Pros: surprisingly bold sound for its power rating; good tuner; extremely cost-effective
Cons: not quite as luxurious-feeling as a Marantz; some are giving up the ghost
The Sherwood S-7100A is a solid state stereo receiver from the early 1970s. It was at the bottom of Sherwood's line during that time, and is something of an unsung hero among today's vintage collectors. It is rated at only 17 watts per channel RMS (more specifically, 14 watts per channel at 8 ohms, 20 to 20khz; 18 watts per channel, 40 to 20khz), yet it has an excellent tuner, a very good phono preamplifier, and sounds more powerful than its power rating would suggest.
A used Sherwood 7100A generally goes for only about $50 on eBay, making it one of the best bargains out there for someone putting together an inexpensive vintage system. Features of the 7100A are pretty basic, but they are really all you need. It has outputs for two sets of speakers, and inputs for a turntable, auxiliary (a CD player, for example) and a tape deck. Of course, tuning and volume are controlled by rotary knobs, as are balance, bass and treble. The older 7100s have a golden colored dial face; the slightly newer 7100As have a blue dial face, not as sexy as the famous Marantz Blue Lights, but nice nonetheless. All of the 7100As I've seen have come with a real walnut veneered case included, adding to the look of retro class.
Set-up and operation.
Set-up of the Sherwood 7100A is easy. Just plug it in, hook up a cheap di-pole antenna for FM, and use RCA connectors for your turntable, CD player and tape deck. Speakers attach via thumb screw connectors that are relatively easy to use. The phono ground screw is located less than 2 1/2 inches to the right of the phono input, meaning that connecting your turntable is also easy. Attachment of FM and AM antennas is also by thumb screws which are located right next to the phono ground.
Overall, the feel of the Sherwood 7100A is not quite as luxurious as that of the Marantz 2230 or (more comparably priced ) 2215, but it is solid and functional. The tuning flywheel is relatively smooth, as are the other controls. An unusual aspect of the Sherwood S-7100A is that the default position of the "Loudness" switch is "on." So if you're listening to the 7100A "flat," that lever is in the depressed position. The Loudness switch boosts low and high frequencies at low volumes to compensate for the ear's decresed sensitivity at the frequency extremes at low volumes. A Loudness control was a feature of most stereo receivers of the early 1970s.
The sound of the Sherwoond 7100A is bold and slightly warm. It does a surprisingly good job driving classic loudspeakers like Dynaco A-10s and A-25s, Large Advents and KLH 6s considering its relatively low power rating. It may be a tad less warm sounding than the Marantz 2230, but not much so. I was pleasantly surprised by how good mine sounded. It also plays subjectively quite loud before clipping even though it's rated at under 20 watts RMS per channel.
Sherwood was known for excellent tuners in the 1970s, and the 7100A's tuner is quite good. It pulled in stations almost as well as my more expensive Kenwood KR-5150 and the sound was quite musical. The phono also sounded good. A friend who is currently using a Sherwood S-7100A in one of his systems says the receiver actually sounds more musical to him than the higher powered Sherwood S-7200 with both Dynaco A-10s and KLH 6s.
If all of this sounds too good for $50 or so on eBay, it is. Sort of. As with Marantz receivers of the same era, some early 1970s Sherwoods are starting to give up the ghost right about now. The 7100A I had here a couple of years ago started making strange sounds in one channel after a few months, and I gave it up for parts. The one my friend has has served him well for several months without a hitch. The bottom line on dependability: My hunch is that 35 to 40 years is when capacitors from early 70s receivers start to go, so be aware of the possibility that your beloved vintage receiver could develop problems over time, even if it sounds fine at first. Given the low cost of these units, it's probably more cost-effective to sell a dying one for parts and get a new one, rather than spending $150 or so to get one fixed.
The Sherwood S-7100A is one of the best bargains out there among vintage solid state stereo receivers. Its sound is musical and warm, and its tuner and phono sections are both quite good. These units generally go for under $50 on eBay, including shipping. But beware the possibility that problems might develop, as close to 40-year-old receivers can develop capacitor and other issues as they age. If you want just a tad more dependability, you might consider an '80s NAD receiver, as these units are also known for a warm and musical sound, and they're a bit "newer" than this venerable old Sherwood. Marantz receivers of the early 1970s are even more luxurious in their feel, and may sound just a touch more liquid, but they suffer from the same potential for reliability problems due to their age. Given its low cost and good sound, the Sherwood S-7100A gets a high recommendation from me.