This is something you don’t see too often. It’s the solid state SAE R102 Computer Direct-Line Receiver. SAE stands for Scientific Audio Electronics which was a company based in Los Angeles. SAE was formed in 1968 and built components up into the early 90’s I believe. They were known for both quality and performance. The company was sold in 1988 and production moved overseas after which quality declined. The later R102 was designed and engineered at SAE in Los Angeles but made in Korea.
The R102 was produced from 1984 until 1991 and is a very musical sounding receiver. It’s fairly heavy for its compact size as well. It produces 50 watts per channel and retailed for $499. The wood side panels can be removed and the unit can be rack mounted.
The controls on the R102 receiver are organized into groups based on their function. For example, the buttons used to select which input source you want to listen to, like a CD player or radio tuner, are clustered together near a display screen that shows which source is currently selected. The tone controls that adjust bass and treble are lined up below a digital display that shows how much bass or treble boost or cut is applied. The tuning controls for the radio tuner are located together under the main digital tuning display. There is also a separate display showing the volume level for each channel or speaker, and the buttons affecting volume are grouped near this display. Most controls have indicator lights so you can see their current settings at a glance without needing to rely only on the main displays. Overall, the layout and displays are designed to make all the key settings and options easy to access and view.
On the left side are buttons to select which input source you want to listen to, like Phono, CD player, AM or FM radio. When you change sources, the volume display shows the level going down then up again quickly to “crossfade” between sources. Below these are buttons to choose main or remote speakers. A double-width rocker switch lets you scroll through the 8 AM and 8 FM station presets.
There are 4 main displays across the top. The left display shows the selected source and which preset station is tuned in. Below this are buttons to select and copy between the 2 tape decks. A programming rocker sets and saves station presets and tone settings.
The next cluster has bass and treble controls and a button to recall saved tone settings. The display above shows bass and treble levels.
On the right, the top display shows AM/FM frequency. Below are tuning and manual tune buttons, mono/stereo, and LEDs showing power output level.
The far right display shows volume for each channel, with balance shown by unequal levels. Below are volume and balance controls.
At the bottom are mute and standby buttons. Mute decreases volume only, preventing sudden loud bursts when released. Standby turns off audio but keeps settings saved.
The FM tuner has very low distortion, meaning the sound is very clean and clear, for both mono and stereo reception. It also has excellent signal-to-noise ratios, meaning static and background noise are kept very low. The separation between left and right stereo channels is very good, giving a strong stereo effect.
These are impressive technical strengths considering the receiver’s relatively affordable price point.
However, the tuner’s ability to reject interference from strong AM broadcast signals, and its selectivity for tuning in only the desired station without picking up adjacent channels, are less exceptional. Though adequate, these aspects could be better for a high-end tuner.
Overall, the areas that directly impact sound quality – low distortion, good signal-to-noise, and stereo separation – are big strengths, while rejection of AM interference and adjacent channel selectivity are acceptable but could be improved. For the price, the tuner delivers very good FM performance where it counts most.
When tested by Audio magazine back in 1984 they found:
- The SAE R102 delivers 56-57 watts per channel into 8 ohms across the audio range at low 0.025% distortion, meeting its power rating. At 4 ohms it provides 70 watts per channel.
- Distortion is extremely low – only 0.01% at rated power, with excellent intermodulation distortion scores too.
- Damping factor of 47 is higher than SAE’s claim of 30, meaning better bass control.
- Dynamic headroom is only 0.3 dB, meaning it won’t produce much above 50 watts. Efficiency speakers advised for wide dynamics of digital sources.
- Bass and treble controls are well designed, minimizing effects on midrange.
- Phono input sensitivity is lower than expected at 0.4mV. Phono overload also low at 70mV – so lower output cartridges advised.
- It has the standard FM antenna terminals for connecting 75-ohm and 300-ohm FM antennas.
- There is also an AM antenna terminal for connecting an external AM antenna.
- A loop AM antenna is built into the receiver near the middle of the rear panel. This can be removed and placed farther away to improve AM reception.
- There are audio jacks for connecting a turntable (Phono), CD player or other device (AUX), and two tape decks for recording and playing tapes (Tape 1 and Tape 2).
- A grounding terminal is provided for a turntable.
- Two sets of speaker terminals are included, marked for proper polarity. This allows two pairs of speakers to be connected and switched.
- Two power outlets are on the rear panel to plug in other audio gear, controlled by the receiver’s power switch.
- There is a replaceable 5-amp fuse for protection of the AC power circuitry.
SAE components aren’t very common and don’t have the name popularity of other receiver such as Pioneer or Sansui. Some do collect them however and in working condition they are desirable to audio enthusiasts. However, they are somewhat difficult to work on so you’ll need to find a good tech for any repairs. The SAE R102 is a good receiver but does need to be paired with efficient speakers as it does not have a lot of headroom.