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Are SPEC series gear really worth the money?

Discussion in 'Pioneer Audio' started by Stevescivic, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. Stevescivic

    Stevescivic Active Member

    Messages:
    244
    Hi everyone haven't really posted here much since I finished my rebuild projects a while back. I got thinking about some other Pioneer component pieces and the SPEC line of gear popped in my head and got me wondering if the SPEC gear is worth the price that it demands. I get that their amps are super crazy powerful but reading some of the SPEC threads and recalling what others have said that although they're nice looking that their designs are just okay and they don't even sound as good as some of the integrated receivers do.

    I am somewhat familiar with the SPEC gear and looking at some of the rebuilds makes me wonder if Pioneer could've done a better job with the top tier equipment. Would someone rather have a SX-1980 or a SX-1250 over any SPEC gear? I get that there is no comparison to the power the SPEC amps generate but still... you can buy some wicked new Bryston audio gear.

    I'm not a Pioneer hater, quite the contrary, a Pioneer LOVER but SPEC always made me question "why" bother.

    Can someone educate me better on this matter?
     

     

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  2. Guest125

    Guest125 Active Member

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    I used a SPEC 4 for over a decade as my primary. It tested 0.007% THD on the WaveTek at work. It has Class A driver section and sounded simply great. Most try to utilize 40 year old equipment that need rework. It has it's place if you want separates.
     
    HowlerMonkey and I LIKE MUSIC like this.
  3. winters860

    winters860 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,189
    Location:
    Dirtbag, Ohio
    If you're approaching the purchase from a direction of maximum SQ per dollar spent, then you have no business whatsoever looking at any market rate 70s mass-produced solid state. Full stop.

    If offered a choice at the same price, that new Bryston gear will run rings around a SPEC rig, with a warranty, and without niggling doubts about necessity of restoration (or about the quality of restoration already performed).

    That isn't to say that Pioneer SPEC (and whatever else from that genre) aren't "worth it" from a standpoint of collectibility, serviceability, nostalgia, or whatever mix of intangibles lead you to that path. What are your priorities in an audio purchase?
     
  4. Guest125

    Guest125 Active Member

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    A Bryston will set you back around 5 grand or more. Just sayin'
     
  5. rcs16

    rcs16 Super Member

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    4,060
    Location:
    Baldwin, Ontario, Canada
    Like what?
     
  6. embrown057

    embrown057 Active Member

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    Location:
    Apollo Beach,FL
    A Bryston 25B3 could set you back 2300~2500 used, I have done several SPEC2 and 4 rebuilds and I would put any of them up to the Bryston and not be ashamed. Sure if your doing a standard rebuild with commercial penny caps and parts well lets just say it works. There is not a problem with the design of these units it's the parts along with just age. We have access to parts today that are far superior. I have rebuilt all of the SX line over and over and only a few have come close to the performance of the separated and they were all over the top rebuilds. As far as 'why bother" that's up to the end user, if you love the Pioneer nothing else will do for some people.
     
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  7. Stevescivic

    Stevescivic Active Member

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    244
    great responses from everyone!

    I have a small collection of Pioneer gear from the 1970-1992 with my favourite being the SX-1050 and the VSX-D1S. I would love to get my hands on a minty set of SPEC gear but the prices and the fact that some parts aren't available and need modding (ie. relay) gives me the creeps.

    I one day would like to own a Bryston amp but for now I'm running an Emotive XPA-5. FWIW there seems to be a HUGE divide on the audio purists and enthusiasts on the Emo (and other similar low cost amps) but in my opinion the Emo gear is pretty darned good and seems very well made with decent quality components. I had it paired up with my D1s and used the Pioneer as the pre feeding that into the emo amp. Good combination that sounded better than the D1s on its own - and the D1s itself was no slouch either.

    I've always like the old Pioneer gear but the pries are ludicrous. I'm already balking at the price I paid for my SX-1050s and I had to do all the restoration work. I'm likely breaking even or even running at a slight loss b/c the folks in my locality don't want to pay over $1K for a 90% restored receiver and my only recourse is eBay which carries its own set of risks and I could be out of ALL my money AND equipment.

    This got me thinking about the SPEC gear when I saw the thread on the SPEC 4 restoration and looking at the old amps that for the amount of damage they've been through it made me wonder if I could do the same level of work as others here - I know I did a good job on my 2 SX-1050's but those receivers are SUPER easy to work on.

