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St1n

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My journey so far...
I've been on the hi-fi merry-go-round for a little while now, and having an engineering background, decided to go the vintage route as an attempt to save on costs. I've found that after re-capping these units from the 70's, these units generally perform quite well (especially for the cost). Of course, some capacitors are still within spec, but then some are not.

I decided to acquire Pioneer's money-no-object solution; Exclusive C3 pre-amp & M4 Class A power amp (50WPC). After many hours of cleaning contact pins, pulling noisy transistors, and substituting capacitors with high quality, modern equivalents, I'm very impressed with how these perform. However, my curiosity got the best of me.

How would these compare to modern, high-end gear?
I came across Accuphase gear and was enamored by their classic aesthetic, and circuit engineering. Plus, I became fed up with my room being a furnace (Class A) every time I wanted to listen to music, so I wanted to hear a nice A/B implementation. :)

I acquired an E-480 with the DAC-60 upgrade card. To keep things somewhat succinct, I'll just say I'm also very impressed with the E-480. The build quality, aesthetic design, and sound performance (to my ears) are superb.

After getting things setup, and using the E-480 for a couple weeks, I decided to compare to the Pioneer Exclusive stack.

Get to the point...
Neither I nor my wife could honestly tell the difference between these two setups. I thought that maybe there was a slight difference in how the Class A amp presented its midrange in a more full-bodied approach, but that could also be expectation bias seeping in from reading these things from audiophiles... Class A sounds more "warm" and "liquid"... it had nothing to do with the literally warm air it was pushing out its grill and the inviting VU meters glowing... I swear. ;)

I think this test has at least helped me come to terms that any differences between well-designed amps should be minimal at best, and likely inaudible in most situations. I'm sure if I had some inefficient speakers, and pushed both near clipping, it'd be a different story.

As a result, I think I'm going to keep the E-480 as a more efficient, an all-in-one solution. Since I'll likely be moving apartments frequently over the next year or so, I'm putting up the M4 for sale. While I love it for what it is, I can't justify carrying it around in hopes I'll use it more in the future.

TL;DR
Vintage gear can offer a real bargain in performance (especially if you're handy or have it serviced), but in my case, a modern integrated amp can perform just as well to my ears as ultra-high-end separates from the 70's which would've cost you the price of two cars when new.

It does seem the barrier to entry for great sound has indeed been lowered (tho, aesthetics and build quality are another topic).

Thanks for giving me the space to puke out my thoughts. Maybe I'm also trying to justify letting go of the beautiful M4... ;)

PXL_20210907_202427614~2.jpg
 

Doodski

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Nice Pioneer gear. If you sold the pre and the amp together what would you ask for them? What is the asking price on the amp?
 

Doodski

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That E-480 looks nice. Nothing wrong with spending more on a good piece because it looks pretty.
The Pioneer gear here and the Accuphase gear are for sure pretty and as a added bonus they epitomize what Japanese audio is about. :D I took one look inside the Pioneer gear shown here and drooled a little. :facepalm: The pre-amp is especially nice and exclusive for sure. A serious collector of these kind of pieces will be happy to purchase them and if they come with boxes, packing and literature they will be even more desirable.
 
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St1n

St1n

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Nice Pioneer gear. If you sold the pre and the amp together what would you ask for them? What is the asking price on the amp?
I've seen the same pair "professionally" restored go for $6k! :O

I currently have the M4 up for $2k. I'd probably just combine with the C3 for $4k. It seems many of them sell for $2.5k+ each, and don't disclose what's on the inside. I held on to the original parts which were substituted out just in case someone in the future feels compelled to use them lol.

Yeah, the attention to detail on these Exclusive models is just insane. Their internals match the luxury feel of their exterior. Hand-built during an era where Japan was showing the world that they were serious about competing in HiFi. The only reason I think these aren't more pricey is because of how relatively obscure they are outside of Japan.

