I bought a Rotel RX203 off a local forum and liked the way it improved the soundstage from my speakers.
On hearing the Rotel, I felt my Moon I-5 was controlling my speakers (Celestion Ditton 551 from 1978) too well. It was like the Moon had a vice like grip over the bass and the start-stop motion meant the speakers could not express themselves properly. My speakers needed a little more freedom to do their thing. Also, the Rotel allowed the AT440mlb to sound pretty good.
Enter the A&R A60 (earliest model) collected as lockdown was beginning. Bought and sounded pretty good, but preferred a Grado f1+ cartridge into the phono stage. Line output was comparable with the Rotel. Closer inspection saw the A60 had over 1V on one of the speaker outputs so this needed to be sorted. I liked the sound of the A60 but felt the output bias needed some attention, even though the sound was not affected. The amp was dropped off at Juancho's after a discussion on what could be done. The plan was to implement many of the DungeonDecibels mods. I was excited to see what the amp was capable of.
Next into the ring is the Rotel RX503. Found on eBay, an upgrade on the RX203 and undergone a total recap and service by an hobbyist. This was bout 2 weeks after lockdown. This amp seemed to offer me everything I wanted, the old amp but bigger and it will last longer. The amp was located in Hull and would take some time to transport to London via Birmingham due to corona virus. The amp sat stationary in Hull for 2 months before it began its journey.
Two weeks ago I received the Rotel RX503. It sat on my floor as I was away camping. On the way back from camping, I collected the A&R A60.
A&R A60 - total cost £120 to buy and £500 to service.
Rotel RX503 - total cost £200
Which sounds better? Of course its the A60! I plugged in the RX503 and it did not sound as good as the RX203. I listened to it for about a week, leaving it on when I went out and letting the components settle or burn in. It is starting to settle and is sounding better. But then I thought I would plug in the A60. With no settling in it sounds great. Easy to listen to, spacious, tonality is right, listening to the music, not the hifi.
So, why does the RX503 need to be burned in but the A60 does not?
Does the burning in of the RX503 relate to cheaper components used to service it? More expensive components were used to restore the A60. Is it the fact that Juancho did the work on the A60 and knows what he is doing so is mer sympathetic to the flow of those pesky electrons? Is it that all new components need burn in but, depending on the quality of the electrical components, some start off better than others? As the A60 components are better quality, they start at a better level?
Photos of the RX503 - https://photos.app.goo.gl/VpcKyQnFxJR19hRL6 I need to open up the A60 next.
(By the way, the A60 really gels with the Celestions, Technics 1210's, Audio Technica AT440mlb and I am very happy with the £620 total cost of a little old A&R A60. There will be a Moon I-5 to leave this house, as will the phono stage. Both need different companions to live a happier life. Oh dear, are hifi components like relationships, some combinations are better than others?)
I have found this part of my hifi journey interesting. What is possible with these old amps?
Do old amps need old speakers? Is this how they are designed?
And, the most interesting question, was more asked of older amps? They had to amplify tiny MM and radio signals, and that's it. Later they had to amplify reel to reel signals. Now amps have to amplify 2V, much easier, surely?