Happy New Year everyone, I trust that the year has started well for you. I thought I’d briefly share a few of the more affordable pieces of hi-fi equipment I’ve serviced, repaired and overhauled so far in 2023, as well as look at a couple of recent acquisitions of my own. Welcome to 2023!

Quad 44 Preamp & 405 Power Amp

Goodness me, talk about hi-fi bargains. I’ve written extensively about Quad gear, but it’s worth reiterating that the legendary Quad 44 / 405 duo gives you a taste of the high-end on a beer budget. Plus, just look at that pipe and slippers styling and no plastic knobs to be found here folks. I love it!

hi-fi bargains
Quad 44
Quad 405

I think my customer paid around $500 for this pair. Sure, they needed work at this age and at that price, but you should expect that and my customer did. What you get though in a case like this is an almost cosmically perfect pre and power amp that just need a little TLC.

But Mike, it doesn’t have Bluetooth…?!

A youngster, somewhere

Nope and let me assure you, that’s a good thing!

In this case, I overhauled the Quad 44, repaired a fault in her power supply and upgraded the phono board as my customer absolutely loves his vinyl. I repaired a dead channel in the Quad 405, replaced some dead capacitors and fixed a couple of incorrect modifications including bipolar input op amps that lead to excessive DC offset. This is a common mistake.

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A disassembled Quad 44. Like all Quad gear, the 44 is a masterpiece of serviceability.
Quad 44
hi-fi bargains
The only thing I don’t like is the CMOS switches in these, but wow, what a beautiful piece of gear.
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The Quad 405 suffered from some dead devices in one channel and some poor previous improvement choices. Mistakes like this must be reverted when found, but that being said, the quality of workmanship was thankfully good.
Quad 405
hi-fi bargains
The Quad 44 and especially the Quad 405 and 405-2 are two genuine hi-fi bargains.

NAD 3020 Integrated Amplifier

The NAD 3020 is not my favourite amplifier in engineering terms and is very cheaply made, but they do sound decent when well maintained if you can live with their limited power output. This plus their classic styling, serviceability and low price makes them another of my hi-fi bargains.

NAD 3020
hi-fi bargains
NAD’s classic 3020 was a hi-fi bargain new and still is now. Watch out for that build quality though and those caps.

The cheap build is one thing, but the failure-prone Panasonic capacitors used in the NAD 3020 are another. Fixing this one involved cleaning, dry joint repair and replacing a literal bag of dead capacitors, of which 95% were measurably toast.

Remember, we actually test things rather than guess here at Liquid Audio and by toast, I mean that these parts tested at 50% or less of rated capacitance, plus high/stupid high ESR, a recipe for trouble. An open DC symmetry trimmer didn’t help the performance of this one either!

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LOL, this was fun!

I have to say the results are staggering. Whilst this isn’t something I’m surprised by, you might be if you own one of these and have failed to notice the very gradual decline in performance that this set of circumstances causes.

I’ve repaired a lot of NAD 3020s over the years and, whilst I generally avoid a lot of NAD gear, the original NAD 3020 is a classic. This series 20 model is a good variant to keep an eye out for.

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I say if you’re gonna do it, do it properly. This old NAD 3020 now sounds better than she did brand new, because of the work we’ve done here. Note, we can’t fix the build, though we can of course fully rebuild these which solves some additional issues you may spot here. Not sure going that far is worth it though.

Luxman PD-277 Turntable

If you want a decent and not stupidly expensive turntable, look no further than the Luxman PD-277. These are lovely turntables and are available for under a grand, with arm and cartridge, making them a compelling option and another hi-fi bargain.

Luxman PD-277
That’s a decent tonearm on the Luxman PD-277 too.
Luxman PD-277
I fitted a lovely Audio Technica cartridge to this old girl and boy does she sound nice. As a solid direct drive deck, the PD-277 competes head-on with all the affordable new stuff which is nowhere near as good, and a few classic decks from this era too.

Technics SA-110 Receiver

Talk about a cool piece of gear and a real bargain, the Technics SA-110 is similar to the NAD 3020, though it also includes a tuner. It’s from the bottom of the Technics range and perhaps not quite as capable, but being Japanese, it is better built and just as smile-inducing as the NAD in my opinion.

Like all gear from this era, it includes a headphone amp and phono preamp so you don’t have to go and spend money on separate versions. It also doesn’t include Bluetooth.

