Advice for new budget amp

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by rainsong, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. rainsong

    rainsong Active Member Thread Starter

    Hi everyone, this is my first post here so go easy on me!

    I have recently rediscovered my passion for music and I've been wanting to assemble a decent quality sound setup for my vinyls and cds. At the moment I feel the weakest link is the amplifier. I want to upgrade my very budget amp to something better. As sources I have a decent sherwood vintage turntable and a marantz cd63 CD player. Speakers wise I have purchased recently the whaferdale diamond 10.1. It is for use in the lounge which is on a flat, so not too big - there's quite a lot of window glass in the lounge. Im feeling the sound to be too cold. Really need a warm and detailed amp to contrast with that. Also, I can't put the volume too high or the neighbours will moan so something that holds detail and bass in low to mid volume would be a big plus.

    I don't want to spend a lot of money so the amp has to cost under £100. I am considering a vintage player or receiver, something from the 70s maybe? So far, from my research online, there is a consensus that either a pioneer a400 or a nad 3020 would be a good buy. I've also checked the vintage marantz or sansuis. Is there anything cheap and recent that I should consider or look for a good condition vintage deal?

    Thanks in advance.

    Cheers, Luis
  2. Wayne Bull

    Wayne Bull Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forums.

    I have a Nad 3020 and they are wonderful.

    Drives my Dali Zensor 3 speakers effortlessly.

    A lovely rich warm sound.

    I think you would be very happy with one.

    I've upgraded a lot of my gear but wouldn't dream of letting the Nad go.
    noahjld, The FRiNgE and Jack Flannery like this.
  3. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    You can do worse than NAD.
    SandAndGlass, DrZhivago and ls35a like this.
  4. Disionity

    Disionity Forum Resident

    Missouri, USA
    Ouch! Very tight budget. The problem with vintage amps/receivers is that they usually always need to be serviced by a tech to get performing like new. Unless you know how to do this yourself it can get pretty costly quick. Perhaps save your money and try to grab an Onkyo A-9010 or the NAD 316BEE.
    SandAndGlass and rainsong like this.
  5. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    On a budget.. and decent power... an older series Pioneer integrated amp, not the warmest on the planet but very detailed without harshness, SA-7100, SA-8100, SA-9100. These have stepped tone controls (resistor network superior to a regular potentiometer) and some feature Toshiba output devices which are tube-like sounding. When going vintage, the amp may need recapping. Pioneer used high quality caps (most) in particular the power supply filter caps. (very high quality and should not be replaced unless necessary) The small coupling electrolytics may need replacement or upgrade to poly caps.

    The next series SA-7500, SA-8500, SA-9500 sound more solid-state-ish, re-designed and more efficient differential amps, very nice amps but not what you'd want on the warm side.

    And later powerhouses, the SA-7800, SA-8800, SA-9800, the SA-8800II came in dual mono power supply. (not these on a budget) These are said to be smooth and powerful.. although I have not auditioned one of these personally.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
    SandAndGlass and rainsong like this.
  6. enfield

    enfield Forum Resident

    Essex UK
    The Denon 250 mkIII is exactly what you need. The best budget amp ever in my opinion. Transparent,powerful,well built.You can't go wrong. Should be able to pick up a good one on ebay for between £50-80.
  7. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    Another vote for the Onkyo A9010. Check out the recent review by Andrew Everard, who was delighted by it. £200 but, buy right, buy once. And having owned both your Pioneer and NAD choices, I'd be inclined to pass them by so many years on. Equalled and bettered years ago.
  8. jlykos

    jlykos Forum Resident

    Parts Unknown
    I would go on ebay and get something by NAD or Cambridge Audio. Each of them should be available used for something in that price range that could drive those speakers without much of a problem. You don't need huge amounts of power for them, so you can get by with a used 30 or 50 watt amp. Sure, you can go the "vintage" route, but even something used from more recent times, like from the 2000s would work well in my view.
    rainsong likes this.
  9. rainsong

    rainsong Active Member Thread Starter

    Thanks all for the replies, it's been a great help. I have plenty to research now. I think I will maybe increase my budget and buy a new one or buy 2nd hand from the more recent ones you have recommended. I am sure it will be just fine for my untrained hears and a noticeable improvement from my current amp.

    Thanks again! Great forum by the way!

  10. willboy

    willboy Forum Resident

    Wales, UK
    The Kenwood 3020SE is well worth considering if you can find one in good condition. Competitor to the Pioneer A400 back in the day, but with a slightly warmer and less analytical sound. I've been using one for the last 10 years or so. Also heard good things about the Denon 350SE .
  11. Robert C

    Robert C Sound Archivist

    London, UK
    The 3020 is typically considered the warmer of the two. The 3020b and 3120 are commendable also. I would look to treat the room as much as possible before investing in amps. Rugs, curtains, and cushions will make a greater sonic difference than amp choice.
    noahjld and rainsong like this.
  12. noahjld

    noahjld Witchfinder General/ Das Boz Boz

    Onkyo A9010 as a modern alternative. Very,very good amplifier.
    Brother_Rael likes this.
  13. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Agree with what some other said. Don't buy a 30 year old integrated or receiver that needs $$$ worth of servicing. Save a few more bucks and buy a newer entry level amp - should be lots of choices from Onkyo, Yamaha, NAD, Pioneer, and Cambridge Audio out there. Check sales and discontinued items, floor models, etc. Refurbished if done through the manufacturer is okay and another way to save money. Late model used and well taken care of is alright but I wouldn't buy anything more than 5-10 years old if you don't want to shell out for servicing.
    Licorice pizza likes this.
  14. Sugar Man

    Sugar Man Forum Resident

    Hermosa Beach
    I bought this beauty for U.S. $210 and couldn't be happier. Warm and musical. Agree with above comments that you should stretch your budget just a bit, or else you'll likely spend more later.

