Monday, October 22, 2007

Only in Japan!

So it’s a long expensive trip and all the equipment is 120 volts but hey, we get a lot of traffic from the USA so this post might just send some people over the edge.

I received a phone call a few weeks ago on Sunday morning from an Australian living in Japan who had ‘found’ a recycling centre a couple of hours outside Tokyo specialising in Electronic equipment. Well we had a couple of conversations about this mother lode of vintage audio equipment but I think the distance and the 120 volt issue makes it all a bit too hard. However our Tokyo correspondent was kind enough to email me some shots from the recycling depot and has given me permission to use them on our news page so here it is; the mountain of equipment sitting just outside Tokyo looking for a home. Sadly it looks like mostly late 70s Sony but I spotted some nice Yamaha pieces in the stacks.

Well I think this looks like it’s our first news letter this year for which I apologise; it’s been a hectic and crazy year. I have finally put my new photography portfolio(s) together and with any luck, next year will see me with more time to dedicate to Vintage Audio .Com .Au.

Of course I am not writing the news letter just to show you a mountain of equipment none of us can buy. Bob has been busy as usual and has come up with some pretty impressive pieces that deserve singling out.

The stand out piece is the Yamaha CT 7000 Tuner. This is the silver face model and it is in near mint condition. I am yet to hear it (it’s my turn this week) but Bob assures me that its not just 10 or 20 or 50% better than any tuner he has ever listened to. Apparently it looks (and sounds) like this tuner belongs to a whole other species!

Full Specs and Pictures at the Vintage Knob

FM Tuner Info Review you need to scroll down a bit.

It seems like the boys at FM Tuner Info mostly agree with a stellar review that names the CT 7000 as arguably the best analogue tuner ever made. I have seen inside the box and its fully shielded everywhere, so there is not a lot to see really but it’s very shinny (very full) and it looks great.

Better than Kenwood, Better than Sansui! Don’t write to me if this upsets you, please send your emails to FM Tuner Info.

I will have CT 7000 page up next week but if you want to buy it NOW just drop me a line. The price is $1800.00.

New in Stock,
Otari MX 5050 BQ MK II, 4 channel. This seems to be a fairly rare version of the MX 5050. Its in near mint condition, I will be doing my best to have a page with photos up by the end of the week.

Tascam Professional Open Reel, we now have 42b & 32b units back in stock.
Tascam cassette, 122 MKII & 112 in stock. Professional decks, Bob tells me the Tascam 122 sold for around $7000 new.

For those who enjoy open reel recorders I found a site tonight dedicated to open reel machines used in movies, with the movie they appeared in,

And of course we have the Harmon Kardon PM 665 TOL circa 1987, yes a bit late for us I know but a fine piece of equipment. Funnily enough my Yamaha CD player died last week and I have been running the Denon CD player with this unit and it has changed the sound completely! Sounds like I am going to be contradicting my ‘Is it your amp or is it your CD player’ post. Well they are both from the digital era so it may just make sense. I will try to get my review of the PM 665 updated to more closely reflect this development.

Cheers from Bob & Kent.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is it my CD Player or is it my Amp that’s letting me down?

It’s a very good question and I am going to try to answer it as simply and as painlessly as possible. But before I start I need to clarify the question a little better so you will know just what the points are that I am answering. Perhaps its better to ask ‘Is it my CD player that’s not giving me the musical detail I want or is it my Amplifier that’s letting me down?’

More questions first.

Are you hearing the acoustic presence of the room in a live recording? Can you hear the damper action on a close mic’d piano and the singers breath as they battle it out with the auditorium and the rest of the band? Is the bass rich and well defined? Do the highs soar? Can you hear the acoustic resonance and space around a guitar, bass, violin; they tell me it’s the sibilance. Is your stereo image solid and strong?

Well if you are answering no to those questions; if you are running a brand name CD player that cost you around $400.00 or it’s inflation indexed equivalent… In short if the answer is no, its not your CD player its your Amp. If you are about to set off to the local Hi-Fi store to lay down a couple of thousand of your hard earned because you can’t hear the musical things I mention above. If you believe that a high end player is the only answer you just might want to read on first.

It might seem a bit of a long stretch to some for someone on a Vintage Audio site to be writing about CD players (they did not even exist in the 60s and 70s) but the CD has become for most of us if not the preferred music delivery device certainly the most convenient. Yes the CD has long since overtaken the LP as the main music delivery system. Funnily enough the CD arrived on the scene at about the same time true Hi-Fidelity started to mean less and less to the big name manufacturers of 70s Hi-Fi.

