Vintage Stereo Collection

May, 2011

Several years ago, I took a sabbatical from ‘hi end’ audio and tested the waters of vintage audio equipment. Well, not really old vintage stuff but more on the 70’s solid state receivers.

Little did I know that getting my feet wet would lead to a deep dive as my fascination and consequent collection would develop to proportions I never could have imagined.

I started dwelling into the realm of hi end audio just about the mid 80’s. Searching for that ‘better sound’, the following years would take me to the path of subsequent equipment upgrades which is the norm in that hobby.

See An Audio Journey Part 1

Realizing that this path was burrowing a deep hole in my pocket, the search for the so-called ‘audio nirvana’ reached a plateau.

It was about this time that I was slowly reclaiming my interest for 70’s stereo amps/receivers. My attraction actually started the years these models were released – but with a mere student’s allowance then, all I could do was dream.

Today, most of these amps/receivers, considered obsolete by many, can be acquired for a song. Some even are given away! Thus I started this new journey – slowly buying whatever cheap units come along the way. With the aid of the internet, I got to learn more about these units – and in the process, I became more selective with those that are worth collecting.

My earlier acquisitions  were low-powered receivers mainly because these were the cheaper ones to obtain. I was fascinated by the retro stylings of the faceplates. There were knobs, lights, switches, and more knobs – things that I fiddled with when I started this hobby in High School – but was taboo in hi-end audio.

I got myself reacquainted again with familiar names such as Pioneer, Sansui, Marantz and other Japanese brands scoffed by the hi-end community. (They hated knobs, by the way.)

With the help of the internet, my understanding towards these vintage units took on a different light.

Marantz 2265b (1977) 65w/ch

Marantz 2265B – The white dial and extrusion on the same portion make the B series one of the classiest faceplate designs of the 70’s receiver era. As a quest for collectors, the B series is also harder to obtain.

 

 

Luxman L45a Integrated Amplifier (1981) 40w/ch

The Luxman L45A, though lower in the power rating arena, is equipped with one of the best phono sections in my opinion. It’s warm, sweet analogue presentation defines the superiority of analogue over digital.

See: Why I Still Prefer My Vinyls Over Digitized Music

 

 

san-ta300

The Sansui TA300 is a handsome unit. The rack handles and unique (for its time) black faceplate give this 35 watter that “macho” aura.

 

Sony TA F7B VFet Int Amp (1977) 70w/ch

The Vfet circuitry was designed to mimic vacuum tube qualities. I was first skeptical about this but upon hearing the lower model TA4650, I became a believer and had to get my hands on this TAF7B. The limited production run though, makes Vfet parts unobtanium.

sansui copy

 If you don’t care for the bragging rights of owning a Sansui 9090, this 6060 (and 8080) will give you hours of musical bliss.

 

I had already obtained a decent collection of these middle-of-the-line units when I stumbled upon the Monster Receiver Forum. Members of this forum are enthusiasts of the >100 watts/ channel top-of-the-line models. Affectionately called “Monsters”, these were gargantuan beasts both in size and weight. Highly collectible but with a princely price tag.

I shifted my interest to these monsters and was fortunate enough to get hold of some collectible units at fairly reasonable prices since 70’s vintage gear was still under the radar from most audio aficionados here.

Pictured below are some of the monsters.

Marantz 4400 Quad Receiver (1974) 125w/ch in stereo

Ok, admittedly not as great sounding as the 2325 pictured below, but the scope of the Marantz 4400 easily makes up for its shortcomings. This unit has the earlier green scope.

 

 

Marantz 2325 Stereo Receiver (1974) 125w/ch

The Marantz Model 2325 is considered by many to be one of the best sounding Marantz receivers. It may not pack the power of the 2500 or 2600 (though it’s 125 watts surely can drive most speakers), but is regarded to be more musical than its higher powered siblings.

Review of the Marantz 2325
(MILF) Marantzs’ I’d Love to Fondle

 

 

3300b-copy

Marantz 2330b (1977) 130w/ ch

Sansui 9090db (1975) 125 w/ch

Just like the Marantz 2325, the Sansui 9090db is the rightful contender to the crown as being one of the best sounding receivers of the era.

 

 

Sansui AU20000 Integrated Amplifier (1973) 170w/ch

The Sansui AU 2000 is a rare find. This brute belts out 170 watts and one of the few in the collection that is able to drive my Magnepan MG 111s.

 

 

Luxman L58a Integrated Amplifier (1981) 100w/ch

Pioneer (Euro) SX5580 (1976) 120w/ch

The Pioneer SX5580 is the European version of the SX1050. This model was released during the famous Pioneer Silver Series era which makes these black faceplate models a rare catch.