But looking at owner's experiences on other forums, and you'll see that many stop at acquiring more gear at this point. :)

My wife just adores the aesthetic of the C3 preamp. I'd consider selling it now, with the intention of picking another one up again after we have our own place. :p
PXL_20210907_002657128.jpg
 

Doodski

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That volume control assembly is probably worth a few hundred+ by itself if one could even find something like it. :D Wonderful piece of gear. It appears other than the main power supply caps there are only 20 electrolytic caps in view. Perhaps there are more on that PCB under the tone controls.
 
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St1n

St1n

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That volume control assembly is probably worth a few hundred+ by itself if one could even find something like it. :D Wonderful piece of gear. It appears other than the main power supply caps there are only 20 electrolytic caps in view. Perhaps there are more on that PCB under the tone controls.
Well, here's an older photo of the underside during the recap. There's not a ton of electrolytics, at least when compared to other vintage units I've worked on.
 

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Doodski

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The PCB layout is fabulous and the bonanza of features is what a real pre-amp is supposed to do. Not like the basic input switchboxes called pre-amps today with no features or tone controls.
Pioneer-Exclusive-C3-1170x600.jpg
 

GXAlan

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You should send the amp to Amir for testing. I am a big fan of Accuphase as well. As much hate as the E-270 got here, it’s the highest performing Class AB amp here and he was testing with the balanced input which, for that model, is not optimal.
 

Doodski

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@GXAlan the owner of the Pioneer gear is @St1n . I am just a commenter on the topic. Perhaps @St1n can comment better about the availability.
 

anmpr1

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... the bonanza of features is what a real pre-amp is supposed to do. Not like the basic input switchboxes called pre-amps today with no features or tone controls.
I think you can chalk that up to fashion. Probably the most influential 'high end' fashion designer was Mark Levinson, who ran the course during his heyday. His first commercial preamp, the LNP-2 featured: 6 inputs including two phono stages; channel selector switches with settings for mono/stereo/L/R; 3 tone control knobs; two tape monitors; and meters. Feature for feature it pretty much matched the Pioneer C-3.

By the time Mark was finished (or the company was finished with Mark, depending upon who you ask) he offered two inputs: 1 phono stage and a line stage, along with a volume control, all monophonic, so you needed two for stereo, on four chassis (with power supplies). And he was asking more money than you could add up, for it. [Not sure who designed this product--John Curl or Tom Colangelo?]

Deciding winds had changed, Mark's fashion sense dictated the necessity of not only a full featured preamplifier (in individual modules), but EQ was totally necessary and appropriate in order for the audiophile to get the best out of his expensive preamplification. So the wheel turned once again.

To be fair, even though it was fashion, you can't say you didn't get something for your money--at least with the LNP and from Cello. Dick Burwen was responsible for their basic design, however I read somewhere that Dick couldn't very well relate to the final Audio Palette, from a cost and component build quality standpoint. That is, he thought it was 'over the top' in all respects. But regardless of what you thought of Mark's fashion sense, he never skimped in the parts bin.

Anent the C-3, was any of the Exclusive gear sold outside of Japan, and is any of it set to work on 'foreign' electricity? The closest the USA ever got to it was the SPEC preamps/amps. Pioneer sold some gear under the Series 20 moniker for a while, but it was more minimalist than the SPEC or Exclusive items. I once owned their Series 20 preamp (along with matching amplifier that looked like components bolted to the top of a plate). FWIW, the preamp developed noisy pots with intermittent switch contacts! I more or less expected that sort of thing with stuff like Dynaco kits, but admit to being surprised at it from a supposedly 'high end' Pioneer preamp.
 

DVDdoug

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Neither I nor my wife could honestly tell the difference between these two setups.
I wouldn't expect a difference. If there is a difference it would most likely be noise but there's no reason for one design to be worse than the other, they are just different amps and they will measure different.

reading these things from audiophiles... Class A sounds more "warm" and "liquid"...
Those are meaningless "audiophile words". ;) Those words just invoke a feeling and they might mean different things to different people. With an amplifier, there is noise, distortion, frequency response, and output power. That's about it. See Audiophoolery and Whadda mean the sound is fluffy?

