To buy or not to buy Audiolab 8000C

Hello there. I'm in such a dilemma. There's a unit of Audiolab 8000C preamplifier I've been given to try out for a couple of weeks. I find the preamp pretty neutral by my standards. I have been hooking up my CD player direct to my volume adjustible power amp direct, hence clarity, is nothing new to me. Even the CD player has electronic volume control but I find it troublesome as it's set to max every time I turn it on and I have to bring it down manually.

With a preamp, the volume is easily set to comfort levels before turning them on.

Problem is, my budget is limited. And the seller admited that he has changed the toraidal transformer in the audiolab 8000C recently. I always belived that electronic components have a limited life span. When one component goes, does it always mean others are going soon? Would I be buying a dying old woman whom I cant have children with? I suppose I could ask for a bargain, seeing that even the mostly used RCA jacks at rear panel are slightly shaky (not sure if they can be adjusted) and may allow the interconnects to contact each other. But a local shop once offered me a preamp with remote priced 50% higher than what this guy is offering and that one is new. This is used and has no remote. Two uncertainty on the new unit - brand and sound quality. With a remote, yes, the thing about convenience is rated higher but sound may be in question. Planning to go the the shop to audition but thought perhaps I could first get some insight on the worthiness of buying a used preamp aged nearly 10 years.

Any advice appreciated.

It's a simple and robust design, pretty easily fixed with generic parts. That said it's also old. I bought an 8000C a couple of years ago for just under $200 USD. For that price it's a great unit (class A preamp, great headphone, switchable MM, MC phono).
I would not spend over $200 on the unit, less since the toroid is not original.

My guess is that a brand new preamp of comparable build and sound quality would be well over $500, probably nearer $1000.
Seandtaylor is correct, had an Audiolab 8000c from new for over 10 years, sold it to a friend 4 years ago, still going strong. Its pretty neutral has a good phono stage and performs way above its price range. If it is at a reasonable price buy it. Here in the UK Audiolab amps hold their prices well and are much sought after.
Thank you very much Seandtaylor and Cnocmoy. Your replies are really helpful. I sometimes doubt my own ears and become unsure. But with your testimony, my doubt is reduced. I'm not too sure if the toraidal transformer is original. The wires conneted to the PCB and power cord appears to be of similar thickness, only thing is - one original purple wire is now connected to the torraidal that has a blue wire instead. On the torraidal, a paper label read 33/00 and Class 2, among other numerics. I suppose this means it was mfg on 33rd week of year 2000 but not sure whether the original torraidal should be Class 1 or Class 2. Do you guys remember how your labels read?

His asking price is around USD250, converted from local currency but I have already set my mark at USD185. It would be a better deal if he would succumb for USD170 but I think he may call off the deal at that price and start hunting for new propective buyers.

Good advice, I think, in both posts above. Just to add to that info, I have an Audiolab 8000A, built circa '86 which is still running strong. I have, however, had to re-cap the phono stage, which I did a few years ago, so this may well be an issue that may be imminent with a 10 year old piece. To be honest, I have never been totally satisfied with the re-cap on the phono stage, having taken it to a local tech who improvised and fixed it to the best of his ability. I have a feeling I definitely lost something with that re-cap, but if the phono stage is less important to you or unimportant to you, this is definitely less of an issue.

The loose rca's on the other hand might be more of an issue. As an upgrade (and I am not gifted with a soldering iron, much less any other piece of equipment used for manual labor), I had the rca's replaced on my 8000A with Cardas' a few years ago as well, (which cost me about $200 Cnd. or about $130 U.S.). This was a fairly serious upgrade sonically, and with extensive chassis damping as well (very cheap to do), I feel that I would have to spend considerably more (as in 3 to 4 times what I have invested in my ancient 8000A) to get a a worthwhile improvement in amplification and my 8000A is still a very strong piece of equipment. The Audiolab stuff, in general, is built like a brick "s+_*%$#use" and is very neutral as well as very tweakable. I think, as Sean said above, if you pay a few hundred for it, you can spend a bit more if need be and still be very happy. But you don't want to go chasing 10-15 year old equipment in this day and age.
Thanks HDM,

Yeah... the RCAs kind of worry me. They're like rotten teeth with loose roots. They dont really touch but I think in time, over frequent plugging and unpluggin, they just may contact each other... and this isnt good. The mounting of the RCAs is somewhat hidden from view, even with the casing opened. All I could see are 2 tiny tabs that stick out from a plastic part screwed to the rear panel. And the connections to the PCB makes it look difficult to adjust, if that's at all possible.

