Some people collect houses. Others
collect vintage cars. Others collect
exceedingly rare coins. My aspirations are a bit more
humble: I collect vintage Stereo Receivers from the 60's, 70's
and 80's, many of which were
no doubt retired to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army
Boutique long before the
"vintage" collecting craze caught on.
At one point, my
receiver collection numbered around 120, however,
most of those away in 2008 in what has come to be known as
Receiver Giveaway" and now the collection is down
to a paltry 20 or so. This web site is about the vintage
receivers I decided to keep and why I kept them. Please click
on the links above for a detailed description of each
one. In addition to photographs, many of the descriptions include
reviews and spec sheets I have found as well as links to
other interesting information. Please note that
I am not buying or selling. This web site is for
informational purposes only.
included a couple pages about
some lesser known receivers that are "still worthy"
and tend to be priced well under the radar
for those of you who are looking for something special
in your E-Bay treks. Speaking of which, if you
are going to quote my reviews in your auctions, please
give this site credit. Thank you.
If you have any
information about any of the receivers displayed here
and would like to share it, please feel free to e-mail
April 22, 2014
Concept 16.5 Receiver, retailed for $950.00 and has
the distinction of being the most powerful receiver ever fielded
by a so-called "house brand", in this case, "Pacific Stereo", a subsidiary
of CBS. In fact, many vintage receiver collectors regard the
16.5 as one of the best receivers ever made
by anyone. The circuitry was
designed by Dick Schram, who went on to greater glory
as the founder of Parasound. Rumor has it that Dick still collects 16.5s.
I know for certain that he autographed the case of a 16.5 for my friend SoCal Sam. According to my Tech, Tom Ishimoto, former Manager of Product
Development for Marantz, the Concept Receivers were built in
Japan by Tandy Electronics Corporation (TEC).
The standout feature of the 16.5
was its "dual
mono" design with huge twin power transformers. This design
was originally pioneered in receivers by the H/K 930 about 5 years before the
Concept. But the 16.5, rated at
165 wrms/ch RMS, had a
damping factor of 450, much higher than any other contemporary
receiver, which were usually rated less than 100. This was a "spec" you can really feel.
In fact, the bass output
on the 16.5 is simply stunning and it is difficult to believe
that a Receiver is capable of such powerful sounding output. While a damping factor of 450 is
hard to believe, check the specifications for yourself in the
Rumor has it
that Pacific Stereo did not want to embarrass the other
manufacturers whose gear they retailed so they did not submit
the 16.5 for review my any of the audio magazines of the era.
So, thjere are no published reviews for it.
I recently found a great new
application for this old Monster. I plugged the output from my
computer's Audigy LS audio card into the Tape 1 input on the
16.5 and now stream audio from the Internet into the 16.5, which
powers some RBH Model 18
12" 3-Way Speakers. (RBH makes some great speakers and started off as an OEM cabinet maker for
the likes of JBL.) The 16.5 gives the
streamed music an AWESOME punch and clarity that it simply did
not have being played over my "high-end computer speakers".
is shown above, on the far left, with its trusty companion, the
Concept 2QD Quartz
Direct Drive Turntable. The
(link to manual and brochure) was supposedly manufactured by
Toshiba and was the only turntable ever marketed as a "Concept"
by Pqacific Stereo. It was
sold along with the cutting=edge ELC Cassette Deck (.pdf
of the Brochure) and the
Concept CE-1 and CE-2 "Heil Air Motion Transformer" Speakers
(thumbnail, far right). I really like the way this combo
makes one of my favorite LPs, Rosie Vela's
Note: If you
have a Concept that is in need of repair or restoration, this
guy knows his stuff:
Pacific Stereo Repair. Here is a
restoration he did.
The following technical
information is quoted directly from the Concept 16.5 Owner's
"A dual-gate MOSFET and
5-gang tuning capacitor provides Concept with excellent
sensitivity and immunity to overloading from very strong local
signals. Concept also has an extremely steep quieting curve to
achieve an outstanding signal-to-noise ratio on very weak
The IF section utilizes
three hand-picked, linear-phase ceramic filters to maximize
selectivity while still keeping distortion extremely low.
Precise impedance matching
of the limiter to the IF filters is also important in keeping
distortion low. Concept accomplishes this by using three
high-gain symmetrical limiters, which have over 90dB of gain.
