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Vintage amp advice - using separate amps for music and movies

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Posted (edited)

Hi stereonet.

 

Awesome forum, just signed up this week, very impressed with the community and advice housed here.

 

Background:

 

I use a Marantz NR1508 to power 2x KEF Q350s, a Q250c and a REL Ti5 which is used for TV/Movies and music. 

Music is generally run through bluetooth and spotify, or sometimes through the TV. I have a record player and records but no amp for it (yet)

 

Since I built this system up over the last 2 years, I'm just not getting that excitement you get from listening to your favourite music on a great system. I grew up in a household where music listening was the main activity, we had great gear, Marantz, Musical Fidality, JBLs, Jamo etc. I'm used to music sounding great.

 

This was all pre AV and surround sound, 80's 90's etc. Now I want to build my dream system, which I thought I was doing. However, I'm disappointed so far. Songs I'm familiar with sound cold, a bit flat, or generally lifeless. The only music the system does well is modern electonica/hip hop. I've done lot of research over the last couple of years and learned that AV Receivers are generally not known for producing music with much character or body, and I'm definitely experiencing that now.

 

I have decided my best strategy, is to listen to music through a dedicated hifi amp but still through the Q350s and REL sub. I will achieve this with use of an amp switch box. This gives me a chance to bring my music listening experience back to life with the right choice of dedicated hifi amp. 

 

Question:

 

Can someone please recommend (or even better, sell) me amp I can use for this purpose?

 

Criteria:

 

Sound - must be fantastic, strong, clear, full of character/body, capable with bass, able to handle jazz, rock, punk, soul, electronica, vocals, hip hop, modern production (bass subtlety, sustained bass, soundstage dynamics) etc etc. Hopefully a classic amp that everyone regards as just simply nailing it in terms of sonics. 

 

Aesthetics - 70's, wood panelling, nice interface, bit of a talking piece. I love music and want to feel really good owning this equipment. I'm thinking Yamaha, Sansui, Marantz or similar.

 

Budget - $400 - $800 AUD unless I can be convinced I need to spend more. 

 

Notes - I'm in a mid sized apartment and don't have the volume up loud all the time, but when it is, I want the power there. The Marantz is 50W/ch and it's only been maxed once or twice mainly to push the envelope.

 

Really looking forward to your responses! I'm sure someone will have some great advice for me.

 

Thanks, BCHR.

 

Edited by BCHR
update

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Check out the classified ads here. Best bargains in HiFi ever. Once you know what you want, wait, watch the ads, and jump quickly and someone will sell you one.

 

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Thanks Doc, I've been looking through the classifieds and agree with your strategy of knowing what I want first, that's the part I wouldn't mind a few suggestions on.

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hard to just suggest an amp, i think vintage amps work best with other vintage gear, matching vintage with modern does not always get the synergy that you are after, someone once asked to recommend an amp that sounded like a Sansui, simple answer, a Sansui. You would need to hear the components together in your listening enviornment to find out if they work together, or you could try a leap of faith and just buy to try, could get expensive, others may suggest what has worked for them. I had a nice set of vintage speakers, the amp died after 24yrs, after 2 different amps i bought new speakers, that was in 2006, now 8 amps later i am happy with the system with these speakers

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9 minutes ago, wen said:

hard to just suggest an amp, i think vintage amps work best with other vintage gear, matching vintage with modern does not always get the synergy that you are after, someone once asked to recommend an amp that sounded like a Sansui, simple answer, a Sansui. You would need to hear the components together in your listening enviornment to find out if they work together, or you could try a leap of faith and just buy to try, could get expensive, others may suggest what has worked for them. I had a nice set of vintage speakers, the amp died after 24yrs, after 2 different amps i bought new speakers, that was in 2006, now 8 amps later i am happy with the system with these speakers

whoa ok, that's some food for thought. I'm just hesitant to go with a modern amp based on my experience with the Marantz. In my mind now I can't fathom how a modern amp can produce music with any soul. But I hear what you're saying with keeping the speakers era aligned.

