This of course is one of the icons of vintage audio – the Pioneer SX-1980 receiver. This receiver is highly sought after today and prices can reach well into the thousands of dollars for a well maintained unit. Some will argue that other Pioneer models sound better, but the fact still remains that the monster SX-1980 was the king of the audio mountain in it’s day. It was the Pioneer’s flagship model and one of the most powerful and sought-after receivers of its time.
The SX-1980 was designed as a high-end receiver that combined powerful amplification with advanced features and high-quality components. It was built to handle large speaker systems and deliver clean, distortion-free sound at high volumes.
The development of the SX-1980 began in the mid-1970s, when Pioneer engineers set out to design a receiver that would surpass their previous flagship model, the SX-1250. The new receiver was to have a power output of 270 watts per channel, which would make it the most powerful receiver on the market at the time. In fact, Pioneer called the SX-1980 a “Super Receiver”.
The SX-1980 was introduced in 1978 and quickly gained a reputation for its power and sound quality and was praised by audiophiles. It represents a significant milestone in the development of high-end audio equipment. Its power, performance, and innovative design helped to set a new standard for what consumers could expect from home audio systems and established Pioneer as a leading brand in the high-end audio market.
Today it is considered an iconic piece of audio equipment due to several key factors:
Power and Performance: The SX-1980 was one of the most powerful receivers of its time, with a power output of 270 watts per channel. It was designed to drive large speakers and deliver clean, distortion-free sound even at high volumes. This level of power and performance was unprecedented in consumer audio equipment at the time and helped set a new standard for what was possible in home audio systems.
Design and Innovation: The development of the SX-1980 involved significant advances in amplifier circuitry, power supply design, and heat management. The use of discrete transistors, a massive toroidal transformer, and large heat sinks were all innovative features that contributed to the receiver’s exceptional performance.
Commercial Success: Despite its high price tag, the SX-1980 was a commercial success and became a status symbol for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. Its popularity helped to establish Pioneer as a leading brand in the high-end audio market and set a new benchmark for what consumers could expect from home audio equipment.
Legacy and collectibility: The SX-1980 has remained highly desirable among collectors and enthusiasts, and its reputation has only grown in the decades since its release. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its exceptional performance and its significance in the history of audio technology.
The SX-1980 features a beautiful walnut veneer wood cabinet and brushed aluminum face plate that was designed to withstand wear and tear. It has the classic late 1970’s Pioneer look that so many seek out today. The numerous controls, dual bass and treble controls, filter controls, loudness, and a range of other controls, are well laid out and the beveled knobs give it a touch of class.
The twin tuning meters are for AM/FM signal strength and center tuning for FM. The user can manually position moveable dial markers to mark their favorite dial locations. The SX-1980 has two controls for both Bass and Treble.
The FM tuner is excellent. It’s a Quartz sampling lock FM tuning system with a touch sensor tuning knob. Notice the three LED indicators to the left of the tuning knob? Turn the tuning knob until the Fine Tune indicator comes on. This means you’re within +/- 8kHz of an FM station. If it’s in stereo the Stereo indicator will come on. Let go of the knob and the green Locked LED will light up indicating that the station is quartz locked.
The FM circuitry utilizes a 5 gang variable capacitor (tuner), and a 2-stage RF amp. These maximize sensitivity and minimize interference.
There are source buttons for FM, AM, AUX, Phono2, and Phono 1. It even has controls for Phono cartridge load.
The SX-1980 isn’t called a monster receiver for nothing as it weighs in at 78 pounds. It’s suggested retail price in 1978 was $1295.00 – a very large sum back in those days.
Total harmonic distortion is rated at 0.03% which is extremely low for a power output that high.
Inside the Pioneer SX-1980 you’ll find some advanced features and high-quality components such as:
Amplification circuitry and power output: The SX-1980 was designed with DC power amplification circuitry that uses 6 high quality power transistors per channel.
Toroidal transformer: The toroidal transformer has many advantages over other transformer designs. For one, toroidal transformers produce less electromagnetic interference (EMI) than traditional transformers, which can result in cleaner sound. They are also more efficient, as the windings are closer to the core, reducing the distance that the magnetic field must travel. Toroidal transformers are also more compact than other transformer designs, making them a popular choice for high-end audio equipment. The SX-1980 receiver features a massive (22 pound) toroidal transformer that provides a stable power supply and reduces noise and interference. It was comprised of a round core made of laminated steel and has separate windings for each channel.
