|CLASSIC HIFI: Revived, Restored, Upgraded & Reviewed.
Covering mostly 1963-1978 but others from 1956 to 2007. Reviews of Vintage Receivers. Reviews of Vintage Amplifiers, Reviews of Vintage Valve Amplifiers, Reviews of Vintage Tube amplifiers. Vintage Amplfier Reviews 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?
Classic Vintage Hifi deserves your Respect. It Looks Great & Sounds Great. Aged dusty amps can be Revived & shown to Better Anything Modern & with a Retro Style.
Reviews of Dozens of Amplifiers & Receivers mostly 1963-1978 & a few later. Rated by Direct Comparing with many others based on Aux input only. Vintage & Valve amps interest us, Post 1980 & huge 500w Amps are not our Bag...
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**See the "How We Decide The Top Amps" Page**
>>> PAGE INDEX IS BELOW...
This Page Reviews Vintage Amplifiers & receivers that we have had to try out.
For other ones we researched for our needs but haven't tried yet... see the OTHER AMPS page.
What Does This "Top Amps" Page Mean? Is Audio Still Important?
As Technology advances with i-everything & everything ultra-portable, Audio Sound Quality has sadly been almost forgotten. Super HD pictures but most TVs still have crappy built-in speakers like they did over 30 years ago. The junk you see on the Gadget Show that they rate as "Excellent Sound" is laughably sad. How many actually connect their TV to the Hifi? It's not so easy now as Phono sockets aren't on most TVs but you can use a Scart to Phono on the TiVo box or a DAC. So today's technology usually ignores Hifi Quality, mumbly TV programmes we have trouble understanding even played loud on Hifi. People actually do understand Vintage Hifi sounds more pleasant to listen to & even some budget 1970s gear of 15w will be a nicer sound than just about anything modern that has a cold emotionless sound. You read on ebay they tried it out, like the sound yet are still selling it. We are entirely self-taught with our ideals of Hifi Sound & it's been many years in the learning, you don't perfect your ideals overnight. This page is us initially randomly getting any amp that appealed to see what it was like & after many hours of comparing, a ranking of Amplifiers can be made. You'll never find any of this in a quick Shop or Home demo & we've been using Headphones only as Speaker matching gets another page on that, see our Loudspeakers page. The ideal in Hifi is a sound so effortless it seems surreal, no harsh edges, no rough treble or boomy bloated bass. A tranquil Summer afternoon by a Riverside or a brash annoying visit to a big City is the difference. That lazy Summer afternoon isn't tame though, it's fresh & natural with the lowest amount of artifact. You can pick out a fieldmouse rustling through the undergrowth or a jet plane searing through the sky with a sonic boom, all clear to be heard. And yet today's Audio is heavily compressed & simplistic to suit playing through a Mobile Phone tiny speaker. How far from Audio Reality it has gone. The best Hifi can deliver so much more. It can awaken your Weary Soul. Some of the amps in our page can come close to this & even nearer after upgrading. Plenty below we recommend. But upgrading is not for the newbie to jump into without years of Hifi learning. Please don't experiment on collectable & wanted Vintage Amps, go play around with cheap 1980s ones.
Us & The Recent Growth Of Vintage Hifi
Before we started doing these pages, Vintage Hifi was still sleeping. Initially we just had One Page in 2011 covering Old Record Players but then started getting Old Amplifiers & Receivers. As we've added more and more pages we've seen confidence in Vintage Hifi grow hugely. We take a non-technical view of Hifi making it approachable to a wider audience. This gives potential buyers a Confidence in Hifi they'll consider to buy. Look back at old Forums from 2010 & before & their range is very limited. At the time all that seemed to sell were the big Silver Monster Receivers from 1977-79. 1970s Yamaha especially have grown in popularity because we told the world how good they were & the interest in the 1960s-1975 transistor era was largely unknown until we got these & saw how good many were. We used to look at the TVK site to get ideas of amps to try, if their bias was less on the early stuff we've researched. Forums were difficult as it seems every amp good or average is raved about. Plenty of sites now give data & manuals about Vintage Hifi, the best is HFE, but there aren't many reviewing them. Actually there are None Like Us, this page with it's forever updated opinions on Amplifiers we've had to Service, Repair & Upgrade is Unique, but we do it to Advance The Scene as we like these amps & the sounds they play. Vintage Hifi by it's nature is old, amps we cover are 35-50 years old but can be good for years more use if Serviced. To review them as raw amps, as Serviced & as Upgraded tells much. If we give a confident opinion on an amp & you can read many more pages of our opinion, you'll feel more sure to try it. We heard of a few trying the Sansui 3000A when we first rated it highly & they will only have bought it based on our opinion. We see other sites getting more into the reviewing Vintage, even What Hifi are covering these if Hifi News Ken Kessler was doing his Anachrophile in the Mid 1980s. The prices Vintage Hifi goes for is getting higher if it's still early days, as we used to see with Vintage Vinyl as we helped it grow in the 1990s. If you buy a Vintage Amp based on reading these pages, be sure the amps themselves are grateful you took an interest in them.
Our Pages are Forever Updated...
Certain pages are updated very often, so check back to see what's been added, what's been deleted or revised. Currently (Jan 2015) the pages most often updated are: Top Amps, Other Amps, Deciding Top Amps, Loudspeakers & the Hifi Yearbooks as we go through the Hifi News magazine decades.
Ones We've Tried Only Listed Here...
See the OTHER AMPS page for others we looked at but didn't like or try yet for various reasons, plenty of amps there get a look. We research all amps before trying them, to be sure they are worth a try & to avoid ICs in preamps etc, as you can see below some we had early on were not worth bothering with. There are plenty more on the Other amps page that we look closely at via the circuits if we see one & either dismiss it or try it. We take little interest in accepted opinions that were around on Vintage amps, a few years ago only the Monster Receivers & 100w+ amps got interest, without buyers realising these oversized things don't sound as musical as the earlier ones. Some amps like the Quad 33/303 are often on ebay but we've never liked the amp & have looked deeply into the circuits to prove our opinion right. Others who've not heard the amount of Hifi we have will find items impressive compared to Modern Hifi but not realise how lacking they are. British Hifi we've tried all the main brands but don't rate them as high as the superior Japanese-USA amps & we are a UK based site after all. It's too easy to fill the site with salty comments about how poor much of the overhyped overpriced modern gear, but to highlight the best not the also-rans is the idea. We tried the 2007 Marantz PM6002 to see what it was like, seeing it was mostly transistors. There are many 'sleepers' in the Hifi ranges that we've uncovered & we do have a preference for the 1967-73 era simply as it brings us better amps more readily than later or earlier even. We usually stick to 40w or more but if you are happy with 10w or 20w there may be some early transistor ones that sound as nice too, if in a lower powered way. If an amp stirs your soul & makes you happy listening to it, then it's a good one.
As an idea of where we started with these Top Amps, the first amps we upgraded properly were the Hacker gram, the Leak 2000 & the Realistic receiver. The first amps we sold as Serviced were Bang & Olufsen Beomasters, Leak Deltas & 2000 & Trio-Kenwood 1967-70 era. Then finding these interesting started trying more adventurous ones like Pioneer SX-950, NAD 160, the ill-fated Marantz 1152DC and the Yamaha CR-1000, CR-1020, CA-1000 & CA-1010. The first upgraded amp we sold interestingly was the Leak Delta 75 receiver, the only one of four that survived. These hifi pages only started in 2011 & within a year we'd sold a lot of Serviced amps on ebay, but we avoid ebay now for selling hifi for reasons other sellers do. As some opinions are now getting a few years old, we'll put a year date on the reviews to give an idea of how opinions changed as upgrading got far more intense.
These pages are entirely Our Opinion, see the end of the page for an Angry Troll's amusing comment. We only cover what we are interested in, we have no agenda, no advertisers, no bias & no need to pretend a 700w amp costing £20k is the best when some 'crappy little amp' you all ignored for £30 sounds better than any other transistor amp we've heard. Some people need to show off with overpriced 'status symbol' hifi as with any fool-and-his-money type goods, this site isn't for you therefore, so why reveal your ignorance? We know our pages have helped Vintage Hifi along a lot, together with many other sites listing amp info & manuals. Read old forums from pre 2010 & see the opinions we've helped alter. Our site is unique as we rate many amps together & upgrade them to be their best, just to see how good they are. We also offer Upgrades & Repairs, see the Menu bar. We don't sell Snake Oil.
Our Amplifier Rankings
**see the OTHER AMPS page for lots more.
We rate amps as simply "Excellent" "Great" and "Recommended" without any reference to out of ten scores now, based as it being Excellent for what it is & amid other similar of the same era,. ie 1967 to 1977. By reading the comments you can see "Excellent" will have ones more Excellent than others, but to avoid the risk of people thinking only a few amps that we know as upgraded are the Best isn't fair to be saying. Any amp Rated Great or higher is the pick of Vintage Hifi that we've tried. We are based in the UK & so we see UK & EU sold amps, if sadly not enough of the more obscure USA & Japanese ones. Any amp to be featured here must be better than Average. There is no higher rating than Excellent, read the details for more info. When we did give ratings it was based then on the knowledge of only using Transistor amps. If we were to rate them against a perfected Valve Amp it'd be unrealistic as valves are just so much better sounding when done right, but we are now finding the Best Transistor amps are outdoing Valves. Our ratings are taken to be rated against the best Transistor Amps only therefore. A "Recommended" for example, on the rough Pioneer SX-950 is in light of better amps are there for your money, though many buy these big cost-cut amps as they haven't got too deep into Vintage Hifi yet to find better. But even there, we are finding Pioneer were very cost cut & put too many Spoilers in these amps & upgrading them we are finding they are actually great amps. With progress in our upgrading we are seeing the levels of Fidelity from Transistor amps get higher, so now the "Excellent" rating is used more sparingly & many Great are now just Recommended because we do recommend you buy one if it appeals to you.
We Grade our Hifi across the board with a 1963 amp rated equally against a 1977 one, no going easy on any amp here, but not Daring to go Higher than "Excellent" which is equivalent to "First Class". We aren't bothered by commercial bias or are here to massage egos on ones we don't like, though we hear many happy readers who've taken our word on an amp & been delighted by the amp. This is the intention of this, to get the Hifi Scene realising how many "Sleepers" there are in Hifi. Before we started these pages, we used to see the same High Powered amps making big prices but buyers, not knowing where else to try & not wishing to gamble, generally ignored most other Amps. There are many other Hifi sites out there helping us with Service Manuals & Photos of amps inside & out, but you'll not find another that rates amps against each other. Some we've had a while ago now but generally the opinions on what is liked or not is matched on revistiting ones from ago.
Our Ratings are based on Headphone Use mainly
To use Headphones lets you hear far more of the Amplifier than on Speakers. Amps that may sound quite similar on Speakers can sound hugely different on Headphones, revealing weaknesses that Speakers & Room Reflections can hide. See the Loudspeakers page for more as matching can be tricky. On Headphones, the Power amp drives the Headphones via a Resistor so direct coupling to Headphones doesn't happen which allows for a Level Playing Field, as a 1967 & 1977 amp may sound very different on Speakers for the Matching, or may sound as good.
We have a few transistor amps as references, but be aware ours are much upgraded beyond the original spec, but as always, done subtly. Which ones they are you can see from the text below, without us just saying them exactly. A clear preference for the pre differential era, the mostly Capacitor Coupled & few Semi Complimentary designs pre 1971 suit our taste for Valve Amps, which similarly need much upgrading to be their best. See the "Deciding..." page as Differentials do allow the designs to be more cost-cut yet still keep the pointless specs, but generally the pair on most post 1971 amps doesn't spoil the sound otherwise, as much upgrading on the Teac AG-6000 & Yamaha CR-2020 proves. It may seem a little unfair rating original amps against our upgraded ones, but knowing the best sound shows up weaknesses in others & also allows us to upgrade others to see what their potential is.
Amplifier or Receiver?
You can see we've had more Receivers than Amplifiers, simply as the Receivers sold better when new. In the first few years of Transistor domination 1967-70 usually the Receiver was the higher powered item. Only really do the Sony TA-1120(A) & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 stand out as better items, in both looks & sound, as most amplifiers pre 1971 were lower power than the Receivers. With a Receiver you get an FM radio & sometimes MW too, but FM is Hifi on some stations so a Free Music source is a Receiver & the added Tuner sections usually make a plain amplifier version into a more attractive receiver. The idea of a Tuner in with the Amp is no limitation, though the boards take up space, they see a better power supply & the lack of connecting cables. Even with Valves, the Stereo FM era ones are large items with good space for big transformers if usually no higher power than the usual 10-20w amplifier. FM Radio is still very much alive in the UK as DAB still hasn't taken off as it's not much good in Cars. For Home use, Radio is in many items with more channels than an FM Tuner has. In the late 1970s, the Receivers were again higher power than the Amplifiers with some over 300w, though what use that is can be argued. Often the receiver can have more Retro appeal than the plain amplifier, though to get the matching Tuner can help a lot in looks. See our Best Looking Amps page for some we liked. As ones who deal in Vintage Hifi, Tuners are usually reliable & maybe need only a minor adjusting. The early transistor tuners from 1967 can be difficult, though a Tuner tech should be able to sort things out. A bright tuner display on always can be distracting if you're using the amp for TV sound though several receivers by 1969 did have the tuner only lit when used, saving the bulbs. For the need to have an aerial, the receiver might just only be used as an amp, but free music is there.
The Best Hifi: It's Got Designs On You
The best Hifi is all down to the Circuitry & money spent on quality spec parts to give that design a chance of being good quality. There are great amps & also lousy or just ordinary ones in the 1965-1978 era. From this page you can see there are just not many great or excellent amps after about 1972 beyond Pioneer, Luxman & Yamaha. Cost cutting & the Comet heavy discounting that led to further cost cutting is the main reason why post 1972 Hifi just isn't as good, the manufacturers unwisely stopped caring less year by year for those who wanted quality & only sought the bulk cheap sales. The Differential that became ubiquitous by 1971-72 does affect the sound to only a minor degree, but it sadly led to Overdesign & ICs in audio stages, with some brands previously noted for quality later losing their good names with overdesign, ICs & cost cutting oddly seeking ultra-low THD ratings that meant the musicality was ignored for specs. Nearly all the big brands like Pioneer, Sansui, Sony, Trio-Kenwood & Yamaha took the wrong choices in design & whereas some can be upgraded, those by Sansui & Trio-Kenwood especially have ICs in major areas including output stages. Remarkably some of those later 1970s amps are still wanted amps, but based on old reputations, not our recent digging deep into hifi to find out the truth of it. Once an amp gets into FETs or ICs in pre or power amps & then more than one Differential, the overdesign is there. This is why we draw the line at 1978, as by the 1979-80 ranges, the one-board designs with overdesign as well as cost-cutting are too obvious, even on higher models. Reading our pages is a bit dangerous, it'll get you realising your Hifi isn't quite as good as you read we are finding with other amps. There are a lot of amps we've not tried & still live in hope of finding some post 1978 gems, but the likelihood beyond the obscure & expensive sort of makes us wonder, especially after trying to upgrade a 2007 Marantz PM6002 stuffed with every spoiler & limitation possible to keep it sounding weak. Any amp with an op-amp IC in the preamp is never going to be the best, it could be Good or Great depending on the use & rest of the design, but no chance of it being Excellent. Any amp with IC block output stages, beyond Darlington ones, similarly will struggle to be anything better than 'Good' which may upset Trio-Kenwood KR-9600 (KR-9060) owners. You'll naturally find forum waffle by cave-dwellers about how great these IC output amps are, living in ignorance, grading their turds... Thankfully there are a lot of better amps out there that are sensibly made & don't insult the buyer with general purpose circuitry. Read far more on our other pages including our criteria for picking what is a good amp.
We see no point in bothering with most quadraphonic amps in a quest for Great amps. Not to say collectors don't like these, some are great looking as well as rare, but 4 channels is only really any good if you have the varied formats of Quadro LPs issued in the 1971-74 era, very few UK LPs were made. Quadro failed as the time was bad with the 1970s economy & too many formats that weren't compatible. Today's surround sound uses 5 channels or more, so just 4 is of little use. For the extra circuitry & high chance of ICs in the Audio stages, to buy one just to use as Stereo needs reseearching. Some do actually run the 4 channels bridged to make higher power as 2 channel Stereo, so to try one can be worthwhile, but what Bridged Amps sound like is another thing, it could blur the sound. JVC especially made a lot of quadro amps. But as interest in them is limited, you can find bargains amid ranges that'd usually be more expensive, in Pioneer, Sansui etc. If the amp lacks the decoder to use it only Stereo makes it pretty useless as a quadro amp, why would anyone buy a quadro amp & not have the decoder? The Marantz one we had in the 1990s was similar, can only assume these were sold off cheaply when quadro failed & no decoder to keep it cheap. The Bridged Stereo idea will require both power amps to be identical or it'll sound blurry, as stereo a Harman-Kardon one drives both power amps & the outputs are linked to bridge.
Keep It As Original or Upgrade It?
There are some early amps that are more Collectors' Items than Hifi for Modern use. We've kept a few amps as All Original for Reference for a while, but as with the National-Panasonic SA65 we soon found it needed recapping as the sound was louder on one channel, but to recap-upgrade it but leaving the rest as Original as it's such a strong reference. Another one we like, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 we'd never upgraded originally, but did get the receiver equivalent TK-140E and X to see the sound it could bring, but in the end upgraded the KA-6000. In the future will there be a want for 'Survivor' amps as there is with Vintage Cars, the Chasing Classic Cars series has highlighted this, but be sure no Car or Amp from 70 years ago will be fully original as parts perish, capacitors being the issue with Hifi. No 1932 high voltage Electrolytic Capacitor still works but in our Gram the smaller value ones are still working, if probably off spec, but it's not for Hifi use. To upgrade a Car to bring the best out of it we see a lot on TV, putting a brand new engine in a 1960s Corvette will make a better car but for some it's too modern. But whatever is done to Cars or Hifi, to keep it working & being appreciated by new people is the thing as they'll cherish it when we're dust. We'd not be happy if our 1932 Gram stopped working even being pretty mediocre as it is now, it'd be made to at least work. As an opportune advert for Our Upgrading Service, all we do is done to keep things as original as possible, even if noticeable parts could be bettered, the Charm of Original Parts beyond electrolytics is important. The Sony TA-1120A keeps it's kooky red capacitors is an example. Another one is if the amp had black main capacitors, we'd not put bright blue ones in. In watching Car shows on TV, we like the Restore to Original ones, allowing subtle upgrades like Mike & Edd do, but the Hot Rod-Custom scene is awful as they butcher cars that should be left original looking, if perhaps the market for them is way less than the ugly thing they create thinking it's cool...
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. We're adding in all amps we can remember from over the years & 15-25 years ago these were still used & working items obviously years younger than today, so to rate them is possible. In 1990 a 1972 B+O amp wasn't that old as well as probably still being used, it had not sat in a damp loft for years yet, but they often look very aged inside now.
Much More to an Amplifier than what it Sounds Like All Original.
Many buyers of Vintage Hifi just use them, often Unserviced & certainly never upgraded. This to us misses the whole point of using Vintage Hifi as beyond age requiring a Service, the thing is Every Vintage Amplifier & Receiver Can Be Improved. We've read Marantz sound Soft on their 1970s amps which is true as all-original, but Upgrade from their reliance on low quality parts into a much livelier sound. Pioneer are noted as Punchy on their mid to late 1970s, but the truth here is Pioneer are hugely cost cut & dumbed down so they actually sound Rough rather than enjoyable & they need a huge amount of upgrading to sound their best. We know many amps & for us to Upgrade them to bring their best out is possible, see our Upgrades link at the Top of the page. We have been upgrading these for a while now & getting more advanced the more tricks are learnt & tried.
Credit Where It's Due...
Our work with researching Vintage Hifi would have been nearly impossible if it wasn't for The Internet & especially free Service Manual Schematic info sites like Hifi Engine (HFE) and Elektrotanya as well as Transistor Data Sheet Archive sites for their endless supply of vintage Transistors data. Early on we found The Vintage Knob (TVK) site useful & also German Hifi sites are sometimes useful. Forums we find useful to get obscure manuals & see inside photos, but find the unqualified waffling & random opionion of them not so useful. Before the internet, all we remember was going into or phoning shops & asking if they had an equivalent for a transistor & their reference books were not as complete as what can be found today with a good amount of effort. There are other sites where you have to pay for Manuals, Sony ones especially, but the idea this info should be now be worthless to the Manufacturers means it should be free for those who wish to keep the Vintage Hifi alive. It is possible to repair Hifi without Manuals, but impossible to fully understand a circuit without a Circuit Diagram. We see a cheeky ebay 'Top 7 Amplifiers' page that appears just to list some of ours below, if in the wrong order, yet doesn't elaborate beyond inaccurate specs as we can or properly upgrade to see how good they are. No-one rated those amps as anything beyond aged curiosities until we started these pages... go read forums from 5-10 years ago to see the general opinion back then.
Big Hifi Corporations take note...
A lot of the Brands we mention on this page are still around, if now Corporate or sold to another corporation if keeping the brand name alive. You may not receive any money from giving Free Service & User Manuals, but It's actually Free Advertising for you as the Hifi, if liked will Influence Future Modern Buys. If an old Sony, Pioneer, Panasonic, Yamaha, Sansui, Marantz etc etc Vintage Hifi is liked, the owner will seek out more by the Brand & the chances of them buying a New Item by the brand is very possible. After all, they use the Vintage Item & see your Brand Name so associate it with items they like. If people want documentation on your Old Products, that you should have kept in your archives, give it freely. You should try to get a good range of your Old Products to Create A Musuem as be sure many are interested. Beyond Hifi, people collect Radios, TVs & early Computers, to have a wide range of these items as some Online Photo-only Museums have will endear people to your Brand. People don't collect Trinkets & Furniture like they used to, they want Modern Collectables, interesting Mid Century Post War items that they can relate to & use in today's life.
WHAT GETS THE RATINGS
This means rating the Sound Quality of the Amp & are now done with "AS-ORIGINAL" meaning what an original unaltered amp will sound like After Servicing which in certain amps would include required capacitor replacements to get it to work. Any amp unserviced & left unused for decades can sound truly awful so no point grading anything but the Serviced amp. Most people never service amps & it means way more than a squirt of switch cleaner too. "UPGRADED" means what it sounds like done to the best of our skills or how far we chose to go at the time we had it, bear in mind each amp teaches more & our upgrades now are way ahead of some of the earlier ones. "n/a" means we've never upgraded one to any level so won't guess, but assume the amps in the main table will improve to some degree as these are the better amps we've tried. We've not tried all the amps we'd like to yet, so some brands are absent currently. Current ratings are based on current opinions on Hifi which with deeper improvements are more harsh than before, but any "Recommended" are still worthy amps if there is better. Some amps we rated higher early on, only to find better amps to use as Benchmarks for "Excellent". Some of the amps in the lower table that were more borderline have gone into the main one, to be fairer to them, so the Bad Amps table is now just the stinkers. We've been adding in more notable amps we've had over the years that were still clearly remembered so are valid to be adding in with more recent ones.
BETTER THAN EXCELLENT?
To not create too much elitism, 'Excellent' is our highest rating. On one amp, the 1967 National Panasonic SA-65 it rates 'Excellent' as original & upgraded. Not that it didn't improve, but as original it was good enough to be 'Excellent' & upgraded in the higher end of Excellent, but we'll not raise the ceiling, as an amp we rate' Excellent' is First Class, The Best. A 'Great' amp genuinely is Great. if having heard the 'Excellent' ones there is a difference, especially on headphones. On speakers however a Great or Excellent sounds quite similar, we've tried enough on Speakers to know now. In 1980s Hifi we say elsewhere the Pioneer A-400 is considered by others the apparent best amid the awful mid 1980s hifi. Grading Turds is how we call it & similarly at the Top End grading 'Excellent' is indeed possible. But we aren't going to. We find the 1965-69 era most pleasing to our ears, but you can see over our years doing this, plenty of 1970-80 era ones we liked too & do regrade all amps as we find higher quality as per our upgrading.
LOWER MODELS IN THE SAME RANGE
By 1976 ranges, the Top Of The Line amp we are finding is a bit overdesigned. With Pioneer SX939, the SX838 is a better design to us. So you can assume will have similar ideals to the bigger models, but after having tried some, the 20-35w versions will be a smaller sounding amp to keep the level at which distortion sets in within the design. Therefore the lower amp ranges will exhibit some qualities of the bigger amps, but a much more polite small sound as well as the risks of cost cutting with ICs that became common by the mid 1970s. So a Yamaha CR-400 will not sound much like the CR-1000 but will be more like the CR-800 but again the limited power will keep the spec lower to avoid bad clipping as it reaches it's maximums.
This means just that. What it'll be like as-found if in nice but forgotten condition assuming there is otherwise no damage to the circuits or other common safety issues. It'll still need Servicing, but the idea is to show amps with known problems beyond general ones. Some amps we've found badly fiddled with or badly repaired regardless of the status of the amp today, so beware. Also some higher power amps of any era got partied hard as well as ones stored in damp conditions can need a huge amount of work to get back to being safe & reliable & sometimes even we give up if it's not financially viable. The (bracketed date) is the last time we had the amp to put our opinions into a time context, as we are getting some again as the Revisited section notes. Some we'll never try again as they aren't the sort to upgrade or were a nightmare to work on.
THE HIFI-COOL RATING
Because we know what Style is in Hifi & have had enough of these amps, to help the scene realise the Beauty in some of these amps, we'll be hedonistic & give them a Cool Rating, like Mike does on Wheeler Dealers: Trading Up. Our tastes appreciate good furniture, cars, advertising signs & retro style so we can give a good idea how cool your amp looks. Receivers with the tuner stages generally look cooler than plain amplifiers, if some amps have a Bachelor Pad style that adds to the Cool Rating. Go read & see if you agree, many are pictured on the Amps We Sold page & when we get a chance, more will be added. As women like vintage items too, generally the ones that score high in our Cool Rating will have high Woman Appeal too. "Come up & see my Cool Amplifier collection, darling" is the new Etchings for the modern-retro favouring male. We started the Best Looking Amps page a few years ago & this is the basis for this. All amps we have on this page we have photos of so to refer to them to remember them in hand is possible. Ratings are 1 for an ugly beat to 9 for the Best Lookers, as with 'Excellent' being the Highest Hifi rating, we don't want to create too much elitism here, a 7 rated amp is still a good one, but 5 is average.
To add more to the listings, the design type of the Power Amp: CC= capacitor coupled, SC= semi complimentary, FC = fully complimentary, DIFF = differentials in power amp early stage, IC= ICs in the main audio preamp, tone or power amp if not noting Phono or Tuner stages. FET = Field Effect Transistor on power amp. DT = doubled output transistors, this gives more current capability as used on 100w+ amps usually. All are Transistor amps unless "Valves" noted.
This is the verdict based on us upgrading it to some level, some get much more done than others naturally & we've got deeper into upgrading as time goes on. Every amp we've found is compromised by age, low spec parts, weak cost cuts design or deliberate spoilers to hide a better design. To upgrade can be a nightmare sometimes & a delight in others. We read other's opinions of amps & we can see they only know Original amps, not upgraded ones & the comments we read are a little surprising as they seem to accept Rough Sound, Limited Bass & Soft Treble as just how amps are. With our upgrading we find better in every amp we upgrade we know that Transistor amps are only as good as the designer or company wants you to have. Some of our upgrades are very complex now & can reveal the Holy Grail of 'Perfect Sound', a sound that just sounds 'like it should' with zero grain or artifice to hide the sound, but very few transistor amps are capable of this & they are very early ones. But back on Planet Earth, sadly most Vintage Hifi buyers don't even get the amps serviced, so to reveal our opinons of what they'll sound like upgraded is perhaps a very limited market, but for those that are interested, it'll help pick out those to upgrade. Vintage Hifi is still very young & we can see the effect our pages have on the market.
are Important to consider if you fancy trying one of our Top Rated amps below. Not all Speakers match all amps. They all can sound quite similar via Headphones due to a big resistor in the circuit between Headphone & Power Amp stages. But a Speaker is directly connected to the Amplifier & certain characteristics of Match or Mismatch two ways are apparent. If you haven't read our Loudspeakers page, you are missing out on understanding that we don't believe anyone has investigated before. Why doesn't my Amp & Speakers match? we can go a good way to answer. In our research we've found most amplifiers match the 1960s Tannoys well, only a few don't quite do it & Yamaha is the most confusing one with CR-800 & CR-2020 sounding great but the CR-700 & CR-1000 being mismatched, the CR-1000 being the worst mismatch we've heard on the 1960s Tannoys. It doesn't matter if it's valves, capacitor coupled or (semi) complimentary, as long as the ampp has enough power it'll sound good. But again, the 18w 1966 Coral amp sounded great.
