Pioneer SA-9800

Pioneer SA-9800 Integrated Amplifier Major Service

Pioneer’s beautiful SA-9800 integrated amplifier is one of the greats, a classic in terms of styling and performance. Come along as I give this one a major service and keep an eye out for the legendary CTF-1250 cassette deck!

The Pioneer SA-9800 integrated amplifier is, without doubt, one of Pioneer’s greatest integrated amplifiers and for good reason. It’s a brutish, yet beautiful silver amplifier, it has blue vacuum fluorescent meters, it sounds amazing; it has a great set of features and it’s robust, reliable and well put-together.

Pioneer SA-9800
This is how the SA-9800 looked when she arrived at the workshop.

This beautiful example was brought to me in desperate need of service by her original owner and she came with a friend… Let’s take a deeper look and for more service details, why not watch this companion video about the Pioneer SA-9800.

The SA-9800 is yet another amp hailing from the hi-fi golden era, in this case, 1980. With that massive volume knob, sliver front panel and toggle style switches, it looks and feels like it came out of the space age, even now. The blue vacuum fluorescent power meters only add to this futuristic look and contrast sharply with the classic silver Pioneer aesthetic.

Pioneer SA-9800
The VFD metering on the SA-9800 looks stunning, even though these ones have dimmed a little over time.

In terms of the competition, the Pioneer SA-9800 went head-to-head with other classic 100 Watt Japanese amplifiers like Sansui’s AU-717 and the Sansui AU-919. The monster Kenwood KA-907 is another competitor and an even better amp. Likewise, the stunning Technics SU-V8 is a worthy competitor and one of the coolest amps from this era, along with the beautiful and timeless Yamaha CA-2010. Which would you choose?

Specifications thanks to HiFi Engine 

Power output: 100 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo)
Frequency response: 5Hz to 100kHz
Total harmonic distortion: 0.005%
Damping factor: 55
Input sensitivity: 0.1mV (MC), 2.5mV (MM), 150mV (line)
Signal to noise ratio: 72dB (MC), 90dB (MM), 110dB (line)
Output: 150mV (line), 1V (Pre out)
Semiconductors: 3 x IC, 6 x FET, 73 x transistors, 36 x diodes
Dimensions: 453 x 155 x 425mm
Weight: 18.4kg
Year: 1980

Inside Look

Inside, the Pioneer SA-9800 is a beefy and well laid out integrated amplifier, typical of good gear from the era. Two hefty transformers, two filter capacitors per channel and separate amplifier modules make this a proper dual-mono design. The phono preamp is housed inside a shielded box which helps to reduce noise and improve thermal stability.

Pioneer SA-9800
Here we have a somewhat dirty first look inside. Note the two transformers on the left, four filter capacitors middle rear, phono preamp on the right and driver boards in the middle. This is a dual-mono, stereo integrated amplifier, the right way to do it.

Pioneer SA-9800

Issues

Prior to service, this SA-9800 was badly misbehaving, popping and crackling, humming, buzzing and just generally being obnoxious. Her owner bought her new, in Europe, during his time in the military. He has the rest of the matching Pioneer components as well, including the stunning CTF-1250 cassette deck here for an overhaul that you’ll see at the end.

The owner wasn’t quite sure what to do with his SA-9800 and was in two minds about whether to put her on the verge or have her serviced. Many front panel switches and controls were loose and all of them needed service. Let’s just say he’s happy now that he didn’t put her out on the verge!

Service

There are two ways I start in cases like these and which way depends on the unit, how dirty it is, the type of dirt, and so on. Evaluating this first part leads me to either high-pressure air or a full chassis wash and dry. In this case, with the problem being mostly dust, high-pressure air was the ideal solution.

After that, I gave all the switches and controls a deep service, involving three stages of solvents and treatment. I then tightened fasteners, removed and cleaned the front panel and knobs and tightened all the loose controls and switches. Finally, I reassembled everything and made a full set of electronic adjustments, followed by thorough bench-testing.

Cleaning & Mechanical Service

Pioneer SA-9800
Getting ready to disassemble the front panel and remove knobs and switches.
Pioneer SA-9800
There’s quite a lot of knobs and toggles on the SA-9800, you don’t want to lose any at this stage. I wash these whenever I remove them from an amplifier.
Pioneer SA-9800
With those removed, we can also remove the fascia for cleaning.
Pioneer SA-9800
To access the loose SA-9800 volume control, this sub-panel must be removed.
Pioneer SA-9800
Here’s the fastener we need to tighten.
Pioneer SA-9800
Cleaning the fascia of equipment like this SA-9800 is another of the things I do in a major service.
Pioneer SA-9800
Warm, soapy bath for the knobs and toggles
Pioneer SA-9800
Here we see the Pioneer SA9800 chassis with everything ready to go back together before electronic adjustment. I serviced the switches and controls whilst everything is open like this.

Electronic Service

The electronic service and adjustments are the last stage needed to get an amplifier like this SA-9800 running properly. It goes without saying that, at this age, everything needs adjustment in almost all gear that makes it to my bench.

Pioneer SA-9800
Here I’m adjusting the bias and DC symmetry of the SA-9800. A minimum of two precision multimeters are needed for this type of work. I have eight or so premium Fluke/Keithley/Tektronix/HP multimeters to hand, to allow for more complex set-up and adjustment routines.
Pioneer SA-9800
This board has a cover which, when removed reveals this phono board. There are several precision adjustments needed here for DC symmetry.
Pioneer SA-9800
Making the adjustments

Results

After a full clean service and detail, I think you’ll agree she looks amazing. She runs 100% better, with no more farts, crackles and pops. Her owner rang me shortly after collecting her,  absolutely ecstatic with how well she works and sounds which made my day!

Just take a look at this beauty!

Pioneer SA-9800
Wow, what an improvement and she now sounds as good as she looks.

Pioneer SA-9800

Pioneer SA-9800
I think all Pioneer owners love the blue VFD metering prominent in models from this era.

Pioneer SA-9800

Pioneer SA-9800
Here we see the SA-9800 with matching CTF-1250, one of the very best cassette decks Pioneer ever made.

Pioneer SA-9800
Lots of work needed on the CTF-1250 but I’m looking forward to doing it. Keep an eye out for this story.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you like me to assist with your Pioneer SA-9800 or any other Pioneer amplifier for that matter. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.

3 thoughts on “Pioneer SA-9800 Integrated Amplifier Major Service”

  1. Mike, we are fortunate to have somebody in Perth to keep this great, old gear alive and well. Keep up the passion!
    Steve

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