Top vintage receivers vs. modern high-end equipment
I am considering pairing an old amplification system to my JBL Paragon -- the idea of getting an all vintage system is very attractive to me. Among other things, I am looking into classics such as the Pioneer 1980 receiver or the Marantz 2600. Does anyone have direct experience in comparing this kind of equipment (very high-end but 40 years ago) to current high-end equipment, imagine an integrated Pass Lab amplifier? How do they stack up? Thank you.
The Pioneer 1980 or Marantz 2600 are nowhere near the BEST SOUNDING Receivers made by either company. Don’t be a knucklehead and think that the number of Watts = Best Sound/Performance. That’s ridiculous. The 80 Series Pioneers are inferior to the 50 Series as cost cutting started at that time. Sure the 80 series LOOKS better but do you want better looks or sound? I have had about 100 different receivers from the 70’s...still have about 40-50 laying around. NONE compare to anything made today so don’t bother going down that road
Here is my list of the best SOUNDING 1970’s receivers that I have owned. SANYO JCX 2900, Onkyo 8500, Kenwood KR-9600, Sansui Eight Deluxe, Sansui G9000 Series, Sherwood 9910, Pioneer SX-1250, Marantz 2325,2330,2285, Luxman 1070,1120. You will probably prefer the 9000 Series Pioneer Integrated to the standard 50 or 80 series receivers. (I have a Mint 9100) They don't look as cool but again its a Looks vs Sound thing. Use with a Pioneer SG-9800 Equalizer.
The Pioneer and Marantz are not in the same league as the Sanyo/Onkyo/Sherwood/Kenwood or Sansui’s listed above. Luxman probably gives the greatest clarity/level of detail BUT not the best for Rock music.
The Consumer-Grade Electronics have always had their "better" stuff AND their "cheap JUNK". And some brands tended to build a more solid unit than others (Vintage Pioneer, Marantz, and Harman-Kardon's better offerings) in Solid-State. Also, some of the premium Japanese stuff that was actually MADE in Japan in the late-70's thru 1980's was also supposed to have been pretty darned good.
I can't speak much for Vintage Tube Gear - but that does not sound like the era of stuff that you would be looking-for.
Likewise, in Audio, there has almost ALWAYS been the "Consumer Stuff" vs. the "Esoteric Audiophile Stuff". I think that the key difference was that less of the "Classic" Audiophile equipment was as far out-of-reach financially as a lot of the Modern-Era Audiophile stuff (some of it was even sold as "assemble it yourself" kits and was supposedly pretty darned GOOD [Dynaco and some H-K Citation]).
Products offered by various companies usually changed over time - some for the better. (Heck - in TV, look at what used to be the junk that one used to find at "Monkey Wards" - stuff like Goldstar and Samsung, which are now premier brands in that market.) And some for the worse - usually, when a good up-and-coming company sells their soul to a Corporation that gradually replaces the founders and cheapens the products.
If you are into Vinyl - it DOES make sense to look at something from the "heyday" of HiFi Vinyl recordings (1960s thru early 1980s). After that, with the advent of the CD and the "Digital" hype - most consumer electronics companies stopped putting much effort into their Phono circuitry. But, as others have said - get a mid to high-end product and spend a few bucks on restoring it (cleaning controls / replacing Electrolytic Caps, etc.)
This is all very interesting. Perhaps a better choice than high-powered vintage receivers is some classic tube equipment, like the Marantz 7 preamplifier, and Marantz 8b amplifier combo. I once had a Model 7 and was impressed with it. The 8b has a simple circuit with what might be the best output tubes out there...that might be a good way to go: you stay in the vintage era like the Paragon, and get very good (although not very high-powered) amplification.
I agree with the others who have suggested that to do justice to this classic speaker you consider classic tube electronics, which you appear to be receptive to based on your second post. The Paragon was of course designed prior to the advent of solid state amplification, although I believe a "series ii" version was introduced during the 1980s.
There are lots of good choices at various price points, of course. And the condition of the specific example you choose may very well be a more important factor in terms of sonics than the make and model, although a satisfactory restoration is usually possible.
