After nearly 25 years of want, I finally acquired my dream (solid state) amp: The Nakamichi PA7-II. This was certainly an upgrade from the CARVER (TFM-35x) that previously drove my Maggies. I had considered and tested several candidates such as the ROTEL and ADCOM, but they didn't impress me like the PA7.
The CARVER preamp/tuner (CT-17) and CD player were replaced in stages with a Parasound Halo P5 and the Oppo BDP-103 respectively to bring my system well and truly into the 21st century. While each component made a contribution, it was the PA7 that, not suprisingly, that had the biggest impact.
The depth and detail is astounding. While the Nak cannot drive both the Maggies and the Boston Acoustics sub as the CARVER did - without breaking a sweat I might add, it more than makes up for it in making the music feel more ALIVE. This is especially so with live recordings. The improvement in imaging and detail is so dramatically improved, my wife - who wasn't keen on my getting an amp that's twice the size and weight, now spends time with me during listening sessions! It's like hearing new music!
Tips: Be sure to get one that's in good physical and cosmetic condition. Don't be overly concerned over the model (PA7 vs. PA7-II), as there are trade-offs to each. Lastly, these are older amps so an overhaul at some point should be considered part of ownership.
If you're on the fence about getting this amp, don't be. It's certainly worth owning - and in my case, worth waiting for!
I have the Pa-7-2 it is rated at 225 watts,wow what a amp this thing is a monster and pushes all my componets nicely,i have a set of ESS speakers an a polk audio sub i use and with the turn table i can hear things you just cant hear with a remasterd cd,what an alsome amp.
After a long search for the right hifi stuff I found the best combination and got the sonic a-ha effect. I started at the age of sixteen with Mordaunt-Short MS 100 and a Mission Cyrus One, it’s good but nothing special. Before I heard the MS 15 with Nad 3020 amp – a inexpensive combination that sounded good, a bit valve like, which I prefer – that was my rite de passage into hifi. I would even recommend these devices today if you are not fixed on bass and/or the audience room is small. I tried also other amps like Rotel 840 BX II which I didn’t like with small speakers; Creek 4330 was better, sounded clean but swallows details and sounded a bit small. You see, my hifi socialisation was deeply impressed by british devices.
My Rega Planar 3 is now over 20 years old and I love the sound even today. 1995 I bought the speakers B&W Preference 5 and they fit well together with the amplifier Cyrus One. That was my combination for a long time. But time by time it sounded a bit dry. My ambition raised what concerns to hear the space, especially wide-ranging, the ambiance and atmosphere of good recordings. I craved for Cyrus II plus PSX.
First I recognized that the tweeter of my B&W only worked up to the level of 10-20 percent.
I got no substitute tweeters. That’s why I bought Focal Beryllium tweeters, usually made for car hifi, second hand on ebay and built and fitted them in. Quite good but I expected a little bit more (to aggressive, not spatial enough, not refinded enough but that depended on the amplifier as I later figured out).
Ok. so far. Then I started to re-equip with Nakamichi PA 7E because I once heard them together with the beloved but very expensive small speakers Intonation Terzian, the best combination I have ever heard!!! By accident I found them on Ebay for 1500 Euro, had good luck and got them. They are usually worth about 4000 – 5000 Euro even on the second hand market. But they were not so good sounding as I remembered them. Now they will be repaired for about 1000 bucks by the developer himself.
Today I got the a-ha experience with the Nakamichi PA 7E. Combined with the B&W Preference 5 (bi-amping and using silver cable) with pre Nakamichi CA 5 E II, D/A Nuforce Icon HDP (which at the beginning sounded a bit too thin, but works now perfect in the combination with big speakers) and a CDP Cambridge Audio Azur 640 C and via Macbook with Amarra – the sound is amazing!!!! Spatial, smooth, refined, warm, live character very next or even better to valve amps… . But I needed time for proper installing into the room.
At first I made a mistake and chose another preamp Audio Forte 2, a daughter company of Threshold, which I thought would fit because of the Threshold design of the PA 7 E. But I didn’t fit sonically and volume was feebly. When I changed to Nakamichi CA 5 E II it was the best decision. It means a huge sonically impression. Maybe pre and amp should be of the same company. Maybe a valve pre would also fit, but I had no chance to try. I fear it would be a little bit shy in bass.
With Audio forte pre it was too hard in signal (like another here described the PA 7), a kind of brute, not refined, a limited soundstage. With the Naka CA 5 the soundstage increased as well as the whole sound is refined and the “room breathes” – what a presence. Now I’am very, very happy!!!
I have been in Berlin on “The long night of ears”(all prejudices were affirmed: no woman but a excessive number of men:) and I heard about 8 -10 really good hifi devices up to 10000 – 50000 Euro, very expensive equipment like Focal speakers and Dynaudio Confidence which were the best, amplified with Nagra amp plus CD. Really very good, but I wouldn’t even give my combination for the Nagra and the Dynaudio speakers. So much I love the Nakamichi pre and amp combination. O.k., I know that this is my subjective perception and opinion and I had to compare both hifi combinations in the same room to judge more objectively.
I don’t know what will happen when I get my Intonation Terzian back - repaired. But even yet I definitely realized my hifi dreams of my youth. The Intonation has to exert very good qualities in order to banish the B&W (at least I keep them as party speakers).
I also heard the Kef blade with Accuphase equipment. It’s good, but not my taste. That seems not to be up to date but, as I said before, I prefer more my valve-like sounding combination.
Maybe once I will buy a CDP with usb-entry and valve outcome (double or four 6h30 tube) but only if it won’t be so expensive as it is now. Guess that would fit best.
What a pity that Nakamichi isn’t produced any more.
Very smooth, very good spatial reproduction, huge soundstage but only with the right combination (e.g. preamp and speakers). Coherence is better than with any other transistor amp I know. In winter pre and amp are good heaters also.
Difficult to find. Maybe in summer you need air conditioning. That could cause noise. Bass becomes a bit weak with the age of the amp. It’s good to have the option to tune the bass via preamp. The amp needs time to get hot, but when it is hot the bass performance improves and the sound is stunning and second to none.
Price Paid: I honestly don't remember - I bought them as new some time in the 80's.
Two PA-7's hooked up each with a Sonus Faber Grand Piano converted to bi-wiring (makes you wonder why SF has bi-wiring on the smaller models but not on the top ones).
Preamp Nakamichi CA-5, which in my humble opinion has more clarity than the CA-7 but alas not the remote controlled volume knob. One has to get out of the chair.
No electronics cross-over between preamp and PA - both channels in each amp handles the full requency range. I tried a few commecially available electronic cross-overs but they sounded bad. Built two with tubes .- better, but still letting the two channels hanlde the full frequency range and then let the speaker circuitry take over subjectively sounds better - more presence, more clarity.
Speaker canbes are home made from heavy-gauge high frequency litze for the treble channelse, cimber cables for the bass channels. HF litze is superior to anything else on the market but is is expensive and hard to obtain and requires some soledring skills to configure. Very cumbersome but you only have to do it once. On the other hand: When did you last get something cheap and easy worth having?
Now for the musical part: I invariably use trios (piano-bass-drums) and small combos with vocals for evaluation.
I have had plenty of other amplifiers and still have including some famous tube amps (McIntosh 275 and Fisher SA1000) plus some home-built triode sepciments. All very good each in their way.
I am impressed with the PA-7's dynamic reproduction. OK, so theres is ample power in themn to feed any speaker known to man, but it is more than that: They have a coherence and a presence in the sound oicture enabling you to pick out the exact position of every player. That does not apply to multichannel recordings, of course, where the sound picture per definition is distorted and unreal from the start. My test tracks are typically recorded with two microphones and/or an artificial head microphone.
Some of the best I have are recorded with a Nagra IV-S rell-to-reel (must be 40 years old) and two Neumann KM-84 from 1962.
Using such sources you can really appreciate the virues of the PA-7. Secind to none - but then I don't have Nagra amps as someone else compares them to.
When doing A/B tests with McIntosh 275, Fisher SA1000 and the PA-7's it is clear, that tube amps invariably lose out in the bass range compared to a solid state amp. However, the tube amps are generally better in the mid- and treble range, especially the SA1000.
Camparison is a bit unfair since the PA-7's use bi-wiring and the tube amps do not, but my conmslusion has to be:
For smaller rooms and with more efficient speakers I would probably go with one of the tube amps. However. the overall impression from the PA-7's would make me go for them any day as the better compromise.
Funny thing: My neighbour, after listening to my Nakamichi sound system, bought a PA-7 MK II on eBay in mint condition for like $1,500 + and arm and a leg in shipping costs (US to Denmark tends to cost a limb or two). Comparing it to the old PA-7's I find the older model slightly better sounding in the midrange than the MK II.
But then that's only me - you tend to prefer the gear you are used to. Just like religion and really not too far from it :-)
I am writing this review because I feel people haven´t covered the full truth about this amp, and since I have read some really good reviews on this site, so this is my way of giving something back.
I am here covering every single aspect of this player to give you the total truth.
quick review instead of star rating which doesnt give a proper impression.
I am basing this on the countless mcintosh and nagra amps I have experienced in the same conditions with speakers,cables etc..
0 is worst and 100 is best.
hardness of signal:55%
tonal quality and correctness:68%
true deep emotion level:78%
analog audiophile sound:70%
overall personal judgement from me not based on mathematical formular from above, but personal impression it gave me compared to Nagra which I would give 100%: 69%
This is a very high score for me, I don´t normally give these high grades for amps.
And it is based not on prize value, but simply compared with the best sounding equipment I have ever heard:
Nagra VPA on Verity speakers with custom tubes. (Yes there are maybe 3 makes in the world that are better, but they also usually cost 3-10x times more, so I find it unfaire comparing to these makes since they are pretty much unavailable and only about 5-10% better)
It is unfair calling this thing just big and powerful and warm.
It is so much more than that, because it has a certain type of personality wich runs again in all songs that one hears.
first of all, lets get 1 thing straight:
It is slightly warm, but not coosy warm like sitting down while I massage your feet while you have a cup of tea.
NO NO NO, this is a misunderstanding!
It is tonally warm, which gives you a 1980´s ultra HIFI sound.
And it is important you again think 1980´s, because alot of what was made hifi in the 80´s was also slightly veiled and hard in signal.
So this thing needs to feed on a decent set of speakers that are comfortable and a decent set og cables, or else it will become way too hard and caotic and will bang your head in with a hammer! (remember to keep the listening spot as far away as possible from the speakers)
Because underneath the brute force lies a misunderstood person, who really is fantastically good at expressing intens emotions.
Many times when you listen to Tube amps, they are either warm comfortable and veiled, or to unimpressive it sound too boring.
This isn´t either of thoose, this thing breeds intens pain in singers voices because og deep psycological problems and therefore it will scream and shout in a very passionate way, and has a deep powerfull bass kick that will knock you of your chair depending on your speakers and cables. (It is a super diva, dramaqueen!)
(It has a true knack for the SOUL parts of music like for example intens violin or saxophone)
You can try and tempt fate by playing this on it:
Hugh Masekela Stimela (coal train)
Cranberris "no need to argue"
witness the extraordinary way it conveys, the fact that life is truely unjust and prepare too be blown away!
It doesn´t play as freely as it could do, and does not have the super midrange that ,Mcintosh and Nagra have, therefore it can feel as if the bass is always sitting a bit down and being a bit drawn back in the background giving it a slighly artificial feel of having excess power.
It could also have a bigger soundstage and less veiled sound.
I also feel that every note that it conveys is slightly too deep, making it again seem as if it is sitting on the bass just waithing for you to turn up the volume so it can surprise you with a full front attack!
If you main thing is corretness and politeness in music, then do not look here.
This thing is created to rock you world, and needs a super set of speakers and a very kind and gentle cd player of tje like as Mcintosh,ear,nagra,jabra and so on to really calm down so the signal is too hard and forceful.
You can of course try with a normal player like nad or yamaha, but it will only reveal 3 out of 10 levels that things has a potential of pumping out and Nad is crazy hard on this thing!
And for good sake don´t awaken it cruel and nasty side by putting cheap silver cables on it like QED or Audioquest king cobra, it will throw a fit you´ve never seen before and give new meaning to the word POSTAL! (some people call it bright, bright only steems from poorly matched units, it need quality components to turn into a princess!)
treble is beautiful but also has a big temper!
like everything good it also heavy and requires 2 adult human beings to ne moved around.
This truly is an unusual and kind of exiting amp that needs to be tried together with many other.
I recommend trying this thing with high quality cables and a good cd player + speakers. (It hass tremendious potential of beating top makes with the right combination of HIFI stuff)