FISHER all-tube receivers from 1961-66 are cheap and sound wonderful!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    FISHER all-tube receivers from 1961-1966 are wonderful sounding, have FM stereo, phono and aux inputs and the "C" models have headphone jacks that RULE!

    The FISHER Receiver is the last good deal in high-end audio. If you're not a tinkerer, get one that has had the rectifier replaced and a few other fixes and you're good to go with wonderful vacuum tube audio for another 30 years.

    Why is the FISHER the last good deal?

    Well, think of this. The FISHER 800B sold for $450.00 in 1962. The McIntosh MC275 sold for $450.00 in 1962. Today, a 1960's McIntosh MC275 sells for $7,000.00 but you can still find a wonderful FISHER 500 or 800 receiver for $450.00.

    See what I mean?

    If you want to dip your feet into tubes but don't want to spend a bundle, any Fisher from the early 1960s will do you. They sold a LOT back then and are not rare but don't buy a junker unless you like to restore stuff. Buy one that has had some work done to make sure it plays right. For 500 bucks I can't think of a better deal, you can play records, CD's FM, whatever you want. 30 watts or so means you can run most any speakers with authority. Same power as a pair of Mac 30's.

    Convinced? Be on the lookout for one. I recommend a FISHER 500B or 500C. The most bang for your buck. The 800 has AM as well as FM but other than that, they sound the same.

    Remember this STEREOPHILE article on the FISHER 500-C Receiver by my friend Peter Breuninger?

    http://stereophile.com/historical/605fisher/

    Good reading, eh?


    When I got my FISHER 800-B from a fellow SH Forums member earlier this week I couldn't believe how great it sounded. As I wrote in the "For Sale" thread:

    Thomas,

    I fired it up today (using really old speaker wire and some vintage Belden cable) and, wow. To see everything light up as it should is great. First time that ever happened right out of the box with anything I've ever purchased of a vintage nature.

    First thing I played was a CD (player plugged into AUX.) of the Bee Gees' first album. Yikes, I had forgotten the amazing midrange magic tube coloration of these Fisher receivers. Thing is almost 50 years old and the Gibb Brothers are right there in my room. I can clearly hear the echo trails fading right back into my back wall and over to my next-door neighbor's house. Truly impressive. I'm sure John Kennedy dug listening to TIME OUT and KIND OF BLUE on this very Fisher model. Not to mention THE FIRST FAMILY.

    Thanks again. And thanks for accurately describing the unit. You wouldn't believe the stuff I've heard in need of a total restoration described as "mint"..




    These Fisher machines are probably the best deal left in vintage high-end audio. If you can find a nice one for a few hundred, get it worked on and enjoy. Have fun with your tubes!

    John Kusching:

    "Here is the minimum set of changes I would make to a Fisher tube receiver:

    1) Replace the capacitors.
    2) Replace the selenium with a new bridge rectifier.
    3) Change the output tube bias 5.6Kohm resistor to a 3.3Kohm.
    4) Add 10 ohm resistors between the output tube cathodes and ground (in 4 places).

    #3 above will make the output tubes run cooler and will extend the life of the tubes. #4 allows you to monitor the currents through each output tube (by measuring the voltage across each resistor) so check how well the currents are balanced.

    If you get your power switch working, I would also recommend adding the current in-rush device, which will extend the life of the power switch".

    Attached Files:

    Shak Cohen likes this.
  2. ducatirider

    ducatirider Member

    A silicon rectifier will set you back 2 bucks max. Just observe and note the polarities. A handful of caps here and there and you're all set. Maybe 25 bucks in parts. Hardest part will be to find a schematic or service manual.
  3. ktc1

    ktc1 New Member

    Location:
    Dundee, IL, USA
    I've used a restored 400 in my main system for years now and LOVE it. You are correct that it's also a fantastic headphone amp!
    dewey02 likes this.
  4. reb

    reb Long Live Rock

    Location:
    Long Island
    An "audio" friend of mine in his mid 60's has a Fischer receiver inherited from his parents. He plays it occasionally, no repairs, original tubes too! That's the key, you have to play these vintage pieces rather than let them sit un-played.
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/500B/schemmpx.gif

