Technics SA-202 Stereo Receiver and Integrated Amplifier Review
The Technics SA-202
In this article, I will be reviewing the early 1980s solid-state Technics SA-202 FM-AM stereo receiver.
This early 1980s receiver and integrated amplifier was a modestly priced piece of HiFi equipment that most households could afford.
At a rated 30 watts per channel, it was no powerhouse compared to it's larger cousins such as the earlier SA-600, but it made enough power to fill a room when paired with efficient speakers.
The input selections are limited to phono, aux and a tape loop.
The front panel is simple, with toggle switches controlling power, main and remote speaker selection, loudness, the tape monitor, and an FM stereo/mono/muting switch.
The swept knobs control bass, treble, balance, volume and tuning. The input selector knob is rotational, and there is also a 1/4" stereo headphone jack.
1980 Technics SA-202
FM Signal Strength and Stereo Indicator Lights
Build Quality and Aesthetics of the Technics SA-202
While attractive enough, the Technics SA-202, being on the low end of consumer HiFi audio prices, did cut corners on some of the material used to build the case of this integrated amplifier.
The sides of the case are particle board that is covered with a faux wood-grain laminate, or possibly vinyl sticker. The top is a faux wood-grain of the same type laid on metal.
The underside is perforated MDF, about 3/8" thick.
The faceplate is brushed aluminum, done quite nicely, and is not thin.
For an inexpensive model, the knobs and switches are quite nice, feel to be high quality, and have good engagement when switched or turned. The toggle switches snap firmly into position with ease, and have no 'slop' or play.
The swept knobs, such as volume and tone controls, have a nice bit of heaviness to them, and feel very solid. The tuner knob has a weighted feel, and will continue to rotate a half turn on it's own if spun quickly enough.
The input selector knob snaps firmly into position at each selection, without being difficult to turn.
The tuners rear bezel is also brushed aluminum, with the frequencies easy to read. It is well lit with white light when the unit is powered on.
There is one power light on the left hand beneath the tuning bezel, and five tuning-strength lights as well as one "FM Stereo" indicator on the right.
Overall, this is a simple, easy to see and use front control design.
Since this is a no-frills amplifier, there are very few bells and whistles from which to choose on this model. There are 5 fewer knobs, buttons and jacks on this amplifier than even my mid-range Pioneer SX-727.
In a way, it's almost refreshing not to be required to fiddle with this amp. It gives you some sound shaping choices, some inputs, and a way to make it change the volume. At the end of the day, what more do you really need?
Rear Panel Connections
Technics SA-202 Rear Panel
The rear panel of the Technics SA-202, not surprisingly, is as simple as the front panel.
The antenna connectors are standard split blade type connector terminals, that use finger-tightened knobs to push teeth down onto the connection plate.
There are four sets of RCA plugs on the back panel.
- Phono in. This is where you connect your record player.
- Aux in. This is where a CD player, DVD player, reel to reel, secondary cassette deck or any other audio device would be plugged in.
- Tape monitor record out. This is where a signal is sent to a recording device, such as a cassette deck or reel to reel would be attached for recording.
- Tape monitor playback. This is where the "out" from the device plugged into the "tape monitor record" would be plugged, and is the input from that device for playback from it.
When using the "tape monitor record out" and "tape monitor playback", the device must be able to pass the signal back to the amplifier when in use, so that it can be heard. It is fine to use just the playback jacks with any playback device such as a VCR, CD player, computer or television.
The tape monitor loop may also be used for an inline external EQ.
The speaker wire connectors on the Technics SA-202 are a clever and easy to use rotating design.
Simply insert the stripped end of the wire into the hole in the center, and rotate the connector clockwise until it snaps into place in a horizontal position.
This design is much easier to use than many typical connectors, such as spring clips or the proprietary late 70's Pioneer removable speaker connectors which often are lost and difficult to buy.
It's also easier than soldering RCA or banana clips that some amplifiers use onto the end of your speaker wires.
Also on the back panel is the circuit protection 3.0 amp fuse box. These fuses help protect the amplifier from damage if a speaker becomes unplugged or damaged during use.
The removal of one phillips screw allows easy replacement of the left and right channel circtuit protection fuses.
Finally, there is (not pictured) an unswitched power outlet with a maximum 150v draw for plugging in CD decks, cassette decks, or similar low-draw devices for power.
Clean and restore your Potentiometers and Switches
My Technics SA-202
As you may have read in my article on finding classic HiFi equipment at bargain prices, I enjoy hunting down old stereo equipment and getting the best prices I can on this great old gear.
