Setton RS660 Receiver

Concept 16.5
Hitachi SR-2004
Kenwood KR-9050
Marantz SR-9000G
Pioneer SX-1250

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Rotel RX-1603
Setton RS-660
Toshiba SA-7150

More Favorite  Receivers

Even More Favorite


Some people collect houses while others collect "barn find" 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. These were the stereos that I dreamed of owning as a poor college student at UC Irvine in the mid-1970's.

At one point, my vintage receiver collection numbered around 120, however, I gave most of those away in 2008, in what has come to be known as "The Great Receiver Giveaway", and now the collection is down to a paltry 30 or so.

This web site is about the vintage receivers I decided to keep and why I kept them. The ones I have kept were for the most part those that had a significant impact either technologically and/or saleswise. I used to sell stereos for University Stereo in the late 70's, at the height of the famous stereo receiver "Power Wars", so many of these units I am intimately acquainted with, having A/B'd them on a professional switching system countless times. Since our store also did repairs in house, I am also well aware of which units came through the back door more frequently than other, and why.

So, this web site is not about ALL vintage stereo receivers, just the ones I collected so that others who own them, or want to, can find useful information. Please click on the links above for a detailed description of the "stars" of my collection. In addition to photographs, many of the descriptions include reviews, brochures, manuals and spec sheets I have found as well as links to other interesting information including recent auction sales and listings.

To speed page loading times, all the photographs are thumbnailed so just click on them to see them in all their glory. 

I've also included a couple pages about some lesser known receivers from my collection that are "still worthy" and tend to be priced well under the radar for those of you who are looking for something off the beaten track to enjoy on your E-Bay treks. Speaking of which, if you are going to quote my reviews in your auctions on E-bay, please give this site appropriate credit. This web site is purely for informational purposes.

I don't know about you, but back in the 70's I eagerly awaited each new issue of the mainstream stereo magazines to see the newest test reports and the ads. Sadly all those magazines are long gone but their archives are on the links below:

Audio High Fidelity  Stereo Review

Be sure to check out my websites on a couple of rare vintage cars, the 1902 Baker Electric Torpedoes, the first car to reach 100 mph, and the 1955 Gaylord Gladiator, the most epensive car in the world (at the time).

Updated: January 12, 2023












In 1978 the Concept 16.5 Receiver retailed for $950.00 and had 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 Concept 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. (He was also kind enough to mention this web site in an article he wrote about the roots of Parasound.) 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).

For complete operating information, see the Owner's Manual and for more information about the entire Concept receiver line, see the Concept Receiver Brochure. Rumor has it that Pacific Stereo did not want to embarrass the other manufacturers, whose gear they also retailed, so they did not submit the 16.5 for review by any of the audio magazines of the era. So, there are no published reviews for it.

The standout feature of the 16.5 was, of course, its "dual mono" design with huge twin power transformers (see second photo from the left). This design was originally pioneered in receivers by the H/K 930, about 5 years before the Concept. But, unlike the 930, the 16.5 was a true monster, rated at 165 w/ch RMS, with a damping factor of 450, much higher than any other contemporary receiver, which were usually rated less than 100. And damping factor is a "spec" you can really feel. It has been described as the amount of "punch" in the bass, with the bass response of a low damping factor amplifer sounding "floppy". In fact, the bass output on the 16.5 is simply stunning, powerful yet crisp, and it is difficult to believe that a Receiver is capable of such powerful sound. While a damping factor of 450 may hard for some to believe, check the specifications for yourself in the 16.5 specifications above!

The 16.5 also came with some  nice features, generally not found on the competition, like variable loudness control and LEDs embedded in the pushbuttons which would glow green or red to visually confirm feature status if the button was pressed in.

My 16.5 is shown above, on the far left, with its trusty companion, the matching Concept 2QD Quartz Direct Drive Turntable. The 2QD (link to manual and brochure) was supposedly manufactured by Toshiba and was the only turntable ever marketed as a "Concept" by Pacific Stereo. It was sold along with the cutting-edge ELC Cassette Deck (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 Zazu, sound (watch her "Magic Smile" video if you've never heard of her).