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Posted (edited)

Have look around your local audio store usual offerings at the budget range of new models such as Yamaha, Marantz, Cambridge, Audio, NAD etc then search online reviews, have a listen at the shop.

 

There are also many classic used amps from $100-300 upwards as well depending how old gear you are ok with like NAD 3020 (Recommended), Audiolab 8000A (R), Pioneer 400x, various Rotel, Marantz, Cyrus, Arcam, Roksan Caspian (R), various Musical Fidelity (A3 model recommended) etc. A $800 used under 10+ year old would be best value for something up to $3k when new and still reliable.

 

Edited by Al.M

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You also need to take into consideration that the production of older records can be lacking by todays standards, in the 70's you could buy an LP for around $10 or less, iwas paying $30 for imported LP's with outstanding production, i read somewhere that the original Beatles records were produced to sound good on car radios. Some brands of hi-fi were bought out by other companies and their quality and sound changed, there is a lot of info on SNA, you need time to research, take your time, and you should end up with a great system, good luck

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Posted (edited)

From experience a $100 NAD from the 1980s will sound better than a $2k+ Yamaha AVR but a little coloured, but may not necessarily work for long. I've also found that Yamaha stereo amps I've heard under $1500 are not much better than their AVRs. 

 

It seems many stereo amps are trying to pack in DACs, streaming etc for the same price point as they used to sell for just as a basic analogue amp.

 

I'd stick, like others have said to second hand gear up to 10 years or so or if older, check about local servicing. Plenty of 1980s gear around that is still right up there with $15k+ new offerings.

 

Here are a few brands that many people won't think of. 

 

A home grown offering which seem to sit unloved for sale second hand are Redgum. They cop a bit from some in hifi on component quality but a bit unfairly so in terms of sound and seem to be in no man's land a bit. On reputation they probably sit between bigger budget hifi and consumer lifestyle products, but definitely far more hifi. I picked one up for my second system and it does a great job at that and smashed my old NAD, Yamaha AVR etc. Made in Victoria and the people that answer the phone soldered it together if you get the Aussie built ones rather than the offshore assembled models. Amps are dual mono and a bit quirky with two volume dials, which for a few hundred can be sent back to Victoria to get them paired and controlled by a remote on one button. Panel is red gum wood and has a key to lock it which comes in handy with small kids. I picked up my Redgum RGi60ENR for under $1k.

 

Plenty of ME fans on here, Aussie made and still serviceable here but not in production. I suspect they are up a significant level over Redgum and it has been said they are similar to my 1980s Metaxas power amp which was built in Melbourne. I'm hopefully getting my hands on an ME power amp soon. Some of these old power amps coupled with a good pre with modern features and a good DAC can be killer and amazng value. 

 

Lots of Electrocompaniet fans around. Come up second hand. Norwegian brand and serviceable here including older models. The guy that sold me my Metaxas ended up on Electrocompaniet. Some of their models get killer reviews, some of their newer lower end offerings, less so but probably still much better than an AVR. 

IMG_20200720_223133.jpg

Edited by DrSK

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Does everyone unanimously agree I shouldn't be going for a 70's Vintage amp, and look at something newer? 

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, BCHR said:

Does everyone unanimously agree I shouldn't be going for a 70's Vintage amp, and look at something newer? 

 

No, not necessarily - if you want vintage for the looks and sound, then by all means go vintage... but just be mindful of the need to have the gear properly serviced and/or restored to ensure the optimum sound quality and reliability. 

 

Good vintage amplifiers are very much at home with modern speakers and sources - but just because gear is vintage does not make it good.  There was some average-sounding  gear being produced back in the day - just like there is in the current day.

Edited by pete_mac

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Thanks P-Mac. Glad it's not a hard no. If possible I really would prefer to go for Vintage. 

 

Just need to find the right model, one thats been looked after etc.

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Just now, BCHR said:

Thanks P-Mac. Glad it's not a hard no. If possible I really would prefer to go for Vintage. 

 

Just need to find the right model, one thats been looked after etc.

 

Agreed!