 

 

Kenwood KR 9400 Stereo Receiver (1974) 130w/ch

Another under-the-radar gem. An AB comparison proved that the 9400 can go head-to-head with the 9090 and 2325.

tech 800 copy

9800 copy

 The SA9800 was extensively used as an amp to drive speakers in an outdoor environment. This speaks tons of its power. So if you want to crank up the volume for some Led Zep albums, this is what the doctor ordered.
The power of these 100 plus watt behemoths can really grip the speakers by their cojones.
And though lacking in the nuances that their hi-end cousins can draw out, these vintage monsters can rock like no other.


 


 

Sony Str7055 Receiver

Some of you have known my fascination for monster receivers.
Firing up these 100+ watt brutes is like pedal-to-the-metal with 200 horses under your hood on an empty freeway. With their sheer size and back-breaking weight, these monsters have the ability to grab your speakers by their balls without breaking any electronic sweat.

Not all though possess such power. It goes without saying that BOTL and MOTL models fall below the 100w/ch range. But by no means are these lesser creatures in terms of musicality.
I read somewhere that there is a certain magic within the 60watt/ch range kaya nga daw designers during that golden age of audio were limiting the power within this scope. Even at the onset of so called hi end audio, this range was the realm of classics such as the Quicksilver monoblocks, Citations II, ARC D75, CJ MV50, Julius Futterman OTL’s, etc..
Same is true with vintage SS receivers. The Marantz 2275 and Sansui 7070 are both heralded by some quarters to be more musical than their TOTL brothers. I did an AB with the 9090db and the 35 watt (stereo mode) QRX7500. I hated to admit it, but the QRX did have an edge over the 9090db in terms of warmth and musicality.

Which brings me to my present daily driver – the Sony STR 7055

Sony STR 7055

Considering that this is not a TOTL model, it’s remarkable that Sony threw in all the features one can think of on this model. Aside from the regular bells and whistles found in most models at that time, the 7055 boasts of 3 speaker outputs, modes for streo, mono, reverse, and even a pre out! – an option only for the TOTL models in other brands. Tone controls are terrific to use. Hindi bigla – parang naka parametric equa. Amongst all the receivers that I’ve had, this has the best tuner section, period. Ang lakas humatak ng mga station kahit walang antenna.

The Sony STR 7055 clocks in at a “mere’ 45w/ch but sings a mouthful of warmth and musicality. I am reluctant to use the term, but yes, the 7055 does mimic a tube-like character.

 

 

But much as I enjoyed the slam-bang of these monsters, it did not mean that I was turning my back on vacuum tubes. The warmth that tubes bring out in music is still a pleasure I keep going back to.

Unfortunately, vintage tube equipment is more expensive to come by. I still did manage to get hold of a few.

Sansui AU111 (1965 first gen) 40w/ch

Sansui AU 111 – Considered by many to be Sansui’s crowning glory, the AU111 was the benchmark for future high end models of the company. The chief designer of the much touted Sansui alpha series of the 80s-90s admitted that his design objective was to replicate the sound of the AU111. This unit is the more sought after dual-colored knob design.

 

 

Pioneer SX800A Tube Receiver (1968) 35w/ch

According to some articles on the net, the Pioneer SX800A is the most powerful vacuum tube receiver of the company. I am not so sure of the veracity of this claim but hearing this baby drive my Acoustic Research AR3as proves that this receiver truly packs the power.

 

 

The collection reached its peak by 2009.
I had over 50 plus choice receivers/ integrated amps – half of which were top-of–the-line models while the rest were mid level collectibles.
realistic copy
Others,  I collected because of the story behind the specific models. Like the Realistic 2100 and how it was supposed to be a design copy of the venerable Pioneer SX 1010. The guys at Realistic stopped production of the 2100, made some changes (in the transformer, I think), rebadged it as the 2100D to avoid any legal problems with Pioneer.

 

Knobs, Toggle Switches, and VU Meters
Admittedly, I am a sucker for 70’s retro styling. So it comes as no surprise that part of the collection was driven by my fascination for these aesthetics.

san-505-copy

A fusion of the famous TU555 tuner and the triple digit integrated amps, the TAC505 typifies early 70’s receiver designs. It’s circular dial reminds me of my old Pioneer KP500 car stereo

The Sansui TAC 505 receiver was a combination of the famous TU555 tuner and the triple digit Sansui integrated amps. I just couldn’t resist that “radar-like” circular dial.

mitfront1mo8-copy

Mitsubishi DA R20 (1980) 75w/ch

If the TAC 505 had a circular dial, the Mitsubishi DA R20 combined a half-moon dial with industrial styling rack handles.

trio copy
This was one of the first i picked up. Truth to tell it was the retro faceplate styling that got me. Dont you love those slim pilot light indicators and that champagne tinted band?  Simple but spells class all around.

Tanberg
The Tandberg had taht European industrial styling that looked like an unfinished Bang&Olufsen. The TR2060 was known for its powerful tuner that could grab stations with ease.