Audiophiles reported a ‘squareness’ and harshness in the sound of the new CD media. We got over-sampling and then more over-sampling and re-mastering for CD. We certainly got about 20 to 30% more volume from a CD than we got from an LP and that was good! The CD player didn’t jump when someone walked through the room, you could suddenly party a lot harder without upsetting the music. The CD seemed to represent a democratisation of musical fidelity.

We upgraded because new is always better; we got Surround Sound, DVD and a new audio status quo.

So after admitting the supposed evils of the CD player what have I got to say? Well at Vintage Audio .Com .AU we don’t actually get to listen to a lot of high end CD players but we do get to listen to an awful lot of high end 1970’s Amplifiers and Receivers. Because it is unavoidable we also get to listen to a fair bit of 80s and 90s gear and a bit of newer ‘Hi-Fi’ equipment too. So all in all we are pretty well rounded guys who get to hear a fair amount of gear from a lot more manufactures than your average guy and even dare I say it your average Hi-Fi salesman. Did I just write that!!! Yes all in all we consider ourselves well placed to make up-to-date-historical-evaluations of audio equipment.

When I get around to doing a listening test for a piece of equipment so I can write a review about how it sounds, I simply slot it into my normal home system. This has some drawbacks (and positives too) but everyone at home is now well trained to look for ‘tape monitor 1’ on any Amp or Receiver if they want to listen to the TV/Video/DVD. And the household has opinions too! Yes they develop fav’s based on sexiness or sound quality or whatever, and like the classic art lover they may not know what’s good but they certainly know what they like. And they love Vintage Audio because it always sounds great.

Back to the question, CD or Amp?

There is no doubt that different CD players like different Turntables and Tone Arm/Cartridge combinations model the sound differently. The key point here is that they model the sound in much the same way a Rotel models the sound differently to a Pioneer or Sansui. What we HAVE NOT NOTICED is any lack of detail with regard to the musical details we mentioned oh so very far above when listening to music on a brand name CD player through a 1970s Amp or Receiver. We have noticed differences in modeling of the sound and these differences are sometimes very pleasing (though not everyone seems to notice them). What are the brand names we are thinking of that we feel do the job; Yamaha, NAD, Marantz, Sony, Denon...

Something else we have noticed is that you do not need to go to the top-of-the-line when it comes to Vintage Audio to hear most of the audio details we talked about above. (Why doesn’t anyone seem to like Vintage Rotel equipment? Its awesome! We feel the same about Nikko, and even Monarch which fair enough no one has heard of).

If you want to hear the music, or smell the coffee, there is not a single 70s Amp or Receiver on Vintage Audio .Com .Au that will not deliver period.
Of course things do happen in degrees but if you’re wondering where the detail and music have gone grab your self a classic 70’s Amplifier or Receiver keep your entry level CD player and find out for yourself; it seems the music never went away at all.


Vintage Audio .Com .Au (VA) is starting to get quite a bit of feed-back about the state of contemporary amplification and Hi-Fi systems. The basic stories go along these lines.

”I paid a few thousand dollars for X amplifier and for a while I was reasonably happy but then I started to realize that that I wasn’t hearing all the things in the music that I knew should be there. Things I could remember hearing on systems I had heard back in the 70s.”

“I was at the Hi-Fi shop and I finally found an Amp that I feel is going to do the job, it’s not cheap. The sales person suggests that if I really want to get the most out of this amp I will need to by X CD player at around the $2000.00 mark.”

“After I found your equipment reviews on VA I realized that I was not just imagining that I was not hearing all the music that I should be getting from my sound system. It really isn’t there!”

If you are wondering what might be a good choice to get started with, here are a few selections from our pages that deliver a lot of sound for very little money. If you already have your system worked out one of these items below would make an excellent Christmas gift for someone you know.

Our top Christmas pick, the Rotel RX-602

The RX 602 is one of the great receivers from the 1970’s. The sound is clean and clear; fast moving, well defined, natural and rich. If you like the Sansui sound but would like a receiver not an amp and tuner then you will be very very happy with the Rotel’s RX 602.

