Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sansui 771 Stereo Receiver

I've been leaning heavily on music-related items lately, so it's about time I return to audio gear for all you techies out there. Remember, you can respond to this or any post by clicking on the pencil at the end of the article, and I welcome and respond to each and every comment! That said, on with the review.

The Sansui 771 is a staple in my arsenal of vintage stereo receivers, as I still listen to the radio every day. I get my news there (for the most part - I rarely watch network or cable TV as there are only so many hours in each day to consume music/audio!) and with the aforereviewed Sony XDRF1-HD tuner, I spend most of my radio time with it. My receivers were chosen before I took ownership of the Sony, so my choices of vintage receivers all reflect those with excellent to superior radio reception as well as other measurable tuner section criteria. I have a tube integrated amp (Decware Zen Triode Select, previously reviewed on these pages) for my analog rig, but by and large, and for general purposes, the tuners in my receivers get a good workout quite often.

The Sansui 771 is a hefty piece of gear, which becomes the standard for anyone familiar with the good-stuff's-heavy principal. The build quality on this baby is robust, and was built to withstand years of listening enjoyment. It featured prominently in the Sansui line back in the 70's (1973-1977, inclusive) and competed directly with the immensely popular (and now sought-after) Pioneer SX-x3x series. In those days, model series were less likely to be revamped and upgraded as often as is the case today. As new developments and the myriad features therein propel us into the future with regards to general refinements and new technology, the manifestations of these refinements are less static (hence more obviously prevalent) and directly reflect the rapid movement of new technology in related consumer goods and services. I assume, by the large number of these beauties that exist today, that plenty were shipped back from overseas during the Vietnam war, and from servicemen stationed in Germany in the 70's. Local base stores offered this stuff cheaper than if one were to purchase them in the States, and plenty of servicemen seized the monent and bought these and many popular lines to ship back home for use and enjoyment after their times of enlistment. Personally I'm very glad that this happened like it did, as we can still find good clean examples to preserve and refurbish. Most of the equipment manufactured in this time window (the mid-70's, generally speaking) are well worth the time, money and effort made to keep them up, running, and doing their thing well into the future. Their specs bear this out, as they were built to excel in many critcal categories, making them sought after and still viable as serious contenders to the throne of "king of the 2-channel receivers".

Many of the people who specialize in 2-channel listening and collecting don't own or collect home theater systems, by and large, although it's my opinion that this won't always be the case. For the most part the two camps have distinguished themselves one from the other, as purists in either discipline. There's a certain amount of competition in regards to the features found in home theater and associated gear (and their manufacture), but not nearly as much as there was back in the days of the "receiver wars".

In England, for instance, most people now have home theaters, as choices in program material have expanded most noticeably due to the now-global coverage of satellite TV/movie services (Netfix, hulu). In the past, entertainment was government-controlled by monopolies (read BBC), and pirate radio was a necessary evil to offset the disparity between what was commercially available versus what the BBC was offering! MOG, Spotify and Pandora (as well as any number of free clone services meant to eventually generate revenue by offering limited-feature service to entice listeners to upgrade at a nominal cost in the future) currently dominate the computer audio segment of the audience, and with HD-Tracks more people worldwide are experiencing high definition audio programming than ever before. It's no longer a well-kept secret. The marriage of new programming technology with that of vintage audio components is a marriage made in audio heaven! This discovery is becoming known worldwide with the advent of audio forums that spread the word as far as the monitor can reach and the mouse can click. More on this fact and that miraculous pairing in a later episode! Stay tuned!

At 40 watts per channel at 8 ohms a side, the 771 punches well above its weight with regards to signal quality and ability to drive all types of speaker loads. Where SET tube
technolgy demands low impedance and high efficiency, these higher-powered receivers can handle almost any nominal load and topology of speaker you'd commonly own or collect, from infinite baffle to open baffle and beyond, to horn-loaded designs, just to name a few. Mine plays well with AR4X's or A/D/S L420, which are both very similar in regards to woofer size and cabinet construction. The 771 has provisions for a phono input and two auxiliary inputs, making it easy to connect a DVD player (that plays CD's too) or computer via DAC or utilizing the built-in DACs that come with the computer. Its layout makes for easy maintenance by anyone well-versed in these operations. Mine was recently refurbished with caps, FM alignment and cleaning of all controls and switches, assuring service well into the foreseeable future. As for diy, I leave all operations to a skilled technician, as I have a tendency to kill stereos if I even open the cases! Not my strong suit!

All in all, I give the Sansui 771 four out of five stars, one subtracted for a wood case with vents that tends to break when setting components on top (I know it's hard to avoid this, and I'm guilty of doing it as my space is always at a premium). Pioneer (and others) fixes this problem by using screen mesh to vent their amps rather than the way 'sui does. Here's a blurb from their 70's sales flyer:

"Thanks to its refined Circuit Board Module construction, the Sansui 771 outperforms many higher priced receivers in the field. It offers a very superior power amplifier, an all-stage direct coupled OCL powerhouse delivering a continuous 40wpc* (*note the conservative power rating, nowadays there's much more wiggle room in regards to this spec and how it's achieved - this era of receivers always test out to be more powerful than stated, due to regulations about truth in advertising that were mandated by consumer groups at the time) to drive up to two pairs of speakers at a time* (*with the option to connect a third set). The preamplifier section and control sections are equally outstanding, providing inputs and controls for two tape decks, two aux, a microphone circuit, a phono circuit and an FM multiplex circuit (*my comments).


Power output: 40 watts per channel into 8 ohms
Total harmonic distortion: less than 0.5%
Frequency response: 15 to 30,000Hz
Load impedance: 4 to 16 ohms
Damping factor: 60
Channel separation: 45dB
Hum and noise: 70dB (phono), 80dB (line)
Input sensitivity: 2.5mV (phono), 100mV (line)
FM tuning range: 88 to 108 MHz
AM tuning range: 535 to 1605 kHz

Tomorrow we'll come at this thing from yet another angle, as we do (al)most every day. Keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!


  1. I just got my 771 fully recapped, deoxed, the works. I'll get it back next week. Can't wait.

    What do you use as a source?

    PS: Im a metalhead and LOVE Charles Bradley. :-)

  2. I used a PC with roughly 2 TB of music on hard drives, and a schiit bifrost DAC (reviewed on these pages).

    What's a metalhead doing listening to neo soul? (hehe)...

    It's all good, ain't it?

  3. This has been my dilemma. I prefer FLAC for digital music and want something dedicated for playback. An iPod classic w/Rockbox will playback FLAC but the digital out doesn't work through Rockbox. ie: No DAC.

    I could build a pc with a RaspberryPi and a USB DAC but still feels a bit overkill.

    Though I'm a metalhead, I was raised on Motown and classic rock. \m/ Have you heard of Bad Rabbits?

  4. R&B woth a rock edge.

    1. I'll check it out. Thanks for responding!