Silver Pioneer Stereo Collection
Back in the late 70's and early 80's, I bought, sold, and traded stereo equipment. This was mostly a hobby that allowed me to try out different equipment that I could not otherwise afford, and to earn a bit of money to afford to feed my ever more expensive stereo habit. Once I had to start paying my own bills, I lost much of my interest in high-end audio.
Now that I have a little more money to spend, I have discovered that much of what I used to like two decades ago is now considered vintage and collectible. It seems that the engineering quality largely disappeared from the mainstream of hi-fi equipment about the time that everything changed from silver to black in the early 1980's. The over-engineered big silver boxes evolved into thinner back boxes with computer buttons that you threw away when they stopped working. My collection is a look back at this era before the microchip did to music what the Bass-o-matic did to fish.
Being a person who wants everything that they see, I found that I could quickly spend an unlimited amount of money on e-Bay buying vintage stereo equipment. As a result, I decided I had to focus, and then trim down my focus to just a few lines of equipment where I could afford to do justice. That includes the SPEC system, System 20, the x800 series, and the fluroscan receivers, all from Pioneer Electronics. I would not suggest that these were the best stereo components ever built, rather, they just happen to be my favorites. There are a number of other vintage lines of equipment that folks collect, including a few like Carver, Phase Linear, Marantz, and Macintosh, that I wish I had time and space to give a proper home to.
Note—these things are very difficult to photograph due to being so shiny. I seem to get the best results using lower light, no flash, and a little longer exposure. If anyone has any tips for taking photos of this silver iron, please let me know. In addition, these items are part of my personal collection, and as a result, they are not for sale.
Pioneer SPEC System
The Pioneer SPEC series was available from roughly 1975 to 1981. It consisted of the SPEC-1 pre-amp, SPEC-2 power amp, and a series of rack systems and rack mount kits to incorporate other Pioneer components into a SPEC system. Large boxes, heavy transformers, and big handles made this the high point of the silver era. This was an era when the kitchen sink philosophy prevailed. Components were very feature heavy and had knobs and switches for every possible feature that the engineers could think of. It was also the high water mark for processors, boxes such as expanders and equalizers that helped restore the live experience that recorded music was missing.
Left rack starting from the top:
P-D70 CD Player — The P-D70 is an early CD player. While it was not part of the SPEC series, and it is of mid-1980's vintage, it fits the theme of the silver era given its silver faceplate, extremely high quality construction, heavy materials, and a CD-tray that is machined out of aircraft aluminum. There is no rack mount kit for the P-D70, so I have it sitting on the top shelf of one of the shorter JA-R1 rack systems. The JA-R1 rack is 37 inches tall, compared with the JA-R2S, which is 44 inches tall. Available 1984 and 1985, $630.
RT-909 Reel-To-Reel Tape Deck — The 909 is the high-water mark for consumer reel-to-reel tape decks. It was so good, in fact, that many recording studios used the 909. It featured the high capacity 10-1/2 inch reel size, which could record hours of music and the lower speeds, or make extremely high quality recordings at the faster speeds. It would auto-reverse, and could record in either 2-track 2-direction, or 4-track in one direction. Available 1979 to 1984, $900.
DT-510 Program Timer — Little more than a fancy alarm clock, the program timer turns on an A/C power outlet at a pre-selected time. This is handy for recording radio broadcasts at a time when you cannot be present to start the recording yourself. Many Pioneer tape decks have built-in support for the program timer in the form of a stand-by feature that kicks the tape deck into record mode on power-up. In this example, the DT-510 is mounted in a JA-R101 rack mount tray along with a TVX-9500 TV Audio Tuner. There is a slight gap at the top of the DT-510, which I filled in with a piece of brushed aluminum. Available 1981 and 1982, $120.
