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Cafad

Sansui Alpha Series Amplifier Reviews

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Posted (edited)

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.

Edited by Cafad

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I have a feeling you will get more amps very soon. I am psychic.

Sent from my C6903 using Tapatalk

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, niss_man said:

I have a feeling you will get more amps very soon. I am psychic.

You are, of course, correct.  Although I don't think you need to be psychic to make a prediction like that.

Edited by Cafad
sentence structure

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Posted (edited)

First up the very first Alpha.  The 907 that is devoid of suffix or prefix.

IMG_0565.thumb.JPG.d179a057963674ad46c099cb3acd21e0.JPG

Damn that glossy black front.  An awesome colour for an amp it is true, but so very hard to photograph.

 

IMG_0566.thumb.JPG.7b7ba2867aef17b0278cb60f15e082e2.JPG

Much simpler.

 

Almost forgot, with amps as old as Sansuis are there is often a little more to the story of each amp.  The 907 came with a receipt that would seem to indicate it was recapped in 2013.  If any Japanese literate SNA'ers could tell me if the brand names of the caps are mentioned I'd be grateful. 

IMG_0573.thumb.JPG.1540c00a20a28310c1a0bd5af93a9dfc.JPG

Edited by Cafad
added picture

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Then the 907i.

IMG_0567.thumb.JPG.a0cf4ce1c2058e926a12023597be0446.JPG

This fine amp was actually already in the country, it has spent the last few years living in Adelaide.

 

IMG_0569.thumb.JPG.7eec28f02c23163bd37afa852b24ff17.JPG

 

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The 907L EXTRA.  There was no 907L model so I decided to skip that model series as I wouldn't be comparing like with like.

IMG_0571.thumb.JPG.607ab99e91546d877a03e4d9f970b73d.JPG

A little less reflection there, I'm learning as I go.

 

IMG_0572.thumb.JPG.a404bd533bc44b1595101bb1adc8247a.JPG

 

That will have to do for now.  More pics to follow later.

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Mate, you've got it real bad.

 

Is there any truth in the rumour that you're starting up Audiophile Ampifiers Anonymous??

 

:sorry:

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Really enjoyed reading and eagerly looking forward to more reviews. Especially some comparison between regular Alpha's and MOS models e.g. 607 MOS Premium.

 

The timing is just perfect too. I have been smitten by the Sansui alpha range lately and have just got myself a 607MR which I am enjoying a lot. So really a big thanks for putting the effort and sharing your experience with us :thumb:

 

Cheers mate.

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Posted (edited)

@ cafad...You are in need of the @Luc Sansui's Anonymous Society...

For a small fee he will arrive...relieve you of your Sansui's then bury them for safe keeping...

He has a swimming pool...it once had water in it...

He very cleverly drained all the water...carefully wrapped all his Sansui's...

Wrapped that in Geotech & Viscreen...and covered them with dirt...

His cunning plan unfortunately has come unstuck when...

 

DON"T touch that mouse...stay tuned for the next exciting episode of...

Confessions of a Hot Sansui...

Edited by Rob181

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His lovely wife (AKA "The Handbrake") donned a bikini in on a hot summers day...

Declaring it is time to cool down...only to find no water in said pool...rather a dirt landscape... 

She sweetly asked "My darling husband...where has the pool water gone"....

Quick as a wink @Luc declared "Its part of the landscaping you asked me to do...oh love of my life"...

"Hmmm..." said his lovely wife (AKA "The Handbrake")..."please give me my pool back"...

Oh dear...red wine spurted from @Luc lips as he realised the gig was up...

 

DON"T touch that mouse...stay tuned for the next exciting episode of...

Confessions of a Hot Sansui...

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, gemini07 said:

Mate, you've got it real bad.

 

Is there any truth in the rumour that you're starting up Audiophile Ampifiers Anonymous??

 

:sorry:

I tried an anonymous group a while back, it didn't stick.  Also the presenter only spoke in mono which completely ruined his sound stage, no imaging whatsoever. 

 

 

I like the abbreviation of the Sansui Anonymous Society, SAS, very cool.  

