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weather
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Joined: Aug 25 2012 - 9:27pm
Amplifier integrity and new configuration

Hello,

This will be my first post on these forums.  I've been able to budget this month and think it might finally be time to take the leap into hi fi.  I was hoping, if it is not too much trouble for some sage advice. 

I'll give you a quick run down of how I've been configuring my system (constructive criticism welcome)

Components

Amp: Technics SU 3000 integrated stereo amp circa 1973

Speakers: Tannoy Saturn S6LRC (on loan)

Source: Laptop (mp3 320kb/s or FLAC/WAV)

Sound Card: Novation NIO 2/4

So essentially laptop (VLC player) > usb 3.0 > nio > rca > amp

I'm not too sure if the Nio has a DAC in the signal path somewhere, I mostly got it for its recording and DJ application. 

ANYways back to the initial topic...

The first component I have considered for replacement is the amplifier, though the thing is in great shape, spent most of its life in storage.

Here are the specifications 

Now for the questions.  How do these spec's measure up to current mid range hi fi integrated stereo amps?  I've been looking at the Music Hall a15.2 and Cambridge Topaz am10. 

Do amp's degrade over time?  Does the fact that it is 40 years old make a huge difference?

Considering my configuration (and the fact that I am only filling a small bedroom/living room) is a new $500 amp worth the benefit?

I will also be looking into new speakers as the Tannoy's are just on loan at the moment, possibly the Epos Epics.

Is my configuration wack?  should I drop the Nio for a dedicated DAC?  is the Nio giving me any quality increase over my native sound card? 

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

 

+weather

JoeE SP9
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Joined: Oct 31 2005 - 6:02pm
Answers!

Do amps degrade over time?

Yes. As the parts age they sometimes change values. This is a real problem with electrolytic capacitors. They dry out and stop functioning.

40 year old amplifiers should be thoroughly checked out for leaking/dry electrolytic capacitors, dirty corroded pots and switches, correct DC offset, output stage bias and general aging.

Is a new $500 amp worth the benefit?

That depends on the condition of the amplifier it would be replacing. Having an old amplifier tuned up and refurbished could cost $200-$300 or more with no real guaranty.

Any sound card that has an analog output has a DAC.

Just about any sound card ever made sounds better than the onboard sound chips in most computers.

Only you can decide if a new amp is better or a dedicated DAC is better than what you have.

The only way to tell is to audition the new devices and compare them to the old ones.

commsysman
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AMPLIFIER

The Music Hall A15.2 is the best-sounding amplifier I have heard for less than $1000. None of the Cambridge or NAD amplifiers for under $1000 comes close.

I think you would hear a major improvement in your system by buying that amplifier.

It has plenty of power and even has a built-in phono preamp if you should ever want a turntable.

IMO that old amplifier was not very good to start with, and improvement will be easy.

mrvco
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Music Hall and Cambridge

Music Hall and Cambridge Audio make great stuff for the money.  It's best of course to demo something, if possible, since it's hard to know how your Technics unit is performing (relatively speaking) after so many years.  If looking at the Cambridge Audio integrateds, I'd gravitate towards the Azur line, especially if you don't need (or want) the built-in phono stage.  You can usually find "like new" 550a and 650a demo units at or under $500.

There are a bunch of quality external DAC's that can be bought new or as demo's for $500 or less.  I just picked up a Music Hall DAC15.2 (sub $300) to use with an Airport Express and am very happy with the results (I sold my dedicated CD-player last year, was hesitant to buy a more expensive DAC without a baseline for comparison and since the DAC15.2 has both optical and USB inputs, it suits both roles perfectly).

weather
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Thanks, that really

Thanks, that really helps.

So you would probably want to prioritize the amp before the speakers?

mrvco
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The speakers are the most

The speakers are the most important component of the system.  I'd say it just depends on how long you can keep the speakers that you're loaning and how different those are from what you're thinking about buying.  That being said, it doesn't sound like you're mixing and matching anything anything that won't work well together (e.g. no inefficient speakers w/ underpowered amplifcation or the like).

jgossman
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Amp first

It's your baseline for reference as you move up the chain.  If you are going preamp, amp, you usually get a very good preamp and repair it, upgrade, mod, etc., but you keep it forever.  It's your system anchor, if you will.  If you go integrated, it's the same deal.  And the only reason I'd recommend it is because this amp, even though it will go probably 30 watts plus, 8 ohm before noticible distortion, still just isn't enough juice unless you are going to focus on more efficient speakers next go round.  

That said, old Technics gear had a nice smooth refined sound, some of the first SS integrateds that didn't really suck.

weather
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I would be looking for some

I would be looking for some bookshelfs...got a few options to choose from. 

Thanks for the information people!  Sets me on the right path for sure

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