I feel it is time to upgrade my 1977 system.......

I have been enjoying my Pioneer Spec 1 and Pioneer Spec 2 system for a very long time and I have been having issues that have exhausted my patience and nearest shop is 3 hours (each way) from home.  I only listen to my Music Hall TT that pleases me.  My speakers are from 1976 Altec Lansing Model 19 that have been freshend up and I love the sound, I guess because I have been so accustomed to them and I'm sure there are many diff speaker options but for now I wish to continue with the Altec's.  My quest is to replace my amp and preamp.........I have some logistical problems to deal with.  I have ONE!!!! location for new gear, a shelf that is 51 inchs long and 18 inches from a wall to the front edge of the shelf, shelf will handle 200lbs.  My Pioneer amp has ample power and I would like to remain close to the same amout of power.  If you have some ideas for me I would love to hear them.  Not sure how I feel about tube gear since I have no background at all so I (think) I'd rather not go that route, but feel free to change my mind.  Budget not to exceed 18k including cables.  I know there is a wealth of knowledge here unfortunately I have very little to offer so I thank you greatly in advance......


My 2 cents...

Yes, you are ready for an upgrade. A lot has changed, and mostly for the better.

Your first task is to get the specs on the Altec's (power rating, impedance,etc.

Then you'll need to look for an amp that sounds good with your speakers. 

I have no experience with Altec's so perhaps other members can recommend amps that work with that speaker.

One thing that should be considered are interconnects and speaker wire. And, yes, they do make a significant difference.

Once again, try to find other owners of your speakers to see what they find to have worked. It will help you narrow down the list. And, if it confuses you, please let us know, or PM.


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OK, you have a TT. Are there other sources under consideration?

As by Bob, if your are going to keep your current speakers knowledge as to  their impedance would help. Knowledge of the power capabilities for the Pioneer amplifier would help.

With a 18K budget you have much to consider. 

the Altec's are efficient https://www.lansingheritage.org/html/altec/specs/home-speakers/model-19.htm

they are 8 ohm speakers

I only play my turntable and maybe once a year play a CD, but on this system there will be no other sources.

The Pioneer Spec 2 amp is rated at 250 W per channel and has always been a neutral sounding amp, to me I has sounded great on most genres of music and I have been pleased with the Spec 1 preamp because it has seemed (to me) to be a great partner to the amp.

thank you so much for you wisdom, you are welcome to humble me with your insight

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I currently own AGD Audions with a Cary SLP-05 "tube" preamp. I know class D is a bit of curve ball but I think they are worth consideration. There are many great solutions at your budget. I would seriously consider AGD's with a good "used" pre.

Your speakers are screaming for a good tube amp and restored vintage would work!

Specs say spl 99 efficiency.

current amp far more power than needed.

the speakers have a dual range equalizer, which I presume you have used to adjust sound in their location.

I would want tubes, I like 30-45 wpc which is plenty for them. height clearance of the shelf? open space above and at sides? ability to drill holes in shelf above, let heat ’up’? shelf in location to receive infrared remote control signal?

My current home theater cabinet, I made a floating back, look thru see dark space and matching wood like cabinet (not white wall behind). however the back is floating 2" behind, hanging on two blocks: cables, heat flows aplenty for anything/everything in there.

Equipment: Integrated Tube unit perhaps, I definitely want remote volume. I could care less about remote input selection. I like remote balance, I find some tracks benefit a lot from a small balance tweak, and adjusting from listening position is a treat.

Another way to minimize size of amp is to use tube mono blocks with a tube preamp with the features you want. split the heat into three locations.

You need 2 watts to drive those speakers.  The first review of them I found lauded them for great sound with a type 45 tube amp (1.8 wpc).  You said you don't want a tube amp but you could consider a simple 300b or 2A3 with single input tube per channel (4 tubes total, 5 with a rectifier).  You can almost forget they are tube amps.  Almost zero maintenance for thousands of hours.

