|OUR TOP RATED VINTAGE AMPLIFIERS
Vintage Stereo Amplifiers Ranked against other amplifiers & receivers. What's the Best Vintage Receiver? What's the Best Vintage Amplifier? What Vintage Hifi is worth buying? Has anyone compared lots of Amplifiers together to rate them purely on the basis of sound quality? Which Vintage Amplifiers or Receivers are worth buying or are any good? Are Valve Amplifiers better than Transistor Amplifiers? Are Monster Receivers any good? Are 1967-1972 amplifiers too old to bother with? Why are Luxman amplifiers so highly rated? Why are late 1970s Pioneer so rough sounding?
Dozens of Amplifiers & Receivers mostly 1963-1978 & a few later. Rated by Direct Comparing with many others based on AUX input only.
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A Fresh Look At Vintage Amplifiers
We being of a certain age only first properly noticed Vintage Amps in 1990 in junk shops & car boot sales not having much cash to replace a wrecked Realistic receiver. A £20 note could buy you vintage goodies like a Goodmans Module 80, Bang & Olufsen 3000-2 or the Marantz silver receivers as they were out of date & unwanted! These early finds we revisit on this site, and further ones for the want or need to try more over years that followed. Got a first valve Rogers Cadet III in about 1991 & then on discovering our current Valves Hifi in 1998 didn't take too much interest in Transistor Amps until wanting one better than the Rotel RA-03 we'd got for the Computer & the bad-idea Musical Fidelity as the hot valves were hard to live with in the Summer. The brand names will have been familiar on some but unknown on others as they'd long since vanished, eg Leak & Rogers. We never really saw the better end of Hifi in our youth as all we saw were music centres or the family Philco-Ford separates system & all on these pages were unknowns tried with research or just a gamble. The Hifi we cover here was bought more by Record Collecting Buyers with Musical ambition, the non-muso buyer just bought a system of varying quality. We have no formed opinions living through the 1970s or caring much for opinions that some amps have gathered, our view is how we see each amp regardless of it's low or high standing at the time it was new. Not all expensive are great, not all cheaper-midprice ones are average. Many amps are great & many are a pain. This site is clearly getting a lot of hits & people are surprised on buying amps we like & are viewing old amps with new eyes. To Cherry Pick the best of the Past & offer it to today's buyer is what we do with Records too, this is a 45rpm Records Site after all & the Hifi pages today was one obscure long page until early 2012. From 2006 we've had Sony TA-1150 with one Sony TA-1130 that we got back again after selling it & keeping the TA-1150 as it was adequate then & got a faulty Sony STR-6120 for £20 on wondering what it was about. TA-1150 replaced with Hacker GAR550 in the idea of a 2nd basic system by the computer, but tiring of it tried a cheap but lively Trio KA-4002 & then thought... "What Else Is There" and the rest is this Hifi site. Together with enough knowledge gleaned from past things to fix & service amps to their best & beyond & make a list of amps we've had & write about them. The future of this site depends entirely on what we see to try that interests or is worth a blind gamble. To go too far away from the basic content into modern esoteric & the Linn-Nain types isn't going to happen. But there are only so many worthy amps & receivers that were sold in the UK so we're doing the Hifi Yearbook Amps & Receivers page for what interests us. As of typing, we've sold off a lot of the Amps we were keeping as the need to keep recapping them diminishes as the ultimate ones are found, but we'll still keep a few as references & one to actually use.
What Do You Need An Amplifier For?
For Newbies to the World of Hifi... Today's user will be a MP3 i-pod or mobile phone music buyer. Those stringy earphones sound very limited & even good headphones sound disappointing through the unamplified headphone stage which is a Line-Out stage too, like a Computer soundcard. But to Amplify the sound with a proper Amplifier, to play through better Headphones or Speakers as you tire of just having music in the ear & not to fill a room and party. Those plastic box things the Gadget Show keeps saying are great to us are pathetic, but suited to a market starting into music played out loud & not too bothered with quality yet. To buy a 'proper' big box amplifier & plug the 3.5mm headphone jack into the Aux on an amplifier via a stereo Phono plug connecting cable will give a much fuller sound. To us, the artificial MP3 sound, which is often how it's mixed, is very obvious though there is a crispness & bass as no plug in box amp & speaker job can do. Ignoring the fact MP3 & music today rarely has ambience or air to suit modern playing tastes, you can be pleased with the huge improvement in full sound you can get using a proper amp. You can buy any modest powered late 1970s amp on ebay for £50 & start there, assuming it's working right. The black fascia amps of the 1980s-1990s & ones of today are far less pleasing in sound despite the hype, the rich pre 1980 sound will delight you, a £120 cheap new amp from Amazon you'll find tiring. The more money you spend will get better sound quality, but to believe some plastic box with a built in speaker is good enough, even those overpriced Bose alarm clocks, will only leave you wanting to buy a better one soon after. Read more on the 'Advice On Buying' page.
You Just Want Something 'Perfect'...?
This is what us Humans naively expect an item to be: All You Want, The Quality & Ease Of Use at a Price less than you'd imagine. But you go try to buy things today, from Headphones to Apps to Cleaning Fluids to Cars to anything else. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is more than a compromise with things you don't like amid the good. Most things in life are mediocre & disposable if you are one who has tasted better & usually you only find out by paying your money & wasting your time on it & then go find something new & start the game all over again. It's called being a Consumer, not a 'Buy-it-&-keep-it forever-er' like Granny with her 1920s Washing Tub that still works 80+ years later. So to relate that to Hifi, again all are a compromise. The ones we've found 'more perfect' than others you can tell from below. Some you can 'perfect' more than others with improvements of your own. Others may not like your ideals of perfection & say you are wrong. Perfection is in the eye of the Beholder. So our Beheld Hifi we note below. To buy a good Vintage Amp or buy a £4000 modern ex-demo obscure 'High Cred' thing is the question. Your vanity, your depth of pocket, your knowledge that the pre 1980- sound is far more enjoyable & a like for Retro Goodies will be your influence. If you want to buy that £4000 new thing, get off our page, there's nothing for you here...
Tonal Balance: Messing with Your Mind
The worst thing about testing out so many amps is they all vary in tonal balance. They can all be high rated amps for how accurate they sound in an isolated listening session as your Ears-Mind can compensate in the same way Beer Goggles do. To have three amplifiers maxed out with every trick we know so they all are sweet & detailed, but one can be Neutral, one can be a bit Thick on the Bass & another can be a bit Bright on the Treble. The last two are the problem ones as they can hide how much more listenable the Neutral one is with their unbalanced excesses. The best way to tell which is the Neutral, the Thick or the Bright is to do a 20 second quick test of all in succession, before your mind becomes used to one & equalises your hearing to one. Only them will the Neutral one reveal itself after perhaps you rated it as a bit Dull in comparison to the Bright one, or Bass-Light compared to the Thick one. Neutral is not Average, it's a more faithful representation of the True Music, but again it's a sense of hearing that is learnt over time. Neutral sound can be as Dynamics & fast as any amp, it's the Sound Balance that you hear that matters. No tests of Tone accuracy really mean anything, look at Phono stages that claim to be 0.5db true to the RIAA curve, yet some are thick & muddy whilst others are fresher & more open sounding. For ones we rate "Excellent" there is a finesse of Sound here with the wonderful Retro Hifi sound that lets your music breathe. All are slightly different if you compare, but to use one will be a delight.
Our Reference for our Hifi Ideals
The Sony STR-6120 receiver has been the Original Reference amp for our Hifi exploits. It's a high ranking amp if it has been bettered now. It has influenced the sound of how we designed our Valve Amp & had used one in our Main system for a while & were impressed with it's natural balance. The Sony STR-6120 is an excellent reference amp, the midrange is spot on & will show up poor speakers. After the delights of the Sansui 3000A were found & was recapped the Sony got the same treatment if caught a few problems, but we can see how it compares to the Yamaha CR-1000 & Sansui 3000A which are our favourites currently. A Sansui 500A valve amp mostly original & a fully recapped Yamaha CR-2020 is another reference, it just isn't quite as fresh as the CR-1000 though & we've tried every trick. A later session with these reveals an amp is needing to be "exciting" to listen to, as in not false & overbright, but one to catch the emotions as it digs deeper. It's taken time to find ones that match close enough to dig further in the quest for sound.
Treble Is The Thing...
The decider in ultimate Hifi quality is how good the Treble is. If it's smeary & a bit 'eek' to listen to certain tracks then the amp may either have too many 'spoilers' in it or just be an average design. To know what to do to remedy is a Dark Art. The loudest brashest music can actually be so natural & not a head-mush on the best sounding hifi as the sound is not mangled or giving listener fatigue. Treble is also a key to the quality of the rest of the sound as the frequency decreases as the Midrange will be inaccurate too. Most Hifi 'rings' & is 'bandwidth limited' is the Tech reason why. Treble should be as fresh, natural and lively as Real Life music, the crispness of metallic percussion is your decider. But the reason why no Amp has Treble as good as you'd want it, that's if you've heard it, recognise it & want it, most are unaware, is sadly is because in the early 1970s buyers complained that the crap items they used with a good amp were causing problems from RF to Rumble. So tired of buyers complaining the manufacturers thought if buyers are this unaware, why bother giving them the best sound they were previously happy selling their amps with. They 'dumbed down' the sound so the amps would work with any old Junk. So dear reader, don't complain for your failings or they'll give you crap, reasons why Food of today is so miserable compared to 20 years ago before the Salt & Fat ninnies ruined it. Hifi saw First Generation Transistors in 1967 & by the 1969 Second Generation it was already different. It's your talent & gamble to see if any amp can reveal that desired sound. Most can't.
The amps we rate highly as 'Excellent', are the best we've encountered. None are 'perfect'. But not all are the same sound either, if they have the requirements for the Quality we desire. The Messing with your Mind section above reveals this. The ear can compensate for much in playing music, but the unknown with harsh discordant sounds is what gets you grabbing the Volume control to turn it down. Distortion can be 'learnt' and your ears can compensate for it, as a built-in Graphic Equaliser. Some amps can be very focussed & precise but exhibit a 'colder' sound where a more analytical sound without the full bassy richness of others appeals to some. Some can be overdesigned with too much NFB and sound Hard with a sound that doesn't keep you playing the amp. Some can be ragged or harsh on treble making you turn them off fast. Other amps can be 'warm & cuddly', meaning a thick slow accentuated bass, a recessed midrange & a softer treble. This is the Classic wallowy Sound a Jukebox or early Valve radiogram plays & it can be very pleasing, but without the crisper detail, real Hifi it isn't. Some amps are designed to sound 'safe' with the less detailed sound & bass limited, this is a Bandwidth limited amp and we've found a few like this masquerading as Hifi with dishonest designs that we can't improve on without major surgery. The Valve Sound many go on about is a Fallacy & Often Misunderstood: a valve amp made with a modern timeless design can be very like the best Transistor amps. Older Valve amps will naturally be old with low spec original parts that are aged & failing. This sound is what people think is the Valve Sound which is not how we view it, the 'Knackered Old Amp' sound is what it is. They can be rebuilt to sound fresher but will often be limited too much by the old design. So you can get crisp sounding amps that are Bass light or Bass rich, very few are in the genuinely Bass rich category without Bass limiting design to create 'ringing'. Duller sounding amps with limited bass & treble like most under 30w are will suit the less fussy buyer, they sound OK but are not Dynamic enough, as if a 30w amp used 100w amp ideals it'd clip out & distort too readily. Or you can chance unserviced aged amps that have a wallowy surreal sound but are risky to use. The sound of a 1932 Radiogram we have was 'Hifi' of it's day as it was the State of the Art of the time. Today it sounds ancient but pleasing in a retro way. In another way, Music heard in a public place ie a Jukebox or a Nightclub DJ will gain some group pleasure for it being a shared experience. From a few thousand dance 45s from 1986-93 we had recently, people bought these Club Tracks to make them big chart hits, but you can be sure hearing them on a crappy 'Stereo' they didn't get played much as the magic was gone.