REVISING EARLIER RATINGS.
In our earlier tests, we use Audio Technica ATH-M20 headphones, These were clean sounding but we needed to use the Bass Tone Control to balance the sound. Fortunately we took them apart & they happily broke, the new stock of M20s thankfully sounded lousy as the construction 5 years later was pretty poor. After some frustrating efforts buying other headphones, see the condensed story on the Headphones page, we found the Audio Technica ATH-M50s that we still use today. They are as honest on the treble & midrange as the earlier M20s were, but now we can play music Flat on the Tone, which does give a huge benefit, instead of listening to Tone stages, all of which aren't equal in their frequency points. Because of knowing the limit of the M20s, we've tried many of the amps again, giving updated comments & ratings. any review with 2013 is based on the M50s & only since mid 2014 we've used the Tannoy 15" Golds to try them on speakers. We purposely didn't want to try Amps on Speakers in the early days to understand transistor amps for what they are in a more intimate Headphones listening way, similarly we ignored putting the valve amps on headphones to not spoil the learning curve. The first time we tried the Valve amps, which were upgraded-designed on the speakers, they sounded way better than the B+O 4400 that was our "Top Amp", as the page title suggests. In the earlier days we rated amps as Number One to No 33 before it got too difficult & the current version makes more sense. But going back to amps tested 2012 or before, we weren't sure we've done them justice as we are aware our opinion influences buyers, we loved the Leak Delta 75 initially on getting ours recapped & upgraded in 2012, but trying several more revealed what a bad amp it was & a recent one proved finally it's a stinker & best avoided. But there was one amp we had a hard time with: the Yamaha CA-1010 & only over 3 years later do we dare to try another one, as it's one of the last 'important' ones we've not revisited. Once Bitten Twice shy is not the way to test vintage Hifi, especially if it's pedigree suggests it should be better than what is found. So for our ratings, the ones 2010-2012 we might not agree with if we tried it again, if most have been revisited now. The earlier year dated ratings were based on use on good speakers so are still valid if based on emotional memory of them. Ones below still with a 2010-2012 review dates we've added comments to based on this.
SAFETY: UK 3 CORE MAINS + EARTH
There are a few Amps & Receivers noted below from 1967-69 that really do require 3 core mains with Earth, not the 2 core Continental-USA type skinny mains wire. This isn't to scare buyers off but we've noticed a mild electric shock if touching the metal case and something that is grounded, like the desk lamp. Using the meter, you'll find upto 120v AC potential. This is not a fault & for years CRT TVs were exactly the same, it's just the Receiver or TV had a "floating" Earth reference but was actually supposed to be grounded elsewhere. But as Audio & TV tech changes, a Ground connection via an amplifier, which was usually grounded with a Turntable-Record Player, is becoming less usual. Many other amplifiers from the early 1970s onwards have a different design inside & the case does not have the "stray voltage", such as Pioneer, B+O, Yamaha & Sony often used 2 core wires but have no issues. Modern 2-core appliances are 'Double Insulated', though surprisingly the 2007 Marantz PM6002 doesn't connect Earth mains to anything, the pin is unconnected inside. The way Hifi was imported at random in earlier days might mean a UK person bought a non-UK model amp & used the amp unaware, or maybe caught the low electrical shock & threw it in the attic out of fear. Also a Valve amp of any age MUST be properly Earthed to the Mains, the Trio WX-400U we used for a while with the Computer soundcard grounding it, so no issues. But trying it on the main speakers away from the computer with only TV source, there was no ground & "issues arose". The 100-140v stray voltage can naff a soundcard if you plug in with the amp on & deteriorate the fidelity if not fully silence it, an amp with no earth cable needs to be switched off before connecting inputs therefore. For this reason, we now rewire any amp we see needs this done & are going to use for a while in our tests & offer other amps for sale with the option of the buyer to choose the 3 core wire upgrade. How do we know an amp's case is with a stray voltage? Multimeter to the case when plugged in to Ground on the Mains sockets reveals this easily. You can read further on UK Mains Safety online.
AFTER 1977: AMPLIFIERS & RECEIVERS
We repeatedly search in Vain for amps that are worth trying in the "Modern" Era of 1978 onwards & especially the Black Fascia era from 1982 onwards. It's just that these Amps sound Boring & Uninvolving: Musically Dead, as well as Rough compared to the Best Of the Goldern Era 1967-1977. With any year from 1967 to 1977 there are plenty of Mediocre amps but plenty are Really Great Ones as you can see detailed. We've tried quite a few of the 1978 onwards amps & Only One we have thought worthy of a better Rating than Average-Recommended. We'd like to tell you of Great Amps in the later years, but we just aren't finding any. See out OTHER AMPS page to see we aren't just being Narrow Minded with Hifi. We don't think much of the Pioneer A-400 at all. For the Fact that Modern Amps sell for Higher Prices usually based on Hifi Magazine "reputations" often where a 5* amp was loved but then another comes along that is "so much better" and gets 5* too does get the idea of Hype.
The Stinkers Parade in Hifi..
We've included the few HOPELESS amps in the main list, to keep them together as well as showing not all vintage are worthy to warn readers of bad amps. These were got, used, some recapped & improved but quickly sold as we didn't appreciate them much. Seeing these awful amps still sell on ebay shows that people aren't Googling. These we did rate as Mediocre or Poor, but the idea of grading Turds is a bit pointless. The idea is these are amps we didn't like for lousy or boring sound or poor quality construction. There will be plenty more bad or lousy amps out there from early 10w Germanium Transistor Amps to the glut of post 1979 low powered silver & black fronted amplifiers of no real quality made for the mass market & pretty much disposable. The Leak Delta 75 actually sounds good, but is so unreliable we have to help stop wasting money as we've had 4 now & only one survived. Other amps can be poorly made & we do note this, but never one as bad as the Delta 75.
We bite back... at a criticism of us slating the overrated Pioneer A-400 amplifier, on the Other Amps page (as linked) summing up rather broadly the game of hifi we play. If you disagree with any of our opinions & give a worthy argument we'll answer you similarly on this site expanding on things. Saying any 1980s amp is "great amongst it's competition" is like grading turds, the 1980 to 1989 era is the absolute worst for Hifi & even the "High End" gear is ridiculously overdesigned. By the early 1990s the sensibilities of Valves returned, helping make later amps sound better, if never as good as the pre 1980 era.
We've added many pages of photos of the actual amps we had & were taken as they were sold. An unique archive of Serviced, Cleaned & sometimes Upgraded amps with many photos inside & out. Most of those below are pictured.
*MORE AMP REVIEWS
See the "OTHER AMPS" page for others we looked at but didn't like or try yet for various reasons, plenty of amps there get a look.
RECENT ADDITIONS in order since Jan 2014
1970 Sony STR-6850 receiver, 1975 Teleton TFS-70 receiver, 1972 Pioneer SX-828 receiver, 1975 Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I amplifier, 1969-70, Sansui 5000X receiver (F6013 version), 1967 National Panasonic SA-65 receiver, 1973 Sanyo DCX-8000K receiver, 1974 Pioneer SX-838 receiver. 1970 Pioneer SX-990 receiver. 2007 Marantz PM6002 amplifier, 1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X receiver, 1978 Luxman L-1040 receiver. 2004 Prima Luna Prologue 2 (valves), 1966 Coral A-550 amplifier, 1969 Sony STR-6050 receiver, 1965 Sony TA-1120 amplifier. 1967 JVC Nivico 5010U receiver. 1969 JVC Nivico 5003 receiver. 1971 Heathkit AR-1500 receiver. 1966 JVC Nivico MCA-104E amplifier (germaniums). 1972 Harman-Kardon 930 receiver. 1984 Sansui AU-G90X amplifier. 1979 Technics SU-C01, SE-C01 & SH-C01 pre-power amp set. 1973 Pioneer SA-9100 amplifier.
Ones Revisited 1971 Sony TA-1130 amplifier. 1972 Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 4000. 1977 Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 4400. 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 amplifier. 1973 Yamaha CR-800. 1978 Yamaha CR-2020. 1971 Leak Delta 75 receiver. 1977 Yamaha CA-1010 amplifier. 1977 Yamaha CR-1020 receiver. 1971 Sony TA-1130 amplifier (again). 1967 Sony TA-1120A amplifier.
AMPLIFIER & RECEIVER INDEX... click on the item
see the OTHER AMPS page for lots more.
1957 Quad II valve power amps + Quad 22 valve preamp ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 15w Valves.
We had a top grade pair of Quad II, the Quad 22 preamp plus the two tuners in 2002. At the time we got a very high price that it took other sellers over Ten Years to better. These came with two Garrard 301 white oil turntables & the guy we got it from took them all out of a big cabinet that we never saw sadly or the speakers. These must have had very little use & were in excellent grade inside & out. We tried them on the Tannoy Golds and found the preamps quite awful with loud thuds as you switched & oddly Tone didn't give much gain, though it could have been faulty perhaps. The preamp slides about as you press the buttons, only really good for building in a cabinet. The Quad II power amps sounded very sweet but the problem is they need 1.4v for full output whereas most other amps need only 400mV. We got some modern adaptors to plug other amps as a preamp. The sound was always a little soft as the other preamps didn't have the gain. But using with the Quad 22 preamp suffering it's mediocrity actually delivered a very tidy sound but still did lack the quality of later gear. The Quads are just so early & that's the issue. Our Quad IIs were like new inside & out with nothing aged or replaced & the non UK buyer bid hard for such fine items. But as we've stated elsewhere, these top grade ones are Museum Pieces rather than amps to alter & the Quad IIs with the ECL86 inputs actually don't have a proper preamp valve explaining the extra gain the preamp must have. Paired with a high output custom made modern preamp they'd sound much better, but they'd not be ones you'd use daily. Important amps to have known & for their age there are just about no other 1950s amps still bought & being used like these Quad are. BUY-RAW RATING: Many are well used & altered with clumsy connectors added, look out for the high grade original ones to see what the fuss is about. COOL RATING: 6 difficult as these are for building in cabinets if the power amps have an appeal, the preamps are awkward. (2002)
1963 Rogers Cadet III valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 10w Valves.
Important starter amp into the world of valves, but don't pay too much, £300 for an unserviced amp is too high. Looks nice in high grade though the one part amp often looks look tired. Always needs restoring & careful buying as many used for a long time & often found altered. Quite a small basic amp with tiny output transformers so bass is limited though for 10w it's adequate, 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. Read more on the 'valves' page. Note the New Cadet from about 1968 is some awful early IC STK output block thing. all the Rogers valve amps have ECL82 triode-pentodes, the preamp ECC807s are long obsolete & the large Aux 220K input resistor will limit the sound as it then goes through the Phono stage flat. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky for aged parts & old work or alterations done on them. COOL RATING: 4 as the styling has no real flair to it, plain basic fascia in a formica box is functional. (2013)
1963 Trio WX-400U valve receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Excellent. 10w-12w Valves.
One of the first Stereo FM Multiplex Receivers from Nov 1963. Reviewed in Aug 1965 HFN stating '18w continuous' if they read just 12w & were a bit sniffy about it, but they were wrong: a 1964 ad states 10w (20w USA), the volume on speakers matches the 10-12w it actually is. There is no Kenwood equivalent, despite others saying there is, if there is similar, the circuits do differ. Original spec (as aged) is strangely very limited and soft sounding & hides the high quality in here. The grey signal capacitors must be replaced as voltages can be way too high. What it needs is everything rebuilt & upgraded 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 1963 amp should with a fast crisp treble, solid bass and huge wide soundstage that sounds way more than 10w now though it's rated 18w music power. Looks great too, easily the best looking valve receiver with it's USA 1950s 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. The balance control isn't zero loss midway which limits fidelity. To fully recap, redesign the power supply & much more gets it rating high, if you fancy the full rebuild work including much redesign to do the pre & power amp stages properly, try to find better in vintage valves. For the ease of familiar ECC83 & EL84 output valves with 350v it's way ahead of the Sansui 500A & the Trio has a valve phono stage unlike the Sansui. This receiver as we rebuilt it is now one of our Reference Amps and does get used often by us & improved constantly as it never complains. We put DC heaters on phono, tone & driver & DC bias in this which is a big improvement, losing the lousy Hum Balance compromise. You can go even further & add adjustable bias too once it's DC bias. The most upgrade-friendly 1960s valve amp we've found, yet other amps don't have the capability. After having done this, looking at other similar valve amps it wouldn't have worked out. Read more on the Valves page, as the story hasn't ended. Interestingly if you search for "Trio WX400" on ebay, you get a surprising related search. BUY-RAW RATING: Don't even try to use it before some recapping. Huge amount of work required to rebuild this, but it'll be worth it as it can sound remarkable. This needs rewiring with 3 core Earth mains cable for the safety of you & it. COOL RATING: 9 of all the valve era receivers, this is the winner on looks by far. (2014)
1965 Rogers HG88 Mk III valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 15w Valves.
A higher spec Rogers amp that sounds nice but is still limited by the old design ideas. It 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. Great is the 'as-is' serviced 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 upgrade & 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. Read more on the 'valves' page. All the Rogers valve amps have ECL82 triode-pentodes, the preamp ECC807s are long obsolete & the large 220K input resistor will limit the sound as it then goes through the Phono stage flat. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky for aged parts & old work or alterations done on them. COOL RATING: 5 as a bigger unit just rates a little higher than the Cadet III if still very utilitarian looking. (2013)
1965 Sony TA-1120 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w transistor.
CC, DT. The Very First Sony amplifier from Nov 1965 & Historically very important as the First All-Silicon transistor amplifier & a very high 50w. The Sony TA-1120A was the revised April 1967 version rather swiftly after, as the 1120 was too good. Sony ads by their London W1 showroom in HFN only start to show the TA-1120 in May 1967, only showed tape recorders before, so chances are the original amp was only offered in the UK very briefly if the 1120A arrived a month after & would have been the one supplied. The ads only show Amps & Turntables for a few months, no sales meant back to tape again. Possibly only their display model of the original 1120 was the only one that made it to the UK, soon replaced with a 1120A? This is the real early one with a green "Safety" light, no Headphone & "Solid State/46 Transistor" logo on the front. The manual states Serial 1000-4001 if ours is just over 5100. the TA-1120A numbers differently with an added '1' to start at 51011 if ours is higher than serial 5101, unless they goofed. The inside differs with a complex start-up that relies on a clean start on the circuit, but the manual warns it doesn't quite get it right & can take an eternity to start if we've not had this yet or had any issue. The Safety light is a little confusingly always On, rather than it being 'On' when there is a fault, it'd need a circuit fault to zero the lamp's voltage. No Headphone socket at all, though the TA-1120A one was useless as we state elsewhere. The back is the same if with screws not rivets. Early transistor circuits are interesting as based very much on Valve designs. Transistor count is Phono x2, Pre-Tone x7 including filter stages & a buffer, Power Amp x9 inc doubled output transistors. It looks ancient as well as very ahead of it's time & this is the first one we've seen for sale having looked for quite some time now. The seller had been reading the TA-1120A below (now edited) based on half-assed ideas they tried, always the risk. It rustles like a 1930s radio so some recapping required for sure, the 3 smaller rear ones look bad & leaky, the main one still has nearly 90v. It doesn't appear it'll play music if it does start to hear the noises which is a pity as we can't hear any idea of what it's like if voltages are there. The 1120(A) having no wood case does get very dirty inside with the open grille. Nearly 50 years old is a little scary for Hifi, so ours will get a full recap and upgrade if keeping as much original initially to see how good the design can be. The fact all resistors are Silver band shows the age if these aren't noisy & the value of the Volume control is surprising. 2SD45 original transistors here too, these are only 50w rated so are doubled in the design. Going through the design to recap shows how far ahead Sony were, with nothing really to refer back to, so the amp has busy preamp boards with L+R halves clearly seperate, with Tone Bypass a first as is the Pre Out-Main In. Phono is with 2 seperate stages with different EQ per stage, to be revealed. A rather daunting amp on seeing a messy one, but logical once learnt, if not too easy to work on. The 1120A simplifies the Phono stages & 1 less transistor in the Preamp plus far less capacitors. The 1120 power amp is a better design on the early stages, the 1120A loses one transistor but not in a good way. Looking to upgrade, the right preamp board with strange parts are early carbon resistors with stripes that look like ceramic capacitors, the others are less good carbon composition. The lighter red rectangle & cylinder are mylar capacitors & the dark red is mica, so all are good. The odd silver can at the base is a very early tantalum. The design is very well though out for an amp really leading the way with no references & it was soon simplified as the 'A' version, this certainly is a fascinating amp & is expected to sound much better than the 1120A which has all the sophisticated design removed. In terms of finding one, the Nov 1965 TA-1120 is very rare as only available for under 17 months in a market not into Transistors yet & the Apr 1967 TA-1120A is at least scarce. First proper play of it fully recapped & undoing previous owner snafus reveals a meaty bassy sound with good detail with high musical pleasure here. Very much a valve style sound with a well balanced punchy sound as Rock guitar proves, that sound is heard in very few transistor amplifiers. The first impression is this is an excellent amp to upgrade & if you found a high grade working one, it'd rate at least as shown based on the work we've done to get it working. On turning on, the relay clicks within a few seconds & the sound drifts in after about 10-15 seconds. Looking at the specs, -110db on noise still sounds right with not excessive noise up loud with no signal. Damping of 70 here sounds more like a 10-15 valve amp for the open bass, if recapped-upgraded now. The TA-1120A had a very feeble volume on both we had, this is not the case here at all. This amp must have caused a stir on how good it will have sounded in 1965, compared to the valve gear even 2 years later this is remarkably advanced. Is this the best amplifier ever? No wonder they released the dumbed the 1120A down quickly. Very rare to find, all Google shows is the 1120A with the headphone socket beyond old photos. For how excellent this sounds recapped, to leave the rest of the circuit as original shows how good this design is. Many amps need things altered to remove weaknesses, the TA-1120 sounds just so right. On speakers it has a very rich detailed sound, a sound that is unlike any other transistor amp. THE ST-5000 TUNER matches this, see the Tuners page for a review. THE WOOD CASES are now rare on these, Sizes are 432 W x 155 H x 303 D. front sides 14mm, rear sides 19mm adding spacers, the case is 12mm ply with a walnut veneer. The grille space is 369 x 121mm. BUY-RAW RATING: Needs a full recap which is far from easy, if otherwise not too bad. COOL RATING: 9 if only with the big walnut wood case, very strong looking amp with subtle style & nice layout, without the wood case a 7. (2014)
1966 Armstrong 221 valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 10w valve.
This mediocre UK made crappity amp is as far apart in quality from the Sony above you can get. It needed a full recap as cheapo plastic case capacitors long since failed. Very basic design sold as budget gear when new probably to upgrade from a Radiogram. Hifi ours certainly wasn't even after recapping the nasty thing. It 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. Swapping valves didn't help. Silicon transistor phono stage & a very average amp indeed, felt a bit time wasted on recapping it, but you got to try. UK 220-240v only but a US buyer went for it, probably thinking it was worth a try. Average crap appears to be the norm with this brand, so avoid. The Armstrong 222 is a cheaper version without a MM Phono, someone way overpaid for one in Apr 2014. As with any amp there are those who love theirs in blind ignorance of better, but you do get the idea they paid a tenner for it & got it working, which is good as they'll be trying more vintage, but Armstrong is only a first step in Hifi, so don't overpay. This is a 2012 rated amp, but it's poor quality in many places stands as fair comment & we'd not dream of trying one again. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor. Needs full recap to even try it & then agree it's crap. COOL RATING: 7 actually quite decent looking with the perspex front & the full wood case. (2012)
1966 Coral A-550 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 18w.
CC. A rare early Transistor amp and all Silicon, it must have been bought overseas as a very rare hifi brand. One oddity is it has no power amp adjust pots at all suggesting it's 1965 or 1966 as other 1967 have them & the hand painted resistor lines as well as caps marked - or + randomly. Only 18w apparently but still interesting enough to try & the others by this obscure Japanese brand look interesting, as shown on audio-database.com & audio-heritage.jp. Only the Coral A-707 35w £78 appears in the HFYB & the brand is gone from the UK by 1970, we noted it as 'interesting' on our List of Amps page. Other Coral are 25w A-7 amp, 35w A-707 amp, bizarre looking 30w A-1000 amp, 30w AX-3000 receiver, a later looking 17w TA-5000 receiver possibly a 1969 one & TA-7700 a 50w receiver looking rather like the Sansui 3000A from the back view sold as Hanimex also as found on AK site. 1974-75 HFYB lists Hanimex in receivers but no details. The A-550 actually has a MC stage, as there is a Coral MC cartridge, which must be the earliest, the 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 also has a MC stage. Appears they continued without Amps under the Coral brand until the mid 1980s with Loudspeakers of a high quality. Their CP-701 turntable has that Japan only cool 60s styling that never got exported. Audio-Heritage site shows more detail & it has early black dome silicon like the Sansui AU-999 uses, these can get hissy. With the MC stage & pre out-main in, it's predating the KA-6000 again. Interesting to see what an early amplifier made by a quality brand that didn't survive long will be like. The Coral TA-7700 at 50w is one to find if the circuits look so early, more a historical piece. as 18w only in the league of the similar small Trio-Kenwoods below, but not quite, the build quality & the Moving Coil Phono show a very interesting design. On first play, the high quality sound the NatPan SA-65 has as original is here, smooth & detailed. Punchy little amp with a proper volume if Deep Bass limited as 18w would need. But yet another early gem proving the earlier ones are the best sounding for pure musical pleasure. For those wondering, 2200µf 50v main cap with 44v HT on it, Nippon capacitors, no disc ceramics if there are early tube type ones of some sort used upright & Alps pots. The Phono stages are 2 boards under a metal can. Transistor count per channel is Phono: MC x1, MM x2, Tone-Pre x2 with an extra as an SCR, Power amp just 6. Transistors are CDC-13000-10, CDC-8002-1-C & CDC-10000-1E. Output transistors are Sanken 2SD92 Silicon 20w TO66. Sound is very clean, lively & more punchy than 18w would suggest, no grain at all, Bass is limited by design but is not unappealing. Our neon had failed so to fit a NOS 7mm flat top one inside the bezel works to keep it looking right. Even has the tie tag warning about the MM stage, rare! A collector's piece indeed. After our first use of it, leaving it a few days it woke it up deserving a higher rating than "Great" of before. For an 18w amp the volume is still very good with no lacking at all in the sound beyond deep bass, it's just accurate, fast & clean on the orig spec. Can even cope well with busy Rock to a decent level, all on the apparently low spec, remarkable. On the Tannoy Golds it sound great, bearing in mind 18w is nearly halfway on the volume, but loud enough for most with a beautiful accurate sound. Speaker connecting allows 2 pairs but not together & L+R are not the top row, but 2 up 2 down if not marked clearly. Plays very wide stereo on speakers, once balance centred. Another 1967 "Excellent" as original winner. You'll struggle to find a valve amp sounding this sweet. The only problem with an amp this early is the spec wanders due to age, with the preamp & the power amp being 41% different on output voltages. We'd not really wanted to upgrade this, but as it sounds so nice but imbalanced, it has to be done to balance it properly. Originality isn't possible, though it works, the balance is off. Recapping sorts it a bit as a few looked bad but putting in 4 closely matched preamp transistors sorts it. We kept the original parts & 2-core cable in case the buyer wants to match the old ones to keep it still original. The buyer wanted capacitor upgrades rather than keep it original & once done volume is better with no background hiss & with the Bass control at +1.5 it sounds very good indeed. We later heard the buyer found this is more musical than 'silly money' amps. Are we surprised? BUY-RAW RATING: Good if early parts can be off spec. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 7 not the prettiest amp but in the wood case it has serious Bachelor Pad looks. (2014)
1966 JVC MCA-104E amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 16w
CC, Germaniums. Early JVC Nivico are/were totally ignored for the Graphic EQ feature, but read the 1967 JVC 5010U for why these are no different to a tone stage. The Japan sold ones were branded 'Victor' explaining the stuck-on JVC Nivico badge. The Japanese version was the 104 with 110v, the 104E is the export version with 240v multivoltage. Audio-Heritage.jp site shows the MCA series was 102 6w, 103 18w upright, 103B usual, 104 15w, 105. The brand is an exciting find. Having liked the two JVC receivers below, to look for a JVC early amp. The 105E manual is findable, it's a 32w amp so whatever this 104E is will do was the idea. But it's not what we expected, it's a much earlier amp as it has Victor 2SB407 output transistors. They are 30w rated so must be around 15w-20w, but... they are Germaniums! Yes, Germanium TO3 output transistors & the 4 drivers are 2SB22 and 2SD30 NPN-PNP pair looking like a capacitor on 3 legs meaning Germaniums here too. 2SD30 is still used by hifi & guitar amp builders. How old is this amp? We've put 1966 but it could be earlier. The Armstrong 526 below was Germaniums but the awful UK ones, the Japanese ones were in the driver stage of the Trio TK140E below but not a particular problem, so to hear this will be interesting. The small signal transistors are the usual Silicon 2SC458 still used in 1969 Trio, but higher power ones as Germanium though the 1965 Sony TA-1120 is all Silicon. The JVC MCA-105E is all Silicon. The 1972 HFYB lists "MCA-104E 16w £72", the TVK site actually shows it's the JVC MCA-104Z which they say is the March 1971 update to the August 1968 '104' though it's possible the 104E is 1965-66 as JVC wouldn't be using Germaniums in 1968. Hifi News pictures this in July 1970 New products but in Dec 1970 only a Strand, London shop has the 104E for £72, JVC maybe exporting old stock, but expensive compared to the Leak 70 35w for the same price. A Dec 1970 Denham & Morely ad shows a JVC range but only the MCA-105E that replaced it. Not expecting too much, music on, crisp & lively with a bit of a bassline not too limited by the 470µf output caps. The Safety button is strange, Green light always on like the TA-1120 but press it & it cuts out quicker than Power off, it's a circuit breaker probably. No Loudness or Filter switches which is unusual. HT is 44v on a bare metal cased Elna showing it's unusually early. As you can gather from the two JVC below, the sound is going to be good, but Germaniums? Even dirty & dusty it sounds like no other transistor amp as all-original, what a clean honest sound. Transistor count is just 6 on the Power Amp. As with the Coral, no adjust pots confirm it's at least a 1966 design. Guitar guys like Germaniums & this amp has transfixed us & it's still untouched. Forget the lousy UK Germaniums that age badly, the Japanese ones are much better. The lack of silicon grain perhaps though it can be more the design. The 104E is "Smoother and Spongier" as one site says about Germaniums as well as effortlessly revealing layers of mush now gone, or what? Not how the other two JVC sounded, this 'effect' can go too far in hearing bad UK Mullard AD, OC etc Germaniums as in the Armstrong 526 where it turns to wading through treacle if oddly interesting to hear. Germaniums store a charge too so capacitance could be the smoothing, if detail is as crisp, the hard silicon wall sound has been knocked away. Fascinating sound & one to blow the mind. Once serviced it just sounds so right. The apparently low 470µf output capacitors don't limit even 30Hz if just about 5% down on 20Hz, impedance differences. Even as all original, and with ceramics, the sound is noticeably smoother & wider on high treble than the Heathkit amp which sounded great days before. The minuses are background noise is pretty high & balance is midway at +2 to the left. But for the sound, this gets 'Excellent' & gets other amps rated back a little to reflect the new heights. No circuit diagrams, but Phono is the right board, power amp the middle one & preamp is in the metal case. Now recapped just the power amp board, some leaky ones found, but the bassline this amp now puts out still on the original caps elsewhere is rarely heard in valve amps, damping factor of 25 here. The Silicon transistors were hissy, but the Germaniums are silent almost, replacing the silicons doesn't lose any of the sweet sound. It sounds excellent on the Tannoy Golds, the effortless is noticeable & very pleasing to hear. With the 4 main caps upgraded, the sound is just so effortless & delicate if with enough bassy punch too, if certainly neutral & very honest sounding. It resolves busy rock tracks into what you'll not have heard before, so smooth, open sounding yet extra detailed, a hack reviewer would call it the much misused "valve-like" but what it is is certainly a delight for the ears. Can any transistor amp better this? After a few minor alterations, the smooth precise sound is still here, usually with silicon drivers there would be a little edginess on the design, but clearly Germaniums have similarities to Valves with harmonics as the Power Amp is otherwise much like a Silicon design, if the sound is unlike silicons. On speakers if you play the Tone flat for your preferred sound, this will sound as good, if needing Tone Gain the EQ is less broad than a Treble stage leaving it not quite giving the same gain where you need it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 no wood case made & for it being a metal case can't really rate the looks higher if it looks smart with the black fascia with retro appeal. (2015).
