Happy pre-Christmas folks and what better way to start celebrations than with this gorgeous and rarely-seen black Accuphase E-302 integrated amplifier?!
In my efforts to write more frequently, it feels easier to start with something not too big and that I’ve recently finished. I’ve literally just finished working on this lovely old girl, so let’s go!
The Accuphase E-302 is another beautiful integrated amplifier from Accuphase and part of a series of equipment that I’ll be covering over the next few months, including a range of Accuphase integrated amplifiers. In terms of where it sits in the product line-up, you can think of the E-302 as a newer and fancier E-202. It’s still near the bottom of Accuphase’s ‘3’ series of integrated amplifiers, one up from the ‘2’ series.
It’s not a ‘gold power button’ model that indicates premium performance, and whilst you’d expect that of a black variant, regular E-302s also lack the gold button. Look for this if you want to move up the Accuphase performance pyramid.
That being said, even relatively affordable Accuphase gear like this amplifier is better than just about anything else, including a lot of the classic vintage hi-fi gear I work on. In terms of design and build, this modest 16kg Accuphase E-302 surpasses most other integrated amplifiers, even a lot of highly rated models you can think of and that we all know and love. The reason is simple and always the same: superb engineering and build quality predictably yield excellent sonic results. Just ask any Sony ES series equipment owner.
I’ve worked on a few of these over the years so an article on the Accuphase E-302 is long overdue. On that point, so are all the other articles about incredible gear that I sit on rather than write about. Can anyone tell me why I keep some of my best work hidden away, especially my turntable work…? Time to fix that I think!
The Accuphase E-302 is a simple but fully featured integrated class-AB integrated amplifier offering 120 Watts per channel into most loads. The amplifier is DC-coupled, meaning sound-killing capacitors are removed from the signal path via the use of DC servos, and the frequency response is superbly extended. Like most Accuphase products, the amplifier features extensive use of FETs. They are limited to small signal devices in this unit to keep costs down, but always a sign of the best engineering intentions.
The amplifier has an excellent separate FET-based phono preamplifier as one would expect of Accuphase integrated amplifiers of this era. This is a discrete preamp and features a ton of high-quality matched parts. The preamp also caters for moving coil and moving magnet cartridges, making this an excellent choice for someone looking for an Accuphase integrated for more serious turntable duties, on a budget.
The amplifier modules are easily serviceable, a point proven with this example, where I completely overhauled both modules and had her open, apart, together adjusted and shut in half a day. All boards are easy to access in Accuphase gear, there are never wires to desolder or flakey connectors that break after a few cycles.
Like almost all Accuphase products, less frequently used controls including a handy little loudness contour control that we were always told we shouldn’t use but is awesome, are hidden behind the front panel flap. She even has a headphone socket for late-night listening and the E-302 is one of the very few Accuphase models that you can have in gorgeous, deep black! How black you ask..? None more black, my friends!
So what are the downsides of a more basic integrated amplifier like the E-302? Whilst it’s preferable to many other integrated amplifiers, all integrated amplifiers are a bunch of compromises, something I’ve written about in this FAQ on choosing a better amplifier, for example.
With the E-302, you lose out on the even better phono stage of the E-303 or E-303X (coming soon) for example. You also miss out on the extra power, improved performance, scale and resolution, class-A in better designs and the very desirable and for me mandatory balanced signal path present in better amplifiers like the Accuphase E-406 for example, a true beast of an integrated.
You can of course look into all the details of the gorgeous E-302 via Accuphase’s wonderful product museum. There are many reasons I love this manufacturer; the love and care they have for their legacy products is just one of them.
Accuphase E-302 Specifications
Courtesy of the legends over at Hi-Fi Engine
|120 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo)
|20Hz to 20kHz
|Total harmonic distortion:
|0.08mV (MC), 2.5mV (MM), 76mV (line)
|66dB (MC), 86dB (MM), 104dB (line)
|76mV (line), 1.23V (Pre out)
|Speaker load impedance:
|4Ω to 16Ω
|86 x transistors, 14 x IC, 24 x FET, 86 x diodes
|445 x 145 x 370mm
This Accuphase E-302 originally came to me some months ago just after my customer purchased her, for an inspection and full service. Whilst here, I found a dead capacitor and knew from experience (rather than guessing ) that others of that type were also likely to be suffering. After my full service and in my written condition report, I recommended she come back for an amplifier module overhaul at the minimum. The owner and I liaised on this and I’ve completed that work here, for your reading pleasure.