Keep it In Proportion
We get messages about these pages & thankfully it seems most are on the right track with what they are using, ie a proper amplifier, some adequate speakers or headphones. If the interest catches & funds are available, be sure they'll be buying better items & having the fun of trying many amps before finding one they are happy to use for a year or ten. But as with most things in life, there are those who are without a clue. Hifi you'll be happy with will be within it's own kind, ie a budget amp with budget speakers (eg £50-100 used items) go together well & are a good start. To want better & go for midpriced items (eg £150-250 used items) can get you better quality than the price. To spend £500+ will get you some of the best but sadly much is overpriced for the sound delivered. It is foolish to use "the best" of one item with ultra budget other items is money wasted & the risk of damaging the better item with junk or just thinking the better item is not very good & abusing it. Buyers have been doing this for decades & complain unaware of their folly. It is very easy to trash a speaker driver especially a tweeter with DC as the sine wave clips out to a flat line which is a DC voltage if played way too loud by foolish use or faults. Not many people know what clean sound is to realise distortion that is ready to fry their speakers.
The Music We Test With...
We've had a lot of interesting Records from 1926-93 over the years & have spent ages getting back every track beyond some unissued acetates to have a library of music from the Original Vinyl. As Dealers you can imagine this covers every type of music beyond Classical that we don't play at all. Certain Tracks that are dynamic & punchy in sound get used as First Test Tracks on any amp to gauge where we are with any amp. To start with, we use Stereo tracks recorded from the Vinyl using our own self-designed Valve Preamp-Phono which reveals the full resolution from vinyl, not the muddy sound RIAA usually is, read the Phono Stages page. Certain tracks such as spiky New Wave are a good test of fast transients, Stereo Imaging & Dynamics. Tracks with a known Bass kick tell if an amp is too thin or too thick sounding. Loud Guitar tracks like Punk are essential to reveal how much detail the amp can resolve, the late 1970s Pioneer haze is not Hifi to us. Tracks of a synthetic nature as a lot of 1980s music is are mixed right into the recording, not via a Mike so can sound more direct. The Stereo effects mixing of the era can be useful too. But Stereo is easier to play than Mono. Mono requires the sound to be inside your Head, not outside it as Stereo is. To reveal a solid crisp detail, not a thick dense sound of flat Dynamics is not a good sounding amp. We play Reggae a lot which is often Lo-Fi recorded in the pre 1977 era & is ideal to test how good an amp resolves detail, many can't & just deliver a muddy sound. To hear the muddiness gone & a definable focus to the sound is where the best win. Old 78s we have going back to 1926 & that track from a High Grade UK 78 gets used often as it can reveal the ambience of the studio. Mid 1960s Ska where the big Instrumentals are a big loud densely recorded sound when resolved right can also reveal the room acoustics. We've mentioned this to others & perhaps it's not a sense many have or have heard even to know. People buying the Best Hifi just to play light Classical or other mannered music are not getting the best out of it, it takes a lot of risk to try anything new. Only the most dynamic music in any genre reveals how good an amp is, from the full Fortissimo of an Orchestra at full level to the power of a Punk track. Simple 'folky' music is easy to reproduce as it is of small dynamics & suited to portable & cheap players. We rarely play slow tracks as these are not a challenge to a Hifi unless they have a wide soundstage to reveal. Also slow tracks are generally not the interesting tracks & as record dealers, now not much slow music is bought compared to modern Chart music where cloying ballads & emasculated male vocalists singing trite lyrics appear to sell better than uptempo tracks.
The Peak Years of Hifi?
Well a look at our Top Amps will see 1967-72 is clearly our favoured era for a Transistor sound quality that will please one who uses & designed their own Valve amp & pre. There are a few quality 1973-77 ones too, if only Yamaha get to impress us. We based it all on the Sony STR-6120 sound that still is right up there with the best we've found. If you believe 1978-80 are the Peak Years, if some of the Monster Recivers were a little earlier, then you really need to hear how wonderful a quality one from 10 years before sounds. No more gritty treble & disappointing bass with a 1967-69 one & in the big wood cases they look so great too. Some amps continued this sound until 1972 and a tiny few especially Yamaha keep the better sound alive. The trouble is there aren't many higher powered models in 1967-72 like 1978-79 which limits choice but when you see our list below there's still a choice. 1979 was a cost cut year, nasty all-in-one circuit boards for most amps & many IC riddled nightmares, cheaply made boring gaudy looking things even the big Pioneers we consider overblown tin cans, look inside to see why. By 1980 the Hifi bubble had burst & the 1979-80 ranges were more cost cut than the 1977-78 ones. The best one we've had that could be bought in 1979 was the Yamaha CR-2020 though the early ones just can beat it every time & still 45w will deliver plenty of volume even with headphones.
There's Actually Not That Many of Them
A look through the Hifi Yearbooks as our two pages show that Amps that today's user would use, ie 30w or more, are not that numerous. Even looking through the 1971 one shows many are 10w or less & definitely not Hifi then or now, more like Radiogram innards & looking similar. There are a few PA type amps by Crown as well as the odd very rare experimental ones, but generally 50w is the highest power until the mid 1970s, the Teac AG-7000 and Sony TA-1130 both at 65w is unusual. The quality brands have a wider range through the years, ones like Marantz have far too many & some like Sony start out with quality but by 1972 smell the faster money is selling the average. Some amps we seek out as they are early & of a good power, 45w RMS with the 1967 Pioneer SX-1500TF & Sansui 3000A we write loads on are the highest power until the mid 1970s newer designs. We'll keep searching out ones we like & want to spend our money on though the amount of worthy models is finite & some were not sold as intensively as some in the UK making importing the usual way to get a McIntosh or Fisher. We've since written an Early Receivers page & were a little disappointed of what we found, not many indeed.
This is the only Hifi site online
to have the nerve & knowledge to rank vintage hifi amplifiers & receivers against others. Reading forums & seeing what others rave about gives us the idea they've not heard many amps & are raving about an amp we'd consider mediocre. As we've gone along, many have got ranked somewhere but sold on, only a few remain & are now put into the "Faves" list. Many reviewers say how great one brand or item is but without comparing to others that is just too limited, as only by comparing many & having a reference can you rate amps. Other people's opinions don't really matter much unless you know their criteria for stating what they do, many opinions are worthless without. Experts are usually self-appointed & to us are trivial. We are Qualified Techs with years of experience on & off and are still learning as any person not claiming to be an expert should admit. Experts are like Psychics: the real ones don't want to be labelled together with the pretenders. We have an ear to EQ a good sound out of the poorest source, such as whisper quiet 1930s Cartoon film soundtracks lost in a Sea Of Hiss. We get things wrong & do dumb things like anyone else, we are humans after all, but how fast you notice your error is the decider between genius and idiot. Our reference is our own highly redesigned Valve amp that was sonically based on how the first Sony STR-6120 we had sounded after recapping & upspeccing a few years ago & then valvified to the max. On finally hearing our valve amp through Headphones, we made one minor change based on a previous room being a bit bass light. Not bad for designing the sound by ear. Not surprisingly the Sony STR-6120 we have still rates very highly as original or now recapped into better than ever, though others have surpassed it now. Many times since we've started this has our Number One changed only to change & change again as some amps reset the whole thing. To the point we've given up on Numbering. Is there a better transistor amp than any we've tried so far that we've yet to try or even consider? Probably not. The Sansui 3000A was a remarkable find, but the Sony STR-6120 recapped & upspecced is still a truly remarkable amp. The best sound is from an amplifier that either is or has been designed or upspecced to sound like... a valve amp.
Near Instant Comparisons!
Unlike most unreliable subjective reviews that listen to just one amp based on the "memory" of another, we test several in one sitting, having cables & headphones for swapping within the minute. We could swap amid 10 amps within a 30 minute sitting as described below, but be sure some took a relistening after to accurately rank them, based on the ideals of the found Top lot. We know only too well how your opinions can be swayed the wrong way only to think otherwise at another listening & put it back in context. Overloud or overbright amps are the worst ones to offset your mental ideal of sound, though a musical memory is possible if one amp resolves a test track better than other amps & hearing the same track on a lesser amp you can tell it doesn't quite deliver it right. You can play too loud & bring out bad noises (distortion & harmonics) that spoil the listening for subtleties & using Mono & Stereo tracks is needed. We used more Mono earlier on, but with too many amps being rated highly, using later Stereo tracks made it easier & also made lofi mono tracks sound better as an amp great in Stereo will do Mono much better, but in a different way. Stereo can hide the real feel of the music as the wide effects mask the sound, so always test with Stereo & Mono tracks. It takes a few moments to tune back to Mono as it's in the middle of your head, not wide like birds flying either side of you as Stereo can be. But to really be sure you need other amps to compare one to, and on later days to check the opinion wasn't a skewed one. We are not interested in other's opinions except to see how wildly they differ, all unaware of their tastes & sound experience, as this is our website & for our views, controversial or non-conformist they may be, but with one ideal in mind... the Sound. For the issues of Impedance, to connect several amps together by input & be able to swap in a second by headphone plugging actually didn't work out as all were connected & 'affecting' each other. Only really the old way of Shops selling with a Comparator that switched the source to the individual amp would work, involving loads of cables & still the unknowns of impedance, we'll stick with one cable plugged into each amp as it's used.
