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Equipment age influence on its performance?

Bogda

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In this age of global shortages, buyers often look into used equipment.
I was always wondering how amplifier age is influencing its performance. It might be interesting to measure some older (10, 15, 20 years old) amplifiers or DACSs and see how they are performing.
AudioScienceReview might be the only place for this kind of measurements, because other reviewers and publications are interested only in pushing sales of new stuff.
 

JayGilb

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In this age of global shortages, buyers often look into used equipment.
I was always wondering how amplifier age is influencing its performance. It might be interesting to measure some older (10, 15, 20 years old) amplifiers or DACSs and see how they are performing.
AudioScienceReview might be the only place for this kind of measurements, because other reviewers and publications are interested only in pushing sales of new stuff.
The vintage equipment, especially receivers (Marantz, Pioneer, etc) sell for premium prices and have been increasing in value for the last decade.
I believe a few pieces of vintage gear have been measured in this site.
 

Willem

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Electrolytic capacitors are the parts that go wrong first, and really need to be replaced before this happens. I had a few vintage Quad solid state amplifiers refurbished a few years ago, and the retired Quad NL service engineer had a simple policy: with decades old gear, just replace all capacitors and resistors. Parts are cheap these days, and if properly chosen they are of better quality than in the past, so it is pointless to waste time on them. So when I collected a refurbished amplifier I received a plastic bag full of discarded parts.
Technology has also moved on, so the better modern designs often measure rather better, though there are some noble exceptions where vintage is up there with the best or almost best modern gear. Personally, I would not consider older DACs, given that modern ones are excellent and often so cheap. On the other hand, both DACs and power ampifiers have often been better than the threshold of human hearing for quite a while.
 

anmpr1

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In this age of global shortages, buyers often look into used equipment. other reviewers and publications are interested only in pushing sales of new stuff.

From my slumming, used gear seems to be wildly overpriced, but what people are asking and what they are actually getting might be two different things.

Generally, tube gear from the '50s through '60s is easier for most people to update, because much was hand wired to begin with, and consequently it is easier to get to whatever might need replacing. With some tube gear, especially Dyna, active third parties continue offering complete updates for whatever you might need, from electrical parts, to new chassis, to revised DIY circuit board designs. This makes those ancient devices practical for current use. A thoroughly updated Dyna amp or preamp could likely measure better than a NOS period piece.

Solid state is a mixed bag. Some companies used proprietary parts ( for instance, ARC 'analog modules', various unobtanium FETs and such); parts that are no longer in the supply channel. If you can't get the part, the only option is to scavenge another period piece and then try a swap. But in that case you remain stuck with something old and questionable, from a reliability standpoint.

SS mass produced circuit boards tend to be difficult to get to, they may in fact be corroded or brittle, and individual parts might be difficult to replace because of their location and density.

As far as 'other' reviewers and what they review? The reason they might not talk about the old stuff is that many reviewers are essentially a branch of the marketing arm of the hi-fi industry. It's not their job to keep the old stuff in circulation. That, plus they know which side of the bread is buttered, and act accordingly. It makes them almost worthless as a source for consumer education, but that's that.

One point: Hi Fi News occasionally reports on vintage gear, providing new (generally cursory) measurements. It is not clear to me whether their newly provided measurements are done on 'old' gear that has been 'updated', or gear that has remained stock over the course of its history.

 

Marc v E

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Amplifier age? What about the decline of our own hearing due to aging!? That dramatically declines after we pass 30!

(Note that male hearing declines faster and audiophiles are often over 50 ;) )

Screenshot_20211119-151753_Firefox Focus.jpg
 
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Gradius

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I confirm caps will go after 10~15 years, all depends on environment the equipment was. Can be sooner or a bit later.

Then the transistors. If they are from proprietary/custom parts, stay away from those.

Is a HUGE myth (or mistake) to think they "sound better". The same thing goes for LP, they aren't better than CD.
 
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Bogda

Bogda

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From my slumming, used gear seems to be wildly overpriced, but what people are asking and what they are actually getting might be two different things.

Generally, tube gear from the '50s through '60s is easier for most people to update, because much was hand wired to begin with, and consequently it is easier to get to whatever might need replacing. With some tube gear, especially Dyna, active third parties continue offering complete updates for whatever you might need, from electrical parts, to new chassis, to revised DIY circuit board designs. This makes those ancient devices practical for current use. A thoroughly updated Dyna amp or preamp could likely measure better than a NOS period piece.

Solid state is a mixed bag. Some companies used proprietary parts ( for instance, ARC 'analog modules', various unobtanium FETs and such); parts that are no longer in the supply channel. If you can't get the part, the only option is to scavenge another period piece and then try a swap. But in that case you remain stuck with something old and questionable, from a reliability standpoint.