 

 

Marantz Model 2325 vs. Sansui 9090
Much like the beginnings of early high end audio when Audio Research and Conrad Johnson were the common catch words, Marantz and Sansui are two names that most likely crop up when talk goes vintage solid state receivers.
2325-copy
9090-copy

Of course there was Pioneer, Sony, Technics and others that carved their respective marks in audio. The Technics SL 1200 turntable (and its incarnations) by  is probably the longest running model in production dating back to 1975. It still is a favorite among DJs and audiophiles alike up to the present. Pioneer had the SX 1010 receiver – the first receiver to breach the 100 watt mark and unofficially started the “watt wars” of the 70’s.

pioneerSX1010
Pioneer SX1010 (net pic)
setton_rs-660_01
Setton RS-660(net pic)

Then you also have the ultra rare Setton RS660 (allegedly designed by Pierre Cardin) and Concept 16.5   ( two receivers I wish I had )- considered the Maseratis and Alfa Romeos of vintage audio.

All these brands have their respective cult following – but none more rabid and fanatical as Marantz and Sansui. These two were the Mercs and Beemers of 70’s stereo.

Two models in particular have been pitted against each other in various fora and discussions – the Marantz Model 2325 and the Sansui 9090. These two were the standard bearers during their time of release. And up to now, close to 40 years after, discussion on which is better is still hotly contested.

It is no wonder why, since the Model 2325 and the 9090 have so much in common between them. Both are responses by Marantz and Sansui to contest Pioneer’s SX 1010 supremacy of the 100 watt mark. Both pack 125 watts – fine examples of the monster receivers of the era. For those uninitiated in 70’s vintage receivers, these two models share similar aesthetic looks. Each have the push button switches within the black face dial and rotary knobs on the main faceplate. Each have their VU meters –  although the 9090 has four against only two on the Model 2325. The significant difference is the tuning knob. Whereas the Sansui utilizes the regular rotary type, the Model 2325 employs the gyro tuning knob which Marantz is famous for.

Another striking similarity is that these two models carry with them a long history and pedigree in consumer audio. Marantz traces its lineage back to Saul Marantz,  a respected pioneer in the audio industry. Though the Model 2325 was introduced during the post-Saul Marantz era, its release coincided with the “second golden age” of Marantz as a company.

The Sansui 9090, on the other hand, emerges from an ancestry of audio classic integrated amps – notably the Sansui AU 111, AU9500, AU20000. All these classics are equipped with the legendary Hashimoto transformers.  The 9090 was introduced after the Hashimoto era of Sansui – thus did not carry this fabled transformer.
http://tube-amps.net/Hashimoto_Sound.htm

But just like the Marantz Model 2325, the 9090 debuted during the years when Sansui was heralded as one of the best in consumer audio. After this era, there was a notable decline in quality and performance of the company’s offerings.

But the similarity stops there.

There is a particular sonic distinction between these two receivers – a house sound if one may call it. The Model 2325 retains that midbass bloom that Marantz is known for. While those that are not particularly enamored by this characteristic, call it a “bloat”, fans of this sonic signature, have long been enticed by this full-bodied richness. The Model 2325 takes this a notch further up with its beefier power and musicality. Some consider the Model 2325 a rock amp. To a certain degree, I would think so. The Model 2325 can drive my AR3a or JBL L100 Century with ease to near concert volume levels while still retaining its musicality. The midbass bloom is also quite evident in the Model 2325’s tuner section. There is a certain analogue chestiness to the sound akin to vacuum tube gear. The best part though is the 2325’s phono section. Playing LPs is such a joy since the coloration introduced by the Model 2325’s “house sound” masks the brightness of regular recordings.

Now for the downside. Soundstage is expansive to a fault. Larger than life. With the 2325, I find myself slightly tilting my head up when trying to determine vocal positioning which I roughly measure to be around seven feet high! There is a lack of pin-point focus on the soundstage probably due to these oversized images. Though the lateral imaging gets my thumbs up, depth is slightly lacking – two to three layers at an average but you’d be lucky to have more than that.

Being one who puts soundstage imaging and focus on his upper echelons of listening, I should be annoyed by the faults in this area.
But I’m not.
The musicality and non-fatiguing character of the Model 2325 make up for these faults.
I consider the Model 2325 a stellar performer.

On the other side of the fence, the Sansui 9090 bends over the lean side. Though it still has that 70’s vintage sound, compared to the Model 2325, the 9090 has an airier, more refined presentation of music. Maybe more neutral as compared to the Marantz. This is not to say that the 9090 is lacking in musicality though I may give the edge to the Model 2325 in this area. But the 9090 has a warmer sound that hooks you upon first listen. If the Marantz presents a darker tube-like quality, the 9090 is like a hybrid SS power/tube pre combo.