The detector package is also high-gain, with a wide-band, low
distortion full quadrature detector. Overall gain for the IF
system is better than 130dB, assuring you of noise-free,
low-distortion reception even on the weakest signals.
A Phase-Locked Loop IC
chip in the multiplex decoder keeps the tuner perfectly
synchronized to the transmitter to achieve maximum stereo
separation and the lowest possible distortion. Steep 19 and 38
kHz filters are built in; these eliminate spurious output
signals without rolling off desired audio frequencies. This is
especially important when making a Dolby-ized tape recording off
the air, as such spurious signals can interfere with the Dolby
"The Concept 16.5's power
amplifier uses direct-coupled, fully complimentary driver and
output stages, with four output transistors per channel to
increase reliability. The transistors are mounted on extruded
aluminum heatsinks for maximum heat dissipation, another measure
promoting long transistor live. Two differential gain stages
provide the lowest possible distortion at any power level.
A slew rate of
assures excellent square wave response, even at 10KHz. The slew
rate exceeds the minimum required by over a 5 to 1 margin,
indicating frequency response extended far beyond specification,
and insures the clarity and transparency inherent only in a
wide-bandwidth design, with no sacrifice in ruggedness.
An active protection
circuit senses excessive current in the output stages and then
disconnects the speakers until the fault has been removed. This
circuit protects the output transistors, and also prevents DC
from reaching the speakers and damaging them.
The Concept 16.5 is the
only high powered receiver that features entirely independent
dual power supplies. This ensures that each channel can deliver
it full output power at all frequencies under all conceivable
drive conditions. The benefits of independent power supplies
extend beyond that: they insure musical clarity. In a
conventional amplifier, heavy power demands in one channel
induce cross-modulation into the other, and this crosstalk
obscures fine inner musical detail. Independent dual power
supplies insure that each channel will reproduce all the detail,
with no crosstalk, no matter what the demands on the other
channel. This enhances clarity and improves stereo imaging.
Each channel of the
Concept 16.5 has its own oversized power transformer, heavy-duty
bridge rectifier, and a pair of 10,000 uf
high-voltage electrolytic capacitors. Low-level power supplies
are obtained from separate transformer windings and are fully
regulated for complete isolation from the power supply.
A separate relay is used
to switch each pair of speakers, assuring that all the power is
available to them."
PROS 'N CONS:
May be the best
sounding receiver ever, solid build quality, excellent tuner,
Bland/anonymous styling, faceplate dings/scratches easily,
rosewood vinyl covering on case, LEDs in push buttons can be
Pioneer SX-1250 set the audio world on its ears in when it
was introduced in 1976. All of a sudden, Pioneer Electronics was now the Top Dog
in the mainstream audio world. I
was a Junior at UC Irvine when I first heard about the SX-1250.
And, after seeing it, I wanted one BAD! Thirty years later, that dream came true.
I also got the successpr model SX-1280 around the same time, but as you can see from the photos above,
the SX-1250 is the better built of the two. Simply put, the
SX-1250 was the high water mark for receiver engineering.
the top model before the SX-1250, has signaled the start of the
legendary "Power Wars"
in 1975, where most of the audio manufacturers of that time attempted to
outdo each other with progressively more powerful receivers,
reaching outlandish sizes and power outputs. The 1010
was quickly topped by the Marantz 2325, then the Sansui 9090 and the
Kenwood KR-9400. So, Pioneer, not to be outdone by its erstwhile
rivals, struck back convincingly with the SX-1250. It was a big jump. The 1250's "all Silver" look quickly took
hold and was shamelessly copied by all the other manufacturers. The "Blue
Light" era of the SX-1010 and Marantz 2325 was officially over!
But, the SX-1250 was about
much, much more than mere cosmetic ruffles. First, and foremost, IT WAS BUILT LIKE A TANK! It was,
and still is, considered one of the best built Receivers of all time.
Its massive Toroidal
Transformer power supply is still regarded as one of the best
ever, with four hulking 22,000 mfd Filter Capacitors. In fact, even though
the subsequent SX-1280 was rated at 185 wpc, 20 wpc more than
the SX-1250, the 4 Filter Caps in the SX-1280 were only 15,000
mfd. And the 270 watt per channel SX-1980 had essentially the
same power supply as the SX-1250, making the 1250 considerably
over-engineered relative to its rated power.