 

As a starting point, I'd suggest looking at this website and checking what different brands offer in terms of aesthetics that float your boat. Note the models and get back to us!

 

https://audio-database.com/index.html

 

I run a mixed system myself with a Sansui amp running the main speakers (for both 2 channel and home theatre purposes) and a Denon receiver powering the centre and rear speakers. I much prefer the sound quality of the Sansui over the Denon, but I have severe Sansui addiction issues so I guess this outcome is to be expected ;) 

 

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Tough one as there are a few paths you could choose IMO.  I'm a die-hard early/mid-80s Amp fan but also own & enjoy Amps from the 60s and Chinese stuff from 'yesterday' too.  Your budget is solid and opens up many possibilities... and that's the problem!  I've been able to pickup extremely decent & incredible sounding Amps/Receivers and Speakers for far less than your budget so maybe you should just do your research and create a hit-list then sit in the shadows, wait then pounce on it whenever it appears.

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Now I feel like I'm on the right track.

 

If I was to stick with Sansui, Yamaha and Marantz say, can anyone throw out some 70's/80's models of these brands I can focus my attention on?

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, BCHR said:

Now I feel like I'm on the right track.

 

If I was to stick with Sansui, Yamaha and Marantz say, can anyone throw out some 70's/80's models of these brands I can focus my attention on?

 

You after an integrated Amp or a Receiver?

 

I've always been impressed with the mid-late 70s Yamaha gear.  It may not have the slick aesthetics compared to the similar aged Pioneers & Sansuis with their real timber case, black tuning window & green backlit dial but it sounds amazing, has simple clean lines (similar to that found on new high-end Yamaha gear), sounds incredible and relatively easy to repair if need be.  Here's a nice little unit that should tick all your boxes for half your budget: https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/glen-waverley/stereo-systems/-serviced-yamaha-cr-440-vintage-stereo-receiver-timber-case/1252332351

Edited by SteveAndBelle

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Just now, SteveAndBelle said:

 maybe you should just do your research and create a hit-list then sit in the shadows, wait then pounce on it whenever it appears.

 

x 2!!!

 

Good strategy that... and realistically the only option at times if you have a wish-list of particular gear. The Aussie market can present slim pickings at times!

 

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11 minutes ago, SteveAndBelle said:

 

You after an integrated Amp or a Receiver?

What's the difference?

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1 minute ago, BCHR said:

What's the difference?

An 'Integrated Amp' is a Pre Amp & Power Amp in the one box.  A 'Receiver' is the same thing but has a Tuner included too.  I linked to one in my previous message but I think it only updated after you asked this question.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, pete_mac said:

 

x 2!!!

 

Good strategy that... and realistically the only option at times if you have a wish-list of particular gear. The Aussie market can present slim pickings at times!

 

... and the 'Brisbane' market is even slimmer still :)  Amazing what you can sometimes get from the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast & Tweed areas though!  I assume it's because a lot of wealthy retirees moved there in the 80s & 90s and they're now all starting to downsize to higher-care facilities.  Just have to sit & wait though... sometimes for many, many months.

Edited by SteveAndBelle

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1 minute ago, SteveAndBelle said:

An 'Integrated Amp' is a Pre Amp & Power Amp in the one box.  A 'Receiver' is the same thing but has a Tuner included too.  I linked to one in my previous message but I think it only updated after you asked this question.

Ah thank you! I've always wondered that. I don't need the radio function as I would stream the radio, but if a receiver came up and ticked all the other boxes, I wouldn't say no just because it has an extra feature I don't need. 

 

Now that I know this though it will make searching a lot easier.

 

thanks!

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, BCHR said:

Ah thank you! I've always wondered that. I don't need the radio function as I would stream the radio, but if a receiver came up and ticked all the other boxes, I wouldn't say no just because it has an extra feature I don't need. 

 

Now that I know this though it will make searching a lot easier.

 

thanks!

 

I've found a lot of people prefer the look of a Receiver over an Integrated... probably because receivers usually have a nice big, backlit window.  Integrateds are usually just boxes with knobs but sometimes feature fancy VU meters.