Hm, this is tough decision. On one hand, pretty neutral although aged. On the other hand, questionable remaining life and potential problems errupting in the future. If I was in the US, I could probably throw out the deal... but here in Malaysia, the worst piece of equipment... even the most basic Denon and Rotel aged 15 years still hold high praise and owners are still asking for a big price. With 10/15 years passed, it's quite a scary thing to do... and my wife is already showing signs of disagreement... she's already asked numerous times... "are you going to get that thing?" and I said... "erm.... not too sure.... see how it goes..." and here I am, consulting all of you gurus. :)

I suppose the next best thing to do would be to visit the mall which has the USD420 preamp waiting there and go for a listenning session. One thing I feel uncomfy about that is the difference in setup. Their player could be better and power amp and speakers could be Macintosh and Bang&Olufsen. How can I complain? *sigh* Anyway, whatever it is, hopefully, I could make the most out of my visit.
I'd hold out for $180 and if he sells it great, if not then it's no loss. Loose RCAs are often very simple to fix, even if you have to put in new panel-mount RCAs and wire them to the PCB. Even better, if you know the distance to the source (CD player I assume) then remove the RCA plugs from one end of the interconnect and solder the interconnect directly to the PCB. This removes not only a connection, but a large portion of capacitance from the interconnect. I have done this on my DAC, and the improvements were not small.

So don't sweat the RCAs ... have a good listen with quality headphones and make sure you like the sound.
Wow Seandtaylor, you're pretty daring there, removing the RCA. There's a shop in my area that does "component upgrades" etc which may be able to help me there. At the moment, I have a thought - to swap the CD RCA and power amp RCA with others on the rear panel that arent used so frequently. That's if I cannot fasten the loose RCAs. But, this weekend, to the mall, and more questions for you guys after the audition. The owner will be back from vacation in Russia by 29th... woops... time running out. :P
I would agree with Seandtaylor99. The price for the unit shouldn't go above $200 and whatmore with lose RCA's! $180 should be just right. The RCA's are not an issue since you can get them changed to quality WBT plugs which will give you quite a substantial improvement. I would worry about the toroidal though since it's not original. Nevertheless, if it's properly done then shouldn't be much of an issue either.
Thanks Ryder for your reference on price. To begin with, I'd probably ask for USD184. USD197 would be my highest offer. Since a new preamp is about double that, I will get the comfort that it's absolutely new with zero miles on it. Also, there's another option I am considering... a high grade passive preamp. The DIY store had introduced me Stevens and Billington passive attenuators. These arent cheap as well plus they're very simple. Then again, the rule of thumb here is simplicity for better sound quality. The setback is the casing, which they said would be a simple small box. If the attenuators can be fix in a "normal" casing like that of the audiolab 8000C, by God, it'd be more appealing asthetically. Will ask them if that can be arranged.

The seller of the audiolab says the toraidal is original but I cannot verify that unless I bring it to the DIY shop, which I may since I could also ask about their products. One of the wires that comes with the replacement toraidal is of different color from the blown one. But could it be that the transformer manufacturer changed the color of the wire over the years?
If your CD player was happy driving the power amp directly then a passive preamp could work very well for you.

There are various passive preamp kits available, or you could buy one from Creek.
Hi Sean, good thing you brought up the cd output. It would have slipped my mind.