Since it is a hobby, and nothing that I need to have, if an auction price goes too high or someone gets it before I do, I don't mind much. More will come along, and occasionally I'll get a great bargain on something.
This Technics SA-202 came to me in exactly that manner.
I found this integrated amplifier on eBay, listed with no reserve.
The description said "For parts or not working", but in the description it said it had been "power tested". That means it had been powered up, and had been observed as "turning on".
I took a chance, and put a very low maximum bid on it.
The auction ended at $9.99, with a shipping fee of $19.99.
For a total of $30.00 dollars shipped, I figured even if it were broken, I could probably fix it myself for minimal cost, and if I couldn't, I had only lost $30.00.
It arrived, and I plugged it in to a CD player and some speakers. Imagine my delight when it powered on, and sent power to both speakers!
The first thing I noticed was that the volume knob caused crackles and pops when turned down between the "0" and "3" positions.
This behavior is often caused by oxidation on the contacts of potentiometers and switches. There are many products available to clean and restore the contact areas of electronic equipment. I use Deoxit products on many things, old motorcycle switches, old stereo equipment, and old amplifiers and guitar electronics.
I unplugged the SA-202, and used Deoxit D5 to clean all the potentiometers and switches. Different amplifiers (and other equipment) require different stages of disassembly to properly apply these products.
Luckily, it was a simple process for me.
The oxidation on the volume knob was pretty bad on this amplifier, so it took 4 applications to remedy the problem. The other potentiometers and switches were fine, but there was no reason not to clean them up while I was doing so to the volume knob.
Always follow the instructions of whichever product you use for this process. Not doing so could ruin your equipment.
This SA-202 looks like it had been unused for a while, probably put up when the volume potentiometer started making too much noise for the previous owner.
While dusty, it looked like it had been taken care of. There were no scratches or stains anywhere on the unit, other than a small scratch on the curved portion of the volume knob, which cannot be seen when looking at the front of the amplifier.
Someone had put scotch tape on a couple of the knobs and on the aluminum face. I peeled off the old tape, and used a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol to remove the adhesive that had stayed behind.
I used canned air to blow off the dust both externally and internally, and got ready to test this simple little integrated amplifier out.
Subjective Listening Test of the Technics SA-202
Since this is a low powered amplifier, I decided to pair it with three different sets of compact speakers for the listening tests.
- Pinnacle PN-60
- Technics SB-R200
- Sony SS-CCP1
The Pinnacle PN-60's are a little large to call bookshelf speakers, but small enough to be placed off the floor in most instances.
The Technics SB-R200's are a thin wall mount design. While they are nearly two feet wide and one-and-a-half feet tall, they are a mere four inches thick, and can be hung on the wall and out of the way. The small cabinet design does limit low-frequency response.
The Sony SS-CCP1 is a small set of 6 Ohm speakers that originally shipped with various mini-stereo systems. Though certainly not power houses, they sound good and are small enough to be placed just about anywhere.
The music for these tests was as follows:
- Nine Horses - Snow Borne Sorrow
- Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III
- Janos Starker - Bach's Cello Suites
Subjective listening test with Nine Horses and the Technics SA-202.
The music of nine horses has big open spaces, beautifully recorded double bass, strings, guitar, male and female vocals, and percussion, as well as a few electronic bits of noise here and there.
The SA-202 with the Pinnacles sounded just plain brilliant with Nine Horses. The staging was quite good, though not quite as good as my Harman Kardon HK-930. The stereo separation didn't seem as clear with the SA-202. I can't be sure why, but it may have something to do with the fact that the Harman Kardon has completely separate power supplies for each channel. The bass on the SA-202, however, did seem punchier than the Harman Kardon, while the mid-range sounded just a little less smooth.
Listening to Nine Horses through the Technics SB-R200 was a different experience. The large frequency holes in the music really make apparent that the bass response of the speakers is somewhat lacking. This is not the fault of the SA-202, though. The highs and mid-range were crisp enough, though I prefer the sound of my Stromberg Carlson ASR-433 tube amplifier, which 'mellows' out the sound, with these Technics SB-R200.
Playing Nine Horses through the Sony SS-CCP1 provided a reasonable listening experience. At lower volumes, the sound was balanced and pleasant. At higher volumes, however, the sound became a bit boomy. I think that the small speakers are designed to resonate at around 60Hz, and the SA-202 seems to have a small bump in signal at around this frequency, so that boomy-ness was accentuated. With the simple bass and treble controls of the SA-202, there was no way to tune this boomy-ness out without losing frequencies below this.