No Amplifier on this page is "Perfect"
All amplifiers ever made are just someone's budget-compromised idea of a good amp for a good price & hoping to shift a good amount of them and make a profit. Not too good or you'll never want to buy another, to tire of the old thing is why the new is desired. Not all big selling amps are poor quality & not all cheaper ones are either. Some expensive ones are awful. Some amps that are of Midprice manufacture can sound excellent. Amps can not be designed to "perfection" with cost no issue & then expect buyers to pay 3x as much for what basically is a 50w amp for example. Makers who do generally don't stay in business for long or diversify away from their folly. Modern amps are priced higher than older amps as resell prices stay high but vintage is often sold for less than the price new even though 30-40 years of inflation has taken place. Modern Budget amps are priced very low for what they offer, built as cheaply as possible & do set the price for what Vintage sells for until the item is accepted as being worth more. Vintage amps are still growing in popularity & price. Those who are more advanced in Electronics & know design from seeing & improving other amps can make the best amps into better, well usually. There are no guarantees in any "improvements" and we have found the upspec route is a big gamble. There used to be the £10K+ Audio Note type amps of minimal design but huge price for ridiculous exotic parts, but that market is long gone. Some of these amps can be upspecced into something better & we've tried quite a few & realised some can be wonderful even in the raw original state & some we wish we'd not spent the time on as they sound boring. Then there are others that have very high potential & are amongst the best commercially sold amplifiers, but are a long way from being top hifi but are worth a try. Some are particularly good but just something holds them back even if you max them out. The others in our Top Amps still hold potential for greatness but we'd not finished with them yet as of typing. To be harsh, the best sounding valve amp will beat any of these though only a strong hint of the best in valves are in the Trio WX-400U & Rogers HG88 III but these are limited again in several ways even if maxed out to the limits of doing major surgery. Our valve amps we did do major surgery on by gutting them out & rebuilding from scratch, at a point they were not in good order, ie a damaged output transformer on the power amps. At a point like that you can do as you wish, got a new transformer as a freebie & not really mind if it's good or not. This sort of anarchy is what brings the best results. But to butcher a classic amp is not advisable as if you come to sell it, no-one will trust it. Our upspecs & upgrades are done to a high standard & are tidily done so resell or undo is possible to keep it acceptable.
See our "Other Amps" Page
This covers Amps we've researched but decided not to try for various reasons. Reveals why no Quad, Tandberg or Revox in this list.
IF IT'S NOT INCLUDED & we don't mention it on our other Brands pages, then we've not tried it! What it is like we can't offer an opinion & also because one model we state is great, others seemingly similar may be lousy! There must be plenty more similar good ones out there, though we've tried a good range of the 20w to 100w. We've not tried Harmon-Kardon, Accuphase or Revox either yet. Lower powered versions in the same range will be similar, if less power. If you don't need 70w or 100w in the Yamaha ranges but a 15w one will do, then it will share a similar ideology as the bigger models and it'll be very cheap too.
BEWARE any Vintage Amplifier will not sound anything like it's best if not properly Serviced & Adjusted first. Some amps we've had sound about 20% of their later self in terms of Sound Quality. You'd not drive an old car without having it checked & serviced first, an amplifier raw out of a loft after a 30 year sleep is still asleep!
OUR TOP RATED AMPS
We did add Scores out of Ten in, but it's still hard to rate an expensive amp to a cheaper one. So the best thing we can do is call it "Excellent" "Great" and "Recommended" which equates to 8/10, 7/10 and 6/10 more or less. Any amp to be featured here must be better than Average. There is no higher rating than Excellent, read the details for more info. A "Recommended" for example, on the rough Pioneer SX950 is in light of better amps are there for your money, though many buy these big cost-cut tin can amps Pioneer as they haven't got too deep into Vintage Hifi yet to find better. Average is 5/10, Mediocre is 4/10 & Poor is 3/10 or less, for those see the separate table below. The scores for Abililty to Upspec we consider too vague as it takes the owner's talent to bring it out, so we'll stick to rating the Amplifier based on it being Serviced & in Full Working Order, any comments in the text will suggest upgrade potential.
IMPORTANT: These ratings are based on a Serviced & Adjusted amp. Most vintage amps are raw out of storage & will sound very different to the point you may think they are
utter rubbish. Only really the late 1970s Monster Amps were used for longer which may mean they have been used a lot more than an attic find that saw 2-3 years use. But it's like a Car, leave it 30 years in a Garage & then try to drive it, only a fool would expect it to be working it's best after a long sleep. Hifi is no different but many just use the amp unaware of how good it could be. As with a Car, bad faults may appear within minutes of first use. Note some amps are unusable through aging of noted failure of capacitors until you fully recap & rebuild them & are not for home tinkerers to be fiddling with, though many do. Most amateur sellers are cautious with valve amps but will plug any transistor amp in without having it checked even. Some amps sound rough & weak until serviced & adjusted. The difference in a few we list below like Yamaha CR-1000, Luxman L-100 & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 from before & after was very different. On the other end of it, the Leak Delta 30/70 doesn't sound much different serviced or not if in good condition.
As the Brands pages were getting too confusing with our forays into upspec that were a little beyond most readers, the tables below condense our opinions of the amps to make it more readable. Any Amp we rate 'Great' will be a delight of an amp to the vast majority of buyers. Only those well into buying many amps or looking for ones to improve should look at those rated higher. After all, an 'excellent' amp may be beyond the quality of the rest of your Hifi & you may not think it's so good as it shows up how rough your other items are until you buy the similar quality there too.
For Buyers of Hifi, a quick idea for you: 1968-69 onwards amps are more refined if generally less valve-sounding than the First Generation Transistor ones. The 1967 ones have a wonderful sound but are always quirky & need more work if you recap & upspec them, so are for advanced buyers only, unless you got one of our recapped upspec ones. 1960s Valve amps generally are best avoided unless you are more experienced, but as with anything the earliest Transistor ones give a better return for Sound Quality. The early valve amps we list are worthy of upgrading, but some of the big pre & power monobloc ones are now making hefty prices as all-original, apparently buyers want ornaments not hifi with them. Any amp pre 1980 that looks good will sound good too as money spent on inner design was spent on outer design too. Some Midprice Amps pre 1974 can be just as good as more expensive ones. Only by 1974 did cost cutting start to affect what you got as Sound for your Pound. This is why the Early Amps are so interesting yet buyers are not as aware of them as they should be, instead overpaying or late Pioneers that sound just average.
BUY-RAW RATING means just that. What it'll be like as-found assuming there is otherwise no damage to the circuits or other common safety issues. Some amps we've found badly fiddled with or badly repaired regardless of the status of the amp today, so beware.
* below means see a photo on the Best Looking Amps page
|1963 Rogers Cadet III amplifier
GREAT. 10w Valves. important starter amp into the world of valves, but don't pay too much. always needs restoring & careful buying as many used for a long time. quite a small basic amp with tiny output transformers so bass is limited, the HG88 is the bigger version if power is needed. best buying the one part version as the 2 parter can be tricky with that connecting cable, our high grade one sparked & had other issues. plays like a 30w transistor amp with a strong clear lively sound, but ultimately limited by the power output. the thing is these are now very old & many have been used & messed with for decades, making the prices buyers pay seem excessive as they all need proper rebuilding as the main capacitors are now dried out & ready to fail. a serviced good one worthy of 'great', based on our early 2 part one. treble is a little ragged due to the spec but a fine sound that will be addictive. note the New Cadet from about 1968 is some awful early IC STK output block thing! BUY-RAW RATING: Risky!
|1963 Trio WX-400U receiver
*RECOMMENDED++. 10w+ Valves. one of the first Stereo Receivers from Nov 1963. original spec is strangely very limited and soft sounding & hides the high quality in here. typical of all old valve amps: they are sleeping with aged parts, over-cautious design & weak power supplies. the grey signal capacitors must be replaced. the main capacitors are always dried out. what it needs is everything updated as certain parts are too far gone to even try it perhaps, but it does pay off and can deliver sounds way better than you'd think a 51 year old amp should with a fast crisp treble, solid bass and huge wide soundstage that sounds way more than 10w. looks great too, has to be the best looking valve receiver with it's USA 50s Diner looks. the hardest amp you'll ever tackle to get it sounding right as much needs upgrading including to redo the oversized phono sockets. to fully recap, redesign the power supply & much more gets it easily in the top end of EXCELLENT rankings, if you fancy the work & giving up a dozen times in the process. we keep finding upgrades to do to ours & for the ease of familiar ECC83 & EL84 output valves with 350v it's competing with the Sansui 500A & the WX400 has a valve phono stage unlike the Sansui. finally got FM Stereo working & the sound is very pleasing once adjusted right. BUY-RAW RATING: Don't use it before some recapping!
|1965 Rogers HG88 Mk III amplifier
GREAT. 15w Valves. this amp can be made to sound ageless and the sound can be modernised with remarkable results, capable of a deep bass beyond the limited original design as is typical with early amps, the coupling capacitors are very low values. great is the 'as-is' rating though it can go to excellent with much design-based work. the main HT capacitors are always dried out. only the high value input resistors limit the fidelity & it's ranking. you must try a Rogers to hear valves & if you upspec & know design. plays like a 50w transistor amp. again it's nearly 50 years old & will need much work done as the main power capacitors at the back are dried out & ready to fail. more capable of improving than the Cadet. the only minuses are the case has poor ventilation making the rightmost valve get to over 100°C against the case & scorches the wood case & the high input resistor for Aux. to overcome the awkward triple capacitors on recapping can be done. ECC807 valves are similar to ECC83 if pins differ & minor resistor changes required. the bias slider is too coarse to set properly. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky!
|1967 Trio Kenwood TK-140E receiver
*EXCELLENT. 5ow. relates to the 'E' version only which is Semi Complimentary. white lever buttons, no IC wording on the tuner glass. the highest powered domestic amp in 1967. appears there were a few versions of this model. the 1969 later 'X' version is a Capacitor Coupled redesign the same almost as the KA-6000 as well as ICs in the Tuner & maybe other changes, but we've not had one yet. excellent sound for an original amp with all the qualities of the best amps is what a raw TK-140E sounds like if it hides it's potential. another great early amp with more than a few oddities along the way as you'd expect this early which makes it a bit less accessible than the KA-6000. perhaps the best of the Trio-Kenwood receivers for it's sweet sound quality & strong sound, the buyer of ours was surprised how loud it played. one for the experienced tech really as some of it is a bit quirky to upspec, as in asbestos boards by the power amps & tone board oddities. the metal case with no wood outer made leaves it a little plain if the fascia is nice. one we enjoyed having around. BUY-RAW RATING: A bit risky.