  15. SpeedMorris

    SpeedMorris Forum Resident

    I'm planning on getting my NAD 304 integrated fixed in order to pair itp with the 10.1. I'm thinking it will a fine pairing.
  16. rainsong

    rainsong Active Member Thread Starter

    Hi everyone,

    After hours and hours of research and keeping a very close eye on the bay, gumtree and all sort of classifieds I ended up buying a pre-owned Denon PMA-510AE in mint condition at a very, very good price. The seller had bought it in 2012-13 new. It certainly still looks like new to me. It has been properly looked after from what I can see.
    It has all the features I was looking for: a few inputs including the essential phono with MM for my turntable, a source direct switch to disable the tone controls and a headphone jack, and enough power to drive my wharferdales diamond 10.1. It also allows for bi-wiring to match my speakers. I will be certainly trying that. Oh, and it came with the remote and instruction manual. I think I got a very good deal and as much I would love to buy the Onkyo 9010 or anything at that level I could not justify spending that money at the moment.

    The unit itself is very pleasant on the eye - I do prefer black minimal looks with large round controls. This is the case for the volume and source selector. All the controls seem sturdy and of good quality, the tone controls as well as the balance have a middle click position which is quite handy. The source select dial feels very good and clicks in position and a light shows up on that same position.
    The front panel looks classy and the controls are nicely spread, giving it a classy but modern look. It actually matches quite well with my marantz cd player.
    At the back the inputs are also well laid out, it's hard to mess up the back I guess. The top has a huge hard plastic grill so I am guessing that it heats up quite easily?

    It certainly looks good and has all I need but what about the sound?
    Well, bearing in mind that I am not an audiophile I must say that the previous amp was certainly rubbish compared with this one. I feel sorry for my hears after all the years listening to that garbage. Ignorance is bliss, right?
    The first proof of the quality was that it actually played music from the CD player without distorting it. With the old one it sounded really bad and distorted even at low levels.
    But the proof of the pudding is that now I am listening to things on music tracks that I have never heard before. The voice is so clear and detailed now, like it's almost separate from all the instruments and brought to the forefront just like the lead singer is actually in the room singing somewhere, in fact all instruments are clearly defined now.
    Before all the sound was flat but now I see myself looking around the room as if the instruments are actually present. It also sounds good no matter where I am in the room. Before the sound would sound differently in different places. I was worried that I would have an issue with the room acoustics but I am happy to know that even though it might no be perfect is actually not an issue anymore.
    It seems that bass is not too strong on both the amp and on the speakers but that is not important to me, especially because I live in a flat - in any case, it is good enough and I can always turn on loudness or the bass control should I want it to be more accentuated. Maybe changing the speakers position will aid the bass too. Another thing I immediately noticed is that it gets very loud very quickly when you turn the volume up. Don't know if that is a good thing or not. I could not reach the half way mark or I would get a complaint from the neighbours, by the 10 o'clock position it was already quite loud... I hate living in a flat :(

    Sorry, I do not have all the terminology or the knowledge to give a proper review but it's like night and day and I am over the moon with this amp.
    I will focus now on buying a decent set of speakers stand as they are both definitely too close to each other and to the wall. They are on top of the TV stand and above the sitting position listening level. I am hoping that by positioning them better the sound will also improve

    I will be coming back here to give another review after a few weeks of use. I am sure I will have a few more things to add by then once I listen to different kind of music and different volumes.
    Once I organise the media cupboard and re-position everything I will add some photos so you guys can see the finished setup.

    Thanks guys for all your help and if you're still reading this I am sorry for all the random feedback.

    P.S. This Hi-Fi thing is addictive. The search for the 'perfect' sound is a never ending quest from what I can see! There's so many things that can be upgraded or bettered. My other half was asking me why I was searching for so long for banana plugs :))

  17. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I really loved everything about these vintage Marantz receiver's. Of course, when I developed that love, they weren't vintage! :D

    You have one of the finest receiver's made. the Marantz is truly a work of art. I was quite young and I couldn't afford it at the time.

    I did, end up buying a 30W integrated amp, that was a used trade in, for a reasonable price.

    One thing that I liked about Marantz, they had a separate control for the mid-range, instead of just treble and bass controls.
  18. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Yes, it IS addictive. So sorry for you, you should have gotten into something simpler, like cocaine or heroin ;)
    The Denon looks GREAT, makes me think about getting one! BUT, what was your old amp? You never said, and inquiring minds want to know.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  19. rainsong

    rainsong Active Member Thread Starter


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