The Budget Audiophiler is going to begin this week with a little rant. I need to vent about McIntosh. The folks in Binghamton have my utmost respect, but they have created a problem that they can’t fix. I’m laying my obsessive love for tube amplifiers at their feet. I remember the first time I saw a McIntosh MC240 stereo tube amplifier and just getting lost in the moment; almost becoming transfixed by the industrial piece of art and its illuminated exposed tubes.
At some point, I will own a McIntosh tube amplifier, but the cult surrounding these gorgeous vintage pieces has pushed the prices well out of reach. I’m a practical person. I have a normal day job like everyone else, kids, mortgage payments, and I did what any other sane person in my position would do – I sold one of my organs as a down payment on that amplifier. Just kidding. Instead of obsessing in the short-term, I began conducting research and one amplifier began showing up in almost all of my searches; the Fisher 400.
And so begins our little journey.
I’m a hunter. Not like Steve McQueen in his last film with the cool car chase in the tower in Chicago that ends rather violently in the river below – but a hunter of vintage audio. I hunt for audio bargains online and can smell one when I find it. The more I read about the Fisher 400 tube receiver, the more I realized that I might have discovered something wonderful that I never knew that I wanted. Finding a bargain in this scenario was most likely not going to pan out, but I was going to try.
Growing up in the 1980s, I remember Fisher as a manufacturer of mid-fi (I’m being polite) receivers and stereo systems. Sanyo had purchased the company and brand name in 1975 (from Emerson who bought the brand in 1969) and nothing was ever the same. The products produced in the 1960s and 1980s are miles part; both in terms of sound quality, and the level of industrial design. The original Fisher products were gorgeous and designed for people who cared about sound quality.
Avery Fisher started the Fisher Radio Corporation in 1945, and in the 1960s they focused on high-end tube audio components, consoles, and phonographs. The models that caught my eye were the 400, 500, and 800 (and their variants). Fisher was actually the first manufacturer to offer audio separates; McIntosh, Marantz, H.H. Scott, and Harmon Kardon would eventually do the same. “The Fisher” was the actual brand name that was marketed.
Fisher’s first receiver was the model 500, a mono AM/FM receiver using two EL37 output tubes. It had a brass-plated face panel and an optional mahogany or “blonde” wooden case.
All three had different features and power ratings, but they were all tube receivers or integrated amplifiers. I set out to find one of these models, but I was seduced by the iconic “bird” icon featured on the 400 and 800 model receivers. The more I hunted for one of these tube receivers – the more I found myself drawn to all of the marketing material and catalogs that the brand produced.
They knew back then what a lot of modern brands forget – this is about lifestyle.
The Fisher King
At the beginning of my journey two years ago, I was definitely in a learning phase in regard to tube technology. I had not yet learned how to solder and the last time I used a multi-meter, I set a small fire in my house. My wife wasn’t so happy with the Budget Audiophiler that weekend.
With my pride slightly wounded, I had the intelligence to focus on finding a “serviced” model. That term means very different things to a lot of people. When looking for any kind of vintage component you really need to ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions when it pertains to plugging a 60 year-old piece of electrical equipment into a power receptacle.
At the very bottom of the list is the seller who claims that the unit is “serviced” but is unable or unwilling to provide you with the information to determine If that is true. You should avoid this type of transaction. Been there. Done that. Not a good result.
Another seller might claim that the unit is “partially serviced”; which means that the unit has been tested and specific components that were out of spec or broken have been replaced. I would ask specific questions about which components were replaced, the timing of those repairs, and who performed them.
Any seller who gets weird when you ask these questions should be a red flag.
The final seller might claim in their advertisement that the unit has undergone a “full restoration.” The same comprehensive list of questions from #2 seller have to be applied here as well. I would also want to know which tubes (new or NOS) are being included in the transaction. Are they new or the from the original tube set?
You want a seller who knows the product and understands the nature of the changes that were made. If the “fully restored” unit is selling for an amount that seems too low (do your research), you might not be getting the full story.