The construction quality of
the SX-1250 was
superlative with heavy shielding
over every section. This attention to detail had not been seen
in receivers before. This was surely the height of Japanese
And, the specifications of the SX-1250
were competitive with some of the finest separates of the time. All in all,
the 1250 was
a "tour de force". That's why so many
owners swear by it after having owned it
almost 30 years! And, I have to agree. My SX-1250 is now over
thirty years old, gets played just about every day and has never
had to be repaired. It is 100% original.
The styling for the 1250 is very
stylishly conservative and, for that reason it has held up quite well. In
the rightmost photo, a 1250 sits atop an SX-1010 and beneath and
SX-1280, 880 and 1980. The second photo form the right shows and
SX-1250 beneath a D-7000, Pioneer's first digital tuner
Receiver. The styling of the D-7000 came and went quickly and no
one else went there.
Soundwise, the SX-1250 is
pleasant enough to listen to, but not memorable. The bass, like most
Pioneers of this era is a bit muddy and brooding, lacking the
punch and crispness of a Concept 16.5. However, the tuner
section, even without Quartz Lock, pulls in weaker stations with
exceptional clarity, where other receivers simple can't go
there. Although the SX-1250 is relatively common on E-Bay for an
admission price of around $400 to $700 mine will stay just where it
PROS 'N CONS:
A true breakthrough
product, exceptional build quality, commands respect, all
discrete components, easy to repair, handsome, easy to repair
with discrete components
Hitachi SR-2004 Class G Receiver, retailed for $1,195.00
and has the distinction of being the fifth most powerful "all in
one" Monster Receiver made during the "Power Wars" of the late
1970's and one of the least well known. In fact, with its
dynamic headroom specification of +3db, it just might have been
the most powerful of all. And, it WAS the most powerful Class
"G" Receiver ever made.
which manufactured OEM electronics for most of the major audio
manufacturers, was a relative late-comer to the Receiver "Power
Wars" OF THE 1970's. However, when Hitachi joined the fray with the SR-2004,
they certainly put their best foot forward. Almost all the internal
components in the SR-2004 were made by Hitachi itself, making this
receiver a real rarity and somewhat of a "purebred". And,
outside the box,
a real presence.
had most of the "bells and whistles" of the other Monster
Receivers it was designed to compete against and a few
unexpected extras like switchable IF Bandwidth (wide/narrow),
"AutoLock" FM Tuning (triggered by changes in the
capacitance when you touch the tuning knob) to prevent FM drift, and a
SAW Filter. In fact the 5-gang front end on the SR-2004 was
one of the best analog receiver tuners ever. Be sure to take a
look at the spec. pages below.
The SR-2004's deluxe features also included
two (2) different Audio Muting levels, a front panel Mic Input
w/ level control and a very comprehensive Tone Control section
with bass, mid-range and treble controls with switchable
frequency settings for the bass and treble controls. The images
below are from the Owner's Manual and the left most describes
all the front panel controls.
really made the SR-2004 stand out was its "Class G" Amplifier,
with a prodigious 200 watt RMS per channel power output, placing
it among the most powerful receivers ever made. In fact,
according to a review from the November 1978 issue of "High
Fidelity" Magazine, it was capable of dynamic peaks of 400
watts/ch "that gives it a shot a first place in the receiver
power race". When High Fidelity tested the SR-2004, it found
that the power output was actually more like 240 watt/ch RMS.
And, better yet, the Hitachi stayed relatively cool, a good
indicator for long transistor life. That's why the SR-2004 was
popular most among sound reinforcement professionals and DJs.
Roger Russell, former loudspeaker Guru for McIntosh Labs was
kind enough to provide me with a copy of this review (for a
measly $5.00) from his collection of audio magazines:
So, now you
know a few of the reasons why the HitachiSR-2004 is one of the
greatest receivers ever made. The power supply was dominated by
a huge Toroidal Power Transformer surrounded by four (4) huge
capacitors, 2 per channel. All of the internal electronics were
shielded by metal enclosures so that barely any wiring is
visible. And, of course, all eight (8) discrete output
transistors on the massive heatsinks were proudly marked
"Hitachi". There's nothing like being a purebred!
