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Really fabulous really cheap (power or integrated) amps

Discussion in 'audio' started by mandryka, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    I’ve decided I’d like to build a collection of really wonderful sounding amps that can be bought for very little money second hand. Part of the reason I want to do this is that I can’t see any real reason why the best amps, amps that sound almost as interesting as Krells and Radfords, should cost an arm and a leg - other than market forces. So what I’m really looking for is seriously underappreciated sleepers.

    My shopping list so far includes

    Quad 306
    Sugden P51 and early A21
    Leak Stereo 30
    Audio Innovations Alto

    suggestions appreciated.
  2. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    I haven't had a chance to try one myself, but the discontinued Amptastic Mini-1 tripath chip amp is mentioned a lot as a low cost stand-in for a valve amp. When they appear occasionally on eBay they can be had for around £80-100 used.

    Also some 90's-00's era Sony ES amps have solid reputations but many aren't especially rare which likely helps keep the used prices down.
    Tarzan likes this.
  3. matt j

    matt j pfm Member

    JVC AX-Z1010 - Ridiculous VFM.
    Cereal Killer and Snufkin like this.
  4. Snufkin

    Snufkin pfm Member

    I would add an A&R A60 to that list.
    gx502, Gervais Cote and Durmbo like this.
  5. TonyScarlett

    TonyScarlett pfm Member

    +1 for Quad 306, excellent little amp. If you are interested in vintage Japanese then Optonica amps should be on your shopping list, sound great & battleship build quality at much lower prices than the usual vintage Pioneer/Yamaha gear.
    Shadders likes this.
  6. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Leak Stereo 30? Not even the 30 Plus? Early 60's all germanium transistor amp, best suited to very easy loads... can sound good but very variable from one example to another and will need extensive rebuild to be even usable.
    Generally speaking non of the other SS leaks are much good. The last of them was the 2000 series which sound truly awful. There were some badge engineered Rotel's as the very last IIRC.

    Alto supposedly a "Marmite" amp and has dubious reliability record.

    The Sugdens would also very likely need a complete rebuild to work to spec. 50 year old amplifiers!

    Revox A78 pretty good as are late 70's Tandberg

    Nothing cheap is likely to get anywhere near your Krell or Radford!

    Radford SS amps are pretty good and don't fetch anywhere near as much as the valve ones... SPA models and ZD (Zero Distortion!) models. Fragile, quite complicated, old and in need of rebuild no doubt like most stuff of that kind of age...
  7. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I had an Optonica and really didn't like it. It was at the cheaper end of the range, very slim-line and maybe 30WPC. Made by Sharp.
    Edit: Probably an SM-4100 from a quick google for it...
  8. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    If we're going so "low end" then Armstrong 600 series also worth a look.
  9. Alex S

    Alex S carbon based lifeform

    The Amptastic Mini-1 is wonderful, especially with a decent power supply, provided you don’t need more than 11 watts. In a small system with Audio Note AX2s it’s all I could wish for.

    I didn’t know it was no longer made. Did the Tripath chip supply dry up?
  10. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    I’m sure the alto is a marmite amp, it really does colour the sound. Fun though, but maybe not if it explodes!

    but Jez, why should outstanding amps be expensive? The raw materials and construction can’t be adding so much to the cost. The magic is in an abstract thing, the design, isn’t it? So what I’m hoping is that some sleeper has a genius design.

    Or am I just wrong about this, and that the craftsmanship of construction is so high skilled and labour intensive in a great amp that it explains the cost? Those Radford output transformers, for example.
  11. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    The Amptastic website still exists, but the 'Buy Now' buttons do nothing (and haven't for about a year) and nobody answers at the 'Contact Us' form or the listed email addresses. There seem to be plenty of TA2020 chips available on eBay, but maybe they are clones or knock offs.
  12. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    As with all amp threads first ask what do you want it to drive? From that point some rather different answers emerge!

    PS Lots of bargains at all prices though. Many real sleepers out there.
  13. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I believe Tripath went bust...

    I have one of those tiny plastic amplifiers somewhere that take a 12V supply and give (allegedly!) about 8WPC that were all the rage for a short while. Sounds better than it has any right to IIRC but not quite a giant killer... and prob more like 5W unless you like 5% THD!
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    The Amptastic is the same chip but built really well with very good supplemental component quality etc. I have one in my ‘spares’ pile and it is very capable indeed into efficient speakers or in situations where high volume is not needed. I can’t remember the exact spec of the TA2020, but the horrible distortion figures are at an absurd 20 Watts (why they marketed that chip at that output is beyond me), it’s certainly very good for about 8-10 or so. I’ve actually had mine driving the JR149s before now and it very worked well at low/background listening levels, though I was afraid to turn it up! I’d happily use it in that context in a TV rig setting as I never want more than 75db or so there.
  15. Alex S

    Alex S carbon based lifeform

    Yeah, Jez, the Amptastic is an amptastic version of those, formerly made by a really nice bloke in a shed in Cambridgeshire. Sounds particularly good with a LPSU costing 3.5-6.5 times more.

    I’m not giving mine up but would be happy to lend it to someone, with an appropriately rated DC2 LPSU.
  16. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    I'm not 100% certain but I believe that Amptastic came about after the TA2020 had ended production.

    There are tons of chip amps available (e.g. on Amazon) from SMSL, Topping, Douk, and even more obscure brands, but the Amptastic stood out from the rest. I settled for a SMSL SA-50 to drive a pair of B&O CX100s for a desktop setup, and it's good for what it does.

    Alex S likes this.
  17. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    As I understand it Tripath had gone bust long before people even started to realise the TA2020 was a chip with surprisingly good sound quality and therefore an audiophile usage context. There were however a lot of stocks of the chip, though I guess they will have dried up by now. It wouldn’t surprise me given the current Chinese electronics culture if a lot of the more recent amps claiming to use a TA2020 are actually using a faked chip. The Amptastic is certainly legit. I wonder if they’ll go up in value?!
  18. Tigerjones

    Tigerjones Bagpuss

    Have you got AX2s, Alex?

    Lovely little speakers.
  19. mega lord

    mega lord Centre tapped

    NVA AP20 :cool:
    Caledon1297 likes this.
  20. matt j

    matt j pfm Member

    I don't think the original T amp in a plastic box that everyone went mad for was a TA2020 chip, there's dozens of Tripath chips but the TA2020 certainly stood out from the rest. I have a Topping version that is kept in the spares cupboard and it sounds great.

    Edit: I believe this is the amp below that kicked it all off, never heard one but there were dozens of TA2024 amps available after the hype started and I don't think they sounded all that good, same with most of them to be honest.


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