1966 Sansui Model 500A valve receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: Not Worthy. 20w.
A disappointing rushed effort by Sansui, the 500A was issued before the 3000A, despite one site's date errors, we saw it in a late 1966 Hifi News advert & was their last main valve series if nothing since the 1964 range previously. The 3000A is one of the best amps ever but the 500A is lousy. It's got some very poor design such as awful tone controls & filters as well as the HT being much too high for the 7189A valves making it easy to trash a valve. All valves are obsolete ones also. As-is the amp needs the aged coupling capacitors replaced, our one had a these few replaced with the same low values. It sounded soft & weak if hinting that better was there, and based on the quality of the Sansui 3000A we spent much time upgrading it. But the design is very poor & with AC preamp heaters once getting away from the deliberately low spec that hides the weaknesses it revealed more issues each time, look how ruibbish the tone & filters are to see lack of care in design. We just gave up on it & were glad to get rid of it. We'll not bother with the 1000 or 1000A if this is how poor they are. Buy it to use just with new coupling caps for a soft retro sound, but don't even bother upgrading it as you can see it failed. BUY-RAW RATING: Usual bad coupling capacitors, but much more is poor too. COOL RATING: 7 in the wood case, now this is very similar to the 1967 3000A but this loses points for the cheap plastic control knobs & grey fascia half, without the wood case it's a 5. (2014)
1967 Dynaco Stereo 120 power amp, PAT 4 preamp & AF6 FM-AM tuner ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 35w.
CC. This we got in an ugly home made cabinet with a high grade Garrard 301 grey-grease for £30 the lot in 1998. The tuner didn't work, the preamp we thought wasn't very good though it could have been faulty, but the power amp we liked. It does need a high 1.5v input, unlike the usual 400mV most power amps had which may have meant we never really got the best out of it. Capacitor coupled design with a strange wire wrapped around the output caps like an inductor. Used 2N3055 transistors & had a power amp board per channel. Nicely made on bright chromed base with a solid mesh lid, with a lit power switch, Phono sockets & some sort of better speaker connectors. From memory it had a nice clean accurate sound & probably got used with the Rogers Cadet III as the preamp. Dynaco came as a kit too as Dynakit branded. The AF6 tuner dates it to about 1968. BUY-RAW RATING: For the Stereo 120 it was still good in 1998. COOL RATING: 8, 4, 4. the power amp is attractive with it's chrome & metal mesh lid, the pre & tuner are plain looking & oddly the power amp was meant for hiding in a cabinet as ours was(1998).
1967-68 JVC Nivico 5010U receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 20w.
CC. Ignored for too long, look how we rate this amp. Not had an early Nivico branded JVC Japan Victor Company amp before though they were a big name in the late 1970s-early 1980s. The Japan sold ones were branded 'Victor' explaining the stuck-on JVC Nivico badge. This is a small receiver with mostly black front with green tuner lights & a 5 row SEA "Sound Effect Amplifier" Graphic Equaliser type tone control as JVC used on all at the time, but don't skip on just yet. These early JVC are seriously underrated, assuming they are similarly good as the 5010, the Graphic certainly puts buyers off thinking it's some IC junk, but it's not, it's a High Quality circuitry as so early & defeatable. It uses one transistor per channel with resistors & inductors, even if set flat it's better switched out. Full Treble tone needs the 5th slider max & the 4th midway to sound clean & no different to a regular Tone stage. Power rating says 40w on the front, this means 20w per channel continuous & we read a clean 15w sine so 20w is right. Oddly it appears in the 1972 HFYB, unsold remainder stock no doubt. The 5040 originally had Germanium tuner diodes, so the slightly later upgraded 'U' notation without them is probably from 1968. 2SC1061 output transistors are 25w rated if more used as regulators or drivers. One 2000µf 50v main cap & output capacitors a lowly 470µf 35v, higher power ones still only used 1000µf. Quite a heavy vinyl wrap wood case, very retro looks not dissimilar to early National receivers. The back has pre out-main in sockets & unusual link connectors for normal use, Phono inputs & a DIN tape plus 2 speaker sets on typical screw connectors. Another great little amp. Plays loud for just 20w as based on valve design, so as 'loud' as a 20w valve amp & we've been playing it like a 40w amp & find it hard to trip up. Inside the Phono, Preamp & Power Amp are all on one long board. Bass with the lowly output caps uprated it reveals a far better sound overall, clean wide Stereo width worthy of 'Excellent' already, high praise indeed. It surprisingly does Rock well where other low power amps wimp out & even a hard kicking track like The Jam 'Start' is delivered as good as you'd want which defies the 20w rating more than a little. For how good this sounds all original & the minor uprated ones made a big difference to the fidelity overall, to recap is the only option, but no Service Manual & only a part 5003 to find online. Transistor count is Phono x2, Pre-EQ x2, Power amp x6. Recapped it is a lot crisper & later comparing the 5010U to the 5003 from 1969 noted below the sound is very close, as recapped it's cleaner on the treble but 20w to 50w isn't noticeably different until turned up loud. With the main capacitor uprated it sounds excellent, a very accurate solid midrange, crisp detailed treble & bass still strong going deep without too much it sounds as good as any 35w amp with deliberately played loud bass gently rolling off rather than clipping harshly, not many amps do that. On the Tannoy Golds, before getting the big main capacitor upgraded, it sounded a bit soft, but once the new cap fitted it again sounds like a 35w amp on the speakers for the clean precise sound. The JVC 5010U gets a 3 page review in March 1971, at least 3-4 years after it was first out. Rated 16w into 4 ohms, 13w into 8 ohms £135.93 new & they rated it just 12.5w, it read very low on power on 20Hz just 3.8w but that’s why we upgrade these amps as bass is always limited as is treble power. But it is loud enough not to clip out & sounds like a 35w amp. Watts don’t always mean volume though. They seem to like it for use and looks, but said it was too expensive & just about said not to buy it as you’re paying the extra for the SEA ‘novelty’ that you don’t really need, explains why JVC are rare. The mainly technical review doesn’t say anything about the sweet sound though. A remarkable amp currently deeply unappreciated elsewhere, but not for long...COOL RATING: 6 a little awkward looking in the big wood case loses it style appeal if the green tuner ups the score. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. (2014)
1967 National Panasonic SA-65 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
SC, Transformer coupled. One of those fascinating early receivers we just have to try. From looking inside it has remarkably Five Transformers & is very much based on Valve technology though it does have early ICs for the Tuner as the Pioneer SX-1500TF below has. 1966 shows Panasonic still with valves on the SA-52 & a 1968 SA-46 looks more 1969 styled. 1966 receivers usually have valves for the Tuner front end so this is an early 1967 one, also the ancient diodes give it away as earlier than 1969. First try reveals music is very clean & punchy and some deep bass there and Stereo is very wide. The Circuit must be a good design as the grain level is very low compared to some amps. Never heard an amp sound this good as all-original, though the nearest are the 1960s JVC Nivico ones. The 32w SA-57 (or 54) appears in the 1970-71 HFYB & is a much later design. As with the Sansui 3000A this is a semi-complimentary design on ±35v HT on the 2 big caps, but easy to set DC offset to zero. Clean sine is about 26v & the manual states 50w RMS. The Tuner IC is LM703L if still with the big Germanium diodes. 2 power supply Transformers, the small one just for the bulbs, 2 phase splitter ones & one on the Protection board. Output transistors 2SD218 early Silicons. Got the Service Manual now, showing you'll find this amp in Germany & the Lowest Ever Transistor count & does it sound great for it: Phono x2, Tone x2, Power amp x5 (one is a buffer) + transformer. Very clean sounding & low background noise and very clearly valve styled. Excellent Phono stage. An amp so good all original, the best vintage amp we've encountered actually, worth keeping as a reference, though it would recap-upgrade very well. The only amp to get 'Excellent' as all original. We upgraded ours with recapping & it has to be one of the best ever amps with a few others as noted. If you want one, ebay Germany is where you'll find one possibly. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 9 the fascia is one of the best looking ever, if the wood case isn't quite as good as some brands, but still a 9 overall. (2014)
1967 Pioneer SX-700TF receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 25w.
CC. 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 upgrade too much at the time we had it & it could do as well as the 1500TF below if the power difference limits it. T= USA 110v version, TF = EU-World version. 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. This was one we rated highly even pre the M50-2013 improvements. You can't hide a good amp & this is worthy of it's 'Great'. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 this with the wood veneer fascia & the side cheeks looks cool with it's Bachelor pad looks. (2012)
1967 Pioneer SX-1500TF receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 45w.
CC. Not to be confused with the 1969 new styled 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, but 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. There is some crude design here that ultimately limits how far the pre 1969 Pioneers can go, look at the heatsink for a start. Same as 700TF above with the hissy transistors. But an odd sound balance keeps it down in the ratings. A rare early amp together with the one below, they still aren't in the league of other 1967 receivers we've had since, we rated this very highly until getting the 1967 Sansui 3000A which outdid it. Two versions of the tone board exist, the early W15-031 one or the later one like the SX-1500TD uses. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 just a point less as no wood on the fascia, needs the wood side cheeks to rate. (2013)
1967 Sansui Model 3000A receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w.
SC, Transformer coupled. A forgotten gem we've discovered, this tricksy but endearingly wonderful Semi Complimentary amp can be upgraded into a really wonderful sound and with a effortless smooth bassy but detailed fresh open sound. 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. Looks great in the wood case too. 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. 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 for the non-tech user. 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. It has a transformer for the PP splitter stage. Good phono stage here too. One point is the Tone controls do matter if half a notch out, set the lines exactly mid to get the right sound as flat. The Power amps have a separate transformer tap & power supply each for L+R adding to the smooth sound & Stereo width, years before Harman-Kardon did similar & the only amp Sansui used this on until the very overdesigned G22000/G33000. Biasing is best done ignoring any published way, to use the white resistors on the outputs in the top & read mv across them is best: set all pots midway first, then note the transistors are numbered 1,2,4,3 & adjust the 1&3 first & fine tune on 2&4 then recheck again. Then check DC offset & fine tune, then do the same on the resistors to balance it, takes 2 goes to get right. The amp needs a speaker load connected to read DC offset is within a safe limit after adjusting bias without any load. Use the outer two for DC offset, we got ours steady & under 2mV with a speaker load. The 3000 is the same amp if only one speaker pair & minor switch position changes. For the 1969 Tannoy Golds, this amp is a Perfect Match, it sounds awesome. BUY-RAW RATING: Generally OK but beware of DC offset levels. COOL RATING: 9 one of the classiest looking amps in the big wood case, very mid 60s Bacherlor pad with solid aluminium knobs adding class to the 1966 500A above. (2014)
1967 Sony TA-1120A amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent 50w.
CC, DT. See the 1965 TA-1120 above for a deeper look into these two amps. Sony ads by their London W1 showroom in HFN only start to show the TA-1120 in May 1967, only showed tape recorders before, so chances are the original amp was only offered in the UK very briefly if the 1120A arrived a month after & would have been the one supplied. The ads only show Amps & Turntables for a few months, no sales meant back to tape again. The 1120 has some very good circuitry that the 1120 more or less omits, explaining it's blurry sound. Be aware 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 upgraders & one of the best Sony amps but only if you work it. 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 losing the circuitry of the 1120 original loses the treble sharpness to make it not as modern sounding as you may like, very strange why they took all the good ideas out. The odd red capacitors are of high quality, no need to alter them, if they limit deep bass. Overall it has a very pleasing sound but is just very soft on detail, if the one noted in the Update was very different. Classy looking amp with the very 1965 looking brown levers still here though it was updated for some markets to a later design TA-1120F which we've never seen. In terms of finding one, the Apr 1967 TA-1120A is at least scarce, the Nov 1965 TA-1120 is very rare. UPDATE: Got another of these, this one only ever used on 117v & on first try with 240v it sounds much cleaner than the previous one. Still unserviced & just testing what it's like. The Headphone socket is still hopeless but to use our Headphone box on the speaker connectors shows a sound much closer to the 1965 TA-1120 with a crisper sound than the blurry one before. This has the earlier 2SD45 outputs, not the later 2SD88s & the screws on the back input plates, not rivets, an early 52000 serial number one here, when numbering only started at 51000. Unusually untouched amp, a survivor amp & so clean it could be left all original, grey capacitor caps still on & the transformer top is perfect even. But the capacitors inside, on deciding to recap as the buyer wanted to use it, were surprisingly very aged, but it gets the 1120A a much better rating for an early little-used one. Now issues sorted & run in, this sounds unlike the last one which was soft & blurry, this is nearly as good as the 1965 TA-1120. Either very low use or minor changes on later ones is the reason why, this is very crisp & focussed. The only real difference are the red coupling capacitors limiting the deepest bass, else it's a joy. Playing it on Tannoy Golds, it's the same volume as the earlier TA-1120 & not far off the sound of that either. THE WOOD CASES are now rare on these, Sizes are 432 W x 155 H x 303 D. front sides 14mm, rear sides 19mm adding spacers, the case is 12mm ply with a walnut veneer. The grille space is 369 x 121mm. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but low volume is how it's made. COOL RATING: 9 looks as good as the TA-1120 if being more findable, best looks in the wood case. (2014)
1967 Trio Kenwood TK-140E or U receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 50w.
SC. White lever buttons, no IC wording on the tuner glass & a silver metal back panel. The "E" version is EU 220-240v only, the "U" one is USA 117v only. The highest powered domestic amp in 1967, if still quite midprice quality unlike the Nat-Pan & Sansui. Appears there were a few versions of this model. See below for the 1969 later 'X' version As original it hides it's potential with a soft blurry sound keeping the as-is rating lower. 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 E & X version are 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 on speakers as do other early Trio-Kenwood. One for the experienced tech really as some of it is a bit quirky to upgrade, 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. Early Semi-Complimentary design like other 1967 receivers had, if quickly abandoned until 1971 BUY-RAW RATING: A bit risky for Germaniums as the output drivers though can be replaced. Tuners on these early ones often not working right. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 7 but there are 2 versions, the black lid looks less appealing so a 6, but the brown wood effect lid looks better, a little lacking in style if still Bachelor Pad looks with the wood veneer front & nice lever switches. (2013)
1968 Armstrong 526 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
CC. The deserved Armstrong backlash Part 2: 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. We had one, it had plug in boards like Leak but constructuion was messy & a mix of mostly Germaniums bought wholesale & very cheap as Henry's 1970 Radio catalog shows they were unwanted by anyone else. Germaniums age badly & were unreliable when new, the Mullard AD140 TO3 output transistors are notoriously bad. These were sold cheap in the Comet Cut Price type retailers in the early 1970s so they are plentiful, unless it's the same one being resold over & over as buyers realise their mistake in buying it. Please don't buy one, there is so much better. The lousy build quality in many places & many Germanium transistors means this will always be a duff amp. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor. Aged Germaniums & other issues, don't bother. COOL RATING: 3 sadly it just looks cheap and nasty with no design appeal at all, 3 is being generous as it has a veneer lid. (2012)
1968 Ferrograph F307/20+20 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: n/a. 20w.
CC. Same amp repackaged into 3 amp models into the late 1970s. We had the mid 1970s 20+20 light vinyl wrap one, but it was 99% the 1968 amp inside. Good volume for 20w, but it sounds rough & blurry, any £50 late 70s amp would better this. Open rich but certainly fuzzy sound if a little too raw as British Hifi usually is. A bit of a fuss-hype about Ferrograph but they are nothing special really, certainly only budget price amps. Aka the Ferrograph F307 Mk 2. 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 & because of the hype prices are high but no takers. Don't believe the hype or high prices, a while back an ex-employee with money to burn was bidding high with no real interest since, ahem. 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. It has awkward UK style axial caps so not worth recapping for us. Awful 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. They seem to be commonly found or perhaps the same ones being forever resold as the buyers agree. As it's a 2012 review, the amp might do better if we got another. There is a certain quality here, but the low spec of the insides would still be obvious, it might scrape a 'Recommended' but we are only saying what we saw, not estimating. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, but don't overpay based on old hype. COOL RATING: 6 the 1968 original has a purposeful look if a bit industrial, the 1973 revival in orangey teak plastic wrap looks cheesy but in a good way so rates an 8, especially with the tuner with it as we had. (2012)
1968 Leak Stereo 70 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
CC. Always popular as easy to find these Leak amps, 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 as the Delta 30 and 70 in an earlier design case, the early Stereo 30 (no Plus) from 1963 is different & not recommended as it has Germaniums, it is a one board amp, not the plug in boards. The Stereo 30 plus and Stereo 70 versions, both with the 4 plug-in boards 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 upgraded 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 matching Stereofetic tuner we found a bit crappy in sound & construction, but the amps are nice if they look better as the Delta rebranded ones. See the 1971 Leak Delta 70 as we ponder upgrading one. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if risk of rough sounding transistors. COOL RATING: 5 these are pretty ugly looking with average quality wood veneer cases, just functional. (2013)
1968 McIntosh C26 preamp + 1967 MC2505 power amp ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 50w.
SC, DIFF. This we last had in 2003 but it certainly impressed us on the Tannoy Golds. Transistor preamp & power amp. We got the C22 valve preamp & found the C26 more pleasing. These need the big Panloc wood cases to look their best & do they look pretty. The repro cabinets lack the class though. We got the amp from a UK seller & imported the pre. At the time we were impressed at how good the midrange was, very smooth & accurate, but the bass was a little limited & the treble a little soft, but oh... The midrange. Since then, one murky track that was deeply impressive has been tried on nearly every amp in search of that sound & it took quite a few amps to hit the quality. We had a good look inside & saw quite a bit would need upgrading, even with our 2003 ideas, ceramic blocks for the Tone stages & altering the NFB to try to get a little more gain brought up a high hiss background. Also the preamps when used on the TT valve amps had quite a loud hiss from the level mismatching, but C26+MC2505 matched perfectly. So there are upgrades needed to be done here & the price these were even in 2003 made us sell them on rather than be tempted to alter anything. The brand is the 'USA favorite' by the love owners have for Mac gear valve & solid state. We've not tried any other Macs since but they are up there on the 'to try' list with other big USA amps together with Fisher valve gear. The C22 preamp was a little bit on the early side with both C22 & C26 having an excess of controls & level presets & also the Bass Boost like the STR-6120 has too. BUY-RAW RATING: Good when we had in 2003, but hard to find with nice glass & paint fascias. COOL RATING: 9 in the panloc wood cases these look wonderful with much care to style that is stil on their hifi 40 years later, without the cases dips the looks as they look incomplete. (2002)
1968 Pioneer SX-1000TW receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 50w.
CC. Just slightly less musical than the SX-1500TD but still the first generation Pioneer styling. 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 this was early on in our hifi page exploits as we had other Pioneers above, treble a bit soft but well made enough to be worth improving. Last of the early styled fascia amps. Confusingly there are actually 3 of the SX-1000 models: SX-1000TA (40w) is the first 1966 one with a valve & nuvistor Tuner front end noted by the lever switches not in one group, then the SX-1000 TD(F) (50w) by 1967 noted by the tall MS Mincho style tuner print then the 1968 SX-1000TW (50w) with IC for Tuner as some are still labelled & smaller tuner glass print. All pre 1969 Pioneer of the earlier styling strangely lack a proper Mono switch which is needed for Phono especially, offering only Mono of L or R but not together. As a 2012 review this still shows the early Pioneers are good & having the SX-990 in 2015 to hear again shows the early Pioneer sound fresher than the 1972-75 ones. COOL RATING: 8 in the wood case a smart looking amp as the SX-1500TF is. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. (2012)
1968 Sony STR-6120 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
CC. The best sounding Sony receiver & a long time favourite of ours. Just so musical, precise & well balanced, it has put many to shame. Much upgradeable too & others may overtake it but then the 6120 can take upgrades & still win. Very well built with quality parts, all mica in the audio stages no ceramics. A combination of their top quality 5000 tuner & an improved version of the TA-1120A amplifier = STR-6120. The 1970 version without 'Tape Head' rates the same as the first one, though has an extra Aux input to the earlier 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. Why so much more than the others? Superior tuner, better power supply, advanced tone & preamp yet the 6050 as the STR-6850 we have is a sweeter sound. Problems can arise from lack of HT fuses & the messy wiring that can comes loose. A top FM tuner once recapped can sound excellent. Later hearing a Tape Head version in unusually high grade all original beyond a bad power cap then replaced it sounds very enjoyable, the solid Sony midrange is there to set it apart from many. Bass on one with little use isn't so limited as once more aged which helps up the as-original rating, treble is decent if a little lacking in focus to one recapped as is typical for the age, but nothing rough sounding here. The 6120 will have sounded exceptional when new with probably only the Sansui x000 ones in it's league for power & sound. The design uses low value coupling capacitors that create a 'Retro Bass' sound that is appealing, but can be made to sound more natural with a deeper bass. An amp perfectly matched to the Tannoy Golds & was probably designed for them. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if some capacitors can be risky. An amp often found well used. COOL RATING: 9 in the big wood case either version looks very cool, the expense not spared look for your rich Bachelor Pad. Simple but strong looks, (2015)
1968 Trio-Kenwood TK-66 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 25w.
CC. 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. Had this very early in our amp exploits. This brand pre 1973 are always good value & offer a fine sound. We had this very early on in our amp testing & it did stand out from other amps around then so deserves the rating. As it's only 25w to further upgrade one would not be worthwhile, but for what it is, recapped it'd still be very pleasing. Again, the quality of these early Trio can't be hidden, even with a 2012 review. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 6 Trio receivers were never as pretty agfter the 1963 valve one, not much style here if industrial functional. (2012)
1969 B+O Beomaster 3000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
CC. 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 need 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. We thought to upgrade one fully, but there are so many components on an awkward main board. A design that lasted until the 1977 Beomaster 4400 was ended in about 1981, it does suffer from crude construction with the power supply & associated resistors on the 3000, early 3000-2s & early 4000 being a mess with little grunt to it. But they did sell very well & once cleaned up looking nice they do have a lot of retro appeal. One oddity is the amp itself has FM scale of 88-104 but the ad in the 1971 HFYB clearly shows it goes up to 108, but only the later 4400 from 1977 had this. We've had some very early all-beige underboard ones & always 104. But one sold Aug 2014 of a Beomaster 3000-2 clearly showing 88-108 on the scale, it may be an unknown limited export model perhaps. BUY-RAW RATING: Always in need of a good Servicing, bad switches & controls are common raw. To take the front panel apart is risking insanity. COOL RATING: 7 the unique styling sets them apart, the 3000 (-2) looks best with the teak lid as this is the usual lid, if found in rosewood & factory white sprayed too, but compared to the 4400 just dips it a point. (2014)
1969 JVC Nivico 5003 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
CC. Ignored for too long is this brand for the fact it has a Graphic EQ instead of Tone. The Japan sold ones were branded 'Victor' explaining the stuck-on JVC Nivico badge. As with the JVC 5010U from 1967 above, the EQ is not a hideous IC based 1980s style mess, it's a one-transistor tone style one with inductors. See the 5010U section for more info. It sounds clean, can be fully switched out easily and once recapped sounds no different in or out. We had to try another early JVC after finding the 5010U so good, so this 50w slightly updated FET tuner version of 1967's 5030 and is a good one. FETs being just the first two in the FM tuner front end. These amps are totally ignored, except by us, but they are well made & sound great. The boards are well spaced out, rather like the Pioneer SX-838 to SX-950 receivers, unlike how cramped the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X is. Large transformer, 2200µf 100v main cap & 1000µf output caps typical of the era. A red power switch and small white rocker switches are unusual, the back panel is very neatly set out. Turning it on, leaf-green display, very 60s retro pad styled & enough controls to scare. Very like the 5030 if it adds Tape Head & is rated 230VA not 190VA, just different fascia styling. This is often Multivoltage & the front sticker boasts "140w". Long time sleeping amp needs a good service before really telling how it sounds, noisy switches & the like. Not the easiest amp to get to the front controls inside though. First sound try reveals a sound unsurprisingly as good as the 5010U. Needs running in but clean, punchy, fast & accurate with wide Stereo imaging. Clearly as good sounding as many of the 1967-69 competition, oh how these have been unfairly ignored. Comparing to the 5010U now mostly recapped the sound is very close, recapped it's cleaner on the treble, the 5003 having a very solid midrange rarely found in any amplifiers. Circuit diagram findable, but it misses the power amp part. The power amp is the left rear board, the Phono, Tone-SEA & preamp is the right rear board, mid board is the power supply. After looking deeper, construction is quite bizarre if effective, never seen another amp like this & it was a 1967 design for the 5030 so they had little to learn from. The wood case is a very heavy weight with veneered ply. A large amp 53cm wide, 15cm high & 35cm deep. Fascinating amp though & with a very solid neutral sound. For it's 50w rating, 140w sticker (70w+70w) it puts out 33v clean sine, more like a 60w amp & runs on 88v HT. Only part of the service manual is findable, no power amp or power supply info. After recapping the pre & power amps as well as the power supply, the sound is very addictive, just so neutral & accurate with a clean treble, decent bass & unusually wide stereo. Does need accurate Bias adjusting to bring the sound out. Pioneer were never this good yet JVC despite being popular when new in the late 1970s are now almost ignored. Nivico is Nippon Victor Company, yet JVC is in the logo too. BUY-RAW RATING: Switches need a good servicing before working right, otherwise good. COOL RATING: 6 a big amp not so pretty in some ways, the big case is a bit clunky but the sound matters here. (2015)
1969 Pioneer SX-1500TD receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 45w.
CC. Has the new Second Generation design with the side wood trim styling like the mid 1970s SX-950 amps & better design if still a little basic in places. The sound when we had one quite early in our amp testing was noted as not being as open & airy sounding as the 1967 ones, but trying the very similar SX-990 it still sounds great. It's an updated version of the SX-1500TF with a good volume & clarity, beware the mic control must be set to off or it's hissy. Has a proper Mono switch. The power amp board is very cramped & has output capacitors on it that makes the amp less appealing to upgrade & hard if it's been repaired untidily. The Power amp is hard to repair it without unsoldering all wires which is not easy. The SA-900 is the amplifier version. Much later, on getting the SX-990 which is basically the exact same amp if a 28w version, we can see this amp should get upgraded, so see the 990 for how well it done. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if power amp hasn't been repaired badly before. COOL RATING: 7 new styling to the earlier ones if not quite the looks for higher rating. (2014)