After a few near hits and a month of comprehensive searches, I found an excellent version of The Fisher 400 and bid. I was not successful at winning this specific model, but I did discover the type of seller that you want to work with. “Frank” (whom I found on eBay) was very open about all of the changes and modifications that he made to the models that he had for sale.
What made him unique was that he focused specifically on Fisher components from the 1960s and was able to provide very detailed photographs and videos about each component. He was the type of seller who was methodical about the restorations performed. He only sourced the best possible examples of each model and had the entire component restored internally; brand new capacitors, new tubes (if required), new wiring, and with or without the refinished wood case.
After building up some trust, he informed me that he had one of the “best” model Fisher 400s coming in with the original “65 watts” sticker attached to the front panel. I decided to bite. We agreed to a fair price and I was elated.
The prices for vintage components like the Fisher 400 are rising. Substantially. Collectors know that there are a finite number of these prized components available, and that people are willing to spend to own one.
The Fisher 400 Arrives
Two very long weeks passed before I received confirmation that the unit was ready. I made the decision to not purchase the restored wood case because it reduced the price by a few hundred dollars. I suspected that I would be able to find one at a later date and what kind of Heathen would want to cover up so many beautiful glowing tubes.
The seller also made a point of providing me with test results from the unit before it was shipped.
When I received notification from FedEx that the unit could be picked up, I rushed out to get a case of my favourite cold nourishment, and drove home with a stupid grin on my face. The Crate & Barrel shipping box was a nice touch.
The Fisher 400 tube receiver that I purchased uses Electro Harmonix 7868 output tubes; the 65 watts of output make the receiver far more useful with more modern loudspeakers and its sound quality impresses me more and more with each new loudspeaker that I try with it.
The first night with the Fisher 400 was one of experimentation. I paired the receiver with Ohm 3X0s, Jensen Model 4s, EPI Time/Energy, and my prized Ohm Walsh F loudspeakers. All of them sounded amazing but I ended up keeping it paired with the Ohm Walsh 3X0.
The clarity from this amplifier manufactured almost 6 decades ago was startling. The detail, transparency, and level of engagement was superb.
I have since added a case and some right-angle spade forks so that I can use loudspeaker cables terminated with banana pins. Not a huge amount of money and far preferable to bare wire.
My experience taught me that there are some reputable sellers out there and if you do your homework, there is a great chance of finding a solid example of this amplifier or one of the other models from the 500 or 800 series of amplifiers.
As I mentioned, demand exceeds supply in this particular case so expect to pay in the range of $400 – $1,400 for the Fisher 400 tube receiver.
If you can find one inside a console at an estate or garage sale, I can provide you with some guidance on getting it repaired or restored — and help you find a case.
The Fisher 400 is one of my greatest finds and will be part of our home for many years to come.
June 25, 2021 at 7:18 pm
It’s not the cult following that sets they’re price it’s the quality. 50 year old plus equipment running as it should speaks volumes.
raul a murria
June 29, 2021 at 12:09 am
Jereny, I own a fisher 400 complete with the wood case.. at some point in the past, i sent it off to have tubes replaced. I know it works because i hooked it up to a pair of original series 1 bose 901’s and it sounded phenomenal. Where would you suggest i send it off to be fully restored?
August 30, 2021 at 6:39 am
This is my 5th Fisher 400 and I plan on keeping this one forever, it is the cleanest one of the 5 I have had and so it will stay around with all my other holy grail pieces. Just a quick note, I also got a Fisher The President from the Vice President of Fisher a number of years ago with all documentation with it.
January 18, 2022 at 8:23 pm
A bell audio Columbus Ohio
Anthony S Corrado
January 25, 2022 at 12:57 pm
You realize changing the tubes takes a cpl min you can save a lot by doing it yourself.
I learned to change tubes as a young boy and it is so simple i never understood ppl sending them out.
You can purchase ANY tube you need online just type in your tube # and many choices will come up.
1 source is “The Tube Store”
Be careful tubes can run from $15 and as high as $400.
