The Saga Of The Pioneer SX-9000

24 Jul

By Brian M. Howle

These poor, poor kids. I feel so sorry for them. You know, kids today will never know the pure, unbridled joy of owning massive, heavy, powerful and acutely aesthetic stereo systems. And that’s just a doggone, crying shame.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Pioneer SX-9000 AM/FM Stereo Receiver. It *is* a beast. A beautiful, beautiful beast. 70 watts per stereo pair of speakers x 3 pairs of speakers, 210 pure watts total output. With adjustable reverberation for the built-in microphone mixer on the front faceplate, you can essentially transform this baby into the baddest ass of the bad asses of karaoke machines; because you can run a backing track into this baby and do a live mic mix along with it while sending direct to some tape or digital recording format. Clean, convenient use of the home stereo to interact and jam along or sing along with the wide selection of backing tracks that are out there, or make your own mix of rhythm guitars, bass, percussion, keyboards, synth horns and instruments to duplicate entire string sections of philharmonic orchestras. It's a good time to be an audiophile.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Pioneer SX-9000 AM/FM Stereo Receiver. It *is* a beast. A beautiful, beautiful beast. 85 watts per stereo pair of 4 ohm speakers x 3 pairs of speakers, 240 pure watts total music power output. With adjustable reverberation for the built-in microphone mixer on the front faceplate, you can essentially transform this baby into the baddest ass of the bad asses of karaoke machines; because you can run a backing track into this baby and do a live mic mix along with it while sending direct to some tape or digital recording format. Clean, convenient use of the home stereo to interact and jam along or sing along with the wide selection of backing tracks that are out there, or make your own mix of rhythm guitars, bass, percussion, keyboards, synth horns and instruments to duplicate entire string sections of philharmonic orchestras. It’s a good time to be an audiophile.

Perhaps a little background is in order, to bring those of you (probably under the age of 30) scratchin’ your leetle noggins and wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

Just look at the electronics world around you. It is so beyond your comprehension it ain’t even funny, and you don’t have a clue what life was like before micro-sized stereo systems, PC speaker systems and – even worse, home theater systems – came along and ruined the thrill of assembling a component stereo system, the way God planned it.

In the early 1970s, yours truly was living large – young, free and single, life was good. No, really – life was very, very good.

While attending USC in Columbia, I came to the brilliant conclusion that higher education was not for me. I was ready, willing and able to contribute directly to the workforce of our great nation.

At the same time, I had also come to appreciate the finer electronic toys of the day, which presented a rather thorny conundrum: How the hell do you buy top-of-the-line stereo goodies while contributing directly to the workforce of our great nation as a 20-year-old without a college degree, or a job with highly-sought-after skills commensurate with a nice, hefty paycheck?

The answer was, of course, you don’t. But as in many other instances, I never let that stop me from chasing the dream.

So just about every weekend, while my friends and I made blowing the week’s wages on partying and carousing an Olympic event, I made the drive down to Five Points in Columbia, where the town’s high-dollar, avant garde stereo store held my Holy Grail in the window display for all to see and marvel in hallowed Stereo Review awe:

The Pioneer SX-9000.

Now, this bad boy was not just any stereo amplifier/receiver, folks. No, no… this was THE consummate stereo amplifier/receiver. The Cadillac, The Rolls Royce, The Porche, nay; The Ferrari of home audio electronics. If anything ever was, this was all that – and a bag of chips.

Keep in mind that – at the time – most stereos had a volume, balance, tone, function selector (AM, FM, Phono, Aux), a headphone jack, and maybe all of 3 to10 watts of power. As Arnold would say, “Little girlie stereos.”

The SX-9000 was about the size small suitcase, and weighed about as much as a cast-iron engine block.

The size and weight were due to the massive heat sinks of the amplifier, necessary to cool off the ear-splitting 85 watts of power that it cranked out to (get this) up to three pairs of 4 Ohm speakers – each! 240 total watts!

It wasn’t just a brute, though – it had a ton of practical and very cool features: AM and FM (stereo or mono) tuners, 2 tape monitors (and record/playback headphone jacks), 2 phonograph (hey Dad, what’s a phonograph?) inputs, 2 auxiliary inputs (for reel-to-reel tape decks or the newfangled cassette decks), high and low bandpass filters, FM muting and loudness switches.

Need more?

A mini-mixing/recording board, it also boasted stereo microphone inputs with balance controls, input controls, and a built-in reverb unit, assignable to either left, right or both channels. With a reel-to-reel tape deck (with sound-on-sound capability), it was like having your own 4-track recording machine. The Beatles recorded Sgt. Pepper on a 4-track, kids.