TVX-9500 TV Audio Tuner — In the era before stereo TVs, the broadcast quality of TV sound was relatively high, but the audio circuits and speakers in most TVs were very poor. The TVX-9500 was an attempt to bring TV sound into the hi-fi realm by building a high quality TV sound tuner that could be connected to any stereo system. While the TVX-9500 was a great idea, technology rapidly overtook it with stereo TV becoming popular in the mid-80's, and the TVX-9500 did not have a multiplex output jack that stereo tuner adapters required. Pioneer does not have a rack kit for this unit, but it fits well in the JA-R101 rack mount tray. Available 1978 to 1980, $250.
Center rack starting from the top:
RT-707 Reel-To-Reel Tape Deck — The 707, and its brother the 701, were unique reel-to-reel tape decks. They were designed to be very high performance, yet be affordable for the hi-fi enthusiast. This was done by designing a compact chassis, with circuit boards that fit in the spaces around the large motors. The 701 is a 3-head deck (play, record, erase), while the 707 is an auto-reverse unit with 4 heads (play x 2, record, erase). Available 1977 to 1985, $700.
CTF-1250 Cassette Tape Deck — This was the high-water mark for Pioneer cassette decks. This is a full solenoid unit with no mechanical switches, and it features both auto-stop and auto-replay. The xx50 in the model number indicated that it could handle metal tapes, and the electronics could be set to accommodate any type of tape on the market, or it could be set to auto-detect the tape type. This unit is rack mounted using the JA-R102 rack handle kit. Available 1979 to 1981, $695.
SPEC-1 Pre-Amplifier — Features 2 tape inputs with dubbing, 2 aux inputs, a tuner input, and 2 phono inputs. The phono stage included controls to adjust the input impedance and capacitance to match many of the exotic phono cartridges that were on the market at the time. The tone controls have adjustable cross-over points, which allow them to operate much like an equalizer, but without the complexity, or they could be bypassed altogether. Available 1975 to 1981, $650.
SG-9800 Equalizer — Features 12 slider controls per channel whereas most equalizers of the period had only 10 controls per channel. This unit had incredible specs, including a signal to noise ratio of 92db. This is important since you do not want your processor components to introduce any noise into the music path. The SG-9800 is rack mounted using a JA-R101 rack mount kit, which includes a rack tray, handles, and faceplate adapter. Available 1979 to 1981, $395.
SPEC-4 Power Amplifier — 150 watts per channel, full dual-mono design with two power supplies and no components in common between the two amplifier channels. Although it is not as powerful as the SPEC-2, the SPEC-4 is considered to be more refined, and a little more sweet sounding. Available 1977 to 1981, $795.
Right rack starting from the top:
TX-D1000 Digital Tuner — This was Pioneer's first tuner with a digital display. The tuner itself was still largely analog inside, unlike the pure digital units that are common today. The display was a large fluorescent blue alpha-numeric tube. LED displays of that era were only available in red and green (not blue), and were not bright enough for this application. The D1000 uses the JA-R104 rack adapters like the RG and SR units. Available 1980 and 1981, $300.
SPEC-3 Pre-Amplifier — This is the extremely rare Pioneer SPEC-3, something that you rarely ever see in the US given that it was only available for sale in Japan and certain military P/X stores. The SPEC-3 has all of the key features of the SPEC-1, except that it has no microphone or headphone jacks. The SPEC-3 has updated circuitry that is even more quiet than the SPEC-1. The SPEC-3 has a unique case size that is slightly smaller than the typical SPEC components. This is called a 3-U case size, where the typical SPEC component has a 4-U case size. The TX-D1000 and SPEC-3 together use the same amount of rack space as the RT-707 tape deck.
CTF-900 Cassette Tape Deck — The CTF-900 is an early solenoid cassette deck. Solenoid means that various function such as play or fast forward are engaged using electro-magnets. This allows the front panel buttons to be electronic switches rather than mechanical linkage. This was more reliable and precise method. This was also a 3-head machine with separate record and play heads. That allows one to listen to the recording from the tape as it is being recorded. The ability to monitor the recording allows you to confirm in real time that the recording is being laid down properly. The only feature missing on this deck is the ability to use metal tapes. As a result, the CTF-900 was replaced by the CTF-950 after only one year on the market. This deck also uses the JA-R102 rack handles. Available 1978 and 1979, $475.
