Modern High end vs. old receiver

So I recently sent in my Aesthetix Janus in for a capacitor upgrade, which leaves me without a pre-amp. In desperation for a little music, I brought in my the Kenwood Kr-3090 that I inherited from my grandmother and have been enjoying in the garage. 25W, made 1978-1981 or so. Damn thing sounds almost as good my Aesthetix Janus and Audio Research VT-100 MkII. Now don't get me wrong, there's a difference, but I can happily sit and listen and fully lose myself in the music.

I am using Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers, which work well with low-powered electronics, as evidenced by Robert Lee's matching them with Triode corporation tubes at the shows. I'm also using my standard front end - Oppo BDP-83 with Brystond BDA-1 and Acoustic Zen Absolute cables. Still.... jeez, it's unreal how much better it sounds than some of the other high-end gear I've had in here.

My learning from this is that the source matters, and you should not look askance at equipment just because it is old or inexpensive.
Let's say your Kenwood amp can be purchased and tech serviced (replace caps, check connections, eliminate potentiometer noise, etc.) for $200. Are you saying that your modern $10,000 worth of amplification isn't 50x better than the Kenwood? Is that really what you're saying?
As with everything else in this hobby, as well as other hobbies, the law of diminishing returns hits hard and early.
Yep, it really makes you wonder what has happened in the last 30 years besides hype and we are right back to the discussion about audio magazines and their reviews. But then Kenwood was designed by some brilliant guys. At least one of them went on to start up Accuphase.
When the best minds pretty well think alike, it's hard for them to compete with each other. The trick is finding them without it being too expensive.
I have a Kenwood KR-9400 receiver that I purchased new in 1976 and has been the heart of my garage system for more than 20 years---I still have the original receipt, manual, and warranty card. It is 120 watts per channel, has never had a problem, and sounds pretty decent. I am using it with Kef 104/2 speakers, a Sony SCD-C555ES CD changer, and an Escient music server. I get grief from my wife when I crank it up a bit too much---she thinks the neighbors will complain. So it is not as good as my main system but is pretty awesome to listen to while tinkering in the garage or doing yard work!
The whole notion that component X sounds, or DOESN'T sound, 50X (or any other amount) better than component Y is, with all due respect, ludicrous. It is a bit like the "wind-chill factor" that my wife and I have an on-going banter about. ACCORDING TO WHO? is the question that always seems to be overlooked. There is no question that the law of diminishing returns sets in at some point; but that point is different for everyone. If component X is able to get rid of that little annoying (to me) glare around 5K that makes me not be able to enjoy the music as much as component Y, then that which is only 5% better to listener A quickly becomes my 100%, and I am willing to pay (a lot) for it.

Having said all that, while I have no doubt that the Kenwood sounds good, I find it hard to believe that the difference is slight. Please let us know how you feel when you get your preamp back.
A point to keep in mind is that the better the quality of the source MATERIAL, the more apparent hardware differences will become, at least upon direct comparison. The inverse, of course, is also true.

Don't know how relevant that may be in this case, but it seems worth noting.

-- Al
Frogman, I would hazard a guess that among nine out of ten non-audiophiles there would be consensus that the differences are slight. The basic circuit hasn't changed since it's inception. Serious differences only exist among speakers, the weakest link. You conceded to the law of diminishing returns,(which imo sets in by component, not individual person, btw) used the word 'little', and stated 5%. And then concluded the difference is more than slight.

Frogman, you're taking this thread way too seriously.
I think you're right. Thanks for the reality check :-)
Al, you're obviously blessed with better ears than me. Although I can hear quality differences with great recordings, it's the poor ones that seem to be a better yard stick for me.
That's interesting, Peter (Csontos), and somewhat surprising to me. I don't make any special claims for my hearing, but it has always been my experience that if a garbage recording is reproduced as Garbage A by one component, and as Garbage B by another component, the two garbage reproductions tend to be harder to distinguish, and certainly harder to judge as to which is more lifelike, than if a great recording is reproduced by the two components as Relatively Lifelike Sound A and Relatively Lifelike Sound B.

Basically, with a garbage recording the nuances that would otherwise distinguish their reproduction by the components being compared tend to be swamped by the inaccuracies of the recording. Which in turn makes any judgment about which reproduction is closest to the sound of live music pretty much meaningless, as the best answer is usually "neither."

-- Al
Sure I agree with you but you say tomato and I say, well you know what I mean. I was referring to the gear in that the better the component, the better the image that can be gleaned from the recording and ime, gear has a tougher time with poorer ones. Garbage in, garbage out is a given. But the poorer recordings tend to reveal the quality of the components to a higher degree ime. My statement regarding your ears was sincere. Whether one or the other or both recordings resemble true to life sound or not I think is irrelevant to this question. There is a level of reality there chock full of all the cues that would confirm that. Imo, it's tougher to tell the difference between components using great recordings just because they have an easier time making them sound good and thereby masking their own shortcomings. Btw, you did say the inverse is also true. I'm a bit confused now as to what you were referring to there.
Btw, you did say the inverse is also true. I'm a bit confused now as to what you were referring to there.
My original statement: "A point to keep in mind is that the better the quality of the source MATERIAL, the more apparent hardware differences will become, at least upon direct comparison."

The inverse of that statement: "A point to keep in mind is that the poorer the quality of the source MATERIAL, the less apparent hardware differences will become, at least upon direct comparison."
My statement regarding your ears was sincere.
Thank you kindly.

Best regards,
-- Al
Oh. Thank you. Your grammar is also clearly better.