Use your head and moderate i dont believe in the higher priced 1’s delivering better sound.
I own over14 tube amps and have worked with HUNDREDS over the yrs.
Use your head and moderate.
January 25, 2022 at 2:14 pm
I agree 100%.
I once owned an amplifier that used the Western Electric 300B. They both died rather early. The replacement cost was so high that I switched over to some much cheaper Russian and Chinese tubes. The differences were not huge.
NOS tubes are way overpriced.
July 21, 2021 at 1:43 pm
I have owned a Fisher 400 receiver for 3 years now. I found a guy on CL, who refurbished it. I took a chance not knowing what the sound would be like. Anyway, in my opinion, it has beat out amps/receivers that cost 2 or 3 times more. Very nice warm sound that pair perfectly with my Epos Epic 2 speakers! I now enjoy listening to the radio. An incredible work of art!!
July 21, 2021 at 6:22 pm
The Fisher is a special product. Glad you are enjoying it.
July 24, 2021 at 4:27 am
I too took the path to the Fisher 400 18 months ago and can say the experience is overwhelming, The depth and clarity are outstanding. I have them paired up with Legacy 1 speakers and it gives me chills. Enjoy for a long time!
July 24, 2021 at 2:58 pm
I’m already searching for my own Fisher 400.
October 12, 2021 at 3:50 pm
I have used a restored Fisher 400 for a long time in a secondary system. All caps were replaced, selenium rectifier replaced with a diode bridge, resistors and wiring replaced as needed, additional touch up work as needed. Tubes are a selected set of NOS. 65 Watts is misleading…that is dynamic power for both channels. Real world power is a bit over 25wpc from about 50hz to 20khz, but falling off slightly in deep bass. Within its limits it is a fantastic sounding unit. Key to finding affordable vintage tube equipment is to find a local tech that you can trust. Then and only then, start looking for pieces that DO NOT WORK, but are otherwise intact. I have purchased several Mac and other vintage components that way- price goes down considerably because “collectors”/speculators only want pristine working condition units. Then take it to your tech, and tell them what you want and how far to go. For example a non working and dirty Fisher 400 should cost about $300 +/-. Full restoration should cost about $500-600. So for less than $1k you have a restored unit, that can later be resold for your total cost, or more. If you are interested in learning more about Fisher- look for an extensive review in the archives of 6 Moons, authored by Steve Marsh, and a detailed company history in the back issues of Vacuum Tube Valley. I believe issues of the later can be downloaded from the World Radio History magazine archive.
Peter J Pullicino
January 17, 2022 at 11:43 pm
I have recently obtained one of these units from my father in law who is the original owner. I am having the whole thing restored for my son so he hopefully pass this on to his children one day. It still has all the original fisher tubes and are all in great working condition. Can’t wait to have it back and like new. Anyone near NYC area should seek out a Instagram user restro Diggs. He works with a amazing rebuilder .
July 30, 2022 at 5:30 pm
Steve Marsh is doing well and I am lucky to have had him work on an X202-B that was mint but needed new Hamfest caps. Great guy and a real super technician.
December 30, 2021 at 5:33 pm
Jeremy, I bought a “serviced” or maybe “restored” Fisher 400 from a guy who had a business in the suburban Chicago area maybe 15 years ago, and I absolutely loved it. He has since gone out of business and my Fisher 400 no longer works. I’m having a hell of a time finding someone to work on it and am contemplating giving up. Can you share your tech contact info? I am in south central Wisconsin and would prefer to deliver and pick up my Fisher 400 than risk USPS or UPS or FEDEX handling, but am realistic that my preference may not be possible.
January 16, 2022 at 3:14 am
Check out Stereo Rehab in Chicago. He focuses on repair and ground up restorations of quality vintage equipment. He’s straightforward and no bs.
January 19, 2022 at 11:34 pm
I have an 800c with a pair of la scalas. I’m convinced that there is better sound available, but I don’t find it necessary to spend more and seek it out. 9 o clock on the volume knob is certainly impressive while 12 o clock is majestic!
