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Really fabulous really cheap (power or integrated) amps

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

  1. Alex S

    Alex S carbon based lifeform

    Yeah but, Steve, I’m discovering with Philips swing arms of old that they cost now what they did then, or more. And there’s more to go wrong.
  2. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    I’ve got a real soft spot for the original (LK) Linn Majik, they’re, compact, beautifully built and finished (they make a Nait look a bit home made) and they sound great. You can get a really mint example with an inbuilt phono stage for under £300. I’ve had several of them and have two currently in use, one in an active system with an LK100 and a pair of Keilidhs, where it offers truly amazing VFM, total (used) cost of that amp/speaker/active crossover combo is about £750, pretty excellent that money imho.
    The other one I have as a standalone integrated, I use it with whatever speakers take my fancy at the time which are Royd Sapphires, Q Acoustic 3010, Linn Katans or anything else I have to play with, it’s driven anything I’ve thrown at it without a struggle, it’s fast and engaging, but smooth and sweet at the same time

    And another shout for the Nait 3, easily as good as it’s predecessors (well better in my opinion) but without the hype, so you can get them a bit cheaper. I’ve used one with Royd Sapphires, Royd A7x, Royd Minstrels, Rega Elas, Rega Exels, Linn Keilidhs and Linn Katans, it’s mostly driven them all without issues and again is a really fast and engaging performer. It falls behind the Linn Majik slightly when playing at high volume levels with less sensitive and/or more tricky speakers (like the keilidhs), but overall, an excellent amp.
  3. MotelBlues

    MotelBlues pfm Member

    Since nobody’s mentioned it, and it’s unloved by some (not by me, though) how about a Quad 303?
  4. Snufkin

    Snufkin pfm Member

    Having never heard of Audio Analogue until I bought a lightly used Fortissimo a year ago, I would add one of their amps to the list. If mine is anything to go by they are rather good and should come in at well under £1000.
  5. Marchbanks

    Marchbanks Hat and Beard member

    I bought a TAF770ES in Germany last year for under £300 including the cost of building a bucking xfo. It is the amp that gets used most of the time - the Radford is only switched on a couple of times a week when I'm in a serious beard-stroking, furrowed-brow listening mood. Or if the temperature drops below freezing and a little auxiliary heating is in order.
    linnfomaniac83 and booja30 like this.
  6. Durmbo

    Durmbo not French

    A caveat is a tendency for their original electrolytic caps to go off over time. Sure enough you can buy one cheaply, but unless it's been serviced it's wise to factor in the cost of same. However, once done it's a fabulous amplifier.

    In contrast, I have a Kenwood from the 70s with its original components that still sounds fresh. It was given to me by my former BIL who'd been ordered to declutter the garage. A nice amplifier, just a bit softer in the bass and a tad sharper in the treble than the A60, if I remember rightly.
  7. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    Tarzan likes this.
  8. Durmbo

    Durmbo not French

    The 3020 never grabbed me. I do have fond memories of the Creek CAS4040 and the Rotel RA-820, any version. I preferred the latter to its 840 bigger brother.
  9. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    I would also give a listen to a wooden case Sugden A21 : usually very affordable and musical.
  10. cjarchez

    cjarchez pfm Member

    Another shout for the Claymore.
    Of the NADs the 3150 was the star, massively better than its down-engineered 3020 brother.
    The original Aura amps are a good buy as long you like their particular flavour, neutral they are not.
    The Rotel 850 is better than the NAD3020, looks nicer too.
    If your wallet has a few more notes in it the Restek Challenger is a stonker, enjoys inflated prices in its home Germany but sometimes pops up elsewhere for very sensible money.
    Original Puccini/se is also very pleasant but again coloured so down to personal taste.
    The Marantz 7200ki can be had for decent money too.
  11. Tigerjones

    Tigerjones Bagpuss

    Haha. Can’t fault you. Would love another pair. One of the many great speakers that have come and gone.
  12. Richard Lines

    Richard Lines pfm Member

    Steve - in that context i.e. the age etc. I agree with you it is overpriced. I was more focused on how we were defining cheap, that is a relative term I guess.


  13. Ptah

    Ptah pfm Member

    Although you've mentioned Radfords, I thought the TT100 was very underrated compared to the (IMO) overrated STA15 and 25.
  14. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    A mate at University had one in about 1986. Really nice, but overall build quality was a bit shonky IIRC. I doubt they last as well as some of the less plasticy alternatives of the time. Quad 303, 405, and (yes even) Naim has its faults but they are wel assembled and last well after 30-40 years.

    I think they were adopting the all singing and dancing transistor technology and hey everybody it's great, come and buy the new stuff! However like you I find early tranny amps a bit questionable compared to well engineered valve stuff of the time. Does a Quad 303 better a Quad 2? I doubt it.