|1967 Pioneer SX-700TF receiver
EXCELLENT. 25w. very early transistor amp but a sweet lively sound if only 25w see the SX-1500TF for the 45w version. this has to be the sweetest 25w amp you'll hear. we didn't upspec too much & it could do as well as the 1500TF below if the power difference limits it. Pioneer never made anything this sweet sounding after this 1967 all-transistor range. T= USA 110v version, TF = EU-World version. a rare early amp & for us together with the one below are the Best sounding Pioneers. the only minus is the old preamp transistors can be a bit hissy & to put in better ones is worthwhile. bachelor pad looks & the TF version has wood veneer on the fascia. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1967 Pioneer SX-1500TF receiver
EXCELLENT. 45w. not to be confused with the 1500TD. very clean & musical sounding amp we expected to be good as the SX-700TF, this even all-original is very sweet with such an open sound as the balance is a little bright which we noticed on first getting it. recapped & low noise transistors it scores very high in musicality. but it does have some issues & like with the 1500TD the power amp board is messy making it a little risky if it's had old repairs as we found out. a rare early amp & for us together with the one above are the best sounding Pioneers. same as 700TF above with the hissy transistors. we rated this very highly until getting the 1967 Sansui 3000A which outdid it, but both deserve the 'excellent' rating. one minus is later versions used a NFB tone board, the best sounding ones use the early W15-031 one, not the later one like the SX-1500TD uses. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1967 Sansui Model 500A receiver
EXCELLENT. 20w Valves. very similar looking to the 3000A from Sept 1967, this valve receiver actually came just after in Dec 1967. buyers must have demanded a Valve one not trusting Transistors yet. only Pioneer made valve ones this late. got ours basically original just a few new coupling caps & the sound is very like the 3000A. deserves the rating straight away after recapping the grey signal capacitors & once serviced, to spend 3 hours doing it properly, it does sound fine. worth recapping & upspeccing as the Bass is limited as usual, but treble is fresh if soft & warm with the aged dried out HT capacitors, though stereo is very wide. at last found the Best Vintage Valve amp after a few tries. background noise is very low too, if not as silent as a modern one. a problem is the input sockets are useless as too big for modern phono plugs & to renew them is not easy to keep it neat. sound compared 500A to 3000A is unsurprisingly similar if the valve lower DF & less components does make a fresher sound though the 3000A still does better it as of writing. the wood case from the 3000A & it fits in & has enough ventilation. further comparing to the Sansui 1000/1000A show the 1000s have a remarkably high 150k resistance (3x 50k) between Tone & Power Amp for the High Filter, the 500A has none of this. one minus is it uses 7189A output valves which are obsolete and expensive though some suggest EL84M but we've not researched it yet to be sure as it runs on 420v. standard EL84 in the WX400 run on 350v. BUY-RAW RATING: Don't use before some recapping!
|1967 Sansui Model 3000A receiver
*EXCELLENT. 45w. a secret gem we've discovered & the best transistor Sansui with a top phono stage. this tricksy but endearingly wonderful semi complimentary amp can be upspecced into a really wonderful sound and with a effortless smooth bassy but detailed fresh open sound. it has a transformer for the PP splitter stage. others are buying this amp now based on reading of it here & are pleased with how great it sounds even all-original. damping factor of 15 gives it a valve amp styled bass. of all our amps when we had more here, it was played the most, though others come along & can confuse, it is consistently a winner & with fine clean honest open effortless detail. even for it's age the Elna caps should still be good though the Tuner may need some work as so early. the 500A valve receiver above is serious competition to the 3000A. one of our favourite amps & our 3000A we've done much to in search of bettering it. minuses are it can be a tricky amp, the DC offset can go high if it's not had the 1971 mods or if accurately adjusted, the 1971 mods aren't necessary, but to risk 6v DC on your speakers is the worry. one for an experienced user only really, the wonderful sound is worth the effort. 3000 is the similar amp with only one speaker pair. some early ones have awkward oversized phono sockets for early type phono plugs that will stretch or not fit modern ones. tuner is early with Germaniums that may give problems & the protection light may come on, silencing the preamp, unless adjusted right. good phono stage here too. biasing is best done ignoring any published way, to use the resistors on the outputs & read mv is best. BUY-RAW RATING: Generally OK but check DC offset on speakers is under 1v!
|1968 Ferrograph F307/20+20 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 20w. same amp repackaged into 3 amp models. good volume for 20w, not as smooth as it could be, in fact it sounds quite rough, but possibly good for upspeccing despite axial caps. open rich sound if a little raw as British Hifi usually is. a bit of a fuss about Ferrograph but they are nothing special really. aka the Ferrograph F307 Mk 2. Ferrograph have been making crazy prices, but note only one buyer who worked at Ferrograph is the buyer. they are Average rough sounding things, there is much better out there, UK Sugden are better quality. even the build of the 60+60 we thought was lousy. don't believe the hype. the 20+20 has a huge +17db bass gain which is insane, vinyl wrap not veneer, obsolete transistors used. no ceramics but still did sound rough, but just musical enough not to go in the grey table below. it has UK style axial caps so not worth recapping for us. basic power supply with very high 350mV ripple. made of low grade steel that goes powdery not rusty. we'd not recommend any Ferrograph as being much above average. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1968 Leak Stereo 70 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 30w. always popular as stylish, sounds are a great intro to vintage hifi, like the Trios in this section. sound is clean & very rich, but ultimately limited by basic designs & power. the Stereo 30 Plus & Stereo 70 are basically the same amp in an earlier design case, the early Stereo 30 is different. with 30w this scores a point higher. the first version can sound rough for the BC147/8/9 transistors used which age badly, rating based on one with little use after much running in. not one we've ever upspecced due to the board sizes & axial caps limiting things. any Leak except the Delta 75 is a great starter amp. the Delta 70 is the same amp in a nicer case. has that nice Leak amp smell with the plug in boards & thick card-foil lined top and bases. the matchhing Stereofetic tuner we found a bit crappy in sound & construction, but the amps are nice if they look better as the Delta rebranded ones. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if risk of rough sounding transistors
|1968 Sony STR-6120 receiver
*EXCELLENT. 50w. the best sounding Sony receiver & a long time favourite of ours. just so musical, precise & well balanced, it has put many to shame. recapped & upspecced it's only recently been beaten by others that sound sweeter. the 1970 version without 'Tape Head' rates
the same as the first one. the STR-6200 & STR-6200F are similar but actually about half is different. one of the best looking receivers with it's wood case & hideously expensive when new £387 in 1969 means few are around worldwide except USA really. of the 1960s transistor receivers, only the two 1967 Sansuis are ahead of this in 1960s amps which is recommendation indeed. problems can arise from lack of fuses & the messy wiring that comes loose a bit readily. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1968 Sony TA-1120A amplifier
*RECOMMENDED. 50w. be aware as-is it plays too low & the headphone socket needs doing properly as it's not a standard design. but once recapped & much subtly improved it elevates into a very different amp. therefore great for upspeccers & one of the best Sony amps but only if you work it. the 1965 TA-1120 is the earliest version we've not had & appears to be awkward with a strange delay turning on method. capable of a fine rich sound when done right if not the most focussed on the treble keeps it down on score. the sound is rich & bassy if the doubled output transistors lose the treble sharpness to make it not as modern sounding as you may like, even with uprating the small transistors that can be hissy. the odd red capacitors are of high quality, no need to alter them. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but low volume is how it's made
|1968 Trio-Kenwood TK-66 receiver
GREAT. 25w. early receiver with that sweet airy open sound if power limited, nice sounding like the early Trio range & if we had one again it could rank higher than this ranking, though 25w a bit low for us. this brand pre 1973 are always good value & offer a fine sound. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 B+O Beomaster 3000 receiver
GREAT. 30w. one of the all-time stylish classics & sounds the sweetest one of the 1970s Beomasters at 30w, a fine neutral sound here. always needs good servicing & a nice grade one all original & of little use deserves a high rating. average ones can sound rough though. sweet quality of sound rather than loud & bassy. a more domestic easy sound than some, but with a pleasing sound still. a more used one will not rate this high as certain parts age & lose the fidelity those BC 147/8/9 again & will benefit from new transistors to get the higher rating. sold well but are usually found in heed of TLC as much needs servicing if not much to upgrade on this early model as the capacitors are usually still good. the 1972 3000-2 rates the same & is so similar it doesn't make any difference. beware the bulbs must be 12v 30mA & the tuner meter one is 6v 30mA or they won't light evenly. cloudy sliders are due to plastic aging on later ones esp the 3000-2, not dirt or smoke as the earliest ones are still clear. can suffer from bad transistors that age to sound rough. capacitors are usually good unless obviously leaking or split, but this amp needs a lot of servicing to sound it's best so many are found in need of work. BUY-RAW RATING: Always in need of a good Servicing, bad switches & controls are common raw.
|1969 Pioneer SX-1000TW receiver
GREAT. 50w. just slightly less musical than the SX-1500TD but all 3 more enjoyable than the SX850-950s & worth a buy. seems to have sold well in USA & still has the qualities to call it a great one. we didn't do much with ours as we had other Pioneers above, treble a bit rolled off but well made enough to be worth improving. last of the early styled fascia amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Pioneer SX-1500TD receiver
GREAT. 45w. has the later side wood trim styling like the mid 1970s SX-950 amps. the not as open & airy sounding updated version of the SX-1500TF if still one of the better Pioneers with a good volume & clarity, beware the mic control must be set to off or it's hissy. the power amp board is too cramped & has output capacitors on it that makes the amp less appealing to upspec. Pioneer to us are never as great as the hype haves you believe, the best selling Japanese brand if generally cost cut losing quality of others but the 1960s ones we like & there is a 1969 valve amplifier, see other amps page. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Sansui Model 4000 receiver
EXCELLENT. 45w. another early Sansui gem, we hoped this would improve on the quirks of the wonderful 3000A & it does have a very similar sound even before recapping. these earliest SS Sansuis are high quality amps. this one is a more modern sound than the 3000A & has an unusual Aux input that is different to the Tape input, but is a precise 2nd Generation sound for it and only Sansui used the idea in 1969-70. unusual design that needs to be restrained if recapping can make it less compatible with modern gear. a quirky amp with a fine sound, similar to the 3000A, but it's not for inexperienced users. for Sansui 5000 too, beware the scaremongerers, the 4000 uses the exact same varistor STV-3 which is the 'bad diode' they go on about. no problems at all if servided & adjusted right. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Teac AG-7000 receiver
*EXCELLENT. 65w. a rarer early Teac appears to be a 1969-70 one & similarities with the Teac AS-100 from 1971. sound quality is rich, detailed,
clean on the treble, neutral & overall excellent and for the rating raw as-is the focus is just so high. a
great looking amp in it's wood case too. this amp
'as-is' gets a very high rating as it is
just so good even all original (and better recapped). the few early Teac are highly recommended by us. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Trio-Kenwood KR-4002 amplifier
GREAT. 18w. the 1968-69 range of Trio-Kenwood are nice sounding, see the KA-6000 high up for their best one. part of the range with the KA-6004 just the 18w keeps it's recommend level lower, needs the side wood cheeks to look it's best. a good starter amp findable for not much money. 4002a is a 1972 version styled like the KA-6004, we've not tried that version though expect it to rate similarly. see TK-150 below as it's the same amp. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 amplifier
*EXCELLENT. 45w. the pick of the Trio-Kenwood amplifiers, very advanced for it's age & way ahead in build quality & weight of most other Trios & very musical & open like the other high rateds in this table. great looking with the matching tuner. needs a good servicing to sound it's best else it sounds unremarkable. for a 1969 amp, it has a rare MC phono stage & other ideas used by amps later, ie tone defeats. this is basically the 1969 TK-140X as the boards are just about the same. a lot of work to service up though. for the 1967 receiver version of this amp, see TK-140 above as we upspecced it with success. one of the classiest looking vintage amps especially with the tuner, with a fine sound. ours we kept all original & it stayed as a benchmark shaming many other amps for quite a while. as it's similar to the TK-140 it would recap & upspec very well, not that we did ours. on looking to recap, we didn't fancy the randomness of the boards to redo & the power amp has some changes that are hard to work out with just the circuit. it has a huge main smoothing cap that is best left be too to keep it's charm. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Trio-Kenwood KR-33 receiver
GREAT. 25w. similar to the TK-66 if lower power. bit industrial looking but the sound on the early Trios is worthwhile & if we had one again it could rank higher. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-150 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 18w. again like the other smaller power Trios, budget price amps with a pleasing fresh sound, if modest power only keeps them lower in the rankings than the sound quality itself. the TK-150 is the same amp as the KR-4002 for different countries. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1970 Hacker GAR550 receiver-gram
RECOMMENDED. 14w. a basic but pretty acceptable UK made receiver of 14w with a turntable, so a record player system really. it deserves it's rating if used with good speakers, not the supplied Hacker ones. we recapped ours to the max as we had one in 1986, but the odd Line level it worked on based on old DIN socket tape spec meant it just wasn't capable without redesign. recapped & improved it rates towards a Great for the sort of item it is: a nice compact record player system, mostly with a teak lid though the smoked perspex looks nicer. as with most music centre type units, the better ones will have the Retro Sound but are only a starter unit or a second hifi. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Turntable may need oiling.
