Nakamichi SR-2A Stereo Receiver

Nelson Pass.  What else do you need to know?  He is undoubtably among the greatest amplifier designers of all time.  Unfortunately, most of his amplifiers cost thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands nowadays), even Threshold models from the 70s and 80s.  The Adcom GFA-555 (which remains an all-time bargain) has always been a notable exception, but I was intrigued to learn that one of his most acclaimed designs at Threshold—the “Stasis”—was licensed to Nakamichi in the early 80s and manufactured in a Japanese factory using high quality components (production later moved to Taiwan for the TA series).

Finding one proved easy.  A quick search on Craigslist and eBay turned up a few dozen options in the SR series and TA series (note that the TA-1A is not a Stasis design).  I settled on the SR-2A because (i) I planned to use it with my KEF Q100 book shelf speakers, which don’t require the increased power of the SR-3A and SR-4A, and (ii) I found one in near mint condition for $100.  How could I go wrong?

In person, the SR-2A is even more attractive—in a very 1980s retro sort of way—than it appears in photos.  It is somewhat minimalist compared to its contemporaries, which competed in cramming the most buttons onto the front panel.  And its appearance has only grown on me as the weeks have gone by.   I certainly prefer it to cookie-cutter  designs of many modern receivers (particularly those from big box stores).

When I first hooked up the SR-2A to my Dragonfly Black DAC and the KEFs, I was getting sound from only the left channel.  It took me a few minutes to trace the problem to the balance control, which is a nondescript ring surrounding the volume knob, and
re-centering it immediately fixed the problem.  After that it was smooth sailing.

I knew within the first five minutes of listening that this amplifier was special, and an absolute bargain at $100.  Check that.  Not a bargain.  A steal.  A ridiculous steal.  How could I possibly be getting such rich, detailed sound and realistic imaging for $100!?

Over several days of listening, mostly through Tidal, my appreciation for the SR-2A only grew.  It handled anything that I through at it with aplomb, from hard rock like the White Stripes, to jazz classics like Coltrane’s Love Supreme, to Beyonce and Adele.  It was particularly impressive at recreating female voices and the timbre of string instruments.  Yo-Yo Ma’s cello on Bach Trios (with Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer) had a rich, lifelike sound that I’ve heard from few amplifiers in this price range.  And Amy Winehouse sounded as if she was in the room, a bit forward and floating slightly above the speakers.

But that brings me to what will surely be a controversial point:  I strongly prefer the
SR-2A’s sound with its loudness button on.  For those of you too young to remember when manufacturers included loudness compensation on receivers, Wikipedia defines it as “a setting found on some hi-fi equiment and equalisers that increases the level of the high and low frequencies.  This is intended to be used at low listening levels, to compensate for the fact that as the volume of audio decreases, the ear’s lower sensitivity to extreme high and low frequencies may cause these signals to fall below threshold.”  (This site also has a good explanation:

As someone who generally listens to music at moderate levels, I find that the SR-2A’s loudness button does exactly what was designed to do:  it makes music sound better at low volumes.  Yes, it alters the tone in a way the recording engineer might never have intended, but the recording engineer also probably never intended the record to be heard at these volumes through 5 1/4-inch bookshelf speakers with a 30-year-old amplifier.  If it improves the sound to my ears—which it does almost without fail at low volumes—then I see no reason not to use it.

In fact, I’ve been so intrigued by the improvement at low volumes that I’m considering tracking down an SR-4A, which has a variable loudness control that allows the listener to manually adjust the increase in high and low frequencies.  You may ask why this is necessary given the SR-2A’s bass and treble controls, but I have not found that those tone controls can recreate the effect of the loudness button, despite trying a variety of settings.  (I suspect the loudness button operates on a curve the bass and treble control cannot mimic.)

Overall, in my view, the SR-2A is one of the better deals on the secondary market today.  For $100 you get sound quality that far exceeds many modern receivers from big box stores and even some more expensive gear.  If you are just discovering hi-fi and looking for a great entry point to better sound, I would suggest that you start with an SR-2A (or the 3A or 4A if you need more power).   Hook it up to a good pair of bookshelf speakers (see my review of the KEF Q100s) and you will be a very happy camper for years to come.


4 thoughts on “Nakamichi SR-2A Stereo Receiver

Add yours

  1. thoroughly enjoyed this article , very informative and well written. I am going to look into the Nakamichi SR-2A thanks


  2. I purchased a second-hand SR-2E (European model – DE/CH) for around US$120 about 2 weeks ago, after seeing a fB marketplace add. Drove to Montreux and did the deal in front of the casino on a sunny Sunday morning. Brought it home and immediately opened it up to clean it with forced air, along with close inspection of the caps and connections. Finished off by cleaning it over with isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth. Although it was advertised as in full working order, I was careful to closely monitor its power on and first use. No surprises, thank goodness!
    I am using a FiiO BTA30 Pro DAC to feed the beast and the results are wonderful. Absolutely no regrets going back to the future on this c.1986 piece of kit!


  3. Bot one for $10 few years ago with blown fuses. The fuses were soldered on the board, but not hard to fix. Having been using it as a test/backup device. Really a nice receiver.


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