Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pioneer SX-636 Stereo Receiver

I recently blogged about the SX-636's bigger sibling, the SX-838, and described it as the "object of my teenage lust"! Of course, I was being facetious, I had normal red-blooded proclivities as a teen, just like most. I was a stereo nerd, but it wasn't my only calling. I mentioned the SX-838 as my object of teenage lust but it could easily have been the SX-636. They were unobtainable to a 16-year-old who had just started work for the first time, and could barely get enough hours as a part-time dishwasher. I sure did a lot of window shopping for them, though, and literally wore the catalogs out from dreaming. It wasn't until much later, in my twenties, did I start shopping in the second-hand stores and finding bargains on stereo components of this quality level. It was actually just scratching the surface of what was available out there, and there were much better and even more expensive models to choose from.

I recently, within the last year, obtained a 636, some time after getting an 838, so I had a pretty good reference for what I could expect to hear upon auditioning. My 636 is in reserve stock as we speak, but its build quality and great looks could propel it into a postion of prominence in the michaelhigh stereo repertoire if enough catastrophies started snowballing! It has stellar specs for a 25 wpc receiver, and my unit is exceptionally clean and virtually mark-free, especially given its age, not quite forty years old. It sounds and looks great, and its looks belie its age by a country mile. The tuner is strong and sensitive, and pulls in stations most receivers would scoff at. That was always Pioneer's forte, their excellent and precise tuners. It has the usual control set - bass and treble, high and low cut, provisions for two tape decks, an auxiliary line level channel, AM and FM stereo radio, and one phono input with RIAA equalization. FM muting keeps the static down between stations, and there are provisions for three sets of speakers to be hooked up, with the ability to hear any two sets at a time due to impedance limitations.

The dial is familiar Pioneer blue, and brushed silver is the style theme, a classic 70's look. This screams "silver receiver" when you see it. There were many receivers in the 70's that wished they were Pioneers, and that reputation for look and sound made them famous and sought-after for decades to come. Their rock-solid reliability and quality control meant that they would certainly last well into the future with minimal upkeep, and mine has never been serviced and sounds immaculate. If only automobiles had this level of reliability...they'd be even more expensive than they already are!

Here's a quick rundown of the important specifications:

Solid State / TubedSolid State
Power25 Watts / Channel @ 8 Ω(1)
27 Watts / Channel @ 8 Ω @ 1 kHz(2)
Power Bandwidth5 Hz - 60 kHz(1)
Total Harmonic Distortion0.5 %(1)
Intermodulation Distortion0.5 %(1)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio70 dB (Phono)(1)
Sensitivity2.5 milliVolts (Phono)(1)
Tuner Sensitivity1.9 microVolts(1)
Tuner Capture Ratio1.0 dB(1)
Tuner Total Harmonic Distortion0.2 % (Mono)(1)
0.4 % (Stereo)(1)
Tuner Signal-to-Noise Ratio70 dB(2)
Tuner Frequency Response20 Hz - 15 kHz +0.2 dB, -2.0 dB(2)
Tuner Stereo Separation40 dB(1)
Tuner Selectivity60 dB(2)
Dimensions (W x D x H)19 x 16 x 6 in.(1)
[48.26 x 40.64 x 15.24 cm]
Weight24 lbs.(1)
[10.9 kg]
PriceUSD $349.95(2)
CAD $439.95(1)
  1. Source: Source: 'Audio Scene Canada' 1976 Canadian Hi-Fi Buyer's Catalogue - December 1975
  2. Source: Source: 'Stereo Review' Stereo Directory & Buying Guide 1976 - c. 1975

Tomorrow we'll feature yet another audio/music topic of interest, so keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!


  1. Great review, I have a SX-636 myself and have had it for 38 years. Beside some crackling through the left speakers because of (so I've been told) a capacitor, it still functions like a champ. Still looks great too considering it got bounced around the world during my Naval career.

  2. This, and the SX-838, were my main objects of audio lust in their respective years of release.This also coincides with my initial interest in audio, despite the fact that I have been a musician since 1967. I listened to Sansui, Garrard and Kenwood before the 70's, however.