Vintage

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Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2021
hfnvintageIt may have been based on a machine from Dutch giant Philips but this was the first CD player from a specialist high-end British manufacturer. How will it sound today?

Compact Disc enjoyed a halo of glamour in its early years that the more established formats had lost. Talk of laser beams and digital electronics, those holographic rainbows on the disc surface – not to mention all the smart new hardware – brought an interest in top quality listening to a whole new demographic.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 21, 2021
hfnvintageWith its four-channel amp and on-board SQ decoder, this '70s receiver was the lynchpin in what was arguably the most leading-edge quadraphonic system of its time...

The era of quadraphonic sound was not the hi-fi industry's finest. Appearing around 1973 but moribund by 1978, quadraphonic was the first big marketing failure by a sector that had so far enjoyed unalloyed success in convincing the public to buy into its latest developments. Confusing advertising, a damaging format war and a lack of consumer demand all played their part in the downfall of a concept which, at its peak, had been hailed as the future.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2021
hfnvintageAn outlier in its day, this preamp was marketed as a match for products from rival brands yet its real purpose was to drive the company's MFB speakers. We fire it up...

The Philips Motional Feedback loudspeaker was one of the great advances in audio technology. Launched in 1975, the series would eventually encompass four distinct generations and remain in production for over a decade, its key technologies jealously guarded by Philips patents [HFN Jul '13]. However, the partnering equipment designed to help these speakers perform at their best is less well known, arguably due to Philips endorsing the use of third-party sources and amplifiers.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 24, 2021
hfnvintageThis second-generation 16-bit machine hit the sweet spot for many when it came to sheer value for money, but does it make a bargain vintage buy? It's time to find out...

Has the 'perfect' CD player ever existed? While one model may boast the best transport, another the best DAC and yet another the most perfectly resolved ergonomics, so far I've yet to find all of these elements present in one machine. Sharp's DX-411H

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 26, 2021
hfnvintageA covetable compact or a mere nearfield monitor for the acutely design-conscious? We hear how this miniature bookshelf loudspeaker from 1983 shapes up today

In the frantically fast-paced hi-fi market of the '70s and '80s, it is pleasing to find a product that remained in its manufacturer's catalogue virtually unaltered for years. If something looks good, sounds good and sells profitably why change it? Some products remain available simply because the company making them lacks the resources to do anything different. But that could not be said of Danish brand B&O, which was then at the height of its powers.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 11, 2021
hfnvintageAs Lexus is to Toyota, so was Aurex to general CE brand Toshiba. We reappraise the SB-A10 – compact but full-featured, was this miniature hi-fi at its very best?

In previous vintage reviews we have featured the Technics SL-10 turntable [HFN Apr '19] with its footprint the size of an LP sleeve, Sony's D-88 CD player [HFN Jul '16] that was so small the disc stuck out of its side, and Technics' SB-F1 speakers [HFN May '17], which individually could be held easily in the palm of one's hand. So how about a complete integrated amp about the same size as the concise edition of the Oxford English Dictionary? Meet the Aurex SB-A10 from 1981.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 07, 2021
hfnvintageMore miniature magic from a brand proud to beat its own path came in 1982 in the form of probably the smallest hi-fi turntable ever made. How does it sound today?

When Technics released its SL-10 turntable in1979 [HFN Apr '19], it was evident that a record player did not have to be large, overly expensive or complicated in use to give top quality results. So compelling was this concept that soon all of the big players in the Japanese hi-fi industry were racing to produce something similar. Well, almost all. Sony, the great master of miniaturisation, was not a company to imitate others.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 15, 2021
hfnvintageIt was the Dutch company's first ever portable CD player and one of the first players from Philips to use a 16-bit chip. But how does this milestone machine sound today?

While Philips' dominance of the market for full-sized CD players in the early days of the format has been well documented in these pages, little mention has been made of its activities in the field of CD portables. Despite an obvious flair for innovation and creativity, the company is not especially known for producing miniatures – that crown belongs to the Japanese, and Sony in particular.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2021
hfnvintageWe hear a midi-sized multi-CD player from 1987 boasting a digital filter on board, but does multi-play convenience mean there's a penalty to pay in terms of sound?

The word 'autochanger' strikes fear into the hearts of LP listeners, bringing thoughts of clanking levers, heavyweight arms and stacks of records slamming on top of each other. The situation is more favourable when it comes to CD. Most players handle discs mechanically anyway, and so only a relatively straightforward extension to the mechanism is needed to allow more than one disc to be loaded at a time.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 17, 2021
hfnvintageBass-heavy behemoth or technical tour de force? We hear a range-topping speaker first launched in 1975 that promised 'true waveform fidelity'. How will it shape up?

Although the Japanese dominated much of the hi-fi scene during the 1970s, there was one important area where their reach was more limited. That was the loudspeaker market. Yes, the companies' catalogues may have been full of glittering arrays of tempting models, but dealers outside of Japan seldom had that many in stock for interested buyers either to see or hear.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 08, 2021
hfnvintageWith VFETs costing top dollar and facing stiff competition from other semiconductors, the late '70s saw Yamaha unveil a new pre/power amp duo. How does it sound today?

It's always intriguing to see how a company reacts to the realisation that a technology it has championed is reaching its sell-by date. This was the situation faced by Yamaha in the late 1970s. Since the middle of that decade, its top-end products had made use of Jun-ichi Nishizawa's Static Induction Transistor – more commonly known as the VFET – to great effect. This led to the development of designs such as the B-1 and B-2 power amplifiers, and C-1 preamplifier, all of which are still held in high regard.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 24, 2020
hfnvintageIn 1977, as Britain came alive to the sounds of jazz-funk and punk, a Japanese receiver arrived on UK shores promising unbeatable tech at the price. How does it sound now?

Say 'Aiwa' to most audiophiles and the chances are they'll think of cassette decks. The company was one of the first in Japan to take the format seriously and later went on to lead the field, selling machines not only under its own name but as OEM products for many other brands. So why not branch out into the rest of the audio field?

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 24, 2020
hfnvintageThe sweet spot in a three-strong series of late '80s amps, this high current integrated promised to handle low impedance speakers without breaking a sweat. We listen...

Most hi-fi enthusiasts know how many watts their amplifier can produce, but does that figure tell the whole story? In the early '80s, Harman Kardon's HCC (High Current Capability) range of integrated amplifiers gave listeners another number to think about, which was how much current an amplifier was able to source.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 23, 2020
hfnvintageWhile a near dead-ringer for the amp it replaced, this '60s integrated saw Leak leverage new technology to boost performance and widen its appeal. How does it sound today?

It's not unusual for a successful hi-fi product to be updated with mild revisions during its lifetime. Often the changes are minimal: a tidied-up fascia to match a new model added elsewhere in the range, or an extra function or minor circuit redesign. This was certainly not the case with the Leak Stereo 30 Plus amplifier of 1969, which replaced the Stereo 30 [HFN Oct '10] first seen in 1963. Side by side the two looked much the same, but inside the 30 Plus was all new in order to take advantage of improved technology.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 25, 2020
hfnvintageDesigned to be worthy of the company's flagship Beolab 5000 system, this late '60s turntable was the last conventional deck to top the B&O range. How does it sound?

The argument for building a system using components from different manufacturers because 'no company is good at everything' is a good one – up to a point. Conversely, the Japanese heavyweights such as Sony, Technics and JVC were once able to put together a fairly convincing complete package, as could Philips (on a good day!).

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