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Top 3 hi-fi brands (and "honorable mentions")

restorer-john

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...Also they aren't plain square boxes the way they look in that particular view...
The do look very attractive and I'm sure a lot of effort has gone into the milling of the metalwork. I can see how they will appeal to deep-pocketed audiophiles who have been waiting patiently for Class D to rival top conventional designs.
 

JJB70

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Is a system speaker an active speaker, with wifi and DSP, that can act as a steaming endpoint and room correction combined?
I'm really not sure what the exact definition is, but I use to refer to active speakers with an onboard DAC that are effectively hi-fi in a box (or multiple boxes) that just receive an input. I have KEF X300A speakers in my home office, I plug my lap top, phone or tablet into the USB port and hey presto - great sounds without the multiple components, lots of cables etc.
 

JJB70

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I remember the Pioneer Reference line, they were also remarkable pieces. The Sony amp I have was marketed in the UK as having a Gibraltar chassis (not sure if they used that idea anywhere else as the idea of Gibraltar as a "rock" of solidity is probably a very British one) and it certainly was heavy and pretty much bomb proof.

One of the tings I remember about the high end Japanese products of the 80's and 90's was the reluctance of many magazine reviewers to acknowledge how good they were, despite the fact that they achieved a peak of craftsmanship and build quality we may never see again and measured exceptionally well magazine reviewers consistently preferred items sold by a guy building them by hand in a shed and charging more for stuff a lot less well built and which measured terribly. Some of the arguments supporting these subjective ideas were basically just xenophobic as the inference was our ears are different and we hear better, yet somehow they got away with peddling such ideas.
 

JJB70

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How are Luxman these days? They used to make some lovely stuff but seemed to fall on hard times a few years ago and at one point the name was being slapped on some rather mediocre gear. They seemed to be trying to return to their roots but are now part of IAG and I am not familiar with their modern gear. Does the current iteration do justice to the name?
 

Ceburaska

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I’ve had, and enjoyed, a class D amp, but I don’t think at my budget they are quite there yet.
Certainly my 808ES is much better built, and I’m really uninterested in spending any more than that.
Even its phono stage is excellent, and has two MC load settings adjustable from the front panel, much more user friendly than most stand alone phono amps.
 

JJB70

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This thread has made me remember some of the names which have fallen by the wayside yet which at one time were pretty much household names and which made some really nice gear. For example:

Nakamichi
Kenwood
Aiwa
Sansui

Some of these names are still around as shell companies and brand names used by holding companies but that's not the same. And that is without thinking about companies like Sony, Matsushita and Phillips that are still in business but whose audio product ranges are either gone or a shadow of what they once were. Even Pioneer is basically a brand used by others nowadays. I find it all makes me a little sad.
 

restorer-john

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One of the tings I remember about the high end Japanese products of the 80's and 90's was the reluctance of many magazine reviewers to acknowledge how good they were, despite the fact that they achieved a peak of craftsmanship and build quality we may never see again and measured exceptionally well magazine reviewers consistently preferred items sold by a guy building them by hand in a shed and charging more for stuff a lot less well built and which measured terribly. Some of the arguments supporting these subjective ideas were basically just xenophobic as the inference was our ears are different and we hear better, yet somehow they got away with peddling such ideas.
The English HiFi press was a multi decade joke, all about protectionist policies for their own 'cottage' industries and UK made gear. The US magazines and reviewers were considerably more balanced IMO, and the Australian HiFi press simply reviewed whatever was being imported by long term advertisers and 'supporters'. We had such a small HiFi industry of our own, unfortunately.

I don't know about the German HiFi press, but judging on the number of awards Japanese gear seemed to get, perhaps they were less biased than their UK counterparts.

The Sony amp I have was marketed in the UK as having a Gibraltar chassis (not sure if they used that idea anywhere else as the idea of Gibraltar as a "rock" of solidity is probably a very British one) and it certainly was heavy and pretty much bomb proof.
Yes, they used the 'Gibraltar' chassis marketing. It is a composite resin (see attached scan) and more rigid and anti-vibrational than anything on any other HiFi gear I've ever seen. It can be cracked though- I've seen some (sad) cases where big amps have been dropped and the G-chassis has cracked in half. With the TAN77es weighing in around 26kg, the transfomer is bolted to two large aluminium rails which are then bolted multiple times to the G-chassis itself.

A lot of the catalogue blurb is just that, but the anti-vibration extents they went to were real and measureable, right down to damping heatsink vanes, power supply capacitors and even the mounting positions for the transistors themselves.

Here you go:

g-chassis (1).jpg


NOt sure Sony knew what STDs were...
g-chassis (2).jpg


The big three had their buzzword chassis names, but they were all about rock solid foundations and no vibrations.

Pioneer went with the pressed/cast "honeycomb" chassis, heatsinks, even the feet were all full of hexagons! The EI power transformers were connected in parallel to lower impedance in some models and resin set into cast-iron outer cases. (Note the Japanese spelling on the transformers : "casted power transformer" Solid machined knobs, brass shafts and nylon universal joints to the Alps Blue pots ensured velvet smooth operation.

honeycomb.jpg


Yamaha went with ToPART (total purity audio reproduction technology), strong subchassis, symmetrical designs and short signal paths, pretty much across their whole amplifier range. They were visually gorgeous inside and were an easy sell.

ToPART.jpg
 
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restorer-john

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An STD circuit?
Let's be honest, it's just another bridge rectifier and a pile of separate filtering for the VA stage. It wasn't a breakthrough. Not even separate secondary taps.

That said, they ran up to 28,200uF @70V or so, just for the front end- little chance of it getting modulated by the power stage demands huh? Another 44,000uF to 88,000uF were used (2 or 4x22,000uF) under that big central cover on the TAN77/80es.