 

Anyway, here's another Receiver I just found on eBay that probably also ticks the boxes: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Sansui-771-Stereo-Integrated-Receiver-Amplifier-Vintage-1970s-SERVICED/202917178809... but that's pretty much top dollar so I'd definitely make an offer to get it for less.  Here's a pretty rare Perreaux Integrated too: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Perreaux-SA80B-integrated-Mosfet-Amplifier-Rare-vintage-model/143645377899 but again that's a LOT so I'd definitely be trying to get it for less than that!  I'm a bit of a Perreaux nut which is why I picked that one :)

Edited by SteveAndBelle

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Don't underestimate the sheer volume of quality product that passes through this site. Yes, you will need to be patient, but we're not talking about the Christmas after next. Particularly if you have a short list, rather than just one item, it could well appear within a month or two. And additionally there's always the WTB section.

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1 minute ago, SteveAndBelle said:

... and the 'Brisbane' market is even slimmer still :)  Amazing what you can sometimes get from the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast & Tweed areas though!  I assume it's because a lot of wealthy retirees moved there in the 80s & 90s and they're now all starting to downsize to higher-care facilities.  Just have to sit & wait though... sometimes for many, many months.

Whoa what a theory. Like an abumlance chaser but for stereo gear!

 

7 minutes ago, SteveAndBelle said:

 

I've found a lot of people prefer the look of a Receiver over an Integrated... probably because receivers usually have a nice big, backlit window.  Integrateds are usually just boxes with knobs but sometimes feature fancy VU meters.

 

Anyway, here's another Receiver I just found on eBay that probably also ticks the boxes: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Sansui-771-Stereo-Integrated-Receiver-Amplifier-Vintage-1970s-SERVICED/202917178809... but that's pretty much top dollar so I'd definitely make an offer to get it for less.  Here's a pretty rare Perreaux Integrated too: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Perreaux-SA80B-integrated-Mosfet-Amplifier-Rare-vintage-model/143645377899 but again that's a LOT so I'd definitely be trying to get it for less than that!  I'm a bit of a Perreaux nut which is why I picked that one :)

I actually saw the Sansui the other day myself when i first started looking into this! Glad I was on the right track. 

 

Am I right to think I might find something with a bit more power, the 881 for example and in better nick/full refurbished.

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4 minutes ago, Bisguittin said:

Don't underestimate the sheer volume of quality product that passes through this site. Yes, you will need to be patient, but we're not talking about the Christmas after next. Particularly if you have a short list, rather than just one item, it could well appear within a month or two. And additionally there's always the WTB section.

Given the great advice I've already got in the last day, I'd like to purchase off someone in the community if I can.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Beg to differ, with a few exceptions, unless you have a special thing for 70s gear the practical answer is to avoid them. You can get modern vintage looking Yamaha AS series amps and similar such as the model 1100 and 2100 used for around $1-2k which were worth about $2-4K rrp and less than 1-5 years old, why would a 40-50 year old vintage amp be any better then. They can be kept going but they will all need the power capacitors changed as they only last 20 years, plus hundreds of tiny capacitors will also be out of spec that you may not notice in sound quality or can notice like funny little background or worse noises. It can cost about $300-500 for a tech to do new power caps, $200-300+ or never able to find a needle in hay stack unknown tiny circuit cap among hundreds that needs replacing. 

 

For every one vintage amp that is kept going, there are more that get junked due to no parts or not worth it. My mates old Plinius 100 power amp cant be fixed, $2k down the gurgler etc.

 

People like the vintage amp sound because it is smooth and romantic but it is also a symptom of old off spec circuit capacitors making it sound that way. The articles comparing quality vintage amps with modern stuff are often unfair as they are making comparisons with modern crap and cheap gear such as budget stereo amps and home theatre amps.

 

With more or less time 50+ years the power transformers can start to hum and delaminate, even more expensive or cause the amp to be junked.

 

I’ve had many vintage amps but each era of the 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010 to present day all have great amps as well and arguably with modern design, features, sound and voicing.

Edited by Al.M

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