What is the best "budget" vintage tube amplifier???

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by audio, Aug 27, 2003.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    So you're on a budget. Times are tough and coin is slim. You're either putting the kids through college or buying those expensive designer diapers. You can't stop calling 900 psychic hot-line numbers or you have a bad habit of calling your grandmother in Milwaukee to ask for the latest revisions to her classic borscht recipe. Whatever the case may be, you've got the uncontrollable urge to breath some life into your music and take the tube amp challenge. Modern tube amps are out of the question. They just cost too damn much. Plus, they're not as cool looking as the vintage stuff. It would be nice if you could afford a McIntosh 240, a Grover line-stage, or a Marantz 8b, but that's out of the question also, unfortunately. So what's a poor music lover to do? Answer: the vintage tube integrated amp or some budget separates, meaning an amp and preamp combo for under $700 or $800!! Eico HF 87?? Dynaco ST-70/PAS 3? Fisher X-202-B? Scott 299?? The problem is, finding the right one can be confusing and downright frustrating. Which ones sound the best? Which ones have tubes that are easy to find relatively inexpensively? Which ones don't suffer from the classic tubby bass? Which ones are reliable and have long tube life?? Lets discuss this............
  2. HeavyDistortion

    HeavyDistortion Forum Resident

    Baltimore, MD
    Even though I'm very happy with my Scott 299-D, and would highly recommend it, I will not vote in this poll because I've never heard any of the others listed. It would be unfair to vote against the others without hearing them. I don't really think that this thread should be a poll, but more of a "What tube amplification is recommended for a modest price, and why?".

    Ed Hurdle
  3. MARKM

    MARKM Member


    Hi Prix,

    What about Leak, Quad, Rogers, Beam-Echo, Armstrong, Sugden, Radford ?

    As mentioned by the previous, I can only base my comments on equipment I know - which happens to be mainly British.

    i.e. German members may also wish to comment on Telefunken, Braun etc.
    for example, and so on.......

    OK, from a UK perspective, I can recommend specifically Leak power amplifiers, on availability, price, build & sound quality (I also own and run one) - they can also easily be used with a passive preamp. They certainly equate to Marantz power amplifiers from the late 50's/early 60's.

    Best regards,
  4. Ctiger2

    Ctiger2 Forum Resident

    A friend of mine saw this ad posted in the Spokane, WA paper recently...

    Stereo/AV equipment cabinet, solid walnut w/tinted glass doors. Very nice shape, $85; Dyna stereo 70, works well, cosmetically o.k., $200; Dyna FM 3 tube tuner, factory wired w/orig. box, $40; Scott 299B integrated tube amp w/newer outputs, $150. (509)466-2058.

    I thought about it, but decided to pass. You may want to give them a call..

  5. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    I noticed that a few people have voted for Dynaco. What keeps me from those amps is that I remember reading a post where somebody was saying that those eat tubes like there's no tomorrow.
  6. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    Hyannis Ma
    A certain Motown professional did. That's not to say the amp is a bad thing. It's a "strong" 35w amp with a lot of clean, honest sound. It uses quite a bit of electrons! It can be a tube eater if not kept in tip-top shape. That can be true of a lot of amps made like the Dynaco ST70.

    I simply love the amps for many, many reasons. They're just so damn good. Are there better amps? Sure, but they're not as inexpensive, fun and easy to repair. Tubes it uses are in production even still and even modifying the amp has it's improvements, even better stability.

    If you ever see an ST70 lying in a yard sale, take it. Or I'll take it for you. :D

    Tube eater, it can be. It can also be a fuse eater and a cap eater as well. The amp is a power station and needs to be sound. Once things are on four feet, you got yourself possibly the best tube amp made in it's price class and still a favorite after 30 years.
  7. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter


    That sucks. The reason is because someone put up a MINT ST70 on ebay late last night with a 'buy it now' for $395. This thing was a one owner piece, basically untouched, factory wired, original box, packaging, manuals,....the works. This thing was a diamond. I almost grabbed it, but decided to pass. Guess what? It's long gone now.
  8. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    Hyannis Ma
    Don't just look on eBay. You forget Audiogon and a few others on the 'net. A lot of people who spend a lot of time and love in their equipment don't feel comfortable by putting it on eBay, watching the price get out of hand and only be received by someone who's ultimately NOT going to treat them well.

    I bought a Dynaco for $85 on Audiogon from an audio salesman who had it sit in his lab for 4 months. Someone sent it to him and ditched it. Problem? Crappy 5AR4 tube. It also needed a bit of rewiring and some TLC. Original parts, all I really did was change the crappy RCA plugs out for some nice modern ones, changed the heading resistors, etc. It wasn't dormant for long before me because it came with the SOundValves mod board.

    A bargain. All because some dimwit didn't know how to fix it.

    There's also places to go, possibly around your area, where Techie schools have yard sales and get rid of lots of cool junk.