TX-8500-II Analog Tuner — Pioneer supertuners were very close to being the ultimate tuners on the market, and rivaled units costing ten times as much. The 8500 has a 4-gang variable capacitor for tuning, followed by 4 ceramic filters. Reviewers found that this tuner was good at picking out signals in an environment where there were a lot of competing radio signals in the air, such as locations near large radio and TV towers. While the 8500 Series 2 is a fine tuner, it is not top of the line. The TX-9500 had an additional gang in the tuning capacitor. The TX-9800 would actually fine-tune itself after you let go of the tuning knob. My 8500 is mounted in the rack using a JA-R101 rack mount tray. Available 1977 to 1979, $300.
RG-2 Dynamic Expander — Another external sound processor, the RG-2 was designed to make music sound more alive by expanding the dynamics of the music. It did this by making the low volume parts even lower, and the high volume parts even louder. This compensated for the fact that tape and record albums could not record the full dynamics of live music, and the music had to be compressed to fit on these media. Expanders were supposed to undo the compression. The RG-2 was an entry-level component. DBX really defined this market, and the DBX 3BX and 4BX expanders were the state of the art at the time. Both the SR and RG units can be rack mounted on their own using JA-R104 rack kits. I chose to mount them together using the JA-R102 kit that is designed for the cassette decks. Available 1979 to 1981, $230.
SR-303 Reverb Amplifier — External sound processors were all the rage in the 70's and early 80's. This unit took a small portion of the music, added a slight delay, and mixed the delayed music back in. This resulted in an echo effect that sounded much like live music in a concert hall. Bob Carver (Phase Linear and Carver Audio) took this concept to the n-th degree in his Sonic-Holography adapters. Shortly after the silver era, DSP chips (digital signal processor) hit the market, and Yamaha issued a series of DSP components that included a variety of sound effects that simulated different types of buildings and concert venues. Today, SACD and 5.1 DVD's can record the actual reverberations, making these processors obsolete. Available 1979 to 1981, $195.
SPEC-2 Power Amplifier — In an era when electronics was rapidly evolving, the SPEC-2 had a long market life, being available from 1975 up to 1980. This 54-pound brute put out 250 watts per channel, featured large front panel meters, and had an advanced internal protection system that would shut down the amplifier if something went wrong with the amplifier circuitry or the speakers. Given that the SPEC-2 was designed to be rack mounted, it was popular in recording studios as well as home sound systems. Available 1975 to 1980, $995.
Pioneer Fluroscan Receivers
Pioneer components were analog and mechanical devices up to the start of the 1980's. Moving forward, components would be computer controlled and fully digital inside. The fluroscan receivers were the brief transitional link between these two eras. They have analog tuners with mechanical tuning mechanisms, but feature those beautiful blue fluorescent displays. These were the last of the silver beasts where you flipped switches and twiddled knobs to make things happen. After this series, the user would forever have to push program buttons and ask a computer to take action on their behalf.
SX-3400 Receiver — The 3400 was the entry level basic receiver. It had all the basics, but nothing more. This included a passable FM and FM-Stereo tuner, AM tuner, phone pre-amp, and aux input. It had controls for bass, treble, balance, FM mute/stereo, loudness, volume, and a single tape monitor. The 3400 delivered 15 watts per channel at 0.08% total harmonic distortion, which was enough to fill a single room with music at typical listening levels. The 3400 did not have audio power meters, and its single FM meter displayed signal strength. Note the push-button on-off switch on the 3400. The SX-3400 was available from 1980 to 1982 at $175 suggested list price.