I’m tellin’ ya, this thing was just cool as grits.

And prior to this generation of stereos, the old-fashioned tuning needle was the only thing that lit up in the display window.

But the SX-9000 had those new, cutting-edge LEDs that indicated function selection, needle meters for signal strength and tuning, a way-cool oscilloscope-green display for the different tone color selections, and the way, way, way-cool reverberation intensity display, where opposing graphic lines crossed as the reverb was turned up.

And, unlike the other units, all of these features were accessible through the front panel! Brilliant!

To top it all off, the whole thing was all encased in a gorgeous, oiled, real-wood Oak cabinet. Sweeeeeeet!

Much like the way that Wayne Campbell would slide by the music shop and play the Stratocaster – only to put it back on display in the movie, “Wayne’s World” – I went in every Saturday and chatted with the sales guys, theoretically putting together my dream system.

But at $500 (about $10,000 in today’s money), the likelihood of my owning an SX-9000 was about as likely as me hooking up with, say, Linda Ronstadt. (Hey, my motto was: If you’re gonna dream, dream big.)

And since dreams are free, we went all out: Advent’s large speaker cabinets (in tandem, no less; that meant 2 speakers on each side, stacked for maximum frequency range; a Dual 1228 turntable (hey Dad, what’s a turntable?), and an Akai 12” Reel-to-Reel tape recorder. All told, I would have had to shell out around $2,500 for the whole shootin’ match.

My annual income at the time was about $5,000. Do the math, and feel the pain.

Sometimes, on Sunday, I would drive back down there and just press my leetle nose against the window, dreaming of the day my Playboy-approved bachelor’s pad would showcase my eclectic, expensive and oh-so-happenin’-with-the-ladies taste in music. Sigh

Of course, that bastard Monday always rolled around, and while I rolled wheelbarrows of cement back and forth on the construction site of the nuclear power plant site where I worked as a laborer, the reality was oh, so unkind.

A couple of weeks later – after I figured out that the market for wheelbarrow pilots was pretty much flooded – I discovered a career in graphic arts, working for printing companies, newspapers and magazines.

Ah yes, the big time had finally arrived.

Now, there was still no way I could afford my dream system. But after I began working for a local buy & sell classified shopping publication called – cleverly enough – The Horry News & Shopper, I realized that I could place a wanted-to-buy ad for something nearly as good as what I wanted, and still be able to afford it. Brilliant!

So, I made my little 1 column x 1 inch ad and waited for the fortuitous calls that would fulfill my dreams to start pouring in.

And sure enough, a former serviceman called me with not one, not two, but three complete stereo systems for sale. Seems he couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted, so he bought all three and then compared them in his living room, each system for a week.

Man, he must have been one hell of a wheelbarrow specialist in whatever part of the world that he was stationed.

There were two Pioneer systems (the smallest units they made) that didn’t really jazz me … but the third system was anchored by a Marantz 2240.

Well, it was no SX-9000, but it was dang close. Marantz was a top-name manufacturer, and with 40-watts x 2 channels, did the job of impressing friends and family just fine.

I paid $100 cash for it, on the spot, and he packed it back up in the original carton and even gently placed it in the back seat of my car for me.

Later, I picked up a used turntable (hey Dad, what’s a turntable?) at a pawn shop for about $20; and as fate would have it, a new colleague at work had a couple of used Advent speakers that I obtained in exchange for installing his car stereo (what a maroon that guy was). I then proceeded to play each and every one of my 2,500-plus albums (hey Dad, what’s an album?) with sincere, unabashed glee.

That is, until one of my friend’s unemployed, redneck roommates and her equally unemployed, redneck boyfriend broke into our house in broad daylight – while we were at work – and stole all of it (though we didn’t know this at the time). And they also stole my roommate’s gun collection (about a dozen different firearms, from black powder pistols to an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle).

Enraged, I couldn’t stand the resulting silence – along with that mocking empty spot in the living room – and I ran down to the mall and bought a cheaper, wannabe Technics system thru a finance company, with loanshark interest rates.

Which should tell you how much I wanted happenin’ tunes in my humble abode.

That little system filled my needs for a decade, and I eventually put together a slightly better system over time.

A few years later, I found out – undeniably – who stole our stuff, but God had already equalled the score with them through a series of accidents, personal losses and jail time for other crimes that they committed, so I just let it go.

