Tandberg made the best looking amps in this era to me. They also were one of the few amps that could drive the Snell A series to justice in the bottom end. But listening recently, man, they really did sound grainy and nothing like your average modern amplifier.
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I saw a lot of Electron Kinetics but never really listened.
I’m going to get murdered in my sleep, but I have never liked the look of McIntosh gear, so I rarely if ever listen. :) It makes me shiver and think of fake wood paneling.
I have to say I did NOT like ARC in this era. I like them a lot more now. You don’t have to agree with me, but I think most of us would agree they are two different beasts.
Also, I haven't listened to CJ seriously in ages. The ART pre and everything after I never listened to.
You're not the only one who's going to get murdered in your sleep, as I have yet to find a McIntosh component that I liked the sound of. And I find them hideously ugly.
My intro into audio was as a young college student in the early 90's. I liked electronics but the only thing I could afford were things at the local Pawn Shop. I came home one day with an 80's vintage Sony amp that I found curiously had the letters "ES" printed on one corner. I didn't know at the time exactly what that meant, but it sounded much better than anything else I had heard.
And the rest is history...
What got me interested in many of the amps mentioned above, was GAS (Great American Sound) of the mid to late seventies. It was their Ampzilla that moved me from Sansui over to the higher end, where I would later discover Threshold and Mark Levinson. I could not afford either of these brands and wound up with that Carver cube. I paired that with a Counterpoint preamp (SA-?) and SOTA distributed Audioplan Kontrapunkt mini monitors. That really put me on the merry-go-round.
I personally preferred the sound of a Nakamichi PA5 power amp over the Adcom 555 or even the Adcom 565, jmo.
Nak PA5, (Threshold , Nelson Pass design)
(Photo from Net)
Nakamichi cassette decks were considered top tier back in the late 1970s and 1980s.
As seen by the comments and OP, a long list of candidates.
I'm a little surprised by the omission of NAD. I still use a 3020 to power the speakers with my flat screen TV. I also still have a pair of Eagle/EKSC 400 monoblocs although I don't need them. I believe they remain one of the best amps for speakers requiring high current so they are particularly good as subwoofer amps.
In general I'll agree it was a golden era for decent products at affordable prices.
Two systems, as I think back over my audio salon haunting days, that I still remember as blowing everything else away: Audio Research D-79b/SP-6b on Martin Logan electrostatics and Levinson ML-2/ML-1 on Magnapan Tympany IV. I don't remember the sources, but they were both turntables.
The Levinson was the most impressive. I couldn't afford them back then. I've actually thought of buying a pair now, but they are 40 years old, and the last vintage amp I bought (British Fidelity A-1) played for an hour before crapping out. (I managed to bring it back to life by shotgunning all the caps.) Plus they won't power my Sound Labs speakers.
Cocaine is/was God's way of telling you that you made too much money, or thought you did...;)
Anyway, one shouldn't partake in anything your spirit can't kill. Speed still kills, and opioids, alcohol, herbage and anything else should still be approached with a clear recognition of the baggage you're lifting.
That being said and ignored *L*, I still bought and enjoyed my various audio toys. At least, the ones I remember...*smirk*
Anyway, y'all...please carry on. Memory Lane is the only path one can traverse without all the chuckholes and speedbumps of Reality...;)
Jerry, by the time I got to L.A. in '79, the town was awash in coke. It was passed around at parties like joints were in the 60's. I didn't see what the big deal was until one night when I finally got enough of it all at once. I liked it a little too much, and never touched the stuff again. I can see how and why people get hooked on the stuff.
I'm not someone who buys really high end, but still using a Carver TFM-35 as my main amp. It's been passed back and forth between myself and my best friend who was the original owner. Just sold off the Infiniti Kappa 8's that it drove for many of the 30 years. It's still running original caps and hasn't been touched, including the lights in the meters that are still working, other than replacing a speaker terminal that was broken in a move.
I too am amazed a Phase Linear is still working, known as Flame Linears even when new. I had a 700B and it blew up on a regular basis.
What I haven't seen mentioned is that all of these amps had large electrolytic caps in their power supplies and it is indisputable that these caps have a limited lifetime. It is debatable how long that is but 30 years is definitely over the limit. These amps will be transformed if they are re-capped.