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 16.5 restoration he did. A 16.5 is well worth saving as the prices on these just go up and up!


The following technical information is quoted directly from the Concept 16.5 Owner's Manual:


"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 signals.

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 process."


"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 approximately 38V/ms 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."


May be the best sounding stereo receiver ever with a damping factor of 450, solid build quality, excellent tuner, massive heatsinks

Bland/anonymous styling, faceplate metal dings/scratches easily, rosewood vinyl covering on case, LEDs embedded in push buttons can be problematic









The 1976 Pioneer SX-1250 literally set the audio world on its ears in when it was introduced with a powerful ad campaign. All of a sudden, a Japanese manufacturer, Pioneer Electronics, was the Top Dog in the mainstream audio world with it's sensational looking 160 w/ch RMS receiver. I was a Junior at UC Irvine when I first heard about the SX-1250. And, after seeing the first ad for it, I wanted one BAD! Thirty years later, that dream came true. I also got the successor model, the 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 stereo receiver engineering.

In fact, 1976 was the highwater mark for receiver engineering (see 1976 Directory of Receivers), period. Never before had so many receiver options been offered by so many manufacturers. Although the SX-1250 caught most of the competition asleep at the wheel, it was quickly followed by the Kenwood KR-9600 (160 w/ch RMS), Technics SA-5760 (165 w/ch RMS) and then the truly monstrous 72 lb. Rotel RX-1603 (180 w/ch RMS), which had obvioulsy been in development before the SX-1250 was introduced. Over the next two (2) years, the rest of the manufacturers came out with their own "monster receivers", but, although some were even more powerful than the SX-1250, none were made with a higher level of engineering and build quality. The SX-1250 was, and still is, considered one of the best built Receivers of all time.

Pioneer's SX-1010, the top model before the SX-1250, had signaled the start of the legendary "Power Wars" in 1975. The 1010 also noteworthy in that it marked the ascendency of the Japanese audio industry which had not been taken very seriously before it arrived. The 1010 was quickly topped by the Marantz 2325, then the Sansui 9090 and then the Kenwood KR-9400. So, Pioneer, not to be outdone by its erstwhile rivals, struck back quite convincingly with the SX-1250. It was a bold move. The 1250's clean "all Silver" styling quickly took hold and was shamelessly copied by most of the other manufacturers. The "Blue Light" era of the SX-1010, Marantz 2325 and Sansui 9090DB was officially over!

But, the SX-1250 was about much, much more than mere cosmetic ruffles. Its massive Toroidal Transformer power supply is still regarded as one of the best ever, with four hulking 22,000 uf filter capacitors. I believe the SX-1250 was the first receiver with a Toroidal transformer power supply, although Tandberg also featureed them and I am not sure who was actually first.  Even though the subsequent SX-1280 was rated at 185 w/ch RMS, 20 wpc more than the SX-1250, the 4 filter caps in the SX-1280 were only 15,000 uf. 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 and leaving the SX-1980 was left with spare dynamic range beyond its rated power, per the lab tests reported by High Fidelity in November 1978.

There has always been a swirling controversy over which was the "best" between the Pioneer SX-1250, SX-1280 and SX-1980. Everyone, has their opinion and is entitled to it. I have owned 2 of the 3. From my vantage point, there is no question that in terms of overall build quality, the SX-1250 easily tops the SX-1280 and has the more robust amplifier section of the two, the most important part of a receiver.