Oh, I wanted to kick that sorry sack of crap’s butt to within an inch of his life – but I did the Christian thing, turned the other cheek and let it go.

And as it should be, the Good Lord took note.

About two years ago, I briefly worked for a classified shopper, which has since gone belly up. But while I was there, I befriended a young girl in the sales department. 30 years my junior, she shared a love of music that made us best buds at work – and along the way, I told her the story of the SX-9000.

One day, she approached me for advice on what to do with a box of stereo components that her crazy landlady had – for some reason – decided to bequeath to her, out of the blue. I told her to bring them to the office and I would appraise their worth, and she could then sell them thru our paper.

The next day, she brought them in. There was an older Panasonic unit, a fairly new Radio Shack Optimus unit, and, down at the bottom …

One mint-condition Pioneer SX-9000. Which she gave to me.

Yeah, if you’re gonna dream, dream big. And don’t forget to turn the other cheek.

Anyone know where Linda Ronstadt is these days?
The previous article was originally published in the October 5, 2006 issue of Alternatives NewsMagazine.


Posted by on July 24, 2009 in Along The Watchtower


25 responses to “The Saga Of The Pioneer SX-9000

  1. Fermi Implosive

    May 4, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Great article. I agree, beautiful amp with an ability to drive most any speaker I’ve thrown at it, including a pair of magnepan MGII (albeit at lower volumes.) This has been one of two amps in my main system for years now. I’ve many other quality vintage amps by Kenwood, Harman Kardon, Nikko, Yamaha, Denon and Realistic, but there’s something about the warmth of this Pioneer that just can’t be matched. I absolutely love it.

    Highly recommend purchase, but if not in great condition, be prepared for some possible repair headaches. Fortunately, mine’s still running like new. As someone already mentioned above, if you pick one up with no sound, check the two fuses at the back, could be a simple fix as these are easy to blow if someone hooks up speakers incorrectly.


  2. Kendall williams

    October 17, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Found one in the trash……brought it home..hooked it up….Powers sound


    • Bill

      October 18, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Are you freaking kidding me????
      Find a good repair shop, it’ll be worth the effort to get it fixed
      Thanks for saving it!!
      Lucky dog…


    • Mark Lindsey

      October 18, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Check the fuse in the back. Could also be the output transistors.


    • bhowle

      October 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      There is a repair/restoration company in Litchfield, CT that works on many models from various manufacturers, including Pioneer… I have no connection with them, but here is their email address if you would like to contact them and get an estimate for the repair:


  3. Hunter Gunnell

    October 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    I’m 18 was born in 1999 I have an SX9000 that was my grandfathers and he bought it new it has the t jacks in the back and is a true survivor he had it in his garage when I was younger around 6-7 and saw it and asked him about it he said it was really expensive but he couldn’t get it to work. Well I started toying around with it and got it to turn on and I found a station then he looked at me and asked me how I got t to work to this day I still don’t know how, but he gave it to me one Christmas and I’ve had ever it evercence then I know its a hause. Also mine has the pioneer cs-77a speakers that came with it new I need a new master volume switch though


    • Charles Williams

      October 15, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      I own one of these fabulous pioneers. . Warm sounding. Not bright like 50 series. Everything works, lights,controls, reverb etc. Very powerfully. Purchased this and 99a’s from original owner, who purchased together. All 3 pieces are mint. I would suggest if you haven’t owned one of these and have a chance, DO NOT PASS UP.


  4. chuck

    August 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Picked mine up off craigslist from original owner along with a pr of pioneer cs99a “FB cone” all 3 pieces are mint, just redone it howards restore finish. Look and sound amazing. Have a lot in collection but this early pioneer is actual better sounding than the 50 series pioneer


  5. Robert Nordyke

    December 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I ran across this article looking for info on cleaning and putting my SX-9000 back into service after languishing 30+ years in my basement. I still have the Pioneer speakers, Dual turntable, and AKAI reel-to reel I brought back from Vietnam.


  6. Dave

    February 2, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I had this back in the day. Bought it when I was in Viet Nam, never saw it till I got home. She had sum power!!! Might still have it sumwhere. Paid like $200 for it. Bought Pioneer speakers that had a 15 or 16″ woofer in it along with 4 or 5 other cones. I had a bad set-up for the time lol


    • Steve

      February 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      I have mine still. Bought the receiver in ’72 for $500 and then got the speakers with the 15″ woofers. It was pretty hard to beat. Need to find somewhere to get it checked out.