Then you have this fantastic soundstage. Not as wide as the 2325 – but the 9090’s depth and layering is something I only thought available in Sansui’s triple digit integrated amp series. Focus of the 9090 is more accurate as compared to the Marantz – so with the presence of air around the instruments.

The Sansui 9090 is less forgiving to regular recordings though. Garbage-in, garbage-out. Cult followers of this receiver would argue that this is a mark of a higher end sound character. Maybe so.

From an objective standpoint, the Sansui 9090 gets the nod over the Marantz Model 2325.
But from the subjective view where musicality and a less-fatiguing listening experience is a consideration, one cannot discount the Model 2325.

So which would I choose between the two? . . .

. . . I didn’t like to be burdened with that decision and settled for both! 🙂

THE SANSUI ALPHA SERIES

The alpha 07 series by Sansui was the final assault of the company to produce topnotch audio equipment which had been its hallmark starting with the venerable AU111 vacuum tube integrated amp of the sixties. There was no international version for the alpha series probably due to the strength of the Yen against the US dollar which made exporting these units financially unwise. It was the general belief that the quality of Sansui products worldwide declined during the early 80’s due to various cost cutting methods by the company in order to sustain the export viability of their products. The alpha series continued to be available to the Japanese domestic market as Sansui’s response to dispel this belief.

In a last ditch effort to cater to the high end market, the engineers over at Sansui, poured everything into this series, coming out with highly regarded models such as the TOTL as AU-Alpha907i MOS Limited and AU-Alpha907 Limited. But the mid-level models weren’t slouches either being able to compete in performance with their western high end counterparts. The alpha 707 was once reviewed in the British HFNRR and gained the thumbs up by the editors besting other ‘boutique’ brands such as Audionote.

In addition to their performance, the alpha series were very reliable and built like tanks. My first encounter with the alpha series was with the α607. Back in 2004, we were using this model in our CD/record store as our main amplifier playing 10 hours a day, seven days a week for two and a half years straight! It neither blinked nor burped in all that time and simply played music on and on and on . .
san-607-copy

I kept the α607 after our store closed down and sometime thereafter, I tried experimenting if this amp  could drive my Magnepan MG 111s. Though it could not drive the Maggies to rock concert volume levels, this 85-watter was quite pleasing when listening to small Jazz quartets. Not bad, considering the power-hungry MG111s require lots of beef to make them sing. The only amp I had then that could drive the Maggies was the 200-watt Threshold Stasis.

Since the alpha series were originally intended for the Japanese domestic market only, it goes without saying that these  are hard to come by. Other than Hifido, seldom do you come across these units at Ebay and other online sites. I was a fortunate enough to acquire an α707extra from a good friend a few years ago and I must say that the engineers over at Sansui really knew their audio when they designed these amps. The α707extra has a very refined sound – a quality I seldom encountered during my audio journey these past 40 years.
sansui-707

The soundstage is one of the best I have come across. Layers of depth and pinpoint imaging are just some of the hallmarks of this amp. The highs soar sweetly with little or no grain at all. Very decent midrange especially on female vocals though I would appreciate more ‘chestiness’ on male vocal recordings. It is in this midbass department that I find the α707extra lacking. The α907, according to some sources, has a more uniformed tonal balance across the frequencies.

. . . ok, time to hunt for that α907. 🙂

THE QUADS

Quadraphonic sound – the granddaddy of today’s multi speaker system was the first consumer offering in surround sound. AS early as the fifties, European music studios were using this format in reel-to-reel tape players. It was not until 1970 that consumer quad format was made available to the market via the 8 track tape and on vinyl record a year after.

Naturally, this new medium had to have a vehicle. Together with their stereo offering most, if not all, major companies had their respective models to play quad. I remember hearing my first quad system back in high school and was just awed in how the sound could embrace you at all sides. It was like walking into a giant headphone! It may have not created a realistic soundstage but I’d love to have a quad system now.

Unfortunately, the quad system didn’t fly. Numerous compatibility problems hounded the medium even before take-off. Equipment manufacturers and recording companies had their respective formats/system that didn’t mate with one another. This is not to mention that you had to buy another pair of rear speakers and a quad cartridge for your turntable.

But all vintage quad receivers can play stereo. And the myth that these quad units (in stereo mode)could not perform at par with their stereo siblings is well, just a myth…at least for me.

Sansui QRX 7500
qrx7500

The Sansui 9090db stereo receiver, as mentioned earlier, is one of the best receivers from the seventies. Being one of the more collectible, vintage units, I was looking to acquire one of these during my Monster Receiver hunts. So when one was up for sale, I did not hesitate to check out the unit. During the audition of the 9090, the seller just happened to have a Sansui QRX7500 quad unit also. I was so intrigued by its size – a gargantuan 24 X 8 X 15inch monster – that I requested the owner if we could hook it up for a try. Ok, I know that I’d be ruffling a few feathers here, but I must admit that I was enamored by its sound – even more than the stereo 9090. The quad had more warmth than its highly touted stereo cousin. But alas, the qrx7500 quad wasn’t for sale so I still went home with the 9090 but made a mental note to be in the lookout for the quad receiver in the near future.

