|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 is the Best Pioneer amp? What is the Best Sony amp? What Amplifiers Upgrade Well? What problems do some Hifi amps always get? Which are the Best Looking Stylish Amplifiers. Why do I keep asking questions?
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... We are in the UK & our site covers amps mostly sold in the UK or Europe, though some Amps not available in the UK made it to the UK via Army-Navy stores exports.
WE SELL ORIGINAL VINYL 7" 45RPM RECORDS
ON THIS select45rpm WEBSITE FROM 1950s TO 1980s
SEE THE MENU BAR FOR OUR SET SALE RECORD LISTINGS
WITH PHOTOS & MP3 SAMPLES
**See the "How We Decide The Top Amps" Page** for Many More Thoughts On Hifi
>>> PAGE INDEX IS BELOW...
This Page Reviews Vintage Amplifiers & receivers that we have had to try out.
THIS PAGE IS ALL OUR RESEARCH! © 2011-2016
For other ones we researched for our needs but haven't tried yet... see the OTHER AMPS page.
We see others rewriting-quoting our unique research as their knowledge in many places, it's how the internet is: one good site can spawn a million ideas. Ignore the copycats who pretend they are 'experts' for their egos, read it here & be sure we update our sections regularly. Despite this blatant 'taking us as fact' by Hifi Sheep, there are no false amps or red-herring info deliberately put to show up these that can only copy. Go ask one of these copycats for more info & see what part of our page they plagarise next! Are we bothered? If we were, we'd delete the lot!
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.
Why Do People Want Old Hifi? Isn't New Better?
We had the VM guy bring a new TiVo as the old one had issues. Takes time to set up so to have a chat. This guy is clearly a technical type & is older than us. "Why do people want old hifi? Isn't New better?" he asked. We were a little surprised at that, if perhaps he is trained in general electronics rather than vintage crazy upgrades doing things few try like is how we do it & we certainly get delighted buyers. Why Old is better is for the lack of tight budget constraints, pricing to the penny to be competitive is one. Early Transistor designs like the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & 1966 Akai AA7000 are luxurious price no object designs made from scratch based on Valve Amp designs. Those two amps are certainly the best in vintage, if they need a total rebuild to be their best, they are over 50 years old now. For the mastery of the designer, a pure sound is possible, with huge effortless dynamics. Treble so pure, Midrange so effortless & Deep Bass. The Sony & Akai look great too as money was spent on making them look great, the Akai especially is probably the first "Designer" Hifi & should be heralded as an important Design, but it's been forgotten.
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.
The Hifi We Cover In Our Pages.
We look out for Hifi of a certain quality & age that we can relate to, from knowing it years ago or it being familiar from old Hifi Books, Magazines & having similar amps. There is a huge amount of Budget-Midprice gear that we have tried a few of, but generally have lost interest fast & tend to avoid it now as it doesn't inspire. To say we are Already Snobby about Hifi perhaps is harsh, but not to say some of these aren't great value, Leak & Goodmans amps are a great start into Vintage, but as with anything, man craves better if he is aware of it. As with Records, this is a Vinyl 45s Site after all, the lesser items have faded away, yet the market is still there for them, the rewards are thin for the effort. The amps we cover are Better Midprice to Top Of The Range. This Top Of The Range gear may seem quite low powered compared to later years, but it's the Best Amp of It's Era & it was expensive to buy new & it was rarely cost cut until the mid 1970s. Depending on the Economy, some years got a lot of expensive Hifi sold yet tighter years has people go to the Discount Stores, as they still wanted music of the old one failed. As an example, the busiest years in Hifi in the 1970s seem to be 1977-79, the Disco & John Travolta era so many high priced amps like Yamaha, Pioneer, Trio, Sansui etc sold well. To those who prefer Modern High-End, as in Hifi edging into £10K territory, we don't have much for you here if all that catches your eye is the price. But to forget the Quality of these Vintage Quality Hifi for only being 40w, 75w, 100w is foolish as the pure musicality of the Best Ones will generally exceed the Megabucks ones. Depends on your attitude really & whether things are beneath you high up your Ivory Tower. Most Hifi Buyers are not willing to spend much more than £200-£500 on Hifi as a look at Amazon shows. The better Hifi would be like Pearls Before Swine, but as with anything in life, you need to learn it & experience it to appreciate it's 'betterness' which is difficult as high quality can be at one price, but anything appreciably better can be 5 to 10 times the price. The amps we cover are generally found for under £500 & for ones we Upgrade to Sell, usually done for our own interest, need to be priced right to sell, rather than outprice them as we found selling serviced Leak Delta 70s for over £100 a few years ago, the status of these amps keeps them at a certain level. Some of the Best Vintage as Original or Upgraded, if you heard it & used it at home, you may have been happy paying twice the price for in theory, but you wouldn't have in reality as the market level isn't there yet for there to be the trust to pay £1000+ for anything but those 150w ones. As of typing, we have two of the same excellent amp, one we spent months fully upgrading just to see how far it could go & how good we are, but the other one to sell we'll recap-upgrade only to a certain level to get a certain price. The reality of what the fully upgraded one should sell for would more than double the price and probably alienate the market as does when ebayers put our Serviced & Upgraded prices on raw amps which ruins the market for months as everyone just copies rather than leads. But the Hifi market still is very young, not seeing the value translated into their worthy prices just yet, though it has altered a lot since we started these pages. To say we had a big hand in popularising Vintage Hifi in the last few years is fair, with our Pages For The People, rather than the same dry biased rhetoric that is usually Hifi writing. Upgrading is very worth the effort, if currently it's still not much understood. Those into spending Big Money on Hifi generally aren't yet interested in Vintage, unaware of just how much more musical some modest amps can be. Where will we go with this next?
OUR CRITERIA OF WHAT IS GOOD SOUND
This site has many pages, if we've put several similar on one page with an Index to keep page counts lower, see the Menu bar as Hifi subjects are wide ranging. Pages like "The Golden Age Of Hifi" tells about the 1963-77 era, the "What Makes Better Hifi" are sections that used to be on this page explaining what we see as Real Hifi Sound. See the "Loudspeakers" & "Advice On Buying" pages. Some of these pages were written a few years ago & we do read through them occasionally to make sure they are still what we preach. We read others reviewing Hifi & quickly realise they don't understand the item at all. Your ideas of sound can be way off what others like, some play harsh speakers & love them, some play bass way too loud & thick sounding. Others are hair-shirt wearers & insist on Flat Settings Only, unaware that source Direct is often far from what they think. The best Hifi isn't really "there" as in you don't feel like you are listening to Loudspeakers, in recent comparing of Tannoy Gold 12" & 15" we really could tell a huge difference. Amplifiers can be difficult in comparing as one may be less neutral & leave the most neutral supposedly dull sounding. Then there's speaker matching troubles. Plenty of that on this site, Our Opinions made from Our Research based on the ability to upgrade & redesign as well as know Music very well, this is a Record Sales site after all. We don't bother with flowery language about how some track you don't know sounds, we play some test tracks often on amps & they can sound quite different from amp to amp. Again we favour the Neutral sound, but there is no Sin in using Tone Controls. Knowing good sound takes learning, to see fools selling Brand New Hifi with 5 hours use in the pre 2009 days showed how clueless these people are. You need to live with a Hifi item for a week or two to understand it fully. some amps we keep on our speakers for daily use for just this reason. On high quality big Speakers even a fairly ordinary but Good amp can sound surprisingly good, if it will never have been played with speakers way out of it's league, it shows some modest amps are far better than opinions of ago thought. We do our critical testing, upgrading & redesign on headphones as the finesse once heard on headphones will subtly reveal itself on speakers, if speakers suffer from the effects of the room with reflections smoothing roughness away unless your hifi ears are as tuned to the best quality as we can notice. Smaller speakers with boxy colouration to the sound & gritty treble on cheap tweeters can make even the best amp sound disappointing, as can poor matching. So we only rate 'Original spec' but serviced amps no higher than 'Very Good' for the simple fact many can upgrade to be a superior item. Not just better as superficially more exciting, but of a finer quality. The rest of the write-up will tell you more. The ratings are based on headphone use & to match to a speaker may not be as easy as you want, but our Loudspeakers page explains more.
Want Us To Review & Rate Your Hifi?
We'll do a Service & Full Check of your transistor amp starting from £100 depending on how complex it is, plus any repairs needed would be extra. We are UK based, courier charges both ways are extra. We've done this on a few amps & as it gets us to rate amps we'd probably not try, all for the learning & for our readers to hear us rate more amps. We can do Valve amps from late 1950s onwards but the age of these will mean recapping is usually needed. Our review of it will be like other reviews, we don't put average amps down, but make it clear of ones that are just not very good, ie Armstrong. For more info on sending us Hifi, see our Upgrades page. So much "Audio Gear" is touted as Hifi when much of it isn't so great as our Reviews below show. We can review your Hifi if you send it to us for a Service or Repair & be sure we have no paid Bias beyond our own opinion to rate Hifi. Our Reviews below get deeper into the amps as the years went on & we can say what we like & what is poor in any amp. Beware we can be brutal on some amps, we've thought of getting the much-hyped Pioneer A400 to review one but it's just a budget amp & to put negative reviews like the "Other Amps" page gets seems a bit pointless. As with our Hifi Sales & Upgrades, we send full details so you know you'll get a full paper trail, rather than sending to some random on the internet. We have been surprised with amps from all eras as you can see, there are Great & Lousy Amps from the 1960s to 2000s, we've found some great sounding 1980s & 1990s amp already and there must be more, if these will be top of the range or more exotic ones, rather than the 1960s & 1970s when the big brands still cared about quality. If any modern manufacturers can take our Critique, we're game to try any Amplifiers, Receivers, Pre & Power Amp combos in Transistor or Valve. We'll not edge into Consulting on Hifi design or Fine Tuning as sadly CE regulations have to be followed which inevitably dumbs down even the best design.
Comparing to Vintage 'Hifi News' Reviews
Some of these amps get reviewed in the HFN magazine so it's interesting to read the opinions when new compared to us playing them decades later, with the issues of aging often overcome & bettered by upgrading. The trouble with the reviews pre mid 1980s is very little is subjective & there are no comparisons to earlier Hifi which is how the thinner sounding Differential era amplifiers went unnoticed. Here we play 1965-67 hifi to compare with any age of Hifi & as well as upgrading, the later post 1971 just hasn't got that sound that amps pre 1969 have. Many of the amps below aren't reviewed by HFN but other mags will, but we'll only be getting the HFN set. The reviews in any mag pre mid 1980s are generally just descriptive & technical, some technical to the point of wondering who cared or could apply such info to deciding which one to buy. There is no real commenting on how smooth, crisp, natural bass or how wide-deep Stereo soundstage is. This is all subjective & relies on the reviewer understanding music quality for pleasure. Similarly with Vinyl Records, we care about the Music & the Original 45, unless it's important to understand the track, to know who's playing on it or to hear the artist perform it live decades later doesn't interest us.
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. 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
These have been rated based on current ideas & can be reassessed, read on... We rate amps as simply "Excellent" "Very Good" 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. Our descriptions will reveal the ones of 'higher excellence' than other 'excellent' ones, but once an amp upgraded gets 'excellent' be sure it's a good amp to upgrade & worth the effort of us upgrading. For the fact Amps & Speakers don't all match well, to rate higher than 'excellent' may not be excellent to you if a 1967 amp doesn't match 1992 speakers. Any amp Rated Very Good (previously 'Great' was the same level of quality) 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 respectable 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 are now just Recommended because we do recommend you buy one if it appeals to you. Also 'Average' and 'Hopeless' are used, Average being no better than any £20-50 late 1970s to modern amp. Hopeless are just that awful amps you should avoid.
Japanese & USA Hifi gets the Best Ratings. We are UK based so got to try a lot of UK & imported Amps plus ones that were never sold in the UK but got brought in by other ways. We've been reading the Hifi News magazine from 1956-80 and by 1966 the Imported Hifi of all types, except Loudspeakers are becoming more numerous & the reviewers are liking them, even based on old WW2 ideas, they are seeing the USA & Japanese hifi to be so much better in spec & looks than the UK gear which is being seen as 'Old Fashioned' as brands will not update their drab looks to get Overseas buyers. UK Tuners still only went to 100 or 104 if the EU market wants 88-108 FM range so they limit themselves & it's why many brands vanished between 1965 & 1975. Look at our 'Solds Gallery' the UK amps are not attractive if they are usually no better than Mid Price with Leak & Rogers being the main players. Look at our ratings, UK gear is often 'Recommended' rarely 'Very Good' even when upgraded. We've tried, but the UK & EU stuff is just not as good as Japanese & USA gear. By the late 1980s UK Cottage Industry brands change things as we used to see UK brands like Tube Technology making effort to make attractive valve amps, if their circuits were pretty mediocre & safe sounding, well worth upgrading. We'd Recommend the UK Leak, Rogers, Goodmans & Sugden amps as 'starter amps' but generally the UK gear is pretty average in nlooks & midprice quality. The only UK amp as Upgraded we rated "Excellent" was the Rogers HG88 Mk III, if that's based on our upgrades. For Modern Hifi, the Linn & Naim way of selling ugly limited gear we never liked, a turntable that only plays 33rpm is of no use to us. You could buy upgrades & power supplies & other junk that showed you were being sold lesser gear to need upgrades. Every good amp we get we upgrade to see how good it is. Some we consider the 'higher excellent' were often pretty lousy as original but we see potential in the circuits & go further with upgrading than anyne else would dare. Each amp upgraded is still on a learning curve, to forever learn rathe than think you know it all & be sure we've upgraded amps & found new ideas to think 'wish we had that amp to do that with' and will revisit amps if we find one. The Audio World of today is not really Hifi to us, Hifi being "State Of The Art" and if we can upgrade amps from 1965-66 to get remarkable quality, it shows Hifi design in Transistors was better if they were limited by spec & availability. We only hear the 50 years aged version. Today electrical goods are on the wane, the current 2015-16 'Gadget Show' is full ofg internet & gaming as Tech has been combined so much, what else is there? Audio gear they show is laughable tiny speakers & whether the Linn-Naim way of upgrading is popular in new items probably still is 'yes' as the things still make good prices online. But as with anything, these devoted "i-phone" type blind-followers don't know what "better" sounds like. We hear our upgraded "special" amps that we upgrade for our interest & then sell on are being compared to £20,000+ hifi & be sure the musicality of our creations is always preferred to anything. Comparing 1960s 10w-18w amps to 300w "monsters" the beauty & subtlety of Good Vintage will please the ears more, if "that silly little thing" isn't so silly once upgraded. There are others out there doing upgrades, but we see we are way up the ladder in our research & skills to what else we see. If you want a taste of our "sound" some amps we buy may be sold cheaper as condition issues, if the amps sound great.
