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I probably should be holding off on creating this thread but I've been so slack lately that I haven't had anything to post about and the lack of anything to write has me breaking out in hives so I thought, what the heck. Maybe there is no time like the present. Deep breaths, deep breaths and here we go. OK so... this was bound to happen eventually. I’ve found I like a certain manufacturer so much I just couldn’t help myself and went and bought up several of their amps to see which one sounds the best to me. I would like to start at the beginning of this story but that would just be confusing since I didn’t buy them in order and they certainly didn’t arrive in order and I started buying them long before I made the decision to buy the rest of them and turn the whole ordeal into a massive comparison. So I’m going to start where I feel the beginning should have been and then I’ll try to move on towards where I think the middle should be, and then on to the logical conclusion. Things will be much less disjointed that way. A little history behind the decision, I bought the Sansui Alpha 907NRA back in December 2016 and liked it so much I hatched a plan. I would buy another Sansui Alpha, have a bit of a listen to that and then use this second amp as a trade/gift/incentive to get either Pete_mac or Skippy124 to give the NRA a full service. It seemed like a good idea at the time so I went for it. Unfortunately the second amp (an Alpha 907DR) had performance issues on arrival and has spent most of its time in Oz sitting with my nominated tech/repairer, so that plan didn’t really turn out as conceived. While I was waiting for the DR to arrive I found this thread on AudioKarma: http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/what-would-be-the-best-sansui-amplifier-for-sound-quality.450432/ And that started me down the track I would take that ends in this thread being created. I just wanted to know, and I wanted to know badly enough to decide to do something about it. I really shouldn’t have, it hasn’t been kind to my financial situation, but I decided to and I did and there’s no point in worrying about things that are now in the past (unless you regret the decision, and I most certainly do not, so it’s all good). The thread above is a long one but the thing which stood out to me was that the NRA was not a clear front runner. Of the Alpha series the general consensus, and it was fairly general, was that the MR was probably the best. Many people didn’t like the Alpha series at all and claimed that the 70’s gear was their favourite (likers of warmer sound I guess). Anyway, to my mind this thread didn’t answer the question it just served to make me even more curious to find out for myself. I decided to limit this thread to the Alpha series of Sansui Amps, because even my large amplifier appetite was not up to the task of taking on the entirety of Sansui’s back catalogue. I did toy with the idea of including the model prior to the Alphas, the 907X and/or the X Decade but these were a different design to the models that directly preceded them and those models (the G and G Extra) were different again to their predecessors. The 80’s was a decade of great change in the Sansui line up so it didn’t really matter where I started the question of “How does it sound compared to the model before it?” was always going to come up. So I decided to stick to the Alpha series, because lines have to be drawn somewhere. I have been taught a few things by conducting this importing exercise. The first is that freight from Japan is expensive. The second is that freight varies wildly depending on the company doing the sending even if the freight company is the same. Hifido for instance obviously has a sweet deal with Fedex as freight from them came to about 45% of freight from other senders in Japan. The third is that packing is extremely important and most people don’t do it well. Again kudos to Hifido as their packing is second to none. Other senders in Japan have varying levels of packing volume and quality, however if you ask for more serious packing they are usually quite helpful and the extra fees are quite small in the overall scheme of things. The fourth thing is that freight from Japan is expensive, this emphasis is important, in several cases the freight came to more than the auction price of the amp, should you even intend to import from Japan ensure you do not forget the fourth thing! My initial findings, long before I get into the nitty gritty of details are as follows. In most cases these are gleaned from just a few hours of listening so they should be treated as very preliminary. I plan to follow all of the reviews later in this thread with an update of this list of differences so that those who are curious will have a “Sansui Character Reference Chart” they can use. Sansui AU-α 907 The last to arrive and not yet listened to, sorry, you’ll just have to tune in later. Sansui AU-α 907i and AU-α 907L Extra I’ve only given these a brief listen to confirm they were operational, however from what I’ve heard they have a thicker sound texture to the later models with plenty of bass weight (probably a bit too much for my liking). They have a strange way of taking digital music and making it sound more like vinyl-ish. Sansui AU-α 907DR This amp needed attention but I can confirm that this is where Sansui really started getting serious with the top end capabilities of their amps. A decidedly better top end than the previous two models but still with a powerful bottom end and the beginnings of the spectacular mid-range that would come later. Sansui AU-α 907 KX A large improvement in both the top end and the mid range over the DR however it does this by sounding less smooth and more resolving so digital advocates are likely to like it over the DR but vinyl advocates may well prefer the DR. Less bass on display but far more articulate with it. Sansui AU-α 907 XR More bass punch than the KX and a bigger presence but very similar in other aspects. Sansui AU-α 907 MR Very much an XR with much more subtlety on display, more resolution, cleaner background and slightly clearer vocals. Unless you get them side by side it is pretty much impossible to tell the XR and MR apart, they are very, very similar. Sansui AU-α 907 NRA More polish present than the other Alphas, so clean in the mid-range it sparkles, so clean in the top end it shines. Has a mild bass boost effect that is not present on the other Alphas. There is also a ring in Sansui that I have yet to get to serious grips with, it also needs a little care and “technical attention” so I can’t really say much about it yet but I’m sure I will be able to later. In an effort to make this comparison more interesting I’m going to be using a Sansui cd player as the source. I have managed to obtain a Sansui AU-α917XR cd player in addition to all the amps. I haven’t listened to this cd player yet as it arrived needing new belts. I’m picking it up tomorrow and needless to say I have high hopes. Pictures will follow, and yes, there will be many.
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