sony one used the 1967 STR-6050 receiver pre & power amp design exactly & oddly they put a resistor on the output to limit a 40-45w amp to 30w. You'll never find one of these, you'll have missed the one on ebay we got & it was listed 3 times before, no-one knows this amp. The only minus is the power supply right on the front buttons brings a bit of hum. Looks wise it's classier than any of the EU ones with a metal fascia frame.
1972 Pioneer SX-828 receiver
The only Pioneer with looks that impress. The big SX-850/950/1050/1250 receivers are a bit flashy & a style so copied by others in the 1978-79 era. But the SX-828 is pretty. Muted blue tuner lights & meters that can be dimmed. A Slanted tuner window is unusual if it makes it easier to read closer up. The control knobs are a smoky anodised purply-brown tone which is pleasing & more styled lever switches make this receiver a worthy inclusion. Quite a thinly made lid if nicely veneered with the wood sides. Smart. Sonically it's a big improvement on the 1969-70 range & led to the quality of the SA-9500 amplifier. A winner & one we hear started the Receiver Wars as by 1973 Yamaha upped their game perhaps in seeing the quality of this amp.
1973 Yamaha CR-1000 receiver
One we had before and noted below in the others section, but seeing it again, the excess of neat buttons does rather appeal in a purposeful way & makes the CR-2020 look a bit more mainstream. The only Yamaha receiver to have this styling with sliders & a B+O look if more classily done. Large wood case as standard on this & the CR-800 add a confidence & appeal like no other 1970s amp.
1977 Yamaha CR-2020 receiver
Only valid if with the big US style wood case, the skinny UK one is still nice but the big case adds much. Just looks so purposeful & so 1977 in a restrained way. The sort of amp to impress the ladies with before you hit the Disco. The CR-1020 has less buttons & loses pretty points for that. In comparison, the CA-1010 is an ugly thing with little design charm & the way oversized tuner.
Also with appeal...
1969 Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 3000 or 3000-2
Just looks way cool with the long front & lots of purposeful buttons, or a bit too big & what do we do with it... Actually looks best in Teak, though Rosewood & Oak are around as well as an original painted white finish which is fairly rare. Hard to find with uncloudy sliders & very hard to find with the plastic tuner wheels cover. The original yellow-wire into the 3 pin socket rabbit ears aerial is very rare for this model. As nice as the amp is, the wide flat size isn't a regular one, you need a big shelf or sideboard & not wanting to stack things on top to stop scratches.
1971 Leak Delta 75 Receiver
Still looks good despite us knowing the insides are a bad design, adds to the medium looks of the Delta 30 + 70. A good sounding midprice amp that will need much work to get up to spec sadly. It's a good 1970s looker & one of the more attractive receivers, but it's sound is great if not the best. The fascia can be adjusted to sit square with the woodcase if not in line. Lucky is he who bought our one.
1971 Yamaha CR-700 receiver
One of the earlier Yamaha receivers pre the 1973-78 Silver classic range. Looks pretty in gleaming teak & the Sansui styled looks are certainly appealing. The non EU version without the DIN sockets is the preferred one. Just for looking so different to later Yamaha adds appeal too. The CA-700 amplifier version less appealing without the tuner window if otherwise very similar. But not the high quality of later Yamaha just yet as the price New reveals.
1974 NAD 160 or 160a Receiver
A pleasing design nicely set out & with the wood veneer it just looks pretty. Unlike ugly plain later grey NADs this is cool looking, if hot running due to odd power supply under-design. The bigger NAD 300 is actually too big & no wood case leaves it a bit bare.
Others that have a certain "yeah" look
are the top range of Yamaha receivers, CR-800, CR-820, CR-800, CR-1000, CR-1020, CR-2020, the latter 2 much increased in retro style by the USA big cabinet instead of the EU slimmer case as shown above. The 8xx ones sadly have a vinyl wrap if a good wood base to veneer. The other early Sony to 1972 like the TA-1030 & TA-1040 amplifiers have a quality look but need the rare walnut cabinet to bring it out, bare metal cases aren't retro cool by themselves. The Leak Delta 30 & 70 look very 70s retro & sell well as they sound nice too, the Delta 75 is a different league though. But the earlier Stereo 30, 30+ and 70 are not much to look at. The Teac AS-100 is an oddball one, classy aluminium & black in a German minimalistic industrial look almost, but without a wood case of any sort it looks a bit bare.
