How good or bad is my old analogue kit?

mascholes

Novice Member
Hello All,

After 23 years of languishing in the attic (after house downsizing) my vinyl collection and old hifi is being unpacked and recommissioned. I'll have separate digital (AV) and analogue (music) systems. But I don't need 4 turntables....

I have no point of reference to assess how my old kit compares to current hifi equipment as my last purchase was 25 years ago and most of it was 45 years ago! I'm looking to get an idea of what sort of price ballpark I should be looking at in order to get a similar quality of sound from modern equipment. For example is the SL120/SME/V15 combo the equivalent of a £500/1000/£1500 modern set-up ? I have no idea how far technology has moved on. This is so I can consider whether to sell and start again and/or keep some items and upgrade them - for example arm rewires, new cartridge, Dada electronics Quad upgrades, Origin Live Technics upgrades etc. I am aware of how all the parts of a vinyl system are interdependent and don't want at this stage to disappear down the more esoteric rabbit holes such as cartridge capacitance and impedance matching! It's the turntable arm and cartridge area that I'm especially hoping for advice on, from those of you who have actual listening experience of old and new. The equipment is

Quad 33/405 bought 1975. Quad 44 bought used when 33 died. Both MC and MM boards.

KEF 104/2 bought 1990s. These are at Wilmslow Audio being serviced and upgraded. When I get them back I'll be able to start connecting stuff up and seeing how it sounds.

Technics SL120, SME3009/2 improved FH, Shure V15/III with 3 x VN35E, 1 x VN35MR and 1 x VN35HE. Bought 1975. I used to change the stylus every few years so there may be some life left in them. I've cleaned, lubricated, serviced and accurately set this up. It still works ! This was in regular use for 23 years and looks like it. My feeling is that it's just too old and it's time to retire it.

Michell Mycro, Michell RB300, moving coil cartridge which I think is an Ortofon 10 Super mark2 - the identifying label on the front has gone missing ! Bought 1997. Very little use before move. My recollection of the KEF Quad Mycro system was that it was lovely and transparent. However the Mycro was so sensitive it was impossible to move around the room without it skipping.... Will try wall mounting and ringing Michell to get their advice and new belt and oil so it can be auditioned again.

Also 2 x Technics SL1210Mk2, Ortofon Concorde Pro S. Bought 1997 and only used for a few parties so almost as new. The point of mentioning these is that I like their fuss free nature and good isolation and could go down a path of say, Origin Live arm, new cartridge and other Origin Live Technics upgrades on one of them. Although this would cost £1000 plus cartridge so I’d need some serious convincing.

Budget for vinyl player- whatever I get by selling some or all 4 turntables. Replacement of Quad and KEFs under consideration but not yet - am hoping they’ll be good enough for now.

For the last 23 years entertainment has mainly been TV, DVD and CD based. The current set up is Sky Q, Marantz SR6008, Monitor Audio Silver 200 6AV12 (6th gen) and a now ancient (2003?) Pioneer DV-757Ai multi-disc player. This sounds great on AV stuff but less so for music - but then I don't consider this system to be hifi! And let's not get into the analogue v digital wars !

As I said at the start, I'm looking for ballpark advice based on real experience of the old v new - for example would a £500 modern amplifier blow the Quad out of the water ? Or how much would I need to spend to equal the Mycro set-up ? How does the MC board in the Quad compare to say a £200 phono stage ?

Thanks for reading so far - I'm also going to post on Vinyl Engine - very much looking forward to your replies.

Regards Michael

 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Looking at your kit list there is some very nice stuff there, desirable and saleable, nice position to be in.

I had the Quad 44/405mk2 and Kef 104/2 combo a while back and regret selling them, very nice combo. First upgrade could be to replace the 405 with a 909 to bring the power amp up to date (possibly around £250-300 to change). the Kefs will like the extra power of the 909. Then maybe add a valve preamp, there is a nice Rogue Audio one on eBay at the moment.

The four turntables are all class acts and will sell well on the second hand market, you can look on eBay sold item to get an idea of price (look out for “sell for £1” voucher). You may clear enough to get you a second hand Rega Planar 6, possibly a Clearaudio Concept or even a Michell Gyro. But the Mycro is a decent player with the RB300 a decent Arm. Turntable technology has not advance significantly in the last 20 years.