I’ve written often about the importance of driver and amplifier modules and my recent repair of this epic Sansui BA-5000 highlights just how critical driver/amplifier module health is in any amplifier. Happy driver stages mean a happy amplifier, and we can go one step back and clarify that a happy power supply means happy everything else. However, once power supplies are verified, most amplifier faults are related to driver stage unhappiness.
With jobs like this, I like to deep clean the areas I’m working on, because you cannot do any useful work on filthy electronics, nor can electronics ever run properly covered in dirt and grime, especially not high impedance circuits, a fact that seems lost on many. I refreshed these modules using my proprietary deep-cleaning process, replaced all electrolytic capacitors with premium parts and cleaned and renewed all thermal interfaces with long-life silpads.
I also attended to the requisite board rework, defluxing and connector contact cleaning and everything was checked before careful reassembly and testing. I found 8 or so smaller dead electrolytics along with the one obvious one which had thankfully taken itself out of circuit by cooking its contents to become no component at all, ie an open-circuit dead cap! If they’re going to go, that’s how you want them to go because they then become benign. You lose rail capacitance and therefore increase local power supply impedance, but you don’t get many of the other symptoms.
Right, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this Accuphase E-302 partial overhaul.
This was a satisfying and straightforward repair/partial overhaul and this Accuphase E-302 now runs silently, stably and sounds much better than she did before this little birthday. A full overhaul is of course highly desirable at this age and will further improve performance, but her owner is happy to take his time and evaluate each stage of work, something I think very sensible.
Having maintenance like this done on a beautiful amplifier like this is a no-brainer, as long as you take it to the right technician, someone competent. If you are in the ‘not sure if you should or shouldn’t’ camp, let me assure you that you should. The cheapest new integrated amplifier from Accuphase is the $AUD 10K Accuphase E-280. The real competitor though is the new Accuphase E-380, at $AUD 13.5K.
The E-380 is heavier, has a balanced signal path and is no doubt better, but nearly 15 grand is a lot for most of us. If you want a killer new integrated amplifier and the quality and performance that only Accuphase offers, by all means, get an E-380. Pierre at Revolution Turntable will even demonstrate one for you if you’re nice to him!
If you have a smaller budget, you can overhaul an E-302 for around 10% of that though, with the work I did coming in at much less than that. You can pick up an Accuphase E-302 for around $AUD 2K. When you compare that to the literal plastic garbage you can get new for that price from Cambridge Audio and NAD, the E-302 looks like a spectacular deal.
“But Mike, it don’t got Bluetooth or a DAC!”
Thank goodness, because that’s about 50 fewer things to go wrong and part of the reason it sounds so good in the first place. On that point, all I can say is be careful about where you get your advice. If you want Bluetooth, get a streamer.
Always consider the potential conflicts of interest. I don’t work for Accuphase, I’m sure they don’t even know who I am and I don’t have any equipment I need to sell you. I’m happy to sell you my time and expertise, though I don’t even need to do that either.
I love equipment like this Accuphase E-302, that came to me still running well after nearly 40 years, impeccably built, with love, in Japan. You’ll be lucky to get four years out of a modern Cambridge Audio/NAD/whatever else you get for two grand now. Value means different things to different people.
I’ll update the article with the owner’s comments once he’s listened well to this little amplifier, but I can save you a little wait time and tell you that she sounds lovely. Not all integrated amplifiers do, but this one does, as you would expect.
As always, I’d like to thank you for visiting and I trust that you found this article interesting and hopefully, informative. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like me to look at your Accuphase E-302 or any other Accuphase equipment for that matter.
If you enjoy great free content like this, please stay tuned for more and you can always shout me a drink via the donation button at the bottom of every page. Getting content like this out there and tightening up on the advisory service are just a few changes that I hope will make things a little easier for me.
Most importantly, have a safe and very Merry Christmas!