1966-67 Bachelor Pad Look
The First Generation Transistor Receivers at the change from Valve to Transistor & including some hybrids, have this purposeful look & the ones with wood trim on the fascia as well as old styled lever or rocker switches just look so mid 1960s Sci-Fi TV show they have a strong appeal. The Pioneer range from 1966-68 has this look on some, the Trio-Kenwood TK-140 first version certainly has it if not a wood case & then the Sansui 3000A detailed above. We did have the Pioneer SX-700TF but then found a pic with the wood edges as supplied, it looked messy so we'll reserve judgement. It didn't fit in the SX-1000TW case either. Cool value gone. The Pioneer SX-1500TF we had & it looked a bit tatty with just side wood cheeks though if fitted into a wood case it'd hugely improve. The USA McIntosh & Fisher amps have this look too, the McIntosh with black glass fascia look great in the original Panloc cases. The Fisher ones look very purposeful but are a bit harder to buy as Germaniums & the fact the front metalwork ages badly.
The Rogers Cadet III is one we've known a long time, it's not got much in terms of style, but it sums up the growth of hifi and should be an icon just based on how important & popular it was, if finding a good one being tough. The HG88 III has an added wealth & width to it which appeals. Still a bit on the ugly side though.
The 1974 Sony Receiverslike STR-6046A have a certain retro style, smoky metal fittings & a very stylish but quickly out of date style that didn't last long. But it has appeal to us as we remember one of the series that a relative had & young us wondered what 'Solid State' meant. The 1970 Sansui AU-999 black face design as made looks good with the wood surround, but without looks awkward.
We've had some of the McIntosh USA amplifiers before, tube & transistor preamps & one transistor power amp. They badly need their Panloc Walnut cases to give the real look & not the repro ones either. Some of these are the most stylish USA amps we've encountered, though McIntosh don't appear in the UK Hifi Yearbooks until 1974 & gone by 1977 if never listing the details. UK got Fisher amps though, some have classy looks but again need the wood cases & they do seem to age badly on the metal trim.
Many 1970s receivers look cooler than just the plain amp version, unless you have the matching tuner, tuners matching the better amps are tough to find.
One amp with it's tuner that isn't particularly a great style design in a classic way, but instead is a very kooky one is the Ferrograph 20+20 with it's tuner. Not an amp many are willing to pay much for is the F307 that it's based on, though it plays loud for it's 20w & the buyers of them will be pleased. The revamped & rare Ferrograph is so Summery 1974 with it's orangey fake but convincing vinyl veneer wrap & brown fascia, big white lettering, clumsy but cookie-edged knobs & rows of wonky buttons that could be tidied with a little filling of space that they be wonky in.
Ugly-Ass Amp Corner...
Alas, some amps were not made with much design thought, purposely to keep it cheap & aiming to a certain buyer, ie 1970s Teens with garish looks as the Goodmans below. Others just look awful, they'd have been put on top of a G-plan sideboard or on a shelf & looked ugly each time you used them. How Cake-Baking Wives of the early 1970s accepted these ugly beasts is a mystery, maybe the Husband was to match? Any old item may have looked old fashioned at one time, but Retro has revived them. These few below are the pick of eyesore amps we've had, though we can say they do sound better than they look. Others like the Consort hide a top sounding amp in a cheap looking amp, to us it has to look as good as it sounds, vinyl wrap & wonky pointer marks isn't classy. 1980s amps are often so cost cut with hollow fronts & cheap looking buttons, even on the rare occasion they sound good, ie the Yamaha A-720 from 1985, the looks & feel just ain't got it. All plastic & thin metal casing, the charm of the wood case ones shows they had more money spent on their design. Why would any 1970s user buy these ugly items when some really attractive ones, like noted above exist?