Unfortunately, Hitachi was never able to establish an audio
brand identity in the American market, so the Hitachi audio line
essentially disappeared after 1982 and the SR-2004 is now just a
vague memory in the minds of many enthusiasts.
Functionally, the Hitachi gives
up very little to the Pioneer SX-1250 performancewise. However,
whereas most receivers sound "loud enough" with the volume set to
9:00, the Hitachi needs to go to 12:00 for adequate volume.
Conversely, whereas most receivers are maxed out at 2:00, the
Hitachi just keeps going to 5:00.
technically inclined, what follows is a description of "Class G"
amplification from a forum at audiokarma.org:
Class H Amplifiers Explained:
Soundcraftsmen made some EXCELLENT sounding Class H amps. The
Hitachi Class G amplifier allowed them to make a 200 wpc unit
that could double that output as required for short periods.
These are popular where high-power and cool-running are needed,
such as in pro applications and in mobile (cars) systems due to
their efficiency. I have four of the big Soundcraftsmen amps,
and let me say again, they are GREAT sounding amps (or they have
no sound of their own, I guess is the point of my comment).
Class G improves efficiency in another way: an ordinary class AB
amplifier is driven by a multi-rail power supply. A 500 watt
amplifier might have three positive rails and three negative
rails. The rail voltages might be 70 volts, 50 volts, and 25
volts. As the output of the amplifier moves close to 25 volts,
the supply is switched the 50 volt rail. As the output moves
close to the 50 volt rail, the supply is switched to the 70 volt
rail. These designs are sometimes called "Rail Switchers". This
design improves efficiency by reducing the "wasted" voltage on
the output transistors. This voltage is the difference between
the positive (red) supply and the audio output (blue). Class G
can be as efficient as class D or T. While a class G design is
more complex, it is based on a class AB amplifier and can have
the same clean characteristics as well.
Class H is similar to class G, except the rail voltage is
modulated by the input signal. The power supply rail is always
just a bit higher than the output signal, keeping the voltage
across the transistors small and the output transistors cool.
The modulating power supply rail voltage is created by similar
circuitry that you would find in a class D amplifier. In terms
of complexity, this type of amplifier could be thought of as a
class D amplifier driving a class AB amplifier and is therefore
different point of view from an audio technician, "Ron", who
e-mailed me in response to this page:
"My other comment has to do
with your definition of Class G, where you state: "an ordinary
class AB amplifier is driven by a multi-rail power supply". This
is incorrect. Classes A to D are defined by conduction angle of
the output devices, regardless of number or level of supply
rails. (In Class A, output devices conduct at all times, through
360 degrees). In Class AB, between 180 to 360 degrees, depending
on input signal level. In Class B, 180 degrees. In Class C
(never used for audio), less than 180 degrees. In Class D,
alternating conduction through a small angle.) In contrast,
Classes G and up (coined in Advertising, rather than
Engineering) define the power supply and not the output device
operation. IOW, a Class G supply can still feed a Class A, AB, B
(or even C or D) output stage."
Thanks for the input, Ron!
PROS 'N CONS:
600 WPC power
meters (who else had those?), runs cool, rugged look
vinyl covering on case, need to turn up the volume to tap
into the power reserves
The 1979 Kenwood KR-9050 Receiver,
retailed for $1,250.00 and has the distinction of being the most
powerful receiver ever fielded by Kenwood at a stomping 200 w/ch RMS. It
the legendary KR-9600 and was largely
overlooked, although it had a higher power rating by 40 w/ch RMS.
In addition to the prodigious power output, the KR-9050 also
incorporated Kenwood's most advanced tuner technology. To keep the power amp. section cool,
most of inside is comprised of a massive heatsink as you can see
in the middle photo.
Soundwise, I consider the KR-9050 to be in the
top rank of vintage Receivers. The Tuner, with its Quartz Lock,
adjustable IF bandwidth and two-level Stereo Sensitivity features leaves
little to be desired. A large number of stations come in "loud
'n clear". Better yet, the "Hi-Speed" "Dual Power Supply"
amplifier is just that: lively and powerful. And,
it looks very impressive, with a real walnut case
and subdued panel lights. However, the switches are plastic and
can break easily. Worse, the selector knobs lack the affirming
click of the Pioneer SX-1250. Cost-cutting is clearly in
evidence. It got even worse with Kenwood's follow-up to the
KR-9050 the KR-1000 "Galaxy Commander". At one point I had two
of these, being enchanted with their "Star Wars" style. However,
the plastic faceplates and the wimpy amplifier resulted in them
being given away. A "Galaxy Commander" is shown atop of Sansui
G-9000 in the far right photo.