    In which case I'd say they weren't a "really fabulous really cheap" amp such as the OP is asking about.

    The Rotel 820 is nice too, I too prefer that to the NAD that we all had in the day because the magazines said it was better. A mate got one of those mail order packages with a CDP, a Rotel 820 and some bookshelf speakers, it was very good.

    It's tough to define cheap these days when there are some total game changers out there. The various chipamps for pennies are just great. I recently got one, no case, no PSU, £4 delivered, new. It's up there with a cheap integrated of the 80s. You can get a similar thing in a case for £20, plug and play.

    At the same time there are unsung heroes that were unloved in the day or now. Things like the Nytech, which when it works sounds stunning. When it works. You can get them for £50. There are loads like this, the amplifier equivalent of the Rotel 965 CDP, reasonably priced in the day and now available for loose change. I have a 965 in a second system, it was £30. Seriously, for that nothing comes close. Get a MArantz PM44 for similar money, speakers of your choice, and you can rock up to Scalford with it and better systems at serious money.

    I can't go along with Jez's MF monsters in this context, I'm sure they are very good, but they don't sell cheap and if you then need to put in hundreds of pounds worth of capacitors then you are most of the way to a Krell anyway, so it should be as good as. A pal had a KSA 100, recently serviced, that he was trying to sell, I advertised it here for him. Everyone said it was a bargain at about £1000, but no bugger bought it. Yet people queue up to buy a Nait 2 for £600.
  15. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’d look at the likes of solid state Conrad Johnson power amps way before the larger MF stuff as the build quality is in a totally different league. CJ always used really nice film caps for everything aside from a couple of electrolytics in the PSU so can usually be serviced with about four solder joints! Once you’ve factored-in paying someone to completely rebuild the MF the price wouldn’t be that different, likely a lot cheaper. I’d say the MF P170 was a good buy though if found at £150-200, though the internal build is shonky as stated above and it ran several components close to their limits so will need a rebuild by now. When working properly its a good amp though.

    PS If I wasn’t connected to vintage Quad and Leak stuff for reasons of system context/history/sentiment I’d almost certainly be using an ‘80s CJ valve pre and solid state power amp. They are rare in the UK but real sleepers IMHO. Great sounding amps with probably the best build quality I’ve seen from a long trouble-free service-life perspective.
    Gervais Cote likes this.
  16. JTC

    JTC PFM Villager...

    A really competent and unflappable integrated for sensible-shoes money? Mustn’t overlook the AVI Lab Series integrated. A really fine amp that will drive pretty much anything...
  17. Konteebos

    Konteebos Traitor Re-joiner

    As a left-field suggestion, what about an old, high-end AV receiver? I use a Denon AVR1905 as a stereo amplifier in my workshop system where it replaced a Creek CAS4040 and it definitely sounds better. The older models, that don't support HDMI switching, are worth next to nothing now - you can see high-end models for £50. Most of them even have phono stages and an FM tuner, too.
  18. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    Very good suggestion, a friend has a few of these and they are rather good. You don't need 5 channels but they sound great on 2.
    Konteebos likes this.
  19. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    I had a AVI 2000 series power amp, it was great. I still have an AVI MC2000 CDP that is the best CD player I've heard on my system. It's seen off a number of "better" ones.
    eevo1969 and oldius like this.
  20. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    There is nothing wrong with the way MF gear was assembled. It runs with a good amount of class A and gets hot. Simple as. Hence it is never going to last as long WITHOUT SERVICING as cool running stuff like Quad. It will however sound vastly better than anything from Quad or Naim! The better gear has polyprop caps, metal film resistors etc. I'll grant that better rated electrolytics should have been fitted to get rather longer life before servicing needed. I can account for numerous items of MF gear which I've re-capped with 105C rated caps etc and which has since lasted for many years without trouble.

    In my view they made the highest end, best sounding amps of all major UK companies. No contest. Look at stuff such as A370, SA470, MVX pre, big Nu-Vista power amps, Titan etc etc... And I hate MF the company! Funny that people accept getting their poor sounding Naim gear re-capped after 10 years but anything else that needs this is "shoddy"!!

    I'd say a Krell KSA100 is worth £2000 all day long. A Nait of any type? I wouldn't give £50. Rotel 820 beats it for much less money. I've done the comparison.

    Unfortunately the "worth" of equipment seems to be based not on how good it actually is but on how much it gets talked about on the interweb... some sort of "tipping point" happens where if say 20? 50? 100?, whatever, people all say something is fab and make their own little "echo chamber" about it then "Chinese whispers" take over and all the sheeple give it "yeah any fule kno that the Acme MkII is the only amp to buy at £500" when it may in fact be now't special at all! "Nait Syndrome"!

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