The SS amp I've found that performs most like a tube amp is the Kinki Studios EX-M1+.  It is known to have a sound like a Swiss amp, whatever that means.

Then you'll need a phono stage which I know nothing about.  However, I listen to a friends awesome system from time to time and he has a Supratek phono stage.  It is a tube pre but tube preamps really are almost maintenance free.   Sorry I don't have any recommendations for ss phono stages.

Good luck.  I hope you find something that really clicks with your beautiful speakers.


Given the specs of your speakers you could consider tube based amplification. If interested in that I suggest you look into Aric Audio as one option. Great gear and great guy to work with. 

I you went with a tube pre and amp or integrated I would consider using a SS phonostage as a way of controlling noise from that gain stage.

@glm911 Wrote:

My quest is to replace my amp and preamp.

I would look at the Pass Labs XA30.8 or XA25 amp and XP12 preamp solid state.



just so there is no misunderstanding to my post, I am not dead set against tube gear, it's just I have almost no background with them........I do remember a time ago listening to a tube system and was quite taken by it, I loved the warmth of the sound and it immersed my body in a very good way, I have no way of knowing a good setup from a not so good setup....

I am new to this forum and I don't know how to address a specific post, please assist so I don't appear to be ignoring anyone....



What is your budget?


are you using the phono stage in your old pioneer?  or do you have an outboard, separate phono preamp?

Hello @glm911 and welcome to these shores.

You have a pair of excellent speakers and your amplification, while dated, is a very good vintage!

1) In your shoes, I would begin with an external phono for your TT. 1b) I would then check the usefulness of a superior cartridge.

2) Following that I would check the room acoustics and improve them as much as you can: there’s no point in improving a system you cannot hear!

3) Third, I would look into getting a ultra-high precision preamplifier. (Your power amp is quite good, even by contemporary standards (IMO). You could consider refurbishing it).

Of course 1 & 3 can be had in the same device. Purchased new these tend to be expensive. Used prices are much more attractive: a CAT Ultimate (tube) w/ phono is excellent and can be had for around 5k used. There are others, including ZOTL Ultralinear.

The above are tube based.

Regarding SS, Pass (mentioned above) is an excellent designer and his equipment is (intentionally) warm sounding. There are others, more revealing, and that match well with your kind of speaker: DartZeel, Symphonic Line...

There are of course, many choices and everyone here will offer at least one! If at all possible, it is worth trying out equipment in your system before you invest. You might find that your system is OK after all!




You’ve answered none of my questions.  Good bye and good luck. 

Less than six hours after posting the questions? Patience, grasshopper!

There is no doubt things have changed since 1977, and that budget allows for lots of possibilities. But I'd like to introduce another factor that has to be considered. If any of us listened to the same system for 46 years, might we not find any change could sound 'wrong' to our ears? Wear some comfy shoes for 46 years and then buy a new, expensive, bespoke pair of hand made Bluchers from Jermyn Street. Despite their quality and expense, they aren't going to feel 'right' at the start, are they? There is a danger of the same kind of thing here, so I'd go slowly and incrementally. Start small, with say, a new stylus on the cartridge. Maybe a new cartridge. Work up from that, just dipping your toe into the water of change gradually.

You are like Buck Rogers in the 21th century!


Keep it simple. How about the new NAD C 3050 integrated? Retro NAD look….modern performance.

Or Cambridge Evo 75 or 150. I’ve been at it since that time also and been through a lot and have landed there at present. Consider these a modern Swiss Army knife of good sound.

Google search “Future Fi” That’s the place to be these days to take advantage of all the modern features available these days and it’s nothing like the 1970s, except phonos are still a thing.


Or KEF ls60 + phono and done.  

BTW I worked at a Tech HiFi store back then as a kid. Good times!


I don't think you need to spend anywhere near 18K to make a significant improvement to your system. A quality tube integrated amp would take you where the Altecs are designed to run. I'd look at a Prima Luna EVO 400. You'll have plenty of power with 70 wpc of tube power. Then spend a modest amount on interconnects and loudspeaker cables. I recommend solid copper wires. I'd also take dogberry's advice, that is spot on. 

