Old School

SAE 2200 Amplifier

When I worked across the aisle in the local mall during my college years, I dreamed of owning a whole stack of SAE audio gear.  Much like Wayne in Wayne’s World, I used to pester the hell out of the “audio consultants” at TEAM Electronics to let me hear the full blown SAE system, chock full of giant VU meters, rows of LED indicators and nixie tube displays.

However when my cha-ching moment finally came and I was ready to plunk down some cold cash on a system of my own, complete with a pair of Altec Lansing Model 19’s, (the same speakers that I made them play Dark Side of the Moon on every Friday), SAE had gone out of business, never to return.  So I settled on a Harmon/Kardon Citation amplifier, because it also had a cool LED power display and by then, a good friend was working for TEAM’s competitor, so I was able to score an employee discount.  But I always dreamed of that line of red LED’s bouncing back and forth while my favorite 70’s hits were playing.

Sometimes you can revisit the past successfully

A very clean example turned up on eBay a while back, so it was a great opportunity to relive the past, but the burning question would be just how good was this amplifier I lusted over for so many years?   As many HiFi collectors know, digging up vintage gear is a lot like shaking a magic 8-ball; signs often point to no.

Not this time.  The near mint 2200 that our publisher purchased for the Slumming’ column last issue arrived in excellent shape, was well packed and all of the LED’s in the power level display worked.   Having no idea how long this 2200 had been powered down; I let it play for a few days at low level before breaking out the Pink Floyd records.  Initially mated up to my JBL-L166 speakers, I was floored at how good this old workhorse sounded, enough to add some more modern gear to the mix and investigate further.

The 2200 still has a very good helping of modern audiophile cachet.  Hooked up to our publishers Harbeth Monitor 40.1’s we were both surprised at the solid bass response and relatively grain free presentation, as part of a system with the new Audio Research SP-17 preamplifier.

Buying advice

Should you be interested in a 2200 of your own, they are rated at 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms and you should be able to purchase a very clean example in the $200 – $300 range.  There are still quite a few out there and I will be sending this one to 2200 specialist, Ken Ealey Audio in Illinois for a full rebuild.  He charges $300 to give the amplifier a substantial rebuild, upgrading the semiconductors and capacitors to current spec units, but charges an extra $50-$100 if the LED displays don’t work properly.

You can find Ken at www.kenealeyaudio.com We’ll have a full report when we get our test sample back, but I’m thinking this one’s going to be a permanent addition to my collection.