SX-3500 Receiver — The 3500 is the next step up the Pioneer receiver line. It features the blue fluorescent power meters that are the hallmark of the Pioneer Fluroscan receiver line. In addition, it adds a speaker A/B switch, and the FM meter shows station centering. The 3500 delivers 20 watts per channel with 0.05% distortion, a barely noticeable change from the 3400. Like the 3600 and 3700, the 3500 features a rotary on-off switch. The SX-3500 was available from 1980 to 1982 at a $225 suggested list price.
SX-3600 Receiver — The 3600 is simply an up-rated 3500, with a 2nd tape monitor loop and 30 watts per channel of power. It is similar to the 3500 in all other respects. The SX-3600 was available from 1980 to 1982 at a $275 suggested list price.
SX-3700 Receiver — The 3700 is the first of the upper tier of receivers in the Fluroscan product line. The 3700 adds a low pass filter. Both the power meters and FM meters are blue fluorescent displays. In addition, the 3700 is the first Fluroscan receiver to feature a digital frequency display in addition to the analog tuning dial. The 3700 is the first receiver in the product line to have a 2nd row of buttons for certain frequently used functions (speaker A/B and input source). Finally, the 3700 is the first receiver in the product line to use the famous Pioneer lever switches, though the power on-off is still a rotary switch. The 3700 delivers a respectable 45 watts per channel with less than 0.02% total harmonic distortion. The SX-3700 was available from 1980 to 1982 at a $375 suggested list price.
SX-3800 Receiver — The 3800 was the middle of the upper tier in the Pioneer Fluroscan product line. It added a sound muting switch and a display dimmer. More importantly, it featured the famous Pioneer Non-Switching amplifier design that delivered 60 watts per channel with an astoundingly low 0.005% distortion level. Just as important, it features a massive lever switch for power on-off and a digital frequency display. The SX-3800 was available from 1980 to 1982 at a $500 suggested list price.
SX-3900 Receiver — The 3900 was the top of the line Pioneer Fluroscan receiver. It featured the Pioneer Non-Switching amplifier, this time delivering an earth-shaking 120 watts per channel with less than 0.005% total harmonic distortion. It offered a number of additional features over the 3800, including 2 high pass filters, tone turn-over controls for bass and treble, an adapter loop switch, FM de-emphasis, tape duplicate, and 2 phono inputs. As far as silver iron goes, this was it, the best of the last, weighing in at 44 pounds. The SX-3900 was available from 1980 to 1982 at a $800 suggested list price.
The SX-D5000 and SX-D7000 are transitional receivers. They are mostly analog, with the exception of the tuning display, yet they feature push-button controls. In fact, the D5000 and D7000 each have only one knob and 2 sliders. This is a preview of what is to become of the Pioneer line as it transforms into fully digital light-weight boxes with microprocessor based controls. The D5000 and D7000 are somewhat rare given that they did not sell in large numbers. They also had front panels that were easy to damage. One seldom finds examples that are still in good cosmetic condition. The D7000 in pristine condition is a massive piece of industrial art that radiates in its beauty as well as reproducing music in its full glory.
SX-D5000 Receiver — The D5000 is a large heavy box, 21 inches across and 39 pounds. It has controls grouped into three areas, the tone area on the left, control area in the center, and the tuning area on the right. The tone area includes speaker A/B, low pass filter, mono, treble, bass, and on-off. The control area includes buttons for FM, AM, AUX, phono, two tape monitors, an adapter loop, 1 to 2 and 2 to 1 dubbing, loudness, mute, and concentric volume and balance controls. The tuning area includes buttons for six pre-sets, down tuning, up tuning, memory, auto tuning, 25 microsecond FM de-emphasis, and FM muting. The D5000 has the non-switching amplifier rated at 80 watts per channel with less than 0.005% distortion. The SX-D5000 was available in 1980 and 1981, at a $600 suggested list price.
