Living with the Pioneer SX-1980

Tammy Brown
01 Jul , 2021

Pioneer SX-1980

Mostly, you’re really, really lucky!

Go big or go home! It’s a hulking beast. Even at rest the Pioneer SX-1980 clocks in at 78+ pounds and and is a rare, steel-faced beauty. 

When  you flick the power switch, the whole house knows it as the light dim ever so slightly and a barely perceptible um hangs at the edge of the air. It powers up and lights softly glow. It’s thrilling and we’ve haven’t even played anything…yet.

So what happens when a fly in the vaseline appears in the form of LED lights flickering? Now, I had these light installed when I purchased this creature 6 years ago. It gave a nice, soft glow across the faceplate, much less harsh than the original bulbs.Plus, Gord at Innovation Audio had his own SX-1980 tricked out the same way… so…I just had to.

While the flickering did not seem to have any effect on performance (they would flash even with the system was at rest) it was hella annoying and just not how you want to experience your beast.


How Does One Choose the “Beautiful Monster?!”

I grew up with one. To be more specific, my Mom purchased a Pioneer SX-1980 for $10,000 (I still have the bill of sale) and paired it with  ESS AMT 1B’s speakers. She then had our living room completely renovated to fit her stereo by having the ceiling cut out (literally) to create a vaulted ceiling and then had the walls line with acoustic foam and finally, raw wood panelling, cut piece by piece. The effect was something to behold and I do recall that favourite party tricks included blowing out a match with the ESS speaker’s Heil transformers. During the helicopter’s descent in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the flame would handily extinguish and the crowd would cheer. Good times! 


Moms' Pioneer SX-1980 

Although Mom’s SX-1980 was lost to time, when I was able, I was thrilled to acquire one of my own…. And what happened to the speakers you ask? They are right here in my living room, hooked up to to this SX-1980 and they continue to amaze me…. Pretty much every day.


The Solution… A trip to the Source

With help of friends, the Monster was loaded into a vehicle with great suspension and carefully driven to Innovative Audio in Surrey. Their tech diagnosed the problem as too much power going to the lights. He reduced the flow, replaced the bulbs and we were good to go.


Pioneer SX-1980 on the repair bench


Since then, I’ve learned of local places to get such a repair completed, but in this case, there can be no comprise. I trust the guys at IA implicitly and I know they have loads of first-hand experience with both this exact system and nearly all other vintage equipment.


Stereo technician working on a Pioneer SX-1980


So, What is an SX-1980?

The stuff of fables. Also dubbed “The Beautiful Monster” the SX-1980 is considered one of the largest relievers ever built. Although rated at a staggering 270 watts per channel into 8 ohms, testers have verified that this rating is inaccurate. This beast has been clocked producing more than 460 watts per channel. Wikipedia states, “…This makes the SX-1980 Pioneer's most powerful receiver, as well as being one of the most powerful receivers ever manufactured in the world, to date.” 


Pioneer SX-1980


So, Where Does One Find a Pioneer SX-1980?

In a super-rare confluence of events, the team at Innovative Audio in Surrey, happened to have two available… Exactly at the time when I emailed to inquire. Actually the first had been sold already so I was thrilled to take the second. A smart move as 6 years later they’ve only grown in value and rarity as most of the larger vintage gear. Shout out to Gord, Susan and JR for the great service and attention to detail over the years. You all genuinely rock so well!!


Innovative Audio storefront

Innovative Audio in Surrey BC Canada…. Worth the trip!


Beyond this small adjustment, the Pioneer SX-1980 continues to perform flawlessly and remains thrilling. It is by far, for me, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It gives a rich and immediate resonance to the vinyl, and what could be better than that?


Pioneer SX-1980

She’s a beauty!


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