I'll have to tune in again this afternoon with some corn chips.  Can't wait to see how Luc gets out of this one.

Edited by Cafad

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@rantan requested a pic of the Sansui Alpha 917XR cd spinner and who am I to say no.

IMG_0582.thumb.JPG.f86f4e1142590e09c91a1af0c88c4ac2.JPG

OK, the first pic is terrible but it's an action shot from the listening position.  I've got the 917 teamed up with Simon's Zeus Integrated and the strength of the presentation is phenomenal. 

 

IMG_0584.thumb.JPG.47f3032bbffa552ceb4164a2ce7d5c08.JPG

And one from a bit closer (after I realized I had to actually get up to take a decent pic).

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My last Sansui has arrived this afternoon, an Alpha 607MR.  I picked it up while low on glucose and caffeine and on night shift but no regrets, we can't go having regrets about these things that just happen by themselves.  Acceptance is key to satisfaction with this hobby of ours.

IMG_0614.thumb.JPG.1ea49cefb7851a52dae119832dc2678d.JPG

Not quite as clean an example of the brand as most of my 907s but it does have its charm.

 

It arrived as dusty as all get out so I took the top off and got out my can of compressed air.  And when I look inside I see.

IMG_0610.thumb.JPG.f75efff040dc3cdeedcef36acdf32047.JPG

It was slightly dustier when I first saw it, but even then it brought a smile to my face.  

 

IMG_0611.thumb.JPG.7c57194a927278acb840d62e2e502ffa.JPG

Note the plastic, anti-vibration treatment along the tops of the front and back and the use of copper plated screws on the inner chassis, I thought that only the 907s got this extra treatment but it seems I was wrong.  Even the little 607s get a decent dose of noise deadening.  See the plastic strips that run across each of the heat sinks?  Still there after 20 years!

IMG_0612.thumb.JPG.9b2198b68a46aa4398eb0a22df6cc3f7.JPG

And look, a strip of plastic across the underside of the case too.  

 

I think I'm going to have to plug it in now, because if I don't I just won't be able to sleep tonight.

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And....come on...haven't got all night you know...

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And I thought this thread was over... but there's still more Alpha's to visit! :lol:

 

Didn't know the MR series came in black finish too, looks nice! I had only seen the common champagne silver, which is what my 607MR is :)

 

Can't wait to hear your impressions of this amp. Also, very curious to hear how it compares to its bigger siblings, 707MR and the ultimate 907MR...

 

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7 hours ago, Rob181 said:

And....come on...haven't got all night you know...

Worry not, it sounds just as superb as I expected it to.  Maybe even better (it is a black Sansui after all).

 

7 hours ago, MrMojo said:

And I thought this thread was over... but there's still more Alpha's to visit! :lol:

 

Didn't know the MR series came in black finish too, looks nice! I had only seen the common champagne silver, which is what my 607MR is :)

 

Can't wait to hear your impressions of this amp. Also, very curious to hear how it compares to its bigger siblings, 707MR and the ultimate 907MR...

 

No more Alphas to visit now, I think I've got hold of all the Alphas I need.

All the Alpha series 607 models were available in black, but not all of the 707s and none of the 907s after the DR, so black Sansuis were always there but only in 607 form.  If you are chasing one though it can take some effort to find one, they don't seem to be that common.

Yep, the idea of getting a 607 was to do a direct comparison with the 907.  All part of the longer term plan.  

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So how does the 607MR compare to the mighty 907MR, if you had a chance to compare yet? Really curious to find out :)

 

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I'm afraid not, between borrowing a Leema Pulse 3 and a Rega Elex-R and having a rather ruthless seller drop off a very expensive amp at my place in an effort to make me buy it I have been a bit on the busy side.

I'll get there, but it isn't likely to be as soon as I would like.

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44 minutes ago, Cafad said:

I'm afraid not, between borrowing a Leema Pulse 3 and a Rega Elex-R and having a rather ruthless seller drop off a very expensive amp at my place in an effort to make me buy it I have been a bit on the busy side.

I'll get there, but it isn't likely to be as soon as I would like.

Lucky you! :) 

 

That Leema amp must be nice, they make some awesome sounding gear.

 

 

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