Budget hi-fi and vintage audio gear

I’m in the process of putting together a budget hi-fi system and I am curious for any advice fellow Arsians could provide. I would like a system that is purely stereo and produces high SQ rather than high SPL. As it stands now, my computer would be the main audio source (MP3, APE, CD) using my TBSC- however I want to eventually add higher quality separates like a CD player, etc. This system will be used in a bedroom/computer room (small apartment) and I’m pretty set on picking up a pair of Axiom Audio’s M2ti speakers. What I’m looking for is a good quality integrated amplifier (not a receiver, I don’t need radio) that is budget priced (~$250 at most). I’ve done some searching around and it seems vintage equipment could yield the best results for my needs. What sort of vintage equipment would you recommend for my needs? I’ve seen the NAD 3020 or 70’s Marantz equipment come highly recommended  https://waveadvice.com/integrated-amplifiers/ ; does anyone have any experience with this equipment? What are some precautions to take regarding the purchasing of 20+ year old audio equipment? What are common problems old integrated amplifiers run into? Any information and suggestions are highly appreciated! Thanks!
1242f858 a4b0 44a4 8f3d 3cb76ce2c12fpessen
Vintage amps can be a great way to get in to audio however keep in mind that often times they will need to be serviced and have the electrolytic caps replaced. So what may seem like a great budget solution can in some cases end ip costing you more down the road.

With your budget on a desktop I would look at a Nobsound passive preamp and a used amp from adcom, nad, rotel etc. 

There are some modern integrated amps you might find in your budget used such as the Nad 3020d, pioneer a20 and probably quite a few others.

Good luck and enjoy your new system!

I have this and with a tube change... it is a VERY good pre. I use it with a small Mcintosh amp and it is great. Contact me if u want, I can talk about tube etc. U can find it cheaper on Aliexpress... at least I did. Round 150...

Also I bought a used SX series Pioneer with great results. A marantz would do you right.
People will recommend all kinds of things but the best recommendation of all is to only buy what you have auditioned in your system. The tighter the budget the more important this becomes. 

The next best recommendation is to allocate significant funds to things like cones, interconnects, and power cords. Properly done you should have a good 20-30% in these. Home audition these as well.

Home audition is a PITA for sure. 30% I'm sure seems high. Its not. Just remember the goal is the sound not the money. You allocate say $600 for everything, that's $200 for a power cord, interconnect, and cones. Cones are easy, nothing beats BDR Cones. That's $60, leaves $70 each for power cord and interconnect. You put as much effort into finding the best of those as into the best speaker and amp. I've done this. It works.
Or consider some powered monitors. 
what has already been said about old gear needing servicing is true and will be costly(I had a Carver amp i let sit in the closet for 2 years, and the caps dried out and it cost me $450 to fix the left channel and I sold it fixed for $450 ugh). NAD equipment doesn't last very long so I would skip that as vintage gear.   honestly, if computer is your source get PS Audio Sprout 100 and use USB Dac connection, and save yourself the cost of extra cables.  wait a little longer and save up the money.
millercarbon What are you talking about? His budget is $250. Home audition of used gear (which is probably the road he is going down) is next to impossible. Besides that, with a budget $250 amp it is not advisable to spend money on cones, power cords and ic’s.

I’ve had amazing success on Craigslist. Often people don’t know/care what they are selling (dumping dead parent’s audio gear or an estate sale) or just want/need to sell gear asap on account of moving, WAF, etc. I bought a mint Rotel RSX-1550 A/V for $100 and on another occasion a McCormack DNA-225 platinum and a pair of Vandy 5’s for $1,800 net (after selling extra power cords and some amp stands that the guy threw in. Gross was $2,400). Just do your research, insist on testing everything (as in every input and output), and bargain like a mad man...
I too have had great luck on craigslist and eBay, amassing a really great Linn system based on the Sondek LP12 and Kans I bought new in 1983, for a fraction of new cost.
My bet would be to look for 1980-90s Rotel, Arcam, NAD or Denon integrated amps. I have equipment that has lived for 30-40 years without failure. Don't pay attention to naysayers. Anything can happen. 70s vintage can be a slightly bigger risk, but I have a system consisting of a 1961 KnightKit tube amp which my Dad built, my original AR XB turntable from 1974, and Smaller Advent Loudspeakers from craigslist. It is amazing still. I did have a pair of Advents from 1974 til 1985-6 which I sold.

If you live within driving distance of a big urban center, there are more possibilities for actually listening to equipment. CL sellers often willing to demo speakers, etc. to reassure potential purchasers. 

Good examples:




I recently bought a pair of Linn Kan speakers from the third lister above. He also has a good selection of electronics. Great experience.

There is a good chance of a "Craigslist adventure"! You might make a friend.
Go on VMPS speakers--Audio Circle.  Look at the latest few pages of speakers.  If you can find a pair of VMPS 626R monitors, they are the first excellent speaker I heard when I got back into the buying scene.  also the VMPS RM-2 has great sound.  Should be able to find a good used pair for maybe well under $1000, like $600-900.  If you can find ones with Auricaps in the crossovers, that would be an extra plus.  They are very detailed, dynamic, and adjustable to your room and system--plus the RM-2's have great bass.  The 626R's have balanced bass and good detail to them.  They were reviewed and said to be among the best monitors for sound still.