Fate was kind when I was able to get one for a song  a year after.

Marantz Model 4400
4400q

The 4400 is one of the more sought after vintage receivers mainly because of its oscilloscope. It debuted in 1974 at USD1250 and still fetches around USD1000 now. I must say that I can’t blame these prices. The scope of the 4400 is a feature that will never be replicated in audio ever. The scope is such a cool feature that watching it dance makes me feel like a radar man in one of those Tom Clancy subs waiting to ping a Typhoon class Russian nuke sub. At quad mode, the 4400 runs at 45 watts per ch. Flipping the switch at stereo, it belts out 125 watts just like the Model 2325. Sound-wise, I’d still give the edge to the Model 2325. But without an A-B comparison, I’d be hard up to tell the difference.

Marantz Model 4240
4240 copy

This was my very first vintage receiver, given to me by a friend. IOt has been at the doctors’ for some time now for a refurb. Will post impressions when I get it back.

 

 

The Sansui Eight Receiver

Untitled-1

The Sansui Eight receiver is truly a class act.

The Eight was the last receiver manufactured by Sansui before the 1973 oil embargo enabling the company to go all-out in the design and features of this model. Sansui, as well as other audio outfits, did not have this luxury on succeeding models due to the financial crunch brought about by the oil crisis.

From Audiokarma:
The Eight was an “Engineer’s” receiver and it really needed to be after the debacle of the 5000a recall. The internal layout is logical, the haphazard layout of the following 881 and 9090DB are a step back. 

Check out the expensive details that went into the construction and cosmetics*. The anodized heatsinks and the cast metal output covers with machined Sansui logo can only be enjoyed with the covers off! The AM and FM gangs are separate. All of the knobs are solid aluminum with set screws.
*And if I may add- real glass dial cover instead of plastic used in other TOTL models.

The interchangeable drivers boards have computer style edge connectors for easy removal and service. The antenna is double jointed. The dial and meter lights switch on or off depending on selector mode. Most if not all of these Engineer’s touches disappeared in the following 881.

In fact, there are very few receivers from any time period that can match the number of “Engineer’s” features the Eight had in 1971!
————-

The Eight was the pinnacle of Sansui build quality. The only thing that comes close was the first generation G series and they were just close.
————-

. . . My old Eight with relay sounded significantly faster and clearer to my ears than older Eights. All good stuff and I agree with Pete, these are the best of the Sansui receivers…except for maybe the G33k.

 

 

Time was, this receiver was a sleeper. It still is a sleeper among ‘mainstream’ collectors. But as enthusiasm for vintage gears grew in recent years, the Eight has been getting some positive nods from hardcore vintage aficionados. I’ve been wondering why the guys over at the former Monster Receiver forum have been raving about this 50 watter. Considering that those guys have in their stable, monsters such as Marantz2500 and Sansui 22000, they still show high regard for the Eight.

This is the only receiver in the 50-60 watt rating level that is often pitted against higher models such as the Marantz 2285, Harman Kardon (twin powered) 730.

There is even a discussion comparing the Eight to the cult classic Sansui 9090! Of course, personal preferences come into play but it is interesting to note that more Sansui enthusiasts/collectors would choose this 60 watter over the 125 monster cult favorite.

From Audiokarma:
I own both a working Sansui 9090DB and Sansui Eight Deluxe.. Both are lovely built,great sounding receivers,but for sound quality alone,the Eight Deluxe comes out on top.. It has more depth,more pleasing highs and lows,and is much more dynamic sounding. As a matter of fact,out of all the receivers I own,the Eight Deluxe would be the one receiver I’d be happy to listen to all the time if I didn’t own any amps.
————-

When I compare the 9090DB, G-8000, G-871db, and Eight Deluxe, they all sound a bit different from each other, but all great. That said, as I have said before, I would let all the others go before my Eight Deluxe. It has a punch that I love.
————-

The 9090DB is far from crap. It does have its issues, but so do many other units, not just Sansui.
The Eight Deluxe will have more “punch” to the sound. 
I have had the 9090DB pumping out tunes with the meters jumping around 50 watts. Not peaking at 50.
I don’t believe the Eight Deluxe would like that.
So, it depends on your needs. Both are great receivers IMO. 
Which one would I keep if I could only keep one? Probably the Eight Deluxe.
————-

I still think that the 8 Deluxe is better made, better sounding and better designed. It has a better tuner in it as well, and it is more reliable. I also prefer the looks of the Eight and Eight Deluxe. The 9090dB has it’s fans, I am not one of them, but I can make them work well and be reliable. They also sound much better if you replace the tantalum caps in the preamp, but still not as good as the Eight , IMO.