SX-D7000 Receiver — The D7000 is the big brother to the D5000. While being basically the same layout, it is an inch wider and 5 pounds heavier. The biggest reason is the increase in amplifier power, which is rated at 120 watts per channel with less than 0.005% total harmonic distortion. The D7000 also has a few more controls, such as a C speaker switch, tone on-off, turnover controls for the bass and treble, a display dimmer, a second phono input, and a MM/MC phono preamp control. Moving coil phone cartridges were just coming onto the market at that time, and the D7000 was the first Pioneer receiver that could directly connect to an MC cartridge. The SX-D7000 was available in 1980 and 1981 at a $800 suggested list price.
Pioneer x800 Series Separates
Pioneer was pretty good at building components like tuners and amplifiers. Their line of separates evolved through the x100 line (with greats like the TX-9100 tuner and SA-9100 amplifier), the x500 line, and the x500 Series II. You would think that there would be very little new to add. As it turns out, there was still a lot of new technology developed in those years that made their first appearance in the x800 series. A big feature was the non-switching amplifier design that reduced distortion by a factor of 100. And the new blue fluroscan power meters were a stunning visual addition. Finally, the components were all designed in the same style to allow them to be fully mixed and matched and still look and perform as a system.
TX-5500 II Tuner — Pioneer did not make a TX-5800 that I am aware of to match the SA-5800. I have displayed an older model TX-5500 II tuner as a companion to my SA-5800. The TX-5500 II is a basic tuner in every sense. It did not have the sophisticated circuitry to pull in weak signals or sort out stations in an environment with a lot of background RF noise (such as in a city with a lot of radio stations, or near a high-powered tower). The TX-5500 II was available in 1977 and 1978 for $150.
SA-5800 Amplifier — This was the entry level integrated amplifier, available in 1979 and 1980. It featured 25 watts per channel, low distortion, and the cool blue power meters. The controls are pretty basic, with 3 inputs (Tuner, Phono, Aux), two tape monitors, bass and treble, and a loudness switch. The SA-5800 sold for $200.
TX-6800 Tuner — This is the entry-level Pioneer tuner in the x800 series. It was introduced in 1979 at $200, and was available through 1980. The big cosmetic difference from the previous series of tuners is the meters, which are black with white lettering. The tuner front end has a 3-gang variable capacitor and 2 ceramic filters. This gives the TX-6800 good sensitivity and reasonable selectivity for an entry level unit.
SA-6800 Amplifier — The SA-6800 offers 45 watts per channel at 0.03% total harmonic distortion. Basically, this is just an up-rated SA-5800. The only additional control is a tone defeat switch to bypass the bass and treble controls. The SA-6800 was offered from 1979 to 1981, and sold for $300.
TX-7800 Tuner — The TX-7800 is a fantastic analog tuner. It has a 4-gang 3 filter front end that is very sensitive and extremely selective. Selectivity is important when you have a lot of powerful radio stations on nearby frequencies. Reviewers also found that the TX-7800 has very good overall sound quality, likely due to the high grade components used in the internal circuitry. AM radio listeners found the TX-7800 to be an excellent unit for DX’ing, which is searching out distant stations. This impressive tuner carried an equally impressive price for the time of $350.
SA-7800 Amplifier — The SA-7800 was the first of Pioneer's Non-Switching Amplifiers. Class A-B amplifiers essentially have a mirrored set of transistors to amplify the positive half of the signal separately from the negative half of the signal. This is very efficient, but it causes cross over distortion when the signal transitions from positive to negative or negative to positive. Pioneer came up with a method to eliminate this cross over distortion, resulting in a 65 watt per channel amplifier at an amazingly low 0.009% total harmonic distortion. In addition, the SA-7800 featured a number of additional user controls, such as low and high filters, two sets of speaker outputs, tape dubbing, and a mode selector (for stereo, mono right, mono left, left + right, or left/right reverse). All this came at a cost $450.
TX-8800 Tuner — The TX-8800, and the follow-on TX-8800 Series II, was not available in the US. They were only sold in Japan and certain military PX stores. As a result, they are fairly rare, and almost unknown in the US. The TX-8800 has a 4-gang tuner front end, very much like the TX-7800. The more advanced TX-8800-II has the 5-gang front end found in the TX-9800. Given that the TX-8800 was built for the Japanese market, it tunes in the Japanese FM band, which runs from 76-Megahertz to 90-Megahertz, as opposed to the US FM band that runs from 88-Megahertz to 108-Megahertz.
