Allow Me to Continue Beating the "Vintage-vs-Modern" Receiver Horse Further..... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-01-2014, 11:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Happy New Year audiophiles.

I'm looking to build a two channel music listening system for the living room.

  I've decided to go with HD digital (96/24 or 192/94) media as I still hate the cracks and pops of LPs that caused me to long for CD's back in the early 80's. My ear is happy with what I've downloaded.

  I'm about to start tweaking the crossover for an updated remake of the old ESS AMT 1's that I ogled as a kid (original Heil tweeter with a revamp of the lower end).

  Where I'm still undecided is the amplifier. I've read a lot about how vintage receivers of the 70's - 80's were designed with sound quality in mind whereas modern amps concentrate on features at the cost of losing sound quality. Which leads to the question: What is better about older receivers? Is it simply a matter of beefier power amplifiers, which would allow me to use the existing Denon's pre-amp outputs with a vintage power amp to get the desired overall sound?

   I can't imagine that as technology moves forward, manufacturers have forgotten what they've learned developing those old receivers. Could it be that inflation has made this a "bang for the buck" issue and if I were to cough up more money, I could have a modern amplifier that would rival a vintage one? How much would I have to spend on a power amp to rival the sound of a Pioneer SX-1250?

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post #2 of 7 Old 01-02-2014, 01:06 AM
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About $200 I would imagine. The idea is not to have "sound quality" in an amplifier. The idea is to have the amplifier not be noticeable in the system except to make the sound louder. It is fair to say that, with the exception of some tube amps and a few solid state amps designed to sound like tube amps, any high fidelity amp made in the last 40 or 50 years should meet that standard. There are plenty of performance factors for you to think about in evaluating an amplifier. But sound quality isn't really one of them with the exceptions noted above.

My own preference is for newer equipment because newer equipment has used less of its overall life span.
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-02-2014, 01:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

About $200 I would imagine. The idea is not to have "sound quality" in an amplifier. The idea is to have the amplifier not be noticeable in the system except to make the sound louder. It is fair to say that, with the exception of some tube amps and a few solid state amps designed to sound like tube amps, any high fidelity amp made in the last 40 or 50 years should meet that standard. There are plenty of performance factors for you to think about in evaluating an amplifier. But sound quality isn't really one of them with the exceptions noted above.

My own preference is for newer equipment because newer equipment has used less of its overall life span.

I agree with almost everything else said above. I don't like amplifiers/cables used as EQ devices.

I cheap, simple experiment is to buy a Crown XLS amplifier (find even cheaper used on ebay) with whatever speakers you desire. These have max volume knobs on them which is nice. Use an Oppo Digital blu ray player digital input so you can utilize its Sabre DAC (arguably among the best dacs out there) and output sound via XLR to the Crown Amplifier. There is no need for a separate pre-amp if you have no other sources.

This will get you a very pure signal path to the speakers and you can fairly accurately evaluate your speaker's quality. I would at that point spend 90% of your money on speakers personally. You could spend a lot of time/money on room treatment considerations which also make a difference if done in an extreme way.

There are truly amazing speakers to be had at higher price points which will make the exact amplifier, wires, and other stuff in your system seem negligible to the overall effect of the sound. Ribbon tweeters in speakers by brands such as Legacy and Monitor Audio sound quite exhilarating. Horn speakers from Avantgarde Acoustics are just totally mind-blowing. There are tons of other ideas out there at lots of price points for speakers. At the end of the day, the speakers are VASTLY more worthwhile to upgrade than any other component. Resale value on speakers (especially used ones) is really quite decent over a 4-5 year timeframe.

Most modern amps and sources are really very very good already and there is limited differentiation between them, especially as proven by ABX listening studies. There are a few "golden ear" geniuses that write magazines that probably can hear differences between modern amps, but I am just about certain that I could not...

Blazar!
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-02-2014, 05:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porkloin DuBois View Post

I've read a lot about how vintage receivers of the 70's - 80's were designed with sound quality in mind whereas modern amps concentrate on features at the cost of losing sound quality. Which leads to the question: What is better about older receivers? Is it simply a matter of beefier power amplifiers, which would allow me to use the existing Denon's pre-amp outputs with a vintage power amp to get the desired overall sound?