Technics SA 5400X 4 Channel Receiver $280.00
Rotel RX 402 Receiver $220.00
Luxman R 800M Receiver $480.00
Monarch Series 8 Tuner & Amplifier $380.00
NAD Silver Face Model 120 $300.00
Rotel RA 714 Integrated Amp $370.00
Rotel RA 412 Integrated Amp $200.00
Teac As-100 Integrated Amplifier $280.00
Sansui AU-555A Integrated Amp, $350.00

Cheers From Kent & Bob.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Value of Vintage Audio

Preaching to the converted?
You might think so but I am not so sure. The problem with writing about Vintage & Classic Audio is that words are not really a particularly good substitute for listening to the equipment itself. If the reviews are too prosaic can they really be true? How can that old gear really be that good and worth as much as these guys are asking even if the prices seem quite reasonable?

So what is a piece of Vintage Audio equipment worth? A couple of weeks ago I found a pretty cool tool on the web called an inflation calculator. Its American but what the heck it will have to do for us Aussies too. You put in a dollar value and a year and the calculator returns a 2005 value. What’s the point? Well we have been banging on about how expensive the gear we are selling ‘second hand’ was new and we though it might be nice to see how much it would cost now, that is if it was new today!

I can’t exactly say I was surprised by the results but although I am not an economist I reckon a straight dollar conversion does not quite tell the whole story. I can still remember my Dad bringing home a JVC top loading tape deck in the late 70’s and refusing to say how much it cost. It was not even a three head model! Ah and you wonder where those male habits you have came from. Needless to say there just did not seem to be as much money bouncing around in the 70’s and the American list prices that we so often find on the web are clearly not what we had to pay for the same equipment in Australia.

If the kind of plug you find on a piece of equipment is anything to go by it would seem that an awful lot of equipment was purchased Duty Free in Asia . We see a lot of the Asian two pin plugs which are easily bent to fit an Australian three pin power socket. That might account for 50% of the 1970’s gear we see. One thing we do not see a lot of is 1970’s Tuners. That is hardly surprising due to the late adoption of FM in Australia . Receivers are far more common. I think that many of the 70s tuners we do see have been brought to the country by Audiophiles that have moved to Australia from England, Europe and North America where Fm was up and running much earlier than here.

Enough musing, what did I find out with the inflation calculator?
Rotel RX-1603 1976, $1100 USD converts to $3 772 USD or $4 961 AUD.
Pioneer QA 800A 1973, $400 USD converts to $1,790.61 or $2,354 AUD.

That’s a lot more than entry level prices for NAD, Yamaha, Pioneer or even Rotel today. Of course you can pay thousands for a new piece of equipment today and much of it is going to be very good. But as you already know if you have read through enough of the reviews here on Vintage Audio .Com .Au we reckon you would be pretty hard pressed to better some of the equipment we have on offer even if you did go out and spend the same money you come up with after allowing for inflation.

Rotel have a database of equipment prices (at time of release) on their North American portal and Technics and Pioneer equipment prices are fairly easy to trace using Google or check our links page. If any of our readers have some Australian list prices from old magazines or receipts we would love to hear from you especially with regard to Pioneer Sansui and Rotel equipment.

New Listings

Sansui TOL AU/TU 717 system 1978
Au-717 Amp
TU-717 Tuner
Direct Drive Turntable SR-838
SC-3110 Tape Deck
SP-X9000 Speakers

American Fisher!

Fisher 514 Receiver, Quadraphonic
Fisher X-101C, Valve Amplifier

And if you have survived reading this far, what am I (Kent) listening to this week? The new Diana Krall, ‘from this moment on’ and the newish Madeline Peyroux, ‘Half the perfect world’. I am running a Harmon Kardon 930 receiver and the music is sounding great!

Cheers from Kent and Bob.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Quadraphonic Rules!

Well at least this month it will...

If like me you prefer your design 'Cool Industrial' over 'Ikea Minimal'. Then classic early 70's Quadraphonic equipment will go a long way toward satisfying you listening and visual aesthetics.

Metal face plates, deep embossed lettering that will never wear off and more beautifully turned out knobs than you can poke a stick at? It has to be TOL Quadraphonic equipment. Now I''ve got a mate who reckons that Quadraphonic was and always will be all you ever need to achieve full surround sound and you only need four speakers. As the kids say; HELLO!!!

But then as this is Vintage Audio .Com .Au I think you might be more than a little disappointed if we did not have friends who think this way. More to the point is that classic Quadraphonic equipment not only looks good but also excels in delivering great stereophonic sound too. We have some fantastic pieces from the 70''s audio giants, Pioneer, Kenwood, Technics and more.

Before hitting the new listings I also need to mention that I have finally reviewed the Monster Rotel Receiver RX 1603. I was a little apprehensive when setting this unit up for listening, how good would it be? Would its reputation be all about size and bragging rights and not about the sound at all? In short I was quite simply amazed. I had hoped for impressed; but amazed? That's something I had not expected at all. Read the review here.