All of the tube pieces that were suggested above by the others (and by you) are excellent. H. H. Scott and Pilot, among others, also made fine pieces in those days, which can be found today for relatively modest prices.
As you are no doubt aware McIntosh and especially Marantz tube equipment unfortunately tends to be very expensive. But having owned several of the classic Marantz pieces during the 1990s (Models 1, 2, 7, 9, and two different 10Bs; stereo pairs in the case of mono units), I can attest that they command high prices for good reason. My sonic favorite among all those models, btw, were the stereo pair of Model 2 monoblock amplifiers I had. I only sold them because in triode mode, which I found to be sonically preferable to ultralinear, the ~20 watts they produced were not quite enough for the speakers I had at the time, when playing recordings having particularly wide dynamic range. In the case of your Paragon I doubt that would be a problem, but the problem would be that a pair in nice condition would likely cost well north of $10K these days.
I’ve never heard a Marantz 8B, which of course is well regarded while also being more easily findable and much less expensive than a pair of 2s (or the still more expensive 9s). However unlike the 2 and the 9 I don’t think the 8B provides a triode/ultralinear switch, and I believe internal wiring changes would be necessary for it to operate in triode mode.
Good luck, however you decide to proceed. Regards, -- Al
I think the op wants to have some fun with his set up. The Onkyo 8500 was mentioned above. I will second that. The onkyo tx4500 and tx8500 get little love, and are way under the radar. You should be able to get a nice example for around $500. No marantz or pioneer tax on good vintage sound. If you end up not liking it, simply resell it.
My 2 cents. McIntosh MR78 is an excellent tuner that also has that look. If you get lucky, maybe it has had the Modafferi modification already done. Pair it with a classic integrated unit. Synergy doesn't seem to be all that important since it is just a tuner. Better yet, add the McIntosh Mi3 to hone in the tuning and add awesome visuals at the same time.
I bought a Sansui AU-7700 and love it so much I bought another Sansui of the more advanced alpha series... The sound is more refine yes, but I like the Au-7700 so much, that I listen to it mostly with speakers and headphone... There is better ? Yes, but at which price? And better for what? Where is the contemporary product that have so useful tone controls of the highest quality, a separated pre-amp function of great quality, a useful loudness button, a phono section of the highest quality adjustable , etc etc...? The answer is no contemporary amplifier had these many features...
The Sansui is so good that I dont listen to any limitation when upgrading the source, on the contrary with any upgrade of source, with any tweak to the electro-magnetic fields of the gear and room, the Sansui seems to sound better, totally detailed and organic, holographic and tube-like...
The real question is not: should i buy vintage or contemporary ?... The real question is "with a low investment", which contemporary low cost amplifier can beat a Queen of yesterday’s audiophile kingdom like a TOTL Sansui ? The answer is none ...
I can crush my Sansui if I buy for example a dreamed Berning ZOTL amplifier around 5000 bucks, but the Sansui cost me 100 bucks+150 bucks to clean the old catalytics etc... The other question is the Berning amplifier will be better but the margin of improvement will equate with 4,500 bucks more than the Sansui price... Is the Sansui so bad that I want to upgrade it? The answer is no, except if I bought a winning lottery ticket...
Vintage Speakers, TT, Reel-Reel, Tuner but use a modern integrated. I've owned a good bit even Fischer 500c and 800c the 500c all rebuilt to slightly better than new by the Fischer Doc. And even that was trounced by a $400 Chinese tube integrated.
I bought a Kenwood KR8010 back in the late seventies and have only had it worked on once since then in the late nineties I still use it in an old style set up and it still looks and sounds great, I have seen them listed online from time to time you might want to check into one of these receivers they would sound great with an old pair of JBL speakers.
I did a lot of auditioning of equipment back in the late 70’s and I ended up getting the Yamaha 2020 receiver, I liked the sound better than the others I listened to and it had features that other’s didn’t. The old Marantz and McIntosh separates were very good. I have seen the Yamaha 2020 used going for more than retail. I wouldn’t waste my $$$ on older equipment for 2 reasons: the newer equipment sounds better and you can’t get or it’s very hard to get parts for older equipment.
