Revox B750 II integrated amplifier review & test – by Howard Popeck

Revox B750 Amplifier

Try as I might, and frankly I don’t try all that hard that often, I’m rather taken with the look of an audiophile item to the extent that I’ll buy, or covet it. Yes, it’s sad. But … Or put differently, the sound quality takes second place – sometimes. My Yamaha C1 pre amp was a case in point. More controls than the flight deck of an SR-71, and a sound quality that was merely okay.

On the other hand, I bought the Lecson AC1/AP1 and not only did it look magnificent, but sounded so too. Similarly with the austere Meridian 101/103D, the 101/105 and the Boothroyd Stuart Orpheus. And the point of this is, well what precisely?

Well, I’m not immune. And this brings me to the Revox B750 Mk2 amplifier. In those days, and I’m talking about 1981 here, the word Revox was synonymous with impeccable engineering and sound quality. A bit like Nagra is today, or Accuphase for that matter. The slight difference being that Revoxwere also synonymous with their outstanding reel-to-reel tape recorders which had made such an impact in both the professional studio an home studio too. The then unasked question should have been; “If a company is good at one thing, are they automatically good at another, even if that ‘another’ is in a related field?” A case in point being Naim. Terrific amplifiers and CD players, but as for their speakers? Hmm. Well … Admittedly, Rega seem to be one of the very few that can build a total system, and get it right. Anyway, back to the Revox B750 II.

Even the box it came in reflected quality. The packaging was first-rate and the instruction manual was a text-book example of how to do right first time. And out of the box it came. And damn heavy it was. From memory, at least 12Kg I’d say. And even before plugging in it in, you just couldn’t (well, I couldn’t) resist flipping the flippers up and down, rotating the knobs and so on. It was a tactile feeling. Impeccable. Like a Lexus today. It all worked, and clicked when required. It said, in effect; “I’ll outlast you, sonny!” Smitten? Certainly was!

Now to put this in perspective, this unit was £500 in 1981. The highly competent but less visually impressive A&R A60 was just £190.

My notes from the time and my memory indicate that I felt that the layout was visually very neat, but perhaps a little counter-intuitive. Looking at it, there is, still for me a very pleasing symmetry. While Naim were breaking the mould of having no tone controls, Revox had 3, including a ‘presence’ control. And there was a loudness switch (surely one of the dumbest devices ever considered by audio engineers anywhere?) and (thankfully) a tone defeat switch, plus muting, etc.

A very neat touch, as used by Yamaha too (to great visual effect) was the hinged section at the top of the unit to hide various other and rarely used controls. This included (and again I’m working from memory here) loading for the disc input and sensitivity.

The loudspeaker terminals were the (for the day) ‘popular’ bare wire thingies that seemed only strong enough to take bell wire. I guess that they were a bit more substantial than that – but not much. My one had the totally inadequate DIN speaker cable sockets too. Daft, even by the ‘primitive’ standards of 1981.

I was still using Gale 401a speakers at the time. They had a fairly punishing impedance of slightly less than 4 ohms load. This Revox drove the Gales loudly and without problem. The sonic performance of that combination was not overly impressive though. I tried the Revox with the Linn Isobariks. The sound wasn’t too clever there either. It could provide current okay, but with these 2 speakers, the sound was somewhat sluggish, the bass was a bit loose and sad to have to use this misunderstood term, the sound was just not ‘involving’. It was a tad bright though, but not always.

Bear in mind of course, there was no CD technology at that point. Sources were cassette, disc and tuner. Again referring back to my notes, I did find the sound through the tuner input (using my Trio KT-917) very good indeed and via my Nakamichi 680ZX, very good again. It was vinyl replay that disappointed. In fact, disappointed a lot. Which brings me to this.

Bearing in mind that even mint condition units are only fetching around £260 in the UK, then personally speaking, I believe this might be a terrific buy – providing you use an modern external phono stage into the AUX input of the Revox. Just don’t bother with the on-board one.

And another point to raise, but I can’t offer an answer to this is the matter of CD replay. Naturally this Revox, given its vintage status, has no CD input. Possibly a modern or even vintage CD player might overload the AUX input of this Revox. Even this isn’t a problem, because you could use Rothwell attenuators I suspect.

In summary then, a true classic of ergonomic design with poor attention to vinyl replay but with the capacity to deliver an effortless 100 watts into 8 or 4 ohms and with more controls (and that all-important tone by-pass button) than you’ll ever need – for peanuts. You’ll need a strong shelf though.

Howard Popeck

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1 Comment

  1. have you tried to connect an external DAC? I do wonder how that would sound!

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