I have refurbished Model 19's and I use Coincident Frankenstein tube monoblocks.  There are two pairs listed right now on US Audiomart and I've had very favorable dealings with the gentleman selling the like new MK III's in suburban Chicago.  The Frankensteins are compact and will easily fit within your limited rack space... not to mention they sound sublime with Model 19's and have an excellent track record with regards to dependability.   They also respond very well to tube rolling to tailor the sound to your liking.   Other quality manufacturers of tube gear that would fit within your limited rack depth are Air Tight and Luxman.   Also, if you stream digital, the Weiss 501 DAC has an excellent remote volume control and can be connected direct to your amp(s), bypassing the need for a line stage preamp.  


You have great speakers not far off (sound wise and spec wise) from my JBL 4435's and 4425's. That said, if you want to try tubes, Quicksilver Horn mono's would be a great choice. Your ears will thank you! 😎



Luxman 590AXll.  One stop shopping with 30wpr Class A, MM/MC built-in phono.  Run some Duelund 12 gauge speaker cables and you are done.  Cheers

I have worked on and rebuilt Altec 19's.  When done properly, they are a fine speaker. If you have been happy with your Pioneer Spec Gear, I would stay with Solid state gear, Although 10 watts or more power of tube gear sounds quite good on those.  My instinct right off the bat is to look for 30 to 50 watts of pure class A, Although, I've heard them with the same power Class D with great results also. Look for smooth, yet reasonably detailed gear.  Things have improved since your spec gear, you're in for a treat. 

I found that inexpensive new amps are much better than "vintage" amps... 

how about a new integrated from Anthem, or Arcam, or Marantz?  

These days, you don't have to spend a fortune to get excellent sound, fortunately.  You can spend 18k if you want to... but you could do great for half that or less.

If you're intent on keeping the Altecs, OK... but speakers too have come a long way for the money.  If you like lively and yet with that "audiophile classy sound" and old-school looks: Klipsch Forte IV.  aprox $5000

Neutral and refined and pull a "disappearing act," perhaps something like the Q Acoustics Concept 50, aprox $3000.  



I took a look at your system page, very nice set up! Do you rotate between your Music Reference RM9 (Push-pull) and the Coincident Frankensteins (SET) ? I can imagine both sound wonderful (But different) driving your Altecs. No doubt that either would be terrific with @glm911 Altecs as well. Quality tube amplifiers would surely have those Altecs signing gloriously. He’d be in store for a splendid sonic treat!



It would depend on how intrusive the bulge is from your wallet.  You say you like the sound....leave well enough alone



I do remember a time ago listening to a tube system and was quite taken by it, I loved the warmth of the sound and it immersed my body in a very good way, 

As has been noted, you’ve received very fine feedback and recommendations. You have a generous budget that permits wonderful possibilities. Given your comments about tubes and their positive impressions on you I’d give this some in-depth thought. You definitely have appropriate speakers.


So 70's solid state is the pinnacle of amps?

I'd throw in a pair Atma-Sphere M-60's and a Mp-3 preamp. 

How about an Audio Research I/50 Integrated Amplifier with phono input module? Looking at a sticker price of $7250 and it has more than sufficient power to drive your Altecs. You can also add the DAC module should you want to have a digital signal access. That would leave you with approx. $10k. for other upgrades such as cables.

Another integrated amp to consider is the Western Electric 91E which cost $15k. With the next generation 300B tubes this is another excellent candidate for your upgraded system.

@glm911 First off, congrats on 46 years of musical enjoyment from your system. That's pretty amazing in itself.

You've gotten some very good advice here.  "New stuff" sounds great, and bang-for-the buck (or is that sound-for-the-buck?) pegs the needle on the cost/performance meter.