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 revisiting ones from ago.
Updated: Now Which Are The Best Ones?
For All Original but Serviced amps, the rating "Very Good" is the best you'll get, to rate higher as all original plus being 30-50 years old isn't really possible. If an Amp can be upgraded to sound Excellent, then it wasn't Excellent before, but Very Good shows it's of a good quality & without narrowing things too much. Be sure buyers just go for the Best Rated without any thought if it would suit their needs. Knowing excellence from some amps that have gone further than others. Upgrading as we do is a very different game & from what we know and see elsewhere, no-one has our upgrade skills so we are pretty much alone in this. But it is done to the better amps to see how good they can be & desite rating them "Excellent" there are grades of Excellence but we'll not grade higher to not limit things. But the thing is as our upgrades go further & the more we play valves, to be fair to these amps to rate them afresh as really no amp ever made can really rate higher than "Very Good" & this is reflected clearer now. Our References are in both Transistor & Valve amps.
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.
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 Original Spec 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.
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 previously rated '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 that's not too helpful. A 'Very Good' amp genuinely is Very Good. if having heard the 'Excellent' ones there is a difference, especially on headphones. On speakers however a Very Good 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. As we hear more amps once we upgrade them, many are settling on "Excellent" but to downgrade them would be wrong, excellence is there for sure as others will agree. But they can be very different in tonal balance as no two amp designs sound identical. A few amps have certainly exceeded others but again we'll leave Excellent as the highest.
LOWER MODELS IN THE SAME RANGE
By 1976 ranges, the Top Of The Line amp we are finding is a bit overdesigned. With Pioneer SX-939, the SX-838 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 beast 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.
BE AWARE SOME OF THESE NEED REBUILDING
Some of these amplifiers & receivers will work to a degree once serviced. But there are some that will need A Full Rebuild-Recap before you should use them. It's because they are getting too old or have known failures & may trash your speakers. Valve amps always need recapping first, the Quad IIs we had were like new & were still useable, but many are well used & rough. The 1965 Sony TA1120 is now 50 years old & generally capacitors pre 1968 will not be reliable. depending on how much use the amp got. A 1967 Sony TA1120A had an issue since new & was unused but the capacitors were no good. Many UK brands pre 1980 use TV grade capacitors which are failing & leaking. We've had 1967 amps that still work fine but we always recap amps we sell as the life of the amp still using 30-50 year old capacitors can be unpredictable. Just be aware of the work these need, factor in a professional upgrade or if you think yopu can do it yourself, look how the amp is inside as some are very awkward to work on as well as others are better.
AMP AS UPGRADED RATING
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 Very Good 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.
AFTER 1977: AMPLIFIERS & RECEIVERS
Very few amps 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 Golden Era 1967-1977. With any year from 1967 to 1977 there are plenty of Mediocre amps but plenty are Really Very Good Ones as you can see detailed. We've tried quite a few of the 1978 onwards amps & only really two stood out as better with only one rating as good as the early ones. We'd like to tell you of other quality 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. 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'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.
*See the DECIDING THE BEST HIFI Page
Our ideas of what Makes Good Hifi, including many sections moved from this page to ease this long page.
RECENT ADDITIONS in order added 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), 1969 Sony STR-6050 receiver, 1966 Coral A-550 amplifier, 1969 Teac AG6000 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 (germanium). 1979 Technics SU-C01, SE-C01 & SH-C01 pre-power amp set. 1973 Pioneer SA-9100 amplifier. 1984 Sansui AU-G90X amplifier. 1971 Hitachi IA-1000 amplifier. 1972 Harman-Kardon 930 receiver. 1979 Luxman LX33 amplifier (valves). 1984 Sansui AU-G30X amplifier. 1968 Armstrong 521 amplifier. 1973 JVC 5521L receiver. 1965 Fisher 600-T receiver (germanium). 1965-66 Duette SA500W amplifier [germanium]. 1995 Spectral DMA90 power amplifier. 1967 JVC Nivico 5040U receiver. 1963 Trio W41 amplifier (valves). 1978 Luxman R1050 receiver. 1968 JVC Nivico MCA 104Z amplifier. 1965 KLH 27 receiver (germanium). 1970 Akai AA-8500 receiver. 1967 HH Scott 334-C receiver. 1966 Akai AA-7000 receiver. 1970 Nikko TRM 1200 amplifier. 1970 KLH Model Fifty Two 52 receiver. 1966 Fisher 440-T receiver. 1968 Dokorder Model 8060 amplifier & 8070 tuner. 1976 Technics SU-8080 (A80) amplifier. 1972 Akai AA-8080 receiver. 1995 Sony TA-FA3ES amplifier. 1975 Realistic SA-1500 amplifier. 1973 Realistic STA-220 receiver.
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. 1977 Rotel RX-603 receiver. 1974 Leak 2000 receiver. 1974 Pioneer SX-838 receiver. 1971 Sony STR-6055 receiver. 1968-78 Ferrograph F307-20+20 amplifier. 1971 Teac AS-100 amplifier. 1972 Rotel RA 610 amplifier. 1975 NAD 160a receiver. 1970 Philco-Ford M1550 amplifier. 1970 Goodmans Module 80 receiver. 1967 JVC Nivico 5010U receiver. 1968 Trio-Kenwood TK-66 receiver. 1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X receiver.
AMPLIFIER & RECEIVER INDEX... click on the item
see the OTHER AMPS page for lots more.
** Part One, this page, covers 1957-1971.
** Part Two is linked to a new page now & covers 1972-2007
**see the OTHER AMPS page for lots more.
1953 Quad II valve power amps + 1958 Quad 22 valve preamp ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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. Remarkably it's as early as 1953, replacing the 1948 Quad I, says Wikipedia & the Quad II was available until 1970. UPGRADES? The Aug 1970 Hifi News gives ideas for upgrading, losing the EZ32 rectifier valve if making other changes as voltages differ & Nov/Dec 1969 mentions upgrades to valve preamps to get lower noise levels, but suggests adding transistors. Can't say we'd like to lose so much of the originality on these amps, either enjoy it for what it is or sell it to buy something else, rather than start butchering it if it's a high grade all-original one, though if you must alter, get a rough one that needs repainting & has little value beyond parts. 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 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 guessing there is the KW-70 which is incorrect, just look at the underside circuit & extra display valve even as proof they differ, if there is similar in others too. The WX-400U was an Export Model it appears, not sold in Japan, only EU possibly though it has a 110-240v switch. There is an amplifier-only version that looks very similar inside, the W41U if we'd never seen one for sale, if we are now getting one to upgrade shortly. 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 Very Good 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. (2012-15)
1963 Trio W41 valve amplifier↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Excellent. 10w Valves.
This is the amplifier-only version of the WX400U receiver without the FM tuner. A cute little amp 313mm wide with a gold-grey lid, gold fascia with lid colour panel, embossed lines & red power light line gives it a bit of style. Still heavy for the casing & transformers. Top row of small sliders, headphone socket & the rotary controls have solid cast knobs, all very classy looking. We got this to rebuild for a customer so get to put our WX400U ideas in it if possible to make an excellent amp. This one does work if we're not playing it for long as it's probably not been played in 50 years & has mains hum & a little crackle. The W41 is the USA version with a 100-117v switch. The W41U is the 117-240v multivoltage one with three bigger transformers for the higher voltage else both are the same, the "U" is shown on a sticker but to only realise this on seeing the amp. The circuit diagram we have suggests all are multivoltage, but that's gambling for you. No problem to use a step-down transformer & it works right. The looks of this are like that Lost In Japan look you see on some early Hifi sites, the best stuff never exported & for the lifting of Trade Regulations shortly before 1963, the USA & Japan could export their best gear to new markets, if only Pioneer, Fisher, Trio & Sherwood appear in the Hifi Yearbook listings on our pages. For a 52 year old amp, it's seen very little use, no signs of darkening or aging, if the capacitors knowing how bad the WX400U was aren't to be trusted, if the voltages read well. The Tone controls are unusual, four in total as L+R have a separate control, leading to the ganged controls of later amps. This has the old conical phono sockets, no good for modern cables as no grip or they'll break the plugs as too big, to redo these is a bit of a job. To recap one of these amps takes redesigning & sensitivity to keep it looking tidy, for the small size of this, it certainly is a challenge. As often happens with very rare amps, another turns up. One supposedly serviced by an "expert" looks still 52 years old & entirely original to us, buyer beware. They say it sounds "lush warm & powerful", no, it'll sound very thin, humming, aged, low volume & disappointing, ours did & it had little use. It needs a full rebuild. The difficulty here as with most pre 1970s valve amps is the main capacitors are double & triple ones, these are not buyable & to recap isn't easy. This isn't our amp, it's a customers but we'll keep working on it until it's perfected. Having upgraded it with a lot of rebuilding, it now sounds fresh, lively & bassy. The original valves have burnt into the old spec & it sounded awful until revalving & then the good sound appeared. Once completed, background noise & hum using headphones was acceptable if not as low as later valve amps & the specs on these reveal this. But in use on speakers we heard no noise if you might do in the dead of night. For what it is, a 10w valve amp, it sounded nice on speakers if perhaps would suit ones of higher sensitivity than 95dB even. On the Tannoy Golds it had enough volume which showed it's sweet sound that will certainly please. But to buy one of these as-original & use is not recommended, we found some caps in ours were dry & like the Rogers ones they could get issues if regularly used. BUY-RAW RATING: As 52 years old to recap is required before even first trying it, the usual warnings on pre 1969 amps. COOL RATING: 7 cute looking smaller amp but very nicely made. (2015)
1965 Fisher 600-T receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 45w
SC, Transformer Coupled, Hybrid: Valve-Nuvistors-Germaniums-Silicons. We had a Fisher 440T long ago but it was such poor grade, no lids or case it got parted out very easily. It intrigued us for it's early style build & at last we've found one worth getting, and a 440-T too, see below. Most were sold as chassis amps to build into consoles as Fisher was a top brand in the USA. London shop 'Imhofs' has this in Nov 1965 for £226. These have a black metal lipped base & top grilles with the wood case & gold top grille. The 600-T comes as either a 110v or a 220v compatible, the 440T did but this is a 110v as expected but a 300w external step down transformer will power it. The 220v versions have extra striped wires on the transformer. One valve & two Nuvistors for the Tuner front end, mostly Germaniums with some Silicon if Germanium outputs, 8 in total to get 45w. The build inside is one to scare many off, it is very densely packed with hard wiring & early components as well as being deeply fascinating. This sort of amp played The Beatles 'Revolver' & 'Rubber Soul' so will have been much enjoyed so to find one for a reasonable price, not a $1000 delivered one, with most of the print on the front & the gold knob caps is not so easy to find. Looking at the photos of the 440T this is far more sophisticated. In the top section, seeing Transistors in push-in holders is unusual, only seen this with Fisher. Two transformers for the push-pull splitter stage as the NatPan SA5800 & Sansui 3000A used. The two top TO3 transistors are pre-to-power amp buffers and the two ceramic posts are resistors for impedance matching as the Sansui 3000A has. Two larger main capacitors in card outer casings are 3000µf 40v as this is a semi complimentary amp like the other 1967 ones. The rear silver capacitor is a triple one for the valves-nuvistors. The underneath is similarly packed with Phono in the rear corner, the two mid ones are Preamp-Tone & the power supplies in two places. It uses cable trunking like the early Sonys do, axial capacitors & the orange squares are ceramic capacitor blocks for Tone & EQ, if not the best quality, these are used in McIntosh preamps too & can be upgraded as we've done before. The amount of work to assemble this by hand will be huge, it is very impressively made if still much hardwired. The cast aluminium back panel, similar to the Heathkit below. The sockets are tightly spaced if ones a modern cable can use if it's the slimline type. A linked socket pair marked 'Rev' is for a Reverb Amp loop, or Graphic today, not really a Pre In-Out though. Tape Out is Line Level, Phono Hi (Ceramic) & Lo (MM) with Tape Head for a open reel player. Tape Monitor, Aux Hi goes through a 220k resistor if Aux Lo is direct. Speaker outs for two pairs via the same type the McIntosh MC275 uses so those Gold Posts we recommend on sales pages fit, if rather closely. Four 2A fuses are the only protection. Our one is Estate-fresh from the USA & this is how you want complex amps, to avoid the repaired or fiddled-with ones. To use a mains transformer is no bother even for long use, just keep the original plug on so there is no confusion about voltage. Looking online there are various versions. Ours has no output stage adjust pots but diodes & the eight TO3 outputs, any with wood fascias are not original. The nameplate is sprung if what for, nothing behind it on ours which is a late 41100 series one, not a chassis version, if an early one shows there are trimmer pots. There are apparently 4 versions of this with manuals, very highly rated and beyond McIntosh we read, we'll find out soon. Look for the Fisherconsoles.com site if navigation is vague, downloads are there. Finding a 1964 Consoles catalog reveals why so few have wood cases, they were supplied in a custom furniture type cabinet, but these are valve amps, not the 600-T. It looks 1965-66 to us. The earlier Fisher 600 is a valve amp of an all-valve design. To recap an amp like this for advanced folks only, the amount of hard wiring to PCBs is not so easy. Pity it uses ceramic blocks for Tone EQ & High Filter and also the main preamp caps oddly are W. German ones like EU radiograms. Would be nice to get a perfect fascia, but screen printing with lacquer over will wear on the Power-Volume & Selector. If Hifi restoration was more advanced, you could get these redone. First try with the 110v external transformer at least is as described, it works, after one duff looking cap temporarily replaced & the FM tuner importantly works. We're not trying it for long as it is 50 years old but there is a pleasing sound here if clearly substandard by the aging caps. 