Can anything beat Vintage Amps for the $$$?

Restored Fisher, Scott, or Eico integrated amps can all be had for under $500. Do you think any new or used, tube or SS integrated amps can compete in this price range? Any opinions?
Based on not having heard any of these since I was a kid...I would image a new solid state or tube integrated would beat them hands down. But Im thinking about buying one anyway, just to see.
you may be surprised...
Restored is a key answer. In a lot of cases the caps and other electronic parts that need replacing, are replaced by modern components because the originals no longer exist. So while you have an old case, inside you have a new modern amp.
Yeah, modern electronics are for the most part cleaner and faster. The only vintage gear I swear by are FM tuners. They kill the modern computer chip variety.
I agree, tuners are no contest. Amps though, give me new any day.
Try a vintage receiver like the luxman R117 or R115. If the unit was well taken care of and the electrolytes are OK they will out perform many modern pieces. Vintage amps can always have new capacitors and wiring and some updated and non updated older Threshold units are better than many modern offerings (IMHO).

I have a rebuilt EICO HF-81. I paid 550 for it. I also have a Cary SLI-80 and paid a lot more for it. The EICO does not give anything up to the Cary except some power. It's a great amp.

You are kidding right?
I also like the older Thresholds, alot of bang for the buck. Throw in some easy upgrades and watch out.
I have a vintage accuphase E202. I paid 350 for it, spent around 50 for volume pot and speaker posts (DIY). I don't have a chance to compare with Fisher, Scott, or Eico integrated amps. Anyway...E202 is a wonderful integrated amp.
JTN ...

By vintage, we are talking at least 25 years old ... right?

I have been using two restored Marantz receivers for the last 4 or so years (2216B and 2240). Their tuners perform great, but the amplifiers will sound like a modern amplifier only with judicious use of the tone controls. A NAD C320BEE will best these two receivers for most tasks.

Tube to tube, I had a Scott 299 for a while, but my Prima Luna Prologue Two is just better. There is a cost difference ... but also a performance difference. I find the old vintage amps have the desired warm sound to them, but are just not as clear and clean sounding.

If you do go the vintage amp route, I am of the mind that you should consider going vintage speaker. If you research these things over at Audio Asylum, there are threads that point to how damping and slew factors, etc are different today and that speakers were voiced back then to take this into account. But as said before, restoration is really the key.

Regards, Rich
For the money, no. I have an upgraded HK 730 Twin as the center of my analog system. I had modern separates. Much of today's modern electronics use digital chips whereby vintage equipment was intelligently designed by engineers, not computer geeks. I had the already terrific phono section upgraded even more as that's the only imput I use along with the great tuners section (as mentined by other posters). I would happily put my HK up for comparison with most anything up 5K. It may not be as accurate as the more costly pieces, but might be suprised.
Yes Rich, I'd say at least 25 years. So far I am a bit suprised by your responses. I have previously searched many forums here, and on audioasylum. I 've read numerous claims, stating that amps such as the Scott 299 or Eico HF81 can not be touched for 3 of 4 times the price. Does no one here think that? Are the people making such claims just vintage fans, not being truly objective?

I have swapped every component to vintage gears simply because they're better value. Is it coincident that all these vintage gears are from the early 1960's?
No surprised the tube gear technology peaked around that time.
I've put my aged HK930 up against a NAD C320BEE and the HK wins, by a small margin. All I have done to the HK is have it cleaned and replace the preamp-out power-in jumpers with OCC cables. That's not to say the NAD is bad, in fact some people might prefer its more forward presentation. The HK is more laid back and with the new jumpers the timbres are sweeter. Probably I could tweak the NAD too.

The HK does need work. Its PS is aging and gets buzzy when the AC power is dirty. The balance and volume pots should probably be replaced, since at low volume (essential for the bedroom) one channel winks out. The NAD is utterly silent and plays at low volumes just fine.

