What do you know about a WESTERN ELECTRIC 86-A amp ??

I have a all original W/E 86a amplifier, I would like to find out what people know about these amps and there sound quality .......Mine has all original W/E tubes  .....THANKS


Good luck finding 300A tubes for it! I hope the tubes are strong if you plan on using it. I'm sure it's worth a lot if you decide to sell it. It's likely not many have been privileged to hear this amp or asses it's sound quality.

Modifying it (by replacing capacitors) will destroy its value, so don’t touch anything, including the wiring (WE wire is highly prized by collectors).

The most famous WE collectors are in Tokyo and South Korea, so I guess that’s where it would fetch the highest price. I would not listen to it, out of concern for capacitor failure, which would burn up the irreplaceable power transformer.

The sonics of this kind of amplifier are very strongly affected by the parts within ... transformers and caps especially ... and these 1930’s parts use technologies that are no longer in use, and cannot be exactly replicated today. A part that visually matches the 85-year-old original will not sound the same, and collectors know that.

I believe that a local dealer put two reconditioned 86 amps into an ultra expensive system.  I heard the amps playing in a different horn-based system at the dealership.  This dealer has a number of other Western Electric 300B amps, so I am not certain of the model I heard.  I liked what I heard, but, I think I liked the Western Electric 124 amps that this same dealer has also reconditioned (350B output tube) more.  The 124 sounds more punchy and tighter sounding.  As for that expensive pair going to the customer, it has engraved base 300B tubes in it.  The dealer has collected two 300A tubes, and if he gets two more, that customer will "upgrade" to the 300A. 

The REALLY crazy tube amp that this dealer has is the 59A.  This is easily one of the best amps I've heard.  The output tubes in this amp are the 252 (meshplate version) which is similar to a 300B.  But, if you think 300A's are expensive, try finding meshplate 252s.

I have looked this amp over, it appears to be untouched, You mentioned the 300-a tubes but this amp has 300-b tubes and matching code date 274a tube  .....I am not going to even think about plugging it in.....I think the best thing to do is take a bunch of perfect pictures, inside and out and send it down the road.....I had at first though about hooking up, but after talking to Andy Bowman at Vintage tube sales , he told me not to plug it either ........But I will see what other people think............W

The amp, regardless of tubes in it, is extremely valuable.  If you don’t know how to check it out, find someone who can inspect it, slowly reform the caps with a variac, and test the tubes, etc.  It will be worth much more if you can confirm that it is in good working condition.  With Western Electric gear, something that old COULD still be in good condition.  Even capacitors could still be good.  

I know someone who found a 124 amp that needed no work at all to sound great.  All the tubes were in good shape too (those 348 tubes are quite pricey, even more than the 350B output tubes).  I like the fact that this amp is being used every day instead of being treated as a museum piece.

A couple more thoughts.  While it would have been a welcome miracle if the tubes were 300A’s, any original 300B in working order will also be valuable.  The engraved-base 300B’s from the 1930s can go for $20,000 a pair.

if you decide to sell the amp, you should contact Deja Vu Audio in Virginia.  That is the dealer I mentioned in my post above that specializes in vintage tube amps and re-building of such amps.  I have a 133 clone made by their Italian builder that is terrific sounding.  It utilizes a lot of genuine parts, including the correct input and output transformers, but it is configured for stereo and has a modern power supply; the amp also runs very rare 348 and 349 tubes.

Wow! A 9 out of 10 condition rating on something that has not been plugged in.  It goes to show how low the price can be on an untested amp.  I would expect another zero to the price of a good working example.

That amp would go nicely with my vintage University corner horn! I would limit recordings only to mono's! Who needs stereo when one can have a combination like this! Too bad that this WE amp will likely go to a rich Asian collector, like most of the vintage WE gear!

I wouldn't hesitate to replace bad caps and get it working. What good is it sitting on a shelf? It was meant to be used and enjoyed! Most likely it was used in a 1930's movie theater. The heart of this amp lies in the transformers. High-quality 274's and 300B's are being made today!

I agree, get it working and use it as a music maker.  I hate the hoarding as a collector piece.  That is why all the gear that goes through Deja Vu Audio are in listening dystems.

Yeah not sure about 9/10 considering that age it's untested and also the chassis is quite rusty. But I agree with @larryi I'd take it someplace like Deja Vu and get it up and running in as close to original shape as possible.

Jond:   That's dust and dirt on it, it has no rust.....It's all Aluminum, so it doesn't rust......I could have it operating in a half hour if I wanted, but it would require replacing some electrolitics and I really can't afford to alter it at this point....I have worked on and built tube amps for over 50 years.....Getting that amp running will not be a problem and I may do it for the buyer, but I can't afford that amp for myself.......I just got a Altec 126-a tube amp today and a pair of Altec "Magnificents" so I'm having a 5 star week................Thanks for the comments........W

Jason:  If I have to repair this I will probably hook it to my single Belle Klipsch or  one of my Alec Magnificents I just got today.......I wish I had another one for stereo, then I might think about keeping it, but I would guess I'll probably never see another one......I bought that Altec amp today so who knows.........W


Is the Audio Mart posting linked in this thread your posting?  That is a very low price.  Call Deja Vu Audio if you want to sell it.  I bet you get a much better price even in you don't know if it works.  They can get it reconditioned or they can salvage parts for a new clone amp if too much is gone for a repair.