In any event, the KR-9050's overall excellent
performance saved it from being a gift.
PROS 'N CONS:
Strong performer in all
respects, one of the very best of its time, exceptional analog
Heatsinks are fully enclosed, knobs are plastic
core with metal caps, feels a
little cheaper than it should
Rotel RX-1603 Receiver, retailed for $1,100.00 and had
the distinction of being the most powerful "all in one" Monster
Receiver when it was first introduced in 1976 (180w/ch RMS x 2).
And, it was the most powerful Receiver ever made by Rotel,
the British audio manufacturer.
But, this should not come as a surprise since in 1976 Rotel also
introduced the incredible
RB-5000 Power Amplifier
(shown at right, above) rated at an
astounding 500 w/ch RMS x 2. I suspect that the RX-1603 has more
in common with the RB-5000 than just the knobs!
was of completely conventional design electronically, although
the cabinet was designed to separate the front from the rear
(tuner/pre-amp & amp.) because it was extraordinarily deep.
This was similar in concept to the Sansui G22000/G33000,
although not as well executed.
Inside is a huge "Rotel" Toroidal power transformer with two
filter caps the size of coffee cans. The front handles were not
just for show, either. Given its bulk, weighing in at
approximately 75 lbs., it was very difficult to move around
without the handles.
I've listened to the RX-1603
a fairly regular basis and the sound is full and rich in detail.
My speakers are not particularly sophisticated (yet) so the more
esoteric elements of its performance I am not worthy to
evaluate. It seems to be SIGNIFICANTLY more powerful that the
Pioneer SX-1280, even though the rated power output is about the
same. I read somewhere on the Net that the RX-1603 actually
specs out a around 250w/ch RMS, but I have not confirmed this.
Next time I take it in for service, I'll ask my Tech,
benchtest it so I can say for sure.
The RX-1603 gained a degree of
immortality arter being featured on the cover of Stereo Review's issue
covering the stunning rise of Monster Receivers in 1978. It's the second
unit from the bottom in the rightmost photo. Personally, after
the Marantz 2600, I think it's the most captivating looking
Monster Receiver. The FM performance is a little weak, however,
the amplifier section more than makes up for it delivering a
powerful, punchy bottom end that doesn't overwhelm the crisp highs and
detailed mids. It's a keeper.
German site with more about Rotel.
PROS 'N CONS:
presence just sitting still, beefy bass performance, solid feeling to controls
to move even with handles, looks like the budget ran dry in back
Marantz SR9000G retailed for $950.00 and has the
distinction of being Marantz's first Digital Tuner equipped
receiver. It was sold only in Europe, however, was the design basis
for the top of the line Marantz SR-8000 sold only in North America. Most audio collectors have considerable disdain for
Marantz equipment from 1979 through the 1980's. Although not as big and powerful as the awesome
Model 2500/2600 (shown in the second photo from the left) it replaced at the top of the Marantz lineup,
the SR9000G was
still a 1970's Monster Receiver in its own right at a
However, it marked a turning point in Marantz's fortunes, as the
Company began a
downhill slide after it was taken over
(a .pdf of Marantz history) by Dutch
electronics giant Philips.
Unfortunately, the SR9000G
was a Monster with obvious signs of cost cutting. Although
manufactured at the same Standard Radio of Japan factory that
produced the Model 2600, the buttons
were plastic, not metal. Gone were Toroidal power
transformers and "dual secondary" power supplies of
the previous generation. Also gone were
double ganged tone controls and the brand-identifying
"Gyro-Touch" tuning. And, the wood case was now covered with vinyl
rather than real wood veneer. There was no metal case. Although the SR9000G was actually
under development before Phillips took over, it sent all the
wrong "mass market" signals to the loyal customers who had been
devout followers of the Marantz brand during the 60's and 70's.
And, the sales figures showed it.
