I know a lot of vintage audio purists don’t like any of the black face receivers and really only see the silver face stereos as true vintage. But, as the years crawl by, or speed by if you’re older, the early generation black face receivers are becoming, like it or not, vintage. Some of them were even built well and had high performance specs. I particularly like the early models that spanned that transitional period from silver face to black face. Mainly because the black metal and wood side panels look almost luxurious in a way. This Sony STR-GX9ES fits that bill to a tee.
It was made in 1988 and retailed for around $1000. As you may already know Sony’s early ES line is their top of the line audio equipment. I believe ES stands for Elevated Standards, which in the early days of the line was definitely the case. Not so much later on. The STR-GX9ES has a big brother – the STR-GX10ES. There are also a couple models lower on the totem pole, the STR-GX7ES and STR-GX5ES. You’ll notice the Spontaneous Twin Drive at the top right of the receiver face. Some view it as a feature while others claim it was a cost cutting measure that Sony tried to turn into a ‘feature’. Sony’s words to describe it are: A proprietary Sony amplifier power supply technology which employs separate voltage rails for different amplifier stages. This methods provides greater headroom and helps prevent clipping.
If you’re more technically inclined, I also believe the following is from Sony’s manual:
The Spontaneous Twin Drive circuit allows the receiver to operate automatically as a class A amplifier when the level is low and as a class B amplifier when the level is high without disturbing the sound signal. This minimizes total harmonic distortion at every sound stage. Condensers having large capacity are used independently for the voltage amplification drive stage of class A and power output stage of class B. Thus, a stable output and high quality sound are obtained, resulting in exclusion of power interference. The class A stage realizes a stable operation free from interference of the power stage even when a instantaneous or strong output is received.
The Sony STR-GX9ES puts out a thumping 130 watts per channel. The styling is typical of the mid to late 1980’s with wood panels, a mix of both knobs and push buttons and analog readouts. The function push buttons are reminiscent of the Nakamichi cassette decks.
I don’t own one of these units but I’ve heard that the chassis is actually made out of plated copper. Looking at the picture below that actually may be the case. It also came with a remote which is very difficult to find these days.
Interestingly the analog signal input is not processed through any digital circuitry so the sound maintains it’s warmer analog flavor. It is a two-channel receiver and one of Sony’s last. It has inputs for CD, Tape, Phono, DAT, Auxiliary, Video1, Video2, Video3/cdv. CDV is Laser disc I believe. So, despite being produced in the late 1980’s it still has a phono input and it’s phono pre-amp section is actually very good. It even has a toggle switch to select either moving coil or moving magnet cartridges.
Overall the Sony STR-GX9ES is a great receiver. If you’re not beholden to silver face only stereos and prefer the later black face and wood look then this receiver would do the job. If you want to go BIG then consider the STR-GX10ES.