As for the SX-1980, it is generally considered to be not as well built has the SX-1250, and has essentially the same power supply, but with unobtainium "Power Packs" instead, pushed almost to its limit. In their Test Report High Fidelity stated: "The SX-1980 meets its power rating with a smidgen to spare when both channels are driven. At rated power, this distortion barely reaches half of the tight 0.03% spec. But, while the power is abundant, little remains in reserve; dynamic headroom is just 1/4 dB. Like many separate superamps, moreover, the power amp section requires that the AC input really stay at 120 volts (which domestic supplies seldom do) for the full rated ouptput. But in such amps the high power rating is itself a form of headroom-a hedge against the demands of musical peaks and reduced voltages in the power distribution system." And, since the SX-1980 had Power Packs, unlike the discreet output transistors in the SX-1250, in the event of failure, these proprietary packs cannot be replaced except from a donor SX-1980 (which whould now be prohbitively expensive).

So, that's why the SX-1980 is not on my favorites list. No doubt it is a goreous beast, but the SX-1250 is a more coherent, thoughtful design overall. BTW, I've also had a Sansui G9000 but mine had too many problems and after three (3) attempts to repair it, I gave up and just gave it away. (The G22000 and G33000 were not true receivers IMHO.) What about the massive 87 lb. and 330 w/ch RMS Technics SA-1000 you ask? I had a Technics SA-800 (125 w/ch RMS), lthe next next model down from the SA-1000, and my overall impression was "meh" so I expect the SA-1000 would just be a bigger helping of the same and never really lusted after one. The SA-1000 didn't even have the "state of the art" toroidal transformer, and the four (4) 18,000 uf filter capacitors were less than the SX-1250's, even though the power rating was more than twice as much! Something's fishy here. Other than just sheer size, the SA-1000 was hardly cutting edge for the time. Lastly, I have also owned a Marantz 2325, 2285B, 2270 and 2238B but, although they are all excellent, they were not particuarly outstanding, or cutting edge in any partricular way, and did not become favorites of mine so they were all eBayed for a nice return.

It should be remembered that the SX-1980 and the other truly massive receivers were introduced at the very zenith of the Power Wars and around the time that the FTC promulgated new regulations (interesting reading!) regarding the advertising of power output specifications in an effort to bring some "law and order" to the marketplace since manufacturers were falling all over each other to have the bragging rights of "most powerful ever". In essence, these new regulations required that as far a power ratings were concerned, that an amplifier be run a 1/3 its rated power for 1 hour, before the full power test was performed. So, a receiver rated at 300 w/ch RMS would have to be run at constant 100 w/ch RMS for 1 hour before it could be tested for its full power. Unfortunately for many receivers, this rigorous fried their output transistors in teh process.

Regarding the SX-1980's advertised power, of considerable interest, a poster named "Jordan Richards", on July 22, 2018, posted on the "Classic Receivers" page: "U should correct the column naming the SA-1000 recevier being the most powerful. Though Technics rated it at 330 watts per channel it failed the FTC power disclosure specification, it could not meet the 1 hour pre-conditioning requirement. The only receiver in the mentioned brands was the Marantz 2600 to meet its published power output specifications under FTC testing conditions....Another receiver that failed to meet its published power output specification was the Pioneer SX-1990. In fact, the FTC actually issued a cease and desist order (sic) Pioneer for its false advertising of the SX-1980 magazine ad. The actual power output of the SX-1980 under FTC testing conditions was 145 watts not 270 watts." This is similar to the information provided to me by Rick Jordan, VP of Product Development at Marantz during the 1970's and 1980's. Is "Jordan Richards" Rick Jordan? Who knows? Sadly for the Marantz 2600 and 2500, now over 40 years old, I have it from a reliable source that by now all the six wafer selector switches have failed, and replacements are unaobtainable. But, my SX-1250 has never been worked on and still functions flawlessly. That say a lot!

Unfortunately, I have never found any test reports of the SX-1250 in Audio, High Fidelity or Stereo Review. There are plenty of four-page ads, like those above, but no reviews. I can only wonder why.

The SX-1250 comes with heavy shielding over every section. This attention to detail had simply not been seen in receivers before. And, the perfomance of the SX-1250 was competitive with some of the finest separates of the time. All in all, the 1250 was a "tour de force" (official Pioneer SX-1250 brochure). That's why so many owners swear by it after having owned it almost 30 years! And, I agree. My SX-1250 gets played just about every day and has never had to be repaired. It is 100% original. If feels bulletproff. But, just in case, here is a video of what is involved in restoring one.

