Great Used Receivers

Not long ago, a gentleman made me a gift of a used receiver. Knowing that I absolutely loved Luxman products from the 70’s, he made me a gift of a Luxman R-3045 receiver.  The 3045 was a product built in the late 70’s, rated at 45 watts RMS per channel, beautifully built and gorgeous to look at and manufactured prior to the takeover by Alps.  Alps (Alpine) makes great car hi-fi but was a disaster when it came to home audio.

I fiddled around with it, got it up and running and Oh My God, I have totally fallen in love with Luxman all over again. In spite of the fact that it has some obvious power supply issues, the 3045 receiver overwhelmed me with it’s fabulous sound quality – even on a pair of $200. speakers. The sound is full and lush with tons of detail, the speakers imaged quite well considering their price, just an amazing piece of gear. 

Your next question might be ” how is it that you love it –  again“?  In 1978 when I launched my 1st retail outlet (Audio Corner), Luxman was the first line chosen and we ran with it until about 2 years after Alpine ownership. Alpine made the product look slick and sexy, but Luxman clients were after that classic look and lushous sound.

I guess the whole point of the story is “they truly don’t make them like they used to”. Look closely at the specifications of the majority of today’s amplifiers. Whether it is Panasonic, Pioneer, Denon whatever they are usually rated at 6 ohms and if they are rated at 8 ohms, if you check the 6 ohm or 4 ohm power, the rating is usually the same at 4 ohms as it is at 8 ohms. Why is that an issue? When speaker ratings are considered, in most cases the power rating is nominal which means that an 8 ohm speaker can run anywhere from 16 + ohms to 4 ohms or under. This is a resistance factor that actually controls the output of power from your amplifier and is controlled by the crossover in your speaker. If you consider what a faucet does for running water (runs from a dribble to a burst) the crossover does for your amplifier. If your speaker needs more power to properly play heavy passages such as low bass or complex orchestration, the crossover “opens” the faucet to allow more power to flow to the set of drivers in each speaker.

In theory (we are using approximate figures here) if an amplifier is designed to produce 50 watts per channel at 8 ohms, the demand for more power almost doubles as the resistance or impedance is cut in half. Basically, this amplifier may be asked to double or quadruple its power (e.g. 100 watts at 4 ohms, 200 watts at 2 ohms) . This figure is aproximately but you get the point.

Thes great amplifiers from the 70’s could not always deliver that exact amount of power so rather than allow the amplifiers to clip, circuits were added to reduce this horrible effect called “soft clipping”.  NAD is a strong believer in this design. What is clipping?  A simple way to explain, when an amplifier is driven hard, it will follow the analogue wave form as truly as possible until it runs out of juice. At this point the amplifier takes the shortest point across and simply “Clips off” the peak of the wave form. This is translated at heat to the speaker and usually causes damage to the voice coil of the drivers. “Soft Clipping” does not totally erase the clip but how it works is that as the amplifier begins to strain, rather than clipping off the signal, it starts to roll off the waveform. As the signal is “rolled off” the damage is much less and your speakers thank you for your amplifier purchase.

Generally the musicality of the early amplifiers such as Luxman, Rotel, Technics Hi-Fi Series, Harman Kardon, even early Sherwood, Fisher and Marantz amplifiers/receivers was truly better than today because attention was paid to proper ground planes, high current capabilities, proper amp/preamp stages etc. Some of the early Fisher, Marantz and HK units are prized for their incredible performance capabilities.

The whole point of this post is to remind you that “just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s better”. HK 930 receivers are worth more used than near current product. A good HK 930 still demand up to $450.00 – and this piece is almost 40 years old! If you are purchaseing a new amplifier, but have limited funds that you want to invest, look for these older receivers. My advice is also to look for 50 watts per channel and under as they generally sounded better.

Products to look for:  British products such as Arcam, Cambridge Audio, Meridian integrated amps, early Fisher or Marantz, pre 1980 Luxman, Denon, Rotel or Sansui (pre 1976 for Sansui), some of the early Pioneer or Yamaha and if you can find them Technics “Flat Series”.  The flat series was made from about 1977 to 1980 and was astoundingly good gear. It was sort of a browny green colour. make sure if you see this stuff it is definitely pre 1980. Don’t suggest that you purchase high power receivers. I know collectors like them but the sound quality is not good and they can be speaker destroyers due to clipping.

OK, we’re done. Good luck in your search!

Oops, another important point, if you can’t hear it – don’t buy it as parts may be an issue!