Kenwood KR-9050

Sep 23rd, 2014 Posted in Kenwood, KR-9050 | No Comments »


Kenwood KR-9050


Many audio enthusiasts consider a monster receiver to be one that puts out 200 watts per channel or more. Well, this Kenwood KR-9050 puts out just that - 200 watts per channel. So, I guess it would be considered a monster receiver. It certainly has the size at almost 2 feet wide, over 18 inches deep and over 52 pounds! Still, the KR-9050 probably takes a back seat to the KR-9600 that collectors are the most fervent over. I'm not sure why because the 9600 has some design issues that can be difficult to overcome and only puts out 160 watts per channel. Perhaps it's that the KR-9600 so firmly established itself as the top of the line receiver for Kenwood it overshadowed the KR-9050 when it came out. The KR-9060 is really just a KR-9600 with a bronze faceplate.




The Kenwood KR-9050 is the largest and most expensive receiver ever built by Kenwood.  It is also the most powerful at 200 watts per channel with only 0.02% total harmonic distortion. And, of course, Kenwood produced some of the best tuners ever. With its Quartz Lock, adjustable IF bandwidth and two-level Stereo Sensitivity there really isn't much more you could ask for in a tuner.




The KR-9050 is stuffed full with features and has analog meters spanning practically the entire length of the front of the receiver.  It also has a 1/4 inch MIC input with its own level control so you could even play your guitar through this receiver though I don't know if I'd recommended it. The only drawbacks to this receiver are that the switches are made of plastic and the knobs are plastic as well with metal caps and are not crisp in their operation.




Wow, look at that massive toroidal transformer! It's actually larger than the transformer in the Pioneer SX-1250. Also, notice the large heatsinks that take up about a third of the inside of the unit.  As many audio techs know the KR-9600 has issues with both the power switch as well as the TA-200W power packs and Darlington transistors it uses which are prone to failure and replacements are virtually unobtainable. In contrast, the KR-9050 doesn't use the TA-200W or Darlington parts and is built with more easily replaceable parts. That is important if you plan on doing a restoration. A Kr-9600 that needs a resto is a totally different animal than a KR-9050 that needs the same.


Kenwood KR-9050 Inside


Kenwood receivers are a site to behold when fully lit up and the KR-9050 is no exception. It is definitely one of the nicest looking receivers in the dark.




Being a true monster receiver the Kenwood KR-9050 is not cheap. It's not very easy to find either and is probably more rare than the KR-9600. I've seen one sell for $1500 but I've seen a few listed at over $2000. That's a pretty big chunk of cash for a receiver but if you're a Kenwood fan and want a holy grail receiver from them then this might just be the one.


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Here's a video showing the massive Kenwood KR-9050 in action:


Harman Kardon Festival D-1100

Sep 23rd, 2014 Posted in Festival D-1100, Harman Kardon | No Comments »



We're going to step back a little farther in time for this receiver. This Harman Kardon Festival D-1100 was made long before the days of monster receivers with brushed aluminum faceplates and features ad nauseum. This was made back in the days of simplicity and function. In fact, this D-1100 was the successor to the D-1000 which has its own place in audio history. The D-1000 was designed by Bernard Kardon who, along with Sidney Harman, formed Harman Kardon when they both left the David Bogen company in the early 1950's. The D-1000 debuted in 1954 and was essentially the very first compact integrated receiver. It incorporated a tuner, amplifier and component control all in a compact chassis. This design led to other manufacturers following the same design path. Integrated receivers had been born and they were set to dominate the audio landscape for years to come.




After the D-1000 came the D-1100 which is seen here. It was offered around 1956 and retailed for about $200.00.It also has the trademark copper plated chassis with a copper and black color scheme for panels and enclosures.

As you can see the D-1100 has AM and FM bands as well as an analog tuning meter at the right side of the tuning dial. It has bass, treble, and loudness controls and puts out 30 watts. It is pre stereo so has only mono output. Of course, Harman Kardon produced the first stereo receiver just a couple years later with the TA230.

The input selector has a couple interesting settings in EUR and RIAA. RIAA equalization on LP's was standardized in 1954 so many owners of the D-1100 would have records that were not RIAA eq'd so they would need the ability to change settings.





The Harman Kardon Festival D-1100 has two big transformers and the following 16 tubes:

  • 6U8
  • 12AT7   x 2
  • 6BE6
  • 6BA6   x 2
  • 6AU6   x 2
  • 6AL5
  • 12AU7   x 3
  • 5881   x 2
  • 6X4
  • 5U4GA


As is typical of the older tube receivers it has point to point wiring and obviously no circuit boards.


Harman Kardon Festival D-1100


Harman Kardon played a significant role in audio history and the D-1100 fits in to that history very well. It is very popular amongst collectors because it is an early representative of the integrated receiver as well as a tube driven unit. Many collectors prefer tubes over solid state. All the early Harman Kardon units are in high demand which translates into fairly high prices. Still, the D-1100 can be found for under $300 in good working condition. Of course, most of them will need some work given their age if they haven't been restored at some point.

The more iconic D-1000 sells for around $650-$700.


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Sony STR-6800 SD

Sep 23rd, 2014 Posted in STR-6800 SD | No Comments »



I've always liked the vintage Sony receivers. I'm not sure I can state exactly why, but they just have a different look about them while still retaining that classic vintage appeal. The layout of the controls is completely different than other stereos of the time and this Sony STR-6800 SD has a subtle look as opposed to the more polished and flashy look of other late 1970's and early 1980's receivers. I guess I would describe it as muted technical sophistication. Whatever that means.




Nonetheless, the early Sony receivers are great machines. Their design, build quality and performance all live up to, and usually exceed, expectations. While Sony doesn't attract the same level of interest that Pioneer or Sansui do it does have a fairly rabid following of collectors. Offered from 1977 through 1982 the STR-6800 retailed for around $600.00. It puts out 80 watts per channel and was only one step down from Sony's top of the line STR-7800 SD stereo. Reviews at the time, and user experience since then, seem to concur that the power rating is low and that Sony really under-spec'd the receiver on paper. Many who've owned this receiver explain that they were pleasantly surprised at its superior performance.


Sony STR-6800 SD



You'll notice in the photo below that the STR-6800 has a knob labelled Acoustic Comp which stands for Acoustic Compensator. Stereo Magazine explains this function as:

"In 'low' position, the effect is similar to that of a loudness contour, but only the low end is boosted(a maximum of 8 1/2 dB @ 20hz with low volume settings, 8dB @ 50hz, 6db @ 100hz, and 3db @ 200hz). In the 'loudness' position, the effect is similar but a bit stronger(9 1/2 dB below 50hz, 8 1/4 dB @ 100hz, and 5 3/4 dB @ 200hz). In addition, there is a gentle high-end boost(1 1/4 dB @ 5khz, 3 1/2 dB @ 10khz, and 5 1/2 dB @ 20khz. In the 'presence' mode, a gentle 3dB boost is imparted to a broad band centered on 1khz. The contour is quite wide, with response @ 200hz and 5khz being accentuated by 1 3/4 dB".






This unit also incorporates two tape monitors controlled via a toggle switch as well as tape to tape copying. It also has an external adapter function that confuses many users. You can basically use it to add amp/pre-amp separation if you want some auxiliary audio customization. As you can see it even has hookups for three sets of speakers! It has two phono inputs and an aux input. It's known for it's superior FM tuner as well. These older Sony receivers tend to have issues with dirty potentiometer and speaker relays. So, if you're unit has scratchy volume control or a channel cuts in and out then it could very well just need a good cleaning.




As I mentioned above, the Sony receivers don't garner the respect that the more commonly known brands do but that is changing slowly. As more collectors delve into the world of vintage Sony receivers they will come to be seen as easily equal to their peers. They also have that air of uniqueness to them as well, since everyone is familiar with Sony's contemporary electronics but not at all familiar with their vintage lines. So, for performance, value and conversation appeal the old Sony's are hard to beat. The Sony STR-6800 SD is a great buy. Even in mint condition it can be had for around $300 and good working units for $150-$200.


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