      • Bill

        February 5, 2016 at 5:05 pm

        I got my SX9000 back in 77 along with the PL61 turntable, matched her up with a pair of Sansui SP2500’s. This Beautiful Beast has been kicking butt up till a couple years back when an amp went out, I cried like a baby. I hadnt had the time but will be looking for someone reputable to fixer up, and a new belt for the turntable. There aint nothin like it!!!


  7. Rick

    April 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    I have an S 9000 for sale. I brought it back with me from Viet Nam in ’72.


  8. Tower D'power

    February 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    i’m gonna print this article and shovee it next to my defunct SX 9000 on display in my listening area next to my other non functioning legends (phase linear 700a, yamaha b2, sx 1050, sansui cant recall et al) this an amp worth keeping even when not working. it’s liberates you to set it in the hands of a youngster. hand him a back support too for full effect. love the story


  9. Kyle

    June 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Enjoyed reading this very much. I picked up one of those amazing sx-9000’s that you talk about and I also share the love of music. I must say, I absolutely love this thing. So warm and deep sounding. I picked mine up for $30, it was very dirty, cord cut, and the case was beat to all heck. Funny thing was, I was given a mint case the week before as if to say here!! Hold on to this because you’re going to need this case for your new 9000. I am going to spend the money to have it completely rebuilt but in the mean time the old Pioneer still sounds great.


  10. Cody

    July 8, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I’m a 16 year old who just found one of these in my grandpa’s basement and i wanted to use it as an amp head for my bass. I just ran my bass through the microphone input and the audio out of the Auxiliary and into my speakers. This seemed to work, but i feel the speaker outlets would be much better. But what in the world kind of connectors do they use and where can i get them?


    • Mark Lindsey

      September 23, 2014 at 10:45 am

      The plugs are stupid expensive and you can find them at shops that are parting out the unit on the internet. In any case, just run to Home Depot or Lowes and get some spade lugs in the electrical department. That will work.

      If you want to get fancy, take a PVC pipe cap, cut the holes for the lugs at the correct spacing and fill the holes with the spade lugs and some putty. Lightly coat the cap with oil and fill it with epoxy. After curing, cut the cap away or push the epoxy insert out.


  11. jacob wilson

    June 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Say, I have an sx9000, its been so long since I have played it, I am sure that it still plays, however, I need the three adapters that plugs into the back of it to hook up the speakers; could someone please give me a call, let me know where I can get some, my phone # is 8034557072, also have the even bigger sx3000, its dead though [power amp section really messed up] trying to get it fixed, but I anyone out there nice enough to call me then please do so thanks. ask for jake ps, the adapters were lost during a move some years ago, haven’t found any since then so, someone help, me out. would appreciate it very much, thanks again


  12. Doug

    May 10, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Nice read. I was barely into my sixth year of life when dad came home with the new sx-9000 I found one a few weeks ago in perfect condition on a popular web list site for, ahem, $35 ( Dad, whats a wheelbarrow?)


    • Bob Y asenka

      September 23, 2014 at 4:30 am

      I have a sx900 I bought in korea in 1971 along with a akai 280d reel to reel, also 2 of the sweetest sounding sansui 3500 speakers. to float my albums I embraced my pioneer pl 50 turntable. as a matter of fact after 43 years I look across the family room and hit the power switch on that very same sx9000, and listen to some very old kimshi records if I could only find one of the many tapes I recorded trough the sx9000 with my friends voices dubed in by way of the sound on sound it seem as if I could go back to those days. components are still my first choice remarkable they still work great after all these years .


  13. Mark Lindsey

    February 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

    I have an SX 9000. I still love the sound. Bought it in 1977 for $300 when I was in college.

    If you are interested in buying it, drop me a line. I am moving and need to downsize


  14. Robert Hallman

    October 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I have a SX-9000 & had SP-2000 speakers but my church sold the speakers at a yard sale.I do have a Also M-10 reel to reel plus some original release reels like 10 Treats After, Paul McCartney, Butterfield Blues Band, and more.That amp could shake the neighborhood!


    • Robert Hallman

      October 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Sorry about the typos above. Also should be Akai and Treats should be Years. So that should be a Akai M-10 and 10 Years After.


  15. Derek

    September 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Terrific article, and I share your passion.


    • Steve

      March 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      I still have mine I bought new in 71. Have’nt powered it up in years so I don’t know what would happen. Still have my Pioneer speakers with the 15″ woofers. I really should hook them and see what happens. They sounded so awesome back then really loud and very little distortion.



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