Many purists used to laugh at the MCS brand. Not anymore. Well, there are probably still some that laugh at it but less loudly then before. The Modular Component Systems receivers once marketed by J.C. Penney are rising in value and recognition. Once assumed to be poorly built and designed for visual shock value rather than function their reputation has risen in the last few years. This is the MCS 3275 which, at the time, was the next unit down from the top of the line 3125.
The MCS 3275 puts out 75 watts per channel with less than 0.25% total harmonic distortion. It was sold in J.C. Penney stores around 1979 and they never seemed to be sure if theyu wanted to market to higher end audiophiles or lower to mid range consumers. Because of that their audio components had a somewhat cheesy look but actually performed very well. You’ll be hard pressed to find an owner of a high end MCS unit that doesn’t like it.
Now, about those asthetics. The MCS 3275 has two 5 band graphic equalizers built in – one for each channel. They both have crazy sine wave graphics with red LED lights. There are a total of 30 buttons, knobs and switches on the front panel as well as four meters (not including the EQ’s). The two power output meters go up to 150 watts per channel despite the unit being rated at 75 wpc. It also incorporates an analog Deviation/Multipath meter and an LED tuning strength meter. You might also notice that it has a huge volume knob which isn’t actually labelled “volume” but rather “Attenuator”. That gives a far more technical sound to it.
I think the general consensus is that the MCS units were most likely built by NEC but I have seen others claim it to be Technics or Panasonic (which were the same at one point). In Canada the NEC AUR-8075 was essentially the exact same receiver as the MCS 3275 only with a black face so that would give credence to NEC producing these units. Nonetheless the build quality really isn’t bad. In fact it’s good. It has an oversized power transformer and filter caps for its power rating and even has 4 power transistors per channel. Owners claim that is has a great FM tuner and good phono stage as well. The 3275 measures 19.25″ x 15.5″ x 7.75″ and weighs in at around 40 pounds.
Having followed vintage receiver values for some time now I can safely say that prices for the higher end MCS units have been climbing. No, they are no where near the prices for high end Pioneer or Sansui units. Still, a good clean MCS 3275 will sell for about $200 up to $400.
Keep in mind that the controls for these units seem to have issues with corrosion and many times a good cleaning of them will result in far better performance. So, if you’re looking for a monster receiver but have a very tight budget maybe the MCS 3275 or MCS 3125 are for you. Not only will it perform well but it will definitely draw the eye of any visitor you may have over.