|1970 Philco-Ford M1550 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 12w. the first amp we ever used as it was the parents one until 1983 & the sound is actually with many qualities of amps in our Top Rated list with a fresh open sound. it's only a budget amp though it looks nice though is quite small. ceramics upgraded tidies the sound & a punchy sound is here. as only 12w it's appeal will be limited & you'll never find one, but it's worthy of including as it has a good sound. minuses are DIN connectors & only 12w that gives harmonics a bit too easily on treble as it clips. also the power switch is awful as it fails & to awkwardly fit a different type is the only option. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if the power switch is ok
|1970 Sansui AU-999 amplifier
EXCELLENT. 50w. one of the cleanest sounding amps we had before getting more Yamahas, could do with more bass, but a winner with high quality sound & worth upspeccing up further. beware a bass filter circuit is between the preamp & poweramp stage though the score is more for how clean it sounds, if not for it's bass abilities: it was thin & if we had another we may go further with it. there are several power amp transistors that are safe to use but not good quality & to upspec is worthwhile. phono isn't as good as the earlier amps & the all-black looks a bit awkward unless the room is bright, though a wood case improves looks. with our current ideas on upgrading, this has more potential in it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Hitachi SR-1100 receiver
EXCELLENT. 55w. an excellent well made amp we rate highly. phono stage with ICs if Hitachi custom made basic ones. headphone socket resistor is too loud as do other things as Hitachi made an amp way too good & had to dumb it down. this amp is still remarkable with a few upspecs & has a deep solid fast bass that most amps shy away from, if not a bloomy sort of slow bass this may suggest. an easy amp to work on as just so nicely made. 90v HT on the capacitor coupled output stage. this impressed us straight away after having had most of the other amps here, so to impress us means it is a bit special. a solid detailed sound with strong separation in stereo. deep potential to deliver a very detailed smooth sound with the right upspecs. it helped us to upspec our other amps, so is a fine reference amp. an amp we got later in our researching & we were pleased with how good it was after recapping, a wide stereo soundstage with fine detail is in this amp. phono has early ICs which are basic ones so not bad. Hitachi are a hidden secret on their early amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Leak Delta 30 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 15w. always popular as stylish, sounds are a great intro to vintage hifi, like the Trios in this section. sound is clean & very rich, but ultimately limited by basic designs & power. treat it modestly and it'll please though. the Leak range are all good starter amps, if at 15w on this one. based on the Stereo 30 Plus if with the Stereo 70 type plug in boards. the Delta '30' is basically the 1968-69 '30 Plus' in a new case. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Leak Delta 70 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 30w. always popular as stylish, sounds are a great intro to vintage hifi, like the Trios in this section. sound is clean & very rich, but ultimately limited by basic designs & power. the Stereo 70 is basically the same amp in an earlier design case, the early Stereo 30 & 30 plus is different. note the can type transistors used are all obsolete & no guides offer substitutes, but he who understands transistors will find there are endless 'better-than' equivalents, so don't give up on a non-worker. the Delta range '70' is basically the 1968 '70' in a new case & looks better for it. the front plastic part with spring inside will need regluing to stop the controls wobbling else it's about all that you have to do with these. the back thin aluminium strip if a bit loose, don't unpick it as it'll get dents & look ugly. beware amateurs sayting it has a MC input, it's a MICrophone input! pity there wasn't a 60w amp in this range. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Leak Delta 75 receiver
RECOMMENDED if with HIGH RISK! 35w. quirky & highly risky to buy amp always needs recapping so a low as-is score but then an enjoyable sound if you manage to get it working, certainly a good 'un in terms of sound but it's unavoidable problems keep it down. this is the only one on this page we'd not buy again at any price as too risky. it looks like bits of other amp thrown together & a bit crap is a fair description of how it's made. the amp will need recapping the poor quality black plastic caps, the 3 larger ones in the top are usually too far gone. a risky buy indeed, we had 3 of them & only ever got one going. to buy is a losing game. it is a direct coupled amp which means a fuse blowing probably isn't the outputs but at £10 each for the driver transistors it's an expensive repair. the one we fully recapped we did like & used it for several months, but the risk on these is high & barely deserves a recommended. the design got many changes over the production run, adding in a ferrite AM tuner rod inside as well as adding extra resistors to supposedly better the spec but spoils the sound instead. not a confident amp here. to get the fascia off is not obvious, but undo the 4 side panel screws. take off the front knobs & the fascia slides off holding the 2 side panels. and it has phono sockets so closely fitted as useless it's DIN connectors really to use this amp. but the phono stage sounded decent. BUY-RAW RATING: Very High Risk of failure!!!
|1971 Marantz 2245 receiver
GREAT. 45w. early classic era Marantz, pre the hex nuts fascia, with a sweet but clean & focussed sound you can upspec the deliberate limitations out to bring it away from the warm sound it is as-made. well built amp that has a proper metal lamps assembly, not the plastic one of later models. beware missing pre-power jumpers on the back which are needed for the amp to work. beware the fuses on the board on the right heatsink fitted to some regions has 240v mains on it but the fuses are left open to touch. also to work on the power amps & bulbs is tricky. hides it's potential with a surprising excess of ceramics in the tone stage, but you may like that cosy warm sound. we upspecced ours & it came alive, if the 2265B here at the same time was preferred. so treble is soft and bass is light but thick on upper bass on this amp though it does sound overall nice, it's hiding it's potential compared to fresher sounding amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 National-Panasonic SA-5800 receiver
EXCELLENT. 27w. aka Technics since 1978-ish. firstly ignore the 27w rating, it plays like a 40w amp. cute looking & very well made 11kg amp it goes in well with other high rated ones here. a most appealing neutral & sweet sound with good volume if not the most bass. a little bargain that deserves our lofty ranking, our serviced & part recapped one sold in less than one day! one for the collector too, it's cute. The brochure is just a bit trippy in it's sell with "let the SA-5800 be your Magic Carpet. It's Vibrant Power will set a crowd swinging to the throbbing beat, or gently soothe the mediative individual", and "The Well Bread Child of close knit Family of Electronic Wizards", nice! BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Sony STR-6055 receiver
GREAT. 40w. as this with the STR-6065 is basically the receiver version of the TA-1140 if sounding a little more like the TA-1130, they had to be good. a more friendly richer sound with the receivers than the amp UK buyers still didn't buy. fresh & open sound & for it scoring this high "as-is" must be a real winner. deep bass is a bit lacking though, but at 40w it's acceptable. only in compare to the TA-1130 does 40w not kick as a 65w one. the power supply is cramped up & is a weakness. a very different amp to the feeble STR-70xx series that followed. BUY-RAW RATING: Generally good if the power supply can be a bit risky
|1971 Sony TA-1130 amplifier
GREAT. 65w. the most accessible of the early Sony amplifiers. a tight accurate sound with FETs in the preamp which leave it less upspeccable. oddly less bassy sounding as-is unlike the lively TA-1120A & TA-1140 and ultimately lacks the musicality & ease of the STR-6120. a fine if leaner dryer sound is in here as-original that is very flat & accurate and this ranks it high if not quite an excellent for the bass. worthy of improving to tighten the sound & better the bass though, we tried much but it didn't like some things meaning we left it be. the STR-6200F receiver is the similar power amp stage so may sound more like this than the STR-6120. a fine looking amp in the big walnut case as is the TA-1120A. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Sony TA-1140 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 40w. still in the league of the best early Sony, but a nasty incorrect bias setting as given in the specs makes this fresh amp sound average, set correctly like other Sonys it's hugely improved with a great lively sound. this amp is not appreciated therefore, but it's hidden in there for an adjustment. a more lively bassy sound than the 1130 has potential to upspec up higher if it's a midprice amp but with a more simple design to offer a fresher sound. one known problem is messy solder which causes problems. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but only once adjusted right & risk of poor soldering
|1971 Teac AS-100 amplifier
EXCELLENT. 40w. one of the most precise & clean sounds we've heard in an amplifier & was a benchmark for some time outdoing the Sansui AU-999 with ease. very clean, open sounding yet still musical & decent bass on the earlier ones. surprisingly it has ICs in the preamp but only basic ones. this amp upspecs up very highly. got us trying the Teac AG-7000 which beats the AS-100 for the higher power & no ICs. oddly the later ones are bass limited in the preamp but can be altered. does have a bit of a 'boop' on turn on which again can be sorted, but both are design matters. has stepped tone controls. looks nice with the matching tuner & the stark industial look is timeless & certainly one of the more memorable amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Trio-Kenwood KR-4140 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 25w. a later design, still clean but a bit soft in treble detail but still a good budget buy as a clean sound is here. several in the ranges numbered similarly, if the less exciting sound than just the year before on a similar lower powered receiver. one to use if not upspec, most components are on the one board as is the 5150 below. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Trio-Kenwood KR-5150 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 33w. a modest power T-K with pleasing retro looks. all transistors, no ICs in the audio stages & plays a decent sound & represents a good buy then & now. pleasing sound if not the extremes of the better amps, but you'd not expect it either. a good starter amp into Vintage, if without the dynamics of an amp 40w or higher. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1971 Yamaha CA-700 amplifier
GREAT. 60w. one of the earliest Yamahas & a 60w Semi-Complimentary amp. this has a MM and a MC input stage for Phono & both are independent. just a pity it's all DIN connectors unless you get the Non EU versions. has the classic neutral Yamaha sound. only a midprice quirkily built amp unlike the hefty later ones, but interesting. beware the power amp plug in sockets may fail, though other amps use smaller versions of this type fine. but there is a lively open sound on these early 1971 CA/CR-700s that is more restrained in the later ones. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if power amp sockets are intact
|1971 Yamaha CR-700 receiver
*GREAT-EXCELLENT. 40w. one of the earliest Yamahas, great looker, a quirky midprice amp before their higher quality later ones. it's varied in our opinions but actually is deserving of the current rating. all DIN connectors as the CA-700 is. still has the classic neutral Yamaha sound. but there is a lively open sound on these early 1971 CA/CR-700s that is more restrained in the later ones. for the 40w here it puts out a confident enjoyable sound. on later compares to the CR-1000 & CA-800ii this receiver is no slouch even all orig spec. one criticism is the background hiss is a bit higher than some amps, due to the tone stage. there are 2 versions though, the original 4 transistor one is with correct bass (eg SN 12xx) but a later 6 transistor one (eg SN28xx) is bass light for design alterations. the sound balance of this compares well with the CR-1000 if not as loud. the start of the Yamaha golden years. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1972 B+O Beomaster 4000 receiver
GREAT. 40w. an improved version of the 3000(-2) with 40w now. still a sweet detailed sound & we recapped ours partly to bring out a very nice bassline the original design hides. only made with a black fascia that needs a well lit room to see all the buttons clearly which is a bit awkward. probably the best sounding B+O if still a more domestic sound & volume as the master volume is a little warm balanced. B+O capacitors if not the 1976 era dark red ones are generally good on these, only later B+O start to get to be unreliable. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1972 Goodmans Module 80 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 35w. UK made budget amp with a good honest sound, but it'll always need recapping as the same poor black plastic caps as the Leak Delta 75 has. lots of potential to upspec up it's clean if slightly raw typical British sound if you fancy a challenge & know what to upspec, ie most of it. we upspecced our one recently as we had one years ago. only minus is DIN connectors for all. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor: The black capacitors must be replaced as they are always bad or failing.