Although trendsettting, the styling for the 1250 was tastefully conservative and, for that reason it has held up quite well over time. In the rightmost photo, an SX-1250 sits atop an SX-1010 and beneath and SX-1280, 880 and 1980 to give you an idea of their relatative sixes. The second photo from the right shows an SX-1250 beneath a D-7000, Pioneer's first digital tuner equipped Receiver. The unique styling of the D-7000 came and went very quickly and no other manufacturers followed.

Soundwise, the SX-1250 is very enjoyable listen to, with the sense that now matter how good the music sounds, there is always more, much, more if you just want to turn up the volume at little bit more. The damping factor is nowhere near the 450 of the Concept 16.5 and the bass, like most Pioneers of this era, can sound to some ears (not mine!) a bit muddy and "brooding" compared directly with the punch and tightness of a Concept 16.5. However, the tuner section, even without Quartz Lock, pulls in weaker stations with exceptional clarity, whereas other receivers, including the 16.5, simply can't go there.

Although the SX-1250 is still relatively common on E-Bay, for an admission price of around $3,000 now for a fully operational/serviced one, mine will stay just where it is.


A true "game changing" product, exceptional build quality, commands respect by all enthusiasts, all discrete components, easy to repair, rugged and reliable over the decades, trendsetting styling, easy to repair with discrete components, uncompromised sound quality, "high-water mark" for analog receivers, overall the may be the "best" overall stereo receiver ever

None, absolutely none

Hitachi Brochure




The 1978 Hitachi SR-2004 Class G Receiver, retailed for $950.00  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 with 200 w/ch RMS on tap, 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.

Hitachi, which manufactured OEM electronics for most of the major audio manufacturers, was a relative late-comer to the Receiver "Power Wars". However, when Hitachi joined the fray with the SR-2004, they certainly put their best foot forward. Almost all the major internal components in the SR-2004, including the output transistors, were made by Hitachi, making this receiver a real rarity and somewhat of a "purebred". And, outside the box, it has a real presence about it. Here's a fairly nice video featuring one. And, here's a "deep dive".

The SR-2004 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 part of one of the best analog receiver tuners ever. Be sure to take a look at the specifications pages above.

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.

Although it weighed in at 56.2 pounds, somewhat less than the Pioneer SX-1250's 65 lbs., what really made the SR-2004 stand out was its "Class G" Amplifier. In fact, according to a review from the December 1978 issue of High Fidelity (in middle photos above), it was capable of dynamic peaks of 400 watts/ch "that gives it a shot a first place in the receiver power race" and found that the power output was actually more like 240 w/ch RMS. Leonard Feldman in Audio's November 1978 issue confirmed dynamic headroom of just under 4.0 db, "higher than that of any other receiver we have measured since was began testing for this new specification". And, better yet, the Hitachi stayed relatively cool, a good indicator for long transistor life. That's why the SR-2004 was popular mostly among sound reinforcement professionals and DJs. Roger Russell, former loudspeaker Guru for McIntosh Labs, was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the review from his collection of audio magazines, including his signature on the sitcky note!

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". Functionally, the Hitachi gives up very little to the Pioneer SX-1250 performancewise. However, whereas most monster-era 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.

So, now you know a few of the reasons why the Hitachi SR-2004 is one of the greatest stereo receivers ever made and one of my personal favorites. Unfortunately, Hitachi was never able to establish an audio brand identity in the American market, so the Hitachi audio line essentially disappeared after 1984 and the SR-2004 is now just a vague memory in the minds of most enthusiasts.

For the technically inclined, what follows is a description of "Class G" amplification from a forum at

Class G, 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
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
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 fairly complex.

Here's a 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."


600 WPC power meters (who else had those?), runs very cool, rugged look

Bland, anonymous styling, vinyl covering on case, need to turn up the volume at bit 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, featuring a "High Speed" DC amplifier rated at a romping 200 w/ch RMS. To keep the massive power amplfier section cool, most of the inside is comprised of a massive heatsink, as you can see in the middle photo. It directly followed legendary KR-9600 but somehow never achieved the same level of popularity or status, 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 analog tuner technology.

You can learn the more intricate details about the KR-9050's "High Speed" DC amplifier design, and see the rest of Kenwood's receiver ilneup for 1978, in this  Kenwood Full Line Brochure.

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 with subdued panel lights.

However, on the downside, the switchgear is mostly plastic, with thin metal caps, which can break off easily and I have seen some with that "toothless" look. The selector knobs, with plastic cores, also lack the affirmative click of the Pioneer SX-1250 which had solid metal machined knobs with set screws. 

Unfortunately, the plastic got even profligate with Kenwood's follow-up to the KR-9050, the infamous KR-1000 aka "The Galaxy Commander". At one point I actually had two Galaxy Commanders, being infatuated with their "Star Wars" style. However, the plastic faceplates, chintzy-feeling buttons and the relatively wimpy 125 w/ch RMS amplifier resulted in both them being given away in the Great Audio Giveaway. One "Galaxy Commander" is shown atop my Sansui G-9000, which I also gave away, in the far right photo.

Fortunately, the KR-9050's exceptional overall performance saved it from being a gift!


Strong performer in all respects, one of the very best of its time, exceptional analog tuner with Quartz lock

Heatsinks are fully enclosed, knobs are plastic core with metal caps, feels a little cheaper than it should

Rotel RX1603 Receiver    



The 1976 Rotel RX-1603 Receiver, retailed for $1,100.00 and had the distinction of being the most powerful "all in one" Monster Receiver (nicely shot video but in a foreign language) when it was first introduced in 1976 (180 w/ch RMS) shortly after the Pioneer SX-1250 and, briefly, snatching away the crown as "the most powerful receiver in the world" (see 1976 Receiver Directory). And, it was the most powerful Receiver ever made by Rotel, the British audio manufacturer. But, this powerful of a receiver coming from a relatively minor manufacturer should not come as a surprise since in 1978 Rotel introduced the stunning 117 lb. Rotel RB-5000 Power Amplifier (also shown at right, above) rated at an astounding 500 w/ch RMS and priced at a very affordable $2,650! According to Stereo Review's test report, it even exceeded this outrageous output and could not be switched from a preamplifier since it sucked 3,200 watts from a 120-volt power line at full tilt. I suspect that the RB-5000 has more in comming with the RX-1603 than just the knobs! Maybe the power transformers are even the same.

The RX-1603 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 as a single unit. This was similar in concept to the subsequent Sansui G22000/G33000, which were a more refined execution of this basic approach. The inside of the amp. section is dominated by a huge "Rotel" toroidal transformer with two 22,000 uF 80V power capacitors literally the size of coffee cans. The output transistors were top of the line hand picked and hand tested Sanken 2SC1586s. And, those front handles were not just for show, either. Given its bulk, weighing in at over 72 lbs. with both components attached, it was very difficult to move around without the handles.

This page details an RX-1603 rebuild, and provides a good look at how it is constructed.

I've listened to my own RX-1603 on 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 250 w/ch RMS, but I have not yet confirmed this personnally with a benchtest at my Tech's for fear of ruining my back hauling it over there!

The RX-1603 also gained a degree of immortality after 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 intriguing looking Monster Receiver. The FM performance seems a little weak compared to the competition, however, the amplifier section more than makes up for it by delivering a powerful, punchy bottom end that doesn't overwhelm the crisp highs and detailed mids. It's a keeper.


Massive presence just sitting still, beefy bass performance, solid feeling to all controls

Massive pain to move even with handles, looks like the budget ran dry in back




The 1980 Marantz SR9000G retailed for $950.00 and replaced the Model 2600 (top photo, middle panel) as the top Marantz receiver worldwide. It was also the last Marantz receiver manufactured by Marantz Japan. It was sold only in Europe and was never imported to the USA, however, it served as the design basis for the Marantz SR-8000 (based on the European SR-8010), sold only in North America, which was only half as powerful for reasons unknown. By this time, the receiver "Power Wars" of the mid-70's was winding down but why Marantz did not bring the SR9000G in America remains baffling.

What attracts me to the SR9000G is its unique blend of old and new school. It paid homage to the very first Marantz receiver, the 1967 Model 18, in the layout of its knobs and having rectangular buttons, unlike the round buttons of previous generations. It also used the same iconic fonts. The middle panel, above, shows an SR9000G atop a Model 18 for the sake of comparison. However, the SG9000G had several  features that no Marantz receiver before it, including the 2600, ever had: a quartz synthesized digital turner, auto scan tuning, a 7 pre-set "Computuner", LED power meters and an FM multipath indicator.

Some vintage audio collectors have considerable disdain for Marantz equipment from the 1980's citing a perceived lower quality of construction and overall performance than before. Most of Marantz's TOTL stereo receivers of the 80's are in the composite photo far right starting with the SR9000G, then the SR8100DC, SR940 and TA170AV. The 1989 SR3600 Dolby Surround Receiver is not included. The 1984 SR940 (100 x 2) was particularly controversial as it was all digital and emlimnated knobs entirely. And, sadly, it was also the first Marantz receiver with an entirely plastic face, which is where the perceived decline in quality became quite obvous. However, many critics of 80's Marantz receivers have never owned one, or even heard one.

Although not as big and powerful as the awesome Model 2600 the SR9000G was still a "Monster Receiver" in its own right featuring a (first for Marantz) DC amplifier at a rated 130 w/ch RMS. It also eliminated the 2600's cooling fan, which many claim was audible at low levels. I have listened to a 2600 and never noticed the fan, but who listens to a 2600 at low levels anyway? A 2220B sounds better at low levels anyway. Regarless, the SR9000G did mark a turning point in Marantz's fortunes, as the Company began a steep downhill slide in prestige after it was taken over by Dutch electronics giant Philips in 1979.

Recently, I made the acquaintance of one Richard Jordan, Product Manager and VP of Product Development/Marketing for Marantz USA, who oversaw the development for all Marantz audio components (including receivers, video products and loudspeakers) from 1974 to 1987. Regarding the 9000G, he had this to say:

"120v version available, was sold through the military PX & audio clubs... I recall the 9000 was the last Marantz receiver built by Marantz Japan..."

"Around that time, Phillips (Netherlands) had bought the off-shore assets of Marantz, but Marantz USA kept the North American territory. John Ballantine did all the Marantz receivers till '87. Yes, I would write a book about the 2500/2600, it was a wattage horsepower race with Pioneer & Technics. Over lunch 1 day I was with the pro-audio engineers we decided to design a receiver to kick butt... We took our amplifier circuit from the 510m pro amplifier, tuner/scope from the best Marantz component line, designed a great photo preamp circuit here in the USA. Next I went to Japan with 1 of the pro engineers and we presented our plan for the 2500... It took the Japanese team about 2 weeks to confirm back their understanding. Then it took another 12 months going through tooling and evaluating prototypes in order to start mass production. At the start of production I was in Japan and hand carried back the 1st production samples. To say the least it was a big hit for sales and today a sano 2500/2600 can sell for $5-9K. In 1 of my (3) systems I still use a 2600... I have been offered big $$ for it but intend to give it to my son..".

"Some debate what stereo receiver was king of the hill?? But the 2600 had the most power plus scope, quartz lock tuner, incredible phono preamp. Unfortunately, the competition's jumbo receivers all failed the rigorous FTC preconditioning test. But since the 2500/2600 used the patented, servo-controlled tunnel heat sink from the pro amplifier 510M it did just fine when pushed hard.... Regarding the purchase price to employees, we typically could get significant discounts. But, whenever I wanted a product, I would get it directly from Marantz Japan and handcarry back from Japan since I was over there 4 or 5 times a year..."

So, the controvery over whether the 9000G is a "legitimate Marantz" product, as opposed to merely a Phillips step-child, is over. Richard Jordan, the "father" of the Model 2600 has confirmed that indeed the SR9000G was developed at Marantz USA by the same minds (particulary his and John Ballantine's) that created the legendary 2500 and 2600 monsters (although they both had some reliability issues and did not make it here) and made in the same factory. Despite this pedigree, however, the 9000G has never acquired cult status, although those who have actually heard one give it rather high marks for its performance.

Unfortunately, the SR9000G had obvious signs of cost cutting. The buttons were plastic, not metal capped. Gone were the Toroidal power transformer, the "cooling tunnel" and "dual secondary" power supplies of the previous top of trhe line models. Also gone were double-ganged (independent left/right) tone controls and, sadly, even the brand-identifying "Gyro-Touch" tuning. Marantz had digitial tuners with Gyro-Touch but, mysteriously, it did not appear on another Marantz recever until 20 years later on the massive SR-14EX. Lastly, the SR9000G's wood sleeve enclosure was covered with a tacky vinyl rather than real walnut veneer. And, It was not sold with a metal case. No wonder there was a perception of lower quality!

Once I got my SR9000G, being unable to find any information about it at the time, I took it over to my friend Tom Ishimoto's shop (Tom used to work with Richard Jordan at Marantz in the 1980's) and he benchtested my then 35 year old receiver at 150 w/ch, 20-20kHz at 0.022% THD, a performance that puts it in the Monster Receiver league, albeit barely. By the way, Tom is not your average Tech as he developed the servo-lock and quartz-lock FM circuits while he was at Oknyo. But, even he did know about the SR9000G! That's how rare a bird it was.

Issues of cost cutting aside, unlike the 2500/2600 and their controversial reliability issues, my SR9000G has proven very reliable with conventional components. So knowing it was a "keeper", I had case on mine redone with a real rosewood veneer case beautifully crafted by "LBPete" over at This "odd duck" now looks absolutely magnificent, as seen in the left three (3) photos. Although the veneer is not original, I like to consider my SR9000G as one of the nicest examples of one in the world today. And, I hang onto it because I like the overall design ethic a great deal. It has an "Art Deco" vibe that I particualry enjoy. If only the lens over the display had been aqua toned glass instead of plastic, the knobs solid metal and the case with a real wood  veneer, it would have looked and felt like a true top of the line Receiver for its era. 

Of interest, on a recent E-Bay auction for an SR9000G, the Seller posted the following information from "Nico" in Germany:

"The real first digital Marantz receiver was the SR 8010 DC (100x2). It came out in 1980 and looked like the twin to the SR9000G...What these receivers all have in common is that they were developed, designed and produced in Japan....and Philips had not yet taken over Marantz. In the pre-amplifier section MOS FET transistors and in the main amplifier section selected Japanese EBD transistor are absolutely the same like the output signal and not similar....In my opinion the SR 9000G is the best receiver Marantz ever built and not the model 2385 which many people consider to be the best. I compared these two receivers side by side and I think the SR9000G performs better because of the fantastic authentic sound and the harmonic distortion of less than 0.01%, thanks to the DC amplification, which the models before 1980 (like the 2385) did not have. The power of the SR9000G is nearly the same power of the 2385 and, therefore, enough for a hifi freak like me. I do not appreciate the two bigger receivers (2500 and 2600) because of the built-in-fan which is not comfortable in daily use at low volume level."

Incidentally, my Tech recently told me of the owner of a 2600 who disconnected the fan of his 2600 and "fried the amplifier". Geeez, folks! The fan was there for a reason!