So my 2p worth would be to get the Kefs back, update the 405 with a 909 or possibly and Elite QMP, sell the three Technics (maybe clear £1200 if in good condition), get the Mycro serviced, send the RB300 to Audio Origami or Origin Live for a rewire/setup/service and add a technoweight / Structural Mod or replace with a second hand RB600 and then a decent cartridge of your choice around £3-500, maybe start with the VM540ML, then lastly look at a phono preamp or change the 44 to a nice valve preamp.

As for the av stuff, unless you are wedded to the 5.1 sound I would ditch the lot, buy a Topping E30 or SMSL Sanskrit 10th mk2 DAC and run the tv though this and stick with decent 2.0 system. This simplifies the system a lot. Alternatively, leave the AV system alone but sell on the front speakers, get a stereo preamp that has HT Bypass and use the Kefs as fronts through this via the SR6008 front l/r preouts.

Sorry, lots of options here but I think you can get some incremental upgrades on the stereo side but not major improvements, AV can be improved by using the stereo system for front l/r duties and will condense down some of the system a bit.
 
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lindsayt

Active Member
Simple principle applies:

Get your existing gear connected up and working.
Then it's survival of the fittest.

Compare your existing gear against any newcomers in your home with your ears and your wallet.

Winner stays on.

When comparing modern vs all, it all depends. Depends if your old kit is still working about as well as when it was new. Also depends what deals you can get on modern gear. EG used modern gear.

The Technics 120 or 1210 with the right arm, cartridge and proper positioning / support are better than a brand new Linn LP12 Majik.

The Quad 33/405 is a reasonable solid state amp combination.

Get an NVA Phono 1, if you can and compare that against your phono section.
 
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mascholes

Novice Member
Thanks for your replies.

If I understand you correctly Ugg10, you're saying my starting point is sort of mid-range for the the turntable etc. in the £1000-2000 price bracket to get the sort of quality I was used to. That the KEFs are still contenders (I'd hope so given they were about £3k new!) and the Quad is still decent and better than a modern budget amplifier £500-700 but could do with being improved on.

Yes, my plan is to get everything serviced and see how it sounds. I'll also connect up the Monitor Audio Silver 200s to the Quad and compare to the KEFs, which will give me my first old/new reference point, albeit possibly limited by the rest of the equipment.

The Technics 120 or 1210 with the right arm, cartridge and proper positioning / support are better than a brand new Linn LP12 Majik.
Now that is seriously helpful. The 1975 purchases were when I had a Saturday job at Hardman Radio in Manchester, when Linn LP12s were "all the rage" ( showing my age yet again!). The Technics SL120 was derided in hifi circles. I listened to a huge range of what was available at that time. I discovered that I'm very sensitive to distortion and pitch stability and chose the Technics over the Linn. I'd be very interested to know what arm and cartridge you would consider to be "right". I've not generally got on with belt drive turntables because of pitch issues - the Mycro being the exception. My first turntable at the age of 14 was a Goldring Lenco idler fed into a Sugden A21.

At this point I'm happy to run 2 separate systems in different rooms - my last dependent has finally moved out, so I have the luxury of having no-one else to consider and plenty of space since my 'downsized' house is a 4 bed victorian with attics and cellars !
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
@mascholes, correct, to replace the quads, any of the turntables and the Kefs their modern equivalent would probably be -

Kef R7 (The Reference 5 or 7 are the true successors but the reference series has moved up the chain a bit sing the 104/2’s), these are around £2500.
As said, the new SL1200GR is £1300 plus cartridge so £1500-1700 with so this gives you a price point to work with. Have you tried putting the SME on the Mycro? Might be an interesting exercise to see if this is a step up from the RB300?
The current Quad equivalent is the Artera Pre and Stereo which weigh in at £2500

So I think to replace with modern equivalents you are looking at £6-7k! And as I said I think this will be an incremental step not night and day.

One option may be to keep the best turntable/arm/cartridge combo you have, get those serviced and set up. Sell the other three turntables and the 44/405, this should net around £1500-2500 which you could then invest in a modern amp with room correction like the Lyngdorf TDAI1120 which has a phono stage (mm) built in and you get a free streamer if you want to dip your toe in that pond. This will get the best from your
kefs and your room. Others worth a look may be the Arcam S30 or have a look around at second hand where some bargains can be had.

Another interesting option is the Baldwin/Reelaudio Quad 405 recreations with a mono block version.
 
