Vintage

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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!).

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 25, 2020
hfnvintageWhile its looks belie its flagship status, this '80s CD player was designed with just one aim in mind: bring credibility to Philips' cutting-edge tech. How does it sound today?

The Philips CD960 of 1987 was part of a range that included the FA860 amplifier [HFN Feb '20]. As one of the company's occasional flirtations with the top end of hi-fi, this series was intended to demonstrate that the Dutch brand could offer components capable of state-of-the-art performance, as well as provide a boost in status to the more affordable models in the range.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 10, 2020
hfnvintageA mid '80s deck designed to boost vinyl replay at a time when the convenience of CD was making all the news. Did it succeed, and how does it compare today?

The products we usually seek to feature in our Vintage Review pages are those that were among the first to introduce a new format, function, level of performance or design theme. However, this month our subject is the Technics SL-J33 turntable of 1986, one of the last in a series that had a footprint the size of an LP sleeve, which began with the SL-10 [HFN Apr '19].

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 20, 2020
hfnvintageThis CD player from 1987 re-wrote the rules with its offer of 18-bit/8x oversampling while cutting few corners in the quality of its componentry. How will it sound today?

Back in the '70s, Japanese consumer electronics giants sold hi-fi based on so-called 'tech specs'. What began as a trend became an obsession, each new turntable being offered with lower claimed wow, flutter and rumble as 'proof' that it was superior to the one before. Indeed, some brands took to running ads highlighting the measured performance of components, with straplines to the effect of 'let the facts speak for themselves'. Back in hi-fi's boom years, such was the way of the world...

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 12, 2020
hfnvintageIt was a deck designed to keep vinyl replay relevant in a market attracted to the convenience of CD. Did it succeed and, more importantly, how does it sound today?

One challenge faced by those designing hi-fi in the high-tech 1980s was how to re-package the LP in a way that would ensure it remained of interest to consumers in a future that was clearly going digital. Released in late 1979, the Technics SL-10 turntable [HFN Apr '19], with its parallel tracking, optical position sensing and slick packaging was one of the first components to address this issue seriously.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 27, 2020
hfnvintageMarketed by Philips yet made by Marantz, is this purposeful-looking integrated packed with premium components an unsung hero of hi-fi's past? It's time to find out...

Philips should have been a dominant player in the hi-fi arena, yet many of its products somehow missed the mark. Despite these repeated failures, every now and again the sleeping giant would wake from its slumbers and produce something miraculous – Compact Disc, Motional Feedback speakers – only to disappear until inspiration struck again.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 09, 2020
hfnvintageBased on Sony's second-gen 16-bit/2x oversampled chipset, the DP-850 established a toehold in the CD scene for the Trio-Kenwood Corp. How does it shape up today?

While not a name often associated with early CD players, Kenwood was not lacking in ambition with its first entry into the field. Rather than test the market with a quiet offering buried deep in the backwaters of its catalogue, in 1983 the company added the L-03DP CD player to its range of top-line components.

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