Jun 242018

My friend Ron Barbee enjoys finding vintage audio gems and restoring them, like the Fisher SA-100 stereo power amplifier that is the subject of today’s post.

The Fisher SA-100 vintage power amplifier.

The Fisher SA-100 came out in 1963 and sold for about $120 USD ($986.63 in 2018 USD). They are relatively rare today, but if you run across one in good condition you may want to grab it, because this is a remarkably good stereo amplifier both musically and sonically, as I’ll elaborate more on in a moment.

The Fisher SA-100 uses 7189 vacuum tubes in a tube rectified (GZ34/5AR4) pentode circuit that puts out about 25 watts.

For those of you not familiar with the 7189 vacuum tube, it is a ruggedized industrial version of the EL84, and can take 400+ volts to the plate compared to the EL84’s 300 volts. 7189 tubes are getting harder to come by, but for the moment you can still get NOS 7189 GE, RCA, Sylvania, Amperex tubes for about $50-$60 dollars each at Radio Electric Supply, for example.

The transformers are particularly robust, and the Fisher SA-100 is one hefty little amplifier. Around back are taps for 4, 8, and 16 Ohm loudspeakers, and a pair of inputs labeled “A” and “B”.

Fisher SA-100 stereo amplifier.

Friends Ron Barbee and Doc Leo paid me a visit today and we had a fun time listening to the various systems here at my place.

After a nice listening session with the impressive First Watt SIT-3 amplifier, I removed the SIT-3 from the Westminster’s and put the Fisher SA-100 in its place for some more listening.

Fisher SA-100 in the Westminster Royal SE based system.

Like a lot of vacuum tube amplifiers the Fisher SA-100 needs 30 minutes or so of warm up time to sound its best, so we took a break and listened to the Altec A5 Voice of the Theatre loudspeaker based system for a while, and then the Altec Corona 832A loudspeaker based system.

Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridge on the Thorens TD124 turntable.

I played Peter Ledermann’s Soundsmith Carmen Mk II phonograph cartridge that I just reviewed for Positive Feedback (HERE) for Ron and Leo, and it drew oohs and ahhs from all of us on the classic Chester & Lester album featuring Chet Atkins and Les Paul.

Still Audio EL84 integrated amplifier with Altec Corona 832A loudspeakers.

Then we took a few minutes to listen to the Altec Corona’s powered by the beautiful Still Audio EL84 integrated amplifier, which also garnered oohs and ahhs all around.

Spec RSP-AZ9EX Real Sound Processor with Western Electric WE16GA tinned-copper wire.

Next we did a quick A-B test with the Spec RSP-AZ9EX Real Sound Processors that Yazaki-san made to complement the Corona’s 16 Ohm load and 800 Hz crossover point.

Hands down, we all preferred the Corona’s with the Spec RSP-AZ9EX Real Sound Processors in place, with the result being a richer, more expansive, and just generally more musically realistic presentation. Thanks again to Yazaki-san for sending the custom Spec RSP-AZ9EX Real Sound Processors he made to try with the Corona’s, they’re really sweet!

Fisher SA-100 stereo amplifier in the Westminster Royal SE system.

With the Fisher SA-100 now suitably warmed up, we put on some vinyl and gave it a listen.

The Fisher SA-100 impressed all of us with its natural sounding and engaging presentation. There’s something special about the musicality of pentode circuits, and the Fisher SA-100 provided vivid imaging with lots of presence, a huge sense of space, excellent tone color, nuanced and realistic timbral textures, and an exciting presentation of the music in terms of rhythmic drive and engaging melody lines.

So how good is the Fisher SA-100 stereo amplifier? It’s really good, both musically and sonically, and its easily one of the better amplifiers that I’ve heard.

One listen to the Fisher SA-100 will leave you wondering if audio amplifier design has really advanced all that much since the 1960’s, at least that was the topic of our conversation after listening to the Fisher SA-100 for a while, as it really impressed us with its engaging musicality.

The Fisher SA-100’s 25 watts drove the Westminster’s very nicely, and it had plenty of power for even live-like volume levels.

We had a lot of fun listening to the “Fisher King” SA-100, and analogous to the Fisher King of Arthurian legend, this Fisher King is a keeper of the Holy Grail of musicality.

If you are looking to get into the vintage amplifier scene, the Fisher SA-100 is a great place to start your journey with its superb musicality & sonics, and relatively affordable 7189 vacuum tubes. In fact, after you listen to the Fisher SA-100 you may very well decide that not only is it a great start into the vintage scene, it may very well end up being the last amplifier you buy – it’s that good.

Many thanks to Ron Barbee for bringing by his restored Fisher SA-100 stereo amplifier to hear, it was a true treat!

The Fisher SA-100 vintage power amplifier.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!

 Posted by at 8:58 pm

  3 Responses to “A blast from the past: listening to the vintage “Fisher King” SA-100 power amplifier!”

  1. Wonder if Ron rebuilt the Fisher via Dave Gillespie’s mods on AK? Would not get the best sound out of the SA-100 without those mods, check it out!

    • Hi Randy,

      I don’t know what your definition of “best sound” is, which is a little different for everyone I suppose, but I can tell you that Ron’s rebuilt SA-100 sounded superbly musical, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing about it if it was in my system.

      Ok, well maybe I couldn’t resist the temptation of a few mods, because I can’t resist tinkering with things, but Ron’s SA-100 sounds superb!

      Kind regards,


  2. Hi Randy, I have not used any of Dave Gillespie’s mods as I had not been aware of his work until now. I will read the AK blog and let you know. The unit we listened to was in original configuration.

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