Other Sansui by 1969 are more square & plain looking sadly. Even the 1969 Sansui 800 heads a bit into uglyville as it doesn't quite work.
Sugden P51 Power Amp x 2, C51 Preamp & R51 Tuner c.1969
This set-up wins the award for fugliest Hifi ever. It looks as unwelcoming for Domestic use as having a cement mixer in your bedroom. Yes, industrial Lab looks with zero style & zero Domestic appeal. Plain, flat & fugly. Not even nice industrial looking as the Sansui AU-70 is, plain as can be if it'll do the job. We didn't like the Radford HD250 which this looks very similar to & Sugden get more ugly ratings below. Look at how nice Vintage Hifi looks, this is abysmal. On offer for £495 the lot in July 2013 on ebay, it's actually a good price, but not one to show the Missus. But the 1972 HFYB shows a different designed C51 pre with a black face & not dissimilar from the A48 as well as a black heatsinked sided A51 model now with a carry handle. 25w Class A into 15 ohms. The early light grey one is the fugly one.
1973 Goodmans Module 90 receiver
a really awful visual design esp with the White buttons. The wrong side of 70s retro, though later ones with Black buttons look more muted, but still a bit Legoland. It actually sounds pretty good for what it is. The Module 80 is a better looker if a bit cheap looking in construction.
1973 Sugden A48 Mk I
a second appearance, this time the more muted Mk I version in it's not very well made teak case, looking like a kid's school project almost. The Mk I is a bit Rogers Cadet III looking too if more muted & still an ugly amp with an awkward Lab Kit look. The thin aluminium panel is carpet taped to the front, meaning you'll probably bend it if you have to peel it off unless the glue is weak, as the screws are under it. The thin panel is not well thought out as the Sugden edge wording is right on the edge of visibility & if the glue fails it slides to be half hidden. At least the sound is high quality though.
1974 Radford HD250
looks like lab kit with ordinary non-domestic looks & the cheap thin aluminium lid makes this an ugly beast with little cool about it. It looks better than the Sugden A48 Mk II, but not much. The sound attempts to offer high quality in some ways, but is too flawed.
1976 Sugden A48 Mk II
ugly Sugden #3: another hideous 1970s design. The gaudy orange front makes this & the Nexel paint others complain about is one of the ugliest ever & the design is like bad lab kit. Why make such an ugly unit? The Mk II is truly awful to look at 7 the orange & lid paint ages badly, though you can refinish it more subtly. The sound, fortunately, is high quality though, based on knowing the Mk I, though not the most exciting. A belated reply from Sugden says the push buttons are no longer available.
There are plenty of others that aren't much to look at
but if just boring, plain average looking to call it ugly is a bit too much. The Yamaha CA-1010 is a bit on the plain side & the oversize CT-1010 tuner a bit odd, but they still have a minimalist appeal. Some early 1980s silver ones with buttons not switches & knobs are ugly too as well as awkward to use. Digital tuners with only a slow button to press are in this league.
Some very expensive Tuners in around 1974 used a bizarre retro if a bit untidy Light Display called Lissajous which is actually a Valve-like cool running item with a stack of Numbers inside & when selected the number lights up orange & shines through the numbers in front, OK for 1 but 9 is untidy as deeper inside & dimmer through the other numbers. Some electronic weighing scales Greengrocers had used these & we saw one working in 1992 just before the ½p display was outlawed. Shortly after the Red LED segment displays & the Fluorescent type displays took over & were much tidier, but the Fluorescent ones fade away with time.
Much 1980s stuff to our eyes looks ugly
and most of what you see is no more than a folded metal lid & a basic front panel. There are likely to be expensive ones you don't see that do have some class, but we're not that interested. Some of the early Trio receivers are a edging towards being bit ugly too with industrial tin box looks, but the sound makes up for the plain looks.