The SR9000G is now an
extremely rare Monster. Very few exist now. Many have no doubt
been destroyed being shipped around the country in
E-Bay transactions. I have been able to find
almost nothing about mine on the Internet, except on a German
site, which did not translate very well. I took my SR9000G over
to my friend
Tom Ishimoto's shop and he benchtested it at 150w/ch,
20-20kHz at 0.022% THD, a performance that puts it in the
Monster Receiver league, albeit barely. Tom was once the
Manager of Product Development for Marantz, and even he did not know
about the SR9000G. That's how rare a bird it is.
But, issues of cost cutting
aside, my SR9000G was redone with a
real rosewood case by LBPete at
AudioKarma.org. He did an awesome job. And, I hang
onto it because I like the overall design a great deal. If the
lens over the display had been aqua toned glass, the knobs solid metal and the case made
from a real veneer, it would have looked and felt like a true
top of the line Receiver for its era.
For now, it only performs like one.
However, I do like the looks of the early 80's Marantz gear,
some of which are shown above on the far right. If only the build
quality had been up to par. Sad. Really. The vinyl case on mine
looked particulary low budget and so I had it replaced in realy
rosewood veneer by Audiokarma's LBPete, who did a fantastic job
as can be seen in the photos.
PROS 'N CONS:
very satisfying performance, ample power
is not what it should be for a TOTL Marantz, controls feel frail, vinyl case
Toshiba SA-7150, retailed for $1,195.00 and has the
distinction of being (according to Toshiba, but disputed by
anyone owning a
Hervic HR150) the "world's first" receiver with a Quartz
Digital Synthesizer Tuner. In that way it was the forefather of
all that was to come. It was also an FM lover's delight, since
it also had built-in Dolby FM, switchable IF Bandwidth
(wide/narrow), Hi-Blend and even Air Check (a white noise
generator) for setting recording levels. Plus, all this FM
wizardry came with
a 150w/ch power amplifier with a "dual mono design" and a huge
Toroidal power transformer. The Toshiba engineers were so
fanatical about the power supply that the SA-7150 even had a
separate power transformer for the tuner/pre-amp circuits. In
every respect, it was the "state of the art" in 1978.
To quote from the Owner's
"The all-important power supply for the SA-7150 is
divided into separate supplies for the pre- and power amplifier
stages. the power amplifier supply is then further divided into
independent left and right power
supplies, employing separate pairs of high grade heavy duty
electrolytic capacitors (15,000ï¿½V x 2 per channel) and a
massive Toroidal transformer for excellent regulation. The
SA-7150 is thus able to deliver its huge reserves of power right
down into the ultra-low frequency region with greatly reduced
dynamic crosstalk distortion.
advances in audio circuit technology have given the SA-7150
Digital Synthesizer AM/FM Stereo Receiver an incredibly huge
reserve of output power at practically non-existent distortion
levels. Super-low-noise dual transistors (developed especially
for Toshiba audio equipment) in the 1st-stage differential
amplifier, and parallel push-pull connected power transistors
(of particularly outstanding transient response) in the power
stage, deliver 150 watts of power per channel (both channels
driven) into 8 ohms from 20 to 20 kHz with no more than 0.05%
which manufactured OEM electronics for most of the major audio
companies during the 1970's, was a late-comer to the Receiver "Power Wars".
However, when they joined the fray with the SA-7150, they put
their best foot forward. Almost all the internal components in
the SA-7150 were made by Toshiba, making this receiver, like the
Hitachi SR-2004, a real rarity and somewhat of a "purebred".
And, outside the box, it has a very distinctive look which has
aged rather well, with the
bright digital display, multi-color LEDs contrasting with the
legacy analog Power Meters. rated up to 500 watts.
Toshiba also released the ST-910 Digital Tuner (also marketed
under the "Aurex" brand) which showed off its technical prowess.
This review of the ST-910 from FM Tuner Info. Center gives you a
taste of Toshiba's advance FM Tuner technology circa 1978, much
of which is incorporated into the SA-7150.