After you get set on your "budget" system, play around with software such as jplay, audirvana, etc. ... they all have trial version and you'll be amazed at how they can make whatever system you construct seem at a completely different league, specially if you are going to be using your PC as your source.. I would recommend that before adding any esoteric hardware to get your system to sound better.  Good luck.
I’ve recently purchased a Marantz 1060 w/ a 112 tuner for $350. Warm, lush, rolled off in the highs... sounds lovely. The last word in Hi-Fi? No. But pretty looking w a phono input. 

I also bought an old Sansui au-217 for $100. Better frequency response than the Marantz.. more punch, better control over the low end and really good separation and imaging considering I spent $100 and some time cleaning the pots.. it’s actually  one of my favorite amps. 
Older stuff will eventually need new capacitors at a minimum as those all have a shelf life. I found a guy locally who recapped the Marantz 1060 and the Sansui for about $150 for both pieces... excellent sound with a 70s flavor at song, and probably with better sound than anything for that price from the recent era. You’ll need to learn how to clean internally with contact cleaner(really pretty simple), and before purchase make sure all inputs work and both channels produce sound. Most scratchy sounds that come with an amp that is 30+ years old will clean right out with a little deoxit.. hope that helps and don’t be afraid to but vintage assuming basic functions work. 
A 3020 nad will do the job and thr retro sound will blow you away, if you find one have the complete pcb re soldered and pots/switches serviced with wd40.Tighten up the 3055's, output transistors and re solder them.I rework around 36 a year and they blow me away every time.The caps are excellent quality so if if sounds good leave them.You can measure the voltage drop on the tin cans of the 3055's to check its only a volt or 3, at 50% volume tone flat.
I was in the same boat recently, honestly I just like the look of vintage gear and wanted one for my bedroom system. I took a look at the specs for your speaker. You can get what I got, a serviced/recapped Kenwood KA 5700 Integrated Amplifier.

Stunning audio quality.  Last two days it was powering my bedroom system and sounded great, but I have tiny full range speakers which aren't suitable for all types of music.  So tonight I hooked it up to my main rig, and at least on low volume it sounded stunning. Absolutely wide stereo separation, distortion free crystal clear imaging. The VU meters barely moved...I mean it was very late so I listened at a low volume, but it sounded great. I did test to see if the volume picks up, and it does, my speakers are very efficient so it had no trouble. I just couldn't test it for long because I do have neighbors.

It was around $250 shipped.

For reference, this is the unit I bought:
Vintage equipment in your budget is a hobby, or maybe a mindset. I have a Tandberg integrated TR-1055 that I bought used from a high-end shop 40 years ago. It sounds beautiful compared to a lot of current consumer things, but it's had quirky stuff go on, like it cuts out with lower resistance speakers and comes back when you give the unit a rap. One light in the front panel is out. But the glow as a radio station tunes in is awesome, the look is so mid-century modern (it's a wood case), it's a conversation piece, and it sounds good. I put it up for sale recently. It's supposed to be worth $500, but it will probably go for more like 200. Fixing it to be perfect is a questionable investment. I recently swapped out my vintage tube Marantz/Rogers system for something that might serve you: powered studio monitors and a Schiit preamp. Sounds beautiful.
I came across this website (note I have not done any business with the company) and thought you might fin it worthwhile to peruse
pots/switches serviced with wd40.

N E V E R!!!

WD-40 is a Water Dispersant, not a lubricant or cleaner. Its misuse has probably ruined more things than it helped.

Unless pots are noisy, DON'T DO ANYTHING! Exercise can be the best solution.
At your budget, I would look for a Pioneer A-20 which may be bought new for $250. Also the Pioneer A35, its predecessor, might be found used for half that price.
Hey guys reread what the man proposed! NOT all the expensive stuff but basic quality older gear. Right now I am listening to a 45 year old Harmon Kardon twin powered receiver that still sounds great! Get real and help the man. 
I have owned a ton of vintage gear from Marantz, Sansui, Tanberg, Luxman and many others and I have to say those H/K Twins were fantastic!
Yes. This is a 930 with 45wpc. Test by McIntosh noble labs below.005 thd. 
@PessenDon't ignore receivers just because you don't need a radio.
They look fantastic when all lit up. Much nicer than a plain brushed aluminium face amp with a little power light.
I picked up a small Pioneer 24 watt receiver for $40 and it sounds really good with my Zu speakers.
Enjoy the search
I have several old amplifiers, the oldest one is from 1977. Some of them work really good. Say, you can get Luxman LV-110 through internet for price not more than 100 Euro. Or it can be just cheaper receiver Technics SA-222. There are two problems with old amplifiers - electrolytic capacitors and old contacts in switches and regulators of volume, balance etc. This last problem can be fixed by special silicon spray for contacts that must be put inside these parts
I've picked up lots of really good receivers at garage sales for $5 to $10.Lots of them. My friends know where to go if they need something for essentially free. If you don't need the tuner section, don't use it. Receivers are generally cheaper than separate amps anyway. Craigslist, as previously noted, can be a goldmine. Certainly don't buy on Audiogon...

  Thank you for suggesting the right stuff for the job. Not everything is equal out there. Same as different lubricants for mechanical parts. Gee, why do they make so many kinds? It depends on the materials being lubricated to begin with, but there are so many more factors to consider as well. Kind of like using good old Elmers glue for everything. No, that just doesn't work friends. That's why half of your projects fall apart.