'Aux Lo' is the input we use & L+R seem swapped compared to other amps with our cables. To hear bass is limited & clipping shows it's best to work on it, amps like these pre 1967 ones are only for advanced users. But the treble is clean & smooth showing this will sound very nice once upgraded. After how nice some 1965-67 amps are, the randomness of hard wiring here & axial caps is less appealing, but the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X still had lots of axial caps. The Tuner stage Valve & Nuvistors work on 114v-152v & the one can has 3 capacitor stages in it. For the fact if it works we'll leave that one be. Four axial caps in the mid top of the amp are for the FM Stereo bulb & four amid the back transistors are part of the power amp. The Interlock on the mains switch appears to be for safety in console ones with no cases, usually found disconnected. Overall not too hard to recap & not much, if the skill is in doing it right. Getting ready to recap, our opinion whether it'll stay longer is unsure, it seems reliable & a popular amp, though how good it really is will decide. It's more like a valve receiver & kooky things like transistors mid air in plug-in holders all seems a little alien. After recapping the preamp boards & the output transistor ones, time to try it, L+R balance corrected now. Despite the power caps still original, a lively sound far better than expected for the kooky construction. Known strong transient aka kicking tracks are delivered surprisingly confidently. It is surprising that this funny looking amp sounds this good. The biggest underside capacitor was dry & had vented if not crusty. The two main caps were still good. The only minus with this amp is it's semi hardwired making working on the PCBs a bit tricky. We've recapped ours now as well as giving it a better gain. Very clean precise sound with a valve-germanium smoothness, proper bassline now as the original design didn't bring much. As with the 1965 Sony TA1120 it doesn't sound 50 years old at all if has a certain retro sound to it that appeals, no grainy sound here & a precision few amps can offer with a circuit that isn't too typical but it sounds great. Having it 110v & needing a step-down transformer is no bother, no hums or limits to the sound, to find a EU 220-240v is probably unlikely. But it certainly it brings musical pleasure & will be a hard one to liberate to the world as one we've wanted to try. Working out the path of the signal from Aux is very complex if very unusually it has buffer stages. The 2N2613-2N2614 are Germaniums as are the RCA 35144 TO3 output eight set. The preamp to the board mounted drivers then coupling transformer then to the output sets. The audio stages are therefore all Germanium apart from the last two on the preamp! So you can imagine after liking the JVC MCA104E & Duette SA500W amps with Germaniums, why not do this 45w all Germaniums? Some to redesign as some is a bit poor, large signal resistors on the preamp limit the sound freshness, but the fun of it really. Actually worked very well, if one for the advanced tech only to try, there is much more in this amp. All Germaniums done right betters valves, but don't tell anyone. One oddity is the Inputs L+R are correct to Balance control, but as with the Heathkit below, the Headphone is wired the wrong way round to all other amps. The Phono stage is cleaner than nearly all amps, very musical, no thick muddy sound here. Looking at the first manual compared to our late version, the amount of changes are huge with 7 preamp transistors, a totally different power supply & much renumbered, surprising they didn't call them Mk I etc. The Tuner stage with a valve, two NuVistors, The IF & MPX boards is as smooth & detailed as a valve tuner. Ours needs some adjusting to get Stereo if the beacon lights & the FM spread is wider than the dial. You can see how we rebuild amps, as close to original, but imagine the horror at what some person on the AK forum did to theirs, utterly clueless & they actually put an IC on a new board for the phono stage. Not good to mess so heavily with a great design, adding lots of new PCBs even, but still leave ALL of the poor circuitry we upgraded to bring the real sound out is still in their crazy idea. They took it totally to pieces even the selector switches, yet missed the basic weaknesses in the design. Well that's our opinion & after some subtle redesign ours sounds wonderful & looks still very original. Theirs will sound deep-bass-limited and compressed as the original design is. Having had two of these, a Mint one for a customer to upgrade, they are not so easy to work on the preamp boards which are hardwired in & some of the cable sleeving melts off too easily. The 1968 Fisher 700-T & 440-T are clearly later versions if far less interesting, not semi complimentary but the easier capacitor coupled design, if still some Germaniums. On Tannoy Golds it sounds exceptional, for our rebuild-redesign not heard any transistor amp sound that involving. Shortly after, as the Fisher 440-T review below shows, we got both as very high grade ones, the 600-T was barely used. The sound of it as all-original after hearing our upgraded one after does show the limitations of the original design & ceretainly worthy of a 'Great' the flatter soundstage & slight roughness is apparent even on first play, with us used to other amps. Plenty can be upgraded in the 600-T without redesign to better the sound, but ultimately the original design will limit the top fidelity. But the smooth involving sound even of an original one is still a delight. BUY-RAW RATING: As 50 years old some recapping could be essential, don't risk the rare output transistors. Complex hybrid tuner here. COOL RATING: 8 classic vintage hifi style, but needs the top & base covers and the walnut case with the gold mesh back. Just a pity the fascia lettering wears off on some, anyone doing repros or NOS ones, we'd like one. (2015)
1965 Rogers Cadet III valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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 later 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 'Very Good', 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)
1965 Rogers HG88 Mk III valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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. Very Good 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: Very Good. 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 as Akai did, 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. Sept 1967 HFN actually reviews this first version as it mentions the 'Safety Light. The ads only show Amps, Cartridges & Turntables for a few months, no sales meant back to tape again. The 1968 Audio Fair had a Sony stand with a very brief note in the June 1968 HFN saying "They gave very clean results and were remarkably natural sounding on speech and singing... FM Tuner ST-5000W looked most impressive" showing these were noted as being top quality but never reviewed & probably few shops stocked them. 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, beware these bulbs look like usual ones but are 100v 30mA as they work off 80v. If the bulb has failed as ours did after using for a while, to put a lower voltage bulb in with a certain value resistor in the circuit will get it lit again. There is 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. Later came the 1967 TA-1120A & the rare 1971 TA-1120F looks like a cross between the 1120A & the 1130 as it's a Semi Complimentary output, probably like the STR-6200F is updating the STR-6120. The TA-1120 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. On testing Phono stages, we found the Output from Phono 1 to be very low if Phono 2 wasn't working. actualy these are 2 independent circuits, Ph1 has 5mV sensitivity & Ph2 has 1mV. TA-1120A has 1.2mV for both if they share the same circuit. The 1968 Dokorder 8060 has 2.5mV phono sensitivity, so the TA-1120 level will need comparing which suits best. Phono 2 uses the Tape Head input & both have EQ stages so are for MM. 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, if the volume control needs to go halfway due to the contour. 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. A hint we'll tell in hope to keep these alive is if the 100v front bulbs go, drop the voltage before the 6v or 12v bulb rather than do anything else as the bulb circuit isn't obvious. 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: Advanced: Needs a full recap-rebuild as it's 50 years old which is far from easy. Bulbs are 100v & need a new design to use 12v ones, the 2 Microswitches on the Power switch may need replacing which will differ. 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 Akai AA-7000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
CC, Transformer coupled. After success with this brand finding the 1970 Akai AA-8500 below, to look out for more. This is a slimline designer looking receiver, the sort of modern design Bang & Olufsen will have seen. Thick wood sides with a dust trapping solid cast grille. Fully featured receiver, if no Filters which is unusual but these can compromise a design. First appears in Hi-Fi News April 1967 in the 'Audio Fair Preview' shows a picture, price was £147 5s, despite Akai having a London showroom as did Sony, they mostly sold Tape machines. On getting the not-great circuit diagram, as it's 1966 it has NuVistas for the Tuner stage still. The circuit in transistors is Phono x2, Tone-Pre x1, Power Amp driver x3, Transformer coupling splitter to Output pair. The schematic is awful blurry with little detail to know even the components which makes it tricky. Appears in the 1967/68 HFYB as '40w music' for £156, if it's 40w RMS from giving 27v clean sine & the brochures say it weighs 13kg which is heavy for the slim size & the high price is in the range of the Fisher receivers. Not expecting this to be easy, but certainly worthwhile. The AA-7000 & AA-5000 brochure suggests the AA-7000 has germanium outputs if they aren't, the slighly later AA-5000 seems an updated design with silicons & no coupling transformer but only 8kg. The AA-7000 is actually very large 52cm wide, 11cm high & 44cm deep. On getting our new coffee table, aka this huge amp, it's very impressive 1" thick solid wood sides aka veneered ply, huge glass tuner display, Silicon outputs the same as the Sansui 3000A had the Bendix B170008 'orange'. The tuner has a space for '102' but even the ad shows it's not included, strange. The top is in two parts with the power amp output stage on the front one with 2 cable plugs. We've seen some stylish Hifi but this one will have delighted the women as it looks so cool, not some plain box thing, this is a designer piece. The transformer is a block one the full height, the size you see in 50w amps. The recess for the AM antenna which is usually a pain on receivers is mostly out of the way. Multivoltage switch & plug under a small cover to set to 6 voltages, ours was sold for 110v, can't see many UK buyers after this in 1966. The input phono sockets are the good not conical ones, Muting & FM gain switches, Speaker out is like the AA-8500 via 6.3mm mono jacks or more typical screw connectors. Amps like this need to be in Museums as Mid Century classics like Eames chairs, why is Hifi so underappreciated for design? All amps pre 1969 seem to need a full recap, after that the quality must have improved, but a 1966 amp needs a full rebuild. Still has the small grey hollow resistors like valve amps use & some are handpainted for the value lines. The power amp top lid section has 'Riken' large capacitors called "Dry Electrolytic" which doesn't quite make sense, cutting them open shows they are a typical electrolytic cap if dry & slightly crusty from age if smells different. Amps like this keep our interest in this alive. To get to the fascia etc, lids off, sides off, tuner part off & then 8 bulbs which are 6.3v bayonet type. To be extra careful of the tuner glass blue-grey & white lettering is important: if it looks 'bubbly' it'll wash off with just water as ours did, we know how to redo it. To recap this to our standards is a tricky one too, the 4 large caps are one single, one double & two triple so 9 caps in 4 cases. This amp has had a full recap on all but the 4 largest caps including the tuner, reveals an excellent sound, wide stereo & deep full bass shows it certainly is worth the effort. We left the 150v tuner ones as original as they get light use & having cut similar apart, they are still good, if it could be redone fully. The 3 larger caps were barely damp but not crusty so one you could get away with using occasionally. There are two minor versions, the side boards are solid veneered ply on the early ones, later the ply was machined out on the inside, holes in the metal sides made & metal runners added on the top edge which are vents for the inside, this is original & appears a rarer version from ones found online. There isn't much heat inside only the NuVistors, the top lid is the amp heatsink. The later one adds a resistor & transistor to the output stages, but the glue rusts the transistor & ruins it. As the manual doesn't show this addition, it appears to be the nearly the same as the Sansui 3000A output stage adding stability, if it works fine without it. The sound as recapped & upgraded on the Tannoy Golds is extremely good, rating a very high Excellent. The solid bassline this amp has as well as sweet crisp treble & a midrange smoothness & dynamics that rivals our valve amps. A tricky amp to get right, but a real winner if you have the space for it. BUY-RAW RATING: Will need some recapping as too old & it's got other tricky issues, but well worth the effort. COOL RATING: 9 the first 'designer' styled Hifi, unique looks with high quality build, made to impress. Treat it kindly & it'll not disappoint. (2015)
1966 Armstrong 221 valve amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Hopeless. UPGRADED: Hopeless. 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 from 1963 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: Very Good. 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 if only 70VA so 15w probably, 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, also a TA-3000A will be lower power & 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 "Very Good" 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 Very Good, 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 Duette SA-500W amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Great-Excellent. approx 16w-18w all Germaniums
We champion the deeply obscure & forgotten gems such as amps like the wonderful Coral & early JVC amps show. This Duette is another obscure one, if actually one with zero web presence beyond us so we research it, to the point it didn't exist anywhere not even on Japanese sites hidden in translation. The brand we saw in the HFYBs on doing the listing pages & it was imported as a bargain clear out for a Discount store as the early JVC ones were, as it appears belatedly in 1971-73 as imported by a JJ Silber Ltd London EC1 distributor but didn't sell as too old looking as were the JVC. Oct 1970 HFN mag has a full page ad looking more like another item starting with "Du..." with an unclothed couple sitting slightly immodestly with "Duette for lovers of pure sound". Silber do 'Duette' adverts for 13 months in total gone by Dec 1971 if the SA-500 is only in half of them, the later ones still with the same theme but receiver & speaker combos, so there must have been sales or a bulk advert buy hoping for sales, but why so totally unknown? The Feb 1972 HFN shows only a shop that advertised regularly, F. Cave with 4 shops in London had these amid other more known ones. There also were Duette SAT260X & SAT460(X) receivers both noted 12w again wrong power ratings, again looking like decent 1967 looking designs as all pictured in the HFYB. The HFN ad adds SAT-4370 black fronted receiver & 2 small speakers. The range in the HFYB is SA616 6w £20 actually is 6w as back label says '20w (VA) max & very basic, SA400 6w £32 & SA-500 10w £40 but the power ratings aren't always correct as the SA500 case shows 70w total power as is the JVC 5010 that is 16w with a tuner stage, so expect at least 16w here. There are two versions of the SA500, the advert one is silver front with a metal lid & an extra rocker switch, the black fascia one we have is in the wood case with 3 rocker switches, losing the High Filter & moving headphone & power switch to the left. The styling looks 1966-67 with rocker switches & it having TO3 transistors on the back panel suggests it's worth a try. We see it says 'Made in Japan' on the back so odds are it's in the league of the Coral & JVC amps which we liked & worth a gamble. It has a 'Tape Head' input which was abandoned by 1969 on amps. As expected, this is very early. 