SA-8800 Amplifier — The SA-8800 is an up-rated SA-7800 that features 80 watts per channel and the same non-switching technology. The only additional user feature is knobs to set the phono cartridge impedance and capacitance load to match some of the more esoteric phono cartridges that were available at the time. The SA-8800 sold for $550.
Click Image For Larger Photo.
TX-9800 Tuner — The TX-9800 is one of the finest analog tuners ever built. The FM section has a 5-gang 5 filter front end. It also has a reference oscillator that automatically fine-tunes the tuner once the user lets go of the tuning knob. This results in both great sound, and a tuner that can seek out and hold distant radio stations even in a crowded radio environment. The AM section is nearly equal to the FM side given the limitations of AM sound in the pre-AM-stereo era. The TX-9800 sold for $450.
SA-9800 Amplifier — This is Pioneer's top of the line x800 series amplifier. It puts out 100 watts per channel at the same ultra-low distortion level due to the non-switching amplifier. Additional user controls include a switch to dim the blue power meters, and turnover controls for the bass and treble. Turnover controls set the frequency where the tone controls take effect. This allows you to do more complex equalization without having to add an external equalizer. This was the ultimate in integrated amplifiers during the silver era, with the ultimate price tag of $800.
Pioneer Series 20 System
Series 20 was Pioneer's vision of a no-compromise esoteric hi-fi system that was still within reach of the audio hobbyist. Produced between 1977 and 1983, Series 20 components were based on simplicity of design, meticulous craftsmanship, and the finest parts available. This included metalized polyester capacitors, vapor deposited resistors, precision attenuators, and epoxy circuit boards. These components were the forerunner of the long-lived Pioneer Elite systems, and they are highly collectible.
Note—photos in this section are mostly stolen from E-Bay auctions as opposed to from my personal collection. I am still hunting for many of these components, and some of the examples I have are not in mint condition.
C-21 Preamplifier — The SPEC-1 preamp was the poster child for the kitchen sink era with buttons and knobs to control everything short of the phase of the moon. In contrast, the C-21 was a product of the straight line school of thought, where a pre-amp should be nothing more than act as a straight wire with gain. It should do nothing to process or otherwise color the music, plus it needs to be as flat and distortion free as possible. The C-21 was the bare minimum of a pre-amp, not even having bass and treble controls, yet it did its job with ruler flat gain and less than 0.006% distortion. Retail price of $350.
M-22 Power Amplifier — The M-22 is a visually stunning amplifier. It looks like it was carved as a work of art. In an era of bigger and bigger boxes, the M-22 was unique in having parts on the outside of the box. Equally stunning was the engineering that went into M-22. It was a pure class-A amplifier. Class-A amps are noted for a lack of several types of distortion. But the cost of that design is high since it requires the output transistors to always run at full power, which uses a lot of electricity and creates a lot of heat. Despite its massive size and weight, the M-22 was rated at 30 watts per channel with less than 0.01% distortion, 0.005% at half of rated power. While 30 watts sounds low, typical listening levels are at 1 watt or less, so it still had ample headroom. Retail price $650.
D-23 Active Crossover — The D-23 is the most sought-after component in the Series 20 line, despite the fact that many hi-fi fans have no idea what to do with an active crossover. Bi-amping has long been a favorite of European hi-fi fans, and tri-amping is now common with high-end car stereos. The D-23 lets you take this to the extreme by splitting the audio spectrum into 4 output paths, allowing each section of the spectrum to be connected to amplifiers and speakers specifically tailored for that particular part of the spectrum. One configuration would be sub-woofer, bass, midrange, and treble. Another configuration would be bass, midrange, treble, and supertweeter. Using an active crossover eliminated the need for a passive crossover in the speaker cabinets. These passive crossovers often introduced phase errors. Some hi-fi fans claim that phase errors ruin the listening experience. Outside of the bass area, one really doesn't need much amplifier power. Midrange and treble are ideally suited for the class-A M-22 amplifier, while the beefier M-25 is perfect for bass and sub-bass signals. Retail price $600.
