Buying anything used is a gamble, which is why it’s important to buy from a company that services its older products. Pass has an excellent reputation, but sometimes parts are no longer available, so you should check with Pass about that.
Disadvantages of buying old solid state.
I am looking to upgrade from a single ended amp to a balanced because of the purchase of a new balanced pre. Due to budgetary reasons I am forced to buy a used unit. I am interested in the Pass .5 series as what I've heard of the .8 I was not happy with. There are those who prefer the .5. sound as well. I was told however that buying such an old unit I might find that the bias has changed. Any experiences with buying old solid state and any negative consequences? I would very much like to hear anyone's views on the matter.
First, on balanced versus unbalanced. Whenever this option comes up, you really have to try it to see if one is better than the other with your components.
For instance I have Audio Research equipment. ARC recommends the use of balanced interconnects because the internal designs of both the amp and preamp are balanced. I tried both, I can’t tell the difference. This is not always true, but typically it is not a big difference if any difference can be heard (other than volume…. Which is of no consequence to your system… it will not play louder, it is just the characteristic of the interconnects). My point is, this is not a reason to swap amps… particularly to one older than ten years. It is more likely… the difference in character or age will have a bigger impact.
But if you want a new amp… great idea… focus on the amp / sound character and as you are getting close… just verify it is a balanced design. I would put this at the very end of the list of requirements.
+1 on electrolytic replacement.
It’s unfortunate, but: some of the older values and/or dimensions can be hard to locate, unless the amp manufacturer stocks them.
With the way some amps are configured (internal build/PC board mount/etc); that can present a problem. Especially: when looking for the larger filter caps
@roxy1927 I had to sell off a few beloved 20+ year old Class A/AB SS amps for scrap parts because the boards were deteriorating and no longer available. Gave up after 2-3 board repairs, traces going bad, cracks from heat. Roll the dice. Some of the top manufactures back their products after 10+ years, yet rare.
Over 20yrs old, plan on buying a 2nd one for spare parts or pick a good one backed by someone like Bryston, ARC, Pass, who may actually help you when needed with some kind of guarantee it will last more than a few years more. If not, simply consider it a throw-away, and this is an option some take.
Perhaps an anomaly and knock on wood, but my son and I have an Aragon amp bought used in the early 90's, that is still running strong. Two newer, but still old Aragon multi-channel amps are doing likewise. Alas, a Phase Linear 400MkII amp bit the dust a decade or so ago, but it was "born" in the late 70's. However, the last time we fired-up its companion pre-amp, it worked seemingly fine. And a Pioneer tuner from the late 70's remains going strong.
Yet to change the subject a bit, computers, smart phones and tablets etc., seem to have more limited lives not due to hardware failures but due to Operating System and program and App advancements. For example, we have a Zenith IBM compatible computer from the early 80's, that still boots from its huge 30MB hard drive and runs the programs designed for it.
While I hated the name of Schiit for some years… seriously masochisIc name. After a search for a friend of mine for a great budget DAC, I had to give up and buy a Schiit DAC (a Gungnir as an experiment)… then a Yggdrasil for my friend… then I bought a couple more pieces for my office system. Really impressive for budget components. I certainly appreciate enthusiasm… but they are budget components. Competitive with components a couple times there cost.
I agree with Schiit recommendation above. Go to the Schiit Audio website and look at TYR mono block amps. $3200 a pair new.
One of the problems with older products, especially S.S. is that the parts may no longer be available. I am having a problem with an older ARC S.S. amp that may be impossible to remedy. The other problems is when I opened this unit up I saw exactly how stupid the design. Awful opamp module running the whole works or at least the works that matter most.
I have been buying used equipment since the 70's and have had very good luck. I am technically inclined so re-capping or replacing a transistor has never been an issue. That said I do have some very good equipment and it has not cost me an arm and a leg. I recall going to the mall or stereo shop in the day and drooling over the very expensive equipment and realizing I needed a car, refrigerator, or clothes for the kids more than an amplifier, so I fed my addiction with used stuff, much to the chagrin of the pompous stereo sales guy. Being a tech I have found the older equipment to be better built (50's, 60's, 70's and 80's) than modern is. I have been horrified to open up an amp that cost thousands and is built the same as one that cost hundreds. Even the modern tube stuff is based on designs from the 60's or earlier but the packaging is impeccable. I hear people say that ss parts are not available, well not really. There are a lot of cross references you can make. Caps, transistors and inductors are the same now as in the 60's. Do not be afraid to get the old/used gear. If you are not technical then have someone who is look at it. If it has decades on it then plan on swapping out the filter caps in the power supply and give the transistors a check while you are in there, or have it done for you. The best amplifier, speakers, or any audio equipment is the one you like the best. I love my music and I will never be found sipping expensive wine and listening to the philharmonic play Mozart on a system that costs more than a house in Mississippi. Instead you can find me with a beer, smoking xxx and attempting to melt my coffee table sonically with some Deep Purple or Whitesnake, but it sounds astounding from my Dynaco gear and some Timeframes, both of which have been trashed on this very forum but I love them. Also keep in mind that Haffler (Dynaco), Carver (Phase Linear) and Pass (Adcom) all worked for someone else before they set out on their own, and their designs are in a lot of old equipment there for you to grab, restore and enjoy for just a few bucks.
Caps, inductors and transistors are not the same as in the 60s. They may measure the same but they do not sound the same. Plus you have significantly more good choices now than back in the day. You could take the exact same Dynaco circuit update it with better innards and it will sound better. Some say it will be unrecognizable. So, with all due respect, you should listen to some of the more modern gear because I think you might be very surprised. This would especially true with more modern speakers.
I found the theory of balanced interconnects and differential amplification attractive, and when I’m building my own cables, I like the XLR connectors. I sometimes find it tough to keep the conductors from shorting out within the confines of the RCA connector, but practically, I wonder if the balanced connections and differential amplification truly benefits the home user. There is a fellow in Switzerland who builds $100,000 amps and doesn’t offer a balanced connection, at least on his standard units. I think he may have relented somewhat and now offers it as an option. I prefer it, and I use it, but I no longer ‘believe in it’ as I once did. I hope you enjoy your new ARC unit. I would really like to hear one myself, and gave serious thought to buying a used unit. Wound up with a used McIntosh solid state preamp instead that just seemed perfect for my needs. I also own a lot of Schiit gear, I’m very pleased with their Yggdrasil DAC (which I recently upgraded from ‘Garage Sale’ to ‘Less-is-More’ together with the accompanying Analog 2 boards and their Unisom USB interface. I like and use their equalizers, but not their phono preamp (original version), and t found the user interface on the Freya+ to be a bit frustrating to use. I’m also pleased their headphone amp (Jotunheim) and smaller DAC (Modius) for what it’s worth.
This just came to mind balanced interconnects, AES48. See article below