2SB126 which are 40w Germaniums Others are 2SB400, 2SB173 & AC128 all Germaniums AC128 is a EU Philips one aka 2N2706. Sound wasn't much as the seller stated if the sweet germaniums sound still obvious. Needs recapping as some are swollen. Reading the voltages it works on ±24v & with no output capacitors. It has power amp to output stage coupling transformers like the Sansui 3000A & NatPan SA65 have. This means no Output Transformers on the Speaker outputs as the 1.5A Speaker fuse comes from the output transistors-resistors. DC offset is good too so a very unusual design here. It has Tape Head, Phono Mag & Cer, Tuner & Aux inputs on standard size phono sockets, Tape loop if no DIN socket, one speaker pair, a Mains outlet & 3 fuses, the Mains one is 2A. The main PCB has 4 transistors for all stages plus the AC128 on a heatsink, so just 5 transistors plus the output pair, so Phono MM & Ceramic-Tape Head, Tone is passive on Line Level, Power Amp x3 inc the heatsinked Driver plus the splitter transformers & the outputs. Hifi of dreams pure valve design in Germaniums if not too dissimiliar to the NatPan SA65 circuit. This is 240v only so likely bought cheap into the UK after sales failed elsewhere in Europe, by how unknown they are it might have been just 6 of each model. It uses Matushita, Sanyo, Cosmos, Atlas parts plus Lily(?) & Orion caps, the 2 main ones grey with the Δ logo & Nasu film caps. Pictured in metal lid in HFYB if this has a walnut veneer case. After working the circuit out to recap, replaced just the one bad one & played it properly as original if serviced. All Germaniums is a remarkable sound with such a minimal but high quality design. Very fast, accurate & crisp with proper bass weight on guitar riffs and very wide stereo even on the orig spec if a little hum if the 2 main caps not upgraded yet. Playing Germanium transistor Amps like this make you realise Hifi only got worse sounding as it "improved", the sound of this even original is extreme. It sounds quite 'dull' if then you listen & hear the treble is untainted & crisp to a limit as below, as is found with valve amps, no Silicon transistor fizz. This sounds so good even original perhaps we should keep it quiet... It does surprisingly have 47k on Aux-Tuner inputs, allows more gain & probably why what looks a 16w amp is limited to 10w as their specs in the HFN ad show. But without them it makes awful noises on start up! Also can't hear anything over 13kHz so the AC128 must be aged & the noisy one so we get a better spec one & find the noise is still there if the HF range is improved. But background noise keeps what sounds sublime down half a grade as the noise on one channel is 14mV if the side that is silent on 95dB speakers is 8mV, it appears to be around the output stages. Now upgraded it gives 17v clean sine so is about 16w-18w, just as we expected. Amps like these are fascinating, the design is very early so best not to go too deep into it if give it a bit more gain. Beyond the minor noise & whistles on turn on, the sound is sublime, sweet effortless & detailed & it has enough volume for the Tannoy Golds. BUY-RAW RATING: Ours needed some recapping to even work right as so early if generally ok beyond that if can be much bettered by upgrading. COOL RATING: 6 quite basic small looks but what a sound. (2015)
1966 Fisher 440-T receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 25-30w
CC, Germaniums. This is the next Fisher receiver after the 600-T above. Mentioned in the DEc 1965 HFN mag as 25w into 8 ohms, that issue mentions the elusive 100w RMS 'Mattes SSP/200' that we'll look at on the 'Other Amps' page. Comes in two versions, the early one has transformer coupling like the 600-T & case mounted power amp driver transistors, the later one has no transformers but adds a pair of power amp boards, some have the black heatsinks which need the separator as voltages differ on the smaller heatsinks, but don't get much warm anyway so they omitted it later it seems. 20w only if plays as loud & has a simplified circuit to the 600-T which we found needed a redesign to be it's best. This is the same size amp as the 600-T if is otherwise still in the same style, cases are the same size. The 600-T power amp stage is unusual, the 440-T is a more typical design with a power amp driver board & separate output stages, the 600-T doesn't have a driver board in the standard way. We had one of these in 2011 without the wood case or inside metal cages as these were often built in. This first one was a 240v one as the one now is if we saw how much of a mess it was & just parted it out & to get this one 5 years later is strange, what would we have thought of it then? The one now is a delight, all bright & 9/10 grade & it certainly looks very smart. The Aux as with the KLH & other amps, if not the Akai AA7000, goes into a resistor & is amplified in the Phono-Tape Head & Tuner output board. We can use Tape In direct bypassing this if as original the Aux input sounds the better. In comparison to the Fisher 700-T in similar top grade we got for a customer, to compare both 600-T & 440-T together is a rare opportunity, see the 600-T for it's review as the high grade. The 440-T just has the output capacitors changed so is almost original. Using Aux the 440-T is the better sounding & it has a little more volume than the 600-T if only 20w compared to 45w of the 600-T, if it has doubled output transistors. The sound is smoother & better defined than the 600-T. Deep bass is noticeably missing for the design limitations if it's certainly not thin. Our 240v one has a 2-core mains cable, this should be updated to 3-core with care on the Live-Neutral using the 2-core on EU plugs as the case on ours reads 11v AC or a full 240v AC which is not good, meter on case to a ground point reveals this. Back to the sound, adding a bit of deep bass on the Soundcard EQ the sound via Aux is actually not too different to Tape In if Tape is slightly better on the bass. The Aux is a good design if it still puts Audio through a 220K resistor, as the original amp, unlike some of these large resistor to Phono stage designs, this has the fidelity. Headphone sockets on USA early amps are always L+R swapped. The first one of our 440-Ts had two black metal heatsinks on the power amp drivers which sat on top of the round smaller heatsinks, but never having tried the first, there are varying voltages on the round heatsinks of 0.5v, 24v & 48v so any metal would ground them ruining things, so as they barely get hot, the later serial numbers, ours is a 65xxx one, must have omitted these. Recent amps we've played are the Akai AA-7000 & Nikko TRM-1200 as well as the 600-T & the 440-T even all original gives an excellent sound, if it needs recapping, has a hissy transistor as well as L+R imbalance. Not a semi-complimentary design, as similarly Sansui abandoned SC after the 3000A. Still has the transistor sockets, not a good idea you'd think, but like the HH Scott below, they stay put & no problems or noises. The bigger version of the 440-T is the 700-T with 42v and 57v HT respectively, 20w & 40w rated if basically the same amp boards inside. A problem now & ago will be the Speaker connector screws. Even a small fork connector as on a 'T' aerial can move & short the outputs. The Gold blocks have the same problem. The best solution is to use THESE ring connectors as we mention on our sales page. Getting new caps for this despite being in high grade, a few were bad, the speaker coupling ones replaced long ago & the main cap was actually dry & crusty inside showing the Fisher regardless of grade need recapping. On recapping this, all electrolytics need replacing, we found a few duff ones on our very hifgh grade one, but it's the most difficult one to work on as boards are hardwired in multiple times. One for the pro only. Further along with this after issues sorted, the way to adjust is insane, we're not pulling transistors out. It can be adjusted for midpoint voltage (L pot) & Bias (R pot) easily enough so we do it our way. Now upgraded & finished, the sound quality here on big Tannoys is very special, shows how these were much wanted when new if our upgrade brings the best out in this fine amp. BUY-RAW RATING: Will need a recap as noted above & it's a very tricky one to work on. COOL RATING: 9 looks great in the wood case, very stylish. (2016).
1966 JVC MCA-104E amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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 Very Good 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. The MCA104E is 16w, the later MCA105E is 32w & a MCT-105E tuner matches. The range also has 5340 40w speakers, GB-1E ball speakers, 5250 turntable & CHR-250U 8 track player-recorder. 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 valve 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. The input sockets are the useless oversized conical phono sockets, not the typical sort. 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 rubbish the tone & filters are to see lack of care in design. We just gave up on it & were glad to get rid of it. It did appear again after the buyer spent a lot finishing it but they didn't get back their investment, our review pulls no punches & shows this was the only amp we decided was too lousy to complete, beyond ones that didn't survive. We'll not bother with the 1000 or 1000A if this is how poor they are, valve forums we've read on the 1000(A) say design is bad there too, this is Sansui who made great Transistor amps but Valve amps with issues. There is the valve AU-111 that looks great too, see the Other Amps page for more on the 500A & other Sansui valve, we have researched. 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. The headphone circuit is rubbish too, it lacks circuitry that the 1963 Trio above have was realised, so don't use it on headphones seems best as it's illogical as you'll find. Bad design by a brand that excelled with the wonderful Sansui 3000A below. We'll point out the problems as amps good & bad teach us more. The HT is very high for EL84s & with the Headphone design weakness the output valves get destroyed way too easily, this suggests with speakers it might not be as stable either. Tone & Filter circuits are very poor to the point the High Filter just nulls the Treble. 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-Very Good. UPGRADED: n/a. 35w.
CC. The rating here is for the Power Amp only, 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 HH Scott Stereomaster 344-C/13 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 32w.
CC. Another one of the Big USA brands that saw limited distribution in the UK. This turns up in the 1970 Hifi Yearbook rated as 32w. Not a lot of info on this one or pictures of insides if we can get the Service Manual so worth a try. Looks like the other early USA Fisher & KLH type 'unique' build & certainly these early USA ones influenced the early Japanese gems. Even trying this as-arrived, the very clean USA sound is apparent, compared to how rough UK ones sounded, finesse & high quality build is certainly the deal here. The 344-C is the main version of the 344 range that started in 1965 with Nuvistors in the tuner stage & an identical looking higher power 384 adds MW & a rear antenna is 50w. Ours lacks the wood case as often these were built into consoles or cabinets, but with the leather effect top lid it's still smart if it has no feet so we'll add some. Aluminium chassis like the KLH if it's still quite a heavy amp. Transformer mounted on the rear panel for rigidity & the large tuner window is perspex so no glass to worry about like McIntosh have. Volume is called 'Loudness' and to use it Flat to press in the 'Volume Comp' button or it's in what we know as Loudness mode. The back has plastic covers over 2N3055s which is an early show for those & with a '67' code so original. this has a 110v-220v switch on the rear, a little too easy to catch it still. Speaker sockets for 2 pairs only have 3 screws per channel, double up on the 'O' ground one, strange. 'Preamp Sens' is for Phono gain, not actual Pre-Tone gain & it has 2x 'Extra' as Aux inputs. An unusual 4 pin socket on the rear is to measure bias to adjust inside. Pre-Tone & Power Amp share one board & it uses those tiny 1/4w carbon comp resistors like the KLH 27 has. It uses black plastic capacitors which aren't the lousy ones UK amps used like the Leak Delta 75 below, though they are aged & we'll recap it. Small transistors are plugged into sockets like the Fisher 600-T uses on some. All wires are single core, no shielded cable anywhere if it's twisted as pairs signal-ground & close to the casing so no hum. Of the Fisher & KLH this is the neatest built one & most like the early Japanese amps for it. On first play of it, slight background hiss as usual on early transistors. The sound sounded a little soft but turning volume past halfway brought it to life as did some use. Bass as always is lacking the deepest bass, hardly any amps dared to risk rumble from cheap turntables, but the sound was very clean, good detail & unusually good dynamics for an amp this early as original. The KLH 27 was soft & blurry, the Fisher 600-T sounded limited but this was unusually good. Addng some Soundcard EQ on the deep bass to fill it out to a more usual sound it still sounds better than some amps we've spent ages upgrading. On trying tracks with strong dynamics, it copes as good as a 65w amp, we've had 50w ones that can't deliver the kick without clipping. Manuals unwilling so we work out the circuit ourselves to recap it, the black electrolytics actually are the same Eire made Callins that are awful on some early 1970s amps, here recapping just the preamp half already hugely improves the sound. On doing the 3 bigger caps, the main one was dry & crusty so it wouldn't last long. The mysterious switch on the baseplate is to test the preamp as L, Normal & R. Now all recapped, the sound is certainly a quality one, a tight but fast fully extended bass, clean midrange, crisp clean treble & fully wide Stereo. as it's still on the original transistors as it sounds good speed, a little background noise if it doesn't intrude. As always with USA amps the Headphone L+R is wired the other way so we swap it as the Fisher & KLH needed. For music testing, Reggae sounds great, Rock is solid if not as weighty as 32w, but a tiny bit on the Bass & a little Treble cut reveal how accurate it is. Volume on headphones is as good as a 45w amp before it flattens off gently but it can deliver a good kick without wimping out. Not many amps are that good at any wattage, the buyer is in for a treat. We'll certainly try more HH Scott amps. On the Tannoy Golds this sounds exceptional, a real matter-of-fact sound with a very solid midrange, sweet treble & deep bass that gives what few amps can. It's 32w yet is as confident as higher power ones for the sound. COOL RATING: 6.5 bachelor pad looks if would rate higher at 8 with the wood case. BUY-RAW RATING: Needs a recap as the caps age too much if it should be working, if it'll be below it's best. (2015)
1967 JVC Nivico 5010U receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 16w.
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 & coupling 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 Very Good 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 30w 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... REVISITED 2016: Got one of these to recap & upgrade. This inspired us to get the other 1960s JVC to to hear one upgraded again reveals how great this amp is. For just 16w the sound is full bodied & musical, with clean crisp treble & extended tight bass. We've had a few great amps since as the list above shows, but the sound of this amp is a true benchmark for how good Hifi can be. The bigger 5030 & 5040 may have more power but this at 16w is a sweeter sound & still has adequate volume. The buyer of the first one still rates it highly we've been told. JVC kept this quality into their 1973 range as the designs aren't that dissimilar, if later ones we've not tried yet. It is only 16w & it can be heard smoothing off loud peaks, but it does it gently like valve amps do, none of the low spec 'Pioneer' roughness here. 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. (2014-16)
1967-69 JVC Nivico 5030 or 5003 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 50w.
CC. Aka the 1967 JVC Nivico 5030 & 1969 JVC Nivico 5003, just the Tuner is updated it appears as well as the styling. 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 Very Good. 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. **The correct power ratings of these revealed in a Oct 70 HFN ad, if the wattage is added L+R, so for our uses the 5010 is 16w, the 5020 28w, 5030/5003 50w & the 5040 is 75w. 5030 & 5003. We've had both of these now, the looks differ with switch & knob variations if the inside is similar beyond Tuner differences & an extra board between the 4 main caps. 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)