U-24 Program Selector — Pioneer collectors debate whether the U-24 was an official member of the Series 20 family. It does not have the Series 20 logo, nor was it listed in the Series 20 specification guide. But the number fits the sequence and the family resemblance is striking. The U-24 was initially used by dealers to demonstrate various components using the same amplifiers and speakers. It allowed up to 3 turntables, 4 tape decks, and 2 aux sources to be connected to the C-21 preamp. Some hi-fi hobbyists purchased these U-24 units from their dealers. Pioneer eventually made them available for consumer sales. In later production runs, Pioneer promoted the U-24 to full Series 20 membership by putting the Series 20 logo on both the front panel of the U-24 and the U-24's shipping carton. Retail price $200.
M-25 Power Amplifier — In Pioneer's literature on the M-22, they state that the M-22 would be capable of 150 watts per channel if it was configured as a class B amplifier. The M-25 is the result of engineers running that experiment. But since class B amplifiers have crossover and notch distortion, plus have a hard time delivering large transients, the M-25 was designed to run in class-A mode at lower power levels, and automatically switch to class-AB operation as power demands increased. To provide large current transients, Pioneer invented a whole new type of transistor called the Ring Emitter Transistor, where many low power transistors were etched into the silicon die and ran in parallel. To top it off, the M-25 was the first component that I saw in person that had gold-plated connectors to ensure years of noise-free connections. The M-25 was rated at 120 watts per channel with no more than 0.008% distortion. Retail price $1200.
F-26 Tuner — The F-26 is an impressive tuner in three different ways. It is impressive in it stunningly simple front panel, which has only two switches (on-off and mute) besides the big tuning knob. It is also impressive in its engineering, which features circuits that automatically switch things like stereo-mono, local-DX, and wide-narrow that normally required front panel switches. Finally, it is impressive in its musical fidelity. The F-26 features a 7-gang variable tuning capacitor, 4-gang ceramic filters, and an advanced FM detector built on an IC chip (which were rare in consumer goods at the time). The F-26 has an advanced quartz lock system that detects when the user releases the tuning knob, which then takes over to fine tune the station locking in the best possible signal. The F-26 had a fourth stunning feature—price. It retailed for $1000.
A-27 Integrated Amplifier — The A-27 integrated amplifier is a combination of the M-25 amplifier, C-21 preamp, plus some tone and signal controls from the SPEC-1. This all-in-one design was targeted to consumers who wanted the performance of the Series 20 components in a more traditional package. The upper section of the front panel looked like a traditional Series 20 component, while the lesser used controls were hidden behind a glass panel. The A-27 shared many of the same extraordinary specifications of the M-25 and C-21, such as delivering 120 watts per channel. Retail price $1250.
F-28 Tuner — The F-28 tuner was introduced as a lower cost version of the F-26. Many of the automation features were removed, but the same high quality tuner electronics remained. While the F-26 had the elaborate touch sensitive tuning system, the F-28 had a simple but unique quartz lock system that depended on a series of 8-bit binary values encoded in the tuner dial and read by phototransistors connected to the tuning needle. Retail price $690.
PLC-590 Component Turntable — The PLC-590 is a component turntable in that you purchase the tone arm and phono cartridge separately from the turntable. The PLC-590 had everything that you expect in a modern high-end turntable such as isolation feet, non-resonant base, heavy platter, and quartz-lock speed control. The matching tone arm is the PA-1000. It is built out of carbon fiber in order to be amazingly light, thus improving the ability to track even the most aggressive music recorded on classical LP albums. PLC-590 retailed for $550. PA-1000 tone arm retailed for $150.
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