Quadraphonic Equipment

Pioneer QA 800   
Pioneer QA 800

All links open in a new page.
Pioneer QA 800a . A stunningly beautiful Quad integrated amp. One of the best pieces of Pioneer equipment I have heard. We have two QA 800a's available.
Kenwood KR 9430 4 channel Receiver not a new listing but real 4 channel TOL equipment.
Kenwood 6140a 4 channel receiver. Runs three sets of speakers. This one has some wear around the power switch which we will be looking at touching up. Weighing in at over 15Kg it is quite a beast.
Technics SA 5400X 4 Channel Receiver, great sound and great looks.
Technics CD-4 System Disc Demodulator SH-3480. If you really are thinking Quadraphonic then you may need this phono decoder. Stunning improvment for your stereo turntable too.
JVC Add Amplifier with SEA. A little quad box from JVC
Nikko TRM 500 (4 channel compatible).

Additional New Listings

Luxman Late 70's early 80's Receivers!!!
800-M Receiver
R-3055 Receiver
Receiver the pop out panel model; we also have the matching 3 head tape deck.
KX-102 3 head computer controlled DBX, Dolby. We are also restoring a rather big 500R Receiver, having finally sourced original part power output transistors in the UK to get this one back up and running. We will keep you posted.
Nikko NA 790 , early 80's with MM & MC phono selector. I am looking forward to hearing this one as I recently tested the Nikko TRM 500 beside the Sansui AU 555a and I was stunned by the Nikkos detail depth of the stereo imaging and sound stage.
Yamaha DSP A1000 Surround Amplifier. Ok not exactly vintage but with all the changes that surround sound brings this one certainly is vintage in a home theater context and Bob can't resist a TOL amp so here it is.
Yamaha K 1020 3 Head Dolby B/C HX Pro Cassette Deck, Matches the Amp above.

Technics Mid Size System (well three key bits of one!)
SU-X955 Amplifier
RS-X980 Double auto reverse Cassette Deck
SH-E65 Spectrum Analyser/Graphic Equaliser

Bob and I have what could best be described as a curious respect for this Technics gear. Clearly it is the 'Class A' amplification that is used in these amps. (For those who are not aware Class A is not something made up by technics but a method of amplifier design with the least amount distortion). The trade off is a 'loss'; of power which is why most amps are built to an AB specification in the hope of delivering the best of both worlds; low distortion and power).

Not the full 70's sound we love but probably one of the best sounds from the late 80's/90's. We are always amazed at how good some of the Technics equipment sounds. I sold a slightly smaller SU-X system to a friend some time ago with some English bookshelf speakers and continue to be impressed with the quality of the sound every time I hear it. I am sure every one thinks it but I am going to say it; you have to admire the bravery of the guys at Technics who decided to designate a whole range of amplifiers SU-X.

No Photos or Listing yet!!!
But you can always email me.

Fisher X-101C Valve Integrated Amplifier.
Not photographed yet but I hope to have it up by the end of the week. American design and manufacture. Very popular in the States but quite rare in Oz. This (TOL?) one has a drop down panel on the front to reveal the tone controls. Great condition and Bob is in love!
Realistic STA 2000 Receiver
Well it's sexy and Bob and I actually believe the old tale that Radio Shack/Realistic did not make anything themselves but had people like Luxman do it for them. As a result when some of this much maligned gear hits the mark it hits it very well indeed.

Speakers by Wharfedale
CRS 7 (black) and Melton 2 (wood grain).

Cheers From Kent And Bob.

Friday, August 04, 2006

We have a Demographic!

At Vintage Audio .Com .Au we have a demographic! I suppose I should not let on what that demographic is. Trade secret and all that; but I think it is pretty obvious so I might just go ahead and let the cat out of the bag. It’s pretty clearly spelt out on our home page, “If you're of an age to get all misty eyed about those great amps, tuners, receivers and turntables you dreamed about in your youth…”

Yes that it; 40 and up is my guess but guess what? We have been finding that our demographic is some what larger, and if they will pardon the expression, some of the ‘younger generation’ are finding out just how good vintage audio is too!

Now it is probably far too soon to predict the demise of the MP3 music file format and the downfall of the ubiquitous Apple i pod but we have been getting some very positive feedback form our younger buyers.