1967 JVC Nivico 5040U receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 75w.
CC. We've certainly liked these forgotten JVC Nivico amps so finding there is a genuine 75w version, to get it is the deal. Very rare, huge & tricky is this one, ours will be made out of two to get one good one as happens sometimes. The size of the amp in the case is 530mm wide x 390mm deep inc fascia-rear & 150mm high so outdoes the Sony STR6120 in the wood case by 20mm width. The first one had a bad selector which sort of finishes it, if it did work through Tape In. The sound as unserviced was very impressive & the dynamics of 75w on such an early amp was a bit special, even though the sound revealed weaknesses of age, the quality was easy to tell. The power amp is just 6 transistors which is remarkable. 8ohm continuous is rated 82.5w into 4 ohm. The JVC 5030 is the smaller version & we had the 5003 which is the same is a new tuner & minor visual changes. There are a few versions amid the same number on these. The one we got to make one good one out of shows the 5040 to 5040 Run 2 differences are Tape Head or Aux2 & the SEA is 10dB or 12dB gain, both here are the same. The Phono EQ circuit on the first is an IC of all things, but a MC-4080-1 is a 16 pin IC if ebay finds them for $48. What's inside it is probably very simple, if unknown. One for Phono (X601,603), one for Preamp (X607,609), an IC usually kills an amp but this is a 1967 one & in upgrading it, the IC is just a double transistor per channel with all external components so no bother at all, if it may be a Darlington like the Heathkit AR1500 preamp has. The Phono stage IC stage mostly corresponds to the 'Run 2' version' with 2 transistors not the IC to confirm it's a 'good' IC, we drew the circuit to compare. The Preamp IC is a gain stage before the Pre Out-In & the mid board 2 transistors are a buffer before the SEA stage. Dare we say the IC version of the preamp is superior, the Phono stage conforms to the Transistor version showing the IC is basic. Sophisticated if very kooky amp, there is a buffer stage in the preamp, like the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & Fisher 600-T uses, if ideas forgotten until the 1977 Yamaha CR-2020. The Preamp stage Inside the boards are fixed to the case so the height mostly is the transformer & capacitors. Odd with heatsinks on Diodes, never seen that in an amp & the first amp ran cool. It has an IC on the MPX board yet Germaniums in the IF circuit. The power amp is TO66 drivers with TO5/39 size others & 2SD41 output transistors which are remarkably 200w 10A TO3 silicons. The JVC Nivico 5010 & 5030 were reissued as 5001 & 5003 with an updated tuner, if there is no 5040 update. Now to recap & upgrade it as this one has the manual findable if only the Run 2 one so not exactly. The 'Protection' board is the Power supply board with extras, same on both versions. The transistor amid the main caps is the 'Caution' circuit & the big resistor drops the HT to the preamp. This sort of circuitry isn't dissimilar to the 1965 Sony TA1120. It recapped up very well & we'll keep the working parts amp intact as this amp is too good to part out & very rare too. No speakers in 1967 could take 75w so why buy it then? Biasing isn't explained well, meter on one of the 0.5 ohm rear resistors, set the plastic pot on the power amp board to the lowest value it can be, aka AC bias, then set the front ones to 40mV. Biasing is important as the sound can get rough. Recapped & upgraded, the sound is beyond what over-used words can say, but playing loud Punk & heavy Bass Reggae, we've not heard transistors sound this clean, effortless & precise with the highest musicality. Pity it's not such a great looker, more functional than stylish, but the sound is there. But for 1967 really 75w? yes it puts out 35v clean sine so well in the 75w rating. Comparing to the 130w Sansui AU-G90X the rich sound of the JVC leaves the Sansui sounding as loud but cardboardy lacking the openness of this wonderful JVC amp. BUY-RAW RATING: The issue on these is the selector & speakers controls have brass cast rods so can break & also the selector bits inside break off if dry, so parts might not work for this. COOL RATING: 6 a little awkward looking in the big wood case loses it style appeal if the green tuner ups the score. (2015)
1967 KLH Model 27 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Average. UPGRADED: Excellent. 30w
CC, Silicons, Germaniums. HFN Dec 1967 announces this as a New Amp that had 2 years in development, but we see the main stages are all Germanium & some are very low spec, but no mention of KLH beyond loudspeakers has to be right, if they really should have updated the design as it still sold into 1970 by US trade ads. They rate it 25w if upgraded it will certainly rate higher. A very 'James Bond' looking receiver with no tuner window but fine geared vernier dial tuning via two large independent controls for FM & AM. It also looks like a 1960s Electric Cooker too... Size is 34cm wide, 35cm deep & 12cm high, or 13" square LP size almost. Probably not imported into the UK as not in the Yearbooks. The circuit diagram is available if a $15 one but it's needed. This amp is Henry Kloss designed & he's an important name in design, if went beyond Hifi by 1967. He quit KLH in 1968 if made those cool Tivoli radios years later, their 'sound shaping' design in less-hifi terms was better than any portable before. An eccentric design that is a bit random inside, but this is the Hifi that excites us. Looks like the sort of amp that would have been fixed into a Console as was the usual design, similarly the Fisher 600-T above. This one works but the dreaded amateur fiddler been at it recapping in the like-for-like way with cheap caps, which makes it hard as we have to see what they did & only by doing it properly will we find out. The Tuner works but is very distorted, so needs work. These sort of early amps are advanced to work on as they need subtle redesign. The rear panel has a strange plastic 'shelf' which is just the AM antenna & the output transistors are under a cage when the antenna is undone. 3 fuses & 2 AC outlets, 2 speaker pairs, Mag Phono only which is unusual this early if a gain switch, Aux with 3 gain settings switch & a Tape loop. It has a mysterious "12v test" socket also which is the Tuner voltage. Ours is an early one 0011xx series if the schematic dated 1968 shows a minor change made at 003461 with R50 680R then changed to 470R. Output transistors are RCA 38272 likely Germaniums TO3 size. From USA sites, seems this is the wanted one, 30w & some had wood sides. No coupling transformers like other early amps. a Dec 1970 Electronics Review mag online wrongly says KLH 27 has no Headphone but ours does obvious 3.5mm socket under the Tuner verniers & the diagram shows it too? It's rated 32.5w in tests at 1kHz $320 new in 1970. Ours has the sort of early caps & adjust pots like the Fisher 440-T does but with Germaniums it has to be 1966 at the latest "been on the market several years" suggesting sales were modest as not well advertised. The side panels appear to be plain walnut veneered particle board with hidden fittings & 2 screws near the fascia, to make a set not too hard. We have some Leak 2000 teak ones that might fit well as thin enough if resized. On first try of it, with whatever has been done to it, using Tape In instead of Aux which has the older circuitry, not direct, the sound is noticeably limited in dynamics, bass much too thick and wallowy but treble is clean & still detailed if unbalanced in tone. No hum & just a mild background hiss. It still sounds very aged as not upgraded at all & needs rebuilding properly as it could reveal the quality we saw in the Fisher. At 30w it's well worth rebuilding & as no coupling transformers it may sound different to the Fisher. These sort of amps are rare & precious and need upgrading sensitively to get the best from them but still look as original as possible. Cabling is a bit random wth a loose red wire 'sausage' midway shielding the cables, if they are not individually shielded as the Fisher is. Preamp is all Silicons 2N3392. The Tone board & power supply need undoing together & all those cables, so we upgraded both in one go which transformed the sound from the above to something far fresher, still on original on the rest. The neon bulbs are very dim strangely with the fascia off & beware the 4 tiny orange display pieces as they are loose when cleaning. The side amp board underneath by the selector is for Phono with all Silicons, Aux & Tuner and is a very advanced job, which is why the previous owner left it be if feebly tried to recap & wondered why it sounded little better. Tape In goes direct to the Tone-Pre. Power Amp is Silicon input & depending on versions, we have different original ones, one Germanium, one silicon & the drivers are Germaniums as are the outputs. as 4 of 6 are disappointingly mismatched, so to do it all Germaniums as the Fisher got. Shows the amateur again, didn't even check they'd recapped all, one old one remains. The 3 larger caps underneath are the main power cap & the output coupling caps. The extra adjust pot on one power amp is to balance L+R gain equally, seen this on early Trio-Kenwood phono stages but not power amps before & we don't like the idea, so just match it to the R resistor value. Kooky heatsinks on the drivers if they only get slightly warm. A sign of classy design is the 4 control knobs on the left, with the splined-grooved fittings, find the right one for the control & it matches perfectly to the rotation arc, as some amps are less careful & flat can often be a tiny bit off the pointer position, here if fitted right it's spot on, similarly the tuner controls fit one better than the other, a sign of care taken in construction. The brand, like many, dipped in quality leaving poor reviews online if the 27 is considered "the one". Our rating as original leaves you wondering why, but read on. We don't give upgrade hints, but this is a cute amp so others will try it, but the trouble is by upgrading it reveals 'problems' that require certain redesign which are found the hard & nasty way. We got ours going again & it's worth the effort as the sound is clean if a more retro sound than the open punchy sound, if we found that rather appealing. A problem is the Speaker connectors which need a narrow fork connector crimped to cables, those Gold blocks we use on some amps rely on being finger tightened & risk shorting unless cables are made. Upgraded further to reveal a fresher sound it gets rated. For the ratings, to be fair on what you'd hear, as original spec it was no better than Average, OK but not for the discerning. But after a tricky time it now sounds far better in just playing it for itself, clean crisp treble, solid midrange & correct bass weight going very deep. But in comparing to the HH Scott & others, the KLH is not so accurate at all, too bassy & too soft sounding with not much kick to it. It still sounds it's age, so we rebuild some more & there is the sound it should be. The design itself is good, bias can be set low to run cool, but lots of low spec problems. It's now fast sounding with a nice kick for a 30w amp if our upgrades will have upped the rating. Beware upgrading this amp as it reveals many weaknesses in the design. Sitting here playing it, to think 'that thing' now sounds great is what patience brings. Looking deeper at the design, the 2 main diodes are 25A rated which is way overspec. One quirk is Mono doesn't work on Tape In, which we use as direct input instead of through the Phono-Aux board that has Aux level settings as early. Headphone L+R is always swapped on earlier USA amps. On playing Rock with heavy guitar, the weight is unusually good unlike some scratchy sounding amps. We've heard more precise amps with wider stereo imaging, but this does rate very high for Musical Pleasure, stress-free listening. A real hard one to get up to our standard but worth it, we don't give up and see further upgrades in it now it's been here a while. The Tuner sounds good with the verniers nice to use. The smallest 30w FM Stereo Receiver there must be. As we've spend a long time upgrading this for the hell of seeing that we can, to match the Best Amps is possible, the original design of this is revealed to be truly mediocre, if the basics are good, the design has so much low spec & limits to it, it's barely Hifi as we state above. But redesigned by us it, with Germanium outputs has the very similar sound to the Fisher 600-T we also redesigned. BUY-RAW RATING: As nearly 50 years old recapping becomes required & the spec as original is too aged for our taste if care is needed as we state above. COOL RATING: 9 a real cute LP-cover sized amp if it needs wood sides which aren't hard to make. (2015)
1967 National Panasonic SA-65 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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 Very Good 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 armp so good all original, the best 'as-original' vintage amp we've encountered, worth keeping as a reference. We upgraded ours with recapping & it has to be one of the best ever amps with a few others as noted. The only criticism is it's not as bassy as the Sansui or Sony receivers, though +2 on bass helps. If you want one, ebay Germany is where you'll find one possibly. Biasing & DC offset is critical here, as it's a direct coupled semi-complimentary design, no capacitor coupling like other 1967 amps. 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: Recommended-Very Good. 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. 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: Recommended-Very Good. UPGRADED: Very Good-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: Very Good. 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 Very Good it sounds even all-original. Damping factor of 15 gives it a valve amp styled bass. Looks Very Good 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 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 must have a speaker load connected to read DC offset is within a safe limit after adjusting bias without any load, else it'll be confusing. 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. One of those amps that forever upgrades giving such a smooth balanced but deep bass, strong midrange & sweet treble with the amount of kick few amps can do. 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: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent 50w.
CC, DT. See the 1965 TA-1120 above for a deeper look into these two amps. The 1120A is a totally different design inside to the 1120 if the outside just varies from a protection lamp to a headphone socket. 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 Very Good 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: Very Good-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 multivoltage. The highest powered domestic amp in 1967. 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 Very Good 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 fire screen 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. This was a difficult amp, some redesign was needed & we never felt we got the best out of it as it was a bit quirky. Germaniums we've found since 2013 are fine if they are Japanese or USA ones, but the UK-EU ones are the poor ones. BUY-RAW RATING: Will need recapping as early & not an easy one. Tuners on these early ones often not working right, the Trio-Kenwood tuners are not so good despite the amp stages being quality. 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)
1967 Trio-Kenwood TK-66(U) receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 20w.
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. Had this very early in our amp exploits. October 1968 ad shows this as 20w for £115, the receiver version of the TK-250T amplifier & TK-350T tuner which are £49 & £56 each. 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, if revised with the revisit below. Again, the quality of these early Trio can't be hidden, even with a 2011 review. REVISITED 2016: This was one we got very early on in writing this site, a lower power version of the TK140X, so to find one again well worth seeing what upgrades will do as it certainly is worth upgrading a 25w amp having had success with ones of lower power, if only on 1960s amps does it appear worthwhile as the overall quality is still high. We gamble on a rough working one if the risks of bad Tuners are sadly what early Trio amps have, if the separate tuner that matches the KA-6000 we've had twice it worked fine. On looking at our old pages, it appears we only sold the KR-33 below, the first TK-66 was a wreck & didn't seem safe to sell & too tatty. But the 2016 one looks untouched & has the original box, nice to see one again. Has the paperwork too, never seen this with a Trio & online data is usually very basic. This is 20w Continuous, Damping Factor of 23 & Tone is ±10dB & the manual is dated 1969, probably a US import as a Kenwood dealers sheet too. Works after a quick service if bulbs in need. An amp like this is a good gamble as found, but as 47-48 years old it'll need a full Service to be useable & well worth recapping & upgrading. The big worry with the pre 1970 Trio-Kenwoods is the tuner, we've had problems with these & this one works on AM, FM shows meter movement but very low volume, if at least this is a start. It's sat on a table to be looked at before we start on it, the kooky Bachelor Pad looks with the wood front section are rather pleasing, the wood effect painted metal lid much nicer than the black vinyl lid. Dating these Trio is a little tricky, this has 2SB89A Germaniums in the Power Amp, the rest are silicon & early 2SD180 silicon outputs when new Germanium TO3s were still being made, so this is really more a 1967 amp & it's more like the TK-140E inside, same heatsink & tuner meter, if no Asbestos like the TK-140E has. The TK-66U is a multivoltage version, on our one a switch on the back for 240v or 110v with a tab screwed on to avoid switching, later amps put this sort of voltage changing inside. The TK-88 schematic isn't the same as this, it's a (likely) 30w version if similar. The fascia is gold anodised in colour, subtle if you'd not notice away from other metals. The power amp board has lots of changes & without the schematic, you're stuffed really. The Power Amp board is far too small, one to avoid if it's been 'repaired' as our first was. It has a regulated power supply for the first stages all cramped onto a 13cm x 6cm board & 6 adjust pots if the manual doesn't say what they are for, so in interests of keeping this amp alive, VR 5-6 are DC Bias (quiescent), VR 3-4 are regulator settings & VR 1-2 are AC bias. Very complex if a good design. Power amp recapped interesting to hear the amp sound thin but then fill out as the new caps awake. Revived the TK-140X below the day before & the sound here is basically similar if 20w, a pleasing sound with wide stereo, not unlike the JVC Nivico 5010U with similar power. Not recapped anything else yet, but to see what it needs, Rock needs some Tone adjust to fill it out but it's delivered cleanly if not much weight to it at 20w. Despite the main caps being low spec it doesn't fail on bassy music, if limits it. The TK-140X similarly only recapped on power amp (& preamp) has a much huger dynamic sound. The Tuner here works, AM is good, FM is half the volume & it uses Germanium transistors of very low spec which are probably why the 1967 Trio tuners fail. Now main caps all done it's properly upgraded as some spec & design is very aged & the Fisher 440-T was another 20w early amp, if this is the fresher sounding with crisper focus & now it's had some play Bass is full & extended. 49 years until it Came Of Age & sounding a lot better than the feeble thing it was before. A classic case of OK sounding as all original but upgrade it & reveal a lot of weaknesses to further upgrade. We have the 53w TK140X here at the same time & it'll be compared once ready & also the 25w Goodmans Module 80. This TK-66 we got the service manual to try fix the previous rough one & the newer one has the full user info too, not quite the same as the TK-88 as it's higher power & differences are noticeable. The 6 adjust pots aren't explained, but once the amp is running cool, just have them set L/R the same, the 4 row outer two are bias, to be balanced L/R together with the top 2, the mid 2 are more to do with AC bias or uneven gain early transistors. Possible to upgrade to a high quality, not their best design at 20w but still very decent. Sound is lively if not designed to be too 'powerful' sounding, midrange a little softer than the 53w TK-140X but for our upgrades the basic pleasing sound is here. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. Tuners on these early ones often not working right, the Trio-Kenwood tuners are not so good despite the amp stages being quality. COOL RATING: 7 Trio receivers were never as pretty after the 1963 valve one, Industrial functional mixed with Bachelor Pad looks. (2011-16)
