I have a fetish, well… I suppose everyone does… but mine is for VU meters. I don’t know if it’s the hypnotizing movement, the immediacy of the information that it feeds me about my music, or the pleasure of occasionally seeing them bounce a little too high as I blow the dust out of the speaker grilles. I’ve had a fascination with them since my early youth, and had an immediate understanding of their meaning and purpose. I’m talking about those meters that read the power output of your amplifier (or sound lever on your tape deck, etc). Once a staple of hi-fi gear in the 70’s, they became status symbols on the faces of some great pieces, and have caused certain items to fall into great collectability today. Like dancing girls against stage lights, keeping time with our favorite music, they still capture us.
From time-to-time, I’ve been quite the garage sale hound. I should really be more of one, as I’ve made quite some great scores at them, as well as estate sales. One such morning, probably 20 years ago now, led me to stumble across this beautiful vintage Pioneer SX-780 silver face receiver. Since childhood, I’ve always been a fan of silver Pioneer equipment. I grew up around it, and would stare at it in magazines, dreaming I would own it all someday. They always had some of the best advertisements in the stereo magazines at the time. It was fantastic dream fodder for a 10-year-old boy. Now, here was one on the table in front me, for (as I recall) 20 bucks.
I brought it home, and to my disappointment, one channel had weak output. Everything worked, though. At the time, I was taking a history class with a young man who was an electronics major who asked if I wouldn’t mind letting him take a shot at it. All it would cost me was parts. I was pretty broke, and had little to lose, and couldn’t turn down his enthusiasm, so I turned him loose on it. Within a couple weeks, he returned it back to me, with the output stage as good as new, and a big feather is his blooming cap.
The receiver is sheer pleasure to listen to. I have it paired with another garage sale score (to be written about later), my 1978 Klipsch Heresy speakers. They just sit so nicely together. I also have a Legend Audio subwoofer on it, with each set of speakers run separately on A and B, so that I can turn the sub off, should I choose. This setup also allows the Heresys to stay full range, instead of being crossed over by the sub’s output. (*Note- Not all receivers are friendly to this arrangement. Your results may vary.) The sub is a beast, and more of a modern sound, so it’s in the mix very low.
The sound, without getting overly descriptive, is absolutely “vintage.” Even right now, listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Division Bell” through a Sony ES CD player, the tone is more 1978 than anything. I come to this system when I need to be transported back to a simpler time in my life, when my stereo was really the most complicated thing in my life. But, by vintage, I do mean that somehow, even with horn-loaded speakers, the sound sits back nicer than a modern receiver does to me. More rounded, somewhat slower to respond, slightly less snap, warmer, just more… pleasant. Hell, I know this chair has an ottoman somewhere, I could just listen to Pink Floyd here all day. It’s just that good.
These receivers, and a lot of silver face Pioneer gear, have achieved high collectability now, and with good reason. The beauty is timeless, the sound as well. This particular range has power that is greatly under-stated. It’s not just that the Heresys are very efficient, this 50 watt-per-channel unit will produce stunning volume in this pretty large room, and does so very cleanly. The higher models in the line have an even better reputation for doing so, and will put so many modern amplifiers to shame. They just have a beautiful sound, plain and simple.
They also had more versatility than some of their contemporaries, which also makes them a good modern choice, as well. We have the need for more inputs these days, and for those of looking to blend the vintage and modern worlds, this has only boosted the lore of this line. Unlike some of their competitors, the Pioneer gave two tape monitor inputs, in addition to the aux input. This added to the great phono stage and legendary tuners that Pioneer was always known for.
I think that every audiophile needs a vintage system, in addition to their modern two channel or home theater setup, just to keep us grounded to our past, and to the roots of the hobby. It’s amazing what a few Saturday mornings of lost sleep can do for boosting your home collection, if you’re willing to do some fun searching. Happy hunting!
7 thoughts on “The Dancing Girls- Pioneer SX-780”
Beautifully written tale of the magical SX- 780.I’ve had mine since 10th grade and it’s still going strong.This was my first major purchase from my first job as a busboy.Thank God for the salesman at the now long gone Adray Appliance in Dearborn Mi who led me to the 780.How could i ever have known in 1979 that i’d still be listening to it in 2019? I’ve always suspected that the 45 watts per channel was an under estimate.I have never turned the volume past the six o’clock position for fear of blowing either my Jensen’s or the windows! I purchased my SX-780 during the peak years of Detroit radio when WABX ,WWWW, WllZ and WRIF were all a punk kid like me could have asked for.Other than having to replace the Darlingtons a time or two and maintaining the occasionally scratchy volume knob she’s as good as new.So dim the lights enjoy that amber glow. Watch those VU’s bounce and let that warm wonderful sound fill whatever space you’re in.Thanks for a great article.
I just recently jumped on the vintage audio bandwagon and wished I had done it years ago. But i totally loved this story and own a SX 780 of my own. Love those dancing girls!
Awesome story! I stumbled across this blog as I was searching for information on the SX-780. I had just picked one up that was completely gone thru / upgraded (caps, pots, etc.) and I have to say what an amazing sound this thing produces.. I paired the 780 with my old Paradigm monitors and the sound is mind-blowing. I had to go out and pick up a turntable so, I stumbled across a Pioneer PL-12D.. Nothing is high-end but, I have to say the sound quality is primo! I also wish I would had jumped on the vintage audio scene a long time ago!! Dancing girls are hypnotizing!
What turntable would have been sold with the SX-780?
I’m not sure what what actually sold alongside this receiver at the time, but I could see someone pairing a nice PL-12D II or a PL-570 with it. Pioneer made great turntables back then that are still revered by collectors and vintage hi-fi enthusiasts.
I only recently discovered your blog and am greatly enjoying it, both the topics and your style of writing. I’ll be back, as Arnie said. I was working my way back through your older posts and got to this one, which was wonderful given I’m sitting here listening to my own 780 as I write this. I love it so much that I tell my wife that if polygamy was legal here in Canada there would be a ring on the power switch. Keep up the great writing; I’m looking forward to reading more in the future, and sharing with other enthusiasts as I go.
I’m not even sure how I got to your blog but when I read your statement “I have a fetish for vu meters” , I knew I had to sit back and read for awhile. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got Zeppelin’s Presence spinning through a Pioneer SX-750 while I read about you bringing home the incredible SX-780. I couldn’t agree more that every man should have a fortress of solitude bathed in sound by a vintage system. What is so crazy is after building my kids a media room with a modern 9.2 Atmos system with a laser projector….I keep finding them in my fortress listening to vinyl…
LoL if I get mad they hit me with the perfect excuse…”But DaD, you know how much our generations music sucks!!!”
Touche boys….. touche