They are too good for me to test to be honest. 0.002% is my limit at very high powers, and even just moving a lead to a dummy load re-arranging the layout of my DSO/Cro/Distortion meter/signal gen/source/cables throws everything out for a second or two. The big Sonys have less THD than the residual of my test gear at any powers I am prepared to use. Dummy loads get really hot, really fast and that amp will put out over 900watts continuous into 4 ohms bridged mono.
 

tomelex

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I am going to do an honorable mention for Hafler power amplifiers, attractive looking, film capacitors, bypassed fuses, fully discrete circuitry and audio grade linear mosfets. However, will agree they relied heavily on feedback to clean things up (most ss does) and they could have used more linear small signal transistors to start with, but hey met their specs easily , that is they were conservatively rated and no BS. And still running in bridged mono 36 years later and still in spec exceeding 440Watts (changed a few electrolytics but that's all) today.
 

Sal1950

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The Sony amp I have was marketed in the UK as having a Gibraltar chassis (not sure if they used that idea anywhere else as the idea of Gibraltar as a "rock" of solidity is probably a very British one) and it certainly was heavy and pretty much bomb proof.
The impression of "solid as Gibraltar" was a very strong one in the US although I'm not exactly sure why. When I was working on the "Chain Gang" breaking up the big rocks with a sledge hammer, they all seemed pretty much the same as regards to being solid. o_O

A lot of the catalogue blurb is just that, but the anti-vibration extents they went to were real and measureable, right down to damping heatsink vanes, power supply capacitors and even the mounting positions for the transistors themselves.
Not sure how much I would buy into the audible side of the reduced vibration beyond the usual things done by respectable designers. But the bottom line is that does appear to be one hell of a excellently designed and built amp.
They are too good for me to test to be honest. 0.002% is my limit at very high powers, and even just moving a lead to a dummy load re-arranging the layout of my DSO/Cro/Distortion meter/signal gen/source/cables throws everything out for a second or two.
Impressive, not sure whats being done today that easily surpasses it.
 

restorer-john

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Impressive, not sure whats being done today that easily surpasses it.
I need another factor of 10 or 100 to get anywhere near an AP. And that's just with spot frequencies.

As most of my work is either repair, restoration or just plain passion/curiosity, I usually have conservative and extensive manufacturer specifications, often am able to crosscheck against highly technical reviews in multiple older HiFi magazines and confirm performance of the samples I have.

The majority of my test gear is 20+ years old in most cases, but that's OK.

It's always fun to test something 45+ years after it was made, with all original components, and find it performs identically to a sample tested by a HiFi magazine when new in the 1970s or 80s.
 

JJB70

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Quality is one of those things that has a pleasure all of its own. These days high quality sound is available at very low prices and hi-fi has never been more accessible (kind of ironic then that the mainstream has lost interest and prefers Bose BT speakers). You really do not have to spend much to enjoy great sounds.

Yet for all that there is something nice about superb industrial design and quality. The feel of the materials, switch action, fit and finish, internal wiring etc. Does it make stuff sound any better? Not really, but it does make it nicer to own and use. And the strange thing is that this doesn't have to mean big prices, in fact I found the build quality of a lot of high end exotica to be rubbish and that entry level Sony, Pioneer etc shamed it. Good design doesn't have to cost a lot. For example, earthing the casing, basic fit and finish, buttons that don't feel like they will drop inside if pushed, rotary dial that don't feel like the bearing is full of sand, RCA connects that are tight etc. This is all basic stuff that shouldn't cost much to do well.
 

tomelex

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I need another factor of 10 or 100 to get anywhere near an AP. And that's just with spot frequencies.

As most of my work is either repair, restoration or just plain passion/curiosity, I usually have conservative and extensive manufacturer specifications, often am able to crosscheck against highly technical reviews in multiple older HiFi magazines and confirm performance of the samples I have.

The majority of my test gear is 20+ years old in most cases, but that's OK.

It's always fun to test something 45+ years after it was made, with all original components, and find it performs identically to a sample tested by a HiFi magazine when new in the 1970s or 80s.
Hey, old test gear does not drift as much as new, so you got that going for you!
 

JJB70

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The English HiFi press was a multi decade joke, all about protectionist policies for their own 'cottage' industries and UK made gear. The US magazines and reviewers were considerably more balanced IMO, and the Australian HiFi press simply reviewed whatever was being imported by long term advertisers and 'supporters'. We had such a small HiFi industry of our own, unfortunately.

I don't know about the German HiFi press, but judging on the number of awards Japanese gear seemed to get, perhaps they were less biased than their UK counterparts.
There is a similar dynamic in car magazines here, it's why I much prefer American car magazines as over here you could put a VW or BMW badge on a turd and reviewers would assure you it was brilliant. The American magazines seem to be much less partisan in favouring certain brands.
 

Bliman

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I like Grace Design (also good customer support).
Dynaudio (you rarely go wrong with them).
NAD are also reliable.
Q Acoustics is also doing great things.
 

bravomail

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Yamaha - you will find their chips inside many other brands, while they themselves make amazing stuff)
Sony - for innovation
Philips - for CD
Honorable mention - Apple.
 

JJB70

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I like Grace Design (also good customer support).
Dynaudio (you rarely go wrong with them).
NAD are also reliable.
Q Acoustics is also doing great things.
To be honest I wouldn't agree with NAD as a reliable brand anymore. At one time NAD made some very nice, solid and sweet sounding gear which sold for sensible prices (I always thought they had a lot in common with Rotel in that regard).Although their gear still seems to perform pretty well they don't seem to have a great reputation for reliability anymore. The new generation 3020 was quite a neat idea but it didn't seem to be particularly well executed.
 
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