Whats the best vintage Yamaha amp to invest in?

Really like the looks of the older Yamaha receivers. What's a good investment in the under $500 range for one of these. I see the 2020 around $350. Help!
I'd be looking for the older models that had the real wooden cases, they were very nicely made and sound pretty good. When they switched over to cheesy-looking metal cases that had a simulated woodgrain I thought that they took a decided step backward.

I think that the best receivers of that time were the Tandberg 20xx series - 2080, 2060, etc. the last two digits indicate watts/ch. The 2080 had a fabulous tuner and very good-sounding preamp/amp section. And they came with fabulous rosewood or walnut cabinets.

For something a little less expensive, check out the Harman/Kardon series of receivers of that time (78-80 or so). These receivers had very ballsy amp sections and good tuners. These would be the budget alternative to the Tandbergs.

IMHO, both of these (Tandberg and H/K) were better-sounding than the Yamahas of the same period...

Good Luck!

There is no definitive "best" of anything. There are way too many variables involved. The "best" you can hope for is to find something that works well in your system. You can then say it's the "best" for you until you find something you think is better !!!!
the yamaha cr--xx20 series receiver is generally regarded as their classic--the subsequent cr-xx40 series are supposed to be sonically inferior and aren't as sought after. (their integrated amps of the same period go by the ca designation). i still own and enjoy a cr-1020, though like rlwainwright i prefer the hk and tandberg of the same era. from a collectibility standpoint, the most powerful yamaha units hold their value the best.
I agree witrh RW, the old Yamaha amps with the wood cases were very good. I had the CA-810. Yamaha was considered high end of sorts back then. There was a Yamaha power amo that had two huge meters in the front, that was a nice amp.
the old M series were class A rated and amazing. The one with the meters was the m-80. What a monster, it would power up to 3 pairs of almost anything. The 35, 60 & 70 are great too with the matching pre-amps. They compare to threshold in sound quality (not build quality). Otherwise, I'd go with the sanui 717 listed here.
I had one of them and sold it after six months. The sound was very thin and bright. If you want something from that era you should check out Luxman. The ones with the rosewood cases. I had the model r-3045 and it was night and day compared to Yamaha.
A friend sold Yamaha and Luxman side by side for years in the late 70s and early 80s and hands down the Luxman gear was better sounding..... also higher priced. I have owned several pieces of both vintage Yamaha and Luxman and they were consistent with price points. The Luxman 1020A was the apex of highend receivers. Crappy speaker terminals, but everything else was amazing.

The Yamaha 620 and 820 are fabulous budget receivers. The Yamaha 2020 is great stuff, but rather, and I mean rather large and heavy.
Realize that with any vintage receiver, the electronics are old and often need cleaning, capacitor replacement, and restoration. You really won't get the "best" sound out of any receiver unless you have it re-capped and restored. And when you consider this into your budget, you'll potentially go over the $500 ceiling you placed. This doesn't mean vintage gear won't sound great as is, just not "best."

I agree that the Tandberg receivers are tops in sound, but the TR-2080 has been selling lately for quite a bit more than the $500 and under range as listed by the OP. I believe there's still a TR-2060 or TR-2040 for sale on eBay in the $400 range. Other options are the Sansui receivers - 8080, 9090 or 9090db - excellent sounding receivers that have haunted me ever since hearing my first 9090db. The 8080 has sound on par with the highly respected 9090 at a fraction of the cost, and will leave your wallet room to have it recapped for a really great investment.

Now, if you're set on the Yamaha natural sound, I'd personally skip the receiver and go to the amps. Check out the M-80 (one of Yamaha's best that's often available) then send it to Legendary Amps dot com for a complete upgrade and restoration. Yes, this will cost you more than your current budget, but you'll have a bulletproof amp with top notch sound for generations to come. These vintage Yamaha amps were built like tanks. Even if you don't go this route, you might want to call up those guys for a little chat. And they may be able to help steer you in the right direction for your vintage Yamaha needs.
Best receiver Yamaha made was the CR 3020.
It was massive and built in the late 70s.
It weighed like 90 pounds and was 170 watts.
The tuner section was also great.
I see them on Ebay once in awhile.
The CR-3020 is also one of the better looking receivers of all time. There was a nib 3020 at the beginning of the summer that went for over $2,000. And a re-listed one that just sold for around $1,450. Now there's one on the bay that's buy it now for $1,800.

Anyway, the 2020's are also gorgeous, and well worth it for the price if that's what you have your eye on. Just know that you may end up sending it out for full restoration down the road, and the investment will be well worth the sound upgrade you'll experience.

Good Luck bidding!