1968 Armstrong 521 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 20w.
CC. Yes, it's true, we dare to try this brand again because even the worst deserve a second try. Not dared try Armstong since 2012 & three others on this page showed they are just not anywhere as good as other UK brands like Leak, Rogers & Sugden who we do like, if not as much as the Japan-USA brands. so here is our opinion based on trying some real gems in the last years since. The amp itself is the 526 receiver less the tuner half so it's 292mm wide and 274mm deep. The teak case is better than the Leak ones, more like the Rogers transistor ones. Four rotary controls & a line of ten push buttons on a silver & black fascia. Plain looking but functional. The back shows it's age after the front & case being decent, the Phono sockets are the very tightly spaced ones & you need slim cables not the commonly found ebay ones which are too bulky. the Speaker outs are utterly useless with that old UK 2 pin plug that requires wires soldering. When we sell it, we'll fit something a buyer can use, these are hopeless. Inside the left has a row of plug in vertical boards similar to Leak, with two pairs for Phono-Tone-Preamp plus one at the back with Fuses on that is a Power Supply board. A very small transformer for 40w & six blue capacitors of which one is bigger. There are 5 transistors on the sifde, 4 for output & one as a regulator. The plug in boards have a top securing rod velse they wobble about as the fitting isn't so solid. The first two boards are C16 'control unit' boards, the two Phono inputs are for MM or Ceramic probably, a Tuner input goes through a resistor & the Tape input goes direct so will be the best choice. Parts used are typical UK style if two of the dodgy EU Germaniums here which is poor, these are AC191 plus a silicon one ME4102 possibly. The capacitors are axial ones used like radials, we sigh & wonder why we bothered, but to do it properly is why. The A15 driver board has all silicon TO5 size BSV44A if the A14 earlier one has Germaniums with the winged heatsinks. The Z17 power supply board has Germaniums AC138 with the winged heatsinks coming very near resistor bare ends. the 5x side TO3 transistors are AL102 which are Germaniums of 30w & 6A, so the 40w rating & the tiny transformer suggests this is more likely 20w. Overall the case looks nice but the insides are pretty lousy with ancient looking UK parts thast are more like valve era ones. To use Germaniums in 1968 is an insult when the other brands used Silicon & the EU Silicons suffer from "tin whiskers" so often sound blurry & weak. Henry's Radio catalog shows the EU Germaniums were unwanted & going cheap so be sure Armstrong bought a huge batch & conned the buyer with this junk. On trying it, thankfully it only worked on one channel whatever we tried so the nasty thing went back. Utter rubbish is our opinion & we are glad it wasn't working so could get rid of it. Do NOT buy this rubbish! BUY-RAW RATING: Poor. Aged UK inferior Germaniums & other issues, lousy quality inside is a big issue, don't bother. COOL RATING: 5 the amp is less tacky looking than the receiver but nothing special. (2015)
1968 Armstrong 526 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Hopeless. UPGRADED: n/a. 20w.
CC. The deserved Armstrong backlash Part 2: Nasty UK made crappy aged UK-EU 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 UK inferior 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 Dokorder 8060 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Great. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
CC. An obscure Japanese amplifier with matching 8070 AM/FM tuner. The back gives the brand as "Denki Onkyo" but it's not the Onkyo brand if predates it by later association. Some web presence on this & the later black fascia 8060A. The 8060 is a grey fascia amp with sliders for the L+R volume, 4 lever switches & Tone is on rotaries plus Filters if you pull the controls out. Nothing familiar in construction here at all & it's quite small if heavy at 7kg, 366m wide, 130mm tall & 215mm deep inc fittings. Open grille on top means 48 years of dirt inside. Some poor old TV-repair-guy type repairs as typical with high power amps, it's like they just use any old part regardless, it'll work-it'll do lazy thinking. Didn't expect it to work, but it does & works fine. No Aux input which is unusual if Tape is Phono sockets & Tape is a DIN plug. The back panel has an "Ext" socket, the manual reveas this is for a box to screw onto the right side, 4 unused holes on ours shows it was optional, and you could add 3 more Tape Recorders by DIN sockets. But it has no Mono switch for vinyl. Didn't expect it to sound too good as 1968, but even raw & dirty it sounds great wide stereo, decent bass, clean mid & crisp treble with a precise balance giving a pleasing sound. As with Akai when they made the wonderful AA7000, the Dokorder is by a maker better known for high end tape machines, much like how Sony started out too. The original specs state 15Hz to 50kHz bandwidth & 0.5% harmonic distortion at full power. For the clean sound here, harmonics are not an issue even on 48 year old spec. It has 2 very early ICs like the JVC 5040 does 'IC A-1' & '2SD189' silicon TO3 outputs at a time when Germaniums were still produced so could be 1967-68 in date. Online finds their quality tape machines & a 60w Dokorder 800x 60w receiver from 1971. No UK sales of this as not in HFYB but Germany got these if the 8060A seems more common. Compact design to match the tape players series if well designed & built. The IC is on the Preamp-Tone & is 2 transistors plus 7 resistors as the circuit is shown, much like the JVC 5040 one, more a selling gimmick as enough space surely to do similar in transistors. The main cap is only 1000µf 80v but nothing else at the time would fit, unusually low value. Now serviced with tidying of old repairs if all original otherwise, the sound is exceptionally good for original spec, precise clean sound & the circuit is a bit different to others this early. AC ripple on the 1000µf cap is high at 96mV so a slight hum here, but it shows spec isn't so important if the design is good, and it has ICs in the preamp. Sort of makes a mockery of things, for densely recorded Ska from the original 45s sounding so focussed & clean, the midrange here is very precise without being dry. Not bad for an amp that must have been called "Dork Order" at some time. So we buy an unknown amp that 'doesn't work' and yet find a gem yet again, it doesn't always work out well either. It'll be upgraded as always though what else it can bring will be interesting. We upgraded & rebuilt this fully down to the resistors to see how good it can be, the result was an very capable amp that we used on the Tannoys for a few weeks. The L+R volume slider is easy enough to use & the sound was rich & detailed with a very decent bass for the clean design. Far better than we expected it to be & stood together with the Tuner it has an interesting semi-Industrial look as the early Japanese amps do often have. A rare pair tuner & amp. For the sound this should be selling for more than we sold ours, but the Hifi market is still quite young, but the buyer gets one of our experimental amps at a great price. Amps liike this keep Hifi interesting. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if the age & power could mean recapping needed. COOL RATING: 7 Tuner & amp together have a nice industrial look, if maybe a little stark for woman appeal, until she hears how great it sounds. (2016)
1968-78 Ferrograph F307/20+20 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. 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. REVISITED 2015 Silver front 1978 20+20 version. This is still the 1968 amp 99% as is the 1974 orangey vinyl wrap brown fascia one. This still looks very old fashioned for 1978 but it was a Budget 20w amp. Still capacitor coupled which ended in 1974 for UK brands, but not lazy Ferrograph. The aluminium control knobs still have an unknown size tiny hex nut that no hex set will fit & the raw aluminium greys badly. The 'wood veneer' case is actually a vinyl and the most convincing one we've seen. The silver 20+20 is actually pretty rare, the 60+60 did make silly money as our "Other amps" page shows, but not so rare. These were designed to match Ferrograph tape recorders & the 1968 version is commonly found on ebay. This 1978 version at least has teak veneer. But it's still all 1968, ceramic phono inputs & DIN speaker outputs. It has those "tropical fish" stripey Mullard caps, blue small axials which are usually still good if low spec & be sure the power supply is still the same spec. To stop the messy out-of-line buttons on the previous version, they glued in 4 bits of paxolin to hold them in line, that's what the 4 loose rectangle bits are as glue fails. After the quality of USA & Japanese amps this still sold in 1978 is unusual, but worth finding out. HT is 65.8v with 154mV of ripple. First try of it now at least working if unserviced, the volume is too coarse so very low it's on one channel only before the other arrives a tiny turn later. The sound on this silver fascia one isn't as rough as the 1974 era one & doesn't sound bad, if that low spec sound most amps have. But finesse it ain't, if playing as unserviced, it's too loud & reveals the problems noted before, to turn it down as it's harsh isn't a good thing & the expression on our face is a grimace as we don't like it. Stereo isn't that wide but we really don't want to play it more after knowing better gear. For most users on speakers it's probably not a bad amp, it's not grainy or rough, it's just average audio gear with a decent sound balance just lacking any hifi quality. To upgrade it probably won't happen as it's all axials which are only general quality so not really worth recapping. But to be fair, the sound does offer scope to upgrade, if at 20w we'll just service it & make it smart looking. Now serviced & run in, the volume is too loud by 1 on headphones & catches the volume imbalance low down. The sound is generally decent but again the lack of finesse is obvious for the valve & early transistor amps. British Hifi was never our favourite, but in fairness for a budget-midprice amp this is good value for money, certainly bette than any 1980s cheap amp as it does have the 'vintage' sound & as such is a good starter amp so we've revised it to 'Recommended'. Based on this, if a 60+60 was found at a reasonable prive, we'd probably try it. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, but don't overpay based on old hype. COOL RATING: 6-7 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, especially with the tuner with it as we had. The 1978 silver version is better but still the 1968 amp so looks very old styled. (2012-15)
1968 JVC Nivico MCA 104Z amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: --. UPGRADED: --. 32w.
CC. This is the 1968 updated 32w version of the 1966 JVC Nivico MCA 104E as we review above. It has Tape Head which was abandoned by 1969 so is earlier. Double the power & all silicon transistors. Says "100w SEA" on the front. Not too different inside compared to the 104E if the power amp board is much bigger. No circuits findable as always if we have the 104E one & the 105Z one is findable, the 105Z adds 2 more SEA sliders & puts the volume as a rotary, plus adding extra features & it's a total redesign to the 104Z if still 32w. Spec in the 104Z is still low, 2200µf 63v main cap & just 1000µf output caps. Power amp is 6 transistors per channel & the two round transistor-looking black ones are diodes. We can hear the quality in here, but the spec is low so doesn't reveal how good it can be, if the quality is noticeable. The 6 transistors on the board have panel mount heatsinks on which is strange if they do get slightly warm. But after seeing how rough it is we decided to send it back, we'd not be happy selling such a beat up amp under our name at any price. Pity as it is could have been another winner, but we'll look for a better one. To not be able to rate it properly for fear of failure & safety we decided.
BUY-RAW RATING: --. COOL RATING: --. (2015)
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 Very Good 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 Very Good 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: Very Good. 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: Recommended-Very Good. 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 Very Good 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: Very Good. 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 5000FW updated tuner & a modified 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-150 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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. See the Tuners page for more info. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. COOL RATING: 5 average retro looks if functional & a small size amp. (2011)
1968 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 53w.
CC. Despite being 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. First advertised in the UK Mar 1969 HFN so is a 1968 release. 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, some 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 (as original). 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 few 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. See the Tuners page for more info. UPDATE 2016: We had two of these at once, not so unusual with amps we like. We got the first one we got back again, had sold it as no tuner working & as the second one we'd fully recapped we swapped the glass as the other got broken in transit. Even though the buyer had an accident & totally trashed it, we traded it back as it seems a waste of a great amp. Trashed it was, to think it's too far gone, but no, do it a favour for how we rate it & only lives again for a full power amp rebuild & rare parts other failed amps donated, else it'd have never been usable. It's still with the original power supply caps, Elna ones are still good we've found on cutting them open. Actually it's the one on the Gallery page if with the glass in. Recapping this is a real tough one. But playing it now, a powerful 53w with a quality sound, it could do with a little extra finesse to bring it into line with sound quality we've found in other amps, but it still sounds great & expect the buyer of the other one agrees. An early brown lid with the silver rear label is on ebay as we type, it has a different rear antenna & apparently the tuner works. We have another TK-66 here too, tuner works a bit, maybe a clue to fix this? After playing the TK-140X for a while, try the KA-6000 as we keep one as a reference amp. The 45w power makes a slight difference, the sound is very similar as both designed at the same time. The TK-140X despite the KA-6000 having all the upgrades & the TK-140X still on original power caps actually is a cleaner sound with more bite to it. the KA-6000 is based on the earlier TK-140X brown lid-silver label design, the black lid-black label is a better design. There's our reward for rescuing an amp very far gone. We've found an original Tuner glass too, funny how things turn out. How do you Bias the black later version? You don't, it's autobias. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. Tuners on these early ones often not working right, the Trio-Kenwood tuners are not so good despite the amp stages being quality. 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. (2014-16)
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 Pioneer SX-1500TD receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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 Very Good. 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: Very Good. 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: Very Good. 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 Very Good, 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 receiver therefore, if you don't need the higher power. The 6050 is a fresher sound than the 6120, if the 6120 is more sophisticated. 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 Very Good 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. A ridiculous design fault here is that no fuses are fitted in this amp at all. Not on anything. We'd recommend you get one fitted inside on the Mains or at least be sure the mains plug has a 3A fuse on it. REVISITED 2016: We got one of these a year before & found for the no-fuses issue the transformer was totally frazzled. But the amp was nice grade & it deserved to live. New bought transformers aren't any good for the size, but we found a 1979 Eagle amp in poor grade & gambled that the tx was good. it was & looking at it a few weeks after fitting it, you'd not tell it wasn't the original, perfect size, if 240v only now. HT is slighly less at 62v instead of the 73v, so to fully test it to see it is correct on other stages to be sellable. On playing it for 30mins on fitting the tx it sounded fine, so to recap & upgrade it as these early Sony always sell fast.