 

 A full review is forthcoming, but from initial impressions, the Eight might just be the mix of Marantz’s musicality and Sansui’s presentation of detail and soundstage that strikes home to me.

https://bb3blog.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/marantz-vs-sansui/

 

In fact, the Sansui Eight might just change the pecking order of my Sansui hierarchy of choce. 😉
https://bb3blog.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/great-sansui-ampshmmm-first-just-a/

 

 

Vintage Sansui Integrated Amps

Great sansui amps?

Hmmm. . . .

First, just a brief backgounder on my personal sonic preferences.
If given the choice on all Sansui integrated amps, the AU111 (first incarnation twin-colored knobs) would be top of the list without batting an eyelash. But let’s put the 111 aside for a while.

The Sansui 9090db and G9000 would definitely make it to my shortlist. Technically, theses are receivers though. But let’s include these for the sake of discussion. The 9090db packs the power to drive most speakers. It has that vintage warmth that suits my preference especially when paired with vintage speaks such as the JBL 100 or Pioneer HPM100. Often compared to the Marantz 2325, It lacks the midbass bloat of the 2325 that I usually look for in an amp – but nonetheless a stellar performer.
Marantz Model 2325 vs. Sansui 9090

I had the privilege of living with the G9000 for a few months when it was one of the candidates to power the speakers we were going to exhibit for the 2010 Nov HiFi Show. The other contenders were the Sansui 9090db and the Marantz 2325. I had the chance to amp-roll these three during that period. My personal pick was the Marantz, with the 9090db a close second. I’m sure a lot of fans of the G series would want to hang me upside down for this, but I found the G9000 a bit “hard” for my tastes – more solid-statey, if I may use the term. It did give that slam-bang punch to power the speakers and I was outvoted by my other partners. We chose the G9000 for the show.

san 555 copy

The Sansui triple digit series – The AU555 and AU666 was truly a revelation for me. Don’t be fooled by its small footprint. These are very open sounding amps presenting a wide and deep soundstage. Very clean highs that float way beyond the speaker’s borders. I have not heard the AU999 yet, but if the sonic signature is similar to the lesser-powered units, it would definitely be worth considering.

The AU9500 is one of my favorites. It has both the punch and midbass bloom that suits these ears. Not as open sounding as the triple digit series but still presents a very good soundstage. I’m not really a bass freak so I can forego those subterranean lows. So the balanced presentation of the 9500 from the midbass to highs is good enough for me. Unfortunately, I had to let go of this when I was offered a price I couldn’t refuse. Would love to have one back again.

AU-9500 was the top of the line model when Sansui’s founder and perfectionist, Mr. Kosaku Kikuchi, retired in 1974.  His product philosophy was “Let the products speak themselves.”, and the AU-9500 was his last jewel that satisfied his highest expectation.  – http://www.sansui.us

Together with thw alpha series, the X series was the final assault of Sansui to the high end market towards the end of the 70’s. Massive Trannys and beer can caps greet you under the hood of these babies.

The Sansui AU-X1 is a lean but very clean sounding amp. Maybe a little too lean for my tastes though. I don’t know why but it somehow reminds me of the Cello in its sonic presentation. A good friend has the X11. In fact, I think he has two of those. So I’m just concluding a marked improvement in the X11 as compared to the older X1. There has been some debates regarding some reliability issues on the X1.

The Sansui AU Alpha series is a different class in itself. Just take a look at the insides of one of these and you can see why these units are so special. Even for someone, who is “technically challenged’ like me, gazing at the innards is jaw-dropping. I only have the alpha707 so I’m sure those in possession of the alpha907 are definitely happy campers. Yes, they do sound great!

The AU20000 for me, is the best compromise. It has the openness of the triple digit series while retaining the bloat of the AU9500. It is as clean-sounding as the X1 and alpha series with a dash of musicality for good measure. And yes, at 170 watts per ch, it has the power like a ’73 Camaro on an empty freeway.
Second to the AU111? . . . maybe, just maybe.

Sansui AU 111
The  mention of the AU111 earlier was only as reference to my personal preference to better understand where I’m coming from when I described the other models. After having gone thru the HIFi merry-go-round, I have finally settled for “musicality” to be the foremost factor to look for in an audio gear.
Aside from soundstaging, my bias leans towards a colored, bloated midbass sound that, for me, translates into musicality.
Others may surely disagree.

Up to the present, some sectors say that Sansui peaked its reputation with the AU111.
That must say something for an amp that is almost half a century old!

