The VINTAGE Restoration Thread

What to do if you have some really nice old stuff

My 1979 Sansui AU-919 Integrated Amp (100w RMS per channel, .008% THD, DC to 500Khz. Direct coupled, no caps in signal path) is the starter piece here. It is cosmetically excellent, and is somewhat of a cult classic.

Recently I took it out of hiding and tried to use it in my office. As I explained in my Off Topic post, the left side would attenuate and die. I found a great experienced tech, and he’s fixed that, done some cleaning, and is converting the thin original cord to a detachable cord. This is a unit that does NOT use a grounded cord, just 2 conductors,

He tested the unit and found it was a bit out of spec, not horrible, but it sounded a bit too “laid back.” He has a spectrum (harmonic?) analyzer, and it confirmed this. I had thought the unit was recapped once, but it was not. I picked it up about 20 years ago on eBay.
image
As you can see it has some funky custom caps - or at least cap covers. As is common with units of this era, the headphone jack is powered off the main amp, with some attenuation. The preamp is Class A, and the power amp Class AB.

Looking on eBay there is a $240 parts kit that someone has made to do a full refurb. And my tech has located a few other resources - still looking at what the total job will be, but estimated close to 50 hours of work, at a not unreasonable labor rate. Probably in the neighborhood of a grand to bring it fully up to spec, possibly a few modest upgrades, and completely documented work with before and after photos, parts used, etc.

Cosmetically, it’s probably a 9 out of 10, and fully updated units are going for around $2K. “Working” non-updated units probably $500-600 or so.

I recall having no issues with the phono section, it was very clean, and supports both MM and MC, up to 2 turntables. Really leaning toward pulling the trigger on this upgrade. Eventually I’ll be using Magnepan .7 with it in my office, the manual says it’s OK with ONE set of 4 Ohm speakers. If you want to drive 2 sets of speakers, stick with 8 or 16 ohm impedance.

So, what does the crowd think? Yea or nay on saving this vintage classic that still can hold it’s own today?

14 Likes

If it were me, I had a use for it, and I had love for it, then I’d go for it. But don’t look at the numbers too much. Like don’t think “should I spend that $1k towards a new amp that would sound better?” That’s not the reason to do this.

1 Like

@pennstac - Sounds like you can keep something classic and good out of landfill, plus probably have more resale value than you put in. And fun project. What’s not to like?

2 Likes

Thanks, I don’t think that a grand on a new amp would sound better. Possibly a couple of Vidars and a decent pre-amp, but that would most likely lack the good phono stages, and it would have to be a darn good pre-amp.

But I don’t have an emotional attachment to the equipment either. It does have a nice feel.

1 Like

Yes. I don’t ignore the numbers when they have $ in them. But then I’m a Financial Advisor. I do want something that will do justice to some Maggies…

1 Like

“Synergy”

Testing

I’d have a hard time dropping $1K on an older amp when I see all sorts of unloved and huge classic gear on CraigsList (I browse and dream, but I don’t buy). Similar 1970s competitors may sell in a functional state for $200 to $500 or $3,000, and they may or may not be as good.

EDIT: See this seller’s items

I’ve got a circa 2000-2002 Technics SA-DA10 receiver that sounds great. When released it was an $800 to $1,000 hybrid audio/home theater product, but didn’t last long. Its focus was on music and had a Variable Gain Control Amp. They sell used for maybe $300 today…many options for less than the repair cost of a dead one.

2 Likes

Adcom GFA-555II. drives the pants off Maggies. $400 - 500 used. Still requires preamp.

Krell KAV-300i - should also drive maggies through the roof. $1200 ish used, needs phono stage

Schiit has said there will be another limited run of Saga and Freya solid states this year, which may be intersting to you.

With no emotional attachemt, I’d move on from the Sansui, as it can be bested at $1500 ish you’ll have into it (sale price + recap). But vintage is often about intangibles, in which case, you may want to do it for other reasons, or you may want to track down your white whale from 25 years ago and restore that.

Then I’d sell it as-is to someone who appreciates it and put the money towards something you really want. Just my 2 cents.

1 Like

Yes, sell it to a refurbisher (as I listed above) or to a DIY person with the knowledge and desire fix it. There’s a market for nonworking audio items.

I had $400 into it 20 years ago. Now depreciated to $0. Consider that the top of the vintage pecking order for these years 1978-80 is the Yamaha A-S3200 one is listed at Crutchfield for $7500.

The Marantz 1180DC is 90 watts RMS per channel, significantly higher distortion, goes in reasonable condition for about $1250-1500, in nice refurb over $2K. The Sansui was designed to beat the 1180DC.

