Retro HiFi Journeys – Nytech CA252

The Nytech CA252 brings back memories, and why not Nytech was an iconic British HiFi brand punching well above its weight. Nytech produced intriguing designs and knock out audio quality – as I remember it. But memory is a fickle thing – and when coupled with nostalgia can be positively dangerous.

Chrome and Black Beauty

Gale 401

It is unlikely that we were quite as good looking and talented in our youth as we remember – who possibly could be? And this rose tint doesn’t just apply to our animal magnetism of thirty years ago – it also applies to our recollections of audio quality. Were my Gale 401s really that magical – all imperious bass, definition and delicacy.

Steve Broadhurst rewired them with monster cable and we took the fuses out of circuit. I borrowed a big Tresham from work (Eulipion Audio – down Manchester way) and boy did we rock the party. The Gale adverts claimed the 401 was the only speaker that could make a decent fist of a square wave and of course they are the best looking speakers ever made.

But my hifi amplification of choice was a Radford STA 25 – which couldn’t be as unutterably wonderful as I remember it – glossy and smooth as a Lambo paint job. Mind you even after 30 years I remember the SC22 preamp was crap. Just too noisy – probably in need of a service. Then the glories of my Mission tonearm – Supex 909 – why even the performance of my Tandberg 2075 has grown to mythic proportions with the passing of time. Despite its all too unexceptional sound and lingering unreliability – and Jeff if you are reading this just let me know when you have it fixed? You’ve had it since 1982!

Valve gold from Radford

Radford STA25

Of course time is not always kind to classics, mechanical components gradually succumb – belts fail, speaker surround crumble, bearings wear. And electronics too need will be in need of some love and attention – capacitors in particular being prone to age related failure and as component values drift then so does the line up of the electronics. In studio we used to line up our Studer B62s every day – or at least we were supposed to, tweakers gentlemen please.

So are we to forget the great gear of yesterday and press on with only the newest and shineiest toys, consigning the hifi kit of yesteryear to the kit bag of ancient history? Well, maybe not. No one in the world of professional recording can overlook the esteem that classic products are held in. If you have a 1970’s Neve desk then you are in demand. To say nothing of Telefunken microphones, Pultec equalisers and even a classic tape machine like a Studer A80. In fact there is a whole industry in restoring,maintaining and recreating classics from the last seven decades of pro audio. And that really is the pointer for today’s piece. You can still enjoy the greatness of retro gear if you accept and anticipate spending some money to get the very best out of your old time audiophile religion.


Now much of my listening at home is done through amps that are long enough in the tooth to be called classic and probably are at a point where a visit to the test bench is probably long overdue. I have a Quad 521f – which is great for many reasons – being fully balanced for one. Though having female XLRs for output is just perverse in BBC kind of a way. You LS3/5a owners know what I’m talking about! The 521f I think is a mark 2 having the toroidal transformer but the switch on thump is beginning to get on my nerves. I emailed Quad the other day and received this very encouraging reply.

This one has speakons!

Quad 521f

Please return your Quad 521F to the address below with a covering letter by carrier or hand. We will Quad factory service to full working specification. Our charges are labour fixed (not hourly) at 48GBP, plus the cost of any defective parts replaced, plus VAT and return carriage.

Well if that isn’t a bargain, I don’t know what is! So my job for this month is finding a box tough enough to take the 521 safely over to Cambridgeshire – I wonder if I ask nicely whether they might fit Speakon connectors?


The rest of my listening is via a chrome bumper Naim 250 – talk about legend, talk about definitive, talk about simple black and classic. My 250 had a nasty run in with some electrostatic panels some moons ago so it has had some attention but it too is getting thumpy and I suspect the bias is drifting, so it too needs a trip to the bench. Pete at Audio T is an all round genius and he Naims it up with the best of them, so once the 521 is boxed up and off to Quad then Mr 250 can get a trip over to Crwys Road.

Strapline - sorry I didn't catch your Naim

Naim 250

But then with what shall I listen, dear Liza? Well back in the day when 250s and Isobariks roamed the earth – competition came from just a few avenues – Quad had the 405 and ELS system, Meridian’s 105 amps were often paired with Mission 770s and there was the ground breaking partnership between Nytech amplification and ARC loudspeakers. First there was Nytech – purveyors of quirkily designed receivers, all sloping fronts and sliders. And once over a reputation for unreliability – Nytech proved they could make really good sound amplification. And when they teamed up with new boys ARC they unleashed a storm of creativity. At at time when a PMS Isobarik system cost a year salary – ARC/Nytech could get you into the world of active systems at a fraction of the cost and their plug in cross overs meant great flexiblity and fantastic upgrade options. ARC/Nytech were distuptors of the status quo.

Nytech – Reborn

Sadly ARC and Nytech disappeared under the financial waves or almost the actual waves in the case of Nytech and for many year these once proud brands were but a fond memory for those who love a sloping front panel and silder controls. However old pal of mine and former Nytech engineer Phil Balaam has over the last three years resurrected Nytech and offers a new range of Nytech amps – hand made in Wales. And a complete repair and restoration service for classic Nytech products in need of TLC. Which brings me to the CA252 – a simple integrated amp based on the classic Nytech circuit. The 252 has Disc/Aux and a Tape Monitor input and sliders for volume and balance. I’m gusessing that any 252s still in the wild are round about 25 years old. You can pick one up off Ebay for under two hundred quid and in some cases well under two hundred quid.

Or you might be in the fortunate position of having a CA252 or other Nytech classic, just lying around. Or you might know a friend who has one. If so, now is the time to say, ‘I’ll take if off your hands, twenty quid for your trouble!’

Simple black and sloping - a classic

Nytech CA252

The one I’m using Phil has worked over and has been fully upgraded internally and is complete with a new back panel – sporting much improved socketry. But what is the rationale for retro in the brave new world of 2018? Well consider the amplifier market. A Rega Brio is probably the first rung of the tidy ladder and that sells for six hundred odd quid – to get across the Naim starting line a Naim 5SI will set you back a grand. And now a sub five hundred quid Nytech total refurb takes on a different complexion. You have support from Nytech, the retro looks and rep that you are interested in. Because if these weren’t important to you then you wouldn’t be swimming in the classic pond. And you have that ‘Nytech’ sound. The thing that built the rep back in the day in the first place.

The Sound

And what is that sound then? I sit here now in retro world – the Tannoy near fields driven by the CA252, fed by the Swedish sweetie that is the Marenius S2 DAC which in turn is DACing the AES output of a Marian Seraph AD2 – music supplied by ABC’s 1982 masterpiece The Lexicon of Love. “All of my heart” – that’s the Nytech sound – it’s ‘all of it’ – a liquidity and cohesiveness that extends across the frequency spectrum.  A unity of musical purpose that draws you into the performance.

Yes, there is definition and insight but never at the price of the music itself. The bottom end is well controlled and and has the dynamics to smack you up with the right programme material. Teh top end is full with detail but without the edge that often accompanies it. The CA252 is a good thing in a small package – if you don’t need a multitude of inputs and if you do have a turntable all the better – Nytech do a moving coil stage for the CA252’s moving magnet input running at just over a hundred quid. The CA252 really does deserve a place on your must hear list. It’s a great first step on the road to retro heaven.

And what if you want an integrated amplifier with an active upgrade path? Well at the risk of stepping out of retro world – watch this space – the new Nytech integrated the 352 will have active options just around the 2018 corner. Set the hifi controls to ‘back to the 80’s’ – affordable great sound from small British companies preparing to land.

There are quite a few options for Nytech upgrades, too many to list here. Check out the site below or give Phil a ring on 02920 026176.

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