    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/500B/schem1.gif

    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/500B/schem2.gif

    http://www.mcmlv.org/Archive/HiFi/Fisher500B.pdf

    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/500C/Schem.pdf

    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/800B/800b-1.gif

    http://oldtech.net/Fisher/800B/800b-2.gif
  6. Steve--thanks for the heads up!
  7. What types and brands of caps do you recommend? I wouldn't want to put in a cap that would "modernize" the sound, but I would want to replace old electrolytic or polystyrene capacitors with something more reliable.
  8. pdenny

    pdenny E Burris Stigano

    Location:
    Ask the NSA, narc
    My restored 800-C is my favorite treasure. That headphone output...ooh mama! :love:
  9. ducatirider

    ducatirider Member

    Personally I only have a Fisher tuner, the KM-60 but I have found that changing the parts with like kind new parts didn't really modernize the sound. It seems a bit faster and more extended but the bloomy, round, robust character stayed. Besides, spending big bucks on Mundorfs for a $400 receiver doesn't make much sense to me. I would just use Ratshack parts and maybe some slightly better Multicaps for the coupling caps.
  10. Rob Sillman

    Rob Sillman New Member

    Location:
    Columbia, SC
    Actually I think the market has it about right. The Fisher products were well built of good parts but they are not McIntosh. They do not perform like McIntosh and do not have the history of McIntosh.

    Receivers have a lot of stuff in them, tightly packed, and are more challenging to maintain. You are dependent on a lot of irreplaceable parts such as the RF cans, crystal or mechanical filters, and all those switches.

    The Fisher receivers use high gain output tubes to save a stage, which are more expensive, harder to find and IMO are not as good sounding as the more common audio types.

    The MC-30 has far larger transformers than the Fisher and they are C core types. The Mc transformers are good for about 50 watts in fact, the limit is the tube rectifier on the 30.

    The Fisher is a good unit, and will give satisfactory performance, but is not competitive with larger separate amps from its own era and certainly not newer ones. For a rumpus room or bedroom it's a neat piece with vintage style.

    When it comes to serious vintage audio, I don't really think there ARE good deals anymore in the sense of getting a windfall of performance. Thirty years of heavy overseas buying and over a decade of eBay and heavy internet coverage have rooted them all out as far as I know of.

    Last I heard, McIntosh still had several pairs of MA230 output transformers in stock and were selling them for a hundred dollars or so each. I remember when Audio Amateur ran articles on building amps around these, which were marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That might be the last "vintage" bargain out there.
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I totally disagree. Sure, one can have vintage Mac or Marantz systems (I have both), pay through the nose for a minty pair of Mac 30's or a 240/275 and a C-20 or 22 and MR-71 tuner or a Marantz 8B, 7C and 10B, get NOS retubed and have them restored and be 8 grand poorer but have tube bliss.

    Or (since most people who hang out here don't have that kind of income to spend on a vintage system) they can buy a refurbished FISHER 500-C for $450.00 and have a lot of the tube bliss on records, CD's and FM radio with none of the price. People spend endless hours here discussing their favorite dry sounding 1970's Japanese solid state receivers and think that they are the ultimate in high fidelity. I think they should spend the same amount of money and get something that not only sounds wonderful from a bygone era but has the magical tube sound.

    Make your music glow for not much dough..

    Not everyone is rich or good with hot iron. My soldering stinks.
    Shak Cohen and rxcory like this.
  12. paul cbc

    paul cbc Active Member

    Location:
    Oregon

    I Love my Fisher 400. :love:

    It's the first (and only) unit I've connected my Sennheiser 600's to. I think the sound quality and output levels are super. If you have a decent station nearby, FM Stereo sounds great!

    These are keepers, and as Steve says a real bargain.

    Enjoy!
    Paul
  13. vintage_tube

    vintage_tube Active Member

    Location:
    East Coast
    Amen and bless you son.:righton::D

    Another winner in the 500 framework is the 500-B. Avery (Fisher) was a true tube designer IMO & his products were admired by all. It has been written the 500-C saw production numbers just over 100K. That's an amazing number for those days.

    I love these older ads inwhich you send off a self-addressed stamped envelope with a quarter or two for a catalogue (this one from Fisher was FREE!!!!!). Great days w/great gear.



    Bob

    Attached Files:

  14. TigerMMG

    TigerMMG New Member

    Location:
    NJ
    Wow... come to think of the price at that time... I think you can buy a new car for $1200 at that time.
  15. TigerMMG

    TigerMMG New Member

    Location:
    NJ
    Steve, didn't Fisher make standalone amplifiers like McIntosh did? Were they comparable to McIntosh?
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Fisher made some standalone stuff, sure. Thing is, either you find it for 5 bucks at a garage sale (like my buddy found a mint Marantz 10b for $7.50) or you pay a great deal and if you're going to pay a great deal you might as well buy vintage McIntosh or Marantz, it's just better..