Quad made some nice equipment at that time, as did McIntosh and even Kenwood. But I don’t know the model numbers to compare. Phase Linear was a competitor, but Carver’s company always did separates.

So this is something I just had laying around - I’d used it for years before replacing it with a Wyred4Sound STI-1000, a separate Audio Fidelity phono preamp. The STI-1000 has balanced input which works with my TEAC DAC (Bought before I knew Schiit… )

I don’t want to sound like an ASR guy with specs, but I know this amp sounded great when I got it and it was 20 years old then.

$100 to the refurb guy and it’s working again, just laid back. The $100 includes changing the power cord to replaceable. It tested something like .011 THD, and it’s supposed to be >.008. The refurb tech - a retired audio store owner and one-time recording engineer - says that the guts of the machine look nice and clean, no botched repairs, or burnt boards.

I really want the Maggie .7s. There is nothing in modern amp/integrated amp that I really want that is reasonable. A pair of ASL Hurricaines? Lots of tubes to play with, and would probably make the cabinet toasty. Something a bit vintage from Conrad-Johnson? Or Prima Luna? Maybe, maybe not. Just don’t know what calls my tune here.

OH YEAH - I started this thread to also hear about other people’s back-burner projects in vintage resto. So please don’t make it all about me - or the Sansui.

I enjoyed your musictechnology.com link. I recall well that $50 Dynaco QD quad box. If you look at the Sansui 9090 receiver for $3500, that came out a few years before the AU-919 integrated. The AU-919 has slightly less power, but much better specs, and was at the top of the Sansui line for it’s day. The Marantz 240 power amp is really nice.

Their showroom sure takes me back. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Join the club! :smile:

Oh. Well then it sounds like you’ve already got a good place to start. You got it working. Time to add the Maggies. Once that’s done you can worry about amp upgrades.

I was just about to start tinkering with building my own active speakers using vintage B&O cabinets when I discovered how much easier and cheaper it would be to buy proper headphones instead. That got me here. Of course I’ve ended up spending way more on headphones now though. DOH! :crazy_face:

1 Like

Did you ever build the speakers? Which vintage B&O?

NO! It’s likely worth $100 to $300 in a broken state. I sold my broken POS HiFiMan headphones for well over $100 when I paid just $250 new. The junky factory cables sold easily and quickly (the balanced cable sold almost immediately). The dead drivers and flimsy chassis sold for $50 including shipping – vastly more than I expected.

Some people buy non-functional old electronics to repair, cannibalize, customize, or hoard. I suspect hoarding is most common.

1 Like

As they always say " One man’s trash is another’s treasure. " Whatever @pennstac does it will likely have a good outcome.

Mark Gosdin

1 Like

Well it’s been unbroken. Working solidly again for under a hundred bucks, including change up of the flimsy power cord for a detachable one. It’s just older and out of spec. Pots and switches have been properly cleaned - the issue was with one of the DC relays that had a carbon buildup after 40 years, cleaning the contacts fixed my problem.

So the decision I have now is take it as is, or do preventative and restorative work on it to bring it fully up to spec - or slightly beyond, with clear documentation in case I decide to sell in the future. I’ve already spent the first $100 of a potential $1K. Given what I know about this amp, I don’t think I could find much better for an additional $900, and if I do want to sell, I should be able to get $1500-2200 with a documented restore and it’s excellent cosmetic condition.

On the other hand, I have an Onkyo from the ‘90s that I might sell for $100 when the Sansui is done. 70w per channel and one flakey LED on the LED VU meter substitute.

1 Like

Nope. Decided to get into headphones instead of building a stereo speaker system. I was going to get something in the Beovox Red Line series depending on what I could find that I wouldn’t feel bad restomodding.

Something like this: Beovox RL 60 Passive Loudspeakers

1 Like

Back in the mid 70’s when I was in college, my friend the theater organist (from whom I bought my modified Rectilinear IIIs - he was a grad student in acoustical engineering) had an enclosure handbook with designs for Phillips-Norelco speakers. I wish I could find a copy. Was reasonably theoretical, with discussion of Q, internal supports, acoustic mass, solving 4th order butterworth boxes by using electrical equivalence, detailed location information for speaker placement, 2nd order crossovers (12 db) and more. He used the 8 cu foot 2 woofer design for his theater organ, and I got the Rec IIIs because he needed the money to finance his jones for 32 foot pipe reproduction.

I did find a similar guide online, but more generalized. DIY Loudspeaker Design

3 Likes

When you say Philips Norelco I think this

Although I did have a pretty sweet Philips CD player back in the day. Don’t remember the model number though…

1 Like