BUY-RAW RATING: Good if working, but read our Fuses comment. COOL RATING: 8 with the wood case. a budget version of the 6120 in some ways if still lookjs & sounds Very Good. (2014)
1969 Teac AG-7000 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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 Very Good 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. The wood case is a genuine Teac item, a June 1972 Hifi News ad shows it. 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: Very Good. 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: Recommended-Very Good. 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. See the Tuners page for more info. BUY-RAW RATING: Good. This amplifier needs a proper 3 core mains + earth cable, see above. Tuners on these early ones often not working right, the Trio-Kenwood tuners are not so good despite the amp stages being quality. COOL RATING: 6 as with other Trio receivers noted above (2011)<
1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-2000 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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. The KA-2000A is the same amp with an updated fascia as one on ebay showed the insides. Modest 13w amp but it started all this so certainly impressed us when we had the Hacker GAR 550 here with similar power, this was far better sounding, as original but serviced. 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: Very Good. 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. Very Good looking with the matching tuner. Needs a good servicing to sound it's best else it sounds soft & unremarkable. First mentiuoned in the Oct 1969 HFN if rated '58w+58w' with the TK-140X rated at '60w+60w', if both have the same power amp & put out 31v clean sine. The ratings are "each channel driven" ie use the L channel only, but that's misleading, as 45w both channels driven. 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-140E above. One of the classiest looking vintage amps especially with the tuner, with a fine sound. Jan 1970 Hifi News reviews this, their tests show it gave a high 70w clean output into 8 ohms before clipping. the MC phono stage showing hiss, but the preamp transistors used were clearly not so good but can be upgraded to much quieter ones, as we did on ours. Overall they rate it outstanding & of 'True Hifi Standards' yet at a modest £105 new it wasn't a big seller as not too many are around worldwide. Ours we initially 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, blue originally if plastic yelllows so pink light now, defeatable Tone stages & a Very Good 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 Very Good, it sounds clean still. There is a rightness to the sound that not many amps do with a very wide stereo. We've rated it for quite a while now, if never upgraded one before. As you can read, we rate this amp highly, if others copy our idead, like that ebay guide page. No-one noticed these pre 1977 amps much until we did. We heard of one that was 'upgraded' that supposedly sounded worse than the KR-4140 18w receiver below. But on seeing the awful job done, what do they expect? Respect these old amps & get it done properly & you'll hear one of the best amps ever, or get it wrong & wonder why. Quite a bit later, after the Akai AA7000 proved to be so good, the KA6000 doesn't quite reach the heights despite all upgrades done. Further research finds some odd design & after being remedied the KA6000 is without the slight fizzy bright edge it had before. Previously it brought facial expressions but now it is very clean & with the extra 45w power to the AA7000, rated upto 70w in HFN tests, the sound is certainly very rich & punchy with that razor precise clean treble that is the essence of Top Hifi. But remember ours is fully rebuilt & upgraded, the raw amp is still Very Good but there is much potential in this amp. Tone Mode switched on or off makes no difference to the sound, if may as all-original. 2016 slight update: we keep this amp as a reference if it doesn't get used on the speakers often, as it still has the 2-core mains & using TV only there is no real earth, but comparing to the TK-140X again it's very close in sound, see the TK-140X update for more. After trying the TK-140X on speakers, the KA-6000 got more upgrades & now it betters the Sony TA-1120 (1965) if a similar sound, the KA-6000 is fresher sounding. One of the Best 1960s amps, if ours has a lot of work done to find out how good it is. 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 Akai AA-8500 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 65w.
CC. This is an unusual looking "85w music power" receiver amp in the 1972 Hifi Year Book for £230. Actually 65w into 8 ohms rated power. A bigger size amp than you'd expect, 488mm wide, 370mm deep & 184mm high, this is top quality build for 1970 just before amps went semi-complimentary & the cost cutting started. None of that here. The tuner display is an internal drum that is backlit if that part looks like our 1932 Pye G/GR gram, nothing is new. Sliders for Tone & balance if the rest is rotaries or buttons. 65w for 1970 is unusual & it uses doubled output transistors to get the extra wattage, originally the transistors were only 50w ones & the only other pre semi-complimentary amp we've had with doubled outputs is the Sony TA-1120(A) from 1965-67 & it does add an extra confidence to the sound. Ours is aged & tired sounding but as with these early amps, we just about rebuild them & they do very well as this page shows, but to do it properly is still a huge job that most don't consider first & the circuit needs learning to do that right. Has two speaker pairs for outputs, but one is via 6.3mm jacks which may be useful in a DJ set up of old, but could be a problem if not understood. A Remote Control socket is on the rear, but all it actually does via the 2 pins is mute the output as does the front button, not RC as we know it. This is a hard amp to find, we've seen a couple before but missing fascia parts & even playing ours serviced if original the sound seems to be another one of those great amps if volume goes way past half so it needs a rebuild, but certainly is worth it. On our 'Other amps' page we're not too keen on later Akai who became a budget brand very quickly, but this AA-8500 is their top one & others 1966-70 are high quality. The 1970 brochure on HFE shows a very high end brand with very early Video & Tape gear as well as the 8500. The trouble with higher powered amps is they got used a lot & condition internally was poor. To clean & upgrade isn't all it needs, the tuner & meter lights needed rebuilding too with available bulbs. Another issue is the sliders, explaining why they are often missing, they have a spring loosely fitted easy to lose. The mains switch has a live mains point so easy to touch with the lid off so we have to add safety here too. The relay near the tuner inside is for the Audio Mute stage. We've had to just about rebuild ours as it was a mess, but certainly worth it. The midrange accuracy on this is a bit special, rivaling the early Germanium amps for clarity. Deep clean bass, fast grain-free treble with impressive dynamics & transient response to give it a certain kick that pleases. Now all upgraded, the sound is certainly one of the cleanest amps we've had, very precise, not the most bassy or powerful & volume needs turning past midway on headphones if we'll try it on speakers next to see how loud it plays as the headphone needed altering which we did. Top quality amp for sure & this for the quality does better quite a few & is certainly on the higher end of 'Excellent' as we have it. for those who like to use Monster Receiver, this certainly is one of the first, it's about the size of the Pioneer SX-950. Having done the max clean sine test, for 65w it only puts out 28v like a 50w amp, so it has extra current for the doubled output transistors which does give more confidence on heavy transients if in a more musical way than later amps. Overall a great amp & surprising early Akai are this good, the build quality is up there with Sony & the others, nothing midprice here. BUY-RAW RATING: Powerful amps get partied hearty & ours needed a lot rebuilt, one usually found missing the slider buttons. COOL RATING: 8 a big impressive classy amp with a nice tuner style if the sliders just make it a little less easy to use. (2015)
1970 Goodmans Module 80 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED (slightly): Very Good-Excellent. 25w.
CC. UK made midprice amp, £95 in 1973 was a keen buy, but with a good honest sound that is above it's price range. It appears to be the most upgradeable of the pre Differential era UK made amplifiers. Read on. 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. REVISITED 2016: It seems the First Amps we ever used were all 1970 ones, Hacker & Philco-Ford & the sound we thought was decent in it's day. The Goodmans Module 80 is actually a 1970 one too as the rare Operating Instructions book shows "10/70" as a date. This includes the Circuit Diagram & for the usual buyer of this 35w into 4 ohms £95 item the booklets were long since gone, but the non-worker we got was in top grade, barely aged which is nice. The Specs are 35w into 4 ohms for 1% distortion 35w, for 0.1% distortion 30w. For 8 ohms the rating is 25w & 15 ohm it's 15w. Damping Factor of 40-80-150 for 4-8-15 ohm. Bulbs are Scale 6.5v 300mA & Stereo 14v 40mA. Seeing the circuit diagram shows a different one to the 1972 E&E trader one & Germaniums are in the Tuner: 2 transistors & 4 Diodes. Phono x2 transistors, Preamp x2, Buffer stage for Loudness is x1, Passive Tone plus 1 transistor as gain. Power amp is 6 transistors of good basic design if a Diode on a driver emitter is strange. Capacitor coupled outputs are the ones on the left side. HT is +56v. There are obvious limiters in the amp plus a lack of "tuning" in the circuit, so it did sound basically 'clean' on recapping the one in 2012 but there was roughness to the sound as no finesse in the circuit. The strange 'box' shaped resistors are a unique version of a carbon composition resistor that only Goodmans used, they save space & avoid on-end resistor wires touching, but once knocked the legs come loose & need replacing, many here aren't even soldered in straight. The two power capacitors are both "C88" doubling the value as size limitations in 1970 & oddly it runs on a negative voltage. In basic terms, no less of an amp than Japanese ones, if their flair adding 'finesse' as well as better spec goes by the wayside on UK amps. Would it be possible to make this Budget amp into one of the Top Range spec of better amps of the era? Yes it would... Having gone through the design Phono to Output, the design is basically very good, but limiters & especially on bass, with some noticeable dumbing down to make it sound less than the decent circuit it could be if perfected. The Mullard stripy film caps & the odd resistors are good to keep, if ceramics have no place in audio stages. The Sony STR6850 below was a similar sized amp but despite the sound being very decent there were poor design issues. The Goodmans is a better design in many ways. Having recapped it to hear it for the first time & for all the Japan & USA amps we've had, this amp does surprisingly well for the fresh clean sound. Bass is much limited if the design is a good one as suspected. It's tempting to fully rebuild the odd resistors etc but it doesn't really need it & this one is barely used. We've upped the ratings as it is equal of any Japanese amp & betters some, if once recapped, as original it's too aged on the capacitors to risk trying it raw, some you see sold as 'serviced' are on the bad original TV grade caps so will fail as in go 'bang'. Playing it as we type, a very musical amp & once upgraded-recapped it's a bit of a sleeper for the sound quality. On Rock it copes well giving a solid weighty sound that not many under 40w amps can. Bass is limited in the design if it sounds decent without sounding lumpy, to upgrade further into 'our spec' risks getting caught by the 25w. The Quality Of Sound is way ahead of the Leak 2000 we had recently, it was nowhere as 'hi-fi' sounding as this. The Module 90 wasn't so well made but sounded good, if the styling was ghastly & the later Goodmans 110, 120 & 150 aren't so great & sadly are of later 'differential' designs. Ours has a low 3500 series serial, others seen with 16000 & 20500 serial, it could be the earlier one has the best sound as often UK manufacturers altered designs as the E&ET circuit shows, The early one hasn't got R121-122, has single tapped volume, R206 is 15 ohm not 47 ohm & C71 as 1000pf, all unimporrtant so all will rate similarly. The small output transistors are of 115w spec. On checking the output readings, clipping was uneven & at best 18v clean sine which seems low for 25w. Is it worth a rebuild with much upgrading? Of the 'CC' era UK amps, we've found this amp to be The Only One worthy to 'max out' upgrade. All others Leak, Rogers, Radford & Sugden use annoying Axial caps so what else is there before the less-good differential era begins? Armstrong are rubbish, Ferrograph too basic, Leak Delta 75 is too unreliable, if the one pictured was a success, others failed so that's it. BUT IT CAN'T BE MAXED OUT... For all our experimental upgrading, putting good ideas onto this, the amp sadly is no better than it ought to be: it is Budget Crap. Upgrades that make Japanese & USA amps sing turned this junk into an unstable joke. We can't sell this with issues that are laughable, never had an amp upgrade to reveal how bad the design is. We thought it looked good on paper, the Tuner & Preamp are decent, but the Power Amp is OK amid it's own spec, it plays music fine but is ridiculously noisy & unstable with what should sound fine. Even putting much back to as original spec it was still hopeless. All we can try we tried. it reveals too many weaknesses & it's why it has such low spec to hide the badness. We try these to see what can be upgraded & not. Upgrade this with recapping & some improvements, but to go to max it out levels has it play music nicely until you try to use it more. This is a big Nail in the British Hifi Coffin for us, if it succeeded maybe we'd try a Leak or Rogers, but sadly Budget gear is Budget made & we'll reuse the new parts elsewhere. The Moral is if it's Budget Junk, that's all it'll ever be. British Hifi is designed to be far less upgradeable than Japanese & USA which really do well for our upgrades. BUY-RAW RATING: The black capacitors & the one on the TX must be replaced as they are always bad or failing, so buy with care, else it'll go bang. The main caps may be bad too, if not always. COOL RATING: 6 only very basic looks with no real style but not ugly. But a Top Grade one always looks much nicer than aged worn ones. (2012-16)
1970-74 Hacker GAR500, GAR550 receiver-gram ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Very Good. 10-14w.
CC. The 10w Centurion 500 series was introduced in 1970 with a silver fascia & teak lid, a tunerless 500 version at the same time as the GAR 500 with the Garrard SP25 Mk III turntable & also the Tribune GAR1000A with 10w class A in a double width unit with a Goldring Lenco turntable. Later ones had a black fascia & the GAR 550 was an updated 14w version if still basically the same if later ones had a superior SP25 Mk IV without the Mk III's rumble. Usually seen with the teak lid, the smoked perspex version one we preferred on seeing the teak lid one. A basic but pretty acceptable UK made receiver of 10-14w with a turntable & FM only tuner, so a record player system really. It deserves it's rating if used with good speakers, not the basic supplied Hacker ones. We recapped our GAR 550 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. The DIN tape socket suited 1970s tape recorders with a DIN lead but by the 1980s DIN was generally long gone so the volume on recording to tape was too low. Recapped & improved it rates towards a Very Good for the sort of item it is: a nice compact record player system. 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 Sixes, for it's 14w rating it's not quite 'Very Good' as original but worthy of 'Very Good' as upgraded. 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 as ebay listings show. There was a GAR 600 still using the same basic design in the last few years before Hacker closed. Hacker better known for their Portable Radios & 1964 era record players with an add-on Stereo speaker. The only problem with Hacker tuners is they only go to 101 on the FM dial, not the full 87.5-108 MHz losing the local FM stations added since the 1990s. 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 KLH Model Fifty Two 52 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 30w.
SC, CC. Another KLH after the 27 from 1966 we review above & the 52 follows the 51 which we've not had. USA design made in Japan if still looks kooky like the KLH 27 does. The service manual says 1972 but this has to be 1970 for Capacitor Coupling & has the same output transistors as the Nikko TRM-1200 below. The wood top lid is a typical vinyl wrap with screening tape inside which few amps have with non metal lids. UK-EU 220v model, not multivoltage & must be for some EU countries so for the USA models not selling well, the 220v one is a bit of a rarity, as are 1960s 220v Fisher amps. Still has the quality build for 1970 with kooky things like the main diodes have an inductive loop in them and as many as 9 separate PCBs. The maker's check label has 'aging test' probably many hours running in. A smart fascia with attention to detail. The back has all Phono inputs & those annoying screw connectors only good for fork connectors crimped to cable, if the Remote speaker pair is via Phono plugs. A known problem with this amp is the weak volume-mounted power switch which we need to deal with too, as is found with vintage hifi, ours was owned by a moron which takes more work to deal with. As with the Nikko below, a later amp between the second & third hifi generation but with pleasing attention to detail that we do like to see. A quick play to see if it works reveals a typical 'long asleep' sound but clearly a fresh sounding amp with a fuller bass than some amps. the original power switch is a feeble thing ALPS 'Snap Switch H76' says one source & seeing pictures it's probably pretty useless & how it even works isn't clear. The only option is to put a switch on the rear & do it properly, unlike the suicidal previous owner... Trying it again after the USA Fisher amps, the sound after waking it up before, is actually not so far off the Fisher 440-T if a better bass & more detail with a wide stereo image, if the typical USA headphone L+R swap. On Rock it has a clean solid sound on guitar riffs if not quite the bass weight we can upgrade. The service manual is very detailed revealing good design if still a kooky built amp like the KLH 27 above. The power amp board is only 4" x 3" with the bigger resistors hard wired by the transistors, the Phono stage is under the left rear cover in the top & the Tone is right at the front underneath & must be the first one with a FET predating the Sony TA-1130. On Tannoy Golds for an all-original amp this certainly impressed, being a good compare with the 1966 Akai AA-7000 & 1970 Nikko TRM-1200 below. To use Speakers, leave the buttons out, if push in to turn off rather than on. As upgraded, it has a clean accurate sound that is deserving of the rating playing with good volume for 30w on speakers. BUY-RAW RATING: The weak Power switch is a known failure else good. COOL RATING: 6.5 a mix of classy control knobs if the vinyl wrap lid loses appeal. (2015)
