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Advent Model 300 and RCA Console Pull EL84 Amplifiers: The Budget Audiophiler
An underrated vintage receiver designed by one of the most respected sound engineers of our time.
Outside of audio circles, it is not well known that Advent manufactured audio hardware other than loudspeakers. Most vintage audio fans know Advent for the Large Loudspeaker and nothing more. I own a pair of the Advent loudspeakers and think that most people interested in affordable vintage audio should own a pair if they can find them for a decent price.
We’ve already covered them in a previous column but this week I want to focus on the Advent Model 300 amplifier. It’s not the easiest product to locate but it has proven to be quite a surprise and further proof that there are some excellent vintage amplifiers available outside of the Marantz and Harman Kardon products that are very popular.
Advent was founded by audio visionary, Henry Kloss, after he left KLH in the late 1960s. Kloss had a huge impact on the affordable loudspeaker category and his products have been part of the vintage audio landscape for decades.
Advent decided in the 1970s to enter the audio receiver category and the Model 300 was introduced into the market after 3 years of research trying to perfect a receiver that, as the catalog states, “most people will value under real listening conditions at home at a price well within the lower half of the current range.”
Designing any piece of audio hardware is a challenge, but it takes a very competent designer to engineer a more affordable piece of equipment that sounds good and is reliable. A lower retail price means cheaper parts and construction quality, but Advent created something rather worthwhile.
They did eliminate the AM tuner section, but then added an auxiliary input and a brand new phono preamp designed by their Chief Electrical Engineer, Tomlinson Holman.
If you love movies, his name should immediately recognizable. Holman designed the very capable Holman Pre-amplifier, but he changed the movie experience as we know it with the invention of Lucasfilm THX.
Fast forward to 2021 and we find him at Apple developing products like the Apple AirPods Pro and leading the development of their other audio products and streaming technology. He also won an Oscar in 2001 for Scientific and Technical Achievement.
He’s one of the most respected sound engineers in the world and tens of millions of people use his products every single day.
The price of the Advent 300 just went up.
The phono preamp alone is why most people purchase this receiver. There were so many technical improvements in it that Holman delivered a paper on it for the Audio Engineering Society. The Model 300 proved to be a low noise and low distortion receiver at a rather affordable price point.
The FM tuner section is without too many frills; Advent clearly put the money into the audio engineering and not the traditional glass display with a sweeping tuner dial. The actual dial is aided by 2 LEDs that help the user lock onto a station. The reception quality of the tuner is actually quite good, although I rarely use it.
I bought my Advent Model 300 for $60 “as-is/parts” on eBay. I noticed in the picture; the preamp-to-amp jumpers were missing. The unit powered on but made no sound. I realized that the absence of the jumpers was the issue and felt there was minimal risk in the purchase.
The first thing my son and I did was add the jumpers and test. Fortunately, the Model 300 worked just fine but there was some “crackle” in the knobs. We stripped the unit down, washed the faceplate and knobs with warm water and soap, and used Deoxit on all of the pots, RCA jacks, and switches. The design is rather rudimentary and was a quick reassemble job for my nine year-old son.
For my listening tests I paired the Advent Model 300 with a pair of Dynaco A25’s from the same period. More on those can be found here. The amplifier outputs a mere 15 watts/channel, yet it drove the loudspeakers quite effortlessly. The clarity was excellent, and the low end was tight even with the “loudness” off, and this pairing allowed us to run the volume dial to almost 75% of its range with very little distortion before I dialed it back.
I normally use “loudness” and with the 300 I really didn’t need to. Needless to say, my son and I were both impressed with my 1980s post punk music and his Hazel English and Beach Bunny. For the price, Henry Kloss and Tom Holman executed the design of the Model 300 quite well. It’s a very focused sounding receiver with a decent amount of control in the lower registers.
The best thing about the Model 300 is that most people buy it to use as a preamp because of the superiority of Holman’s internal phono preamp.
We paired it with an early 1960’s RCA stereo console pull.
What the hell is a console pull?
When someone guts ugly (with some mid-century exceptions) 1960’s wood or fake wood console stereos for the tube amplifier within. This type of amplifier is prized by those who love to modify or restore amplifiers from the period. The industrial design of the amplifier is actually quite unique; they often have a very industrial looking chassis and design because they were meant to be hidden inside a console.
The amplifier I found was fully restored; including a layer of paint, new capacitors, a power switch and light addition, grounded power cord, an emblem (presumably from the console), and modern speaker binding posts. The EL84 tubes were original but still had some life left in them. I managed to find this beautiful amplifier for $300.
We connected everything and things got off to a bad start. The RCA amplifier only outputs 15 watts/channel and proved to be insufficient for the Dynaco loudspeakers. The volume level was very quiet and there was audible clipping at higher volume levels.
I was disappointed that this combination was not a match, but I did the most logical thing; I brought my Advent Large loudspeakers into the room and substituted them for the Dynaco speakers.
The synergy between these Henry Kloss-designed speakers and the RCA amplifier was fantastic; I had no difficulty driving them, the midrange warmed up, and the soundstage size increased rather dramatically.
The Advent Model 300 proved to be a great bargain for the money. Kloss and Holman made the right decision to focus on the circuit design and sound; and make smart changes to the chassis and aesthetics to keep it affordable.
There is no question that the Advent Model 300 has more headroom than its rated 15 watts/channel and works quite well as a preamp; the phono preamp is the best part of the design.
You can find the Advent Model 300 between $100-$150 and the Advent Large speakers are available around $100-$200 for a pair in decent condition.
This article originally appeared at ecoustics.com and has been published here with permission.
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