This solid state MCS 3233 from Modular Component Systems was manufactured in during the late 1970’s and into the very early 1980’s. MCS was a house brand for JC Penney. MCS didn’t actually manufacture their equipment and there has been quite a bit of discussion online as to who made their receivers. The general consensus is that Technics (Mastushita) and NEC made most of them though other manufacturers may have built them as well. They do look a little like the early Technics receivers so they seem the most likely manufacturer. However, some units have a Made in Taiwan badge which would preclude either NEC or Technics as the manufacturer.
MCS usually used the last two digits of the model number to signify the output power so this receiver churns out 33 watts per channel. Notice the Matrix button in the speaker selection area. The matrix feature was an early attempt at surround sound. I’ve seen it explained as such:
“The theory is that in creating a left and a right channel where some information is the same, you in essence create two other channels, a left difference and a right difference made up of only the sound that is unique to each channel. Matrix pulls these two other channels out of the mix and typically sends them to a second pair of speakers in the rear.“
So, you would have two pair of speakers hooked up to the receiver and each would have its own “custom” channel. This would give you a surround sound type listening experience. A very unique feature long before Dolby surround showed up on the scene.
The fluted knobs and 40 position detent volume knob are also very nice features of this unit. It has a nicely brushed face and a flywheel weighted slide-rule tuner as well. The 3233 has mid range tone control, tone defeat, flywheel tuning, FM muting, Tape Monitor/Dubbing, as well as Low and Scratch Filters. The two meters are for signal strength and tuning.
One nice technical feature is that the MCS 3233 utilizes two motorola 2n3055 output transistors which are very easy to source nowadays. So, if one blows it’s a fairly easy fix. While many people scoff at MCS equipment, it is actually very well built and used good quality components. JC Penney had very tight quality control over their manufacturers and their specs were higher end.
The vinyl cover gave the MCS a nice look but it was a weak point of the receiver. It was fairly cheap quality and tends to lift over the years. You’ll also find that the speakers connector on the back of the unit tend to get broken.
As more and more collectors realize the quality of the MCS receiver line demand should go up. In fact, higher demand is already starting to show up in sale prices. Five years ago you could by an MCS receiver for practically nothing. Now, especially with the higher end models, prices are rising fast. The MCS 3233 was one of their low to mid range units so there is less demand, but a nice 3233 will sell for around $100 to $150.