1969 Sansui Model 4000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w.
CC. 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, it actually goes through a big resistor onto the Phono board, to use Tape In is the best way for best sound. 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 serviced & adjusted right. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 looks stylish with the wood case, also came with a glossy metal one that rates 7, the first blackout tuner design amps, use Aux & no tuner is lit making it a little plain, rating for tuner lit. (2013)
1969 Sony STR-6050 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
CC. Finding this was the same basic amp as the STR-6850 below, need to try the original version as the STR-6850 sounds so great, if that had a few issues. It appears to be an updated version of the 45w STR-6060FW from 1967 that has the front flap & brown levers. It's rated 30w as is the STR-6850 but the output suggests at least 40w. STR-6060 works on 80v, STR-6050 on 73v so 40w is correct, if the STR-6850 measures 84v. The STR-6060 is an earlier version of the STR-6120 but the STR-6050 is later but still the capacitor coupled design which the STR-6850 reveals as a fresher sound than the 6120 if the power supply right on the selectors creates hum & is a bit low spec. This could be the best Sony therefore. Sony finally arrive in the HFYB in 1970 with STR ranges: 6040 15w £112, 6050 30w (40w really) £145, 6060(FW)45w £187 & 6120 50w £387. A minimalist version of the 1968 STR-6120 sharing no boards with it as well as smaller & lighter, if still a 220VA draw compared to the 280VA of the 50w 6120. A rarer one as we've seen a few STR-6060FW & 6120s, but never this one in the EU. Capacitors, not axial, fitted underneath with the largest 3300µf 80v with tabs being as tall as the cabinet height, so a good use of space. Tiny pre-tone board underneath if all the other boards are top mounted. Noticeable differences in transistors used to the STR-6850 board. The speaker connectors as screws aren't much good as the usual 4mm block that fits on others is too unsure here, it'd be better with updated ones. Volume control is split L+R on the one control, losing the balance control. First try reveals a clean lively sound that the STR-6120 never had as original, a very clean focussed treble we've heard in no other original Sony amp. It betters the STR-6850 as original easily too. Transistor count as the STR-6850: Phono x2, Tone-Pre x2, Power Amp x7 & the simple but great circuit reveals it's an impressive amp even as original, though this is a light use one. It could recap & upgrade to higher quality still. The winner in this amp from knowing the STR-6850 is the power amp board. But after listening we wonder why it sounds a little strange after upgrading & find the Aux goes to the Phono board like Sansui used on the 4000 & 5000, so to use Tape In for a Direct input, if it takes a very trained ear to tell the difference unlike the Sansui one. The 6850 is Aux direct. By the 1971 range with the identical looking STR-6055 it was updated with the lesser differential & semi complimentary design. 4cm narrower than the STR-6120 & 6kg lighter shows it's had costs cut in the casework, but the circuitry is still quality. It upgrades as well as the STR-6120, a seriously good amp here. The same wood case the 6055 & 6065 has should fit. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 with the wood case. a budget version of the 6120 in some ways if still lookjs & sounds great. (2014)
1969 Teac AG-7000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 65w.
SC, DIFF. A rarer early Teac appears to be a 1969-70 one & similarities with the Teac AS-100 from 1971 as well as being semi-complimentary which is early for 1969. A well made amp with fine looks. 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. Sadly most Teac you see are mass market modern systems, hiding the high quality of their amps from the 1969-71 era. See the Teac AG-6000 below for a later opinion of nearly the same amp. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 7 the wood case that comes with this looks a bit unconvincing, so the black gloss metal lid rates the same, the first blackout tuner design amps, use Aux & no tuner is lit making it a little plain, rating for tuner lit. (2013)
1969 Teac AG-6000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
SC, DIFF. A little surprised to find this is the exact same amp as the AG-7000 if the transformer has a lower voltage & the Tuner differs on the metal box part. An AG-3000 is a 36w version too. This one has the proper metal top lid & base, the AG-7000 we had was with a wood case if no top lid that we found a little unconvincing as we picture on our Solds page, maybe it wasn't official? The User Manual pictures this as ours is here & the AG-7000 flyer again no wood case. We do like these early TEAC & all seem to be the same basic power amp, if a very decent one & early for it to have differentials & semi-complimentary with no output capacitor as most only first used those in 1971. Now this being a typical later design we've tried to better other later amps to try to match the pre 1971 typical design, but they don't quite come close. Will this be the one to change the opinion? Another Teac AS-100 we rated very highly so perhaps this can upgrade more than the 1973-75 ones we've tried. All in the interests of perfecting upgrading. First play of it as arrived just to see what it's like, the precise clean sound few amps have all-original, strong clean treble & midrange if bass appears a bit lacking, if a known bassy track reveals the clean midrange hides it unlike some amps with a more recessed midrange. It still has the pre 1971 magic sound that we've failed to find in any post 1971 differential amp, suspecting there was the weakness, but as often it's down to the design. Some tracks reveal volume needs to go halfway for a decent sound on headphones. The sound is like the Sansui 5000X (F6013) for a level of tight precision if a more refined sound. Knowing these Teac recapped & upgraded, it could be said it sounds a bit cold for the precise midrange as original, but the sound opened up with upgrades fills in the bass better. The 4 ohm resistor on the speaker outputs is only for connecting more than one speaker pair and is not always in circuit. Costing on these early Teac is clearly well considered with no need to cheap out: no ceramics in the audio stages just best quality silvered mica & polystyrene caps. The only minus here is the speaker connectors are the ones best known as 1971 Marantz type, here mounted upside down to hide the live metal area, but the early ones plastic goes crumbly with age so are too tatty. The circuit looks like Aux goes into Phono, but it just shows on the Phono board to not affect the signal. Recapped & upgraded we initially found it a bit disappointing, volume was not very good needing past midway, as Teac always have. but with extra gain & all the upgrades we could do it sounds very pleasing now. Of amps with Differentials on the power amp, this one still sounds flatter than the non-differential ones on the virtual size of Stereo on Headphones, if that takes a trained ear to notice. But certainly a quality one as the ratings show & of the differential amps this is perhaps the best one. It sounds very good on Tannoy Golds with strong bass, clean treble & an accurate midrange, a perfect match. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 7 the wood case that comes with this looks a bit unconvincing, so the black gloss metal lid rates the same, the first blackout tuner design amps, use Aux & no tuner is lit making it a little plain, rating for tuner lit.(2014)
1969 Trio-Kenwood KR-33 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 25w.
CC. Similar to the TK-66 if lower power and one early with us. Bit industrial looking but the sound on the early Trios is worthwhile & if we had one again it could rank higher. Again, the quality of these early Trio can't be hidden, even with a 2011 review. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 6 as with other Trio receivers noted above (2011)
1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 53w.
CC. Despite the X version of their 1967 receiver, this is totally redesigned inside if looking very similar to the 1967 TK-140E from 1967 externally, noted above, with more power at 53w for 8 ohms both channels driven. Read on, there are 2 versions. Styling is based on the TK-150/250 & KA-2000 amplifiers. The tuner window shows 'Integrated circuit', the Lever switches are black & the back panel is black. This is a Capacitor Coupled redesign the same almost as the KA-6000. The metal case with no wood outer made leaves it a little plain if the fascia is nice exactly as the E version has. The back panel has easier to use screw connectors, pre out-power amp in sockets & a different MW antenna else much the same. Very packed insides & heavier than the E version and it's a smaller sized 420mm wide with hardwiring like a Valve amp, so still early looking compared to the Sony STR-6120 that was more PCB based. Some have the black lid & the long arm antenna, later have the wood effect one, short hinged antenna & a white Serial plate, if none have a wood case. We have both the 6000 & 140 at the same time to compare. The power amp board is UA1343K1 on the 6000, should be UA1343K2 on the TK-140X but ours is a later one UA1384J with just one adjust pot, no thermistors, simplified protection circuit with an axial 100v 47µf board capacitor. The UA1343K1 version has different tuner boards inside, one each AM & FM. So there are 2 versions internally of the TK-140X if the sound is no different. To spot the UA1384J & one tuner board version, the back label is black, the lid is usually black & a white wire is not visible through the top grille like the earlier version, but in compares of either X version both will be quite similar. Having the KA-6000 here & recapped it to the same level initially, the compare is interesting, the TK & KA have the same sweet sound, if the TK as with the original power supply & output caps lacks the fullness of the KA. There is a rightness to the sound that barely amps do. Now fully recapped it has a strong rich sound with more bass than some, but still crisp and clean. On speakers the early Trio-Kenwood play louder than you'd expect, useful for less sensitive speakers. Perfect match for the Tannoy Golds. The pick of the Trio-Kenwood receivers for such a sweet detailed sound. The black label later version we have is very hard to find, if either 'X' version is the best of the Trio-Kenwood receivers. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Tuners on these early ones often not working right. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. COOL RATING: 7 but there are 2 versions, the black lid looks less appealing so a 6, but the brown wood effect lid looks better, a little lacking in style if still Bachelor Pad looks with the wood veneer front & nice lever switches. (2014)
1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-150 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 13w.
CC. 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 KA-2000 for different countries. The similar TK-250 is 20w. Again, the quality of these early Trio can't be hidden, even with a 2011 review. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 average retro looks if functional & a small size amp. (2011)
1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-2000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 13w.
CC. The 1968-69 range of Trio-Kenwood are nice sounding, see the KA-6000 below for their best one, just the 13w 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. A nice clean sound here & the first one we bought of recent times that started these pages. See TK-150 above as it's the same amp. Again, the quality of these early Trio can't be hidden, even with a 2011 review. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 average retro looks if functional & a small size amp. (2011)
1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w.
CC. The first of the quality 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 soft & 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 same as the 1969 TK-140X receiver as the boards are just about the same, if the KA-6000 has better spec inside. A lot of work to service up though. For the 1967 receiver version of this amp, see TK-140 above. 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. This amplifier has so many new features that were used by many others: metal cages inside, MM phono stage, pink LED type lights if with bulbs, defeatable Tone stages & a great sound. Even has stepped tone controls & pre out-power in connectors, though Sony got there first on those two. This amp set the benchmark for the modern amplifier. The inside cages & other features led the scene but the KA-6000 is actually very early & quite like a valve amp still with strangely placed boards & much hardwiring. The power amp board plugs in & is quite random looking with the same circuit changes as the Trio one, it was like the TK-140E input. UA1343K power amp totals 6 transistors per channel plus 4 in total for protection. The fascia is letter-stamped neater than the Trio one & we are the first ones to open this one. But the spec for 1969 is still very high compared to some, the 65mm dia 4000µf 100v main cap & 3300µf output caps are way ahead of the Sony STR-6120. The big cap after seeing how badly the same one in the Sony TA-1120(A) is, decided to replace this. On cutting it open, actually it was still good if a bit dry, the Sony with the doubled output transistors must use it harder than the KA-6000 does. In all the amps we've seen, this is one of the Most Important Early Amplifiers (not Receivers) in the hifi story together with the more flawed Sony TA-1120(A). Matching Tuner is usually the KT-5000, a nice Tuner with 2 basic ICs though our Trio & now Kenwood differ from the circuits, the Kenwood one much different. Also the unfindable earlier KT-7000 with 4 basic ICs if slightly higher spec matches. T-K tuners are decent if the de-emphasis isn't for the UK value so a little dull until altered. For the 1969 Tannoy Golds, this amp is a Perfect Match, if the TK-140X going further it's not so obvious on speakers as headphones. Deciding to recap-upgrade revealed the Power Amp needed it & the sound is very different with a solid focus. Circuit reveals this amp has the Tone before the Volume, the only ones we've ever found like this are some early Solid State Trio-Kenwoods if not the KA-8004. Having the TK-140X here & recapped it to the same level, if upgraded a few more things, the compare is interesting, the TK is the same wide rich sound if the TK. Differences in power supply notice a bit but it's still the original caps on both, the KA being higher spec. Now Recapped all but the big main cap & opens it out more. The big main cap is still high spec & the same value is still made, if 70mV ripple is not great, it sounds clean still. There is a rightness to the sound that not many amps do with a very wide stereo. This we rate as the Best Transistor Amplifier (not receiver) that we've had. We've rated it for quite a while now, if never upgraded one before. BUY-RAW RATING: Good though needs a good Service, note the amp needs the rear Pre Out-In links to work. COOL RATING: 9 very classy looking amp, needs the side cheeks, has pink lights & way cool too with the matching tuner. (2014)
1970-74 Hacker GAR550 receiver-gram ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 14w.
CC. 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 basic 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. We tested this on the M20 headphones, the original Hacker Speakers plus Tannoy 607s, for it's 14w rating it's not quite 'Great' as original but worthy of 'Great' as upgraded. There were several versions of this from 1970-1974 GAR 500, GAR550 & GAR600 rated 10w to 14w, in silver initially later black, but all the basic same amp with a Garrard SP25 Mk II, III or IV in it. The speakers with earlier ones were Hacker LS1500 as 8 or 15 ohm & the later ones usually with the perspex lid had LS550 speakers, these had a contoured foam front but will have crumbled to dust by now leaving just the frame. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Turntable may need oiling as often seized. COOL RATING: 7 looks best with the smoky perspex lid, the teak lid dips it to 6, a confident looking unit. (2012)
1970 Philco-Ford M1550 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 12w.
CC. The first amp we ever used as it was the parents one until 1983 & the sound is actually with many qualities of amps rated higher with a fresh open sound. It's only a budget amp though it looks nice though is quite small & like things you knew as a kid, surprising how small it is. 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. COOL RATING: 7 tiny budget amp still with a nice teak case & tidy layout, it appealed to us as a teen. (2013)
1970 Pioneer SX-990 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 28w.
CC. This is part of the new 1970 numbering with SX-440, SX-770 & the SX-990 is the highest number so must be 1970 not 1969 if a '69' code on the tuner. £194 in 1971. The SX-1500TD from 1969 noted above is 45w & seeing this one has changed our views, as we have with Pioneer since getting the SA-9500. This is rated 35w but a confusing 'per channel' but 28w into 8 ohms for Stereo. Inside it looks very like the SX-1500TD to the point of exactly the same apart from the power supply board not caged & a bit smaller as well as lower HT voltage. Has a proper Mono switch. The thing with these pre 1972 Pioneers is to get ones that have not had the power amp repaired even if faulty as the board gets messy as we've found with some we've had, hard to work on too. We've not had one in over 2 years, so can look at it with upgrading eyes, as the 1500 one on the Solds page wasn't. Power amp is just 6 transistors which means it should upgrade very well. The output caps on the board like the SX-1500TD are awkward but can be bettered with care. Compared to the SX-1500TD: the Preamp exactly the same, Phono & Power Supply just 2 minor resistor changes. Power Amp basically the same if several value changes. Our view on this after not being so keen on the 1500 for bad repairs twice is we mostly like it, nicely made smaller size receiver that should upgrade well. At 28w this is the lowest power amp we've decided to fully recap, just to see how it does as well as get a taste of the SX-1500TD as it's so similar. Only recapped the Power amp board & still has the original spec elsewhere to see nearly all original sound. First try after being unused in over 40 years by the unused look inside under the dust, it sounds decent but a little raggedy if not at all rough or unlistenable as we'd expect. A very decent accurate sound if very bass light after it's long sleep though it improves on trying it a few hours later after waking it up. Sound is punchy for it's 28w & goes loud enough before flattening off, sounding as lively as similar 45-50w receivers. For this reason well worth upgrading to find out what it can do... Recapped & upgraded the lot, for the hell of trying & the fact the SX-990 is so like the SX-1500TD. Done the audio boards first mostly & it was OK but not too exciting. Later with the rest done putting some high spec into a 28w amp like it was the 45w one, it paid off. Took a little running in to waken it up & the sound was well worth the effort. For the 28w it sounds as clean & good as any 45w-50w amp with a good punchy volume if ultimately not having the higher power, the amp is certainly no compromise like later lower power ones. It could upgrade further to lose the slightly 'retro' tubby upper bass. A great match to the Tannoy Golds, they are the same year after all. With the SX-838 here too the SX-990 has the fresher sound, as is typical of late 1960s transistor amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if power amp hasn't been badly repaired before. COOL RATING: 7 new styling to the earlier ones & the SX-1500TD if not quite the looks for higher rating. (2014)
1970 Sansui AU-101 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 15w.
CC. This was the first amp we ever repaired many moons ago. At the time we had a Leak Delta 30 & thought it sounded better, but beyond that we've not had one since though they are on ebay often. Read more on the Other Amps as we looked deeper into the amp. Nice simple design with low Transistor counts: Phono x2, tone just One & Power Amp x6. For 15w the circuit will be very limited to stop it clipping too soon & based on the AU-999 it probably was quite thin sounding unlike the bassy Leak. Low value output capacitor will certainly make it sound thin on bass. At 15w not really worth upgrading. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 all black basic but looks smart. (1993)
1970 Sansui AU-999 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 50w.
SC, DIFF. Early on in our Hifi exploits, we rated as one of the cleanest sounding amps we had before getting more, but long since bettered. Could do with more bass as sound is very thin & it has a nasty Bass filter stage to limit it even more. But once upgraded losing much of the lousy spoilers a good amp with high quality sound & worth upgradecing up further, but for musical pleasure the Sony TA-1120A easily beat it even recapped & upgraded, getting the AU-999 sold on. It was still thin after many upgrades we done a while back on one & if we had another we may go further with it. 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 as does the matching tuner. For 50w the volume wasn't very high & our Power Ratings page shows the 25v clean sine output is low for the power. The AU-555 & AU-777 are earlier ones in the range if power is less. Nice amps but as we found out with ours, even upgraded, the AU-999 leaves a lot to be desired for the thin sound. Of the Sansui ones we've had the 3000A & 5000X noted above are way ahead of this one. Beware overpricing on this amp, it's a high model number but 50w (not 80w as some state) & not a very loud 50w either with issues as noted. The Sansui 3000A is way better. This is one still in it's 2012 review, prices are way too high to try it again & at the time the TA-1120A outdone it quite easily as the AU-999 still sounded thin. Some oddly old style transistors in here make it a lot to upgrade too. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, beware overpricing on this amp. COOL RATING: 8 needs the rare wood case else it looks awkward at a 6, with the case it looks very smart if all black fascia not great for night use. (2012)
1970 Scan-Dyna 3000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
Dynaco related EU crap sadly. Looked interesting, but an amp we hated by the end of it, crappy cheap construction, almost impossible to get to the power amp board even to clean, crappy cheap controls, sound was hard to tell as made so badly & not working right. Unworkable on as so badly designed. We wrote it sounded rough too when we wrote of it originally. So don't bother buying is our opinion. We rated this as junk for the awful construction, it might do better if a high grade one, but it's an amp to be wary of still. For the Dynaco name it just wasn't very good. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky if volume control isn't good, else should be ok. COOL RATING: 6 we got this as it looked rather decent, but the rest of the review shows it's not worth bothering with. (2012)
1970 Sony STR-6850 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 40w (not 30w).
CC. This is basically the 45w 1969 STR-6050 receiver updated, not that the STR-6050 will compare directly, so see above as we have one to try. The 6850 has Aux direct, unlike the 6050. One of the sometimes rare 1970-71 exotic range that included the big TA-2000F & TA-3120 pre-power amps, the tiny TA-88 amp & ST-80F tuner that did sell as well as amps for multichannel & the B&W made Sony SS-7000 huge speaker that's only 25w, but most of these were sales failures as by 1973 Sony cheaped out for the mass market as well as making more general audio goods. The June 1970 Hifi News shows there was a Sony shop in London, yet the pre 1972 Sony aren't easy to find. The STR-6850 is a very rare receiver you'll find very little online. It's a EU style receiver with FM, MW, LW & SW even that's 61cm wide & clearly of the quality of other better 1970-71 Sony also the Tuner has no ICs. The styling of this is unique for a Sony & it's so retro cool it hurts, having a metal fascia with perspex window. Amps like this should be in design museums as just so of their era. All DIN connectors as it was styled 'The Europe' on one flyer but it looks a bit too well made & pricy to compete with other EU type receivers. The last Sony capacitor coupled so a 1970 design with 2SD316 transistors that are 63w rated so no cheaping out here. It already sounds more refined than the 40w TA-1140 if 30w seems a modest rating for the volume & improves quite noticeably after servicing. Still has the STR-6120 quality with the mica capacitors not ceramics, expectedly limited on deeper bass if not thin, biasing tightens the sound further & once run in sounds quite like the STR-6120 does as raw. 84v & 48v HT is very high for a supposed 30w as well as clean sine going to almost 28v the same as the 40w TA-1140. Sony were deliberately underselling this higher spec amp to match the 30w B+O Beomaster 3000 as the service manual still states 30w & looking at the circuit reveals what they done to limit it to 30w not the 40w it should be. Also suggests 50mV bias as with the TA-1140 this is way too high & blurs the sound. This amp is so rare you'll never find it sadly, but the STR-6055 preamp is quite similar if the power amps is semi-complimentary. The STR-6065 is less similar. As upgraded it delivers a quality sound way beyond what it was designed to be sold as. Music is cleaner than the STR-6120, based on both being original, if the 6120 upgrades further. The STR-6050 power amp is exactly the same except C707 if updated with later transistors. The Preamps match too if the Phono stage & Power supply are different. Talk about recycling, though the STR-6050 still strangely rates it 30w. Not to be confused with the flap-fronted STR-6060FW. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if unfindable as it's the rarest Sony receiver. COOL RATING: 7 big EU receiver size looks very retro, very stylish if not classy enough to score higher. (2014)
1971 Heathkit AR-1500 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 60w.
SC, Diff. Heathkit best known to UK buyers for the 1959 valve Heathkit S99, see the other amps page. Their transistor kits are much harder to find in the UK & this is the 1971 version of the 1967 50w Heathkit AR-15 and in 1974 was the Heathkit AR-1500A 60w, then the digital tuner AR-1515. The AR-1500 first appears in the 1974 HFYB for £191 as a kit & with the wood case, if £252 by 1976 as likely the 1500A, £302 by 1977 then Heathkit vanished to return with just one in 1979. To build a simple amp is quite a job, having had a S99, but a receiver is much more complex. Heath Daystrom were a USA company & in the 1960s the Hifi News ads show they had a London showroom & must have done well with their high quality kits, but as the Discount Stores & complexity grew, this was way beyond the majority of buyers to build. Maplin took on the kits market by the 1990s with Vellman kits, if long gone. In 1968 Knight-Kit were offering even more adventurous kits, see the Amplifiers list page. But the AR-1500 is a good looking receiver with different styling to the 1967 AR-15, with all transistors in audio stages. All Phono socket inputs & 4mm posts for speakers, this looks an impressive amp, the brand is rated online by USA owners & the AK site has the schematic. The quality of the amp seeing it first time is very impressive, 17kg amp 47cm x 34cm x 14cm & a heavy cast fascia with a medium-dark walnut veneer case, a very classy looking amp indeed. Wood lid off reveals a full metal case, unlike other main brand amps that are just an unshielded wood top. Inside the boards look of high quality, a 1967 feel to things as it's based on the 1967 AR-15 & the board are edge plug in types that have the socket on a pivot so to aid testing. Quite a few axial caps in here that don't age well & the MW antenna needs pulling out fully to get to the input & speaker sockets & doesn't fold away with cables connected which may limit space. A pitch coated huge transformer too, nothing cost cut here. All the inputs have adjust pots like McIntosh preamps so there is a lot to service. The power amp board unplugs making it easy to work on to build or repair, the 70v axial caps are all equally old leak-crusty just a bit, but on cutting open they are still good, a production error probably. No bias adjust pot on this amp, as the 1966 Coral had, but it measured fine. The sizeable cast iron heatsink & solid metal control knobs shows how well made this amp is, we are impressed with how logical it all is with the plug in boards, so nice to work on with no wires hanging off them. The only less easy part is the 2 front control boards, 3 of the front switch covers need removing to free. The small control by the Headphone is a FM Squelch control. Semi complimentary design with 9 transistors on the power amp. Power supply is 70v-75v axials if no leaks here. The inputs board has a similar input stage to the B+O 4400 with a PP buffer stage. Our one looks so professionally built it might have been a ready-made one as there was the option as this is advanced work to do, if they wired the headphone socket round the wrong way. Scope out V/H is part of the construction testing features as are the bulldog clip wires on the transformer. So it looks like McIntosh in some ways & also like the early transistor Fisher amp, two of USA's top Hifi brands. The looks & solid build quality leave many amps behind. Trying it, the sound improves with use as long sleeping, a clean strong kicking sound is here. Rock sounds accurate to rate it highly, if not a bassy sounding amp as is typical of differential amps. Matches well to the Tannoy Golds if perhaps not a perfect match as original, certainly a good match. After recapping, it brought the treble out quite a lot more, leaving it a bit rough sounding, but it can be improved. Using Tone Flat does make a noticeable difference, even after upgrading. The 6000µf original capacitors we've left in as spec is good still. The clean honest, if unsophisticated original sound of this amp is prime for upgrading into a great sounding amp. Despite hours of trying testing & recapping, the Tuner working eludes us again, it's very difficult without a service manual & proper tuner test gear. BUY-RAW RATING: This is a home constructed kit by an unknown user, but generally these survive as they were a success. Some were sold ready-made. COOL RATING: 9 the styling here is great, chrome plated cast fascia, green lights & a walnut wood case, looks as classy as McIntosh gear, Underrated. (2015)
1971 Hitachi IA-1000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-EXcellent. UPGRADED: --. 55w.
CC. We certainly liked the Hitachi SR-1100 receiver below & to try the amplifier version has been a requirement for a while. Hard to find these amps, sales must have been very low if the quality is high. A 1971 55w amp with the service manual is findable. 2x very basic ICs is the same as the SR-1100 we had with the IC in the Phono (Equaliser) stage though it has a MC Phono stage pre the MM stage with transistors, the Tone & Preamp is all Transistors: Tone x4, Power Amp x9. Still a Capacitor Coupled design though ignoring the Phono it should still be a good sounding amp. Pity they couldn't add the transistors not the IC to elevate it into higher quality. IC is FA-6001T totally unfindable, though the SR-1100 shows the circuit equivalent. They call Capacitor Coupled "Sub Complimentary" as it's 2x NPN transistors, we'll still use Capacitor Coupled as it's clearer what it means. A lower powered 27w IA-600 exists too with similar looks to the receiver we had in this range. It has an odd amount of resistors on the Aux input like the SR-1100 did, though it can be altered to be as good as it too & it has output meters which is unusual on an amp this early. On getting a nicer one than some dodgy EU seller had, it's a heavy amp if the lid counts for an amount of that. Decent Phono sockets & Marantz type spring sockets, Big blanking plate covers 3x USA flat plug mains outlets & the small box with the serial number has the voltage changer. Nicely laid out front with Green-Blue meters which is very unusual this early, only McIntosh had meters on their power amps. We have the Pioneer SA-9100 here from 1973 & you can see it copies this quite a lot. Style is very like the SR-1100 if no Hitachi circle logo & dark wood veneer sides. Inside the same plug in amp boards as the SR-1100 has if the heatsink is inside as more space if both units are the same size, the tone-pre board is a plugin, the receiver looks very cramped on seeing this, if the main power caps is just one at 2200µf 100v, the other 2 are the speaker output caps, pity they didn't improve that. As this has MM & MC phono, again unusual for 1971, it's under a can lid with a MC board into the MM one which has the FA6001 ICs, but so basic you can see the shape of the transistor inside plus 7 resistors of precise values for their design, not some bought-in op-amp of today. First try reveals 'noises of the sea', the loudest background hiss & hum ever, anyone else getting this unfair item would be annoyed, but we know what it is. Even played quite loud the oceanics are audible if the sound it tight & beats the amp version as original, oh but the noise. The input circuit is unusual, all plus Phono after the MM/MC stages go through 1.5K resistor then the Mode switch & them a 39K resistor then to Balance, Volume & preamp-tone. It sounds great still but the 39K resistor is worse than the 22K one in the SR-1100 receiver. Signal then goes to the first gain stage, then to the Mic board, through another 15K resistor & back to the second gain stage with the Mic signal if used adding another 5.6K resistor. Then to a buffer with the Filter switches & then the tone gain stage. Power amp is interesting & a design used much later, no differentials as CC still, just one gain stage, then the splitter & the two drivers as push-pull before the outputs, with bias stages in between. But the large signal resistors totalling 59.6K are to lessen gain, if the 39K one drops 6db as the meter shows, it's like it's designed as Studio gear & dumbed for domestic use as it's louder than domestic hifi, the gain difference will be about 8db in total, to see if it's too loud, it'll be tried on speakers later.This amp is Studio Quality if dumbed down for Domestic use, sorting it out reveals a sound that is very 'there' and accurate, probably too much for most but for detail freaks as we are this has a precision unlike the hard Yamaha CR-1000 sound. Spec is actually low despite it sounding great on it.