    The beauty of the Fisher tube multiplex receivers of 1961-65 is that they have a lot of the sound of the separates without the price. After all, they probably sold 100,000 units of the 500 receiver and just a fraction of that with the separates. People weren't made of money back then either. So the receivers are around, buried in Dad's old closet or still in use. They are not rare, just a good, solid bargain.

    Don't mean to bust anyone's butt about this but spending just $450.00 to get a beautiful, well made and lovely sounding multi-purpose tubed receiver from the Golden Age Of Hi-Fi, why wait? They have a phono section, an aux. section and an FM stereo section plus more, all vacuum tube driven. It's a no-brainer.

    I've been playing my Fisher 800-B today (my wife paid $400.00 last week for it from an SH Forums member) and switching with my McIntosh vintage system and of course I prefer the McIntosh in all respects. It's just better. Is it $7,600.00 better than the Fisher? I guess that depends. The McIntosh resurrects the dead. You pay good money for that to happen or you find a junker and redo it yourself. The dead can be resurrected with the Fisher, just not quite as lifelike. However, if I was not a millionaire I'd be happy with the Fisher. It does many things very well and is a great representative of the real Golden Age of vacuum tube High Fidelity.

    $450.00 for tubey goodness and even a MM phono stage. Can't be beat. And no, I have no personal interest in this, I don't sell gear, I just would like some of you to hear the magic for as little $$ as possible. Something about hearing the music you're used to in an entirely different zone. It's neat.

    Below, Fisher 500-B receiver, 1962 minus the walnut case.

    Attached Files:

    goldwax likes this.
  17. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    The older Scott amps are good too, as are some of the vintage Harmon Kardon integrateds. Not big bucks at all...

    For whatever reason Dynaco prices have dropped a bit over the last year too.

    If you'd like to be somewhere in-between old vintage and mid 70's-early 80's sound, don't write off the early CJ and ARC amps and preamps. You can pick up a CJ PV-2 preamp or an ARC SP-3 for 5-600 each and get your hands on an ARC D-76 for under a $1000 bucks, with the CJ MV50 about $500.

    These will offer up some fairly romantic tube sound, with a bit more reliability than some of the stuff from the 50's and 60's. Surprisingly good!
  18. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    Steve, I'm sure you aren't a millionaire either.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Don't be so sure! You add stuff up you own plus all of your property, etc. and you'd be surprised at how many people are millionaires that don't even realize it. I remember going over my father's finances with him about five years ago. After I added everything up I asked him what it felt like to be a millionaire. He looked surprised and said that it felt like nothing at all. Being a millionaire doesn't mean that much anymore, I'm afraid.

    But I was speaking metaphorically in the above post...
  20. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort Staff

    I'd love one w/headphone jack, so the 500-C I gather - it LOOKS like it belongs in the place I'm moving into (built c.1962). :)

    Incidentally the "inflation calculator" says the $450 of 1962 is $3,242.85 now!
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Mastering Your Host

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Chris,

    The Fisher 400, 500-C and 800-C receivers have headphone jacks. I like the "B" series, from 1962-63 myself. No jack but slightly more vintage looking. Call me crazy..
  22. I tried to the hear the magic but your wife got in the way:laugh:

    Seriously, would love to hear this. Hope I can find a restored one as nice as yours.
  23. pdenny

    pdenny E Burris Stigano

    Location:
    Ask the NSA, narc
    I'd be able to deal with it :D
  24. Scott Strobel

    Scott Strobel Active Member

    Location:
    Capitola, CA USA
    Well after reading/looking at this thread I thought Hmmm... I think I have an amp in my closet that looks like one of those posted. And Lo and behold I do. It's the 500C model!!! I forgot all about this amp after buying it from a co-worker many, many years ago for like $20 bucks I think? I know some are wondering how you forget something like that? but it was buried at the bottom of a very full closet of... let's just say stuff. Out of sight out of mind I guess..
    Anyways, it does not have the walnut case and is missing a few knob covers but otherwise all intact and Man!!! this thing has a lot of tubes, like 20 or so!!! amazing!!! I don't remember this having that many tubes... Well the amp altogether :D I don't know if the tubes are original or not? but I did pull out one of the big tubes and it was a Zenith tube FWIW.
    I do remember plugging it in when I first got it and listening to some FM stations through the headphones, but never did hook it up to any speakers. It is very dirty and needs an extreme clean job for sure. But cool!!! Nice to know that this unit is a keeper. Thanks for jarring my memory Steve!!! :shh:
    Now I guess I need to find out what it might cost to refurbish this piece.
    What would a total job of bringing this back up to specs cost me... roughly? Anyone?