    Maybe one day if I come across a Pioneer SPEC unit in an estate sale that I may have one in my possession :)
     
  8. embrown057

    embrown057 Active Member

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    203
    Location:
    Apollo Beach,FL
    I just added some of the pictures from the last Spec-4 I did.

    http://audiokarma.org/forums/index....estoration-thread.449270/page-4#post-11986791

    The relay is not a big deal, just a little buzzy work. All the resistors I used are Takman carbon film. I used some Soncraft film caps and AudioNote Ksisei lytic's. There's way more costly parts in there that most would consider overkill. The customer spent weeks listening to the stock unit before it was rebuilt. His unit was as close to perfect I've seen in a long time. I also had a rebuilt spec-4 just not to this level he also listened to and there was no compression to his. So if you can find a virgin unit you'll be far better off, nothing like starting off on a venture like this with a fresh start. Be prepared to invest not only the capital for parts but the >50+ hours.
     
  9. Guest125

    Guest125 Active Member

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    The real truth is that many equate "old" as bad. My current primary amp isn't another SPEC, but a 30 year old Yamaha M-80, and in contrast to a Bryston, it has better THD, IMD, better S/N ratio, better slew rate, better Damping Factor, more dynamic headroom... The point being, just because it's new doesn't mean better SQ. And certainly as stated, once in service for over a decade, it deserves new Al caps, for no other reason than safety. They are limited life components. What was my total investment? Less than $1k. Are the SPEC series amps worth it? Depending on what a seller is demanding, yes, they can make a great choice!
     
    tater415 likes this.
  10. Blue Shadow

    Blue Shadow I gotta get me a new title

    Messages:
    21,438
    Location:
    SE PA
    The Pioneer gear has a significant tax associated with its acquisition. That tax is for the aforementioned collectibility and nostalgia. I like to think of it as the Stereo Lust Tax as exemplified by this post on AK a couple years back:

    remember the great stereo stores of the 1970's?
    man..i would walk down the pioneer aisle and physically drool.
    the sx-1050 and sx-1250 owned my heart, yet my paycheck could barely afford an sx-550
    those massive stacks of silver mesmerized me, and the speaker rooms? my god!!
    several years ago i got my dream of ct-f8181 and ct-f9292 answered..they are truly wonderful decks!
    now..after all these years im bringing sx-1050 home! im giddy, i really am, this is a dream come true.
    i dont think im late to the party at all..this is truly fine equipment...im very happy!

    teri patterson, Sep 22, 2016

    This is the reason many Pio/Mar/Sui units sell for more than the other regulars, Kenwood, Harman Kardon, Onkyo are examples.

    If you gotta have Pioneer, go for it. If you want the better sound quality and separates there are so many choices that a lot of people don't even know about either newer or vintage. Those were not the brands that folks gravitated to when they bought their first name brand receiver while lusting for the big boy in the line. A bit of kit similar to the Pioneer Spec units would perform way better and be less expensive by going to the 'high end' name brands and find some gear. Not talking McIntosh as that is stuff folks lusted for, too. Crown, Bryston, Harman Kardon Citation line, Hafler, B&K, Conrad Johnson, DB Systems, and Quad are some brands with vintage gear that many don't see often, easily the equal of the Pioneer for sound quality. And of course, many of the name brands had great separates, too, Denon, Yamaha, Luxman, Kenwood for sure with the L-0 gear.

    If the name helps, Pioneer is just fine. If you want the best sound quality, there may be other choices but whether you would hear that difference without a/b listening, I don't know. Buy whatever you want. There is a lot of very nice separate gear out there.

    Is it worth the money, that is up to you and your money. but there are enough folks convinced it is to keep the prices up there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  11. 62caddy

    62caddy Trust but verify Subscriber

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  12. Guest125

    Guest125 Active Member

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    Showoff! LOL! The real question is which one is designated for listening for what day of the week?
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  13. 62caddy

    62caddy Trust but verify Subscriber

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    Not mine...;)
     
  14. Guest125

    Guest125 Active Member

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    I'm so sorry man... (tear)
     
  15. Belvedere2

    Belvedere2 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
    Massachusetts
    If your into Pioneer and really want something that sounds awesome go Series 20. I loved my Spec rack. Spent a ton on it. Recapped etc. Then I bought a M-22 and C-21. Spent alot less to acquire those, but it's been at least 6 yrs since I bought them. Prices have gone up a little.
    No comparison in sound quality. Not even close. This year I finally found the PLC-590 to go with it. Just waiting to get it serviced. Doubt it will disappoint.
     
    cnolanh likes this.
  16. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

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    6,522
    Location:
    Australia
    Pioneer's Spec gear was impressive back in the day for its 19" rackmounting and relatively solid construction. It was utilitarian, some would call it ugly.