PROS 'N CONS:
digital/analog styling, audiophile-oriented circuit design,
impressive FM Tuner
Front door is
too heavily sprung, vinyl case looks out of place, internal
The 1977 Setton
RS-660 certainly qualifies as one of the rarest of the
Monster Receivers. And, one of the nicest looking. In fact, the
Setton line had only three (3) receivers, the RS-220, RS-440 and
the "big one", the Setton RS-660. The RS-660 retailed for
$900.00, making it one of 1977's more expensive receivers,
although it was "only" rated at 100 w/ch RMS when introduced.
The Setton line was allegedly designed by Allain Caire, an
acolyte of Pierre Cardin (although it is mistakenly claimed that
the master himself was involved) and was marketed to an "elite"
audience. Jack Setton was the French distributor for Pioneer and
had decided to come to market with his own brand. In Europe,
Setton distributed some really interesting equipment, like the
outrageous (for the time)
RCX-1000 modular tuner/pre-amp, which shares only its knob
design with the Settons shown here.
In use, the RS-660's controls
are silky smooth and the sound is "rich" and full bodied. So, no
complaints there. However, despite the lovely cosmetics, the
wood sleeve that it comes in is covered with a really tacky
walnut woodgrain vinyl, which get quite sticky with age as it
deteriorates. Setton also offered an unusually long warranty
period of 5 years.
On a side note:
The Setton receivers have always been a source of some
controversy since it is well known that they were not
manufactured by Setton, but outsourced to a Japanese OEM.
However, that issue has now been resolved for the most part,
since it appears that the
Settons were manufactured in Japan by the same outfit ("Planet
Research") that did the Lafayette Radio
products, like the LR-9090.
Other people claim it was made by Trio Electronics, parent of
Kenwood. I recently acquired an LR-9090 and can attest that
internally, they are about 90% the same, although the power
transformer and the pre-amp board are different. So, they are
not identical behind the faceplate but clearly
made by the same manufacturer and while not identical twins,
they are clearly brothers. (See middle comparison photo.) Photos
of the internals of the LR-9090 and RS-660 are in the middle.
Photos of my LR-9090 are on the right.
All the Settons featured a
unique "Security Panel" display, with indicators for "Heat",
"Clipping" and "Protection". This included the fairly outrageous
BS-5500 Power Amplifier (middle photos), a true "dual mono"
design, complete with 2 power switches. This was basically the
RS-660's power supply section multiplied by 2. The power supply
filter caps in the RS-660 were fairly substantial at 15,000uF x
2. It also had switchable turnover frequencies for the Bass and
Treble control and a Hi/Lo phono impedance setting on the rear
Attempting to add to the
exclusive allure, each Setton Receiver was benchmarked at the
factory and came with its own individualized spec sheet, signed
off by a Tech. When the RS-660 first came on the market, it's
published spec was 100 w/ch RMS. However, Setton had underrated
it, and so it was re-spec'd at 120 w/ch RMS without any change
in the circuitry. Even at that, it was still underrated. It's
actually good for around 130 w/ch RMS.
However, a considerable amount
of money was invested in the RS-660's "cosmetics". All the
buttons are solid metal and the feel of the controls, with their
nylon inserts, is almost silky. It is a real pleasure to use.
But the vinyl on the case is another story entirely. How could
they do this? I have had the vinyl case on mine redone with real
walnut veneer by Merrylander at AudioKarma.org and I'm sure it's
now the best looking RS-660 in existence.
I can't really say I listen to
it very often because the Setton Receivers have a dreaded
Achilles Heel: the power switch is built into the speaker
selector and sometimes this can create an electrical arc which
destroys the unobtainium selector. However, the much more common
LR-9090 has the identical switch and those are much more common.
In I bought one as a source of parts for the Setton.
PROS 'N CONS:
solid feel of the controls, high-end "Pierre Cardin" styling,
innovative Security Panel
clad case, "a Lafayette with lipstick"
When critics evaluated the
performance of the Setton Receivers, they received fairly
glowing reviews. I haven't found any English
reviews of the RS-660. Below is what I found:
||A review of the
RS-660 from a French audio magazine.
||A review of the
very similar Lafayette LR-9090 from Stereo Review.
A review of the "little
brother" RS-440 from Stereo Review had this to say:
"Although style is a very personal
consideration, there can be no doubt that the Setton
RS-440's front panel is both unconventional and unique -
although unmistakably a stereo receiver it will never be
confused with any other make. To us, the Setton RS-440
appears to be in impeccable visual taste, with sonic
performance to match".