BUY-RAW RATING: --. COOL RATING: --. (2015)
1971 Hitachi SR-1100 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 55w.
CC. An excellent well made amp we rate highly. Phono stage with ICs if Hitachi custom made basic ones. Headphone socket resistor is too loud & a few foolish spoilers in here as Hitachi made an amp way too good & had to dumb it down, or as we note later with the IA-1000 above. It needs a few alterations to get the best from it though, so we'll rate it a little more cautiously, though it upgrades very well. This amp is still remarkable with a few upgrades & 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 suggests maybe a 1970 model. 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 upgrades. 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, if undoing their odd c-e idea wasn't so great, so the IA-1000 will be left as-is. Hitachi are a hidden secret on their early few amps. The German box & manuals have "Lo-D" logo on instead of the Hitachi if the amp is the same. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 nice looking amp with wood side cheeks if not enough style in most of these these later amps now as you'll see by the scores. (2013)
1971 Leak Delta 30 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 15w.
CC. 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. See the 1971 Leak Delta 70 below as we ponder upgrading one. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 the Delta range is very appealing after the crude Stereo range, flush fitting thick fascia onto teak case with the back grille. In high grade these do look so cute. (2013)
1971 Leak Delta 70 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
CC. 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 board 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 top of case thin aluminium strip don't unpick it if part loose as it'll get dents & look ugly. Beware amateurs saying it has a MC input, it's a MICrophone input. Pity there wasn't a 60w amp in this range.
WORTH UPGRADING ONE? We've known the Leak Delta since getting one in the early 1990s & at a time did buy these but with the work of servicing, we outpriced ourselves as they are still a good budget buy. But the Leak Delta amps we have a fondness for, as one of the first Vintage amps we had. The Stereo 30+/70 are the same amp in an more 1960s earlier case design. The Delta 30/70 have a nice look if are not of any real excellence, but they are enjoyable & we'd recommend a Leak 30 or 70 as a perfect starter amp into Vintage. But to upgrade? Firstly the transistors in these are often poor, the Mullard BC147 type, & long ago putting in better ones sorted out the rough sound, of which the Stereo 30/70 suffer worst. The amp with the 4 plug-in boards is easy to get to though the axial caps limit things as only general quality ones are buyable. The trouble straight away is the Input circuit, it's Phono MM or Ceramic plus 2 Tuner with high-low switches. The best input is Tuner 1 as it has no resistor but we remember it being too loud as the circuit isn't a standard one. This sort of kills any upgrade-ability really, though the circuit gain could be altered & the Delta 75 has none of this. But looking further reminds us of the Tape Out having the Tone stage in it, not Flat which is annoying we remember from long ago if you record tracks from it. The power amp is not bad, it's just the preamp gain & inputs issue that holds it back. To fully upgrade one with redesign would take time & the results would be better but a risk of just too much of the amp would need redoing & for us selling upgraded hifi, we feel we'd outprice the amp as we did before on servicing them as they are easily bought & reliable. Getting axial caps is difficult as limited ranges & they need to fit the spaces. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 the Delta range is very appealing after the crude Stereo range, flush fitting thich fascia onto teak case with the back grille. In high grade these do look so cute. (2013)
1971 Leak Delta 75 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Highly Risky if otherwise Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 35w.
CC. Unlike the reliable Delta 30 & Delta 70 amps, this is perhaps the Worst Non-Budget Amplifier Ever Made, despite a decent sound. This was sold as a Quality Item, but so badly made & designed it's a Stinker. They must have failed after a couple of years or much less if used more as these are always found in 'attic' grade as the owner paid a hefty £160 for it in 1971-73, similar price as the 40w Sony STR-6055 & Teac AG-6000 with 50w. Not good value was it? The one on our 'Solds' page we recapped fully & it liked a few years ago & kept it for a while as it was then reliable. The construction is still like bits of other amp thrown together is a fair description of how it's made, it takes the Leak Tuner boards & fits the rest around it. 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. The earliest ones don't have the red warning box on the back & no antenna inside. The phono stage sounded decent. REVISITED. We thought we'd give it one last try a few years later than the last ones. First opinion was 'it's just so badly made'. But no good. It's just got too many bad problems, terrible build quality & TV grade parts. It's disappointing as we did get a decent sound from it part upgraded but it was too unreliable so in the bin went a third one, it burnt resistors, cooked capacitors but gave 15 mins play time four times before repairing got it too messy for the weak track just comes away so easily. Out of 4 we had, only the later run one on the 'Solds' page was safe & reliable, more miracle than luck, we used it often for a few months before selling it. But all others since have failed, failed & failed again. Enough. Very sad, but Harold Leak insulted buyers with this just before he sold out the company, the guy who was the first to use, not invent, NFB had a sick joke on the public with this awful amp. Many bad faults from bad capacitors, ultra thin board track, inadequate shielding & grounding. BUY-RAW RATING: Guaranteed Risk of failure due to bad capacitors & rubbish construction & design. This amp makes the awful 500 series Armstrong seem like quality, it's that bad. Do not Buy This Amp. COOL RATING: 8 the Delta range is very appealing after the crude Stereo range, flush fitting thich fascia onto teak case with the back grille. In high grade these do look so cute. The receiver looks great too, pity it's so unreliable. (2014)
1971 Marantz 2245 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 45w.
SC, DIFF. Early classic era Marantz, pre the hex nuts fascia, with a sweet but clean & focussed sound you can upgrade the deliberate-cynical limitations out to bring it away from the soft blurry 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 & easy to touch. Also to work on the power amps & bulbs is tricky. Hides it's potential with a surprising excess of cheap ceramics in the tone stage, but you may like that cosy soft sound. We upgraded ours & it came alive towards Excellent territory, if the 2265B here at the same time was preferred. So treble is soft, deep bass is light if thick on upper bass, this amp does sound overall nice, but it's severely hiding it's potential compared to fresher sounding amps. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 9 in the wood case, a bit plain without it. Earlier looks without the cute hex nuts but Marantz stuck with this design for so long as it is just so right. (2013)
1971 National-Panasonic SA-5800 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: n/a. 27w.
SC, DIFF. This brand 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 Bred Child of close knit Family of Electronic Wizards", far out, man. For liking this amp, we got the 1967 SA-65 receiver above... BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 very nice fascia if vinyl wrap loses it a point, purposeful & cute looking. (2013)
1971 Radford HD-250 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 50w.
CC. Radford are liked for their Valve amps, but this amp is a disaster. 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 usually be missing. Lab gear looks with a feeble aluminium lid with tape stuck inside to stop the capacitors touching as it flexed & old imperial spec screw threads even. The transformer is badly mounted so buzzes. Radford failed here. 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. A 1977 HFN advert confirms this really was 50w both channels driven continuous, Rated 50w, Max power 90w but distortion 0.006% at 25w is a bit foolish as it sounded awful. Way too crude & loud, 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 long unshielded 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 earlier valve amps are better than this lousy effort. The Radford SCA-30 is a bad one too, see Other Amps page. We have thought to try this again as our rating is harsh, but looking inside to remember it & the awkward circuits, we'll leave it be. Other Radford transistor amps aren't liked either, see the 'Other amps' page. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 1 this is one ugly swine of an amp, it looks like cheap lab kit & with none of the pro looks lab kit can have. The ugliest amp ever matching a Sugden as on the Other Amps page. (2012)
1971 Sansui 5000X receiver (F6013 version) ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 60w.
CC. 5000 version is 1968-69, 5000A is 1969-70, the 5000X is 1971-72. The 5000x with the new design F-6013 power amp is the best version of this one, the F-1040 boards on the earliest 'X' & the 'A' versions have heat sensing diodes that are fine if the amp is adjusted right, but the F-6013 is a better design. Like the 4000 has the Aux through a big resistor to Phono level & into the Phono board to be amplified up again which loses fidelity. But use Tape In to bypass that instead. A very lively sounding amp that upgrades better than the Sansui 4000 that was a bit unstable if upgrades were tried & overall is just a better amp. One of the last capacitor coupled amps but that is no loss to the sound which is the best of the Sansui to use as-is & still hear a great sound. Comes in either a metal case lid or a full wood case but no metal lid. Proves that an amp with the least amount of transistors & least stages of NFB sounds the best, this has 3 on the tone & the power amp stage is just 7 transistors. Still worth trying the Sansui 7000 & Sansui Eight of the early ranges, though the 5000X is certainly a winner and showed the 3000A up as a little lacking even needing altering. Seems the 5000X is much more wanted in the USA than the 5000A, appears to have sold well & be recognised for what a great amp it is. The 3000A can do well too but needs a huge amount of work to upgrade, the 5000X isn't too much to do in comparison.BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 looks very like the 1969 Teac if just lacking style for function. (2014)
1971 Sony TA-1130 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 65w.
SC, DIFF, FET preamp. The most accessible of the early Sony amplifiers. A tight accurate sound with FETs in the preamp. A quality cleaner, leaner, tighter & more natural sound is in here and this ranks it high, not as rich bass or upfront as the STR-6120 on a compare with it as original, though it can upgrade into a more full sound if still being neutral with wide Stereo imaging. The early Sony amps have an excellent midrange that is spot on for vocals & the 1130 is the cleanest sounding one after the 1965 TA-1120. We got the exact same amp back again, since then we've been using the valve receivers more & oddly prefer it's more natural sound to the big Yamaha CR-1000. This amp has a lot of spoilers especially in the preamp & once sorted the previous tidy polite sound is now more confident with a better natural bass that sounds very different with a neutral treble not as bright as some. A smart looking amp in the big walnut case as is the TA-1120A. The next step in Sony are the TA-3200F & TA-2000F pre & power 100w combo, one day perhaps. Semi complimentary power amp design, the first year Sony done this if not quite matching how good their earlier capacitor coupled design was, though we'd like to try one yet again. Getting this amp back yet again, needed a repair, the sound once right again was still in line with the Sony STR-6120 sound, if only with our upgrades. But still not as loud as 65w would suggest & we did find the FETs are a fixed design. After knowing the early 1965 Sony TA-1120 this still compares well, but only after some of the earlier sound is put back in, itherwise it still is quite thin & grainy sounding. THE WOOD CASES for the 1970s amps are a three part clip together teak with a grooved top, sizes will be similar to the TA-1120 noted above. To find these later ones in nice grade is difficult. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 looks like the TA-1120(A) if with the later crinkly control knobs taking a bit of class away, but still cool in the wood case which was the less smart 3 part teak one by now. without the case dips a point. (2015)
1971 Sony TA-1140 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 40w.
SC, DIFF. Still in the league of the best early Sony, but a bad 50mv 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 wrong spec is actually deliberate as others untouched have this setting, a cynical way to lessen the sound. The STR-6850 above has this too. This amp is not appreciated therefore, but it's hidden in there for an adjustment & we rate it 'Great' based on it being biased right as the minor upgrade, else it's only a 'Recommended' as it sounds soft. A more lively bassy sound than the 1130 if it's a midprice amp but with a more simple build design but can offer a fresher sound as the power amp is like the STR-6055. Semi-complimentary design. The sider volume control is a lesser idea to the rotary type. One known problem is messy solder which causes problems. It's still a great midprice amp once biased better. Good potential to upgrade here, this is more or less the Amp version of the STR-6055. THE WOOD CASES for the 1970s amps are a three part clip together teak with a grooved top, sizes will be similar to the TA-1120 noted above. To find these later ones in nice grade is difficult. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but only once adjusted right & risk of poor soldering. COOL RATING: 7 looks like the TA-1120(A) if with the later crinkly control knobs taking a bit of class away, but still cool in the wood case which was the less smart 3 part teak one by now. without the case dips a point. (2013)
1971 Sony STR-6036 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: n/a. 16w.
Sony were trying to appeal to all buyers from Budget TA-1010 to the STR-6120 or STR-6200F top amps by 1971 & this was one of their low models, if not the lowest. Laughably budget made 16w thing, hardly worth the effort to make surely as power & volume is pathetic, unlike the Trio low power ones which had some volume. 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. This is actually a 1971 model as in a 1971 brochure with the STR-6055, STR-6046, STR-6200F & STR-6850, showing Sony started into budget gear earlier than we thought. Not worth retrying as such a feeble volume, this is Sony's turkey for sure. BUY-RAW RATING: Good COOL RATING: 6 looks smart & very 1971 midprice style with the wood veneer case, but hides a mediocre amp. (2012)
1971 Sony STR-6055 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
SC, DIFF. As this with the STR-6065 is basically the receiver version of the TA-1140 if sounding a little more like the TA-1130. A more friendly richer sound with the receivers than the amp if UK buyers still didn't buy Sony as much until the 1973 more basic ranges. Fresh & open sound if deep bass is a bit lacking though as typical, but at 40w it's acceptable. The power supply is cramped up on the versions with fuses above & is a weakness as ventilation is limited. The internal layout of the power amp & power supply is poor with no shielding of sections so the power amp is open to the power supply & tuner stages. A very different amp to the feeble STR-70xx series that followed, but is a bit midprice looking on a later look. Looks smart in the wood case as do all Sony of this era. The 1971 ranges of Sony were still their quality era as the two below reveal. We did see potential to upgrade, but with others around, we didn't try. Based on the STR-6850 being so good & this being fairly similar, upgrading needs doing, though looking again the semi-complimentary power amp board is very tightly packed making upgrading difficult & it'll never be a STR-6120. BUY-RAW RATING: Generally good if the power supply can be a bit risky. COOL RATING: 8 looks very like the 1969 STR-6050 with the alu fascia. (2013)
1971 Teac AS-100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
SC, DIFF. One of the most precise & clean sounds we've heard in an amplifier in our earlier amp testing & 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 you could replace it with transistors by looking at the AG-7000 circuit. This amp upgrades up very highly. Got us trying the Teac AG-7000 which beats the AS-100 for the higher power & no ICs. Oddly the later production 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. See 1969 Teac AG-6000 above for our latest verdict on these Teac gems. Still being sold in 1976 as shop ads show. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 no wood case but an appealing Bauhaus styled Industrial quality classy look here with black & aluminium fascia & mirror control knobs. (2013)
1971 Trio-Kenwood KR-4140 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 18w.
CC. 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 upgrade, most components are on the one board as is the 5150 below. The rating is actually 18w on seeing the specs on the user manual, 18w into 8 ohms both channels driven. Not to put the amp down, it's a decent one for what it is, but the way this was sold in USA as 95w 'Power Output' into 4 ohms, which is Peak Power for 1 second before it destroys. This must have been one of the last to use the dishonest ratings before it was outlawed, the USA manual hypes it very unfairly. Also amps used to put Power Output Continuous per channel, so this rates 24w per channel, meaning you play one channel only, you get 24w. To play it Stereo into 8 ohms, 18w is the rating. But the USA flyer makes no mention of 18w both channels used. Also the power bandwidth is 30Hz-30kHz but no mention of how rolled off it is, from how it sounded it could be -20dB at 15kHz & for an 18w amp 30Hz will be even lower. Bandwidth needs a qualifier in dB of where it's limits are. Did try the similar 5150 below to get a later opinion, but not so impressed with the later receivers & we've not tried any Trio later than 1972 as the quality dips off & ICs become Trio's way to stop us being interesred, see all the Trio amps we've looked at on the 'Other Amps' page in search of a later one. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 pretty typical budget looks here, not ugly but nothing stylish here. (2011)
1971 Trio-Kenwood KR-5150 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 33w.
CC. 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. 33w is the Continuous power into 8 ohms with both channels driven rating, the manual shows various confusing ratings. Not much else to say really, the sort of amp that was good enough without anything particularly quality like earlier Trio. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 pretty typical budget looks here, not ugly but nothing stylish here. (2013)
1971 Yamaha CA-700 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 60w.
SC, DIFF. 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 crack & fail, though other amps use smaller versions of this type fine & new ones can be got. But there is a lively open sound on these early 1971 CA/CR-700s that is more restrained in the later ones. We did try to upgrade this but the tone board is a strange design that isn't upgrade friendly at all. Before this 1971 range Yamaha mostly only made record player-receivers though there is an AA-70 receiver of about 25w. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if power amp board sockets are intact. COOL RATING: 8 a pretty looking amp with wood veneer case, unlike the 1973-77 Yahama style. (2013)
1971 Yamaha CR-700 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
SC, DIFF. 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. Not a good match for the early era speakers like Tannoy Golds. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 as with the matching CA-700 amp, pretty looks functional with a friendly look unlike some harsher looks. (2014)
1972 B+O Beomaster 4000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 40w.
CC. An improved version of the 3000(-2) with 40w now. Still a lively sound if not as high fidelity as others & we recapped our first one partly as it needed it & brought 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. Probably the best sounding B+O with 40w if still a more domestic sound. B+O capacitors if not the 1976 era dark red ones are generally good on these, only later B+O from 1971 start to get to be unreliable. After having had several B+O we rate this their best one. After not having a B+O for well over a year & so many great amps of higher quality, the B+O 4000 now sounds quite ordinary. Recap-upgrading but not more fine tuning betters the bass but the quality of sound is still not as precise as the big hitters on this page as the power supply is weak. Build quality is not the highest. B+O do sell more on style than sound, B+O used to be a status symbol in the 1980s, and the sound is good enough for most but our researching these amps has found it lower down the ratings on this revisit. They are also a pain to service & fitting any new power supply caps takes creativity. All 4 bulbs must be good or not all will light as with the 3000. No cloudy sliders with the 4000. All DIN sockets, with no Aux but use Tape 1 or 2. Phono is MM & all inputs have adjust pots to match the Tuner volume. Suited the Tannoy Golds perfectly sounding pretty decent with wide Stereo if lacking the ultimate fidelity of other amps as the midrange was a little soft it was still good on bass & treble. After trying the Beomaster 4400, playing the Tuner is similar on both if the Tape 1/2 inputs are a weakness on the 4000. BUY-RAW RATING: Always in need of a good Servicing, bad switches & controls are common raw. Capacitors on later B+O often bad. To take the front panel apart is risking insanity.COOL RATING: 6 this is basically the Beomaster 3000 upgraded, but the black finish is hard to see in darker rooms so loses the cool appeal to us. (2014)
1972 Goodmans Module 80 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 35w.
CC. UK made budget amp but with a good honest sound, but it'll always need recapping as the same poor black plastic caps as the Leak Delta 75 has, but it's an easier amp than the LD75. Lots of potential to upgrade up it's clean if slightly raw typical British sound if you fancy a challenge & know what to upgrade, ie most of it. We recapped one recently as we had one years ago, just to see what it was like. Only minus is DIN connectors for all. again it stood out as a good amp in 2012, we have considered getting one to upgrade even more, but it's just an amp that sells cheaply today & even sounding Excellent it'd be a hard sell. BUY-RAW RATING: The black capacitors must be replaced as they are always bad or failing. COOL RATING: 5 only very basic looks with no real style but not ugly. (2012)
1972 Harman-Kardon 930 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 48w.
SC, Diff. The highest powered HK receiver until the ones that appear in the 1980 HFYB. Oddly there are no specs found, a 1972 test shows 48v if it puts out 32v clean sine in line with a 55w-60w amp. We've wanted to try one of these for ages, but they are hard to find. Did have what was the later 1977 if similar looking 40w Harman-Kardon 730, from looking at inside pics, found in about 1991 at a car boot for £20 when these were deeply unfashionable & did find it sounded nicer than the B+O 3000, so a need to get the 45w one. The double transformers & 4 main capacitors, a progression from the Sansui 3000A that uses separate windings from one transformer, to make the power amps an enclosed monobloc pair. It looks quite like the Teac receivers & Sansui 4000 in looks, inside quite like Trio-Kenwood, despite being a USA brand it's still made in Japan. Rare with the wood case, a plain teak lid that goes over the leatherette vinyl covered metal lid. Inside 2 transformers of good size & 4 main capacitors, not much tuner board area compared to some if AM/FM. Red lit power switch & green tuner display only lit when tuner is used. A smart looking amp. The boards are unmarked, no components noted at all is unusual. Underneath it looks 1969-71 style with Alps pots & Elna caps but not looking familiar in construction like other Japanese made amps. The added stickers to show 240v use give the idea not many were made for UK-EU sales. Proper Aux on this unlike the Sansui 4000. Transistor counts are Phono x2, Tone-Pre x4 with circuitry usually only seen in earlier amps, Power Amp is x8 with Differential, driver, bias & the driver-output PP stages, no fussy protection circuits to spoil the sound here, just a 3A fuse on the speaker outputs. the 6800µf power caps are unusually large for the era. First try it was very weak sounding, but then after Servicing it improved to an extent, but was still not very exciting at all. The sound of ours unused in decades suggests high quality is in here, with a strong precise treble if bass & power are not very lively. As with any amp, you don't know how it's been stored & our wood lid was sun faded at the rear half so the power amp caps were aged worse than usual. Using the Soundcard EQ, +2dB 62Hz & +4dB 31Hz fills the sound out better, showing it's not far off, but in heed of recapping. The quest to find a quality 1970s Differential Amp is not an easy one, most are blurry sounding treble & lack bass in comparison to earlier CC amps, even after much upgrading. Just doing the Power Amp brings a significant improvement with bass now & a quality of detail improved similarly, though suspect the caps were too aged for the difference. The extra separation & individuality of the double transformers is noticeable here on Stereo and headphones. This modest looking amp is particularly good as we'd expected it to be, it is superior to the soft Marantz sound of the era for detail. But further comparing reveals the smoothness is boringness, it just doesn't have much bite or dynamics even with new caps & for it having the output of a 60w amp we can turn it past midway & still not find it enough volume, as was found with the Luxman R-1040, but we can deal with this. HK made basically an excellent amp here but us knowing amps well can pull it up on some 'errors' that we'd have expected better of a popular brand, or perhaps this was some early dumbing down, some of it makes no sense now, but oddly the 1977 HK is no different, so maybe the thin, soft & a bit too upfront midrange sound is the HK sound. We didn't like that so gave it a bit of life & it now sounds much better, more like the 1971 Heathkit sounds after similar. The FM stage here is modest on board with 3 ICs, but it has a detailed neutral sound that is not often found, only the NAD 300 tuner sounded like this. The design of this amp, once upgraded, reveals the double power supply removes a blurriness to the sound with peaks having a separate power supply to aid definition, but as original that's not very obvious. Of all the amps we've upgraded, this improves the most from original, the original amp we have to rate quite averagely as even if yours has better original caps, the sound is uninvolving, maybe why it's a rarer one. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, if can sound very average until serviced. COOL RATING: 7. Without the wood case it's just a Sansui 5000 looking amp of no real style but tuner lit up it looks smart to be a 6, the rare but plain wood top lid gives it the 7.(2015)
1972 New Acoustic Dimension (NAD) 160 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w-55w.
SC, DIFF. The nicest sounding early NAD, see 1975 for the NAD 160a, 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. Unfortunately NAD power supplies on the receivers were lousy with overhot resistors, clearly no-one bothered to test these & sellers of the day used to report these as unreliable. But the few 160 or 160a's we've had always get the power supply recapped & that hot resistor replaced with a 25w one fixed to the casework. 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 upgrade it better. We've had a few of these now as it's an amp we like & the one we upgraded 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 had a few now. We actually had one that failed so early that it still smelt like a new amp inside, how could NAD be so hopeless? The big NAD 300 receiver still has overheating regulators, then again most Yamaha of the 1973-77 ranges are similar, was it deliberate? For a midprice amp, it's good value & the fact we've had several of these means we liked it & fully upgraded one to see how it did. We rate the 160 higher as-original simply for the bass-limiting circuit in the 160a, get rid of it & they are no different sounding. A seller of these at the time noted they were a bit unreliable, if only for this one issue. BUY-RAW RATING: Beware failing overheated power supplies, else beyond that it's a good amp. COOL RATING: 8 cute looking amp like the 1971 Yamahas with nice reeded control knobs & a wood veneer lid. (2014)
1972 Photax Concertone 800B amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 32w.
Cute & obscure amp together with the matching tuner, great lively sound that is really just a little less focussed than others. In real Teak veneer too. 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 at this level & we still rate it a 'great' for what it is, belatedly appears in the 1975-76 hifi books. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 wood veneer lids with basic looking fascia but with the tuner it looks cute. (2013)
1972 Pioneer SX-828 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 60w.
SC, DIFF. As the SA-9500 was far better than we expected, so time to look at Pioneer afresh after the rough sound the SX-950 type has, but seeing development & a mix of ideas in these earlier ones. The SX-828 is their 60w top of the range receiver incorporating new fully complimentary design which is early for 1972, most were still semi-complimentary. A very well built receiver with top cages on the top half like the KA-6000 above has & a place for a MC Phono transformer that was an extra, unlikely many bothered. Very clear from the preamp that the SA-9500 design started here though it does still have some 1970 style boards underneath. The power supply has some heat issues. The sound is lively with good bass & the treble is of a good quality if not quite what we could get out of the SA-9500. The fascia is a particularly attractive one with the blue lights on black with purple-grey anodised controls that looks smart. The top lid is a bit thin but again smart in real wood veneer & edges. This was £281 new when the 45w Marantz 2245 was £279. This has large capacitors, decent transformer, densely packed underneath with the preamp on a classy double sided PCB. This looks a very good quality amp. The amplifier equivalent is the SA-9100 if it has extra transistors on the power amp, 11 vs 8 on the SX-828. The one we got has had little use & sounds so unlike the SA-9500 did when it arrived, the sound is like our upgraded SA-9500 became but this is all original. This amp we hear started the receiver wars, if the SX-838 is the big sized one & maybe inspired Yamaha to up their game to the CR-1000 quality. But looking at the Trio KA-6000 it led the way really... BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 smart looking receiver without the gaudy looks of later Pioneer with a slanted front, purply control knobs and blue tuner. The best looking 1970s Pioneer receiver. (2014)
1972 Rogers Ravensbrook Mk III receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: Excellent. 15w.
SC, Transformer coupled. The Rogers brand was only ever Midprice on the Cadet series, earlier ones & the HG88 were aiming at a Higher Quality, but the two big selling Transistor amps Ravensbrook & Ravensbourne are very lousy. 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. Just not very impressive, we see buyers paying too much for these Ravensbrook & Ravensbourne amps, but we'd not try one again, the rating is harsh but we don't really see a 'Recommended' in it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if usually full of dust & much from casing gaps. COOL RATING: 6 wood veneer case & minimalist design looks smart if cheaply made. (2012)
1972 Rotel RA-610 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 32w.
SC, DIFF. 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 upgrade up well to lose the midrange imbalance. One certainly worth buying if 32w will do, more sophisticated than the similar Leak. A nicely made amp. One we had early on in our Amp testing just to see what there was, a nice amp but not one we'd try to upgrade now as there are many better, but a good starter amp to buy. Another 2012 rated amp, Rotel are a good brand if finding ones of high power beyond the big late 70s receivers isn't easy, the 1977 RX603 reveiver below was the only other one we tried. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 smart looking amp if the sliders lessen the looks. (2012)
1972 Trio-Kenwood KA-6004 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 40w.
FC, DIFF. The fully complimentary follow up to the KA-6000 has a high quality fresh open sound that has potential to be upgraded out. FC here is the earliest we note, 1973-74 is more usual. Having had the KA-6000 again, the KA-6004 we have to say betters it in some ways if being about equal ranking overall. A very accurate rich sound with a fine deep bassline, 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. 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. The preamp-tone board looks very expensive, a double sided effort of quality & then the scrappy boards in the centre as well as the power amp board being way too cramped up. Sadly Trio after this 1972 range cheaped out for ICs & cheap sales, others did too especially sony, but Trio-Kenwood you can see didn't recover as the 'Other amps' page reveals some of their big receivers are hideous IC stuffed nightmares. But their 1967-72 era has enough good amps to make it one of the best brands. We've not tried any Trio later than 1972 as the quality dips off & ICs become Trio's way to stop us being interesred, see all the Trio amps we've looked at on the 'Other Amps' page in search of a later one. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 smart looking in high grade if plastic wrap side cheeks & the fragile switch levers are hard to get perfect. (2013)
1973 Armstrong 625 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
CC. Cheaply made with bad power supply capacitors & plastic bases, it actually sounded better than average, but for how badly made it is in certain areas we'll not rate it more than this. In 1973 the 525 matched the B+O Beomaster 4000 in basic spec at £110 vs £193 of the B+O. The big capacitors are explosions waiting to happen if not blown already, best to avoid this brand. Did we say Armstrong Are The Worst Hifi Brand Ever? They've been around since 1929 remarkably. Don't waste your money on their earlier ones, read more below in the lousy amps section... We hear a very late 1970s Armstrong made just before they closed is good, but no details findable & nothing on the HFE site though circuits are findable on one site. Armstrong on their 400 & 500 range used obsolete Germanium transistors, buying up unwanted stock cheap & were still selling the 500 range until this 600 range arrived. That is The Biggest Hifi Swindle ever. Read their ads in the 1972 HFYB & they have the cheek to say their awful 500 range is better than anything else. The remarkable BS hype of the 600 range in the 1976 HFYB ad gives the idea the range is the 'best ever made' in the sort of gushing hype that surely would be illegal now. The amp is cheaply made with no quality in construction, messy wiring with low TV grade components. The Goodmans UK receivers were a far better buy at this time. This sort of false hype gives British Hifi a bad name... Not one we'd want to buy again as full upgrdes would not get a buyer as these are budget buys today. To be fair to it, the cheap construction apart, it could upgrade to a better rating, but not for us. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky as the main capacitor is usually bad, else not so bad if the casework is intact, but it's budget gear once sold with dodgy hype. COOL RATING: 5 the piano key switches add some style if it'd be below average otherwise. (2012)