If I spent the money to have the HK properly fixed up that would bring it pretty close to the cost of the NAD.
I have not heard every $500 modern nor vintage integrated, but I don't think that the claims that vintage integrateds can be excellent value are exagerated. Here's my experience:

I own three integrateds for secondary sound systems, a Musical Fidelity A3 (paid $650 used), a Scott 222C ($250), and a Scott 299 ($300); I have also borrowed and listened to, a Creek A50 ($500 used). The two Scotts are similar enough that I will refer to them as one. It is true that the two modern amps (MF, Creek) are "cleaner" sounding than the Scotts, but in a HI-FI way. Are they "faster"? Not according to my definition of speed. The Scott's have the tube magic and musicality. They let subtle musical phrasing details come through that the two modern ss amps do not. They simply sound more alive, the sound is more active. By comparison, the two modern amps, particularly the MF, can sound dynamically dead: A dead corpse in a new, shiny, well pressed suit. Images have body and density with the Scotts, the two ss amps portray outlines of the images very well. The Scotts give you three dimensional images drawn with soft-brushed strokes, instead of flat images drawn with a sharp pencil, as with the modern amps. The Scotts, for some reason, let me enjoy the music, instead of always reminding me of how much better my main rig sounds.

The key here is, I think, price point. There is Jolida, and I'm not up on what used Jolidas go for. Also, I am pretty sure that something like a used older Audible Illusions (tubes) preamp mated to something like a used small Adcom (535?) for around $500, would beat a used Scott; maybe.

Good luck, I highly recommend the vintage route; at that price point.
I have a 1961 Bell integrated tube amp with a phono stage that gives me 22 watts of musical power and no problems.It even had the original RCA 6V6 and Telefunken 12ax7 tubes when I bought it. The tubes have been replaced with EH and nothing else has been done.Sometimes you get lucky.I use it with a tuner and a cheap pair of Paradigms for background listening. Wish I would have kept my old Rogers LS3/5A's from years ago. But who knows,maybe lightening will strike twice.
Don't forget that a key component of any tube amplifier is the output transformers [except for OTL's, of course!] I know that there are people who search for these "classic" makes of vintage x-formers, much in the same way people search for vintage NOS tubes.

Vintage can be very good. Again my EICO hf-81 is a treasure as far as I am concerned. And I do have modern ss and tube gear to compare it to.

A good article is here

( about the emotional aspects of music ) which I think vitage gear appeals to.

good listening

I guess I will chime in on this one, although I usually just read.

About 4 months ago I bought a pair of (60's) McIntosh MC40 tube amps locally. I can't compare them to new equiptment, since I have never owned any. But I will say that if my system is missing anything, I really don't notice. I love it. I have it matched with a pair of (mid 70's) Altec 604-8G speakers and it makes great music to my ears. The midrange is especially wonderful. The Mc amps and the Altecs cost me $750, and I don't think I could find anything this musical in new gear for near that price. The longer I have it, the more I enjoy it. I sometimes wonder what I would hear with some of the newer gear talked about here, it might surprise me. But I think alot of guys would be surprised at what some good vintage can produce.

Also, for a preamp, I am using a 1969 vintage Sansui 1000A tube receiver. I only use it for it's phono and tuner, but I think it does a hell of a job.

I am thankful even us poorboy audio folks have a way to enjoy this hobby.


I think you did vintage right as your main pieces ... amp; preamp; and speakers ... are all vintage. In fact, the preamps in some of these vintage receivers were outstanding. I have had good, but not great results pairing vintage receivers with modern speakers and CD players. One could claim that amplifier design has advanced only so far in the last 30 years (let's leave out digital amps for the moment), but speaker design and certainly the use of CD players add something different to the mix.

I thought that I would have liked vintage more than I have. I keep the Marantz receivers because they are decent performers and modern receivers are just terrible in comparison. I also use AR 302's as my main speakers, these are 11 year old remakes of the Acoustic Research AR5's from the 60's.

To my mind though, vintage works best when it has been restored and then the total price begins to approach modern components' price levels.

Regards, Rich
Thanks for your comments Rich. I was fortunate to find these vintage items already restored. I bought them from a local tech who had owned them for many years. He had been a design engineer for 20 years with Motorola and these were the amps he used in the lab for testing. When our local Motorola closed down a few years ago, he bought the amps from them and opened up his own repair shop. He went thru them all to assure they were up to spec and he said they should be good for at least another 20-30 years before they needed a tuneup.

I have no doubt that alot of modern equiptment is wonderful and surpasses vintage, but I do feel vintage has alot of offer those who don't want, or can't afford new.

Happy Holidays!
Larry, that is an extremely interesting article. It certainly brings up another common debate: tubes vs. S.S. One must admit, those studies certainly don't make S.S. look good.
I have had modern equipment such as Musical Design amps and pre, Adcom, Lazarus H1-A hybrid amp, platinum audio, Mission, Odyssey Loreleis Quad ESL-63's, Pinnacle Classic Gold Aerogels, Tannoy DMT12's and others..
Currently my main rig is a pair of early 1980's David Berning's EA-230's and his TF-10 preamp.