Power supply: The toroidal transformer is complemented by a large power supply that is designed to handle heavy loads and ensure consistent performance. It features a large capacitor bank (22,000uf filter capacitors) that helps to smooth out the power supply and reduce noise and interference. The power supply also has multiple voltage regulators that help to ensure a stable and consistent output voltage. The use of a high-quality power supply is critical for the performance of audio equipment, particularly in high-end systems like the SX-1980. A stable and clean power supply can help to reduce distortion, noise, and interference, resulting in a cleaner and more detailed sound.
Heat sinks and cooling system: The SX-1980 was designed with large aluminum heat sinks that were integrated into the chassis of the receiver. These heat sinks were essential for dissipating the heat generated by the amplification circuitry and preventing overheating.
Power protection circuit: Pioneer employed an integrated circuit, PA-3004, in the power protection section to ensure constant power stability and prevent on/off switching noise. There is even a Surge Killer Circuit designed to prevent surge currents from the transformer from causing damage to the transistors or connected speakers.
Build quality and materials: The receiver was built with high-quality components, including premium capacitors, resistors, and transistors. The chassis was made of heavy-duty steel.
The SX-1980 is compatible with a wide range of speakers, making it a versatile component that can be used in a variety of audio systems. Here are some details about its compatibility with different types of speakers:
Impedance: The SX-1980 is compatible with speakers that have an impedance of 4 to 16 ohms. This covers most types of speakers, from bookshelf speakers to large floor-standing models.
Power handling: The SX-1980 delivers a power output of 270 watts per channel, which makes it suitable for driving even the most power-hungry speakers. It is important to note, however, that not all speakers are designed to handle this level of power. It is important to match the power output of the receiver to the power handling capabilities of the speakers to ensure optimal performance and avoid damage to the speakers.
Speaker connections: The SX-1980 has speaker terminals for three sets of speakers.
Tone controls: The SX-1980 has a range of tone controls, including dual bass and treble controls. These controls allow users to fine-tune the sound of their speakers to their preferences and to compensate for any deficiencies in the speaker’s frequency response.
The compatibility of the SX-1980 with a wide range of speakers is one of the factors that contributed to its popularity and enduring appeal among audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
Look at those heat sinks! They weren’t just for show either. They are made of aluminum and designed to dissipate the heat generated by the amplifier circuitry. The huge fins, which are not covered by the wood case, increase the surface area available for heat dissipation, allowing for efficient cooling of the amplifier modules.
The SX-1980 does have some weaknesses. First and foremost is that some of the parts are basically unobtainable now. The transformer is very difficult to find as are the output transistors. Available parts are usually obtained from donor units and are very expensive.
The unit also tends to run hot which can be disadvantageous for electronic circuitry. The regulated power supply board is mounted on the bottom of the chassis, which doesn’t really allow for good ventilation. Some of the transistors on that board can get very hot. Some owners have been known to mount small fans to the bottom of the unit to increase air circulation.
There are those that feel the SX-1980 is less “musical” than say the SX-1250 o SX-1280. And, many feel that it is over priced today given it’s performance. Of course, it isn’t always about performance. Its rarity and iconic stature and a substantial amount to its current price.
- Tuning range: FM, MW
- Power output: 270 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo)
- Frequency response: 5Hz to 80kHz
- Total harmonic distortion: 0.03%
- Damping factor: 40
- Input sensitivity: 7.5mV (mic), 2.5mV (MM), 150mV (line)
- Signal to noise ratio: 87dB (MM), 100dB (line)
- Output: 150mV (line), 2V (Pre out)
- Semiconductors: 12 x FET, 11 x IC, 130 x transistors, 84 x diodes
- Dimensions: 560 x 211 x 497mm
- Weight: 35.4kg
- Accessories: FM T-type antenna
The SX-1980 featured a variety of input options, including 2 phono inputs, 2 tape inputs, and an auxiliary input. It also has connectors for three sets of speakers.
5-27-2011 – An SX-1980 sold for $3,250. It had just been serviced and worked perfectly. It was also in very good cosmetic condition and had the original box which always adds some value.
6-5-2011 – SX-1980 sold for $1,760. It was in pretty good cosmetic shape but did have a couple bulbs burned out. Still, a pretty good price for the buyer.
3-25-2017 – Fully restored SX-1980 sold for $5000.00 on March 25, 2017.
3-2017 – Four SX-1980 sales at the beginning of 2017 for $2900.00, $2977.00, $3150.00 and $3500.00.
1-3-2019 – One sold for $5098. Also sales of $3999, $4051, $4499 and $4700.
Here are some sales from November, 2022: