This is likely to be a lengthy review as I have quite a bit to convey about this Nak. Here's a quick spoiler for those who would prefer not to plow all the way through: This is an exceptional piece of musical reproduction equipment. What makes it special? Read on and find out.
As an audiophile (and videophile) since the early 80's, I've always preferred high-end receivers over separates. While combining three components within one chassis does usually involves some sonic concessions, their affordability, practicality, and overall reliability has clearly endeared the oft-maligned receiver to millions worldwide. Let's not discount the great importance of wireless remote control either, which eventually became ubiquitous in the 1980's, and yet many separates (even at astronomical price points) still lack, even today. Unless you sit literally right next to your equipment rack (I don't), personally speaking, having to move from ones easy chair perfectly located in the 'sweet spot' of the room each and every time a minor adjustment is called for is a definite downer. Maybe I'm just old. Or lazy. Perhaps both, but I love my remotes.
I've owned quite a few receivers, and have auditioned most of the brands out there at one point or another. At least a half dozen from Realistic in my formative early years, graduating to a top-of-the-line JVC R-X500B bought brand new in 1985 ($650 MSRP... in 1985's dollars!) which I actually still own. It received an absolute rave review in Audio magazine and that was all it took for me. Some day I'll take the time to write a review of it as well. As an aside, it's never had so much as the top cover even removed in 28 years. Every bulb in the display still works. Probably just hexed myself right there, but point is, many components from this time period were built like a tank. A bygone era. This thing still sounds incredible and doesn't owe me a dime. Wonder if a 2013-model Onkyo will still function flawlessly in 2041? Don't know, but I'd bet a buck against it. But, I digress.
After purchasing the JVC (which was eventually relegated to powering some outdoor speakers, and very well at that), a TOTL Pioneer VSX-9300S followed. This was the very first commercially available Dolby Pro-Logic decoding receiver available in the consumer market. What a revelation at the time. Combined with a hi-end NEC N-965U VHS Hi-Fi vcr as a source, that was as good as it could get when home theater was still in its infancy. Even had a learning remote which was revolutionary in 1989. Great unit!
As other surround sound formats were introduced I eventually moved into the Denon camp, purchasing a DD & DTS capable AVR-3600DTS ($1,800 MSRP) which functioned very well as both a 2-channel unit, as well as home theater centerpiece for many years, until recently. It unfortunately suffered some type of internal failure and likely isn't worth repairing as the resale value of most receivers, as you're probably aware, is practically nil. Currently a 50-pound paperweight. Which leads us to the Nakamichi AV-2. I was already very familiar with the Nak name from back in the 1980's, but had never owned any of their components. Also suspected that the strictly made-in-Japan high end Nak of yesteryear wouldn't be quite the same as now.
Fact is, the AV-2 was a spontaneous purchase meant to serve merely as a 'fill-in' while seeking a suitable replacement for the now-defunct Denon. A great home theater without sound is like a Corvette without an engine. A quick decision had to be made. So many choices out there these days, it's mind-numbing! In a nutshell, this particular Nak was scored on that huge online auction site we're all familiar with these days for the princely sum of $80 dollars. Oh, and that included shipping. I couldn't believe it! Didn't honestly even know what I'd bought. I hadn't done much pre-bid research (at that price, does it even matter?). To say I wasn't expecting much would be a gross understatement. In retrospect though... oh what a gift it was. This thing is well worth every penny of full retail.
Granted, the AV-2 is a step backwards in many ways for those who wish to put it to work for surround-sound duties. It is Dolby Pro-Logic only. It does not have equal amplifier output to all channels. I had been bidding on multiple receivers at the time, figuring on only winning one of them. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I also ended up purchasing another Denon immediately after the Nakamichi. An AVR-4802R, also for pennies-on-the-dollar, with all the bells and whistles. DTS-ES, THX certification, etc. $2,500 original MSRP. Blah, blah, blahhh. Does everything but make you waffles in the morning.
