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!
If you're familiar with monster receivers then you know that the Yamaha CR-3020 is a Monster! Well, this receiver is just shy of a monster. Maybe Beast would be appropriate? It's the Yamaha CR-2020 and is, of course, the smaller sibling of the CR-3020. Yes, the CR-3020 put out a massive 160 watts per channel but this CR-2020 shells out a very respectable 100 watts per channel. Besides, the CR-3020 didn't even sell all that well.
The CR-2020 is a fantastic mix of everything you want in a big, powerful receiver. Lots of power, tons of features, sharp, clean styling and a cool look when the room lights are dimmed. And, for that macho effect it weighs in at about 43 pounds and is over 21 inches wide and 16 inches deep. It was introduced in late 1977 and was priced very well since, at that time, the Japanese were able to build stereos cheaper than other US or European manufacturers.
Yamaha receivers are known to be low distortion and their circuitry was designed to affect the signal as little as possible throughout the amplification path. The CR-2020 lives up to this ideal by having a maximum of 0.05% total harmonic distortion. In fact, Yamaha's sales literature at the time coined the term Noise-Distortion Clearance Range (NDCR). Instead of measuring noise and distortion under lab conditions they setup the receiver in a typical listening situation and then measured the noise and distortion. They also called it Real Life Rated!
2 Headphone jacks for Yamaha Orthodynamic and/or normal headphones
Check out the massive transformer at the bottom right. Those who aren't Yamaha fans usually point to the bright sound of their receivers and overall lack of warmth. That may or may not be the case but Yamaha tried to make the output signal as true to the input signal as possible. I too find the Yamaha's a little dry sounding but I have to wonder if my ear just prefers a little more distortion which is usually what gives a receiver that 'warm' sound.
Two phono inputs and 3 pair of speakers connections. You can't beat that. It even has a built in pre-amp section for moving coil cartridges. The Yamaha CR-2020 does have a weakness though. The power switch tends to fail and replacements are not that easy to find. So, if you're contemplating buying one make sure the switch works and handle it gently when turning the power on and off.
Yamaha receivers have a fairly large following so demand is pretty high. The monster CR-3020 is, many times, out of most peoples price range at around $1500 so the CR-2020 fits the bill more often. A non-working but cosmetically clean CR-2020 will run about $300. A fully restored unit can fetch over $800 with most average condition receivers selling for around $400 to $500.