Sold for: $205
This one I paid way too much for, mainly because I pulled the trigger and purchased it before doing a little research. Still, I made a little coin on the back-end, so all OK!
The CA-410 is the baby in the Yamaha CA-X10 lineup (with the CA-2010 at the top of the tree). This series is perhaps the most famous ever produced by Yamaha, and in many ways was responsible for positioning the brand as a serious hifi producer in the public consciousness. The CA-410 is rated at 25 watts RMS into 8 ohms and weighs about 8kgs.
These smaller models are some of the best vintage buys around. Most buyers chase after horse-power, but when it comes right down to it, we do most of our music listening using only a few watts. My first ever amp, a Pioneer SA-7100, was only 22 WRMS but it was good enough to last for 15 years of music-making and loud enough at numerous parties to get a visit from the noise police! So, if you are on a budget but still want vintage, then this is the way to go. Not too much seems to go wrong with these Yamahas; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had to repair one of this series beyond cleaning and lubing pots and switches.
Sold for: $325
I was so looking forward to trying out this pair when I bought them (along with a Grundig turntable & a pair of Wharfedales speakers). All of this gear had had very little use as it had been in storage for many years. Grundig gear is rare on this side of the world, so I was excited about getting my hands on some of that mythical German build quality and engineering!
Well, they both worked perfectly (after a little contact cleaner on the amp’s volume and balance pots) but, really, what a major disappointment.
These pieces are clunky, quite poorly made in comparison to most of the Japanese gear of the same era, and they are not overly pleasant to listen to. The amplifier weighs in at 10 kgs, has a massive transformer but is only 35 watts per channel into 8 ohms. It also has two large Siemens 15000 uF caps??? It should be twice as powerful as what it is! What were the Germans doing?
The tuner is perhaps a little more interesting than the amplifier as, although it is analogue, it is enabled so that the user can preset seven stations and access them via the row of small pushbuttons beneath the dial. I’ve only seen something like this before on Bang & Olufsen analogue tuners. Apart from this function, not even the tuner has much going for it — it even failed to detect several of the FM stations that my Pioneer TX-3000 pulled in with ease.
Overall impressions are that these look better in photos than they do in real life, and that they are both average pieces of hifi gear. But again I got lucky, with two bidders pushing the price up $100 more than I expected to get!
Sold for: $240
This amplifier comes from a very interesting series — at the top of the range was the massive 200 watts RMS per channel Pioneer A-90 (or A-200 in Japan), the biggest integrated amplifier that Pioneer has ever produced (and many consider to be their best integrated).
But the interest in this particular amp lies more in the era in which it was produced and in its distinctive styling. Introduced to the market in about 1984, this line of Pioneer amps seems to be a lightweight attempt to regain some of the kudos of the silver-faced seventies era after the failure of the early 1980s computer-new age-modern-plastic styling that no-one now wants. In fact, history now sees these as transitional models between the failed computer age and the dominant black-faced equipment that characterises the late 1980s and beyond. The fascia is brushed aluminium but the insets and knobs are plastic.
Sonically, these amplifiers are exceptional — they use the same non-switching design that was first popularised in the now-legendary SA-x800 series at the end of the 1970s. This technology would feature in all of the upper-end Pioneer gear until about 1994. It is an effective technology, producing clean, almost clinical, sound with an nearly unbeatable separation of instrumentation throughout the soundstage.
I do not, however, much like the design, as the volume and balance knobs remind me of the smokestacks at nuclear plants. Still, a couple of people liked it enough to get into a bidding war. The eventual purchaser told me he had bought it on a nostalgic whim as he clearly remembers seeing this model in audio shop windows when he was a youngster.
And here are the specifications: