The Concept line of stereo receivers were offered by Pacific Stereo as a house brand. The top of the line was the 16.5. Near the bottom of performance range was the Concept 3.5 receiver. The low end was the 2.5. Despite being an economy model it was actually a pretty good little receiver. It produces 35 watts per channel and has appealing looks.
Concept implemented an interesting design with their push button controls. As you can see there is a built in LED in each push button. The LED’s make it easier to see which functions are active in low light or darkness. The Concept 3.5 also has a big blocky type switch for the AM/FM/Phono control similar to those used by Yamaha.
The Volume and Tone control knobs have multiple detents for more precise adjustment. Concept called the 3.5 a ‘User Oriented’ stereo which means it had all of the basic features and was offered at an affordable price.
As you can see in the picture above, the Tape Monitor button LED’s glow red when the button is depressed while all the others glow green. The 3.5 utilized a 3 gang tuner, full Quadrature detector and Phase-Lock Loop circuitry. You can see two small cutouts just above the FM 88 and 108 MHz symbols on the analog tuning dial. The left square cutout is the Stereo indicator light. The right is the Protector Activated light which comes on when there is either a short circuit in the speaker circuitry or an overload of the receiver.
The Concept 3.5 weighs in at just over 27 pounds and measures 18 3/8″W x ” 6″H x ” 15″D. It also has Rosewood patterned vinyl covering pressed plywood. Overall it’s a nice little receiver.
Obviously the most coveted of the Concept receivers is the monster 16.5. But, if you don’t want to spend absurd money for a huge receiver then the smaller Concept receivers might be a good fit. The 3.5 sells for about $50 to $100. Maybe a bit more for a mint unit. For a little extra you could look at the Concept 5.5 which has 55 watts per channel. It sells for $100 to $150.
This is the fairly hard to find Concept 16.5 which was offered through the audio retailer Pacific Stereo back in the late 70’s. The 16.5 was sold from about 1977-1980 and had a retail price of around $949.99.
Basically, when a customer went into a Pacific Stereo store looking for a Pioneer or Sansui receiver the salesman would steer them toward the “house” brand which was the Concept. Normally you might think that the house brand would be some cheaply made unit designed for maximum profit to the retailer. But, in this case the Concept 16.5 was one very well built and high performing receiver. It was apparently made in Japan by Tandy and put out a whopping 165 watts per channel. Some say that it is perhaps the best receiver ever made and you’ll be hard pressed to find any negative reviews although it’s styling leaves a little to be desired. It is known for it’s fantastic bass output and window shattering power.
The Concept 16.5 is huge and weighs in at 67 pounds. The circuitry was deigned by Richard Schram, now with Parasound, and featured a dual mono design with 2 large power transformers and 10,000 uf power supply capacitors. It’s rumored that Pacific Stereo didn’t submit the 16.5 for review to the audio magazines at the time because it’s superior performance might upset the other audio manufacturers that Pacific Stereo carried such as Pioneer and Sansui. Since Pacific also provided repair and maintenance on the other manufacturers receivers they knew other models inside and out. This allowed them to design their Concept line to provide even better performance then its peers.
These receivers are pretty hard to find as Pacific Stereo was mainly a West coast operation though it did have some stores in the Mid-west. It’s a guess but somewhere between 1200 and 2000 Concept 16.5 receivers were made. How many have survived over the years is unknown but they are not that easily found. In December 2011 a 16.5 sold for $720.00 that was in good cosmetic and working order but need some maintenance and cleaning. I would guess that a superior unit that is restored would sell for $1000.00 or more.
Update: May 22, 2014. Prices are on the rise. A Concept 16.5 recently sold for $1580.00. It was in fantastic cosmetic and working condition.
Update: November 2019. A nice 16.5 sold for $1900.