I used to sell audio equipment in the stereo heyday of the mid-70's to early 80's. I found the upper end of Sansui receivers and the entire integrated amplifier range to be better sounding, more neutral and have greater detail than any of the other consumer brands that I sold. The G7000, G8000, G9000 and the holy grail G11000 (special order only) to be great sounding receivers with the best FM performance of any. My only complaint was the (to my eyes) garish "Tokyo by Night" styling and huge footprint. On the other hand, the AU 517, AU 717 (I bought one) and the hard to find AU 917 integrateds were very handsome (again to me) understated black boxes with amazing build quality and excellent sonics. I used my AU 717 to power JBL L-166's with great results.
The later Sansui receivers and integrateds such as the x500's and x700's still sounded good, but the internals were getting cheap. Same with the "Z" series that followed, but they looked better.
The one other brand of components to consider are the Technics separates from the era. These have been under the radar, but were well built, have understated styling and are neutral sounding. Look for models like the SE 9600 or SE 9060 preamp and SU 9070 or SU 9600 amps. I would still pair with a Sansui TU 517, TU 717 or TU 917 tuner.
When I retired I set about on a project to build a vintage system. I'm very nostalgic and looked for gear I had in the seventies. I have managed to compile a system that includes the same integrated amp, equalizer, and a model cassette player very close to what I had. I love it and it sounds amazing! Yamaha CA 810 integrated amp Yamaha CT 810 tuner Yamaha Yp b-4 Turntable Yamaha TC 510 cassette deck Advent large speakers (4) Luxman G-11 equalizer
I too sold hi-fi back in the 70's and 80's and I agree with
rbstehno1 as far as his liking the Yamaha receivers and integrated from that era. Our store had a great repair shop that always had a few of the Japanese receivers of the day there for work. One of the things we used to do is set up the competition out in the listening room and compare to the Yamaha lineup. I won't rain on the lines that didn't cut it but I will say that the big name receivers of the day did not compare favorably with the Yamaha's for most part for sound and reliability.
I have one of those “inferior” 80 series Pioneer Receivers, a SX-1080. It sounds pretty damn good to me. every Pioneer fan I know does prefer the sound of the 50 series though. I have not heard one myself. I also know that 80 series Receivers do have some components that are near impossible to get but supposedly there are different parts that can be used if needed.
I also have a Sansui 9090 (not the DB version), and that one I feel sounds better than the Pioneer. I had a Marantz 2275 which was ok, an a Yamaha CR-2020 which sounded very nice. I sold both of them as I’m trying to get cash for new Speakers.
i bought vintage gear because I wanted one system that had that older vintage sound. However, the other posters I agree with in the opinions that newer gear does sound better in many cases. None of those old systems sound as nice as my Parasound A21 and Goldenear Triton 5’s with two JL Subs, but I love each set up for different reasons.
In the end, get what sounds good to you, have fun with it whatever it ends up being and appreciate it for the history and sound that millions of folks like us loved and spent their hard earned money on back then. Happy Hunting!!
Not even close, if you want to buy a vintage receiver (most people dont even know what that is) Pioneer and Marantz made mid-fi equipment at best. If you want to go vintage Hi-Fi you have to look at the McIntosh 4100, or older 1900, 1200 even, all are built like tanks. These are some of the best sounding RECEIVER’s made back in the 70’s 80’s in Binghampton NY too!
OP has a freaking Paragon! If it’s mint it’s at least $25k. Vintage Marantz, Mac, Citation would be appropriate. Not some old receiver. The Paragon was expensive when it was new, it’s was always paired with the good stuff.
Not sure why the OP would want a receiver rather than an integrated amp and tuner, but my 2 cents are that vintage Accuphase, when recapped, are truly excellent.
I use an E-303x to power my system (Accuphase T-103 tuner, Harbeth speakers, and a ~20yo Electrocompaniet CD player), and it sounds superb. That particular model is not easy to find, and is not cheap*, either, but it would, I expect, blow away almost any receiver of the period.