I can't imagine that as technology moves forward, manufacturers have forgotten what they've learned developing those old receivers. Could it be that inflation has made this a "bang for the buck" issue and if I were to cough up more money, I could have a modern amplifier that would rival a vintage one? How much would I have to spend on a power amp to rival the sound of a Pioneer SX-1250?
Discrete amplifier stages are still around, most of the midrange Onkyo stuff like the Onkyo 805 is still discrete and these can be had for less than $500
http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000OBJW1S/ref=dp_olp_0?ie=UTF8&condition=all

The Pioneer SX-1250 is a classic Japanese design from the Mid 70s

Schematic
http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/solid-state/170431-pioneer-sx-1250-receiver-some-schematics.html

It shows the compromises and constraints of the semiconductor devices available at that time.
I assume you have basic familiarity with electronic schematics, notice that a triple darlington configuration is used in the final stage,
these circuits are not very linear and the designers have tried to compensate by increasing the gain and then applying lots of negative feedback, my estimate the feedback factor is about 20%

The downside is a reduction in the transient response performance and intermodulation distortion.
The 2SB600 output device is quite slow by today's standards (4MHz fTvs 30MHz in today's audio devices), the designers have had to apply additional compensation to keep the amp stable (C3,C7,C5,C9,C10 Miller Pole/Zero compensation), this worsens IMD

The amp basically has a lot of open loop gain and the design trades this gain off by applying large amounts of negative feedback, the open loop frequency response is also likely less than 20kHz and extending the closed loop bandwitdh to 20kHz by applying negative feedback.

The modern approach is to design design with a much wider open loop bandwidth and apply small amounts of negative feedback, on the Onkyo 805 the feedback factor is 3% vs 20% of the vintage Pioneer.
This is possible today because the output devices are much faster and designers do not have to resort to things like the triple darlington and its linearity problems
The 2SC5242 output transistor used in the Onkyo 805 has fT of 30MHz vs 4 MHz of the vintage Pioneer.

(fT, is the frequency where the current gain of the transistor is 1, to do useful work in a power amp this needs to be around 100 or more and the operating frequency falls with gain according to a specific formula, the gain bandwidth product)

You might want to take a close look at today's discrete designs from Onkyo and similar manufacturers
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-02-2014, 06:41 AM
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Unless you buy something extremely low end, all amps basically sound the same. Some can deliver a lot of power, but don't sound any different at reasonable volumes.

I would buy a modern day receiver with audyssey over anything that was manufactured 10 or more years ago.
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post #6 of 7 Old 02-08-2014, 09:05 AM
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While I can not really comment on the audio fidelity of the "classic" audio gear (my early 80's is long gone), I can say that there are some bargains on early 2000 (pre hdmi) audio receivers. You can pick up higher end receivers ($800-2500 original cost) for $100 to $200 as people are upgrading to HDMI capable equipment. If you budget is modest this has to be the best way to go. I picked up a used Denon AVR-2106 which also had a phono stage and a reasonable internal DAC for connecting to my PC with a toslink/ SPDIF connection, No way I could have found a classic amp and purchased a DAC for $100.

I love the Pioneer SX/ Marantz/ Sansui receivers classic look, but the current pricing and renovation cost/ effort doesn't seem worth the hassle if you want competent sound on a modest budget. If you have no time or cost limits then the answer is likely different.
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-16-2014, 08:45 PM
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Oh yeah, on a budget you could get a 10 year old multichannel used amp and get EXACTLY the same or better performance than a lot that is sold new today. Amplifiers have not changed drastically for the most part in that time.

If anything, even today I spend the absolute maximum ok the best speaker technology that money can buy as it offers the best improvement in overall sound quality compared to 15 years ago.

DAC's are clearly better now than anything 15 years ago but the audibility of the inprovements might be debatable based on the quality of your other gear. you get a lot of bang for the buck with ESS dacs for example.

Blazar!
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