Subjective listening test with Led Zeppelin and the Technics SA-202.
Moving on to Led Zeppelin, I noted a similar boomy-ness with the Pinnacles and the SA-202, though it was less pronounced than the SS-CCP1's and the SA-202 while listening to Nine Horses. The sound stage was quite good, and especially noticeable with the heavy instrument panning so prevalent on this album. Separation, again, was not as good as with Harman Kardon. but still very good.
The SA-202 paired with the SB-R200's really shined with Led Zeppelin. The recording frequencies pushed with the album, the SB-R200's frequency response range, and the SA-202's frequency characteristics really came together to create a pleasant and invigorating listening experience. Everything seemed well matched in this configuration, and I was able to push the system a little more without any changes in those characteristics at higher volume levels.
Moving on to the small Sony's, I had a similar experience as I did with SB-R200's, but at a lower volume. The SA-202, though rated at barely over 30 watts per channel, makes more than enough power to cook these tiny speakers. The 6 Ohm rating also means that the power output is a bit more from the SA-202 at the same knob setting than with the other 8 ohm speakers.
Subjective listening test with Janos Starker and the Technics SA-202.
Janos Starker has made one of my favorite recordings of Bach's Cello Suites.
The SA-202 paired with the Pinnacle PN-60's gave a, in my opinion, flawless performance. From subfrequencies to harmonics, from intake of breath to change in bow pressure, when I closed my eyes I almost felt like Janos was in the room with me.
Both the SB-R200's and the SS-CCP1's delivered reasonable sound, but fell short on the subfrequencies, and again with the limited tone control of the SA-202, I couldn't bring up the frequencies that were lacking without accentuating the "boomy" frequencies.
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Loudness, Tuner, and Final Thoughts on the SA-202
I did experiment with the "Loudness" control of the Technics SA-202 to see if I could alleviate some of the boomy-ness I experienced with this integrated amplifier and the speaker selections I chose.
The loudness seemed to increase bass frequencies far more than the treble frequencies, and at anything over the "1" setting on the volume, really did nothing positive for the sound.
I could not use the loudness switch in conjunction with the bass control to change the boomy issues in any positive way.
The tuner is quite nice, pulls in a very strong signal, and has very good stereo separation. The gearing on the tuning knob allows for very fine tuning to get the best signal possible.
Overall, the Technics SA-202 is a solid classic integrated amplifier, released in 1980, which still used 1970s HiFi technology. Build quality is quite good, even if the materials are not "premium".
Though officially rated at 30 watts per channel, this is probably underrated. Played through the Pinnacle and Technics speakers, it was, for me, uncomfortably loud past the "6" setting in volume in a 200 square foot room.
Sonically, it holds it's own against Pioneers and similar integrated amplifiers from a few years earlier, rated at similar output, for (currently) less than a quarter of the price.
At a mere 9 3/4" deep, this unit can fit on very shallow bookcases or shelves.
If you need to fill a room of 150 to 300 square feet with music, enjoy simple controls and connections, and like the brushed aluminum front bezel and quality knobs and switches, there are very few receivers that can match this Technics SA-202 at it's current average price.
A simple, but high quality, equalizer would go a long way towards rectifying the boomy-ness that this amplifier exhibits with some music paired with some speakers. Of course, pairing this amplifier with larger speakers would probably eliminate the boomy-ness as well.
I'm happy to own this receiver, and am thrilled by the price I got it for.
|Preamp Unit||Power Amplifier|
Input Sensitivity High Level
180 (Tape 1, REC/PLAY) 150 (AUX) mV
Continuous Power 4Ω:
34+34 (1kHz) - 30+30 (30-20k Hz) Watts
Input Impedance High Level
Continuous power 8Ω
32+32 (1kHz) - 30+30 (30-20k Hz) Watts
Frequency Response High Level
20 to 20k (±0.8 dB) HZ
0.04 (8 Ω) 0.08 (4 Ω)% at rated output
Quinn on March 22, 2016:
Hey guys, I just bought a Technics SA-202, with the people guaranteeing me it was functional. I've now plugged it in, and it powered on, showing receiving on the radio stations I know to exist, have now attached speakers to it, but am getting no sound, can anyone help me get this thing going, or make some recommendations on what I should do? It powers on, and I know I am hooking up the speakers right, but I can't get any sound. Is there some trick I am missing, or did I just get taken by the people that told me it worked. It is in the original boxes, and looks like brand new, but I can't get it any sound. Any help you could give me would be appreciated. I got the turntable that they also had, and they showed me where the belt had deteriorated, so I knew I had to get a new belt for that, but I can't get anything out of the receiver. I just wanted to be able to play some old vinyl again, but I don't have any tech savvy to be able to determine what is wrong. I'm hoping it's something stupid I haven't noticed, because they swore to me it worked. Any help would be appreciated.