Here's what you came here to hear: The Nakamichi AV-2 smokes them all in what really matters. Sound quality. At the moment it is currently being used purely as a 2-channel unit. The tuner has excellent sensitivity, very good quieting, and outstanding stereo separation. In all my years, I've never heard FM sound quite so '3-D' to use an overly abused term. Run through a Panamax power conditioner, Pinnacle Classic Gold tower speakers, good quality interconnects, and a variety of source material (mostly CD's and SACD's), I can literally say this is the best sounding receiver I've ever owned. The soundstage with a well done recording is both wide, and deep, with solid individual instrument placement in space. Retrieval of ambience is where it also excels. I've never approached the point of clipping its internal amplifiers, even at ear-splitting SPL's. Bass is tight, highly delineated and well-controlled, without slop or overhang. These Pinnacle speakers are absolutely flat down to 27hz on the bottom, so if there is a problem or leanness from an amp, you really hear it ALL. The AV-2 excels everywhere. Upper end is crisp and clean, without being fatiguing. It has what can only be described as a very smooth analog sound, rather than a case of digititus, which unfortunately seems to afflict so many brands today. Run it in the 'source direct' mode to avoid as much internal processing as possible. The all-important remote works well and has excellent range. It is quite large with 60+ buttons all the same shape and size, which can make it a bit of a challenge to operate in dimmed lighting. It will operate other Nakamichi components if you happen to have them, but is not a 'learning' type remote.
The great irony of it all is, the AV-2 just happens to be the receiver I paid the least amount of money for over the years! Granted, it was purchased used, but proof positive right there than cost isn't everything. I have a theory as to why these are so thoroughly and completely overlooked in the pre-owned market. One concept is that audiophiles who are seeking a receiver tend to gravitate only towards 2-channel models. So the 'Pro-Logic' emblem worn on the face of the AV-2 is the kiss of death when it comes to resale value. Ignore it. Other reviewers obviously echo these same sentiments. The proof is in the listening.
Not sure if this model utilizes the licensed Stasis amplifier technology of other Nak's from the similar time period, but it does not advertise so. Considering the quality of the amplification, it would not surprise me to find they quietly snuck it in there. Build quality and smoothness of buttons and controls admittedly isn't at the level of upper-end Denon, but then they were sold new at far different price points. To make what is surely a far-too-long story shorter, if you value sound quality above all and the rest of your rig is of sufficient quality to extract its best and show what it's made of, I can't imagine anyone not being thrilled with this receiver, especially at todays prices on the second-hand market. It's literally impossible to go wrong with the Nakamichi AV-2.
My Nakamichi AV-2 was the first purchase I made when I got a real job out of college in 1993. I bought the AV-2 in October 93 I think, and I've had it ever since. When I bought it, it was far and away the most musical, lively, accurate and clean sounding receiver in the Hi-Fi store. Prior to that time, I did not believe that the differences between higher end receivers were that great. Denon, Onkyo, etc were all boomy and junky. Truly amazing.
Anyway, I felt compelled to write a review since I'm coming up on 20 years of great service from this puppy. Just last week I brought it into the elementary school to play the farewell video in the main cafeteria. People could not believe the sound that came from this receiver and my tiny B&W DM600 S3's. I was a proud papa. Now I find myself perusing eBay in the event I ever need a backup, but frankly, I don't think I ever will. Rest in peace Nakamichi!
This baby absolutely, unequivocally crushes the competition...even at 5x its price. It is a beast to be sure, but a neutral and revealing one that particularly excels at 2 channel stereo. Music leaps to life from a dead-silent background and breathes in a way that is notably absent from any other receiver I've heard. Absolutely worth every dime.
Bought the av-2 in 2003 at a pawn shop thinking it would be something sufficient for the time I was in college. I was wrong-I am still in college but have grown and heard many systems including carver, luxman, marantz, denon, and I'll mention yamaha too. None of them produce the sound spectrum and clarity that makes Nakamichi a world class name. This unit was hooked up with a variety of lower end and mid speakers. The one's that were the best with it were my JBL N38 northridge series speakers. Between the sound produced by the Nakamichi and the reproduction by the N38's, one could almost taste the sound! It was that GOOD. When i first heard it and started doing research on it because all I had was the receiver-no literature, no remote, no original box, I was amazed to find this site with the current reviews citing this nakamichi as an "8th Wonder of the World" . They were right and I am so glad I found mine. Since then, I have bough another av-2, 2-av-8's, an av-1, and a music bank mb-4. Its just too bad Nakamichi knows how good their stuff is because they really could use a better customer service dept.
Overall, in the ten years or so I have had this unit, I have been completely satisfied. 70W is also a serious understatement. The AV-2 powers my Boston T930II's incredibly well. I run out of tolerance before I run out of ppower. I also have a very crtitical ear and I love the ultra clean power the Nak provides. It also does a heck of a job with home theater, although it has older 4.0 Dolby Pro Logic technology. I am buying another unit for 5.1+ DD & DTS home theater use, but I'm keeping the Nak for music purposes.