Released in 1974 the Sansui 881 retailed for $529.95 and was the top-of-the-line receiver in the Sansui lineup at the time. Others in the line included the 771, 661, 551, 441, 331, and 221. At an underrated 60 watts per channel into 8 ohms it packs plenty of power and total harmonic distortion comes in at a respectable 0.3%. Sansui claimed it was the best receiver on the market and they may have been right.
The Sansui 9010 is the same receiver as the 881 but the upper half of the front panel is black.
The Sansui 881’s gold anodized front panel and metal endcaps give it a clean metallic look. The black out dial face holds the tuning dial and both a signal and tuning meter. Both the dial and meters are backlit with a soft green light. The source indicator lights are orange and the FM stereo indicator light is red. It has muting, two filter switches, three tone controls, including midrange, headphone jack and a mic level control. You can see that with the speaker selector switch you can control three sets of speakers. The mid range tone control is limited to +/- 5dB which is plenty.
The 881’s FM tuner is good. One review tested it’s IHF sensitivity at 1.8 micro volts. Better than Sansui claimed. It’s quieting slope is extremely steep which is good. Stereo separation is excellent as well. Sansui’s rating of the 881 at 60 watts per channel is conservative. One drawback of the unit is that it’s muting and stereo thresholds are tight. That means that occasionally, with a weak but acceptable signal, it will switch to mono or mute the station completely.
Under the cover the Sansui 881 has a nice clean layout. Notice the very large transformer and two large 10,000 uF caps. The power amplifier section is direct coupled from input to output with a differential amplifier first stage in each channel. Most of the wiring between the modules is done with multiple conductor connectors which makes removing the boards for repair or servicing fairly easy.
The Source selector switch on the 881 tends to get dirty and can cause all kinds of weird issues. A good cleaning of the pot will usually remedy any problems. The 881 also has some problems with hum. Sometimes it’s an easy fix and sometimes not (bad ground connection on a PCB, bad power supply cap, etc.)
The 881 has some nice large, finned heat sinks on the back panel that you can see the transistors through. There are two sets of AUX inputs which is nice if you want to run your phone or MP3 player through the it. All the low level inputs are on the left of the rear panel while the speaker outputs are on the right.
Overall the Sansui 881 has plenty of power and produces clean sound with very minimal distortion levels. Feature wise it has about everything you would need including the two extremely useful AUX inputs. It looks great too. The bottom half of the front panel is brushed aluminum while the top half is left unbrushed. It’s an interesting touch that gives the 881 more visual texture. It’s probably the most underrated of Sansui’s top of the line receivers.