The McIntosh MAC1500 is a better receiver, having heard them both in a double blind test. It goes lower and higher! If you've never heard FM radio on a good tube receiver, do it NOW!! My McIntosh MR71 has such a great sound compared to solid state tuners or receivers. Heck, my old KLH Model Eight blows away current tuners!! Once you discover tubes, it is very hard to go back... If not impossible.
I owned a renovated Fisher 400 for a long time (sold it recently). It has a very warm, lovely, euphonic sound, very much in the style of older tube amps. Listening to FM classic music through that piece makes it real clear why classic used to be popular on FM, and now generates a small audience (via solid state).
Listening to the 500C through my Talon Peregrine X Mark IIs is simply an wonderful experience given not only the age of the unit but in, many respects, absolute terms as well. The spaciousness with efficient great speakers (mine are 95db efficient) is superb. Evaluating equipment that is going on nearly half a century old first depends on being sure the equipment is tuned up, maintainance done and good quality and strong tubes installed. It also depends on system synergy, musical preferences etc. I thought there would be far more faults in the unit. I just sit back and enjoy some Miles Davis or Mozart. We have some really great, non-compressed FM Stations here in Madison, Wisconsin including www.wort-fm.org and the Fisher 500C really convey's the music and voice (e.g., for example The Prairie Home Companion on NPR) in a lifelike, "you are there way" that evades nearly all solid state units.
It is amazing to see how much audio and other products have slide backwards via successful marketing campaigns to sell us cheaper stuff that is easier to manufacture and/or give convenience. But the convenience (as in what MP3 is to music or McDonalds is to food) misses the point of the stuff (LPs to CDs, CDs to MP3) Tubes to early solid state, analog to digital tuners etc). There is something about not expecting much and being very pleasantly surprized. There is also something, negative, to an entire generation growing up assuming convenience is the point of living and misses the point of things or the way things are enjoyed that can elevate the experience of living but require something from you.
What I found interesting about the Stereophile review was the reviewer's surprise that this piece was reasonably competitive with his modern gear. Which makes you wonder if there's really been as much sonic improvement in amplification as we all tend to think there has. We get on the escalator of new/better/latest-and-greatest and we think we're making significant advances, but maybe there is something illusory about all of the "improvement".
here's one great fallacy of the 500c.
its 40 yrs old. ---would you buy a car that's 40 yrs old even if its almost as fast as a current sports car?
another problem: some of the tubes are out of production.
the 500c is a hobbyist piece and a audiophile status piece, but reference caliber or great alternative for modern stuff it is not. $600 could be much better spent on a used integrated amp made in the 90s (think bryston, belles, MF, etc).
I have a EICO hf-81 and it's almost 50 years old. It was rebuilt a year ago and it makes great music. My cost $500.00
I also own a Cary SLI-80 and it also makes great music at a higher price. I really like the Cary and it is better then the EICO, but I think vintage gear that's been restored are generally overachievers in terms of performance per dollar spent.
I have to disagree with age meaning an automatic dismissal by itself. If it sounds good it is good. Does the 500c get everything right? No, of course not, but does it make you smile and relax and enjoy fine acoustic music? Yes and very much so. I have spent zillions on high end in the past and locally have heard mega multiples of 100K systems and have been in this "game" since the 500c was new. If I am excited by what I hear I do not care what it costs, what technology is doing the magic, or what it is suppose to say about me throwing so much discretional income at audio (I am embarassed to say how much I did this in the past and, unfortunately, likely to do in the future). The most important tubes in the 500c, in terms of durability, the 7591s output tubes are in full production. Yet, the nuvisters are ones for example that could be hard to find but with thousands and thousands of 500C's sold that may not be the case for a few years. That said, try to find many solid state ICs replacements that are just 20 years old and you will know the value of discrete circuits. Elegant tube designs from ages past are around and in surprizing demand for a reason and it is not marketing by the likes of Sony, actually around dispite of it.
Just a quick follow up. It turns out that the 6CW4 Nuvisters are very widely available and cheap now. Also the only tube that is hard to find the 6HR6 has two substitues, one of which the 6AU6 is widely available.
I have to disagree with Rhyno for the simple suspicion I bet he has not actually heard a 500C with new caps, and yes I would buy a Porsche 356, a Gibson Les Paul 59, a 1960 Navitimer, and piles of RCA Living Stereos and other 40 year old "junk."
Larry, I also own a Cary SLI-80. I spent big bucks rolling NOS tubes in it. Final compliment: Amperex USA 'pinched waist' 6922s; Syl. USN issue 6SN7WGTAs (selected for tight triode matching); GEC KT-88s and Mullard 5AS4s. The Eico HF-89 that I recently restored and 'tweaked' runs rings around the Cary. More bass, more space, better flow, and better detail. Back-up singers and choruses sound like individual voices seperated in space blending without any 'gritty' distortion. Granted the only thing vintage about the amp now are the tubes and iron (and the basic circuit topology). But on the other hand, the Cary is basically a modern execution of a 1950s design. BTW my linestage is a modern take on what is basically a 1930s WE design (differential class A parallel feed). I guess the point I am trying to makew is: most modern tube stuff are based on designs that have been around for awhile. Where you see a lot of improvement is in the quality of the small parts (caps, resistors, wire, etc.) used.
incorrect. i owned one--past tense.
also, why is everyone such an apologist over a 40yr old piece that cannot drive even the most modest impedance swing and relies on tone controls to correct design errors? instead of going on about this old stuff, why not talk about modern low cost marvels, whether they be from china (minimax preamp) or US (audiomirror w/ a 40wpc SET for 2k)?!?
instead of giving visibility to in-production units, you're turning over bones in a graveyard.
There are multiple reasons for going into this discussion. But the first is music and beautiful acoustic music is what the 500C makes. Secondly, my Talons, for example, are very easily driven to loud levels with ease by the 500C. My former B&W 801s were power hogs that truly required massive abouts of current and as such it was sort of like buying a car that required jet fuel (Krell or big Classe) to run it (extremely wasteful of energy and my retirement savings). Third: no one is apologizing for the 500C but rather emphasizing its virtues. Fourth: China is the home of sweatshop almost everything and, unless one does not care about sustainability in all its dimensions we should be mindful of where we buy and, of course, do you really expect in the foreseeable future long term warranty support from a Chinese company. Like Walmart (who by the way according to the WSJ purchases 80% of everything in their stores from manufacturing plants in China), the typical Chinese approach is about price and then good-bye and not long term parts and service support. Fifth: Many modern tube designs use tubes that are truly in short supply and not likely to be carried on into the future. The power tubes for the 500C are about $75 per matched quad and the other tubes are also very cheap and except for one, and that one has a common substitue, in great supply. Sixth: 500C service is relatively easy and done by Americans in your home town even though I suppose you could ship it over to China for support (sort of an oximoran) Seventh: The world does not need more of its resources dug up to produce brand new transformers, sheet metal and thick faceplates it is already there to be recycled in the 500C. Eighth: The 500C can educate an entire generation brought up on MP3 music that music is about the shortest distance to the soul and connecting to it in a large, vivid way makes that experience meaningful. You can eat at McDonalds to get eating out of the way or you can eat well and dramatically healthier by buying locally grown non-corporate farm produce and free range, non-antiotic laden, meat you cook yourself (sort of like the comparison of having the convenience of 1000s of compressed music files on a computer to the "major effort" of placing an LP on a turntable). It could also educate them about how marketing produces Markets to those that are unaware of how they are being dupped into inferior life experiences. Life is short. I recall a famous line: "You have an awful long time to be dead" Buying into the something because you see it advertized everywhere no more makes it a good decision to purchase than a politican repeating a lie enough times hoping to make it a truth. Ninth: It is simply a joy to connnect full circle with history and realize greatness that needs no apologies.
Ahh. But I sure the "iron" and build quality of items like this Fisher 500C far surpass what you could get in equivalent gear today for the same bucks. I'd rather have a vintage tube amp than any used SS amp from today - for the same price. Hands down, no contest. In that case the dollar per performance ratio is clearly in the corner for the vintage tube gear. IMO. Sure the more costly stuff is better, but not similar priced components. Vintage wins.
tone controls are not on equipment(old or new) to correct design errors. they are a convenient way to correct sound recordings. many folks use interconnects and speaker wire to no more effect.
I've had a Fischer 500C out in the garage since the 70's, along with a pair of AR-3's.
Great for a garage ... certainly not anything to get overly excited about though.
Just my honest opinion.
I had a pair of Dynaco MK3's 60 watt tube monos,that had afew new parts put in and kept pace with an ARC Classic 60
Tube Amp.My audiophile friend and me couldn't tell them apart sonically it was a TOSS UP go figure.One was made in the late 50's the other in 1995.I think we've been duped!
The 500C is not going to sound incredible with energy hog and muffled/closed in sounding speakers, compared to todays offerings, like the early 60s vintage AR-3s. Many of the todays highly efficient speakers bass, midrange, tweeter speed is blindingly fast, open, and spacious compared to the AR-3/AR-3a days. Using the AR-3s with the Fisher 500C is like putting a cheap lense on a Hasselblad, you can still take a picture but the quality of the picture will be limited by the lense not the camera. Imagine how Ansel Adam's grand, crystaline clear landscapes pictures taken with large format film would look like if he took those pictures with a 1MB digital camera (http://www.anseladams.com/Yosemite-Special-Edition-Photographs-C110.aspx ). Get the Windex out and clean the fog on the window to what the 500C can do: leave the AR-3s in the garage and bring the 500C after cap replacements/routine maintainance into the main listening room.
Some vintage speakers are indeed rolled off. We measured a pair of Bozaks last week and there was not much above 10K. One trick you can do is to augment the top with a super tweeter.