And what have these buyers been saying? This is clearly the best bit. They are reporting hearing (musical) things in the music they have NEVER heard before! Viva Vintage Audio!!! Well is that not just what we have been saying all along…

And on that front I should report that I too have been experiencing music from some of the amplifiers I have already reviewed in a new light after testing them with my vintage Celestion Ditton 15 speakers.

Perhaps the most dramatic re appraisal was of the Nikko TRM 500 which although I have always held in high regard I tended to feel was a little light on in the area of Bass reproduction and a little to bright although marvellously clear and well detailed. What a difference a change of speakers can make! Full bass, not to bright, great rich and detailed sound. Say no more. I experienced something similar when running the NAD 120 through the Ditton’s too. Not the same issues but a renewed sense of how good that receiver really was. NAD’s certainly benefit from being well matched to their speakers. And on that note we have turned up another NAD 120, also in virtually pristine condition.

And then I powered up the Harmon Kardon 930 Twin Power Receiver, I have written it up in full here so I just say one word. Amazing!

I saw a HK 930 on US E-bay and the seller described it as rather unattractive! Well that is just about the complete opposite to what my partner thought when she saw it on my audio ‘sideboard’ describing it as one of the sexiest receivers she has ever seen (and she has seen quite a few). In fact unattractive is the impression I got of most of the $20 000 and up equipment I saw while viewing pictures recently of a Hi-Fi show on the web. Yes folks you CAN have too much glass, resin and chrome! I wonder if they will ever work it out. But then that’s another story…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yes we have NEWS!

Well things seem to be looking up at Vintage Audio .Com .Au, with sales ticking over and Bob acquiring a few classic pieces I have photographed new components and actually put up new listings!

Thanks for the enquiries we do enjoy hearing from you.

New to the site this month are;

Open reel tape decks by Ferrograph, A Nakamichi 583 three head cassette, Akai Open Reel decks and a superb Akai GXC 710d. If they are not already listed they will be within the next few days.

Bob has also managed to lay his hands on a BOSE Spatial Receiver. This is already up at the top of the Tuners/Receivers page along with a NAD 7060. I have put up additional 550 pixel wide shots to give you a better feel for the quality of these units.

We also have listed without photos or prices Thorens, Linco and Dual turntables. I will be working on getting them properly listed in the next couple of weeks.

Bob's personal valve amp project. Amps from old open reel decks.

Thanks for your continued support,

Kent Johnson.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Well I finally worked out how to get...

Well I finally worked out how to get Vintage Audios web site navigation into the top of the Blogger page and keep it there!!! So now I can make this blog the official VA news page. This is great because it is going to make it a lot easier for me keep everything and everyone up to date with what Bob & I are up to at Vintage Audio .Com .Au.

I just completed the first photo shoot of 2006 this week & there are 14 items to be listed. I have already put up the photos of the TOL 1979 Pioneer CT-F1250 tape deck although at time of writing there is no thumbnail on the index page.

Heres the equipment waiting to be listed. Drop me a line if you are interested & it is still not up.

In the order I shot them in!

Akai AA910DB receiver. A big one,

NAD Model 60 Amplifier, similar face to the 3080 listed but smaller. Rare made in Japan model.

Pioneer Rondo 3000x/ya. Receiver Big box good sound but one for the beginners at VA.

Telefunken Amplifier (Bob’s going wild) About mid 60’s V201, cool pics & soooo easy to shoot.

Teac A460 Cassette, very cool.

Rotel RX 602 Receiver, the second to TOL not counting the Monster (that we have).

Teac A400, another cool cassette deck.

Akai GXC 730D auto reverse deck, Bob likes this one so much we have 2!

Rotel RX 402 Receiver, the model below the one above? This one is a Euro market job, Black face with all din connection on back.

Rogers Amplifier… Well they wrote nothing on it! A bit rough looking. One for the enthusiasts!

Linear Design SA 8000, as no one seems interested in the other model we thought we would try another one LoL! (that’s the first time I have ever used LoL, see what happens when you start a blog). It seems these where designed (made?) in Melbourne (it’s badged) in the 70’s. No wonder know one seems to have heard of them.

And for the Piece(s) de résistance…

AWA TR STI, the first Reel to Reel manufactured in
Australia (that’s what Bob says). Valve drive! Military spec.

Akai X10 cross field Reel to Reel. We also have apparently, the X6, X7, X8 some of which I am informed are valve models as well.

Phillips valve radio, quite large and working rather well. We had it on for the shot of course. I haven’t written down the model so I will try to drop in a thumbnail asap.

Welcome to Vintage Audio .Com .Au. And as Bob says,

”It’s like a disease but we love it”.