1973 NAD 90 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 45w.
SC, DIFF. 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. A 2012 review & we did try one later that was trashed & found it not worth bothering with again, unlike the NAD 160(a) that we've had a few of. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 lacks the confidence of the receivers & looks a bit cheap beyond the fascia. (2012)
1973 Nikko TRM-500 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 22w.
FC, DIFF. Sounds more like a 35w amp & looks more 1971 in design, semi complimentary, punchy sound could easily upgrade 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 22w 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. Actually only 22w but clearly a punchy sounding amp. Not tried any other Nikko since this, not many around to try, but we'll keep looking. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 smart looking with wood veneer case if quite typical looks otherwise. (2012)
1973 Pioneer SA-9100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 60w.
FC, DIFF. This amp is getting silly over-excited reviews (by sellers naturally...) saying that this is the "Best Pioneer Amp" & it sounds "Absolutely Fantastic". "Not So" is our verdict knowing other Pioneer of the era. But it certainly is the nicest sounding Pioneer Amp based on upgrading it & knowing others on this page, if it lacks the kick you'd expect at this sort of power. We know the 1974-75 Pioneer as you'll read below & it seems these silly reviews are by those who have never heard the 1965 Sony TA-1120 for example. Pioneer foolishly let their Hifi be sold in Discount Stores, unlike Yamaha & seeing 30% discounts in 1972-73 on amps like this sadly meant Pioneer had to heavily cost cut yet still make out their products were good. This means specs of design will be cost cut & to those who see past amateur opinions, these 1973-76 Pioneer are sadly Rough sounding with No Bass. But as below shows too, Pioneer are still great amps, the circuits are good, but only after some severe upgrading, revealing what they should have sounded like & probably did nearly when designed, before the cost-cutting began. The circuitry is very like the SX-838 below & it was a tough one to upgrade properly as so much was dumbed down, but it did sound great, if not World Class, once upgraded. On seeing it, a bit smaller than you'd expect knowing how huge the SX-838 is, 429mm wide x 309mm deep x 134mm high & 13.6kg. Small hole spring speaker sockets, better than those awkward plugs, still the same 1967 style voltage changer-fuse block & pre out-power in sockets with level controls for Phono 2, Aux 2 & Speaker B if oddly still early double mono Mic input sockets. Phono impedance selector too, so several things like the SA-9500 has. The Phono uniquely has L+R on separate boards, if perhaps more to fit in the amp than a design idea. The fascia is soberly laid out unlike the busy receivers, but noticeably odd is the two Bass & treble controls that seems to allow Tone shading, the 20kHz one is a bit pointless as it has two Filters & the strange Volume level set option plus another for Muting, a bit neurotic here. Not too different from the Sony TA-1130 in terms of features really beyond that. Has a smart walnut real veneer lid, unlike the tatty effort on the SX-838. Inside is neat, a cage over the preamp & power supply if it is very cramped up. The spec in this amp as we look to upgrade it is very weak, but sadly this is the Pioneer way after the discount stores ruined the profits. It looks well made but every penny spent in what doesn't show has been saved, very bad business sense. The power supply board is awful as it gets too hot under the cage & fries the board risking failure. The stepped tone controls are hard wired unlike the PCB mounting of the SA-9500. Underneath is the protection circuit & filter amp with the other half of the phono boards at the front corner, the rest is passive switching. The 15000µf 50v power caps are very high value for 1974. The small board in the middle top is the first stage of the power supply, with the left front board the regulators, quite like the SA-9500 in part but hiding hot regulators in a cage with just a few vent holes is the weakness here, The rest we are impressed with. It looks quite like the 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 too, rather than the more modern Yamaha range. So to play it, unserviced & raw, to see what excited hypists are hearing: beyond noisy controls, the sound is more like the SX-828 when we got it than the less impressive SX-838. It has quite a lively sound that will impress, but we can listen deeper with known tracks & hear the foundations aren't so solid. Bass is there if in that retro way with a slightly boomy mid bass that impresses the unaware, if the deep bass, as with Pioneer & many other amps, shies away. Treble is smoothed off, a bit rough edged here but known tracks lack the open treble top end. compared to sound we got from the 1972 HK930, this is a cardboard version, but shows upgradeability is here. Full central balance on this amp is half a notch to the left to centre it. The more tracks we play, the more artificial it sounds, the one-note bass isn't right & it's clearly tailored as the spec shows, but it will impress the inexperienced hifi listener as it does have a good sound. Onto some Rock and it brings contorted facial expressions as the low spec hits with Punk-Rock Guitar sounding quite soft & rough even up loud, no real bite or kick, if decent to many still, it's weak to us. Stereo width appears decent if hard to be sure as the treble detail is soft. As all-original, we'll rate it 'Great' though it's not serviced but has been used recently that will have woken it up. In comparison to a raw 1977 Yamaha CA-1010 with a much more confident sound, the SA-9100 is polite & inoffensive but certainly adequate, if lacking the precision that makes Excellent amps. Loud midrange detail in a track can be heard breaking up as the spec doesn't have the confidence to allow full resolution, this is the Pioneer sound by this era. The false one-note bass does becomes tiring after 20 minutes on headphones. Looking at the amp innards as we work on it, very nicely made if pretty cramped up, you can see why the SA-9500 was so much larger. One issue is the Low Filter switch needs to be set upwards else it still filters bass through a small capacitor, you'd have thought midway as the others are for Flat would be more sensible, if actually the power amp already has a subsonic filter in the circuit, again doing things doubly is the deal here, the spoilers-designer must have had personal issues to be so wary & spoiling the sound, be sure it was designed to perfection & dumbed down as much to stop the public moaning when using cheap gear with it. Now upgraded, not easy with the tightly packed amp, but you can see it's worthy of an Excellent as it certainly is: clean, crisp, correct bass with a certain extension. But it has to be said, it's competent but not very inspiring, the solution is to -2 on the 100Hz & +4 on 20kHz to alter the balance, which on playing flat on headphones shows this is a very fine amp once upgraded. On putting it all back together, the feet are too small so it sits too low, needs 1cm more height to aid ventilation. BUY-RAW RATING: Surprisingly Risky for the awful power supply board overheating-low spec, the one under the cage on the left & on our one a main cap failed. No easy buy here as with the Yamaha CR-2020 as it'll fail for sure if not sorted. COOL RATING: 7 smart sober looking amp if a little excessive on the controls makes it a bit busy. Real wood veneer here. (2015)
1973 Sanyo DCX-8000K receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 40w.
FC, DIFF. First thing, rethinking Sanyo: a brand later tainted by much Dixons quality crapulence in the 1980s onwards, ignore all that & look at this 40w fully complimentary amp from 1973 like it deserves. Looks very like a 1973 Sansui Eight or a 1973 Pioneer & inside like Teac or Hitachi, Sanyo designed & made Transistors & ICs so are well worth a try for early Hifi. Smart looking silver front with the usual quality of a 1971-73 receiver. The power amp section is caged. This amp is all Transistors if typical Tuner ICs. Transistor count is decent: Phono x2, Tone-Pre x4 with 2 of those as Buffers, Power Amp x10 if the last 6 are the push-pull stage so it'll sound good & upgrade well. Headphone resistor a little high perhaps. 4700µf 50v main caps is typical for the age if a little mean. Nice midprice quality amp with a quality sound, more advanced design as very focussed, accurate & clean on the midrange. As original Bass is a bit retro-limited & Treble with likely ceramics is a bit fizzy but but easily deserving a 'Great' for all-original as the quality is there with an accurate sound balance. Not much with Sanyo apart from the 1968 30w receiver DC-60, others just low power. Betters the NAD 160 which is a similar sort of receiver in quality. A good find. Probably exported more as one seen on ebay.de. A bit low spec overall originally, probably to keep the sell price low, but it deserves better as it's a good amp. So after giving it better spec on Pre, Power Amp & Supply it transforms into a different amp with deep bass sounding as good as many of the above amps. As buyers will be cautious of Sanyo, we'll not go further upgrading it to keep the price accessible, but Judge Not the brand name on their earlier gear. But in tests with other amps (as recapped & upgraded), it didn't ashame itself at all & is worthy of upgrading further as the sound is clean & honest. You'd never think it was this good. Sanyo's Golden Moment. Sounding fresher than the Pioneer SX-838 with ease, the sound is like the 1971 Yamaha without their weak preamp. The range the 8000 appears in with the 4000 & 6000 appear in a 1975 HFYB advert, but never the book pages, boasting of Direct Coupling & Pure Complimentary Circuit. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 typical looks of the era copying Pioneer if undistiguished for any higher rating. (2014)
1973 Sony TA-1150 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 35w.
FC, DIFF, IC. Not such a good design on this cost cut amp compared to the similar TA-1140, it's 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, but it can be bettered. Phono IC also. More average Sony though a 1975 later TA-3650 amp gets rated higher, the 1150 still looks better with classic Sony looks still here. One we used on speakers & headphones, it wasn't a bad Sony, but the IC & the sloppy manufacture put it as not worth trying to upgrade. On getting the TA-1130 & using it similarly, the 1150 was clearely a lesser beast in terms of sound, both as all original. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 sliders & push buttons lose the style of early Sony if still purposeful. (2010)
1973 Sugden A48 Mk I amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
FC, if no DIFF. the only FC or SC amp beyond the 1960s ones not to have the Differential. 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 upgradecing 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 upgrade ours any further. Beware of fools replacing the volume control as it loses the power switch, it's not faulty. So many of these & the earlier Richard Allen ones have been ruined by those who don't know they were made only to give a better volume at half-setting as the user booklet states, don't mess with them. We bought a new set of original push buttons from Sugden, but they said supplies were limited at the time. A 2012 review showed up how good it was, but it was too tame & the axial caps to upgrade UK amps is awkward. But no denying Sugden were much better quality than Leak, Rogers & similar UK brands at this time. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if it needs the tone board inside pots properly calibrated & beware volume control replacement. COOL RATING: 3 very plain looks in average quality case didn't inspire us to use it much, really not good enough. (2012)
1973 Yamaha CA-1000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 70w + 15w Class A.
FC, DIFF, FET. Their first 70w amp with Class A, a warmer midrange balance loses it detail if very clean otherwise, but we got the CA-1010 just as we finished ours & sold this too fast. 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, if the quality was there to rate highly. The only minus is some boards are a bit cramped as is typical with Yamaha though we've upgraded several now. This was the first Yamaha we upgraded as the amp needed work & led to a whole heap of Yamaha as you can see. One of the better Hifi brands especially in the post 1972 era but pity there are no 1960s ones. We saw our amp later on ebay & thought to get it back to go further with it, but didn't, the seller had agreed it was a bit soft sounding, but it may also be more neutral in comparison to amps we've had since. We should try another one, as the CA-1010 we've found very different. Not an easy one to find though. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 classy looking minimalist pro looks, well laid out, certainly a male appeal amp if too stark looking for all domestic use. (2012)
1973 Yamaha CR-800 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
FC, DIFF. A particularly good sounding & well made receiver, punchy wide spaced stereo with a sweet sound and more bassy than Yamaha usually made. This is the 'easiest' Yamaha to buy & use just serviced, with a high quality sound balance from buying one all-original. Not as loud & upfront as the CR-1000 and actually more listenable to for a longer session we found using headphones on our upgraded one. Getting another one later after getting amps like the Nat-Pan & the Marantz PM6002, this still does sound a great amp & without the loud CR-1000 to compare it too by itself it certainly pleases, treble is detailed and certainly not lacking punch on Rock. Trying it unserviced it was warm & a bit raggedy sounding, but after it tightened up the sound very well. Pity it's only a vinyl wrap case, though to reveneer in teak or the CR-1000 type american walnut is a nice idea. The USA 117v version and the one with the 3 mains outlets & 190w noted is vinyl wrap too sadly, they all have the same veneer pattern. But there is a rare DIN sockets-only version with added German wording. 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 upgrade & recap this was too tempting & we'd like to go further still knowing it's the Yamaha we like best. The result was in the league of the CR-1000 & CA-800II if a fuller bassier sound than either. The only minus with Yamaha overall is they don't match to all speakers, the pre 1975 Tannoys don't match many. As you can see, it's our favourite Yamaha amp. Playing a Serviced but Original one the sound is bassy, reasonably crisp & lively if lacking a cleaner focus. Treble is typically fizzy on loud Rock as most amps are for the cheap ceramic capacitor which we upgrade to film. In comparison to the competing Pioneer SX-828 & SX-838 this betters them, as based on all original. Unlike the CR-1000 below, this was a great match to the Tannoy Golds which was unexpected. Recap & upgrade later, it reveals a clean sound and sounding more neutral than the bassy original sound with cleaner focus & a good punchy sound that is not tiring. Of all the Yamaha amps we've upgraded, this is capable of the most neutral sound. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Needs a deep service to sound it's best else it's a bit soft sounding. Bulbs are usually in need of replacing. COOL RATING: 8 the classy Yamaha looks if more friendly looking for domestic use. (2014)
1973 Yamaha CR-1000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 75w.
FC, DIFF, FET. The biggest of the 1973-78 Yamahas to us but a difficult amp that can sound very harsh, even when serviced & doesn't match with Speakers as well as some, it sounded poor on 1969 Tannoy Golds which is one of few that don't match. Buying an all-original one needs a deep service to sing it's best to give an extremely revealing upfront Pro sound that will shamelessly reveal post 1975 era speakers & any headphones as being inferior if it sounds hard. This is what most will find & realise it's not an easy amp to use. We see this amp being bought & resold as the buyer hasn't read our review & finds it too harsh, especially unserviced. Before servicing it always sounds soft & nothing special & we've had three now. Suited best to ported speakers, it didn't match well at all with earlier ones. A big upfront kicking sound best suited to a big room: it is strong, accurate, tight bass & impressive but a louder sound than most amps & is great fun resolving music to the right master level, but can be overpowering too as a more Pro-Sound volume than Domestic Hifi sound the CR-800 is. It can be quickly tamed if required just with the loudness slider to mellow it back so you can have a more domestic balance at 3-5 on Loudness. It is one of the Best Built of the amps we've had & after going very deep into the circuits, we found the upgrade potential of this amp is very high & later see there is more still in it. As great as it is, the fresh open sound of a valve amp will still be preferred in comparisons as there is a lot of circuitry in here. 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. 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 stage versions, the later 7 transistor one is decent after some minor changes. Certainly one of the best high wattage receivers & for 1973 can take on any 1977-79 era receiver & better it for sound, but only if you can take the big upfront sound in a big room. But use it unserviced & you'll wonder what the fuss is about. A big minus with this CR-1000 is it doesn't match to all speakers, the pre 1975 Tannoy Golds don't match at all. A flawed gem therefore, rated cautiously for how poorly it matched to the early Tannoys, the 1977 ranges match nicely. The reason why Yamaha could make their superior 1973-77 range we found out by seeing a 1972 ad for the CR-700 etc. They wouldn't have their products put in the discount stores, but Pioneer, JVC & Akai did and so became heavily cost cut. A wise choice, if Yamaha had allowed Discount Stores to get their 1971-72 range, we'd not have got their Classic Range. The odds this receiver existing if it wasn't for the Pioneer SX-828 is interesting, if Yamaha didn't cost cut like Pioneer. These amps are what started the Receiver Wars, if some of the 1967-68 ones above are comparable. As with the CA-1010 below, the Pro-Sound volume & it can sound 'Clinical' on the wrong sort of small speakers as you need 15" ones & ones later than 1975 to do the sound justice. Buy it to use right & Excellent it is, but it could be too good or mismatched for most speakers is the serious caveat here. We hear one seller tries to say the power switch is commonly faulty, not so on any Yamaha & we've had plenty, seems it's only on the same one offered again... BUY-RAW RATING: Good if needs deep servicing to bring it alive. COOL RATING: 8 serious kit looks if rather daunting looking with sliders & switches aplenty. (2014)
1974 Leak 2000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: Recommended. 35w.
DIFF, SC or FC? A capable, decent lively sound & much more reliable than the Delta 75 receiver, as with most Leak good midprice-quality value & readily findable. Also sold as 'Wharfedale SXP receiver' with a different fascia but same innards & back. For the price these sell for this amp is the one we'd suggest as a Good Budget Buy to start into vintage with, if the Leak 30 or 70 are better sounding. It'll not better a Yamaha of the same era in any way, as the rating suggests, 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. Build quality is much better than the Delta 75 is if it still uses TV grade parts yet after 40 years has survived better. We recapped & upgraded one quite a while back & it done well with only the 35w limiting what was a pleasing sound for what it is, if a bit grainy, bass light still & rather bright compared to better amps, showing spec is kept low. 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. The fascia bizarrely comes into many pieces, as not one piece. A basic phasey surround feature too isn't much use either. The silver paddle switches grow bigger as do the teak sides shrink as the run went on. An acceptable budget buy but not as good sounding as the 30, 70 & 75, but for the price to buy used, unserviced but working for under £100 it's a good start. We used to get these often before Servicing them up fully outpriced them, the trouble with budget gear is it will only sell at a certain price even if better quality as serviced. Again like the Leak Delta 75 which we've tried again much later, this could upgrade further too, but it doesn't have the looks of the Delta range or enough buyer appeal beyond being a cheap amp, so the 2012 rating based on upgrading partly is probably all it'll be. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 some style of the era here on the teak ones, a bit Legoland with the buttons, but in all-black as export ones are, it looks very odd so only 4. (2012)
1974 Pioneer SX-838 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 55w.
FC, DIFF. The next one on from the SX-828 that we were impressed with. We'd never have tried these 1970s Pioneer after not liking the SX-850-SX-950 ones very much, but the SA-9500 Mk I has got us back into trying Pioneer & this is perhaps the last one to fill the gaps. A huge increase in size compared to the SX-828, this is nearly the size of the SX-850 if 4cm less deep. What a Big Amp for 1974. Shares some construction ideas with the SX-828 but mostly it's more like the SX-950 if less of a tin can despite being lighter, it is certainly a nicer made item. No power amp cage at all which is odd after the SX-828 & the Tuner board is right by the Power amp. Lilac tuner meters if sadly Vinyl Wrap not veneer loses it points on looks for such a big amp. Has metal casing on the pre-tone board, a few tantalums & the switches board is double sided with much ground track. At last those awful Speaker plug blocks are gone, now with bare wire spring connectors. From the progress from 1970 to 1972, this being 1974 betters the 1976 range so is very likely the Best Pioneer Receiver for sound quality, but the rating of "G-E" on the SX-828 compared to just "G" here suggests not so, as original, if both upgraded well. For the rough Economy of the year, not an easy one to find. Still a hot resistor on the power supply to sort out & some poor soldering there too. The SX-828 is the better amp of the SX-828 & SX-939 to us, the Transistor counts are (828:939) Phono x 3:4, Tone x 3:4, Power Amp x 7:10, the 939 adds a Differential in the Phono, 2 more gain transistors in the tone if no FET & Power amp has Doubled outputs if HT is 44v on the 828 to 45v on the 939 so it'll not play any louder for it's 75w. The SX-939 power amp circuit is remarkably similar to the SA-9500. The first signs of the Pioneer overdesign showing here in the 939 preamp, the 828 has more potential. This has audio qualities the SA-9500 has after much upgrading but looking into the Circuits, there still are quite a lot of deliberate weaknesses & spoilers, not as harsh as the SA-9500 but the sort to weaken the sound quite noticeably still in all ways. Upgrading was well worth it. The Sound of the Amp as unserviced if recently used was quite decent & after servicing to rate it Great is possible. But the many limitations in these Amps for us hold the real sound back quite heavily. With an eye to upgrading most amps we get now, we can see good potential, but these later Pioneers need a huge amount doing to make them the sound we demand from amps now. Upgrading was not easy but the results are excellent. This is the Best Sounding Pioneer of all we've tried with upgrades recently, a wide open sound with clean treble & extended bass is what hides in the limited original design. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Power supply has a hot resistor & bad soldering on ours. COOL RATING: 5 good looking amp with black tuner, purposeful if not scary looking but the awful cheap tatty vinyl wrap case really lets it down, 8 for the fascia, 1 for the lid so 5 overall. (2014)
1974 Sony STR-6046A receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 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. Strange that a STK block amp sounded still good enough to recommend after the feeble 16w one above. Not one we'd try again, the rating seems quite generous. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 much the same as the 1971 STR-6036 very of it's era. (2012)
1975 Goodmans Module 90 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
FC, DIFF. 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. as with the Module 80, these don't make much money but do sound good for the trying. Not one we'd choose to fully upgrade as it'd outprice it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good beyond stiff sliders. COOL RATING: 3 the one with the white buttons looks truly awful if would appeal to a Teen Glam fan of the era, later with more sober black buttons but still only a 4. (2012)
1975 Luxman L-100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 110w.
FC, 2x DIFF. Beware of buying a messed with one. Requires deep servicing to get the luxury sound with a calm 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 in ratings. But having looked at the circuits more recently, we can see upgrades to give it the lively sound it never had, what was there was clean & accurate, but the weal master volume was hiding the amp's quality rather heavily, just as the 1978 Luxman R-1040 receiver did. Not really an amp to party with despite the watts. Before servicing it was a very soft feeble sound which was surprising, after servicing it sounded lively but fine detail seemed oversmoothed from the inadequate voilume though the bass was lively. We recapped our one fully & found it was just not as wide & open sounding as others for the gain issue if it had refinement in design elsewhere ahead of anything of the 1970s. 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, perhaps this one needed a volume control replaced? 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 as noted, it just didn't stir the soul. It is a memorable amp for how heavy & stylish it is, but sound wasn't so hot which is the point of hifi. 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. But this amp we had to get 2 missing relays & redo the MTA connectors as it was fiddled with. To us based on this high model, Luxman are a bit overrated & therefore very overpriced based on this amp, 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. On getting the R-1040 receiver later, the same sort of sound deal there too, but it was found to be weak on master volume gain unlike how loud other amps of similar power could go. What holds the L-100 back will be similar as the R-1040 as original needs volume past midway & still doesn't go loud enough. This is one of those 2012-rated amps that we may question our rating. The quality of it was apparent as the rating shows, but it was a fussy design & having tried the R-1040 receiver since & finding we weren't too keen on certain aspects, Luxman is a bit of an unfinished story. There are many Luxman valve amps & other transitor amps we've looked at on the 'Other Amps' page. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if needs good servicing & beware the volume control or bad repairs. COOL RATING: 7 slightly awkward attempt at classy style, the lever switches look strange & rosewood used on amp cases always looks cheap despite it being a premium veneer, it looks too try-hard on a thin case. (2012)
1975 NAD 160 'a' receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w.
SC, DIFF. 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. Still Semi Complimentary too. Just for the Bass limiter, we'd rate it just less than the 1st version as all original, but upgraded 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: Beware failing overheated power supplies, else beyond that it's a good amp. COOL RATING: 8 as with the earlier version, cute looking amp like the 1971 Yamahas with nice reeded control knobs & a wood veneer lid. (2013)
1975 Pioneer SX-850 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: (Good potential). 65w.
FC, DIFF. **Updated** We had thought these were Cheap & Nasty things for a long time after having 4 of them, they always sounded Rough way too soon & quickly ran out of power which for their rating was pathetic. But Pioneer are seriously underselling themselves as we've found out upgrading the SX-838 & SA-9500 as the design once upgraded is very high quality. These two suffer from weak sound too, but our upgrades are getting serious now not allowing anything weak in these Pioneers. And does it pay off. Heavily cost cut is what these amps are & it looks on the surface that Pioneer were mass market price-cut efforts out for big sales, being priced £100-150 less than similar powered Yamaha & Marantz. It is very clear the 850 & 950 have a huge scope to upgrade. They sound very rough as the design is very limited with many spoilers & a severe lack of deep bass, so really as-is only deserve a 'Recommended' but upgraded right they do 'Excellent' not that we've had the 850-950 to upgrade yet so won't add this here yet. The power amp is similar to the SX-939 & SA-9500 so shows much potential as the 838 & 9500. The 1980 range including SX-980 are very different with ICs & even more cost cutting. The SX-850 & SX-950 have real wood trim & veneer, the SX-750 is vinyl wrap. We've not had an 850 or 950 since 2012, but have tried many other Pioneer. the trouble is they need so much low spec upgrading they take a huge amount of work, but as the SA-9500 proves, it can rate highly. the SA-9500 power amp board is actually very similar to the 850/950 one so with a huge amount of upgrading, they could do very well, but we'll leave them be for the while. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 oversized tin can with too much bling & cheesy looking wood veneer & trim to appeal to Ford Capri drivers, garish looks but there are many who like this look & it was the look for most hifi until 1980. (2012)
1975 Pioneer SX-950 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: (Good potential). 85w.
FC, DIFF, DT. **Updated** We had thought these were Cheap & Nasty things for a long time after having 4 of them, they always sounded Rough way too soon & quickly ran out of power which for their rating was pathetic. But Pioneer are seriously underselling themselves as we've found out upgrading the SX-838 & SA-9500 as the design once upgraded is very high quality. These two suffer from weak sound too, but our upgrades are getting serious now not allowing anything weak in these Pioneers. And does it pay off. Heavily cost cut is what these amps are & it looks on the surface that Pioneer were mass market price-cut efforts out for big sales, being priced £100-150 less than similar powered Yamaha & Marantz. It is very clear the 850 & 950 have a huge scope to upgrade. They sound very rough as the design is very limited with many spoilers & a severe lack of deep bass, so really as-is only deserve a 'Recommended' but upgraded right they do 'Excellent' not that we've had the 850-950 to upgrade yet so won't add this here yet. The power amp is similar to the SX-939 & SA-9500 so shows much potential as the 838 & 9500. The 1980 range including SX-980 are very different with ICs & even more cost cutting. The SX-850 & SX-950 have real wood trim & veneer, the SX-750 is vinyl wrap. We've not had an 850 or 950 since 2012, but have tried many other Pioneer. the trouble is they need so much low spec upgrading they take a huge amount of work, but as the SA-9500 proves, it can rate highly. the SA-9500 power amp board is actually very similar to the 850/950 one so with a huge amount of upgrading, they could do very well, but we'll leave them be for the while. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 oversized tin can with too much bling & cheesy looking wood veneer & trim to appeal to Ford Capri drivers, garish looks but there are many who like this look & it was the look for most hifi until 1980. (2012)
1975 Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Excellent. 80w.
