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I quickly found out via many different highly scientific articles that vintage audio quality trumps new audio in terms of performance and price unless you just want to create a 5k W system for no reason.
With the C20 should I specifically seek one that has been rebuilt with new high end tubes and has had all the caps replaced?
With a preamp that is at least 52 years old, it probably isn't a bad idea although I can't help thinking that it is at odds with your desire to keep the bottom line under control. Keeping old tube gear running happily (and safely) can be an expensive proposition. If it were me I'd try to audition a Van Alstine Super PAS 3. For that matter, you might be able to find a used Transcendence or FetValve of theirs for a lot less and get a more modern, better-performing design for which parts and mfr support are readily available. There are some other moderately priced options as well.
That's nonsense. Which "highly scientific articles" are you being misled by?
If you like vintage 70's Marantz and Mc sound, you may want to consider used Conrad Johnson gear from the 1990's if it is in your price range. I too like vintage Marantz and the current Marantz sound. I can't say that vintage gear sounds any better than current gear. Just remember, vintage gear used vinyl and tape as a music source which had its own merits and sound. And speaker technology is a lot different compared to the 70's and 80's. You can pick up a nice CJ PV series preamp for cheap sometimes.
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