IMO - Class-A power amplifiers are a "dumb design". It's OK for a preamp where you don't need power-output or efficiency.
 

JeffS7444

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Do you foresee a time when your life will settle down again? If so, storing the amp in a climate controlled storage unit could be an option. Because while I'm generally okay with letting things go, I think mine is a minority opinion.
 

dualazmak

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Hello OP St1n,

Really interesting and suggestive thread!

After my hard journey (almost 18 months in my case though) of intensive amplifier exploration by actual listening tests in my room environments, recently I have decided to use "integrated amplifiers", Accuphase E-460 (class-AB), Yamaha A-S3000 (class-AB), Sony TA-A1ES (quasi class-A), Yamaha A-S301 (class-AB), plus active subwoofer Yamaha YST-SW1000 in my multichannel multi-driver (multi-way) multi-amplifier pure stereo project; each of these "integrated amplifiers" drives each of the SP drivers dedicatedly and directly eliminating any LC network. You may find my latest configuration here in my thread.

I essentially agree with you that these well-designed, nicely manufactured (and well guaranteed/warrantied) HiFi "integrated amplifiers" are really nice, even in multichannel multi-driver multi-amplifier system; I found and believe they are sometimes considerably better than rather expensive over-spec "pure power amplifiers", as I wrote there;

(Almost) all of the home-use Hi-Fi amplifiers, I mean integrated amps and power amps, are designed for full range operation, i.e. to cover ca. 20 Hz - 30 kHz. This means that we should be very much careful in evaluating and selecting each amplifier to directly and dedicatedly drive each of the SP drivers, in my case woofers (WO), Be-squawkers (Be-SQ), Be-tweeters (Be-TW) and horn super tweeters (ST). These BE-SQ, Be-TW and ST are highly efficient in response to amp's power input.

And of course "You must hear equipment in your own room in your own system, ... " as Purité Audio (keith) simply and kindly wrote here, so I have been intensively exploring amplifier evaluations and selections in this multichannel multi-amplifier project during the past 18 months.

Furthermore, throughout my amplifier exploration, I well experienced and learnt that we should never exclude high quality Hi-Fi "integrated amplifiers" to be possibly implemented in this type of multichannel multi-amplifier project.

Consequently, I can well and easily understand how you like and love your E-480 :)
 
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OP
St1n

St1n

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Hello OP St1n,

Really interesting and suggestive thread!

After my hard journey (almost 18 months in my case though) of intensive amplifier exploration by actual listening tests in my room environments, recently I have decided to use "integrated amplifiers", Accuphase E-460 (class-AB), Yamaha A-S3000 (class-AB), Sony TA-A1ES (quasi class-A), Yamaha A-S301 (class-AB), plus active subwoofer Yamaha YST-SW1000 in my multichannel multi-driver (multi-way) multi-amplifier pure stereo project; each of these "integrated amplifiers" drives each of the SP drivers dedicatedly and directly eliminating any LC network. You may find my latest configuration here in my thread.

I essentially agree with you that these well-designed, nicely manufactured (and well guaranteed) HiFi "integrated amplifiers" are really nice, even in multichannel multi-driver multi-amplifier system; I found and believe they are sometimes considerably better than rather expensive over-spec "pure power amplifiers", as I wrote there;

(Almost) all of the home-use Hi-Fi amplifiers, I mean integrated amps and power amps, are designed for full range operation, i.e. to cover ca. 20 Hz - 30 kHz. This means that we should be very much careful in evaluating and selecting each amplifier to directly and dedicatedly drive each of the SP drivers, in my case woofers (WO), Be-squawkers (Be-SQ), Be-tweeters (Be-TW) and horn super tweeters (ST). These BE-SQ, Be-TW and ST are highly efficient in response to amp's power input.

And of course "You must hear equipment in your own room in your own system, ... " as Purité Audio (keith) simply and kindly wrote here, so I have been intensively exploring amplifier evaluations and selections in this multichannel multi-amplifier project during the past 18 months.