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mascholes

Novice Member
modern amp with room correction like the Lyngdorf TDAI1120 which has a phono stage (mm) built in and you get a free streamer
Now that is very interesting. Because of my experience with AV I'm aware of the various room correction options such as Audessy (as on the Marantz) ARC and Dirac, however whilst accepting it has it's place in an AV system because there's a huge amount of signal processing going on I've always been of the opinion that for analogue/music less is more. But maybe the technology has advanced to the point where that view needs to be revised ? It's probably something that needs to be parked for the moment, given that the immediate issue is vinyl replay.

I very much appreciate your comments on modern equivalents - there's no way I would spend £6-7k for an incremental improvement - the priority is to achieve a good sound by which I mean a piano sounds like a piano. I'm not trying to achieve the 'ultimate' perfection in sound - for me it's all about enjoying the music and not obsessing over the equipment used to play it.
 
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Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Are your Kefs the later model with bi-wired connections, you could add a second 405 or a 306 for the treble duties and use your existing amp for the bass, biamping may bring a minor improvement as the Kefs are quire power hungry and dip to quite a low impedance.

I think you have the makings of a very good system once serviced and set up, flog the rest and use it to update the cartridge and use the rest to buy more vinyl and enjoy the music.
 
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Khankat

Well-known Member
Good advice offered already, so I won't stick my oar in, other than to say you have some very desirable kit, which is worth good money. Heck, the Shure cartridge goes for silly money. Whatever you do, don't undervalue it.

There are Technics specialists who can service and upgrade your TT. Dave Cawley of Sound Hi-fi is but one.
 
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mascholes

Novice Member
Thank you again Ugg10 for your input. I hope I didn't come across as dismissive in my last post - if I did then please accept my apologies.

You've identified that the weak parts of the system are cartridge and amplifier and that the KEFs are power hungry. My remark about parking the amp issue was prompted by a quick look at your Lyngdorf suggestion and realising I clearly had a lot to learn in this area. And possibly a £2k hit to the wallet !

I agree that the way to proceed is as you suggested originally - get the KEFs back, send the Mycro to Michell, connect up and listen. Then get a phono stage followed by cartridge. Then look at the amp.

All sounds simple except that I'm then into the most difficult part of system building - choosing the right components for system synergy with cartridge selection being one of most important and also most difficult to audition at home ! Ideally I'd like a cartridge lending library type scheme but suspect a unicorn would be easier to find.... and probably cheaper. Other than finding reviewers and people like yourself whose opinions are trustworthy, or going back to my youth and getting a Saturday job in a hifi shop, I'm a bit at a loss to know how to approach cartridge selection. Especially since the range available now is so much greater than when I started out.
 
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lindsayt

Active Member
... I'd be very interested to know what arm and cartridge you would consider to be "right". I've not generally got on with belt drive turntables because of pitch issues - the Mycro being the exception. My first turntable at the age of 14 was a Goldring Lenco idler fed into a Sugden A21.

At this point I'm happy to run 2 separate systems in different rooms - my last dependent has finally moved out, so I have the luxury of having no-one else to consider and plenty of space since my 'downsized' house is a 4 bed victorian with attics and cellars !
The right sort of arm and cartridge would be ones that are at least as good as what's on the LP12 you're comparing it against. In the case of a brand new Majik LP12, that's a pretty low bar to beat. One that your SME and V15 combination may well be capable of.

There are so many good arm and cartridge combinations that it's more a case of seeing what you can get a good deal on, and taking a punt on that.

I suspect that you could also get some nice improvements to your system by changing the speakers. For something bigger. Something that's not a slimline ported low efficiency speaker.
Electrostatics, or large to huge medium efficiency sealed box or high efficiency speakers.
Cherry picked speakers that may be older than your KEF's can sometimes be bought for grin inducing prices. It all depends what deals you come across.
Or you could go down the DIY speaker route. Buy some cherry picked drivers and put them together into a pair of speakers.
Plus there's the option of buying speakers that need to be repaired, and repairing them - which can be another great value for money route.

One tip. When it comes to deciding whose advice to take on hi-fi, it makes sense to look - and preferably listen - to the systems that people have put together and how much they paid for them.

I agree with you totally about direct drives vs belt drives. You did well in the 1970's to resist Linn mania by using and trusting your ears.
 
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