"What a refreshingly honest blog about listening to music through hi-fi. So happy to see views based upon the enjoyment of music rather than so-called sound 'quality'." - Peter Comeau, Director of Acoustic Design at Mission / Wharfedale

Monday 28 September 2015

"Vintage" Amps Review

A couple of years ago, I thought it might be interesting to compare a bunch of late 70s / early 80s amps against the big "star" of the time, the NAD 3020.

So I collected some examples, over a 6 month period, from Hitachi, JVC, Pioneer and Technics.  All good working examples.

I tried them, they all worked and did a reasonably good job, but the idea of reviewing them and comparing them to the NAD really wasn't worth the effort of writing it all up.  It would've really just been a feature count of the shiny amps and ranking them in positions 6 to 10 for sound quality.  The NAD would've occupied positions 1 to 5.

At the time, when I bought my first amp (which was a NAD 3020), I listened to it against a Technics and a JVC (in one shop) and chose the NAD (auditioned and purchased from another shop). Because these were separate listening sessions, all I knew was that I liked the NAD better, but didn't really have the chance for a back to back comparison.  Collecting them now and listening just showed how big a gulf there was been the mainstream feature count amps of the time and the NAD.  OK, age may have affected them in various degrees, but its the consistency of the mainstream amps' peformances - polite, a little slow, ill-defined bass lines, rolled-off top end etc., contrasted to the bouncy, enjoyable, tuneful bass of the NAD that is so starkly better.

However, gotta say that I liked the trad VU meters on the Hitachi HA-3500, the sophisticated looking flourescent VU meters on the Technics SU-V3 and the brash blue VUs on the Pioneer SA-610. They're not much use, but they nearly swayed a naive 16 year old buyer, until they played music, when the NAD won the hard earned Saturday job money!  The NAD still looks dull and a bit cheap though.

So, some of the collection is up for sale in the next few posts.  They'll be good for the study, kitchen, garage, kids room etc., to provide background music, but not for really enjoying listening to music.  For that, choose a NAD - but it'll cost you 3x as much now, as NAD amps fetch more than they cost new...

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