Back from the dead: Pioneer SA-6500ii/TX-5500ii

Pioneer SA-6500ii TX-5500ii combo

Pioneer SA-6500ii TX-5500ii combo

Back home one summer for 4th of July festivities, I spied this set in the rafters of my Dad’s garage. He had gotten them from an employee years ago and, with only one good channel, both the amp and the tuner went up into the rafters, never to return.

They looked so cool I fished them down and put them in the car for the drive home. When I tried them out I also lost a channel – it would crackle in and out. Otherwise the amplifier was in good shape – the knobs and faceplate were dirty but free of any damage. Dust and cobwebs came off easily. The single orange power lamp powered on and off. This was a candidate for some attention.

I pulled off the faceplate and the knobs. They slipped right off. After spraying contact cleaner through all the pots and switches, I used some degreaser on the faceplate and put everything back together.

I was a little worried that the degreaser would damage the nice brushed aluminum finish of the amp, but I should have been. Pioneer didn’t skimp when it came to construction of its components in the 1970s, even on the SA-6500, which was one of their lower-powered amplifiers. The degreaser cut through years of golden accumulated cigarette tar and restored the gleaming silver finish. Everything went back together and I pulled the amp downstairs for a listen.

Pioneer SA-6500ii volume knob

Pioneer SA-6500ii volume knob

I wasn’t disappointed. The 6500ii had the typical fat and rich Pioneer sound, epitomizing ‘vintage’. For a modest 30 watts rated, this amp could really sing. It got my Polk Monitor 7s very loud at ‘4’ on the dial, and a later pair of Klipsh KG4s literally shook the house!

I learned that the ‘ii’ series were the continuation of the earlier 6500/5500 series, which had a little less wattage than their progeny. People seem to be ambivalent about any changes in sound quality or build strength between the first and ii series.

Pioneer SA-6500ii dial face. Simple and well designed.

Pioneer SA-6500ii dial face. Simple and well designed.

For the entry-level tuner in the integrated series, the TX-5500ii was also a surprise, pulling in stations from my basement with ease. The nice large yellow-lit dial was also a treat.

This combo was interesting to me – most separates are a bit smaller and narrower than their receiver counterparts and this set was no exception. But at about 18″ wide, these were considerably smaller than equivalent mid-1970s receivers, almost on the puny side. They really didn’t need any more room – inside the boxes there was amply space for working on components. But I could see how people who wanted to make these shiny components the centerpiece of their living room would look for bigger sets with more presence. And you have to admit that while they sound good, you don’t buy a shiny aircraft-grade aluminum-clad, knob-festooned mid-1970s Pioneer rig exclusively for the sound quality. You want to pretend you’re flying an airplane or operating a submarine while you’re rocking out.

IMGP0348

I really didn’t need another small component system, especially after I came across a later-model and more powerful Pioneer SA-708/TX-608 combo (more on that later). I also wasn’t warming 100% to the sound. Especially compared to some later model Pioneer amps, this one sounded too warm – too heavy in the bass and too rolled off in the upper ranges. It was losing some accuracy. Perhaps it would be a perfect pair for some mid-1970s Pioneer speakers, which some have called overbearing in the highs. In any case it found a happy home.

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~ by silverfacestereo on January 2, 2013.

8 Responses to “Back from the dead: Pioneer SA-6500ii/TX-5500ii”

  1. hi,

    big fan of your blog and enjoyed very much reading this post. always nice to hear a happy ending with these things. i have just myself gotten a 6500ii and the right channel is very soft and crackly. i’m wondering if when you cleaned the pots and switches with contact cleaner that fixed your channel problem?

    i’m also wondering what contact cleaner and what degreaser you used, as both seem to have been very effective. thanks very much!

    leon

    Like

    • Hi Leon,

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Mine had one working channel when I got it. The other channel would fade in and out and was often weak. I pulled the top and faceplate off and sprayed all the pots and switches with contact cleaner, and ran each through its full range of motion 100 times.

      I use standard contact cleaner that I found at Home Depot. I also bought some electrical contact lubricant, which I also spray into the pots after the contact cleaner. But I have to admit i don’t always use the lube.

      A lot of people on the forums (audiokarma, polk forum, others) swear by DeOxit, which is a name-brand contact cleaner you can buy online. So far I’ve been happy with my no-name contact cleaner. Good luck!

      Like

  2. There must be something about the 6500’s pots, because mine are also scratchy on one side. It will be a pain to pull the amp out, but you’ve given me hope it’s worth the trouble. Thanks.

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  3. Wow, just stumbled upon this while searching for the best suited amp for my Sonab Carlssons V-1 or OD-11, and your setup looks sweet. Would you say pioneers sa amp 5500/6500 would be a good fit for my Sonab Carlssons? An answer is much appreciated! 🙂

    Like

    • Tom, thanks for the note! I’ve never heard your Sonabs before but the Pioneer could make a nice combo. One thing to keep in mind is that the Pioneer (at least mine) was a little rolled-off on the top and heavy on the bottom end, so if your Sonabs are a bit bright or bass-shy this could be a good pairing. Good luck!

      Like

  4. Dumb talk that vintage pioneers sound too warm. They’re fucking good!

    Like

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