My initial setup was pretty satisfying. With my poweramp set to a notch before hitting mid level (visually balanced) for both channels' volume knobs, I had to turn down the CD player from volume 20 to around 3 or 6 (with remote) for soft recordings. That's the pain... my wife would accidentally move the power amp's left and right volume knobs and set it high that even with CD at lowest volume, it would be screaming loud. Happened once... and boy was I scared... so worried about the tweeters as I rushed to complete my evening shower (she cant hear "my screams" from the bathroom)! If it wasnt the main door being opened as always, I would have dashed out naked with bubbles all over just to turn down the left channel... : P

Anyway, after adding the Audiolab 8000C, the power amp is now set at max on both channels... for a more "balanced" loudness but volume knob of the preamp only needs a tiny turn clockwise from minimum (probably 1/12 of the max turn) for a decently loud playback. I find it pretty dangerous, frankly as, if she does the same mistake again on the preamp, boy history would repeat, this time even worse. So, yes, I think the signal from the Marantz 4000 is high enough for the 80 Watt/Ch amp. And a passive should work pretty well in that sense.
AudioLab (Tag McClaren) no longer exists in Audio Circles. I would suggest buying a used piece from a manufacturer who still exists.
Gogamecocks ... the audiolabs are simple elegant designs using off-the-shelf parts. I see no reason that one of their amplifiers can't be kept functioning almost indefinitely. However, in the case of the poster I think a passive pre would be better.

On the other hand Sony will be in business in 10 years time, but I predict that that will be of no use to me at all if my TV packs in.
Hey guys, ha... the owner called me up today and after I mentioned about how I have also been considering the Creek passive preamp OBH12, he allowed me to make an offer. I went straight for USD158. He countered with USD171 but gave up knowing that I'm not desperate over the used item. So, I got it at USD158. Suppose I should start with fixing the loose RCAs. So long Creek remote and zero gain. Hope I've not made a mistake I would regret later. I've quite a few over the years.
That's the advantage of not being hasty and show your eagerness in getting the preamp off from the seller. Looks like you've got a hell of a bargain! Since you already have the Audiolab 8000c, hope you will grow to like that piece of equipment, and I know you would. On another note, since those plastic RCA sockets are already loose, I would suggest you change them to quality WBT sockets which will most likely to give positive improvements. This would be a relatively worthwhile upgrade.
Good buy. Even if it doesn't work out I'm sure you can sell it for what it cost you, as Audiolab is a well respected (though sadly deceased) brand.
Hello Ryder & Sean. I hope it wont be needing any repair any time soon. I will check out the mounting of the RCAs this weekend and see if I could tighten them. Meanwhile, I would also check out those WBT sockets you mentioned. Thanks for the tip Ryder.

You're right Sean... I suppose the price is below what it's worth. There was another guy who posted 3 items - 1 unit of Audiolab 8000C plus 2 units of 8000Ps, all for USD1,316. It makes me wonder, really. By the way, how much did the 8000C cost in its heyday in the US and UK?
I think it was about 400 british pounds when I was living in the UK, around 1995.
The seller claimed that it fetched some GBP600. Anyway, that's history, and the deal, it's history too.

I was browsing the net yesterday and bumped into TagMclaren's audio site It appears to me that they are still operating, judging by the dates used on the webpage. It reads year 2004. And their latest preamp model PA10, appears to have very similar specs and design compared to the 8000C. The faceplate's layout for source selector, volume, mute and power buttons, headphone jack are at about the same location. However, the bass and treble knobs, the balance knob, and the bypass button are no longer available, probably an intention to bring the buyers closer to what's considered "flat". The rear also looks the same - RCA locations, power cable etc. Added on at the bottom are 4 dampeners, custom made for the casing. I even downloaded the manual. Any comments on the site guys?

I have another question. My brother loaned me his 3 prong cable for the power - a spare taken from another amp. But I wonder, is there any difference between this type of cable and those we use for a desktop PC? The socket shape and size appear to be the same but I'm unsure about the quality of conductivity. What are your views guys?
Audiolab are owned by Tag Mclaren. However Audiolab products are long time obsolete since Tag only come up with their own products under their brand name. It seems that Tag Mclaren have come back from the dead as I had the notion that they too have ceased operation as well. This web site is relatively new and was created mid of last year. I have couple of mates using the Tag Mclaren AV32R DP processor and 5r multichannel amp but have non having the PA10 pre that you've mentioned, so unfortunately cannot offer any advice. Basically they are the F3 series of the Tag Mclaren and have some sort of resemblance to the Audiolab.

As for power cords, you have to try it out to figure it out for yourself.