It was very ironic that at the very end of Sansui’s high-end audiophile history, Sansui reintroduced AU-111 as AU-111 Vintage in 1999 followed by AU-111G whose control section was redesigned to be suitable for SACD and DVD-Audio applications.  With AU-111, Sansui established its reputation as the high-end audiophile manufacturer and halted its hi-fi history with AU-111G.

 Mr. Ichiro Ohshima who was the high-end product manager at Sansui since 1986 to 2000 mentioned that he used to enjoy AU-111 and JBL speakers combination when he started working for Sansui.  About at that time, he was wishing to create amplifiers sounding like AU-111 in his career.  During the rough time Sansui went through from the late 1980’s to 1990’s, Mr. Ohshima was the one who struggled to maintaine the Sansui’s high-end amp tradition.  Many of his master pieces, from AU-X111 MOS Vintage to AU-Alpha Series, indeed sound similar to AU-111.  It was not a coincident at all that who was responsible to revive AU-111 in 1999 was Mr. Ohshima himself.   -www.sansui,us

http://www.sansui.us/issues_AU111vsAL907MR.htm

Except for my alpha 607KX and alpha707extra, I have limited experience with the alpha series.
One thing I can say though is that although the a607 is a good amp, the a707extra is such a totally different animal so much so that I have been lusting for an a907 ever since that first listen to the 707.

So how does the Alpha707 compare to the AU111?
Let’s put it this way. –
If pitted against each other in a “critical listening” competition, the a707 would garner more points when both amps reach the finish line.
Points in soundstage, focus, pace, and maybe accuracy would surely rack up on the side of the 707’s tally sheet.
. . . But I have long ago abandoned counting points in audio.
I broke off from “hearing” and instead opted to “listen and feel”.
I have trusted that “magical feeling” to allow me to listen to an amp for hours on end.

The AU111 gives me that feeling.

 

 

More on the AU111
A Day With The Sansui AU111

 

 

(to be continued)

Click to see the rest  http://pablo111b.multiply.com/photos/album/18/My-Vintage-Stereo-Collection

————————-

Comments
34 Responses to “Vintage Stereo Collection”
  1. ———————

    • Pioneerguy says:

      I think that’s an SA-9900, not 9800. The 9800 had a Flouroscan power meter and was from around 1980. This amp’s run was closer to the mid ’70’s, I think…..but a GREAT collection. Great photos, too!

  2. loans says:

    ————————————–

  3. Anonymous says:

    any amp for sale?

  4. Mario Marotta says:

    Exquisite taste!, – uncommon in these times -, in your music, in your vintage audio collection, in your digital paintings, in your furnitures, in the alternative poster of “Woodstock”, in, in…- CONGRATULATIONS! -, from Montevideo – Urguguay.__ Hug, Mario.

    • bb3 says:

      Hi Mario,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Yes, be it art or woodworks, music somehow has to be factored in . . .for me.

      • Mario Marotta says:

        Yes,…everything is music, – the first thing men listen on earth was … yeah!,…MUSIC!,…- the most beautiful expression of the Art -,…- for me -.
        Thanks for your kinkly words, and,…- again -,… Congratulations!
        A Hug, – from Montevideo – Uruguay, ______mario

  5. Griffin Cui says:

    What kind of speakers are in your pictures? Please share, thanks

    • bb3 says:

      Hi Griffin, the speakers on the photo is a pair of 70’s vintage Technics SB6000. I had the cabinet redone in solid hardwood. The pair is still a work in progress that needs further modifications to improve the higher registers.
      Right now, other speakers on rotation are Epicure 100Vs, Sony La Voces, and a pair of Onkyo Liverpool D 11s. I still keep my Magnepan MG111s but havent fired it up in a while.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for the quick reply, those speakers look very impressive.

        After reading your article, I went out bought a pair of “like new” Sony TA-2000F and TA3200F off ebay. I know I over paid them at $1000:

        http://www.ebay.com/itm/181429695927?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

        I don’t have the speaker cable yet because they take pins or just bare wire, the modern banana plugs do not fit. I just tested them with headphone output last night, not bad.

        I am currently using McIntosh MA6900 with a pair of Tannoy Turnberry. I just sold my Meridain G08 CDP and moving toward to digital. It is funny that seems I am running in circles.

      • Griffin Cui says:

        Can you also recommend someone to restore and recap my Sony? I think you are the best qualified person to ask. Thanks.

      • bb3 says:

        Hi Griffin,
        That’s a neat power/pre combo you got there. If you noticed, I dedicated a special part of the article to my Sony receiver. It is one of the best sounding amps/receivers in my collection. I believe that Sony, being that the giant that they are had the resources and R&D to come up with quality components without skrimping on parts. It is just unfortunate that they did not market their audio section as well as say, their televisions – giving audio consumers the impression that they are second only to other brands such as Pioneer, Marantz, and Sansui. Having said that, I can only imagine how good you power/pre combo will sound like.