1970 Nikko TRM-1200 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 40w.
SC, Transformer Coupled. We're always interested in amps we've not tried & to try a Nikko again from how decent the other TRM-500 was. Very cute amp, very smart looking with the delightful fussy Japanese attention to detail that set the pace in the Hifi race. "Nikko 1200 Module Stereo Pre-Amp Power Amplifier" it proudly says, to us it's an integrated amp. Similar lever switches to the 1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 & VU level meters. Separate L+R tone controls & Tone Flat show the quality on the front. The rear has their odd mains holding device, if it's not the tighest fit. On the back ample inputs & 2 speaker pairs. This needs Pre-Out to Main-In connectors are the short Phono plugs like the Sony TA-1120 uses. 260W (260VA) rated if the mains transformer seems small & it's multivoltage. The Mains plug & socket is not good as the plug one was puts a high AC potential on the case like other amps, so we fitted a 3-core mains cable to make a better amp for use today. Circuit breakers similar to on the JVC MCA 104E is unusual. Inside a fussy delight too with the Input selector & Phono board caged & one around the Output Transistors. The Service Manual is very detailed if whoever scanned it missed the chance to enhance the dark images. Interestingly for a 1970 amp this is Transformer Coupled like the 1965-67 amps above, a toroidal 'doughnut' inside next to the relay. The design has hot resistors under the output transistors cage upto 80°C in open air. Certainly a cute amp if it sounds clean as the early circuits are. No bias pots on these 1966 style designs as the Akai AA7000 is similar. The design is minimalist like the 1966 amps, Phono is custom IC, looks more like a 250v film capacitor 'Nikko HB18005' which is 2 transistors, 6 resistors & a small pf value capacitor if what the values are inside isn't shown. If yours doesn't work a Nikko bulletin was issued stating how to make it out of transistors & seems we'll have to: we built ours in the IC holes, the board they suggest is too big, works fine now. Pre-Tone x3 transistors, Power amp is x3 if 2 are buffers & the push-pull pair after the transformer. A relay of non-standard type, the transformer coupling & certain parts look more 1967. 3300µf 35v Elna main caps. Some with white-yellowy meters & others with blue, it seems respected online as we found with our other Nikko a few years back. Looking at the circuit, the 'TTF' is a nasty deep bass filter that has no place with us, explaining the bass-light sound. Seen this in the Sansui AU-999 & NAD 160a, sadly to sell good amps to those with rumbly turntables, the bane of Hifi & what our upgrades always undo & no buyer of our amps has complained of too much bass. Tone flat switch bypasses the Tone. 2SC889s are 50w rated. Unusual to be transformer coupled as do 1970 Nikko STA-501S with 18w has transformers as does 14w Nikko TRM40B from 1966. The BBC3 "10cc story" showed this amp in their studio. A strange feature is "Speaker Compensator" which isn't quite what it seems as it's in the preamp not the output like the Sony STR6120 is. The 'Tone Flat' bypasses the Tone stage totally & the increase in fidelity in our upgraded version is noticeable if subtle. Our rating shows this amp has low spec & limitations to hide the excellence of this design. Once upgraded, on headphones it's more a detailed amp than a rich bassy one, very clean & precise. Trying it on the Tannoy Golds, the sound is very impressive. All upgraded-recapped except the two main caps, on headphones it's very clean if a little lean aka neutral, but on speakers the tight deep bass really comes alive & unsurprisingly is very similar to the Akai AA7000. Getting this finished at the same time as the KLH 52 above, the amps for our spec are similar in some ways, if the Nikko is far more Neutral than the KLH which is more bassy, the Nikko has neutral precision on the midrange giving more detail. It reminds us of the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X & trying it there are similarities in the sound if the 90X has a different bass, so to play it a bit & compare back & beyond the 40w to 130w power rating, the Nikko is exceedingly good. But comparing amps as with the KLH 52 above, the Nikko doesn't quite have enough volume for 40w. The pointless Bass Boost switch on the back together with the cynical Bass Cut circuit shows Nikko are dumbing this amp down, so we will remove extraneous circuitry & if means no rear switch, who needs it. We've already got rid of their lousy mains plug. Some amps we know should be better than they are & have the nerve to go further & often get excellent results. Original if bad is fair game to replace & do properly if subtle. Some redesign later the volume is far better. Bass is tight here but goes very deep as the Sansui AU-G90X does which is why we try more. On reading through the HFN mags by year, a Nikko TRM-120 exists from 1967 that appears very similar to this, for the transformer coupling it likely is an earlier version of this, if the TRM-1200 is different on the outside, but no manual of the 120 to see. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if check the Phono works as the IC was obsolete by 1976. COOL RATING: 7 classy fascia if no wood case loses a higher rating. (2015)
1970 Philco-Ford M1550 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended. UPGRADED: Not Worthy. 12w.
CC. The Roots of select45rpm Hifi: The First Amp we ever used as it was the parents one for several years & 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 to adult you. 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 & hum a bit too easily on treble, this is actually the low spec power supply. Also the power switch is awful as it fails & to awkwardly fit a different type is the only option, our family one was away for ages getting a new one & the first we got back had the same issue. REVISITED: We got another one of these in wanting to see what the Phono stage was like, good power switch at last. It was the first Hifi we ever used & using a Garrard SP25 Mk III & Goldring G800 was the deal. As this is over 45 years old now, age becometh & to find someone replaced the 1A left fuse at the back, the other near the mains cable is just 250mA, the wires were just twisted, not soldered. That's not very good. As we had to 'part' the other one got the original fuse to refit. Early on, we used to type the horrors we found with amps, here we've found another in the Plug, E wire cut, L + N swapped, 13A fuse fitted. In need of a service but working, it's not exactly Hifi yet but far from junk either ignoring inputs only working R channel on Tuner & L channel only on Tape, the sound is pleasing. The Service Manual is buyable & seeing the circuit,. small as it is, has quality to it, why not see why it sounded good to teenaged us. To hear how it sounds on the Tannoys too, good to revisit good things of the past, however modest they were. Once serviced with a little extra work the sound in Stereo is noticeably fizzy for the ceramics in the amp if hearing beyond that the sound is otherwise clean. The design isn't bad but the spec is low & a bit of a low hum. Hearing the open & rich sound of this, if far from having the fidelity we require, it really does show this little 12w amp did please the teen typist playing it for hours long ago. Don't forget your Roots, this amp is ours & it still sounds good. Sadly no service manual, the one online is an error they said. But the design on going to recap-upgrade is still a "proper" Hifi amp with Tone & Push-Pull outputs, capacitor coupled. The main cap is only 2000µf if JVC still used this value on their early ones. To see the design would be interesting, if the whole Preamp, Power Amp & Power Supply is on one 277mm x 63mm board, it says "Made in Taiwan" so it's not the usual UK low powered junk quality, so well worth giving the full recap-upgrade treatment. Unfortunately with no Circuit it's hard to tell the circuit, on recap-upgrade it reveals a very imbalanced sound, bass is good in a 'retro' way, midrange sounds recessed as treble is excessive. Not so much the fault of the power amp which looked good for us to try to upgrade, but sadly the inputs-preamp stage is rubbish, signal goes through a high value resistor & is then messed with via the Phono EQ circuit that all inputs share. The circuit is useless as there is no direct input, it was matched to other Philco gear which is why the speakers sounded clear, as excess treble in the amp. Explains why it got hum problems on loud treble, it must be over 10dB inbalanced at about 5KHz. Unless the lousy input circuit can be bypassed direct to a selector button, this amp isn't even sellable for the awful incorrect sound. We dare to try on budget gear & it lets us down. Sadly this amp is only good enough to use "as is" on budget speakers, after all it's what it is, made to sound good amid it's own components, a trick modern brands of undeserved repute still do. Once upgraded it reveals how awful the inputs board is, as well as that not working right for the inputs are unreliable, not worth putting a bypassed input as there's no money in the amp & the new parts we added best used elsewhere. They don't all turn out Winners, but it's worth a try, but crappy is usually only crappy. This also shows why having the circuits is important as we'd not have bothered otherwise. BUY-RAW RATING: Good once serviced if the power switch is ok. COOL RATING: 6 tiny budget amp still with a nice teak case & tidy layout, it appealed to us as a teen. (2013-16)
1970 Pioneer SX-990 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. 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 Very Good 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. 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. UPGRADED: Very Good-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. This has some poor components that are unusual to be using in a 1970 amp, the black dome transistors are as early as 1966. The low volume for 50w was surprising & the lack of bass. It has a lot of front panel controls that need good servicing & lots of bulbs for the input display. It's a decent amp, but there is far better out there. BUY-RAW RATING: Good, beware overpricing on this amp, it's not all that great really. 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 so useful 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: Very Good. UPGRADED: Very Good-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. But the build quality here is not so good as the STR-6050, the power supply being mixed with the switch board is just not very good, if the preamp & power amp are basically the same as the STR-6050, the Phono is on the Tuner board. This has all DIN inputs & speaker outs as per the EU scene if these are adequate if not so popular. 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: Very Good. 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. USA ad says $457.90 inc the wood top lid. 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, like the Fisher early amps, 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. After playing the JVC amps & Duetter germaniums since last trying this, the Heathkit reveals itself to better others with it's pleasing sound. To the point we'll keep it longer & do more as this great looking amp has let other less neutral amps put it away. 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 Very Good, 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: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 55w.
CC. We certainly liked the Hitachi SR-1100 receiver below & to try the slightly earlier 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. IC is FA-6001T totally unfindable, though the SR-1100 shows the circuit equivalent & you can see the transistors inside it even. 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 nice one, 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. 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. There are a few issues we found, the very hissy transistors, but the amount of limiting resistors in the signal path clearly is hiding a high quality amp by dumbing it down, 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. Biasing is difficult as the current runs away getting hot heatsinks though it can be adjusted differently to be stable. Spec was actually low despite it sounding Very Good on it. Familiar 1950s & 60s mono tracks sound better resolved with a focus that is a delight, especially on early Jamaican R&B and Calypso 45s revealing the studio acoustic as so well focussed with the vocals so clear it can surprise, those old Bluebeat 45s sound so clean here. Upgrading is not so easy on this one, a few odd issues, but the result puts it in to the Best Ever Amps with the 1965-69 ones. There is a matching tuner FT 600, unsurprisingly it looks like the SR-1000 with less controls & one less meter. We decided to upgrade this one further as the Pro Sound was interesting & now with a recapped-upgraded Phono stage it is a very impressive amp, beats the Pioneer SA9100 we had recently. BUY-RAW RATING: Beyond hissy transistors ours was good as not much used. Biasing is difficult. COOL RATING: 8 green meters add to the looks, good looking unit as is the receiver. (2015)
1971 Hitachi SR-1100 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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. Hitachi are a hidden secret on their early few amps, the later 1970s ranges seem much more typical. 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 Very Good 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 Very Good 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: **This Will Fail = Too High Risky** Very sadly it's such a lousy design, remarkably poorly made. UPGRADED: Very Good. 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: Do not Buy This Amp. Guaranteed Risk of failure due to bad capacitors & rubbish construction & design. If one is sold as working but original it'll not last very long as it must be recapped. We've had 4 & only one survived & if we give up on it, so will you. This amp makes the awful 500 series Armstrong seem like quality, it's that bad. 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. The receiver looks Very Good too, pity it's so unreliable to the point of too risky. (2011-14)
1971 Marantz 2245 receiver ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Recommended-Very Good. UPGRADED: 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 bass-light sound it is as-made, which keeps the rating lower. 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. A nice amp though if one that sold quickly before we had time to think to upgrade it further as can happen. 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: Very Good. 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. 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. A later one seen on ebay Aug 2015 shows the front was anodised a dark colour, but faded heavily in the light or air leaving dark marks where the sliders sat. It may have looked smarter when new, but still a stinker of an amp. 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: Very Good. 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 Very Good 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 Very Good 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: Very Good. 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, otherwise 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: Very Good. 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 Very Good 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 'Very Good' 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 Very Good 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: Very Good. UPGRADED: Excellent. 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 tricky 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-6050 & STR-6850 being so good & this being fairly similar in design, 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. But after recap-upgrading most if it, it makes a decent sound,. to the point didn't think it'd be this good compared to the TA-1140. Clean fresh lively sound with no grain & a proper bass with our upgrades. One to be aware of the Loudness button by the Volume, must be pressed in to not sound too bassy. Deserves an 'excellent' as upgraded if we don't rate higher to keep it real & other 'excellents' will better this but our required quality of sound certainly is here. 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 aluminium fascia. (2015)
1971 Teac AS-100 amplifier ↑
AS-ORIGINAL: Very Good. 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, on the first amp we had we noted one is a 'Teac 42708', the other a 'Sanyo LD3130', not that they are findable to buy or research. It appears these ICs are a bit fragile, OK in use but if knocked or the amp dropped the IC legs get loose so problems arise. 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. REVISITED: Had one of these in 2016 to upgrade & the stainless steel & black look is very cool. £107 new in 1973 it was priced well with other midprice 40w amps. Even after many amps & a lot of upgrading, this still sounded very decent on first play as original. Now recapped improved further if it still has odd noises on turning on with headphones, we'll try it on speakers when finished. The AG-6000 & AG-7000 receivers from 1969 reviewed above are the same basic amp circuit & the basic IC isn't a problem. One issue with this one revealed the volume control wasn't well matched being 10% different so the L channel was a little lower if the electronics tested fine. Unfortunately to get a loudness volume control with the long post is impossible, so the only option is to add a resistor to balance or leave it be, customer will need to decide. A known weakness in the AS-100 are the regulator diodes, we've seen these replaced before & were here, so we needed to sort that out better. The metal lid has extra threaded holes for rack mounting, there doesn't seem to be any wood side cheeks on this. To find the AS-100 still sounds great with all our progress since shows it certainly is a very decent amp & we'd say it betters the receivers once upgraded. So this is the fourth one of this amp we've had, shows we like it. But issues with this particular one are more to do with previous use & luckily the owner had a spares amp as one IC was faulty & the volume control was out of spec too. Now they have a great reliable amp again, worthy of an 'excellent' if other earlier amps upgrade to give further precision, this is still a worthy amp for it'd era. BUY-RAW RATING: Good if a few issues we found in our fourth one as noted. COOL RATING: 8 no wood case but an appealing Bauhaus styled Industrial quality classy look here with black & aluminium fascia & mirror control knobs, on some versions. (2013-16)
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: Recommended-Very Good. 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: Recommended-Very Good. UPGRADED: n/a. 40w.
SC, DIFF. One of the earliest Yamahas, Very Good 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)
* See Part Two covering 1972-2007 *
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.