It's impossible to throw objectivity, subjectivity and emotional attachment in a blender and try to predict what's going to make you happy in the future.  I'll just throw this out there (if you head isn't spinning enough already):

IF you love the Altecs, you can make them sound better than original. While I have extensive experience in speaker upgrades, @pdreher has hands on experience and owns a pair.  Not knowing the internals of the Model 19s, I can only speak iin generic terms.  That being said, the crossovers of that era used production quality parts, cabling, connections, etc.  Those components (caps in particular) are ready for replacement.  IF the Model 19s are like many speakers the crossove boards can be pulled and shipped off for upgrades.  IF the budget allows, custom, hand-built crossovers can be built and shipped to you, complete with pigtails ready to put back in place.  As a "speaker mod'r" the goal is not to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa, and try to make the Altecs not sound like the Altecs.  The goal is to deliver the performance the original designer would have produced if technology, time and budget were available at the time.  They will still sound like Model 19s.  Just much more transparent, focused, detailed, and musical.  Not quite a polite British loudspeaker, but something smoother that you can play louder, longer with less fatigue.  

As for the Pioneers, they are still very desirable (and valuable) pieces.  You can get a reliable "fix" if you want to make the journey to the hifi repair shop.  Or, like the Altecs, they can sound better than original.  (A Spec 1 left our shop sounding much better than it did when it came in). 

As some suggested, adding a phono stage would be signifcant sonic upgrade and take up very little shelf space.

@OP - What model is your Music Hall Turntable. If it's one of the more budget offerings, you should include a Turntable / Arm / Cardridge upgrade.

As regards amplification, a high quality integrated is more than sufficient for your speakers given their efficiency. Passlabs has been mentioned and is excellent.

I'm not sure of Copland from Denmark is distributed in the US but they make excellent integrated amps.

Prima Luna has also been mentioned and is a good choice in Tube amplification.

If you are using old cables with your system currently, be sure to put aside part of your budget for decent cables. The list is endless, but in terms of widely available cables, Audioquest do a very good job.


I acquired the Franks about a month ago and the Music Reference RM9 MKII has been sold to a good home. The Franks have proven to be a better match for the Altec’s, as they allow me to hear deeper into the music.

@curtdr wrote:

"If you're intent on keeping the Altecs, OK... but speakers too have come a long way for the money.  If you like lively and yet with that "audiophile classy sound" and old-school looks: Klipsch Forte IV.  aprox $5000"

My Model 19's superseded Harbeth 40.2 Anniversaries and Dynaudio Confidence C4's and I can say without reservation that I get more enjoyment from my 45 year old refurbished Altec's than the well regarded Harbeth's and Dynaudio's... so one should not assume that newer speakers are better or more enjoyable that classic vintage speakers.  If the OP is satisfied with his vintage speakers, I would not replace them with something newer without validating  first hand that newer is automatically better.


@pdreher I agree for the most part and myself I own and love Epi 100 speakers and their little brothers Epi 50, with some updated parts from Human Speakers.

So, as I don’t know the Altecs in question, I don’t necessarily assume that new speakers are "better" than those... though I’ll note that even you have refurbished Altecs.

However, that said, speakers, like amps, have come a long way in "bang for the buck" since the 70’s, especially when you factor inflation, and there are some relatively inexpensive, $2000-5000 range, choices that perform at an astounding level that only the very, very best from "back in the day" could aspire to. Think about the updates over time to the JBL 100, the KLH 5, and the Klipsch Heritage... There are also far more choices in even less expensive "budget" speakers these days that only a select few from the 70s could come close and that only if updated.

I have Altec Flamencos and recently asked for some advice on amplifiers that you might find helpful. Coincident Frankensteins and Music Reference were recommended for my speakers as well. Also Atmasphere thought that his class d monoblock amps worked well with his similar high efficiency speakers and should be a good pairing for the Altecs. 