FC, DIFF, DT. From August 1975 says a sales brochure. Our pages were missing one of these big SA-9000 Pioneers, so we got one at last. The original amp once serviced has not much bass surprisingly & gets rough sounding too early, as the low spec & many spoilers catches it out. It's a way better built amp than the SX-950 type & is in a very different league to those mass market receivers. From looking at the circuits, we see the SA-9500 as the pick of the bunch with SA-9500II being a different later design, SA-9900 the 110w one in the 1976 range getting into overdesign & the SA-9800 being later but ridiculously having 23 transistors in the power amp, the 9500 has only 10. The SA-9800 is an awful design yet it sells for £k prices as people don't understand excessive circuitry sounds bad if the 0.005% THD is pointless as it's only for excessive design & heavy NFB. The SA-9500 with 0.1% THD actually sounds fresher like a much earlier amp, very low 30 damping factor & minimalist power amp circuit beyond how dog rough it sounds until serviced & adjusted. This amp was plentiful on ebay, a real sleeper dismissed with the rest, but that can upgrade into something excellent, but it's stuffed full of 'spoilers' & low spec hiding what is an amp of high quality to stand with the Yamaha amps even. Only when upgraded do you get a kicking bassline as well as a very clean neutral sound like the best pre 1972 amps, but it's only for upgraders to reveal. It's the second-top biggest difference original to upgraded amp we've had. For the sound of it serviced but original it is hard to be fair to go higher than we've put, it isn't anything special. The Mk II version quickly introduced in Nov 1976 is a very different basic metal box design with less quality in design if dual mono power supplies. Our opinion is this amplifier only once upgraded has the potential to be one of the best amps post 1972, if the original version with a huge amount of extraneous rubbish circuitry to hide the quality is actually pretty average, the hugest difference Original vs. Upgraded we've found. But to upgrade is a huge job as we found out & still there are other amps that sound fresher post 1972 such as the Yamaha & Luxman. Others are naming the 9500-9800-9900 Pioneer amps as "The Best Ever", based on limited knowledge & lazy ideas of long ago. Clearly we are the only ones to know the truth by deep investigating to upgrade & see how hugely cost-cut & dumbed-down these Pioneer are, the ones 1973 onwards are a swine to upgrade. The 9500 Mk I is a great amp to upgrade, but ultimately the switch board is the limiter. Upgraded the 9500 Mk I was decent but as original & unserviced, it was truly awful, and on both we had resulting in the BUY-RAW RATING: Good, but unserviced it sounds absolutely awful. COOL RATING: 7 a big chunky amp with odd side connectors, ahead of it's time if too stark for the domestic scene unless it has the rare wood case to tame. (2014)
1975 Sony TA-3650 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 60w.
FET & DIFF preamp, FC, DIFF. 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 earlier ones & the power supply is a bit pathetic just a board perched on top of a double capacitor. One we'd try again as the first one was a water damaged unreliable thing we broke up for parts as it'd never be good to sell, the perils of mean ebay sellers... BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 budget looks of no real style at all, just another silver amp. (2013)
1975 Teleton TFS-70 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 33w.
An amp that caught our eye for it's very 1977 kooky looks, if a 1975 design. It has a very decent sound for what it is. Sadly construction & soldering are very low Clock Radio quality & ultimately it will just end up being a failure which is a pity, unless yours is high grade perhaps. 33w of power with Elna capacitors, no ICs in the audio stages & proper TO3 output transistors. But it forever making bad noises even after recapping & more got us tired of it despite the odd looks & then finding proper quality in the Sony STR-6850. Looking at the 1975 Teleton catalog it's the best looker by far in their way with the plastic silver outer case & horizontal sliders. All DIN sockets & German wording means few made it to the UK if it's in the 1977 HFYB. The volume control loudness step from 4 to 5 is awful. It was worth a try but generally disappointing. Other seen online look neglected & despite the good sounds only one to buy in high working grade to get the ratings. BUY-RAW RATING: Very cheap construction & messy soldering will limit your success here. COOL RATING: 7 has a 1970s Space Age retro silver painted plastic appeal which is why we got one, but needs to be in high grade else it looks a bit sad. (2014)
1975 Yamaha CA-800II amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 55w + 10w Class A.
FC, DIFF. 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 upgrade 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 & upgrade by us revealed Class A made no difference at all. Has high upgrade potential & we'd rate the CA-1000II similarly. Typical Yamaha too-hot power supply on this amp is an issue. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if overheated power supply transistors are risky. COOL RATING: 8 classy looking minimalist pro looks, well laid out, certainly a male appeal amp if too stark looking for all domestic use. (2014)
1976 B+O Beomaster 1900 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
FC, DIFF, Darlington outputs. 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. One we'd run a mile from trying again as it's poorly made & there is too much to go wrong with these. An interesting amp, but having had 3 of these to make 2 good ones from, it shows they aren't made to last. BUY-RAW RATING: High risk of parts noted failing & poor capacitors. COOL RATING: 7 very stylish on first look but a bit cheaply made & not great in use. (2012)
1977 Akai AA-1030 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 30w.
FC, DIFF. Adequate silver fronted amp that could upgrade up well, but it was just nothing special at all but certainly not bad either & well enough made, not just a one board job. A higher powered model would give us a better idea. Is that all we wrote? Construction was typical for the era & midprice type but overall just another general amp of good enough quality. Just not very inspiring. Not tried any other Akai if looked at plenty on 'Other Amps'. These were commonly found in the Discount stores as the mag ads reveal. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 typical product of the era as undistinguished as the amp itself if smart enough. (2012)
1977 B+O Beomaster 4400 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Grea-Excellent. 50w.
FC, DIFF, Darlington outputs. A more recent look at this amp since the ones we had early on reveals this is a superior amp to the Beomaster 3000(-2) & 4000 with higher power. Sleek looks still in the 3000 style & at last better buttons that are lighter to use. Construction is still quite crude & a lot of circuitry is crammed in quite insanely on the preamp stages. But having recapped one fully, the sound is much more punchy than the 4000 we recapped too with a good loud volume less restrained. But the cramped design does quite limit how we can upgrade & the amount of tiny ceramics was a job too far. The phono-preamp board still has spaces for Phono sockets but the 4400 never used them. Build quality is better than the 3000 & 4000 with lighter levers & the sliders are metal encased. Some odd construction such as axial caps up on end with the wire bent over as space was too low to use all Red caps, which are usually long past their best. B+O are very overrated beyond the 3000, 4000 & 4400. But as is typical with B+O, you can't say they don't look smart in nice grade with Rosewood or rarer with the Teak lids, certainly the best looking of the early design ranges. The sound all original is based on one with good capacitors & of little use, as with the 3000 the quality can vary once used more though there are no BC147s to affect. Once fully recapped & serviced the sound was much improved. It's not going to better the Big Brands for ultimate sound after upgrading but does do better than we expected so gets a nice rating. The Tuner is good on these Beomasters & the 4400 goes the full 88-108. The 4400 betters the 4000 on using Aux inputs, but the Tuner sounds quite similar. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but beware faulty ones as it's awful to work on & the Red capacitors are usually past their best. COOL RATING: 8 based on the Beomaster 3000 if bigger, has a certain look of opulence & confidence. (2014)
1977 Marantz 1152DC amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 76w.
FC, several DIFF in all stages, DT. We have previously put this amp down based on bad experiences with one early on that clearly was faulty. Ignoring the messed with amp we got & based on the ideas of receivers on this page being pretty good there are enough similarities to ignore the bad amp we had in our ratings, but to point out the issues. The oddly low-volume sound is otherwise decent, the volume before distortion for a 76w amp is pathetic & we couldn't do much with it in our earlier exploits. Bad construction design loose fully pinned boards & poor soldering throughout make this our least liked amp ever & it wasted much time & money. Looking at the circuit on adding the FC, DIFF notes, the circuit is awful, multiple Differentials in all stages & other excesses explain the poor sound. Ridiculously overdesigned in search of meaningless specs, and musically void. 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 willingly, but horses that threw you need a new ride or it spoils you. Overall, based on the 2 receivers, Marantz have a big name but the sound isn't as good as others from the era & Marantz always seem overpriced therefore. Would we try another Marantz amp tro update the 2012 opinion? Yes, if not this one. Many are findable, but are very overpriced for the power rating, this 76w one is rarely seen if the 10w-30w ones are. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky due to bad soldering & poor connections on top board. COOL RATING: 7 always better in the wood cases, has a certain confident look as does the B+O 4400 above, without the case dips a point. (2012)
1977 Marantz 2265B receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 65w.
FC, DIFF. 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 they sell for today? yes, as others are too cheap in comparison,, but many of the low power ones get overpriced & go unsold. 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 circuit is much better than the awful 1152DC amp above & see how the ratings are better for it. The construction is a bit budget in places compared to how well made similar age Yamahas & Pioneers are made. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 in the wood case, a bit plain without it so 7 if the blue lights on silver look smart to take it above the Pioneer looks. Later ones now with the cute hex nuts but Marantz stuck with this design for so long as it is just so right. (2013)
1977 NAD 300 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Recommended. 80w.
FC preamp, several DIFF, DT. 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-upgradeable 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 hidden away with no ventilation that mess up the PCB even. It also doesn't play very loud, the NAD 160 plays louder than this easily. "Going past the 1 o'clock position it's not very loud and 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 not-very-good 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, overdesign is the problem very noticeably. Probably our most disappointing upgrade. For the big classy unit this looks, the inside technology is just not very good at all. Would we get another one to revise the opinion? We can now see why it plays so low volume, the Luxman R-1040 has the same issue & solution. It or the NAD 200 amplifier are rare amps to find, but in light of new knowledge, perhaps it needs another look. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 8 classy looking huge receiver with glossy black lid, no wood case on this one, still with NAD 160 friendly looks. (2012)
1977 Rotel RX-603 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recomended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 45w
SC, DIFF. Looks more 1972 inside from the design as the SC proves, 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 brash looks appeal. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if plastic handles intact & plastic fascia is good. COOL RATING: 3 naff rack mount handles, poor plastic fascia & awful big bright tuner light are makes these look gaudy & even the big models in the range look like this if without the plastic, not serious kit looking like Yamaha. (2013)
1977 Yamaha CA-1010 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: --. 100w + 20w Class A
FC, many DIFF, DT. Hefty 100w Yamaha amplifier. Offers Class A in the Power Amp & nice meters. Looking later as we go through the FC, DIFF notations, Phono is Push-Pull with 9 transistors, an IC for MC & 2 differential pairs, Preamp-Tone is 10 transistors, push-pull with 3 differential pairs, but this is a challenge to see what we can do with it, as we didn't like it much before. Power amp is 21 transistors, 2 differential pairs & doubled output transistors. The first one we had in 2012 sounded thin & rough, there sat the damning review for nearly 3 years, but it needed retrying as it didn't quite make sense. Sometimes you just need to try two of a vintage item that doesn't appear good enough. MUCH REVISED OPINION UPDATE: Getting one back again, it's an impressively large amplifier, the faceplate is 460mm x 150mm. The front with the big needle meters & well placed controls is a nice amp to use as are Yamaha usually. The user manual shows a different wattage of 90w+18w but the Service manual states 100w+20w. A well made amp as the one on the Solds page shows, the CA-810 lacks the class of this. In terms of build quality, this is what we like to see & apart from the power supply hidden underneath to get hot, blackening it undeneath. Very first play is nothing like the earlier opinion, the total opposite actually. The sound for an unserviced original amp is balanced & clean. Bass is certainly here with known bassy tracks doing deep bass very nicely with no sign of brightness or bass-lightness as we always got with the previous one, no thickness or unnaturalness. The way it plays deep bass is a bit of a joy actually, not heard many transistor amps sound like that. There has to be something to getting high grade little used amps as the latest CR-2020 proved too as it sounded very different. Trying Class A was interesting. Starting off in Class A it was cleaner & more precise with the same tonal qualities, flicking back to Normal (Class AB) was noticeably reduced & back to Class A was an obvious tightening of the sound. But we've had Yamaha Class A amps before & once we've upgraded the amp, the difference becomes almost impossible to tell apart, as per the CA-800II above. Well after playing this high grade amp, it's rubbished our earlier opinion of the amp, but that is sometimes the game of Hifi, needing another one to be sure of the opinions. The last CA-1010 we couldn't play for very long as it was so rough sounding, this one we can play for 30 mins easily even unserviced, even the CR-2020 as original we found a bit edgy. But even in Class A, we can hear there is weaknesses in the sound, ceramics are always in Yamaha amps. Trebly Rock reveals this more, but listening through that, the sound is still balanced. This is a loud amp, a kicking track like Jam 'Start' on 3 on the volume doesn't quite hit 10w but is as loud as you'd want it on headphones. We'll service it & compare to other amps before we rate it again, but this is unexpectedly good. The doubled output transistors add to the current to give more kick & the circuit is designed to take better advantage of this. Got to try it on the Tannoys to see how it matches... thankfully they match very well, leaving the 1971-75 Yamahas possibly not a good match to earlier speakers. Compared to a recapped CR-2020, which is crisper for the upgrades, the sound is as wide on Stereo with a lively sound. The Doubled Transistors add an extra solidness to the sound as does the 1965 Sony TA-1120 that has doubled outputs. Class A makes absolutely no difference on Speakers though. Looking inside, the power amp board is neater than other Yamahas but has 14 ceramics per side which add to the rough sound as it ages, but we upgraded them on the last one & it still sounded rough. 2SA745B & 2SC1403B output transistors are 70w rated, an odd choice, if doubled they'll give the higher wattage. After servicing it sounds crisper if the nice bass is still there. Now it's rather like the CR-1000 for the louder Pro-Sound if this still sounds very clean on Class AB mode. We did have trouble with the CR-1000 on the M20 headphones too as it was too harsh & thin, the CR-1000 has got revisited already. It appears this is more the reason why in some way, but this one is cleanly focussed on treble, the previous one was raggedy. Of all the 1973-77 Yamahas, this is the only one not overpacked on small boards. The preamp-tone has what seems like a lot of transistors, but it's nearly all direct coupled, 2 FETs, others are not so obvious, but likely 2 power supply, 2 drivers, 4 push-pull output-buffer stage, complex but a very clean sound for it. Power amp shows high impedance is used here, with 21 transistors looking excessive, but again it relies on many of these for regulation & Class A use, ignore those and doubled output transistors adding to the count & the circuit is actually fine. But understanding what many do likely is the basis of what we see put into later ICs with Current Mirrors etc but done in transistors. Phono has MC input with an IC & the MM stage has another IC, these are 1G164 (or 00164) and Y-K100 67, total unknowns though we suspect they are a differential pair in an IC instead of transistors, an odd choice as space isn't an issue. The design once unravelled more is actually a very advanced design yet it still sounds like the CR-1000 if noticeably cleaner. No Loudness setting to tame the powerful sound on this amp. To rate this less than Excellent now Serviced would be wrong, the Pro-Sound volume & it can sound 'Clinical' on the wrong sort of small speakers as you need 15" ones to do the sound justice. Buy it to use right & Excellent it is, but it could be too good for most speakers is the caveat here. It was taken on by the 1984 Sansui below that seemed 'better' but as with all testing, it goes back & forth a few times, bt now this Yamaha beats the Sansui with ease. The CA-1010 upgraded is awesome. In comparison to the CR-2020 upgraded at the same time, they are obviously quite similar, if the CA-1010 is more neutral. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, but the first one we had sounded rough, we suspect it's hard life could have given mains use errors. We live and learn with Hifi... COOL RATING: 8 again the blokey minimalist looks but classy, pity these only had the flush lid, the CA-1000 type bigger case looks nicer. (2015)
1977 Yamaha CR-820 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 55w
FC, DIFF. 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. The 1977 ranges were cheaper made than the earlier ones, but this was how Hifi was by then. Not one we'd try upgrading for the one tightly packed board layout is only really optimised for the spec used & there are a few regulators that are a bit hot as was usual with Yamaha. Don't even bother with the CR-840 as it has a glut of ICs as Yamaha unwisely relied heavily on for the next range. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 7 typical Yamaha looks if the silly row of buttons loses it appeal. (2013)
1977 Yamaha CR-1020 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: n/a. 70w
FC, DIFF. Less powerful 70w to the CR-2020 if really no obvious difference in sound to the CR-2020 beyond power rating & will have similar upgrade potential. As found much used it is clean & punchy but usually warm & soft on fine detail that is a bit disappointing keeping most 1020s as a 'Great', if not always. Only a high grade little used one rates the higher 'G-E', if these are rare. 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. We've never upgraded the CR-1020, only having one in 2012 that was like new, but it is so similar to the CR-2020 the same rating will apply. See the CR-2020 below for more on this fine amp. Don't even bother with the CR-1040 as it has a glut of ICs as Yamaha unwisely relied heavily on for the next range. So similar to the CR-2020, read further there. REVISITED: The CR-1020 is usually multivoltage, the CR-2020 is usually only one voltage as the transformer would be too big. Having a 1020 here at the same time as the revised 2020 opinion one, the sound really is no different on a high grade one & the 70w to 110w difference would only be noticed with very inefficient speakers. The CR-1020 looks a little bare, or more minimal, as it lacks all the CR-2020 buttons such as Tone variants & defeat & the FM blend, muting & OTS features, as well as a few extra LEDs for them, but are they that important anyway? The 2020 is found more readily than the 1020. Phono just lacks the MC stage leaving the Phono section at the back of the Tuner board partly empty, else the rest is the same. We had a CR-1020 bought in Singapore that was multivoltage & in the big USA style case, probably this was the Japan home model. It had a bill of sale for early 1981 from the Yamaha shop & the buyer got it for a remarkable S$645 which was just £135 as an end of range item by then, oh how wrong Yamaha were. The International Guarantee card gives 12 months warranty with exceptions on fragile external parts as wood & glass, items usually long lost but in the original box of this one, a huge 67x51x29cm sized box with 2 large polystyrene clam parts & hard card square tubes in the corner, neat. Sounds the same as the CR-2020 on the Tannoy Gold speakers. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky as power supply overheating will need repair with no exceptions. COOL RATING: 8 more smart Yamaha looks, a big impressive amp & even better in the big USA style wood case. (2015)
1977 Yamaha CR-2020 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: Excellent. 110w
FC, DIFF. Has to be the best ever of the post 1975 receivers for sound & 110w is a powerhouse but always in need of work as it overheats on the power supply. Sound is sweeter & richer than the CA-1010. As found much used it is clean & punchy but usually warm & soft on fine detail that is a bit disappointing keeping most 2020s as a 'Great', if not always, see below. Only a high grade little used one rates the higher 'G-E', if these are rare. It can be upgraded into something quite remarkable, in 'Excellent' territory. Build quality not quite in the league of the CR-1000 though this is a 1977 design but is one of the best post 1971 amplifiers after upgrading. The phono board on the tuner board is a bit of a cheapout, but for 1977 perhaps these are the best receivers for realistic prices. Other brands were using ICs even on top items, Yamaha only uses an IC for the MC stage. For extreme tweakers, it can offer nearly the same quality as the CR-1000 if not quite it's pro sound. Looks even better in the big USA full case, though the USA model adds Dolby FM input but is 117v only. We had a CR-1020 bought in Singapore that was multivoltage & in the big case. The CR-1020 is usually multivoltage, the CR-2020 is usually only one voltage as the transformer would be too big. An amp often found in lesser grade as well used & usually failing sooner or later is the risk. REVISITED: Getting another one after being without one for a year & just when the Coral A-550 was here, to try this afresh. The usual overheating issue, even on a lightly used one that got stored away very quick by the looks, maybe a year light use tops as the lid is dark still. The punchy sound of the CR-2020 was always a delight though the sound is noticeably lacking deep bass & smeary on treble, not rough or hard to listen, but initially quite restrained when the CR-800 here just a month before was crisper & bassier until using it wakes it up. Always nice getting a 2020 as it's so big & classy in it's 1977 cool styling, put legs on it & call it a Coffee Table, after all it's on our Best Looking Amps page. But from having upgraded three of these over a few years it certainly does usually hide itself under the limited spec, though to a user just using one raw it still is Great or better, but they are still going to get the overheating failure. We'll try it on the Tannoy Golds later to see if it matches, hope it does & it does match very well. But... we've had the 2020 before & thought it was dull & muddy "soft" as noted above, but this one with little use isn't like this, on a second try after it woke up, treble is much crisper than a 2020 usually has & the thick bass isn't here. We've found before that Yamahas vary in sound on others of the same model. How Yamaha never noticed the overheating is remarkable though, the top regulators read a remarkable 83°C with the lid off & nearly 100°C with the lid on we read before. The extra kick of the 110w doesn't really make it much louder than an early 45w amp if it does it with more authority. After trying our latest upgrades on the Luxman R-1040 & Yamaha CR-800 & not quite getting the 1967-69 quality, this is perhaps the only later Vintage amp we rate high enough to go upgrade a fourth one. It is one of our Favourite amps after all & even original it won't let you stop using it: the mark of it being a Great amp if hiding it's best. Got as a non-worker it got a minor repair & a good try but next day no go, so more repairs & back on again. After playing a valve amp earlier & wanting to try this, the big sound is here if as noted above. Strange how crisp this one is after other 2020s being dull & having some of our reference amps here long enough to compare to a few to hear the difference. On upgrading the preamp & checking the power amp: no difference. Has to be these are usually well used & lose the quality. For those wondering how far it goes with very deep upgrading, it certainly can match the earlier era sound, if there are quite a few low spec & overheating issues to overcome. In terms of upgrading, the CR-2020 is the 'only one' that can give the sweet & effortless deep bass-crisp clean treble sound, but that sound is well hidden in the standard amp. Even after upgrading, it's a good but not perfect match to Tanny Golds from 10 years before, bass & treble are great but the midrange is just a little too forward making it unbalanced, though this can be altered too we found. For the want of trying, the CR-2020 can be upgraded to sound as smooth as the 1967-69 era amps, proving cost-cutting is all that limits the best later amps. One we saw was so little used barely any darkening on the usual places but on the worst spot signs of problems beginning were already noticeable. There is no escape with the overheating in these. Sadly Hifi News doesn't review this amp, only the CR-620 & CA-810. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky as power supply overheating will need repair with no exceptions, beyond that it's very reliable, but a big issue to overcome first. **We offer a power supply upgrade on this amp, see the Upgrades page. COOL RATING: 8 more smart Yamaha looks, a big impressive amp & even better in the big USA style wood case. (2015)
1978 Luxman R-1040 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. 40w
FC, DIFF. Part of the Luxman 1977-78 receiver range L-1030, L-1040, L-1050, L-1070 & the earlier L-1120 of 30w to 120w. They done few receivers & the lower ones in this range seem to have sold fairly well so we get one to try, if 1978 is quite late, we've only had the L-100 100w amplifier above. The L-1040 was £330 in the 1980 so more than a similar 40w B+O or 38w Marantz. Inside the design is pleasingly different to the typical era with a unique heatsink & big gap in front of the power amp with boards on a beam chassis. Main caps 50v 10000µf is high for the era too. But being 1978 flashing red power output LEDs are a bit naff but Pioneer & others had this by 1980. It sounds controlled with a clean accuracy. No treble grain, certainly listenable with no 'eeks' on playing several tracks & after using & trying the next day it has woken up to sound even better. Power amp is a nice design with just 8 transistors. The looks are a bit busy looking with the LEDs always on. Oddly it has no Relay. The Power amp board has unused components spaces but no other amp or receiver uses them. Looking at other models to see Power Amp Transistor counts reveals the L-1050 has 10 with an extra differential pair & has a relay, the L-1070 needs 16 with 3 differentials, if the L-1120 only 12. The L-1040 therefore is potentially the sweetest sounding one, if all have a similar preamp. Preamp & Phono are 4 and 2 transistors each. This has enough quality to upgrade further than we went with it's tight clean but lively sound. Unlike the overdesigned 1975 L-100, this has similar qualities of finesse in sound if with a lively sound the L-100 couldn't give even after recap-upgrade. The volume on playing rock isn't as loud as others in the power range, but the sound is very clean, but as with the L-100, master volume is too soft on these amps. We altered ours to play louder (in a correct way) than the rather soft original volume & sold it like this. It sounded great on the 1969 Tannoy Golds with the better volume upgrade. In comparing our part upgraded one to the 1969 KA-6000 & TK-140X this has a fairly similar smooth detailed sound which is unusual for a later era vintage, if it's not in the Yamaha CA-1010 league. But the low volume of the original will put many off, turning it past midway is wrong & then no more volume much past that. This sadly knocks our rating back as we try more differential amps. The amp can upgrade well, if not to the best. We found it a bit budget in several ways & to take the tuner window off to clean will try your patience. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 4 gaudy looks, annoying LED meters, naff rosewood & plasticky fascia, if very 1978 that will have high kitsch retro appeal as no other amp range looks like this, thankfully. (2014)
1978 Technics SU-C01, SE-C01 & SH-C01 preamp, amplifier & power supply set ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 50w.
FC, DIFF. This is part of a very innovative micro Hifi system, 'The Concise', also you can get a ST-C 01 tuner, though a cassette deck would be too large at this time still & no CD yet. This is the Origins of all the cheap micro systems of today. 1980 HFYB lists SU-C01 preamp £153, SE-C01 50w power
amp £296 though there are two versions of the SE-C01 power amp, the usual one has the external power supply & multivoltage. The rarer one-box SE-C01 is stereo amp or is bridgeable to a 100w monoblock, maybe it's 117v only as no room to fit the extra parts for the 240v in it. The size will surprise, it's about the size of a big UK city phone book, typically 297mm wide, 210mm deep & just 43mm high. So where does the transformer go? The preamp SU-C01-XN has a small one for just the preamp, but the one box or two box uses a switch mode power supply, again a design common in modern electronics. We looked at the Sony TA-F5A from 1980 that uses the same pulse supply though the rest of the amp was mediocre. The pre & power at £450 in 1980 is far from cheap as our Amps listing page shows. So what's the deal? Firstly, the power amps & power supplies don't age too good & we hear to find them not working sadly is the usual way, so this one needs repair before we can hear it play. The preamp, as are all the parts, is a heavy cast aluminium case like early CD players were, with the base lid removing. Construction of the preamp for it's size is excellent. Phono is MC with 4 transistors into MM stage with 6 transistors. Tone amp sadly is an IC as the Phono stages take up much space & isn't defeatable. Beyond the M5213L Tone IC full of the usual excesses, the rest is nicely made using typical quality controls of the era. The power amp of the two-box version is nearly half as a heatsink to fill it out. Only a meter range switch, headphone & the power output LEDs that are well graduated yet go to 160w on a 50w amp. The IC by the meter switch is for the relay & 2 ICs for the meter display control. The rest is all transistors again all is very neat with quality parts. The power supply box is the one with problems, so to take it apart & look. Nearly half is a metal can that hides the pulse power supply, the left is the power switch & voltage change with the power supply in the middle. Loads of screws undone later, looking inside the pulse supply. For the age & voltages here, to recap is a must. The one-box power amp we have here is a 100v Japan only version, and has a smaller pulse PS & caps as well as a bit cramped with two board layers & lots of wire. Similar to the 1979 Luxman LX33 valve amp, it has text on it telling you how good it is, the Power Amp has a graph on it showing THD... "This power amplifier is a "personal component" for audio enthusiasts, and incorporates the Technics' latest technology to make sound reproduction even better". We'll hopefully find out. The design of this amp is ahead of it's time but the 240v one has some very strange design features involving remarkable direct to mains connections, no way would that be allowed just a few years later. A case of being very clever in design but too clever to realise more obvious things just aren't so good or are reliable. But as a design to make the tiniest Hifi system in 1978, it succeeds, but it is a bit insane on the design. On getting one of the one-box 100-117v ones working, the sound on just using the Soundcard volume is still the quality Retro sound with it needing a higher volume than some direct to Power Amp, so more gain will be in the preamp. The sound is balanced and detailed if nothing too special about it, if we'll run it in next. Now biased right the sound is much improved, the basic high quality sound if a lack of spec in the small case, it has a punchy sound it's not got the kick of similar 50w amps, but for a Lifestyle product as this would be today, be sure it sounds better than any of those things could dream of being, this is still proper Hifi, not just a gimmick item. The Power Amp by itself rates 'Great'. But there is a Preamp so it gets a try & the sound is not pleasing, much thinner sounding with bass almost absent, if the treble & mid are still much as before. Very Bass-light preamp therefore fairly knocks the rating to 'R-G', but it could be upgraded. We've not got the 240v power amp-power supply working, so if it works instead of blowing up, it will get rated. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky & dangerous, if actually working. Overheating complicated insane power supply & high voltage capacitors similar sort of aging issues as valve amps. To recap is required, really not recommended for anyone other than a highly skilled tech to deal with as it could be lethal. COOL RATING: 8 very cute tiny micro system, the purposeful yet miniaturization makes these a bit special as the first ones, need to be high grade though. (2015)
1978 Technics SU-7100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w
Bottom of the range IC power amp, but not as bad as we expected, it's better than a lot of the sub £50 amps you see by the ton. Laughable hardboard base if the fascia looked more impressive. Still very much entry level to vintage hifi & not worth upgrading. This is what 10 years of progress does: 40w used to be a high power now the lowest one is 40w & made very averagely for the mass market to lap up. Sadly this cheap Hifi got worse as in 1979 so many identical looking gear of no real quality including from brands that had quality early on. To consider even buying this when the page is full of great amps is a wasted effort, but it will still sound better than some £100 new amp off Amazon. Not worth upgrading a entry level model & finding higher models worth upgrading this late is not easy. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 smart silver fronted amp of plain but functional looks, with the tuner it looks rather appealing, unusual on base range gear to look like better quality. (2012)
1978 Leak 3200 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 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. But no Mono switch was a miserable omission. Not worth upgrading a entry level model & finding higher models worth upgrading this late is not easy, but the Leak 3900 is worth a try, but a rare one to find, only seen a dented one for sale. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 rather plain looking in the grey vinyl wrap case & the Leak wording a bit too big, a touch of the Yamahas here though. (2012)
1979 Consort CA 4000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w
Oddball amp UK brand made in Japan, looks budget goods but a pure lively enjoyable sound quality in a simple circuit that deserves it's ranking for it's good sound, copes well even with peaks tipping 80w on the meters, just limited by what you could upgrade into, a very rare amp though. Looks a bit empty inside with the main board facing down out of shame if it was all transistors & not much else beyond the basics. Not one we recapped, but it's sound was pleasing for what it was. Minuses are DIN connectors & an IC phono stage. We did contact the Consort guy who remembered it well but perhaps it was a costly failure & they never replied back, read on for why. We appreciated the amp though it's a bit too basic to be trying to upgrade it further, but we liked it in 2012 to rate it highly. The mystery of the Consort range unravelled further by a Jan 1980 HFN advert by Laskys, who we remember being in as a kid in their Brent Cross branch as it closed in the very early 1980s. Their ad shows the CA4000 40w amplifier making the slider balance control a key feature, the Consort CT4000 analog tuner that boasted 'a Stereo beacon' & a Consort CD4000 cassette deck, as a job lot for £180 discounted from £200. Odd that CD meant 'Cassette Deck' for Marantz too, if not for long. The ad has similar midrange big name items totalling £300 so this was touted as budget-midprice, but as it was 1979 some sense of quality was there. These were exclusive to Laskys who were a big name in the 70s by their adverts but Consort never made this quality budget gear again, a pity as it bettered the Panasonic 1979 effort below. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 4 cheesy looks with a grey fascia a bit like later NAD, it looks budget gear if sounded great for what it was. (2012)
1979 Panasonic SU-2800 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
This & the matching Tuner was £20 delivered so a cruel try was worth a go. 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 fuzz of distortion on clipping. Worth a try to see what it was like & to sneer it & put a salty review online. It was mediocre. The 40w amp of 1979 is the low budget model, yet 12 years before 40w was high power. Reveals how cost cutting & giving more as lesser goods was the deal. This is utter junk. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 3 boring slimline looks that were common in 1980-82, even the tuner doesn't give it any appeal, but might do to those who remember it in the future. (2012)
1980 Pioneer SA-508 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 25w.
FC, DIFF. This is one of the 1979-80 fluroscan range & at 25w the lowest power model. Appears to have sold well & we got one someone found in the Bins behind Cash Converters when they first started. So that was over 20 years ago. It actually sounded quite decent & only had the volume control in need of the nut tightening. For the budget range it still sounded pretty good, the thing remembering back 20 years proving no IC block here but transistor outputs in all these. On using it the naff blue meters we found annoying & the graduation in power was next to useless. As it's Pioneer, the prices get overpriced but seem to have sold well. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 just average budget amp looks, the blue meters we find naff & unnecessary. (1992?)