    Component choice ranged from excellent to quite average internally. PCBs were mostly phenolic and there was an excess of point to point wiring and Pioneer's typical lack of attention to ventilation in some key areas.

    I've owned, repaired and restored all the spec gear, and it's all gone on to new owners. In terms of Pioneer, their later offerings were much better technically and aesthetically. For example the M90/C90 pre power combination runs rings around the Spec1/2 pre/power. Excessive current limiting on the Spec power amplifiers was audible into low impedances. They went for big 8 ohm figures and knobbled the performance (due to lack of SOA) into low impedances.

    My last Spec1 preamplifier went on to Pioneer Aust here for static display several years ago. There is really nothing Pioneer from the silver face era left in my collection, it was outclassed by late 80s early 90s gear AFAIK.
     
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  17. Rickypoo

    Rickypoo New Member

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    My first leap into Vintage Pioneer was a SX-1050, it was in excellent condition & for it's age sounded really good for being all original. I sent it off to a man in TX. for a full restoration, when it came back I was truly amazed at how good it sounded, so I was content. Although I had always had a real curiosity for the Spec Components. So I always kept an eye out for any that came available. Then one day there they were, A beautiful, mint condition, both fully restored Spec-1 & Spec-4 combo, I new I had to make a play for them. I spoke to the technician who had restored them & told him what I was currently using ( the 1050 ) he stated that I would be much more thrilled with the Spec Components. I took his advice & well the rest is history. Now I hadn't heard these units back in the day so I can't speak on that. Let me say that that what I'm using now is just amazing. Nothing like good clean, brute force power. I will never wander again.
     
  18. Stevescivic

    Stevescivic Active Member

    Messages:
    244
    Wow great responses! I am a Pioneer guy and have been since I was a teen. My father had purchased a Pioneer surround receiver (VSX-9900s) and even though it looked like BPC I thought it was well constructed. I kept the Pioneer catalog from 1991 and would often flip through it and I would look at all the matched components and say to myself “man that would be cool to own all that!” I lusted for a VSX-D1S which is the 9900s older and bigger brother. FFWD to 2009 and as an adult with a home and a decent job I revisited my desires for a nice stereo and since then I managed to buy a bunch of audio gear - mostly Pioneer.

    VSX-9900s (inherited from father)
    D1S (purchased from a Pioneer collector)
    SX-3800 (inherited from relative)
    SX-1050 x2 purchased from other Pioneer enthusiasts.
    Emotiva XPA-5 purchased new in 2010

    So yeah I love Pioneer but thebold silver gear was where sexy was at and I now look only at that era ofngear. I have considered the C90 and M90 combo but wow is it expensive and wifey says no more gear as I can only listen one setup at a time and our home isn’t exactly large.

    My question I guess is around cost vs. performance and SQ. For example I saw on eBay tonight that there is a restored sx-1980 on eBay for over $6000 and it makes me wonder why anyone would pay that kind of money when that price is encroaching into boutique brands like McIntosh (which I also love but can’t afford).

    I love old school nostalgic equipment but common sense will still prevail once the prices start getting into the stratosphere.
     
  19. IMF_Pioneer

    IMF_Pioneer Active Member

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    Location:
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    There's also a rather knocked around one up for 5000 Euros in Germany and it's an Ex USA market unit that's only 120 vac. Honestly this is totally absurd in my opinion.

    Eventually the bottom will drop out of this over inflated false economy. It's sites like this that are driving up the prices.
     
  20. gslikker

    gslikker Super Member

    Messages:
    2,159
    Location:
    Close to Alkmaar, Netherlands
    I was offered 800 Euros for my Spec-1 and Spec 4 together and I did not let go. Both are still reasonably nice (front panels perfect) and working condition. I wanted 1000 (comparable to $1200) and the flipper who I know did not take them.
    As the flipper is quite engaged in the local market in the Netherlands, apparently he could not justify for himself paying 1000 for the units, just taking a very small risk (as he knows me he knows the units are working as I state) and still get a reasonable profit.
    I am pretty sure he would have taken them if knowing getting a 250 euros profit, so market price for a Pioneer spec 1 and 4 together was below 1250 Euros maximum for unrestored units in the Netherlands two years ago.

    It is not inflated false economy, it is just staring at the highest asking prices in the world. Stuff moves or not, but movement of the stuff is not needed for people just "having" it and not needing money just to buy something else.
    People like me not into trading may just put a big price tag not caring if it moves or not, influenced by present mood or whatever. At the moment, I will not let go them as I think I ever restore them.
     

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