BECOMING A SHREWDER HI-FI BUYER: Part 5 – NAKAMICHI PA7 power amplifier … a few observations

An inconvenient truth – rarely acknowledged

I have a great interest in vintage equipment. From my retailing perspective it’s an inconvenient fact of life that occasionally, vintage equipment sounds every bit as good as brand new equipment and for far less money too!

And then, the value.

When you take into account the fact that vintage equipment represents in the main outstanding value compared to new items, then as editor of this bulletin board I’d be a bad person indeed not to point this out. So starting today I’m going to report on what might be a vintage bargains - as and when I come across them and no, I'm not on any commission re this transaction. I don't know the seller – and they don't know me.

Please note that ….

I base my recommendation on having previously owned such a model, or something very close to it. I must point out that I’m not the seller.

As always, buyer beware

I don’t know the seller and I am not intimately familiar with the condition of the item actually for sale. So, you’ll have to rely on your own judgment – just as I do. As always, buyer beware! Meanwhile, this Nakamichi PA-7 I’ve spotted today looks very interesting to me.

So ....

Back in the days of Subjective Audio Ltd, Nakamichi was one of my main brands and I was one of their most successful UK retailers. I sold their amplification and tuners in addition to their state-of-the-art cassette decks.

This was a quite rare as most Nakamichi retailers stuck with the ‘easy’ sales of cassette decks and so sales of their amplification were comparatively rare. No wonder PA-7’s rarely turn up on the used market. Nakamichi didn’t have a particularly high public profile re their amplification and tuners in the UK.

It wasn’t uncommon in those days for Japanese audiophile makers to either ‘buy-in’ expertise that they didn’t have in-house or contract others who were better in a particular field to build an item for them. There’s nothing wrong with this. Why pretend to be very good at something when you aren’t – right?

Thus as far as I can recall, the Nakamichi PA-7 was designed by Mr Nelson Pass – legendary designer and founder of Threshold amplification. Mr Pass now trades under his own name. Anyway, as you can see, the PA-7 bears more than a superficial external design similarity with some of the vintage Threshold power amps of that era. Build quality was outstanding and by today’s standards, probably still is.

Around this time I was selling a lot of Krell power amps and a lot of Meridian pre/power amp combinations. Thus the PA-7 was up against stiff competition. No matter though as it generally held its own. It was a lot more usable than the various Krells power amps as the PA-7’s characteristic sound was more forgiving, less incisive and less ‘up-front’ than the Krell and yes, slightly less detailed too. Meridian at this tine were not building big ‘muscle’ amps and so the PA-7 found its niche with my some of customers. i.e. those that didn’t buy Krell or Meridian.

My notes from the time don’t indicate that I ever had a failure with the PA-7. I did note that the sharp cooling fins were a bit of a safety issue though – a bit like the Krell in this respect. Looking at my notes further, I felt at the time that the sound was very good, but not outstanding. However … let’s consider the value situation as of Monday, 9 August 2010 in that the current highest bid is £156. I’ve no idea how high the price might go BUT, and it’s a big but, the question to ask is …. “Could I buy anything new at today’s prices that would equal or beat the sound of a fully working Nakamichi PA-7?”

To some extent that depends on the price that this unit might fetch. My view is that up to say £700, I very much doubt if there is anything brand new today that approaches the combination of qualities of this model – assuming of course that the advertised one is working correctly.

The only reason that I’m not bidding myself is that I’m using LFD power amps currently (and have done for some years) and they suit me just fine. If that were not the case then (a) I’d be bidding now and (b) I wouldn’t have posted this post!

Thank you

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