1981 Sony STR-S5L receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 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 sadly much of their post 1972 stuff is beyond ones we note above & on the Other Amps page. One board type of amp not worth even thinking of upgrading or trying again. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if bulbs will need replacing. COOL RATING: 6 got this for the computery looks, but it's a bit of a crock & not what it seems. (2012)
1984 Sansui AU-G90X amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great-Excellent. UPGRADED: n/a. 130w.
FC, Diff, FET, Direct Coupled. An interesting later amp we got to try, but despite it initially appealing & well worth upgrading, it was soon found to be lacking a bit of quality as the spec is low to average in critical places, despite having separate power supplies for the L+R Power amp if from the same transformer. The technology is interesting, 'X-balanced' is based on studio amp's balanced transmission line design if no XLRs here, a Jan 1985 ad says "the input, output, power supply, drive circuit & even the NFB loop are all fully balanced" and "all parts of the amp operate independent of the ground" if it's clear we found the spec on certain areas is typically dumbed down so the hype of "the signal remains as pure as driven snow" is just a lie. It has a punchy sound with a quality that is certainly different if a little dishonest in the upper bass to make the midrange appear cleaner than other amps. The Sansui actually has a dip in response at 125Hz to make the midrange sound more distinct, whether this can be upgraded better is to be found. Only repeated tests reveal this, but we know how to test them to find out which is really the best amp. Putting a -4dB cut at 125Hz when playing the Yamaha CA-1010 regained that same tonal balance in the Sansui. The Sansui's low spec has a rather harsh edge to it with gritty sharp treble, losing the point of the advanced design, yet it gets THD & Intermodulation Distortion (IM) both rated at 0.003% showing how meaningless those ratings are if it sounds rough. Inside the amp has little to upgrade in terms of coupling capacitors as it's direct coupled by all the Transistor circuits & it has no ceramics except in the Phono stage. But by 1971 all amps are lower spec than the early ones, to look through this & see a very good amp prime for upgrading is how we regard these amps. On the Tannoy Golds it sounded good if Tone barely made any difference showing not a perfect match. Oddly the back speaker posts aren't real 4mm sockets, just an empty hole for the first 12mm of the 18mm deep hole, which is illogical, but that's the 1980s for you. The piano gloss plastic wrap wood effect edging is nicer than the AU-D11 II gaudy lid if the plasticky buttons are typical 1980s. But for a 1980s amp, it's revealed Good Ones do exist, if you need to look long to find another. Almost the same as the Sansui AU-D11, Filters, Loudness, Phono switches, Input selector differ & the 90 has a nicer lid, if the AU-D11 II is just about the same if withoit the inside shielding. Some odd features are the huge 'toroidal' transformer looks like a regular one potted in a round can, but closer looking suggests the square bit is some sort of packing in the resin. 4x big power caps, 4 pairs of output transistors with a modest sized heatsink. The chipboard sides are part of the amp & oddly there is no metal casing to shield on them. MC has a round can transformer, not the usual IC gain stage. PCB track is properly thick like 1970s. The Schottky Dual Rectifier Diodes, D11 & D12, that look like TO-220 Transistors are CTP-2S & CTP-2R, not the manual typo. Unfindable specs, but similar type MBR20100CTP are 10A units. The Power amp circuit is one that looks overdesigned, 29 transistors per channel, 6 are output ones, but it does sound good which is rarely the case in ones we've tried, certainly would not dream of getting one otherwise without getting a try of it. The sound on this amp is very precise with huge dynamics, it could benefit from a little warmth & tidying some rough edges, but for what it sounds like, the depth of soundstage, does make this amp very special amid 1980s hifi, if there are certainly earlier ones to better it in terms of musicality. The Sansui just has that 1980s upper midrange harshness & that lack of 125Hz bass was noticeable, if it has deep bass kick if certainly lacking higher up. the low spec really does sound to us yet it does have a sound that is appealing if a little contrived for all the circuitry and/or low spec, if a better 1980s amp for sure, so Is this the Best 1980s amp we'll get? BUY-RAW RATING: Needs a proper service to be it's best, cut-out issues can exist for aged parts that shouldn't be left on a 130w amp. COOL RATING: 7 big impressive amp, thick plastic covered side cheeks & all black fascia a bit hard to read & some plasticky buttons, but in terms of 80s amps it's got the look. (2015)
1984 Technics SU-V505 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 50w.
FC, no DIFF, computer control IC. Initially we found these interesting for the early Computer drive which was (allegedly) based on their hugely expensive SE-A1 & SU-A2 £10k pre-power combo. This was one of the Foillies in Hifi putting expensive ideas done on the cheap into a Midprice amp housed in Budget grade casing. Look at the rubbish speaker connectors & thin metal lid. Heat pipe design unsurprisingly sounded rough beyond the apparent good idea. The sound was basically decent but so rough & thin sounding, but the one-board design is pretty un-upgradeable. We've looked again at this amp to see if it or the 707 are worth upgrading, 'Hell No' was the response, awful cheap one-board type of amp & the weak board track as was typical by now. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor as servicing needed else controls etc will be bad. COOL RATING: 5 typical post silver era looks, purposeful looking if the ones in silver add a point. (2012)
1984 Technics SU-V707 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 90w.
FC, no DIFF, computer control IC. Initially we found these interesting for the early Computer drive which was (allegedly) based on their hugely expensive SE-A1 & SU-A2 £10k pre-power combo. This was one of the Foillies in Hifi putiing expensive ideas done on the cheap into a Midprice amp housed in Budget grade casing. Look at the rubbish speaker connectors & thin metal lid. Heat pipe design unsurprisingly sounded rough beyond the apparent good idea. The sound was basically decent but so rough & thin sounding, but the one-board design is pretty un-upgradeable. It still sounds gritty at low volume & if turned up louder it sounds harsh. Perhaps the slow computer for bias adjustment 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. We've looked again at this amp to see if it or the 707 are worth upgrading, 'Hell No' was the response, awful cheap one-board type of amp & the weak board track as was typical by now. BUY-RAW RATING: Poor as servicing needed else controls etc will be bad. COOL RATING: 5 typical post silver era looks, purposeful looking if the ones in silver add a point. (2012)
1985 Yamaha A-720 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great (in Class A mode). UPGRADED: n/a. 105w.
FC, 2x DIFF. The only 1980s amp we've heard that appeals, very good focus in the Class A mode if could be upgraded 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 a 'Recommended' score as it was quite rough. 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 upgrade to see how good an 80s amp could be, but the one board design decides against as the very thin track is too risky. We've looked again at this amp to see if it is worth upgrading, the weak board track as was typical by now plus limited space in the layout & the feeble heatsink put us off. BUY-RAW RATING: Risky, needs good servicing else controls will not work right. COOL RATING: 5 average black fascia looks with lots of plastic buttons, nothing stylish here. (2012)
1986 Pioneer M90-C90 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 200w.
FC, multiple FET, multiple IC, multiple DT. This we had long ago as a repair, but the parts were unfindable so it got abandoned, but as typical they turn up on ebay eventually. But by then we hated the thing, it was rough condition & we couldn't care less so outed it as spares-repairs. The preamp was a disgrace, stuffed full of ICs & later versions had even more. A rat's nest of unshielded computer cable connectors all over the top of one big PCB with extra boards for power supply & phono. The phono was very overdesigned with loads of transistors then an IC probably for MC gain. It sounded flat & boring as we tried it with our valve amps, though it did have the Pioneer tidy midrange it was lousy. The power amp was a huge 20kg lump & looked the part with big bar meters at the front, with huge heatsinks & capacitors. Typical useless copper plated screws on a thin chassis that scratched the paint a bit easily & chipboard end cheeks that age badly. The power amp boards had a double FET package that was unfindable but then appeared on ebay as did the bias IC that we suspected was faulty & at least got rid of it, never to be seen again. But the power amp at least worked right on one channel so to rate it is possible. For 200w the volume was pathetic even using the preamp. This sort of high powered rubbish we noted as a poor volume with some Sumo amps, so we review those too. The rating of average is for the preamp, the power amp if working right was a much better item, but the low volume keeps it down. Preamp has loads of ICs for control, relays & audio mangling, if a transistor power supply. Power Amp has 3 differentials inc FETs, IC for biasing-switching circuit & 8 output transistors per channel 2SA1516 & 2SC3907 which at least aren't expensive to buy if damaged. BUY-RAW RATING: Beware obsolete PCB mounted parts if faulty. COOL RATING: 7 these have that 'High End' look with the power amp having subtle lit meters & plastic covered side cheeks, the flap once missing kills the looks, but as most 1980s things are, quality of a rough one shows how the veneer of class is a thin one. (2013)
1986 Realistic STA-2280 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: n/a. 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. The power supply was clearly low spec to sound so weak. 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 about it. As original, we'll stand by the poor rating. Upgraded it barely scrapes a Recommended but for the Stereo FM uselessness, it stays as it stands.
BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 6 very 1986 looking with plastic aplenty if the digital tuner & meter add retro appeal, after all we bought one when it was new. (2011)
1986 Sony TA-F550ES amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: n/a. 90w.
FC, IC, DIFF. Certainly the most boring 'premium reference' amp we've ever heard, poor design STK block that runs hot for pre amp if transistor output stages. Phono stage is a Differential pair & an IC containing 14 transistors and a FET. Tone-Preamp is just the STK controlling IC with 2 differentials & the usual junk. Here music sounds cold & awful as designed to kill any musicality: devoid of life, interest & not even a decent volume despite 90w. If this miserable sound is modern "hifi", then buyers are being conned or deserve to be. 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. How Sony thought this miserable effort was acceptable just 18 years after the STR-6120 shows how far off the music dream 'hifi' became. This amp was bought to be just a Computer system amp as the TA-1150 we had tired of but it failed to deliver. But it got us trying the 18w Trio TK-150/KA-2002 amp & on noticing how nice it sounded, we went looking for more. The result you've been reading. There is no point us trying to upgrade amps with ICs or STK blocks, so we'll stand by our low rating. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 typical bland looks, better in lighter champagne than the grey-ish one, but as interesting to look at as to listen. (2011)
1990 Aura Evolution VA-100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 70w(?).
We bought this from Cash Converters when they used to get better gear in around 1992, got our fax machine there too, the plug on this was sold as hardwired across the fuse so dangerous to sell. Silly chrome faced thing no tone controls, typical gold plated connectors but an IC on the preamp & probably Phono too meant it didn't last long as it wasn't very exciting listening. One big board & MOSFETS means just everyday audio gear of no real quality. Not rubbish but nothing special. Bought the E30 below after this. BUY-RAW RATING: Only known as nearly new. COOL RATING: 5 chrome fronted minimalist thing, can't hide averageness with a bit of chrome. (1992?)
1991 Sumo 'The Ten' power amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a. 100w.
These we had on demo taking them home before buying the TT valve amps. It may be from 1998 but we remember them & have a blurry photo. Huge rackmount black handled things with a big meter & 2 rocker switches. We assume they are "The Ten" 100w yes but not Class A as they didn't get hot. Cranked them up on the 200w 15" Fane speakers we used at the time & the meters hit 60w with ease but they weren't very loud. A clean sound was here, but so clean it was boring with the sound quality being rather soft without much kick or anything even natural sounding. Tried them for long enough to find them of no use. Perhaps the preamp for them would be a better match as they may need a higher input voltage to sing, no specs known. Next tried the TT valve amps & was much more pleased with those & bought. Both amps the shop was desperate to get rid of so they were going cheap, probably the shop system for early AV for a while. Oversized, boring & stupid is our unfortunate verdict of a Sumo amp & no doubt any of these huge amps that seem to be more a USA thing, but the sound being clean if boring means they deserve the rating for those into that sort of thing not having heard how lively earlier amps are. To us, they're not really Hifi in the same way the beauty of a 50w vintage amp can be. BUY-RAW RATING: Only known as ex-demo shop stock. COOL RATING: 6 big stupid but impressive looking things with huge meters, if you like women like that, this is the amp for you. (1998)
1992 Marantz PM-62 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Recommended-Great. 60w.
FC, IC, DIFF, Darlington. 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 upgraded it into a more 1970s sound. It has tone controls & phono, if they are via ICs that do limit the fidelity. Phono IC& Tone-Pre IC with differentials, current mirrors, cascade bootstrap, six foot long shoelaces, incontinent elephants etc, all designed to trip you up & crap on you. Once upgraded it was pretty decent in terms of early hifi testing, 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. We did upgrade this to a certain level to make it sound less thin, but again the ICs & quite averageness of a 60w amp will never be beyond this & perhaps is the best we'll find with Post 1980 amps without going into the 'High Price' ones. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 plain black fascia looks to match the CD-52, just nothing special at all. (2012)
1993 Musical Fidelity Elektra E30 power amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: N/A 100w.
We bought this new ex-demo probably in about 1995-96 & used it with a Marantz Receiver & then the Rogers Cadet III done as a preamp only. Crazy times but the E30 unlike the A308CR nasty thing below wasn't too bad but even at the time thought it was very ordinary & it probably had ICs too. It lasted a while until the TT valve amps arrived as it packed in for some reason never to sing again. Surprising to read it's 100w never thought it went very loud. The step up to the TT valve amps after this was quite a huge leap in sound quality. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 just a plain glossy fascia box with a button on, what's to get excited about. (1995?)
1993 Tube Technology *Valve* Genesis Monoblock power amplifiers, Prophet 2-box preamp & Seer Phono preamp ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Great. UPGRADED: Excellent 100w.
All valve. These we bought very cheap ex-demo in 1998 as they had been round all the shop's branches unwanted as the shop was quite a mainstream one into AV more than Hifi. We lapped them up & as the 2 preamps were so cheap bought the lot, much to the shop owner's delight. And ours. Despite temporarily selling them tired of the heat they put out in 2002 quickly bought another power amp pair back again not more than a few weeks later. They've got rebuilt now for the 3rd time & sound very clean, way ahead of the blurry sound we had thought was great from previous upgrading. The original TT designs are very mediocre if they are attractive & well made. The circuits are very safe with what looks like just copying Mullard designs from the late 1950s with the valves running very cool especially on the preamps giving a boring sound. The Prophet pre unwisely uses regulated HT which we ripped out within a year of getting them & the improvement was very noticeable. Our currently used version of a TT preamp is very unlike the original design as we added tone controls & cobbled bits into making the tone controls in the 2 holes used for fuses in the Prophet design & nicking the fascia & control knobs. As the TT amps go as all-original they are clean sounding if rather boring sounding, so to rate them modestly showing there is much potential is right. The price of the Genesis amps has kept quite steady over the years if way off the original selling price. Ones to buy to upgrade is the best recommendation. They do make a room very hot in the Summer as do all bigger valve amps is one minus. BUY-RAW RATING: Only had since ex-demo new, nothing really to go wrong. COOL RATING: 8 the power amps look very stylish if the black front panel others aren't so keen on, we had ours painted gold that looked far more classy, if back to black it fades away a bit. preamp similar if just a closed box. (2014)
2002 Arcam FMJ C-30 preamplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: n/a preamp.
IC, Surface Mount. We got an ex-demo one to possibly use with the Musical Fidelity A308CR power amp after tiring of their preamp. The thing was very user-unfriendly to use with buttons to press to access features, clearly the designers never bothered to use it. So naturally it got opened up. The Phono board was a traditional components type board & actually was as good as our valve Phono at the time. But the main PCB was the awful surface mount "technology" with ceramic chip capacitors & other modern IC junk that is not hifi. This must have been in our stage of mismatching amp to speakers, before getting other gear as the Tone has ±12db gain as it is microprocessor controlled but it did little on the speakers. All a waste of money but buying at ex-demo price to sell on was easy enough. To recommend a very awkward to use preamp with ceramic surface mount tech compared to "proper" hifi of earlier years is tricky, but if you are only after modern gear this is probably very much what the buyer unaware of earlier Hifi would be happy with & get little enjoyment from it too. BUY-RAW RATING: Only had new ex demo. COOL RATING: 6 purposeful for the era, silver front & LED displays but fussy to use(2003)
2002 Musical Fidelity A308CR big pre/power amp combo ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 250w.
FC, IC, DIFF. We needed to rewrite this Amp review as it was based on opinions from 2002, and since finding our Speaker mismatch theory, we've thought more on this, if not tried one again, but you can't hide a lousy amp. We got the big pre & power amp of the A308CR, model numbers used on an integrated amp too confusingly. It was bought ex-demo on a whim, tired of the heat the valve amps made in Summer. A bad idea indeed, but at a giveaway ex-demo price we managed to get out of ok with ebay. Huge metal casing & cast bits to impress visually, but the inside was miserable & looked like an empty box for most of it, very average spec. The Phono stage on this "High End" thing was a sodding 75p Op-Amp. Everything was just so Ordinary Quality with cheap Ceramic capacitors & a whole lot of circuitry that we found was killing the sound. In fact we used these on either the 250w 15" Fanes or the Tannoy Golds & the sound was just so boring. the amp had no Tone Controls & the Golds do need a bit of Tone we notice on testing later amps. But even then, the Bass was very artificial, it seemed the excess NFB lost bass so they put a circuit to put Bass baclk, sadly no circuits are findable. It actually gave us a Headache & we don't get Headaches unless a bit dehydrated. But the 308 gave headaches each time it was used so it had to go & the TT valve amps bought back again remarkably a few weeks later, if not the same ones. There may be a chance of mismatch on the Power amp, but we did try it with the Valve Preamp with Tone & it still sounded so unappealing. The Damping Factor gives away the high NFB at 180, when Vintage amps are usually 40 to 60. Because Hifi Reviewers aren't as honest as we are, Payola, 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 cleverly sold via Hifi Mag hype to those poor souls in search of Good hifi. Go buy a cheap Leak 30 or 70 & then tell us it doesn't sound more pleasing than just about ANY post 1980 amp. Overall we just didn't like the very average quality of the circuits beyond the flashy outer case work, money spent on casing not in proportion to the electronics inside. BUY-RAW RATING: Only had it when new. COOL RATING: 5 again big stupid oversized fakery like the Sumo, it'll appeal to a certain crowd, but to us they are a bit naff for spending so much on the oversized cases but little on the circuitry. (2003)
2004 Prima Luna ProLogue 2 *Valve* amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
One we got to upgrade & repair so a chance to try a Modern Valve amp that we'd not otherwise get to try. The PL2 is KT88 40w valve amp with selector & Volume control, a passive preamp therefore. The build as others say is excellent with experienced builders here (in China) if the brand is in The Netherlands. KT88 valves are the ones Reggae Sound systems used to use as a PP pair can put out 100w. The sell price of this amp for the construction is great value, but be sure corners are cut in the circuitry & overall spec, which is more important. It has an autobias circuit that is useful for valve newbies, but overall we prefer to set it ourselves. We get the idea the autobias tries to cover some design weaknesses on the cheap but does it successfully. Stick with the PrimaLuna valves, they are much better than "Upgrades" using rubbish valves like the JAN ones. First try, using those "upgraded" valves reveals a lively upfront sound with enough attitude to impress on first listen, but to us we soon find noticeable weaknesses in the sound. Power supply is low spec for a start & it becomes harsh quite easily, making Rock especially a hard listen as it runs out of power. The spec is high in places, but where it matters the sound is left wanting & we soon turned it off, rather than play a few hours like amps we like get. Later using the original PL valves the sound is much more pleasant, if still revealing weaknesses. No circuits findable on this, but we found it has AC heaters on the 4 front valves so any upgrading may reveal heater hum, though the design has no noise beyond typical valve noise on Headphones. The trouble with the passive preamp going straight to the power amp is that volume has to be high enough & most amps are with a preamp give a higher signal voltage. Here they just drive the valves a bit excessively creating the hard sound that we still found tiring after upgrading some. But we are listening to Hifi we upgrade to our own non-conformist standard based on Valves & PA quality so know the weaknesses in this amp & tried to overcome some without getting into issues. But for the price these are New or Used on ebay, they are great value. No Phono (except a miserable op-amp IC add on), No Tone, No Headphone, No Mono & No filters may put some off, but if you can live with that this is a great starter amp into valves. On speakers the sound was impressive,, but a bit of a hard edge to the midrange being unbalanced stood out more than via Headphones, but still good enough to rate Excellent. We tried it as a Power Amp using our valve pre with Tone, but this just accented the peaky midrange. For the price, it's a great starter valve amp, better than the 1960s ones, but soon you'll tire of it's lack of finesse, though our upgrades did improve it quite noticeably, but if deep pockets allow it'll still have impressed to make you want to buy a 'proper' valve amp with the expected features. This was an interesting amp & be sure it's way better quality than the odd Chinese brand ones. It looks best with both cages off, if that reveals some finish issues. An encouraging amp indeed & the rest of their range if they go further will be interesting too. Just a shame they have to cost cut the circuitry and spec & skimp on not having a better preamp when we can see they know how do it better than this. But the price is the attraction. There is good upgrade potential in the amp is our opinion after having upgraded the one we had in. Free upgrade hint: ditch the ECC82 (12AU7) for ECC81 (12AT7) as the sound is much sweeter. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. No need to revalve usually. COOL RATING: 6 appealing in a minimalist valve amp way, but looked better with the cases off. (2014)
2007 Marantz PM6002 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average-Recommended. UPGRADED: Great. 45w.
FC, multiple IC & multiple DIFF. Because it was cheap & looked nice, the temptation to see what a 2007 amp by one of the Top 1970s Brands was too good to miss. First of the PM6000s range that currently is at PM6005. All are 45w amps if mostly black fascia & later ones with a DAC. "Proper" looking on the inside with Toroidal transformer, heatsink, power caps, output transistors. Nicely made in Silver if like a DVD player & no duff capacitors as 2007 often had, Marantz used quality parts. Finally get it working, the sound is competent but very tamed, treble a bit bright & deep bass limited, but most vintage amps after 1967 are low on deep bass too. Not a rough miserable sound though & to be fair as a first play we've heard many vintage amps sound much worse though they suffer from age & being unserviced. On trying Rock it sounds a bit thin without the kick it needs & focus is a bit unsure sounding. Surprisingly they still use messy glue to stop the big caps falling out, vintage amps without the glue coped well so why glue here? We tried it on the 1969 Tannoy Golds expecting a mismatch, but not so. The Tone + to - test showed a noticeable change if not a perfect match. Stereo was wide but overall the limited sound became boring for the deep bass limiting giving a one-note bass & lack of fuller dynamics. But to be fair, on Speakers way beyond it's usual partnering, this amp didn't disgrace itself at all. The Phono stage is cleaner than the awful IC Phono stages of old if soft on detail. The omission of a Mono button is a pity & no Pre Out-In sockets. Source Direct gives buyers the idea it's Amp Input to Volume to Power Amp, how naive. It just bypasses the Tone stage but nothing else. This was a Five Star 'What Hifi' Amp (as most are...) when new. The current PM6005 has no ICs in Audio & adds Digital inputs, but it will be as 'sound mangled' as this one is despite the sales hype. But Marantz still make Turntables. The PM6004 & 6005 hype about no ICs with transistors allowing more design ability, well that's what we said on an early "We Hate ICs" page (not online now) 'An IC is just a general purpose design'. Did they read our page & use our reasoning? The Cold Hard fact is Marantz sales hype gives the impression they are improving all the time, which is not true. After making Transistor amps since the late 1960s you'd think they'd sell better goods than how unappealing the PM6002 sounds raw. We upgraded ours & it improved a lot but still not better than the 2265B we upgraded as noted above, but to score it 'Great' is fair, but hardly worth the effort, we just done ours for the hell of trying. Progress in analog audio is a myth. We had a look at the PM8005 current model, it just adds a DAC to the PM8004 & it just has too much circuitry to not sound as good as the PM6002 upgraded did. We did upgrade this doing over 100 changes, but ultimately the fragile build quality is not repair-upgrade friendly so confirmed how disposable modern electronics are. There is a reason the PM6005 is only £299 new, it's just going to be e-waste in a few years, just like every mass-market cheaply made amp made since about 1982 is. Shocking. BUY-RAW RATING: Good but beware Volume control issues. COOL RATING: 6 basic but smart silver fascia for modern life, but otherwise just a plain tin box. (2014)
We've added many pages of photos of the actual amps we had & were taken as they were sold. An unique archive of Serviced, Cleaned & sometimes Upgraded amps with many photos inside & out.
*MORE AMP REVIEWS
See the "Other Amps" page for others we looked at but didn't like or try yet for various reasons, plenty of amps there get a look.
Our First Ever Troll, you insult us, we publish you!
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yourname: Indiana Mike
real person see http://www.stangnet.com/mustang-forums/threads/wheel-hop.765287/page-2 also has trolled on Youtube as Google reveals
question: Your 'reviews' are ludicrous. You don't listen to all equipment, you seem to have a checklist style of approval, rather like 13 year old girls checklist their male schoolmates. You automatically assume a high current amp sounds bad, just because. And without listening. As an example, you state a pioneer receiver sounds better than a Krell power amp, without even mentioning what pre is driving the Krell. Your method of writing about Stereo Equipment is pure, unadulterated, crap. Now go back to your spec sheets as you delete or censor this email.