    Problem is, the amp IMHO is worth about $350 if it's cared for, in VG+ cosmetic condition WITHOUT tubes. Because the amp has transcended it's real worth because of it's reputation, you can see this amp go for $400-500 modified and/or re-nickled. I think it's stupid. The experience of using the amp with all original parts is a nice thing! However, there are weaknesses of the amp that can be remedied easily for very little money.

    It's an American classic. For the person who knows a damn about electronics, it's a lifelong friend.

    BTW, it's the KITS that are worth more. The facorty wired ones usually go for $300 and sometimes lower. BFD. Get the kit, if you must.
  9. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    A couple of questions:

    1) Steve, you said that the vintage integrated amps that you like are the Scott 299 and the Fisher 500 and 800. There are various models of these such as the Scott 299D, the 299C, the Fisher 800 C, etc. Then there is just the plain 299, 500, and 800. Is there a particular version that you are speaking of or do you like these models across the board in their various incarnations?

    2)Can anyone compare the general sound of the Fisher pieces to the Scott amps? I remember an older thread where someone was talking about the Scotts having a case of the tubbies. How does Fisher bass compare with Scott bass? Which tend to be better made and more reliable?
  10. efhjr

    efhjr Idler Wheel Enthusiast

    San Antonio, TX

    This is a good question, Prix. I'm curious about old tuners, too, especially since I have a Dynaco FM-2 (maybe an FM-3) and a Scott 333B Stereomaster I've never even added to my system and powered up.

    Thanks for the motivation to dust off some old tube components. :thumbsup:
  11. pigmode

    pigmode Active Member

    meh. (did I say that?)

    What a hodgepodge of a list. Do you really need vintage? You're going with Tannoy right? Why not a modern version of a vintage amp like a 300b SET or even a push pull 300b? 2A3 would also work.
  12. Clay

    Clay New Member

    Saratoga, CA
    Hi Sckott,

    What do you recommend?
    Dynaco #1 Totally stock - burns up tube #4? (tube turns all red) in front of transformer and next to the can. otherwise beautiful. worked for a while

    Dynaco#2 Curico Modified with 4x6199 and new PCB in the chassis.

    Dyncao#3 Totally rebuilt stock with upgrade components. Using this one currently.

    efhjr, The Scott is a nice Tuner and is on Charlie Kittleson's list of recommended audio components. It is rare and valued at $70-$550.

    sasaki kojiro,

    Do you have favorite brands in the under $2k range?
    These are intriguing.

    Hi Prix,

    I just bought a Fisher 400 receiver with all original tubes and it sounds fantastic. I have it hooked up to some 4 speaker 3 way Jensen TF3 speakers (10" woofer bass reflex originally sold with the Fisher 400 - AlNico tweeter and 2 AlNico midrange and ceramic woofer)
    I am amazed how fantastic this system sounds with a Marantz CD player I picked up for $3. Nora Jones sounds very very good on this simple vintage system.

    I did not vote yet. I have Dynaco (hooked up to a C20) and Fisher and like them both. I also like the PAS2 Dynaco preamp with a Dynaco AMP. I should ab it to the Fisher 400. I am sure I would like Scott, HK II amp, Eico and others.
  13. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter


    Clay, thank you for your detailed response. The other night I found this cat on Audio Asylum who had a Fisher X-202-B and a Scott 299 D or C or something in his gear profile. I emailed him and asked him what he thought of one vs. the other. I thought his reply was interesting and I wanted to include it in this thread:

    "These amps sound very different, even though they are similarly rebuilt. The Scott has slightly better imaging, and just a bit more bass. But the bass is sometimes muddy; the treble is sometimes harsh. The Fisher has clean bass, and easy-on-the-ears treble.
    Using headphones, the Scott, with the tube rectifier, and gobs of filter capacitors, is 100% free of hum. The Fisher does give slight A.C. hum, but it is never an issue. It has a much cheaper power supply.
    The detail is there in both amps. You will hear every nuance of the recording. Warmth is no better than that of a well-designed transistor amp. This seems to be the weakness of the 7591 tube. The 6V6GT is an example of a superior tube for warmth.
    Any piece of Hi-Fi gear has design compromises. I have a Dynaco Model 70 amp. It has the warmth that the Fisher and Scott lack. Sounds very exciting at first. But after an hour, the amp grates on my nerves, like chalk on a blackboard. I can listen to the Scott or Fisher all day, without ear fatigue.
    Now you are really confused, right?"
  14. sgraham

    sgraham New Member

    Re: Hmmm...

    One thing to keep in mind about old tubed tuners is that they'll almost certainly need fairly extensive alignment. And if you switch the tubes around the alignment will go out the window.

    And I'm guessing - this is just an educated guess, I have no proof - that they will never be as good as modern tuners at rejecting certain kinds of noise, particularly in stereo.
  15. MARKM

    MARKM Member

    Re: Hmmm...


    (ref. my profile) Slightly OT but poss' of interest - I run a restored Scott 350c FM tuner with both vintage and modern tube equipment.

    Once serviced/aligned etc. the Scott is excellent.

    But remember - any tuner is only as good as the aerial.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page