Nanderson: I could bring the 500C inside and hook them up to my Magico 3's, but I don't think that I'd leave it installed for any amount of time.
Considering that I bought my 500C at a garage sale in mint condition for $20 about 25 to 30 years ago, I wouldn't sell it today just for the profit because it might cost more than $600 to get better sound in the garage system.
I'm pleased that you are happy with the Fisher, I am too, it just is not anything to get overly excited about, in my humble opinion. It is what it is ... a tube reciever.
As many know, including myself historically, dismissing something because of preconceived notions can be a costly endeaver in Audio. "Nothing to get overly excited about...", "great for a garage...", "I bought my 500C at a garage sale in mint condition for $20.." sound uncanningly like, but not necessarily so, what you see too much on venues like Audioreview.com where someone wants to be a spoiler without much truly critical thought given to a "review" even if the reviewer actually has listened to what they say they are reviewing. Another potential motivation of similar comments I and countless high-end dealers have seen over the last 40 years is a need to justify spending way too much on audio so some folks spend time putting down less expensive alternatives. Somehow both seem less than geniune or at least they don't seem to be. But this is afterall just a matter of taste and just like being at a salad bar making a salad when someone comes up and tells you "hey, you are not going to like that salad because I (pointing at his/her salad) like mine this way". Why, I often wonder, can not people see that audio equipment sound taste is at least as subjective as palate taste and as such not be so dismissive of anothers "salad". The Fisher 500C gets so much right for so little that rarely does solid state do. When I feel deeply moved emotionally, (my Hovland HP-100 preamp contributed to this sense of awareness in spades), by the music played through audio equipment I know I am listening to a synergy of equipment that is doing what the point of music is suppose to be about: Connection.
nanderson is right......there are even many 20 to 30 year old solid state receivers and integrated amps that are just as musical,a lot more neutral (and some as powerful) as most of the hi end products being sold today. as far as tubes go, it really never got much better(only prettier and more expensive) than the marantz 8b. the golden age of u.s. and u.k. audio ended a while ago.
Interesting thread. I do know that one would need to spend a bunch more money to better my restored fisher 400.
Just another source for hard to find tubes:
The problem with using an older piece day to day is that it will be far more prone to breakdown. (Would you rely on that Porsche 356 for commuting?)
Of course, having your stereo break down does not keep you from your day job : - )
Discrete components are typically easier to replace and at lower cost after several years than much todays totally unstocked, in a few to several short years integrated circuits. If it is running after 40 years of use imagine the bargain and durability with replacing the parts prone to breakdown. In addition, notice how modern companies like Gamut went to point to point wiring for better sonics. However some parts can be hard to find but when you have a legend there are alternatives:
I would not rely on General Motors being around, at least as well know it, in 10 years but I would rely on a 500C with maintainance updates being around working at mid-century.
I would not commute in a Porsche xxx anymore than I would in a porker SUV but I would experience real driving experience in one (the Porsche that is) and be even more excited and, for me, more rewarded in updating an proven incredibly durable, musical performer like the 500C for another half century of soul connecting bliss. The 500C is not near state of the art like my Hovland but it is a great communicator of music it seems insane how good it is for so little and how much enjoyment can come from it that solid state at many multiples the cost just does not get.
Well put, Nanderson.
We received 27 pages of glowing letters to the editor on the article! Simply amazing!
My Fisher 400 was truly a great communicator of music, far outclassing its value. I did find that I needed to have it repaired every couple of years. Fortunately we have a local expert in Palo Alto, and it's fun to have the excuse to meet with him and nose around his antique radio collection.
I did have the "Fisher Doc" totally renovate my 400 in the early '90's. And it has always looked gorgeous with it's beautiful original wood case.
My reasons for selling it last year, I guess you call it "lifestyle". It's large and heavy and I would just as soon have a modern tube unit in it's place. But the price hurdle to get better sound than the 400 is substantial.
Wow, incredible to need to have a 400 repaired every two years. Sounds like it was not really repaired but a band aid put on it. My McIntosh tube tuners, for example, have been working fine non-stop daily use, aside from tube changes, for decades.
Well, one time the volume control on/off switch broke. Apparently this is one of the few weaknesses of the unit. You are supposed to use an external on-off switch. The problem was easy to bypass. The on/off part broke, not the potentiometer.
Another time - recently - a resister (I think it was) blew. Cost $30 total to fix including labor. I also paid to have the unit fully tested to make sure nothing else was clearly going bad.
This last time I had it open, I took tuner spray to all the switches,and that is highly recommended! It cleaned up any noise I was getting from the switches.
If I was keeping it, I'd be tempted to find a way to upgrade the power cord.
I did not feel that the unit was particulary unreliable, just a little more prone to breakdown due to age.
Check out for the 500C:
This could make life easier for you for many, many years with respect to similar issues with this vintage equipment. Well worth the investment compared to a used FIM Gold power cord I once thought was such a great value at $600.