|1972 New Acoustic Dimension (NAD) 160 receiver
EXCELLENT. 45w-55w. the nicest sounding early NAD with a fine bassline & clarity though sound can vary a lot if biased wrongly & running warm. has a power supply overheating to sort before it can be used safely. the inner of the 2 big resistors hits 90°C. this for the lack of the Bass filter circuit & the 'rare' early name one wins points on the later NAD 160a. having got another one and now having the Circuit Diagram we got to upspec it better. we've had a few of these now as it's an amp we like & the one we upspecced having got the circuit delivered a very fine sound. the best NAD amplifier by far & it looks nice too in the wood veneer case. this is an amp we like & have bought a few now. but it does have the overheated power supply issue that needs to be sorted before it fails, if it hasn't already. a selkler of these at the time noted they were a bit unreliable, if only for this one issue. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1972 Photax Concertone 800B amplifier
GREAT. 32w. cute & obscure amp together with the matching tuner, great lively sound that is really just a little less focussed than the Teac. a great little find, nicely made & worthy of recapping to bring out the sound further. looks quite like a Sansui in construction. it does have ICs but ones basic & early enough not to worry & we still rate it a 'great' for what it is, belatedly appears in the 1975-76 hifi books. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1972 Rotel RA-610 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 32w. another lower powered amp with a nice sound, a little warm on midrange detail but nice with it to still deserve the rating. well made semi complimentary design would upspec up well to lose the midrange imbalance. one certainly worth buying if 32w will do, more sophisticated than the similar Leak. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1972 Trio-Kenwood KA-6004 amplifier
GREAT. 40w the fully complimentary follow up to the KA-6000 has a high quality fresh open sound that has potential to be upspecced out. a very accurate rich sound probably the very last of the classic era amps before cost cutting & over-design took over. nice looker if switch covers fragile, so we made a set. delivers a fine deep bassline like few others can. the switch covers you can make from alu pipes & rods like model train sellers have. as later than the KA-6000 there are things better & others less good, but still an amp of quality that sounds superior. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1973 NAD 90 amplifier
GREAT. 45w. the amp version of the 160, probably from 1973. the sound is very similar to the NAD 160. early NAD were still midpriced but did have a fine sound, but the best NAD buy is the 160 receiver, the 90 amp version was a lesser beast in sound & construction was a bit junky with a card between two inner boards looks a bit amateurish. strange the receiver version is so much better. the NAD 90 lacked the sound focus of the NAD 160 & actually looks like it was built very differently to the quality of the 160. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1973 Sugden A48 Mk I amplifier
GREAT. 40w. a very sweet UK made amp but too polite sounding & a bit ugly looking with the wood case looking like a Leak one & a bit cheaply made. great phono stage, but for 40w doesn't kick enough for us. one of those amps that could take some smart upspeccing to bring more out of it, the design is tidy if a typical English sort of design like Ferrograph if much better sounding. hard to recap as typical UK style axial caps. of UK brands we tried, Sugden outdid all noted here (Ferrograph, Radford, Leak etc) for the fine sound it delivered, perhaps could improve up but with the axials. beware the odd presets on the tone board that need fine adjusting with test tones or the sound balance will be wrong, we never tried to upspec ours any further. beware of fools replacing the volume control as it loses the power switch, it was purposely designed to give the typical volume midway as the manual states, it's not faulty! we bought a new set of original push buttons from Sugden, but they said supplies were limited at the time. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if it needs the tone board inside pots properly calibrated
|1973-75 Yamaha CA-800II amplifier
EXCELLENT. 55w + 10w Class A. this is the II version of their first Silver range with alterations in the tonal balance, but not all markets got the II versions so they are scarce. the power amp is full complimentary & a 'Tone Jump' direct switch. after doing every upspec trick the CR-1000 got to the CA-800II reveals the 800II as a slightly warmer sound if better suited to most users who might find the CR-1000 a bit overwhelming. if the 800II is this good, the CA-1000II uses the same phono as the later versions of CR-1000 & actually is a superior sound. one recapped & upspec by us revealed Class A made no difference at all. has high upspec potential & we'd rate the CA-1000II similarly. typical Yamaha too-hot power supply on this amp is an issue. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky only for overheated power supply transistors
|1973 Yamaha CA-1000 amplifier
GREAT. 70w +15w Class A. their first 70w amp with Class A, a warmer midrange balance loses it detail if very clean otherwise & would upspec, but we got the CA-1010 just as we finished ours & sold this too fast after the CA-1010 was found to be misleading. takes a lot to get it working right & for this, some deeper exploration could bring back the detail if you like design, we thought it sounded a bit warm & soft even after recapping. the only minus is some boards are a bit cramped as is typical with Yamaha though we've upspecced several now. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1973 Yamaha CR-800 receiver
EXCELLENT. 50w. a particularly good sounding & well made receiver, punchy wide spaced stereo with a sweet sound, this is the 'easiest' Yamaha to buy & use just serviced, with a high quality sound balance from buying one all-original. we like how decent it is & buyers are pleased with it too, a wise buy. pity it's only a vinyl wrap case, though to reveneer in teak or walnut is a nice idea. the CR-800 builds on the CR-700 sound and is much better built, this is a bargain amp for how good it sounds. to upspec & recap this was too tempting. the result was in the league of the CR-1000 & CA-800II if a richer warmer bassier sound than either, more a domestic sound balance if the qualities of the CA-800II are here. capable of very detailed sound as are a couple of the Yamahas we like. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1973 Yamaha CR-1000 receiver
*EXCELLENT+. 75w. the best of the Yamahas to us & Our Reference Amp. extremely revealing Pro sound that will shamelessly reveal speakers & headphones as being inferior if it sounds hard! it is strong, accurate, bassy & impressive but a louder sound than most amps like a pro amp & is great fun resolving music to the right master level, an analytical sound that is not in hifi usually. it can be tamed if required just with the loudness slider to mellow it back so you can have the CA-800II balance at 3 on Loudness. it is the Best Built of the amps we've had & after going very deep into the circuits, we found the upspec potential of this amp is remarkable. as great as it is, the fresh open sound of the Sansui 3000A or a valve amp will still be preferred in comparisons. fully complimentary output stages. the regulators still get a bit hot like other Yamahas but can be altered. our top Yamaha also for the looks & wood case. this oddly was the first Yamaha we had, if not understanding it quite as early for us. a really excellent amp if it needs a lot to service it. one minus is the input phono sockets are thin plated copper & usually found a bit crusty & not really upgradeable, also the mic slider must be set to off as it has a wide variable gain & with nothing plugged in it's noisy. there are 2 phono stages, the later 7 transistor one is excellent after some minor changes. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if needs good servicing
|1974 Leak 2000 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 35w. a capable, decent lively sound & much more reliable than the Delta 75 receiver, as with most Leak good midprice quality value & readily findable. for the price these sell for this amp is the one we'd suggest as our Top Budget Buy to start into vintage with. it'll not better a Yamaha of the same era but for the price these sell for it's a wise buy. the only weakness are the silver paddle switches like on the Delta 75 that can break. we recapped & upgraded one & it done well with only the 35w limiting what was a pleasing sound for what it is, if a bit grainy & bright compared to better amps. as with the Delta 75 there are many design changes through the run including a rare black export version. various fiddlings with protection & putting polystyrenes in the early ones as well as the DIN sockets being in a line or staggered. it has a strange bridging feature to make 35w stereo into 60w mono. an amp that tries to appeal to too many with the extra features. the display is too dark unless the blue plastic has aged darker. a basic phasey surround feature too isn't much use either. the silver paddle switches change size as do the teak sides width. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1974 Nikko TRM-500 amplifier
GREAT. 26w. sounds more like a 35w amp, punchy sound could easily upspec to improve the treble focus. another Hidden Gem & a Bargain to buy. We liked it better than the similar small Rotel noted above. Nikko made lots of amps & receivers if they're not much around. for only 26w it played louder & coped well with bass within it's design spec. looks like Trio & Teac inside & sound is lively and you get real teak veneer. a higher powered version would be interesting. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1974 Sony STR-6046A receiver
RECOMMENDED. 25w. a modest power later Sony with pleasing retro looks. it's actually got STK blocks for the power amp but at 25w it stays modest & still has the retro sound in a modest way so we reckon it deserves including as it's certainly above average in sound quality & good starter into Vintage. it actually has many qualities of amps but power is finite & the sound is limited to fit. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1975 Goodmans Module 90 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 30w. early ones look Glam Rock cheesy-awful with white controls but still a surprisingly good sound for a budget buy & less need to recap this than the 80. a much better sound here than the looks suggest. but it is basic but the money was spent making it sound good. later ones had tamer black buttons. but it's still all DIN connectors. the 110 & other higher number model we've not tried yet & they are later too. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1975 Luxman L-100 amplifier
GREAT. 110w. beware of buying a messed with one! requires deep servicing to get the luxury sound with a refined quality & at a price. beats a Sugden amp in similar mannered territory, as in it's not as fresh & lively as simpler designs so down a peg. before servicing it was a very soft feeble sound which was surprising, after servicing it sounded lively but fine detail seemed oversmoothed though the bass was lively. we recapped our one fully & found it was just not as wide & open sounding as others. awkward 22-step volume control with no solid zero stop may cause problems, even after servicing it & making the zero stop more obvious it still felt unsure. the relays are important but hard to find if messed with as ours was. one amp we got just to see what is was all about & never really used it much for our reasons, though it is a memorable amp for how heavy & stylish it is, but sound wasn't so hot. an amp that often has got fiddled with & the MTA56 connectors taken away & soldered which is bad. 3 old style relays may be risky too. the case is too thin wood for a heavy amp like this & with the odd collar piece it's a bit awkward. the phono stage sounded poor too. to us based on this high model, Luxman are a bit overrated & therefore very overpriced, this one makes a good price & was high new at £680+VAT in 1979, but many lesser models get offered way too high, like Marantz do too, but we don't see sales unless realistically priced. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if needs good servicing