January 4, 2022 at 8:05 pm
That is a sweet looking unit
For those that are looking for refurb or purchase I highly recommend AEA out of Florida. I purchased a 500c from them 2016 and it has been rock solid reliable and wonderful sounding. They test your actual unit and provide a report on it with the manual.
A great company that does excellent work and the 500c and a set of modified LaScala’s can rock the house with wonderful tube magic music.
If you can post sites here I provided the link. No affiliation other than a very satisfied customer.
January 20, 2022 at 2:45 pm
Earlier this year I purchased a Fisher 500C from AEA. It was a disaster. I gave up on AEA and sent the unit to a well-known restorer in the Atlanta area. Upon examination, AEA’s work was described as amateurish. I had the gentleman restore the 500C correctly, which involved removing ALL of ARA’s work and starting over. Clearly, I failed in my due diligence when I bought the unit. All of these old Fishers are special and require someone with very specialized skills and knowledge to have a good performing, safe unit. As they say, “buyer beware.”
January 5, 2022 at 4:18 pm
Sorry if it is allowed here is the link for the Fisher site.
They do great work and are responsive and it was a great buying experience for my purchase.
Fisher fans-check it out
January 6, 2022 at 3:07 pm
I actually own a Fisher 400 that I purchased brand-spaking-new in the 1960s. (I’m 71 now, fyi.) I never bothered buying the wooden case b3cause I figured the tubes and other components would have a longer life. Paired with a Garrad turntable, it worked admirably for many years. Then, about 25 years ago, it developer a background hum on the right channel. By then we had growing kids, and no time or money to deal with it, so I just disconnected it and bought a cheap Radio Shack receiver to use. Now the kids are grown and we’re retired, and I’d really like to get the Fisher restored. Any reputable repair people in or near New York? (I live upstate.) My Fisher has literally never been out of my possession, and I’m slightly leery of sending it out, even by FedEx.
January 6, 2022 at 5:20 pm
I know a great tube tech in East Aurora, NY. Not sure how close you are, but I agree with you about not shipping tube equipment. It can be done, but its a gamble.
January 6, 2022 at 5:47 pm
I am now in upstate NY as well (near Saratoga Springs) and can recommend Dalbec audio (great guys – father and son and talk nice to the father as he is mostly retired but a great tech). They are in Troy NY.
I can also recommend Moddjobbs out of Dalton Mass. He is a youngster but competent and honest and fixed a tube tester and looked at a conrad johnson premier 12 for me.
Both outfits I have had very positive experiences with.
January 18, 2022 at 2:51 pm
The Fisher Console website has FREE downloads (no registration required) of owner and service manuals for most Fisher tube audio equipment. The website address is http://www.fisherconsoles.com.
This comment has the correct spelling of the website address.
January 19, 2022 at 12:20 am
I know exactly what you mean. I have been collecting Fisher gear for the last 15 years and I would stand them up to anything on the market, even to McIntosh. I really like their tube preamps of which I own more than a dozen. Collecting and trading, oh what fun it is to own a Fisher.
February 9, 2022 at 3:09 am
Great article, I own a Fisher 400 that I fully restored in 2015 and it is truly one of my prized possessions. I made an African mahogany case for it, the only gear my wife likes lol. These amps truly “sing” with a low watt period speaker like a klipsch heresy from the time period. May I recommend the fisher k100, it uses the same tubes as the 400 , 25 watts, sounds just as sweet and is easy to work on. Cheaper than the 400 too. Tubes are fun and 60’s Fishers rule. You can spend more for McIntosh, dynacos, Scott’s etc but Fishers are still the best value.
June 19, 2022 at 3:49 am
I am an audiophile novice and just got my first tube Fisher 400 receiver in pristine condition. It works fine even though it has never been serviced. The tubes have the words Fisher so I assume they are original. It has no rust but there’s a bit of dust. The sound is phenomenal!
My concern/question is should I get it serviced while it seems to work fine?
June 25, 2022 at 8:47 am
Valves/Tubes light my fire and that’s reason enough for me.