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It Was a Fine Vintage Amplifier Day Here at Jeff's Place

05-27-2013 | By Jeff Day |

The last time Ron stopped by it was a real treat to listen to his vintage Harmon-Kardon Citation II and Citation V amplifiers, as well as his beautiful deHavilland 50A mono amps (new at the time).

Man what a day we had listening to those fine amps! It was a Hi-Fi celebration!

Citation II 141

Harmon-Kardon Citation II above, Harmon-Kardon Citation V below. Wonderful amps!

Citation V 144

Below is a photo of the deHavilland 50A mono amps that Ron brought over for his last visit, and they are really something special!

50A 149

For this visit Ron brought over a trio of unique and historic vintage amplifiers that you don't see every day (below), and its likely you've never even seen or heard of them before, at least I hadn't.

amp trio

If you've heard of them you score bonus points for the depth of your audio knowledge!

It turned out that during Ron's visit today my buddy Chad also stopped by while visiting from Seattle, which was a déjà vu moment for all three of us, because the same thing happened the last time Ron came by with his vintage Harmon-Kardon amps - Chad stopped by for a visit!

We figured this occurrence must mark some important cosmic cycle so we decided it was time for the celebration of high-fidelity with food & drink and general merry-making - is this a great hobby or what! I warmed up the barbecue for a little grilling ...


We picked out some nice wine selections ...


Then we sat down and had some good hot food, some fine wine, and told stories about what had happened to us since our last visit! (that's Chad on the right)

Chad & Ron

That's Ron on the left.

Chad & Ron 2

Now it was time to do a little music listening and take a look a Ron's vintage amps!

chad & ron (1)

Do you recognize the amp below?

Audio Research Corp

That's an Audio Research Corporation amplifier from 1974. William Z. Johnson was rebuilding and modifying Dynaco Stereo 70 amps out of his home. This amp uses 6L6 GEC output tubes and has seven (!) driver tubes.

So here is an ARC ST-70 with a Super Modification Kit with fire in the hole! It is rich sounding with great tone! This amplifier is very musical and is a blast to listen to music with - it's lots of fun!

Audio Research Corp super mod kit

I probably shouldn't mention this but I will, because I know you want to know: The ARC ST-70 Super Mod runs circles around most modern amplifiers. It has a level of musicality that most modern tube amps can't come close to.

William Z. sold these through Old Colony Sound Lab as kits. At the same time Bill Johnson was running a fledgling ARC and was making the D51 & D75 amplifiers and the SPE-1 preamp, he was making and selling these wonderful little ARC Super Mod amps on the side.

The ARC ST-70 Super Mod is more than an interesting historical footnote for William Z. Johnson and ARC, it is a wonderfully adept musical amplifier, and if you ever get a chance to listen to one be sure to not miss the opportunity!

Do you recognize the amplifier below?

If you look close at it, and meditate on its appearance for a moment, you'll recognize something in its overall ambience that is evocative of someone very notable. Can you see it?


Tim de Paravicini was in Japan designing amplifiers for Luxman, and decided he wanted to go to the UK to live.

TVA-1 2

Tim de Paravicini designed this amplifier for Michaelson & Austin in England. Yes, those are vintage Genelex output tubes in it, good for about 70 watts per channel. Tim ran them hard.

TVA-1 3

When Tim went back to the UK after working for Luxman, T&A hired Tim to redesign their amplifier for production. The TVA-1 amp uses GEC KT88 outputs. This example is from 1977 (serial # 252) and was Michaelson’s personal demo amp. They made about 500 of them. The caps have been replaced in it, but otherwise it is stock.

TVA-1 4

There was something about the 1970s when it comes to musicality ... like the ARC ST-70 Super Mod, the TVA-1 is a wonderfully musical amplifier.

On my Westminster Royal SEs with the Duelund crossovers, the TVA-1 sounds massively powerful, and handles the big dynamics with ease. Not quite as lush and warm as the Super Mod, it still oozes musicality when the music is playing.

Like the Super Mod it runs circles around most modern amplifiers in its music playing ability!

TVA-1 5

Both Chad and Ron remarked that listening to these vintage amps on the WRSEs with the Duelund crossovers was about as close to a live music experience as they've come with Hi-Fi gear.

What is it about these vintage amps that makes them so good musically?

I'm not sure I know. Those vintage tubes ... like the Genelex in the TVA-1 and the GEC in the Super Mod are no doubt part of the reason, but why can't modern amps achieve this level of musicality with the apparent ease that these vintage amps do?

The next time you're thinking about buying a 'new' amp you might want to consider a restored vintage amp instead. I am. It'll probably be better than a 'new' amp when it comes to playing music.

Do you recognize the mono amplifier below?


How about if I show you both of them?

LuxKit 2

LuxKit 3

Now nude.

LuxKit 4

Closer. Man, I think the LuxKit monos are beautiful! These are the LuxKit Model 3000 mono amplifiers. That's right, they were kits. Think Tim. Think Luxman. Think William Z.

Back in the 1970s these guys designed kit amps that were ridiculously good. They wanted you to be able to enjoy their charms even if you couldn't afford to buy one that was all put together. They're cool dudes.

Did I mention I had a nice conversation with William Z. at Harry Pearson's house way back when about designing tube amps? William Z. told me about his inspiration for designing tube amps. It's not what you'd think.

LuxKit 5

These LuxKit 3000 mono amps were actually integrated mono amps with a volume control on the back of each amp!

LuxKit 6

Another view.

LuxKit 7

Another view.

LuxKit 8

Ron's wife, Sumi, brought these kit amps back with her for Ron, just after they'd moved back from Japan to the States, then Ron built up the kits. These LuxKit Model 3000 mono amplifiers from Japan were the kit versions of the Luxman MB3045. The output tubes were the 6LF6 output tubes. These amps played music like you wouldn't believe. I tried to buy them from Ron. He wouldn't sell them to me. These are amps that Ron is keeping for life. Man they're good.


People are starting to recognize that these vintage amps play music better than their modern counterparts.


In last week's Wall Street Journal there was an article about vintage amps. The McIntosh MC240 amplifier. They called it an object of desire.

The WSJ said, "The tubes of the MC240 glow as the amplifier warms up at Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Wash. ... Music producer Ryan Hadlock ... says vintage equipment is superior for 'catching emotion.'

I happen to think Ryan is right. These vintage amps do capture emotion better than most modern amps.


Some of these amps go for crazy amounts of money. Like the Macs. Others are a lot less expensive, like the ARC Super Mod, the TVA-1, and the LuxKit 3000. You'll want fully restored ones with new caps and such, but they're the real deal. They play music. The next time you're thinking about buying a 'new' amp you might want to think old. Vintage. Restored. Classic. Something of enduring value.

Many thanks to Ron for sharing part of his vintage amp collection with us today - it was awesome! Thanks to Chad for stopping by, it was great to see you again!

From my home to yours, may your music be rich, and your life full of joy.

Thanks for stopping by!

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