SS mass produced circuit boards tend to be difficult to get to, they may in fact be corroded or brittle, and individual parts might be difficult to replace because of their location and density.

As far as 'other' reviewers and what they review? The reason they might not talk about the old stuff is that many reviewers are essentially a branch of the marketing arm of the hi-fi industry. It's not their job to keep the old stuff in circulation. That, plus they know which side of the bread is buttered, and act accordingly. It makes them almost worthless as a source for consumer education, but that's that.

One point: Hi Fi News occasionally reports on vintage gear, providing new (generally cursory) measurements. It is not clear to me whether their newly provided measurements are done on 'old' gear that has been 'updated', or gear that has remained stock over the course of its history.

I agree with everything you said and those are all known facts.
I just suggest that, for example, measuring a 10-20 years old Hi Fi amplifier (not the vintage equipment) might be more interesting than measuring another small amplifier. I would also be usefull addition to the database of this forum and answer to the question that many of us asked at some time: "Objectively, how well analog Hi Fi equipment age?"
 

Willem

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I agree, the umpteenth low power Chinese chip amplifier is not that interesting. I would be curious to see how my much praised Quad 606-2 stacks up against modern competition. As for cheap/affordable amplifiers, I would be far more interested in seeing a test of something like a Yamaha AS701, or, to get to the very bottom of their line up, an AS201. The latter may well be the cheapest amplifier with decent measurements (add a CCA you may be done, given the quality of the CCA's analogue output), but we do not know for certain.
 
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Bogda

Bogda

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Amplifier age? What about the decline of our own hearing due to aging!? That dramatically declines after we pass 30!

(Note that male hearing declines faster and audiophiles are often over 50 ;) )
With this depressing diagram, you actually made me happy. My weakening high frequency hearing is not the result of attending to rock concerts from front rows but the result of my age. Woo-hoo, it is not my fault.
 

Killingbeans

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In this age of global shortages, buyers often look into used equipment.
I was always wondering how amplifier age is influencing its performance. It might be interesting to measure some older (10, 15, 20 years old) amplifiers or DACSs and see how they are performing.
AudioScienceReview might be the only place for this kind of measurements, because other reviewers and publications are interested only in pushing sales of new stuff.

He does an oldie once in a while :):

 

anmpr1

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I agree, the umpteenth low power Chinese chip amplifier is not that interesting. I would be curious to see how my much praised Quad 606-2 stacks up against modern competition. As for cheap/affordable amplifiers, I would be far more interested in seeing a test of something like a Yamaha AS701, or, to get to the very bottom of their line up, an AS201. The latter may well be the cheapest amplifier with decent measurements (add a CCA you may be done, given the quality of the CCA's analogue output), but we do not know for certain.
The problem (or at least a problem) with comparing factory fresh gear with the old standby is that one can pretty much presume that something 'out of the box' is going to be working as intended. Now, that is certainly not always the case, but it's probably more so than not. At least it should be.

With old gear, in order to make a good judgement, you first must find out if it is working properly. This is not always a trivial thing to run down. Some gear that looks first rate nevertheless has developed electrical problems over the years. The reviewer is then put in the position of trouble-shooting, which takes time, money and effort. So, in effect, unless one can (and is willing to) repair the fault, what one finds out is that an older and poorly operating unit is not as good as it could be. What has anyone learned, then?

An example might be the rusty and dusty, partially modified ST-70 reviewed on ASR a while back. One hardly considers it representative of an original ST-70, or even a 'newly' updated one. But from reading the review you sort of get an idea of what an updated 'old' one might be like. And you sort of come away with an idea of what an original might be like.

The best source to make comparisons of the old stuff is the old magazines. Audio, Stereo Review, and High Fidelity. They are pretty much all archived on line, and worth a look, for what they are worth--which is actually a lot (certainly worth a lot more than what you get with most 'reviews' these days). The majority of current reviews are really a waste of everyone's time. Of the majors, John Atkinson does the best job, although his 'after measurement' conclusions are sometimes head scratchers.

You mention Yamaha? In one of the old Audio Critics, David Rich (one of the best of the best) reviewed two Yamaha integrated amps (AX 570/592), marketed a year apart. Once he hooked them up to the machine, the earlier design was actually better on the scope, from a spec standpoint. But it didn't make any practical (audible) difference. Cosmetically they both were similar, and neither looked as nice (or had as meany features) as Yamaha's mid '70s offerings. So over the years you could say that Yamaha made no real progress, although you had to admit that they offered value, given what was available at their respective times.

FWIW, I bought the AX-592-- it's in a closet somewhere, and still working as far as I know. This was around 1998. I bought the matching TX-950 tuner, too, but after a few years one of the capacitors spilled black gunk all over the circuit board, for no good reason. Because I never listened to FM much, I trash-canned it. Not really worth fixing IMO.
 
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