Andrew on December 16, 2015:
In December 2015 I bought an SA-202 at a garage sale for the equivalent of US$12. I bought it expecting there to be issues, but knowing that I could possibly repair it, as 1980's equipment was built to last for many years and designed to be repaired at the component level. Surprisingly most functions worked at initial switch on, the volume control was noisy but it was only noisy when set to the loudness mode. I noticed that the volume control is actually a dual ganged potentiometer and one of the gangs (the noisy one) is for the loudness function which I will never use anyway. However the main problem is that only one channel is operating and this is most likely due to a faulty STK-0029 power amplifier module and/or the driver transistor. I found the schematic on the internet and am now troubleshooting at a component level, which is easy to do as the main circuit board is single sided with large tracks and solder pads. And of course I have the working channel to use as a reference for voltage levels etc. If it turns out to be a faulty STK-0029, they are still available, or I might retrofit a more modern power IC module. To be continued...
demort71 on June 29, 2014:
As I said a couple of weeks ago, I intended to purchase one of the lower end Technics models under the SA-505. I wound up picking up a SA-202, humble and unassuming as it might be, or at least until you turn it on. Its sound quality is like that of the bigger SA-505. It is very clean and defined when paired with efficient speakers. (Sorry, I don't have crummy speakers with cheap paper drivers to test it on! LOL). I tested it with Polk Audio Monitor 5A (with the Peerless tweeters) and a pair of rare Harvard 1500 speakers.
The Harvard 1500s are 2-way 8 ohm. They feature coated cloth woofers and a 2 1/2" ferro-fluid filled tweeter. These were a very nice house brand speaker marketed by Silo Electronics back in about 1980.
I enjoy the SA-202 at normal listening levels (under 5) as much as the SA-505. The THD rating is .04% like the 505. Again I played a modified Technics direct drive table (SL-D303) with upgraded RCA cables to test it.
I have owned numerous other receivers/amps in the past 2 years that were made in the late 70s to 1982. That includes mid-sized Sansui receivers and amps (56-120W), Pioneer SX780 and SX3700, Yamaha CR models, and a smaller Marantz. This little receiver has a better sound than all of those in my opinion, as does the 505. I still have Sansui rec./amps BTW and won't give them up.
If you want a very lifelike sound, with healthy lower end output, then even this 60Watt SA-202 will make you happy. The Pioneer, Yamaha and Marantz receivers don't hold a candle to these Technics models in my opinion and I mean that in no uncertain terms!
Technics had weak marketing on their amp & receiver line back in the day, so they didn't get the press or sales they should have gotten. People still don't know about them and that is good for people like me!
Case in point...I was on vacation the past week in Washington state. When visiting a vintage record shop in Seattle, I noticed a forlorn looking receiver sitting on a windowsill in the shop. Checking it out, I discovered it was a SA-505. I immediately inquired if the shop would sell it to me. The shopkeeper replied with a quick "NO". They had recently been using it to let vinyl shoppers check out and listen to used records on until the table barfed. I agreed with him that this model receiver was worth keeping. That is my advice to you, keep it, if you get one!
demort71 on June 11, 2014:
I just bought a SA-505 Tech. receiver for a total investment of $70 with shipping off of eBay. I paid $30 for it. What a bargain it has proven to be. This is the 126W biggest brother of the SA-202. What I read is that the SA-505 was built in the mid-70s (1975-78). It looks like or should I say the SA-202 looks like it?
BTW-it puts on a good light show too with its power output bars!
At any rate this is the best receiver I have ever owned! The rest of my receivers and amps are Sansui from the late 70s and that company made some good stuff Menard!
I have the receiver paired with Polk Audio Monitor 5 and 7 speakers, both running Peerless tweeters. At any rate the SA-505 is a super clean machine. Definition is fantastic and precise, no matter the type of music. All tones are well balanced. I play only vinyl, using Technics tables made in the late 70s with upgraded RCA cables. Cartridges vary widely, but are all vintage and moving magnet types.
The eBay seller was impressed with the sound of the SA-505. He claimed to be a audiophile, owning two Mac tube amps and a Scott. That makes him a audiophile in my book too with that much top end hardware! So if it impressed him and then little old me, why not you too?
I am going to try out one of the other lesser receiver models from this series of Technics products because I am really impressed with the 505!