|1975 NAD 160 'a' receiver
GREAT. 45w. the slightly updated 160a has a Bass limiting Low Pass circuit between the Pre & Power amps on the underside & the Power Supply still runs hot. just for the Bass limiter, we'd rate it just less than the 1st version as all original, but upspecced it can be as both are so similar, read more in the NAD 160 section above. NAD 160 has an FM Muting push button, NAD 160a uses the same as Loudness instead, a few minor differences inside too. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1975 Pioneer SX-850 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 65w. these sell well today as big & loud, but price cut to the bone & get rough sounding long before you'd expect which isn't great. sophistication isn't these. with higher spec parts these we feel could be better, but the protection circuit is a pain as too sensitive when we started to upgrade one. mass market goods for those who think size matters in hifi. these Pioneer were sold £150 less than the similar power Yamaha (CR-1000) & Marantz (2275) was £170 more than the Yamaha. you get what you pays for: Pioneer were mass market price cut efforts & not worthy of such acclaim! BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1975 Pioneer SX-950 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 85w. these sell well today as big & loud, but price cut to the bone & get rough sounding long before you'd expect which isn't great. sophistication isn't these. with higher spec parts these we feel could be better, but the protection circuit is a pain as too sensitive when we started to upgrade one. mass market goods for those who think size matters in hifi. beware the SX-980 that followed was an IC phono & even more cost-cut. big oversized tin cans these are, but unadventurous buyers readily buy them. we've thought to get one to upspec to our Yamaha-Sansui ideals, but feel it wouldn't really be worth the effort as the quality is midprice. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1975 Sony TA-3650 amplifier
GREAT. 60w. actually didn't expect this to be much good after the decline of Sony in the 1973-74 era, but this plain looking amp actually sounds very decent. big ALPS volume control like Luxman is unusual here. accurate, punchy & clean if not much on the Bass, but considering the TA-1150 only got average rated this was an unexpected improvement. part of the V-FET series of 1975, this has no V-FETs & is better for it. after researching the Receivers, we've decided this 60w amp is the best one to try. beyond a few nice touches it is still budget in the casework that leaves it looking a bit cheap compared to the TA-1050 & the power supply is a board perched on top of a double capacitor. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1976 B & O Beomaster 1900 receiver
RECOMMENDED with caution! 30w. stylish & futuristic, sound is as good as the 4400 but an amp that is hard to buy a good one as they aged bad, unfindable sliders fail, visuals wear out so we'll rate it down a bit. for us to get one of these again won't happen as sliders go bad, those dark red caps go bad, too high risk. a real bastard to open & try to service especially for soldering, you end up with one large floppy board with all the components on. no real difference in version -2 or the 2400 remote control version. BUY-RAW RATING: Bad. High risk of parts noted failing & poor capacitors
|1977 B & O Beomaster 4400 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 50w. a more designed sound than the fresher 3000 at the expense of air & musicality leaves it a bit flat. a lot of circuitry in this amp looks overdesigned. another bastard amp to work on as so cramped & poorly laid out makes us lose interest in one we had recently & hearing it working fine thru headphones reveals it less detailed than the 3000/4000 means we dip the rating a bit now compared to earlier. the 1900 & 4400 have a similar nice but safe sound. B+O are very overrated beyond the 3000 & 4000. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but beware faulty ones as it's awful to work on
|1977 Marantz 2265B receiver
GREAT. 65w. sweeter sounding than the 2245 & a bit of an exception to the rule that later is worse. compares well with the Pioneers & Sonys above even all original & certainly surprised us. but we sold ours on quickly as others bettered it. are they worth the money? yes, as others are too cheap in comparison. ours was damaged on one channel & needed a lot of parts  replaced showing there are no fuses or much to save almost trashing the amp which is a bit of a worry as is the useless plastic on the bulb fascia which will break away as aged from years of bulb heat. the construction is a bit budget in places compared to how well made Yamahas are made. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1977 NAD 300 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 80w. appears a huge impressive & classy amp with useless Dolby stage let down by a less than acceptable power amp stage & odd wiring routing, FET preamp delivers a fine if un-upspecable sound but the power amp section is just not very good and keeps it's ranking lower than the 22kg bulk of it suggests. sadly it has the overheating power supply with hot regulators that mess up the PCB. it also doesn't play very loud, the NAD 160 plays louder than this easily. "Going past the 1 o'clock position the stupid thing starts distorting, yet it's 100w!" we wrote originally. a disappointing buy after the NAD 160 quality & the NAD 200 big amp version we hear is similarly low on the volume. only one way to get more volume & that upsets the output severely as the power amp is a poor design as evidenced by the last minute chops to the design. this should be a winner, but several things keep it down. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1977 Rotel RX-603 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 45w. looks more 1972 inside from the design, pity the cheesy plastic front & handles, but a very good sound here. pity Rotel didn't go higher power on earlier ones as they are decent sounding. the higher ones in the range have the similar naff looks & overbright display losing appeal to some, but the sound is pleasing. cost cut as was typical, but still a nice design & for the decent sound one that would improve well & hints the bigger models will be worthwhile if the looks appeal. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if plastic handles intact & plastic fascia is good
| 1977 Yamaha CA-1010 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 100w+20w Class A. hefty 100w Yamaha amplifier, but not their best of 1977 like the CR-2020 if a bright dry reference sound but sadly overdesigned with a few issues we didn't like. we thought it had much potential to improve, but just doesn't quite reach the highest fidelity whatever you do as way too many odd transistors in the preamp circuit. our opinion of it was that it sounded quite rough & bright compared to better amps whatever we tried the rough sound was still there & lower mid to bass was not at the right neutral balance. offers Class A in the Power Amp & nice meters. but sadly not the quality of other Yamahas sound & way short of the CA-800II sound. the CA-2010 is the 120w version for reasons obscure, but Yamaha sadly heading away from their best on this one & we didn't play our one much beyond many compares. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1977 Yamaha CR-820 receiver
GREAT. 55w. very like the CR-2020 if less power, one of the sweetest sounding silver Yamaha as in playing all-original ones, with the CR-800 just ahead & a great buy as they seem to have sold well when new. the CR-800 & CR-820 are wise buys with fine sound if you don't want the bigger models. one for tweakers as the CR-800 is if a little cramped on the main board as is the usual Yamaha design. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1977 Yamaha CR-1020 receiver
GREAT. 70w. less powerful 70w to the CR-2020. no obvious difference in sound to the CR-2020 beyond power rating & will have similar upgrade potential. see the CR-2020 below for more on this fine amp. these sold well but often got used to excesses, look for dark marks on the top grille for the party-hearty ones though all can be rebuilt. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky as power supply overheating will need repair with no exceptions
|1977 Yamaha CR-2020 receiver
*GREAT. 110w. has to be the best ever of the post 1975 receivers for sound & 110w is a powerhouse but in need of work as overheats on the power supply. sound is sweeter & richer than the CA-1010. as found it is clean & punchy but warm & soft on fine detail, it can be upspecced into something quite remarkable, in 'Excellent' territory. build quality not in the league of the CR-1000 though this is a 1977 design & one of the best ever amplifiers we've known. we've been praising these CR-1020 & CR-2020 for a while now. the phono board on the tuner board is a bit of a cheapout, but for 1977 perhaps these best receivers for realistic prices. for extreme tweakers, it can offer nearly the same quality as the CR-1000 if not quite it's pro sound, but not wanting to unsolder the 5 tone boards again to add in new ideas, we left it be. looks better in the big USA full case, though the USA model adds Dolby FM input & is 110-120v only. an amp often found in lesser grade as well used & usually failing sooner or later is the risk. we upgrade any we sell to keep them good for years. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky as power supply overheating will need repair with no exceptions
|1978 Consort CA 4000 amplifier
GREAT. 40w. oddball amp UK brand made in Japan, looks budget goods but a pure lively enjoyable sound quality in a simple circuit that deserves a high ranking, copes well even with peaks tipping 80w on the meters, just limited by what you could upspec into, a very rare amp though. not one we recapped, but it's sound was pleasing for what it was. minuses are DIN connectors & an IC phono stage, not that we include Phono in our rankings. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1978 Leak 3200 receiver
RECOMMENDED. 25w. for a 25w amp this is surprisingly good if obviously power limited & sadly the last year of the popular Leak range, made in Japan by a non-brand company who manufactured Rotel & others but still a UK design with DIN sockets. all transistor era Leak we'd easily recommend except the early Stereo 30 with germaniums & the risks of the Delta 75. phono stage is an IC which isn't great, but of the era & price range. the 80w Leak 3900 is part of this range & we'd expect it to be decent too. pre out connectors mean you can use it as a preamp though the sound from the preamp is still kept modest in dynamics for the 25w rating. still a semi-complimentary design showing Leak was using 1972 technology still as with the Leak 2000. no Mono switch! BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
|1985 Yamaha A-720 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 105w. the only 1980s amp we've heard that appeals, very good focus in the Class A mode if could be upspecced further, no ICs in main amp, just the phono. a one-board type amp that gets very hot in class A, heatsink a bit feeble as too thin. only sounded it's best in Class A otherwise just an average score. needs servicing & a good run in else it sounded awful. loudness control isn't what you'd expect it to be. there is a temptation for us to get this or the A-1020 to upspec to see how good an 80s amp could be, but the one board design decides against. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky, needs good servicing else controls will not work right
|1992 Marantz PM-62 amplifier
RECOMMENDED. 60w. we bought one new in 1993, revisiting in 2012 it wasn't a bad amp, but not a lively sound like pre 1979 as typical of the era so we upspecced it into a more 1970s sound. it has tone controls & phono, if they are via ICs that do limit the fidelity. once upspecced it was pretty decent, but not really comparable to the 1977 Marantz 2265B for sound as by 1992 a thin bass light sound was the normal as overdesign & ICs were the normal in the CD era. BUY-RAW RATING: Good.
