Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Adcom GTP-400 tuner preamplifier

Owning vintage gear from the hey-day of the 60s and 70s can be troublesome since switches, pots and electronic components can go bad. Replacing aged capacitors and resistors is an easy task, but finding the right fitting switch can be difficult. For that reason, basic amplifiers seem to age better than preamplifiers which can be noisy. With that in mind, I decided to replace my Dynaco PAT-4 preamplifier & AF-6 tuner combination with something a little more modern for family use.

Adcom has been around since the 1970s, starting as company that made phono cartridges. By the time the 80s rolled around, they were one of the go-to companies for budget solid-state gear. Several of their components made Stereophile's Recommended Component list and even to this day, my father runs the classic GFP-555 preamplifer and GFA-555 amplifier. During the early 90s, I owned the highly regarded GFP-565 which did not work out for me due to overall system imbalances - it just didn't sound right with my then Snell JIII speakers and a Harman-Kardon Citation V tube amplifier.

After much thought, I decided on purchasing an Adcom GTP-400 for a paltry $125. The GTP-400 is a basic preamplifier that also includes an AM/FM tuner and tone controls are included along with a MM phono preamplifier. The number of switches and knobs makes for a busy looking unit, but the simple black case and blue tuner LED lettering give it a conservative look. There is nothing flashy going on here, just stolid engineering.

Removing the Dynaco preamplifier and tuner was easy enough to do and I soon had the GTP-400 hooked up to sources and a Dynaco ST-80 amplifier. Now there is a strange pair! I have an Adcom GFA-535 coming soon and will report on that in due time.

At least on this low resolution system, sound differences between the Adcom and Dynaco are fairly minor. The strong character of the Dual CS-5000 & AT95E combination still shines through in all its analog glory, while the line section is smooth. I would never mistake the GTP-400 for a tube preamplifier since there isn't tons of depth or dimensionality to the sound. But dynamics and bass control are excellent, plus there is no hiss or hum to worry about. This is trouble free audio at a budget and is highly recommended for those looking to get into this crazy hobby.

A quick word on the tuner section - I'm no fan of digital tuners since they can skip over weaker signals. In comparison, an analog tuner can be fine-tuned with fine gradual turns of the knob. I would think of the GTP-400 as a preamplifier with the side-benefit of having a decent tuner - perfect for background music while cleaning or reading books.

Second System:
Dynaco PAT-4 modified
Dynaco AF-6 tuner
Dynaco ST-80 refurbished
Dual CS-5000 turntable with AT95E cartridge
Pioneer DVD-V7400 DVD player
KEF Q60 speakers
various budget cables