Unique early "80's" styling by the legendary John Ballantine, very satisfying performance, ample power output

Build-quality is not what it should be for a TOTL Marantz, controls feel frail, fragile vinyl case






The 1978 Toshiba SA-7150, retailed for $1,195.00 and has the distinction of being 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 (no module needed), switchable IF Bandwidth (wide/narrow), Hi-Blend and even Air Check (a white noise generator) for setting recording levels. Some may remember that there were a couple of other receivers that had come out before with a digital display for the tuner, the mid-priced 1972 Magnavox 1500 Plus DTI (50 w/ch RMS) and the rather expensive 1975 Hervic HR150 (75 w/ch RMS). However, what they both had an analog turner with a digtal display, so neither was a true "digital turner" by any means. And, unfortunately, the performance of the Hervic's turner was not very impressive. So, the SA-7150 was the certainly "world's first" digital synthesized tuner as Toshiba's ad, above, so proudly proclaims.

Plus, all this tuner wizardry came backed with a powerful 150 w/ch RMS amplifier featuring a "dual mono design" supported by a huge toroidal power transformer. In fact, 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, this was the "state of the art" in 1978. And, that's why it's a favorite.

To quote from the Owner's Manual:

"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 (15,000 uf 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.

Big 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% THD."

Toshiba, which also 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 certainly 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, it has a very distinctive look which has aged rather well, with the bright digital display and multi-color LEDs contrasting nicely with the legacy analog Power Meters. rated up to 500 watts. 

The advanced tuner section in the SA-7150 heradled Toshiba's worldwide leadership in tuner technology. Toshiba placed itself in the forefront in 1974 Toshiba with the release of their ST-910 Digital Tuner (also marketed under the "Aurex" brand) which was the most advanced tuner in the world. And, much of this technology was incorporated into the SA-7150.


Unique hybrid digital/analog styling, audiophile-oriented circuit design, impressive FM Tuner

Front door is too heavily sprung, vinyl case looks out of place for this league, internally mounted heatsinks

  Setton RS660 Receiver





The 1977 Setton RS-660 certainly qualifies as one of the rarest of the Monster Receivers. And, one of the nicest looking to boot! The Setton line had only three (3) receivers, the RS-220, RS-440 and the top of the line Setton RS-660. The RS-660 retailed for $900.00, making it one of 1977's more expensive receivers.

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 actually 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 RS-660 shown here.

Viewed from the front the RS-660 is rather large. The middle photo shows the smaller Setton RS-440 atop a Concept 16.5, just to give you an idea.

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! The BS-5500 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 panel. 

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 alluring cosmetics, the wood sleeve that it comes with is covered with a really tacky walnut woodgrain vinyl, which gets quite sticky with age as it deteriorates. (It also shrinks away from the top vent.) In keeplding with its upscale pretenstions, Setton also offered an unusually long warranty period of 5 years.

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, its 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 135 w/ch RMS.

Performance aside, 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. It shrinks with age and get a greasy feeling How could they do this? I couldn't stand it, so I had had the vinyl case on mine redone with matching grain real walnut veneer by "Merrylander" at and I'm pretty sure it's now one of the nicest looking RS-660s in existence.

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 some Lafayette Radio products, like the LR-9090. However, other people claim it was made by Trio Electronics, parent of Kenwood, or even Pioneer. I actiually acquired an LR-9090 just to compare them 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 above. Photos of my LR-9090 are on the right.

Sadly, I can't really say I listen to my RS-660 very often because the Setton Receivers have a dreaded Achilles Heel: the power switch is incorporated into the speaker selector and sometimes this can create an electrical arc which destroys the now unobtainium selector. Fortunately, the much more common LR-9090 has the identical switch. There are also workarounds, including adding a relay to take the stress off the power switch. I bought my LR-9090 as a source of parts for the Setton. This thread contains a rather lengthy discussion of the RS660's virtues and vices.

When professional critics evaluated the performance of the Setton Receivers, they received fairly glowing reviews. Unfortunately, I haven't found any English reviews of the RS-660. But, below is what I found:

A review of the RS-660 from a French audio magazine. (Can someone translate this for me?)
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".


Overall sound quality, positive feel of the controls, high-end "Pierre Cardin" styling, innovative Security Panel

Tacky vinyl walnut clad case, "a Lafayette with lipstick"


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