        Regarding the speaker cables, I had an “outboard” speaker terminal made since I also experienced the same predicament with thick cables. One end had bare wires just thick enough to shoot in those small holes while the other end were terminals that could accommodate most larger spades/pins. I know a lot of the high end purists would look down on this but hey!, I’m willing to sacrifice any minute losses (if ever there are) for the convenience.

        Regarding tech to recap your Sony – I’m assuming you are in Manila?

        I love the looks of those Turnberries and yes, I too am still running around in circles! 🙂

      • Griffin Cui says:

        I am in Seattle, USA

  6. jimmy kraktov says:

    In 1970 I started a 20 run selling Consumer Audio. The store I worked in sold Sony Marantz and Toshiba components. Speaker lines included JBL and Acoustic Research (AR) and a couple I can’t remember. Sony and Marantz were built to last and the Marantz I bought still works fine and is used as a “party blaster” by my 28 yr old Nephew. It’s a Model 2285 and I paid 25% under cost from Marantz. In almost 45 yrs I had to replace 2 caps and the power cord. Marantz boasted their “Military Spec” build and it sure paid off for them. I sold dozens of Marantz receivers in the 3 yrs I worked for that store and don’t recall ever getting a complaint about any of them. Reading this page brought back a lot of good memories of debating the pros & cons of tube vs transistor and one old guy that I talked to was convinced that transistors were but a fad and wouldn’t be around for long. Well, the old guy is long gone but tube amps are still pumping out sweet sounds. Thanx for the memories.

    BTW, I still have a working Sony TC-228 8 Track recorder and 30 new Sony blank 8 Track tapes. Sound is still impressive even without Dolby.

  7. dave gawel says:

    Hi Grif,Great blog I love vintage gear especially monster receivers.I own 7 of em.Those Sansui inters are amazing.Are you a member of AK? I am,my user name is just dave.Drop me a line.
    later
    dave

    • bb3 says:

      Hi dave,
      Yup, AK member here but been just lurking lately.
      And yup too – the vintage bug bit me bad. What are your monsters? It’s quite difficult to get hold of those receivers now here in Manila. There’s a sudden demand for vintage gear.

      Thanks for the kind words and for swinging by the blog.

      bb3

  8. Greetings! I am looking for someone who is knowledgeable of vintage Marantz Gold stereo systems. I have a set of equipment {turntable, equalizer, tape deck, and receiver} no speakers cuz we blew the woofers in the 80’s when Metallica first came out. We would like to sell it but have no idea where to start or who to contact. Do you think you can help me? I would appreciate any info that you might have. I live in Los Angeles.

    • bb3 says:

      Hi pieceofmind,
      The Marantz Gold is a good series. Of course not as collectible as the 1970 models but quite good compared to present standards.
      Unfortunately, I am in Manila and prices of vintage stereo here is very different from there in the US. My best bet for you would be to search eBay. They might have some units similar to yours to be able to get an idea of how much the selling price would be.
      Good luck!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have two old Pioneer Receivers (SX-526 & SX626) and can only restore one of them. I would appreciate some sage advice regarding which is worth the time.

    • bb3 says:

      Hi, am not familiar with those series, only with the X50’s and X80’s.
      Off the bat, I’d go for the 626. I’m assuming higher wattage and more features on that one compared to the 526.
      Good luck on your restore!

  10. john says:

    I have a SA 7500 integrated stereo amplifier looking to sell can you help me

  11. Manson Hua says:

    Enjoyed the commentary on your vintage amps. I myself have just gotten the bug for vintage amps, the switches and meters got me as well. In my month obsession so far, I have attained a Sansui 9090, Luxman R-117 and a Kenwood Ka 9100. A nice marantz is on my wish list, a 2325, 2385 or if lucky a 2500 or 2600.

    Your blog has given me guidance to set forth and find my way in this fascinating hobby.

    Thank you

  12. Mike says:

    I have a kenwood 104AR receiver that I got from my dad, it has no speakers and was interested in hearing from anyone that knows what type of speakers I should look for on craiglist that would be a good match. I know the unit works but the speakers that came with it were huge and I could not bring them with me. I know they plugged in so does that mean that had an internal amp and if so do I need to look for a speaker that has an amp built in?
    Mike

  13. James Bradley says:

    I have a setton RS 660 would like to sell hit if any body interested

  14. Darren C. says:

    Does any one out there know where I can find a cover for my Sansui Seven stereo? I have tried every thing I know to do and every site including ebay to try and find one!

  15. Anonymous says:

    love your article. have 7055 since its birth. do you think it will drive bose 901’s? still chills when fired up all these yeaes later. 7055, tc558, tck71, psfl1m teac x20r and bose 501’s.

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Vintage Stereo Collection […]

  2. […] Vintage Stereo Collection […]

  3. […] Vintage Stereo Collection […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: