Sold for: $240
This amplifier comes from a very interesting series — at the top of the range was the massive 200 watts RMS per channel Pioneer A-90 (or A-200 in Japan), the biggest integrated amplifier that Pioneer has ever produced (and many consider to be their best integrated).
But the interest in this particular amp lies more in the era in which it was produced and in its distinctive styling. Introduced to the market in about 1984, this line of Pioneer amps seems to be a lightweight attempt to regain some of the kudos of the silver-faced seventies era after the failure of the early 1980s computer-new age-modern-plastic styling that no-one now wants. In fact, history now sees these as transitional models between the failed computer age and the dominant black-faced equipment that characterises the late 1980s and beyond. The fascia is brushed aluminium but the insets and knobs are plastic.
Sonically, these amplifiers are exceptional — they use the same non-switching design that was first popularised in the now-legendary SA-x800 series at the end of the 1970s. This technology would feature in all of the upper-end Pioneer gear until about 1994. It is an effective technology, producing clean, almost clinical, sound with an nearly unbeatable separation of instrumentation throughout the soundstage.
I do not, however, much like the design, as the volume and balance knobs remind me of the smokestacks at nuclear plants. Still, a couple of people liked it enough to get into a bidding war. The eventual purchaser told me he had bought it on a nostalgic whim as he clearly remembers seeing this model in audio shop windows when he was a youngster.
And here are the specifications:
Sold for: $175
The value of these amps has been rising dramatically in the last year — they may not be quite up to the impressive solidity of the SA-x800 series but they are still beautifully constructed with brushed aluminium knobs and faceplates, as well as metal cases and bottoms. What they lack is an ability to play A+B speakers, and speakers need to be 6 ohms or more. But if you want an excellent, entry-level piece of vintage gear, then these are as good as it gets. AND, AND, AND, there is the blue fluroscan meters!!!
One of the perks of buying and selling audio gear is that sometimes you get lucky with printed literature such as manuals and catalogues. This dealer catalogue showing Pioneer’s audio lineup for 1980 was found with a system that I bought from the original owner. Owners who keep manuals, I find, generally treat their equipment very well and this system was museum quality — there was not a mark, scratch or nick on it anywhere.
For a high quality PDF of the catalogue, go here Pioneer Stereo Catalog 1980.
Sold for: $405
Right, my friends, in my opinion, this amp belongs to the most beautiful series of amps ever designed. These are the ’63 ‘Vettes of the audio world. You cannot know how good they look and feel until you have one in your rack. In many ways I think that this one—the bottom of the line—is the best amp. I’ve owned all three in this series and the other two (SA-9800 & SA-8800) have a ridiculous number of levers and knobs. This one in the most manageable for those of us who tend to set all of these in the flat position.
Inside the case is one one mofo of a transformer and 4 x 8000uF caps, so plenty of good, clean power to burn. Very good separation of instrumentation and a super-clean, almost clinical, clarity to the music. If you are going to buy (invest in) any of this series, it really does help to familiarise yourself with the insides as you will have to periodically clean ALL the pots and lever switches — I emphasise “all” here because failure to clean them all may cause even the most unlikely of contacts affect sound across one or both channels. I have fixed many a misbehaving amp from this series with a decent clean.
No real weaknesses (except for the pots and switches) and the blue fluro meters have never been beat.