Technics SA-110
Want one of the best and most affordable low-powered receivers for a second system or daytime easy-listener? The Technics SA-110 is a good option and another hi-fi bargain at the $100 you might pay for one. Just don’t expect to play Opeth at high levels here unless you have horns..!

Kenwood D-3300P CD Player

Not exactly a budget piece of gear, but cheaper these days if you know what I mean. If you want a heavyweight true old-school CD player with ultra-reliable mech, die-cast sub-chassis and Burr-Brown PCM56P DAC goodness, get one of these.

Kenwood D-3300P
Sorry, Terry, she really doesn’t belong here, but I just couldn’t resist. A genuine piece of old-school CD high-end for peanuts NOW makes her a hi-fi bargain I reckon!
Kenwood D-3300P
Yes, that’s how you build a CD player when you care about the result. Metal, metal and more metal. Bravo Kenwood.

If ever there was a reason to laugh at the build of modern CD players, this is it. Trust me. Oh, and you can pick them up for a few hundred dollars.

Cassette Tools, Calibration Tapes & Data Books

I’ve been doing some work for a customer who was a tech, back in the glory days. Their old workshop in Victoria Park lay dormant and full of old gear for years until this gentleman contacted me and asked me to grab anything I was interested in.

I picked up a few great pieces of equipment, and recently some great bits that we’d spoken about and just not managed to arrange to get to me. These latest bits and pieces included a set of calibration tapes and a classic almost NOS Toshiba cassette deck test unit. Yay!

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Yeah, baby! What a beautiful little piece of test gear. I serviced her of course.
cassettes
Even though I’m limiting my cassette deck throughput these days, I do work on them and you can never have enough of this when working on cassette decks. The Technics tape path viewer bottom left is a real gem. I have new tapes as well, a TDK cassette-based electronic demagnetiser and a ton of other cool cassette-related stuff.

I also grabbed a couple of boxes full of vintage data books, something I adore and collect where I can. Data books like these contain literal gold and help fuel the maintenance of vintage hi-fi equipment. Once this data is lost, that’s it.

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I get really excited about stuff like this, ultra-rare data that simply cannot be found anywhere else.

Workshop Upgrades

I’ve been working hard in the 43-degree February heat here in Perth. One thing I’ve been working on is some workshop upgrades, including additional under-bench storage and above-bench shelving. It’s a work in progress as I chip away at this and keep customer work ticking through the pipeline, but the changes are very positive.

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I’ve made a ton of improvements to the workshop, adding additional under-bench storage, above bench shelving, and moving my high-CRI studio lights. There’s more to come.
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A lot of this, plus customer work of course, has been happening whilst Perth temperatures hit 43 degrees C or around 110 in the old money. Sweet lord that’s hot! 🔥

Toshi

This little guy also put a smile on my face! I adopted Toshi from the Cat Haven in Subiaco. He’s around 10 or 11 months old and an absolute champion, the sweetest-natured cat you’d ever meet. I was lucky to find him.

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This guy is a very welcome addition to the household. He’s also still a kitten and that means madness at times!

2023

I’m looking forward to writing some cracking new articles about some beautiful equipment again this year, so stay tuned. I’ve already been inundated and working hard for a month now since re-opening in 2023. If you have equipment here with me, sit tight, it won’t be far away.

If you have any special requests in terms of equipment or types of articles you’d like to see this year, please let me know in the comments below.

See you in the next article, hint: more class-A!

6 thoughts on “Hi-Fi Bargains & New Acquisitions”

  1. A fun read and a big welcome to Toshi! You fail to mention but clearly demonstrate that all your diagnostic equipment was incomplete without another fine set of feline sound appraisal ears and whiskers.

  2. Always great to hear your successes and what you’ve personally achieved Mike. Thank you for the updates and looking forward to more service success in February and beyond.

  3. Nice finds there Mike. Just looking at the content of your boxes from the (presumably) retired guy’s workshop. That Toshiba ADRES demo tape brings back memories. I still have a working Aurex AD-2 noise reduction unit. I’m looking for another if one. (hint, hint, hint)

    Yes, databooks, I still keep them within arm’s reach especially when working on vintage gear. Sadly a lot of information has disappeared from the popular online databases in recent years and unless you’ve got a printed copy one can spend and sometimes waste hours searching for the data you need on a particular old device. .

    1. Thanks and yes I really had to chase down those data books. It took a couple of years to secure them but well worth it and there were quite a few more not in that shot.

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