 @alexberger gave me the following useful info regarding amplifiers and crossovers:

I have experience with Altec 604E that has similar sensitivity to Altec 846A. In the mid size rooms that I had 200-300 sq feet, 300B SET has enough power. I used McIntosh MC30 monoblocks (30+ watt), Marantz 8B in triode mode (20 watt), and 300B SET (6-7 watt). I also heard 2a3 Boothed monoblocks with my speakers and they were good enough in terms of power. The 30 watt McIntosh MC30 sounded great with my Spendor 2/3 speakers but with super sensitive Altecs it sounded rough and not as natural and refined as a 300B amplifier. 
What is really important is that for a 300B amplifier it has to have a powerful driver tube like 6f6, 6v6 but not popular but weak 6sn7.
The strong power supply with a big and good quality capacitor.
If your room is not huge, I suggest you try Coincident Frankenstein 300b monoblocks or Aric Audio Super 300B SET. Both these amplifiers have powerful driver tubes, interstage transformers and good power supply.

There are a lot of information about crossovers for Altec on Jeff Day page. Jeff prefers Hiraga schematic crossover for his Altec speakers.




I have Altec Valencias (Heathkit 101’s). I bought them because I was curious about the Altec sound. Short story, I love ’em! I alternate them in with my Von Schweikert db99 speakers.

Interesting that the Franks have been brought up in this thread. They are my favorite amps. I use EML XLS 300B tubes. With the Franks, my Altecs disappear with a floor to ceiling, wall to wall, soundstage. Big, realistic, sized images. Images are easy to "see" in front of you. You are there. Wonderful tone, albeit my Altecs can sound a bit strident at very high volumes (over 90db). This is with original 50 year old crossover capacitors that no doubt need to be replaced.

My 1.5 watt per channel SET 45 amps are also very good with my Altecs, but they have a little less flesh on the bones compared to the Franks. It’s nice to switch these in once in awhile.

My OTL monoblocks are just okay, very clear sounding but somewhat analytical.

Each of these amps are very quiet with the Altecs. Low noise floor, no buzz, hum, or hiss.


I acquired the Franks about a month ago and the Music Reference RM9 MKII has been sold to a good home. The Franks have proven to be a better match for the Altec’s, as they allow me to hear deeper into the music.

Hearing deeper into the music. I understand. 👍


Maybe give the Sugden A21 se class A integrated a go...30 watts 8 ohm/40 4 ohm. I'd say that will be plenty of power. Fantastic sounding amp.

Try the Rogue Audio Sphinx v3. Tube front end; solid-state power amp. Easy to afford at $1,700. More power than you'll ever need for your Altecs, It has a rather warm sound itself so it might be too much for your speakers.

Alternatively, I'd look at NAD gear. Good quality; somewhat lean, analytical sound that might work well with your Altecs. And nowhere near $18k.

I have to come clean...

While I did like what the Coincident Frankenstein's did for my Altec's, I came to realize that the exceptionally powerful dynamics that the 19's are capable of were missing with the low powered Franks.  So I've sold the Franks and I am on the hunt for a considerably more powerful amp.  I apologize if the OP ordered low powered amplification based upon my previous input.

Head to the local Hi-Fi store and audition as much gear as you can. Ask about hoe demo's also. Folks here are just going to confuse you. 

I bought my system back around the same time, 1976-77 and the Altec 19s have remained quite solid for many years. I did have the driver freshened up at GPA and I did have the XOs recapped by a friend who knows electronics. Basically just new upgraded caps after over 40 years. I drive the 19s with a vintage Sansui G-9000 receiver that produces more WPC than I have ever needed but remains crisp and faithful after all these years. My TT is a Luxman PD121 set up with and external Denon AU 320 step up and denon 103 MC cartridge. I did hear my 19s through a MacIntosh tube setup once some years back and this did cause my heart to flutter but it also caused my wallet to run. Yes, if you have the $$ then do look into a good tube setup and get the XOs updated with fresh caps and that is a rather inexpensive and simple fix. One of my horn drivers dropped the tangerine phase plug when the glue dried out but this was repaired at GPA on both of the 802-8Gs. Altec 19s do like some punch if you enjoy loud music so don't skimp on power even if you buy a tube amp. All my pals who listen to my system just can't believe such great sound comes from gear that is 45+ years old.