In our earlier article on Technics SU-7700 we mentioned that we were not fans of this brand. Most Technics amps look dull and sound mediocre at best (too flat or just not quite to our taste). But there are exceptions and one of them recently ended up in Audio Room.
Technics SU-VX800 is an integrated amplifier from the early 90s. It was also marketed as Panasonic SU-VX800 in Asia. It was one of the highest models at the time, with only SU-MA10 and SU-VX900 above it. Equipped with almost everything your heart might desire (except for remote control and separate preamplifier and power amplifier sections), it also sports a few additional, unusual solutions. The latter include EDD (Extended Direct Drive), which is comes down to connecting an input directly to the voltage amplifier and offers about 10 dB better S/N ratio at low volume, and accompanying standard (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs, as well as a phono stage that supports moving coil cartridges, and a tone control defeat button.
The amplifier has a typical late 80s and early 90s design – a simple, dark block with fairly well-spaced switches and regulators. Speaker posts are decent, the amplifier supports two pairs of loudspeakers with impedance from 8 ohms or 1 pair of loudspeakers with impedance from 4 ohms. At the speaker posts and switch we have a proudly sounding word biwiring (which means that if the speaker has a suitable terminal, the signal for each speaker is supplied with two cables, one for the woofer, the other for the midrange driver and tweeter) and the amplifier does allow for this type of connection – just like virtually any other amplifier. In contrast, the AC socket is the most ordinary “figure 8” type, which would not be out of place in a CD player, but in the amplifier with power consumption up to 870 W it is a bit surprising. The socket itself is not a problem, but cables with matching plugs are more suitable for a bedside lamp than for a powerful amp.
Pop the hood and things are get even more interesting. Twin transformers (although it’s not a dual mono amplifier) and large, 15,000uF capacitors mean a more than good power supply. A large heat sink also inspires confidence, and outputs on it are actual transistors – the power amp is discreet, not based on ICs like in most Technics amps. There are ICs elsewhere in this amplifier, but not many of them. Wires are also few, although the boards screwed to the front plate (with switches and controls) are connected with the main board by ribbons. Generally, the interior of the amplifier makes a very good impression, and in fact the only thing that I find questionable is that not all transistors have heat sinks – and traces of overheating on the board indicate that they should.
The amplifier came to us because of the fading and disappearing sound in one of the channels at low and medium volume. This behavior is usually caused by bad solder joints (less often) or dirt and oxides on the contacts of switches, potentiometers and relays (more often). This case was no different – the perpetrators were the source selector switch, the balance potentiometer and, to a lesser extent, the volume potentiometer. Cleaning removed the symptoms and sound returned to the affected channel. We also cleaned the relays to be on the safe side.
I admit that we expected a good sound from this amplifier. While we don’t like the brand, its design and high position in the catalogue obliges. Fortunately it did not disappoint during the listening session (but it did not exceed our expectations either). The amplifier simply sounds as decently as it looks. The sound is balanced, without going to extremes in any direction, the amplifier is neither aggressive nor mellow. Slightly warm sound signature is a good thing here, it gives a bit more pleasant listening experience. Bass is full and well controlled, mids are smooth and pleasant, highs are clear and not too sharp. No part of the frequency range seems to be recessed or overly exposed, all are very clear, but not to the point of “clinical” sound. The amplifier creates a noticeable soundstage – for a Technics. Meaning the sound escapes from the speakers, but the holographic effect is not particularly strong, with more width than depth. In short, the amplifier offered a pleasant, quite neutral sound, although at times it lacked character and was not very engaging. But it sure doesn’t lack power. 110 watts per channel declared by the manufacturer is not a joke, the solid PS also does its job. The amplifier sounded very well at low volume, and after cranking it up to our pain threshold it just got louder and that’s it – the sound was still full without losing coherence, resolution and control.
A big advantage of this balanced, rather neutral sound combined with high power is that the amplifier will be fairly easy to pair with loudspeakers, regardless of their character. But it’s better to match it with speakers that have good soundstage themselves, because the amplifier will not improve things much in this respect.
Technics SU-VX800 is a powerful, generally well-made, functional amplifier with a very decent sound. We can certainly recommend it to fans of the brand – they will get a really good amp with their favorite logo slapped on. But with a 200-300 euros price tag it’s not really cheap. You can find a Harman/Kardon HK 6550 for half that, and while the Harman has a bit less power, in real life you won’t hear in most situations, and to us it sounds better than the Technics. So if it does not have to be a Technics, look at other options too, there are a lot of them under 300 euros.
Manufacturer: Technics (Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.)
Production years: 1991-92
Power (RMS): 2x110W (8 ohms), 2x160W (4 ohms)
Harmonic distortion (THD): 0,007%,
Intermodulation distortion (IM): 0,009%
Damping factor: 80 (8 ohms), 40 (4 ohms)
Speakers: 4-16 ohms
Tuner, CD Aux, Tape 1, Tape 2/DAT, Adaptor: 150 mV, 22 kOhm
Phono (MC): 250 uV, 220 Ohm (max. 15 mV)
Phono (MM): 2,5 mV, 47 kOhm (max. 170 mV)
Extended Direct Drive (Unbalanced): 1V, 10 kOhm
Extended Direct Drive (Balanced): 1V, 20 kOhm
Phono (MM): standard RIAA curve +/- 0,8 dB, 30 Hz-15kHz
Tuner, CD Aux, Tape 1, Tape 2/DAT, Adaptor: 4Hz-150kHz (-3dB), 20Hz-20kHz (-0,2dB)
Extended Direct Drive: 4Hz-170kHz (-3dB), 20Hz-20kHz (-0,2dB)
Signal/noise ratio (S/N) (rated power):
Phono (MC): 67 dB
Phono (MM): 79 dB
Tuner, CD Aux, Tape 1, Tape 2/DAT, Adaptor: 100 dB
Extended Direct Drive (Unbalanced): 106 dB
Extended Direct Drive (Balanced): 99 dB
Signal/noise ratio (S/N) (-26 dB):
Phono (MC): 67 dB
Phono (MM): 78 dB
Tuner, CD Aux, Tape 1, Tape 2/DAT, Adaptor: 88 dB
Extended Direct Drive (Unbalanced): 102 dB
Extended Direct Drive (Balanced): 98 dB
Treble: +/- 10 dB na 20 kHz
Bass: +/- 10 dB na 50 Hz
Loudness filter: +10 dB na 50 Hz przy -30 dB
Subsonic filter: 20 Hz, -12 dB/oct.
Power consumption max: 870W
Dimensions: 430 x 158 x 429 mm
Weight: 17 kg