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Rebuilding The Past

Pioneer SX-450 Integrated Receiver c. 1978

When I was young, I listened to this radio… Or rather, one just like it. It wasn’t very powerful at only 15 watts per channel. And, it certainly wasn’t very fancy, with only basic controls, a couple of inputs, and an analog AM/FM tuner. But it sure sounded good.

I think I chose the Pioneer because my Dad had a Pioneer, and because Pioneer had a very good reputation and their gear was reasonably priced.

Along with the receiver, I had a Pioneer turntable and cassette deck, and a pair of fairly decent 3-way floor-speakers from a company called Ultralinear that I ended up upgrading with new woofers and a lot of sound damping material. I think the whole system cost me about $500, which was a lot of money back then, and I think I had this setup until sometime in 1984, when I upgraded to something fancy.

Pioneer PL-516 Semi-Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable c.1978

I’ve had a number of very nice stereo and surround systems over the years, but none of them equaled the enjoyment I got from listening to records on my old, simple stereo.

I’ve decided to put together a good, simple stereo, and have been on the lookout for some of my favorite old gear. I recently come across the receiver locally, and I may attempt to acquire it this weekend.

In rebuilding the stereo system, I’ll probably forego the cassette deck (although I know exactly where my old one is), and instead add a CD-player since I have such a large collection. I’ll also not replicate the speakers, which were always marginal. I have a very nice pair of Yamaha reference speakers, as well as a pair of Bose 201s, and some of the famous Radio Shack Minimus 7s. I’ll probably use the Yamaha’s as my “primary” speakers, and put the Bose speakers in my model railroad room.

My next target will be a turntable. While I’d like something a little better than the Pioneer PL-516 I originally owned, I’d be glad to have one if the price is good. The direct-drive PL-518 would be nice, if one surfaces in good shape. An interesting thing about the PL-516 and PL-518 is that they came different finishes — the gray shown above, along with two different wood-grain patterns, and black. I had the gray version.

Pioneer RT-707R Auto-reversing open-reel tape deck

One thing I always wanted was a Pioneer RT-707 reel-to-reel machine. Like the turntable, this was also available in several variants. Unlike everything else I owned, the RT-707 was prohibitively expensive, and good working examples now are very rare and even more expensive, so owning one will likely remain a pipe dream. Shown at left is probably the most common version: silver face, auto-reversing, rack-mount with no handles. It was also available in a non-auto-reversing model, and both could be had in either silver or (rare) black, with or without a wood-tone cabinet. I’ve also seen rack-mount versions with handles.

I did eventually get a reel-to-reel machine (a Teac A-2300SX), and while it was an excellent machine, it was nowhere near as cool as the Pioneer. Until just a few months ago, I still had all the instruction manuals for all the old gear, all neatly kept in a red three-ring binder. I still have the binder in a box in the basement.

For the record, my favorite album was (and still is) Boston’s first album, which will be the first thing I listen to, once I put everything together.