The Also-Rans in Hifi...
For non UK readers, an 'Also Ran' is a term for a Horse that didn't win or had any chance of winning & is politely said to be an Also Ran as it just made up the numbers in the race. These amps were got, used, some recapped & improved but quickly sold as we didn't appreciate them much. Not everyone likes or has the cash for the ones above or even knows what you do as you sniff at these too! A few we've stated have a better sound but are too compomised in other areas to give them that full rating. AVERAGE means it'll suit a general buyer or as a starter amp but you may tire of it quickly on finding better ones. MEDIOCRE is a disappointing amp for reasons noted. POOR is nearing the poop pile & one we'd recomened you avoid at all costs.
So a real piece of overrated overpriced Modern Crap ends our page, the hideous Musical Fidelity, a bunch of MFs indeed. X-cans or Nuvistas anyone? But we are aware it's Crap because we've played many amps over many years. Sadly buyers are not aware of how Hifi sounds until they buy it as Shops only Demo Audio Visual amps these days. If you are tired of the Modern Crap, look at our Top Amps Table & try any of the more modest ones like Leak or Rotel even & find out how much more enjoyable your Music can be!
|1966 Armstrong 221 amplifier
MEDIOCRE. 10w valve. UK made crap amp needed a full recap which wasn't worth the effort as the design was poor and the sound was messy & very weak on treble as it was severely rolled off & bad harmonics on the treble. silicon transistor phono stage & a very average amp indeed, felt a bit time wasted on recapping it, but you got to try. average crap appears to be the norm with this brand, so avoid! BUY-RAW RATING: Poor. Needs full recap to even try it.
|1968 Armstrong 526 receiver
POOR. 40w. nasty UK made crap Germaniums thing means the sound was ailing with bad harmonics on the treble but perhaps not awful if you spend forever changing it to Silicon with the voltage changes needed, recap it fully, but who could be bothered? cheaply made with ancient parts that looked 10 years earlier as UK parts, shameful. will relate to Armstrong 521 amplifier & Armstrong 525 receiver. to be avoided at any price says we, yet they still sell for small money to those unaware just for being old amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor. Aged Germaniums & other issues, don't bother
|1971 Scan-Dyna 3000 receiver
POOR. 30w. Dynaco related EU crap sadly. looked interesting, but an amp we hated by the end of it, crappy construction, crappy controls, sound was hard to tell as made so badly & not working right. unworkable on as so badly designed. we wrote it sounded rough, don't bother buying. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky if volume control isn't good, else should be ok
|1971 Radford HD-250 amplifier
POOR. 50w? more a 25w by the sound & 35v HT. very strange ugly UK made crappity crap amp, much too loud, poor design axial caps with too many transistors. looks more 1968 in build & is based on an earlier model. early ones lack a headphone socket. the tape buttons were stupid too, you had to half push both to get out of Tape mode! the output transistors on the back heatsink can have 70v-35v on & the clip on plastic caps will usuaslly be missing! lab gear looks with a feeble aluminium lid with tape stuck inside to stop the capacitors touching as it flexed & old spec screw threads even. the transformer is badly mounted so buzzes. ran out of power way too early for 50w & sounded very rough for it despite this bravado being remarkable initially, it's awful sound showed up by better. way too loud & a front row sound with no apparent limiting, but no finesse & too shouty. this amp severely messed with the mind on comparing to others as it was so awful & too loud, as in master volume was too high, ok for bad PA but not hifi. on spec & not altered so why so awful? rated very low as it has the cheek to call itself a 'reference' series amp. construction looked like a kit amp with signal cables L+R twisted together, so much for crosstalk which was lousy making stereo tracks a blurry mess. the phono stage was overdesigned & sounded very boring despite their db ratings. it has UK style axial caps so not worth recapping. we can only hope their valve amps are better than this lousy effort. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1972 Rogers Ravensbrook Mk III receiver
MEDIOCRE. 15w. very basic UK crap thing played very loud on headphones as was not a standard design but sophisticated it wasn't even on speakers and well made it wasn't either. cheap retro appeal is about it's lot. cheaply made was it & after the Valves until the A75 Panthera Rogers are best avoided as pretty much junk. front panel flexes on the controls as so cheap. oddly had coupling transformers in the output stages but very hard to bias so will likely run too hot. surprising what crap was sold in the 1970s when there were much better amps from UK manufacturers. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if usually full of dust & much from casing gaps
|1973 Armstrong 625 receiver
AVERAGE. 40w. cheaply made with bad power supply capacitors & plastic bases, it actually sounded better than average, but for how badly made it is we'll not rate it more than this. the big capacitors are explosions waiting to happen if not blown already, avoid this brand! did we say Armstrong Are The Worst Hifi Brand Ever? don't waste your money... . BUY-RAW RATING: Poor as the main capacitor is usually bad, else not so bad
|1973 Sony TA-1150 amplifier
AVERAGE. 35w. not a good design on this cost cut amp that is a bit disappointing with an IC in the preamp driven by poorly matched resistors so the voltage is imbalanced adding roughness to the sound as do the doubled output transistors. average Sony though a 1975 later TA-3650 amp gets rated higher, the 1150 still looks better. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1973 Sony STR-6036 receiver
POOR. 16w. laughably budget made 16w thing, hardly worth the effort to make surely as power & volume is pathetic. one for grannies to replace a cheap gram with only must be the reason it existed & Sony were very budget conscious disregarding quality at this time. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1977 Marantz 1152DC amplifier
MEDIOCRE. 76w. remarkably lousy amp if the low-volume sound is otherwise decent, the volume before distortion for a 76w amp is pathetic & it's pretty un-upspecable. bad construction design loose fully pinned boards & poor soldering throughout make this our least liked amp ever & it wasted much time & money so we rate it lowly. these amps are well overpriced for what they sound like, they don't play very loud & are unreliable. thankfully we found much better results with the two receivers above. we noted it had a deep bass on recapping it, if the midrange was 'cardboardy' and the treble was rough even once biased right. not one we'll try again for sure. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky due to bad soldering & poor connections on top board
|1977 Akai AA-1030 receiver
AVERAGE. 30w. adequate silver fronted amp that could upspec up well, but only average as it was just nothing special at all but certainly not bad either & well enough made, not just a one board job. a higher powered model would give us a better idea. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1978 Technics SU-7100 amplifier
AVERAGE. 40w. base-range IC power amp, but not as bad as we expected, average ranking means it's better than a lot of the sub £50 amps you see by the ton. hardboard base if the fascia looked more impressive. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1979 Panasonic SU-2800 amplifier
MEDIOCRE. 40w. budget IC power amp STK block thing that was true crappity crap budget gear, but it did have the 70s magic sound in there if you didn't expect much volume from it's 40w where it descended into quite awful distortion on clipping. worth a try to see what it was like. it was mediocre. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1981 Sony STR-S5L receiver
MEDIOCRE. 40w. it looked computery & the misleading 100w description on a 40w mass market average piece of junk, we wish we'd not bothered, average sound at best. LED volume is a cloth ribbon over a lightbulb! piece of crap Sony as much of their post 1972 stuff is beyond ones we note above & on the Other Amps page. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if bulbs will need replacing
|1984 Technics SU-V505 amplifier
AVERAGE. 50w. crazy heat pipe computer controlled design in a cheaply designed amp that was too stupid an idea to survive. these ideas are for top range 1980s amps not done cheaply to sound rough beyond the apparent good idea. the sound was basically decent but so rough & thin sounding, but the one-board design is pretty un-upspecable. high end ideas from an expensive amp put into a midprice amp in a thin tin box. most foolish hifi idea ever, though we did find it's sound interesting on first play. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor as servicing needed else controls etc will be bad
|1984 Technics SU-V707 amplifier
AVERAGE. 90w. crazy heat pipe computer controlled design in a cheaply designed amp that was too stupid an idea to survive. these ideas are for top range 1980s amps not done cheaply to sound rough beyond the apparent good idea. the sound was basically decent but so rough & thin sounding, but the one-board design is pretty un-upspecable. high end ideas from an expensive amp put into a midprice amp in a thin tin box. most foolish hifi idea ever, though we did find it's sound interesting on first play. it still sounds gritty at low volume & if turned up louder it sounds harsh. Perhaps the slow computer is holding it back rather than improving it. If bulbs are dead the LEDs don't all work as we found out on our one, so 12v 55ma axial bulbs you'll need. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor as servicing needed else controls etc will be bad
|1986 Sony TA-F550ES amplifier
POOR. 90w. probably the most boring amp we've ever heard, poor design STK block for power amp if transistor output stages. music sounds cold & awful: devoid of life, interest & not even a decent volume despite 90w. if this miserable sound is modern "hifi", then buyers are being conned. rubbish sold as ES premium, oh dear. the only interesting thing with this amp was it has a piece of red velvet inside. the sound was so unappealing you'd reach to turn it off fast & this sort of crap is what mass market hifi is sounding like today. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|1986 Realistic STA-2280 receiver
MEDIOCRE. 60w. we bought one new in 1987, but revisiting in 2012 & recapping to the max got a decent sound at lower volume but then but it sounded rough too early for 60w, for the sheer hell of it revealed how much ICs strangle the sound whatever you do, very restricted on bass on the original design. unshielded audio wires in ribbons all over the place, nasty limited bass even with Loudness & the laughable IMX Stereo expander. tuner was poor as digital but hold button type & memory battery long dead. full of ceramics too. almost impossible to get Stereo FM even at 5 bars signal as adjusting never worked. budget cheapo stuff good for your first ever amp, but that's it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good
|2002 Musical Fidelity A308CR pre/power
POOR. 250w. UK made 'high end' crap. for the big Power Amp & Preamp pair. a quickly regretted new buy as ex-demo. the amp is the most overdesigned piece of junk ever with cheap components, pre has a then-75p op-amp for phono & ceramics throughout. way way overdesigned with chokingly high Damping Factor killing the sound with too much NFB that they faked up the bass which was so unnatural it gave us a headache over several tries. nasty. 180 Damping Factor too. we don't get headaches but this junk mashed the mind. as you'd expect oversized overpriced merde like this still sells well to those affected with gullibility... our rating is considered fairly for the false sound it delivers. ah but the case looks nice which is more important to these MFs. Musical Fidelity are modern mass market crap, but sadly many have never heard the better stuff in the table above. go buy a cheap Leak & then tell us it doesn't sound more pleasing than just about ANY post 1980 amp. . BUY-RAW RATING: Only had it when new, no comment therefore