Toshiba SA-850

The Toshiba SA-850 is a sleek looking receiver. While other audio manufacturers were loading up the front panels of their receivers with a bunch of knobs, switches and buttons, Toshiba was going for the clean look. Introduced in 1979 the SA-850 produces 50 watts per channel into 8 ohms and that’s with less than 0.03% total harmonic distortion. It retailed for $519.95.

It really is a nicely styled piece of equipment with its walnut side panels and brushed aluminum front. Note the lack of a tuning knob or analog meters of any kind. The lower half of the front panel swings down and disappears into the unit to reveal most of the lesser used controls. These include the tone controls, speaker selector switch, subsonic filter, tone defeat, loudness and others.

The digital LED tuning display is a nice green color as is the signal strength meter. The SA-850 has an all push button tuning system that utilizes a quartz crystal digital synthesizer for both AM and FM. In fact, Toshiba was the first manufacturer to develop digital synthesizer circuits in a receiver. It also uses a Phase Locked Loop system to get nearly perfect station tuning. The SA-850 allows for either manual (via push button) or automatic tuning. For automatic tuning there are six presets for both AM and FM. To set a preset just tune to the channel you want to store and press both the memory and the preset channel buttons. These stations will be stored even if the power is turned off. Also, when in automatic FM mode, the stereo will scan until it finds the next listenable channel.

The volume control is nice. It’s a professional, 41-position, click stop control.


  • Tuning range: FM/AM
  • 3 gang tuning capacitor
  • Phase Locked Loop system
  • Power output: 50 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo)
  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Total harmonic distortion: 0.03%
  • Damping factor: 50
  • Input sensitivity: 2.5mV (MM), 150mV (line)
  • Signal to noise ratio: 78dB (MM), 95dB (line)
  • Output: 150mV (line)
  • Dimensions: 480 x 115 x 390mm / 18.9 x 4.5 x 15.4 inches
  • Weight: 12kg / 26.4 lbs
  • MSRP: $519.95

Toshiba’s SA-850 uses full complementary, direct coupled power amplifiers that are driven by low distortion differential amplifiers and Darlington drivers. Notice the large power transformer and two large 10,000 uFd filter capacitors. This is a very well put together receiver.

Toshiba is not that well known among the vintage audio crowd but they made very good audio equipment. If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary receiver that performs well and looks sleek then the SA-850 is a good choice. Since they are not in high demand they can be found at very reasonable prices.

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