*well, it is extremely cheap relative to the numbers quoted in the above posts!
Well, I asked about receivers because I did not want to leave any stone unturned: I am not familiar with vintage receivers, and I thought that perhaps there might be a hidden gem in there. It looks like most people would go separates or perhaps integrated amp. I am leaning toward the Marantz or McIntosh separates. It's interesting that some folks rave about Marantz Model 7, which others think it's really nothing special. I am still tempted to go modern (thinking about Pass Labs Int-60 or a class A Accuphase integrated amp, like E-550 or in the tube camp one of deParavicini high-powered ones, like the 899 or similar)...but the idea of having a full vintage system is probably more right.
Sansui 5000X (circa 1969-70) and Marantz 2270 (circa 1970) are two of my vintage favorites. Don't get the Sansui 5000 or 5000a just the 5000X. These models had a lot of problems and recalls. Most of the early Marantz are good but not the B series. Kenwood always made a good receiver and Harman Kardon with dual power supplies did also but often overlooked. Pioneer is OK but middle of the road and many models have a problem with the protective relay circuit causing the set set to click on and off and a lot of tech time to repair. Some powerhouse companies made great tube amps and early receivers but couldn't make it into the solid state age with any good units (Fisher, H.H. Scott, Sherwood, Pilot). For a tube receiver I would pick the Fisher 500C.
Add me to the list questioning your decision to purchase a receiver. Many stations stream their broadcasts and IMO a decent streamer from Bluesound or used Auralic Aries (I own an Aries mini) will provide better than or equal to SQ of a tuner. Grace digital also has a selection of what I consider entry level tuners but still mostly equal in SQ to a receiver. As for age, I have an LFD Mk3 which has to be 20 years old and I am extremely happy with the sound. I am sure there are newer integrateds that sound marginally better, but I cant justify the price.
Your answer really depends on what you want to accomplish. First- AVOID a vintage receiver ! Even a fully restored Fisher 500c or Mac 1500 will not be good enough for your speakers !
Do you want vintage tube ? Heath W5m, Eico HF 50 or HF 60 monoblocks. Fisher 50a or 90 monoblocks. Of course anything from a Mac MC30 to MC75, and MC240, MC275 would work. Harman Kardon Citation II aka "The Duece" would be ideal !
For a preamp- some swear by Marantz 7c, or Mac C20/22. Some love the Citation I, or Fisher 400cx.
Do you want vintage SS ? Mac SS equipment is well regarded, dead solid reliable and tends to sound good- after a careful restoration. A sleeper is the Mac MC250 / their first SS amp and it sounds like a mix between a tube amp and solid state. A Marantz Model 15 is another under rated amp- it is actually a pr of mono blocks on a common chassis- ONLY parts shared are the faceplate and power cord.
For a preamp you have a lot of choices. If Mac I would not consider a C24 or C26; it is only with the c28 that Mac produced a good smooth and excellent sounding preamp. Again, caveats of restoration apply. Some say a fully restored Marantz 7T also can sound very good.
Newer equipment can sound good with your speakers. Most Audio Research tube amps and their classic tube preamps would be ideal matches. Vintage Luxman. Vintage Accuphase. Both good choices.
I have a JBL Metregon, your Paragon's little brother. We are both very lucky people!Both the Metregon and Paragon are pretty efficient and I have run mine with both tubes and ss. With the Prima Luna Prologue 6 monos (with either Psvanes KT 88 Mk II IIseries or JJ E34L Blues the sound is as you would expect very tube like. Warm and rich with the E34Ls I think surpassing the KT88s in a very sweet and detailed midrange. The power difference isn't that great between the 2 sets and the Paragon doesn't need it anyways. The KT88s have a slightly deeper defined bottom end. I ran a friends' 12 w tube amp to demonstrate it for him and the Metregon could still blow out the room. I have many hours running the Metregon with a Pioneer SX1050 (fully refurbished) and because the 1050 was designed to be tube like there is very little difference except because of the 1050s power the bass is stronger and I think more detailed. The mids and highs are very nice and certainly very acceptable but not in the cat of either tube set. I think the horns like the tubes better.So take this for what it is worth, I really don't think you can wrong either way Best Mark
I'm not saying you should get one , it's not the best by any means but some of these old amps have a non audiophile magic. I acquired a Mapleshade Scott LK48 not really knowing what it was. I brought it to work hooked it up to some Paradigm very first generation Atoms speakers, a 2 or $300 speaker, source was an old Denon DVD player. I hit play and could not believe those Atoms could sound like that. I brought it back home that same day. Hooked it up to some Usher tiny dancer and with jazz, blues or non complex music there is a very natural presentation that addicting. No big bass or super detail.
I'm not saying you should get one , it's not the best by any means but some of these old amps have a non audiophile magic. I acquired a Mapleshade Scott LK48 not really knowing what it was. I brought it to work hooked it up to some old Paradigm first generation Atoms speakers, a 2 or $300 speaker, source was an old Denon DVD player. I hit play and could not believe those Atoms could sound like that, they never have not even close. I brought amp back home that same day. Hooked it up to some Usher tiny dancer and with jazz, blues, folk or non complex music there is a very natural presentation that's addicting. No big bass or super detail. This was my first el84 amp, just makes me want to hear more el84 amps. I have some mullard el34 xf1 and 2's and love those tubes but the el84 is now one of my favorite tubes, wonderful tone. One trick take out hard wired stock power cord and put in a IEC.
I'll second the Sansui 9090 series. I have the DB version and over the years whatever I pair it with shines. Occasionally when a meet a repair tech at audio shops and discuss various equipment, when I let them know I have the 9090 they all tell me don't ever let it go. Some claim magic comes from power transformer, others say who needs tubes when SS sounds like this.
I have a Heathkit 151a integrated redone by Sam Kim and can't believe how sweet sounding it is. He uses only the chassis and transformers and completely builds the amp from the ground up. MC and MM phono sections. Incredible linestage. If 8 watts work you can't do any better. Google Sams Audio.
I have a Pioneer SX1010 connected to Pair of Pioneer HPM-100 speakers. I listen to this for background music playing Pandora through an old iPhone. I can have this setup playing all day at a moderate level without any listening fatigue. There is something to be said for synergy between components. It's very true that my system for critica listening; McIntosh and Sopra2's , is so much more detailed but for background music my Pioneer setup sounds fine.
I say go for it. Vintage equipment can sound fantastic. It also tends to appreciate in value and almost always looks cool. I have a Marantz 2285b reciever that i had recapped and it sounds fantastic. It's firmly on the warm side of neutral but you can listen to it all day. My PrimaLuna HP integrated is much more detailed and has much better imaging but i like them both equally.
In my effort to get some high efficiency speakers for my newplace I bought some JBL Hartfields. They are powered up by McIntosh MX110 pre and a McIntosh225 amp. Sounds delicious and are a pure delight to listen to. MX110 has tape input, tuner and two inputs for vinyl.
I've serviced a bit of vintage gear and one thing I've noticed is that quite often if you really want the solid state stuff to work properly its going to cost a lot to make it happen- often more than tube gear. This is because there are a lot more electrolytic caps in both the power supplies and the signal path and in addition to that, the semiconductors often don't meet spec anymore due to corrosion.
I'd not realized until recently how insidious that last bit is- semiconductors gradually lose their Hfe (gain transconductance) and can become noisy or spitty. These days finding subs that actually work in the design can be challenging as there are so many counterfeits on ebay and the like. A few days ago I had an amp that only made about 1/2 power before clipping- but it was caused by voltage and driver transistors simply having degraded to the point that the amp didn't have enough gain for the feedback to work properly at full power. This was after I had literally replaced all the electrolytics in sight. That amp was allegedly working when purchased! Yet it turned out the repairs were far more than the amp was worth fully rebuilt.
So (counter-intuitively) its actually easier to properly refurbish tube equipment as a result.
New products especially solid state are much better then old technology receivers ,transistors, resistors,power supplies have much lower distortions due to modern advancement in technologies, and much tighter lower distortion levels.