One company that flies a little under the radar yet is still pretty popular with a subset of collectors and enthusiasts is Sherwood. Sherwood was formed in 1953 in Chicago by the engineer Ed Miller and partner John Snow. Miller had designed an amplifier and wanted to design and build equipment under the Sherwood name. This particular stereo is the Sherwood S-7200.
The S-7200 was not their top of the line receiver, more middle of the pack, but still performed very well. It was made from 1973 up until about 1976 and retailed at about $360.00 when introduced. Sherwood even took pride in the fact that they were smaller than the other dominant companies in the audio field. Basically they felt that other manufacturers marketed to the mass consumer market while their equipment was targeted toward the more discriminating connoisseur. So, of course, they would sell far fewer receivers than say Pioneer or Sansui.
And, they did seller fewer receivers than the big boys. In fact, most of their production runs were only 500 to around 1500 units at a time. Still, they were considered higher end and were sold in the same audio stores that sold Marantz and McIntosh. Those days, of course, were the heyday of audio manufacturing so there was quite a bit of competition. While the S-7200 was designed by US engineers it was actually made in Japan.
The Sherwood S-7200 is listed at 40 watts per channel in the advertisement above but I've also seen it listed at 32 watts per channel. It's all solid state but many say it has a nice and warm, yet clean, sound to it.
One of the weaknesses of this receiver is the power switch which is attached to the volume pot. It fails frequently and there is no easily available replacement. So, if yours works treat it gently. These receivers also don't have the usual screws on the side of the cabinet that are used to get the cabinet off. The screws are actually in the feet which, when removed, allow you to remove the cabinet and get inside.
Sherwood made some good receivers. Since they aren't as popular as the big names you can find them pretty at pretty inexpensive prices. A really nice S-7200 recently sold for $160. Not bad given its specs and reputation. Just remember that the power switch is temperamental so check it out before buying one of these units. Other than that the S-7200 is a great little receiver.
There is really nothing special about the Pioneer SX-1010. Well, of course, it was THE receiver that started the Monster Receiver wars of the late 1970's. And, it's probably one of the best built receivers of all time. Oh, and it is usually at the top of the list of performance amongst the heavyweight receivers of the time as well. Just looking at it doesn't inspire any special feelings in the observer but take off the case and have a look at the insides or power it up for a listen and you'll become a believer.
In late 1974 Pioneer threw down the gauntlet at other audio manufacturers and brought the SX-1010 to market. Rated at a conservative 110 watts per channel the SX-1010 was top of the line and the last of the black dial face receivers for Pioneer. Marantz, Sansui and Kenwood all upped the ante soon afterward which led Pioneer to design and release the SX-1250 with an all new look. Some prefer the all silver face look of the later generation Pioneer's over the earlier black dial versions but there is no arguing the SX-1010's place in audio history.
The SX-1010 is a big receiver. It measures 20 1/2" x 17" x 7" and weighs in at around 50 pounds. The SX-1010 retailed for around $700 when new which is over $3000 in 2015 dollars. So, it was not considered a budget minded receiver by any means.
Some of it's other features are:
FM front end with dual-gate FETs
Ceramic filters and ics in IF stages for sharp selectivity
Phase lock loop (PLL) stereo demodulator
All IC equipped AM section with linear dial
Balanced positive and negative power supply with heavy duty components
Phono equalizer with wide dynamic range and extremely close tolerances
This receiver is no slouch. If you don't want to drop $2500 to $4000 on an SX-1980 or $1000 or more on a Marantz 2325 but still want equal, or perhaps even better performance, then you have to consider the SX-1010.
Some have said that they will only give up their Pioneer SX-1010 when someone pries it from their cold dead hands. So, you can imagine that this receiver is in demand amongst collectors and hi-fi aficionados. That being said, it doesn't seem to carry the same coolness factor as an SX-1980 or Marantz 2325 so prices are probably low given it's quality and performance levels. In fact you can pick up a fully restored mint unit for around $600 and a really good working unit for around $400 which is a steal really.
This Pioneer SX-626 is a great looking receiver and was the mid-range offering from Pioneer around 1971. It was out of production by 1973. While it is considered mid level it really is built with the same quality as Pioneer's upper end stereos. It just has fewer features and less power output. It retailed for around $339 and produced 27 watts per channel into 8 ohms.
The SX-626 has the usually look of early 70's Pioneer's just before they moved to the white dial face and amber lighting. As you can see it has the basic features you'd want in a receiver and nothing fancy. One interesting note is that the tuning meter light stays off until you switch to FM then the light comes on.
It's fairly small at 18" x 14" x 6" and weighs in at 22 pounds. You'll hear many people who've heard it say it has a very warm and rich sound. It is most often compared to the Marantz 2230 and Pioneer owners even prefer it over that unit. Of course, when you own a stereo it tends to be the best sounding stereo around right? Nonetheless, the SX-626 is a great little stereo and can hold its own with all the other top end brand names of the time. It is capacitive coupled, which gives that rich sound. Later Pioneers receivers were direct coupled.
Uh oh! As you can see it has the dreaded Pioneer speaker input plugs. These require adapters that, many times, are missing. They can be found fairly regularly of eBay for around $20 or so. You can usually find knobs as well.
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As you can see the inside is well laid out and the power section even has a mesh grill cover. If you find an SX-626 that sounds less than stellar, you might consider replacing the capacitors and possibly some of the transistors. This will clean up the sound quite a bit.
Of course, Pioneer receivers are always in demand as they are one of the most popular brands for collectors. The SX-626 is also in demand from those who just want a great sounding vintage receiver for home use. You can pick up a fully restored unit for about $250 and good working units for $150 or so. You can't beat that with any of today's poorly built receivers that cost about the same!