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Buying vintage receivers

I'm in a market for a 1970s style vintage receiver.  Mostly because I love the look of them.  But I am trying to sort snake oil from science when it comes to recommendation.

Using Craigslist, I found two model I am interested in at a reasonable price:

1. A Hitachi SR-603 receiver from 1978
2. A Technics SA-505 receiver from 1982

When I visit forums on the Internet that deal in vintage gear, I am being told that I will need to "recap" the receiver, adjust the bias and replace bad transistors on anything older than 20 years, and I should be prepared to learn to do to it myself, or spend $300-$500 to have it done for me.

I don't have a huge issue with this price tag.  I just wan to know whether any of this is necessary or if it's just more placebophile snake oil.

And my next question is, does anyone still make a receiver that looks like an old 70s model with a tuning dial and vu meters?


Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #1
I've not heard of transistors routinely needing replacement, but generic capacitors are known to deteriorate over time affecting their performance as well as damaging circuit boards.

I'd suggest you purchase a modern receiver with today's technology such as onboard DAC, DLNA, AirPlay/MusicCast, and Bluetooth. You might look at Yamaha for a classic design and good sound.

If your heart is set on "tuning dials and VU meters", why not buy a professionally reconditioned unit on eBay? Right now there is a Marantz 2230 going for $500 plus shipping. There's also a beautiful rebuilt Pioneer SX-737 for $380. Both models were "entry level" back in the day, but really capture the era. I like when rebuilders substitute LEDs for the original incandescent panel lamps. That eliminates a maintenance issue while providing clear white illumination.

Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #2
If you are buying them because of style, then go ahead.  Both of the units you listed are not stellar performers and are the type of thing I would expect to see at a garage sale for $10--at least before the recent vintage craze.  I have (and work on) older gear like this and I wouldn't waste money on service unless they need it.  Neither unit would be worth a restoration IMO.  The Hitachi unit, however, would not suprise me if it simply fires up and worked fine--those were especially simple. 

I have 40 year old stuff that works fine.  I have others that do not and some are not simple fixes.  Wholesale "recapping" is appropriate for 1930's equipment and certain 2000-era equipment, but not these.  If you do need work, you need to find someone competent and judging from the online forums I've seen, that is going to be a challenge.  As far as DIY, unless you have good equipment and experience, your chances of success are not good. 

Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #3
If you must buy a vintage receiver (and I'm not saying you shouldn't, it's personal choice) I'd take far more notice of things like crackling volume pots and noisy/faulty selector switches. Replacements for those are almost guaranteed to be unobtainable. Assuming your chosen gadget actually works as expected, there's a strong chance the caps are still ok. In the case of semiconductors, it's possible to degrade them by abuse but it's highly unlikely and they almost never fail other than totally, which will be rather easy to notice. Assuming the bias is adjustable (most aren't without a lot of improvising/tinkering) it's extremenly unlikely you'll effect an improvement - I'm assuming you're meaning was for quiescent current bias of the output stages - and you could make things worse, audibly or longevity-wise.

In any case of repairs or modifications, you'll need the circuit schematic and a lot of experience and knowledge OR entrust it to someone who actually does have the skills - something pretty rare these days - and access to the parts, which are likewise generally unobtainable (and there are huge problems of counterfeit parts nowadays, so beware). For caps, this is most likely to affect the power supply filtering caps since they are under some stress and few others are likely to fail or degrade enough in a well-designed unit. Bulging or leaking electrolytics must be considered as suspect, at best.

Best advice if you go down this path: make sure it works 100% at the outset, expect a short life (and possibly be rewarded with more), don't shell out a fortune and tread carefully through the snake-oil and BS you're likely to encounter.

EDIT: about the only up-side to older equipment, they didn't have to use the apology for solder that's been forced on modern stuff!

Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #4
If you must buy a vintage receiver (and I'm not saying you shouldn't, it's personal choice) I'd take far more notice of things like crackling volume pots and noisy/faulty selector switches. Replacements for those are almost guaranteed to be unobtainable.

Depends. Quite a lot of pots are stock components, behind a knobwheel that if you are lucky can be pulled off (maybe after loosening a screw). There are quite a few replacement components available for vintage gear, e.g. https://www.hificollective.co.uk/components/potentiometers.html - but if not, you could often measure the hole, diameter, axis profile (e.g. "D") and resistance (if it isn't printed on!) and find something that both fits and works.

Or maybe I was just lucky those very few times I did it ... (I have put the soldering iron down. Clumsy and lazy.)
Memento: this is Hydrogenaudio. Do not assume good faith.

Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #5
If you must buy a vintage receiver (and I'm not saying you shouldn't, it's personal choice) I'd take far more notice of things like crackling volume pots and noisy/faulty selector switches. Replacements for those are almost guaranteed to be unobtainable.

Depends. Quite a lot of pots are stock components, behind a knobwheel that if you are lucky can be pulled off (maybe after loosening a screw). There are quite a few replacement components available for vintage gear, e.g. https://www.hificollective.co.uk/components/potentiometers.html - but if not, you could often measure the hole, diameter, axis profile (e.g. "D") and resistance (if it isn't printed on!) and find something that both fits and works.

Or maybe I was just lucky those very few times I did it ... (I have put the soldering iron down. Clumsy and lazy.)
Yes and no. Often they are standard value components on things like volume pots, other times there are "near enough" replacements available. The japanese also had a thing for log/antilog balance controls, or pots where half the track was metal, so as not to reduce the volume in the centre. These you will be most unlikely to find. You may have been lucky (and so have I) but there's no guarantee that mass-produced goods didn't use some special-run components. Selector switches often were too. As has been pointed out, you need a raft of equipment (test gear) and skills all the same. The main skill being knowing when something's a money-pit and when it's a simple fix!

EDIT: spelling

Re: Buying vintage receivers

Reply #6
Electrolytic capacitors are the bane of vintage electronics, but much depends on how the units were stored over the years. Some of the stuff I encounter looks like it was kept under iffy conditions like unheated garages or storage units, and those may need more restoration work.

Before hooking up speakers I might want to ensure that the receiver is not passing any significant amounts of DC or running abnormally warm, both of which could indicate leaky coupling capacitors. Ditto if controls seem particularly noisy.

In my limited experience, 1970s/80s Technics tend to be neatly done with a minimum of point to point wiring.

 
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