Vintage wise I have a McIntosh MC250, Scott 299, Fisher 400, Allen organ amp (6L6), Allied tube amp and tuner, and a Scott LT-10 tuner as well.

I find myself lately listening to the vintage stuff hooked up to Tannoy Monitor Gold 12's or EV12trxb's...Especially with the Scott, I dont find the difference to be that tremendous...Only my Berning amps seem to be a bit in a different league. I have found the same relationship either with vintage or modern speakers.

I think that if the vintage equipment is up to spec, the differences will not be that great, especially in tube gear. SS may be different. I do have a Pioneer SX-850 and I just dont find its sound that engaging.

To me there is something special about having vintage gear with beautiful walnut cases..a treat to the eyes and the ears.
Also, I have modern sources...VPI Scout and Parasound CDP-2000...I think that its actuallyt a good idea to have modern sources...More music to be gone thru the vintage magic. I also found the vintage gear to be quite good with modern sources as long as they can drive the loads well.
Old Dynaco amps like the ST 70 and the Mk.III monoblocs are a great deal at $300.00 to $700.00 If they have the upgraded binding posts, input jacks and newer electronic parts in them, they are fabulous! You would have to spend thousands to get anything better.
A lot of the newer amps are just rip-offs of Dynaco designs anyway!!
I've recently bought an integrated hh scott 222d (1964) original, unmodified and unrepaired (telefunken tubes included) and it sounds really great, even compared to my main rig: modern, all tube and pricey (Cary preamp,VTL monoblocks, ProAc responce 2.5). The sound is like frogman described very well. You can argue the only shortback is, with some kinds of music, the limited output power, but the sound is full,alive, detailed and warm simultaneously. Great musicality and no listening fatigue, I.E.: you can hear the singer inspiring before the attack without being annoyed by sibilants. If we are speaking about musical and listening pleasure, I think it is difficult to find something modern that come near to Scott 222 in the 3000,00 usd range.
My two cents.
I had an Allen organ amp (6L6) output tubes, and he brought it up to spec and said that its very close to the design and SQ of the amps he builds and sells himself for $2600.00.
Flawless simple design with great quality iron, plus using the 12AY7 tube helps.
I started thinking about this and I actually think you are right. You can buy a great vintage amp and retube it for $500. To get the same sound you would probably have to spend five times that amount. The key is for the money. Modern electronics are much better, but you have to pay for it
I agree that there are some great vintage amps out there and some can be had for a song. Some of the vintage Sony amps, particularly the Sony V-fet components of the early seventies sound silky smooth with awesome PRAT (pace-rhythm and timing). Certainly these amps and receivers are below the radar compared to the Marantz and Sansui products of the same era.

Since I am not capable of ripping the stuff apart to bring it up to spec I have chosen to go the route of finding new used tube equipment, particularly some of the better U.S assembled but sourced from China products that are starting to flood the used market. Recently purchased a used Jolida 502-B integrated with 6550 EH tubes for 750 Canadian. This amp is a blast --and no humming or worries about age related issues. Such products are not innovative and usually stick to classic well proven designs. Makes a lot of sense for tubeholics that are not well versed in the "old ways". Of course the only question is one of reliability and longevity(so far so good). In any event I think this avenue can provide those looking for bang for the buck a viable alternative. Like all things do a little homework and buy used and stick to models with a track record and you won't be disappointed.
The right vintage amp will beat anything based upon the investment requirement. It is not like an automobile where technology has improved performance and the value ratio between new and vintage favors new.

The reason, the "golden age" of analog is NOT 2006, at least not yet. It was in the late 60's through early 80's. The best equipment built then focused on analog and 2-channel stereo. Check out the internal components and build quality used on equipment such as McIntosh, Yamaha, Marantz, to name just a few. You will find everything down to the capacitors still superior by today's standards. With some minor adjustments and replacement of some caps the better vintage amps will perform like nobody's business. Maybe even replace the power cord. (THERE ARE GOOD TECHNICIANS WHO DO THIS.) This includes the phono stages in the preamps. Change out capacitors to say, black caps, and WOW! Good deal and fun to own!

This is a simplistic response but it's on point.