Amps from the 1980's -- What gear holds up sonically? Reliably?

Hi Everyone,

For me, the 1980s were a real "golden age" of amplifiers. Dr. Leach’s paper on building a low TIM amplifier had been widely distributed and relied on by budding designers, and lots of boutique brands came. It was also the era of the biggest of the Conrad Johsnon tube amps as well and the invention of the MOSFET.

For me, brands I cared about:

  • Threshold
  • Sumo
  • Perreaux (New Zealand, very pretty)
  • Tandberg
  • Hitachi
  • Kyocera
  • Nikko
  • Krell (of course)
  • CJ
  • ARC
  • Yamaha (professional)
  • Carver
  • Mark Levinson
  • Amber 
  • Tandberg
This was also the speaker era of Snell and Apogee and Martin Logan. I am not sure there would be a Krell today if it wasn't for Apogee's 1 ohm speakers.

I’m curious who is still listening to these vintage pieces, and which brands you think have stood up both in terms of reliability and / or sonics ?
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.


A brand I also liked, but I may be breaking my own rules, was Sonic Frontiers. I think they were 1990s?

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...