70's and early 80's Japanese Component: How good were they?

Jan 20, 2019
New Jersey (U.S.)
I always was (more than slightlyo_O) amused by the notion, of: how Accuphase had grown out of KENWOOD (though, the 1978-era "KA 9000"-series model integrateds *do* look like hand-me-down E-202's...so, they can be surprising performers at bargain prices if sellers don't know that). As for Japanese speakers: except for Yamaha NSM's, the majority of speakers from Japan (in the '70s) were junk knockoffs of the JBL 100 (they all started making the woofer cones white!) meant to be sold in packaged deals with the corresponding imported receiver (as the twentysomething college student of-the-day did not have an extra $650 for a pair of genuine article Centuries, circa 1973).

(Vintage) Yamaha turntables are absolutely a pristine and worthwhile investment. They were (generally) built from Micro-Seiki parts (the highest end vintage Japanese turntable brand) while other international conglomerates were outsourced to Chuao-Denki Electric Company ("C.E.C."). [The biggest joke in the vintage market is the absurd price, for example, a 1976 Marantz 6300 DD turntable goes for: around $500(!). Underneath it all, it's just a generic Technics 1600/Sansui FR-5080 clone with a woodgrain plinth. However...the thing so funny about it(?): a 95% *identical* model, made by C.E.C. as well, badged for RADIO SHACK as a "Realistic Lab-400" can be had for less than $150!]

Yamaha, Onkyo, and Denon were the mainstream Asian brands which really came into their own starting in the early '80s. Unfortunately, Sansui really went downhill and never recovered (personally: the sound quality of pre-1977 Sansui, IMO, was far above what the brute power of Pioneer and the more budget-aimed Kenwood delivered). (Vintage) Sansui, to me, seems to not have trouble with more inefficient speakers also...UNlike, the Superscope-era Marantz 2200-series receivers all the rage now and insanely OVERpriced (in my experience with those: no matter how much one thought a higher model number was going to denote more -reliable- power available, they seemed to just shoehorn-in the same power supply across so many models while pushing a bigger output stage to its design limitations...the reason SO many collecting these units are often pairing them with 97db efficient Klipschorns and not big A.R.'s or Advents!:().

I don't think Technics, for instance, was ever considered "audiophile-grade" in the U.S.; because: it was too closely associated with PANASONIC (here) and the branding had changed around 1974, when there was a large push toward trying to sell Quadraphonic (which the audiophile press had never accepted anyway). The 1200 was ostracized mainly, at the time, because THORENS had become a major market player in America concerning *serious* LP playback (with Acoustic Research still in the game with its "B" and "C" upgrades of the "XA" turntable all the way until 1985). Out of all the reel to reel decks I've had, I've yet to own a Technics 1500-series. I wish, though, the 7" "RS-777" version of it had been available as a 120v model...because, I WOULD go after that one(!).


VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
Boston, MA
I had my own share of Sansui, Yamaha and Technics back in the day, and I can tell you first hand, that the Technics were just OK and only the high end cassette decks and R2R stood out; Yamaha was fine, at that time; never liked the Sansui.

For example, despite the fact I have spent around to $200K on the current system, I still have most of the 9000 Series Technics below from that era (picture sourced from google) in a 3rd system:

In particular, the tuner right now sounds OK and it can use new caps; the preamp underneath it is OK (love the three tape inputs, two phono); the equalizer below that is hooked up to the tuner to give it life (love the fact I can tune the center frequency, frequency width and volume of each of the operating equalizers); and the mono amp on the bottom (with variable gain nobs on the right) sounds OK. The RM-M85 deck I also had was far superior, but sold it. I tried to buy a top-of-the-line M95 a couple of years back from ebay, and it was junk and not representative of original quality.

I can easily say I would NEVER seek any audio equipment from that era, other than a modified 1500 R2R. I am actually surprised that Yamaha is reviving integrated amps from that era, as if they can't design something more modern; but perhaps it sounds good now?!?!?

By contrast, my Revox B77II is still with me, and still sounds fabulous with the right program, and haven't updated anything in it. Basically, there was "high end" and high end back then.
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