Furthermore, throughout my amplifier exploration, I well experienced and learnt that we should never exclude high quality Hi-Fi "integrated amplifiers" to be possibly implemented in this type of multichannel multi-amplifier project.

Consequently, I can well and easily understand how you like and love your E-480 :)
Funny story -- I ended up selling the E-480 and holding on to the vintage Pioneer separates :p

Mostly, however, due to my wife loving the aesthetic qualities of the units (I would have to agree).

I'll likely end up using them for a period of time before leaving them to her for use in her personal office or elsewhere.

I foresee myself ending up with either a modern high-end Yamaha or Accuphase in 2-3 years once we've settled into our own place.

I figured that by the time I get my own private listening room, the E-480 would likely have been superseded, and/or the AS-3200 more readily available at lower prices. So, why lug around an E-480 in the meantime if I can't get the most out of it. Meanwhile, I foresee the Pioneer's staying within the family for a long time to come due to their unique qualities and historical value. They're just simply cool.

While I'm extremely interested in Yamaha 5000 separates, their cost is... whew. A large pill to swallow for me. I get the feeling that the AS-3200 would get someone 97% of the way there. Maybe over time, used gear will start to show up on the market for a steep discount..? Likewise, I'm super impressed with Accuphase and their "younger" lead engineer. I can totally see the successor to the E-480 being even better [somehow].

I guess we'll see how things unfold over the next year or so. I can't wait to rebuild my 2-channel system. I'll just start with these Pioneers' and just focus on obtaining quality transducers, then go from there.
 
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dualazmak

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Funny story -- I ended up selling the E-480 and holding on to the vintage Pioneer separates :p

Mostly, however, due to my wife loving the aesthetic qualities of the units (I would have to agree).
....
....
I guess we'll see how things unfold over the next year or so. I can't wait to rebuild my 2-channel system. I'll just start with these Pioneers' and just focus on obtaining quality transducers, then go from there.

Oh, sorry, looks I misunderstood your final decision... In any way, I am looking forward to hearing your progress on this nice thread.
 

dualazmak

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....
Likewise, I'm super impressed with Accuphase and their "younger" lead engineer. I can totally see the successor to the E-480 being even better [somehow].
....
I get the feeling that the AS-3200 would get someone 97% of the way there.
....

Yes, E-800 and E-650, both class-A, are nice to my ears at the demonstration events, and they are highly ranked in several review articles in Japan, still rather expensive at present though. I also agree with you Yamaha A-S3200 is also really nice in design, looks, build and sound.
 
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St1n

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Oh, sorry, looks I misunderstood your final decision... In any way, I am looking forward to hearing your progress on this nice thread.
You didn't misunderstand -- I did initially mean to keep the E-480, and sell the Pioneer's. But, now I've decided to hold on to the Pioneer. :)

Yeah, I'm kind of tired of these expensive, pure Class A amps. I plan to build a DIY VFET amp in Class A, so that should cover my "warm", Class A needs. What I meant by "successor" is the next Class A/B from Accuphase -- I guess it would be called the E-580? I can totally see that being an amazing integrated based on what I've learned about Accuphase thus far.
 

MakeMineVinyl

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I've seen the same pair "professionally" restored go for $6k! :O

I currently have the M4 up for $2k. I'd probably just combine with the C3 for $4k. It seems many of them sell for $2.5k+ each, and don't disclose what's on the inside. I held on to the original parts which were substituted out just in case someone in the future feels compelled to use them lol.

Yeah, the attention to detail on these Exclusive models is just insane. Their internals match the luxury feel of their exterior. Hand-built during an era where Japan was showing the world that they were serious about competing in HiFi. The only reason I think these aren't more pricey is because of how relatively obscure they are outside of Japan.

But looking at owner's experiences on other forums, and you'll see that many stop at acquiring more gear at this point. :)

My wife just adores the aesthetic of the C3 preamp. I'd consider selling it now, with the intention of picking another one up again after we have our own place. :pView attachment 151996
Geez, that switch wiring is insane (in a good way) :p
 
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