Vintage Hi-Fi Info
All contents of this Website are Copyright. Original research, photos of our hifi & all unquoted text is ©2011-2017 by select45rpm. This is all published freely on the internet by us to further the scene, not to give any seller or forum 'expert' undeserved credibility. We Do Not Authorise any Copying, Republishing or Quoting, even as rewriting Our Research In Your Words, of using or linking to any of our Sections on ebay, any sales sites or anywhere else. No-one else has formed these opinions, so don't steal them as yours. Please do not link to our site on ebay sales trying to use our unique info to play buyers for a sale suggesting we are authorising their sale, as we are not.
*See our NEW Hi-Fi Blog page
lots of New Sections since Jan 2017 that add a wide range of Hi-Fi & Tech related subjects plus opinion on Hi-Fi News 1970-1980 as we read through.
Includes New Articles on this page's subject. This page has been updated & read through with 2017 ideas & with an Index to navigate. (working on..)
Repairs & Servicing
See Our Hifi Upgrades link above.
We will Repair & Service 'better' quality Hifi, if we have zero interest in domestic grade audio or Amps stuffed with ICs. Quality only. So we can review them & add that to our Reviews page so you get our True Opinion of Your Hifi.
This page was mostly written before we offered Repairs, Servicing & Upgrades.
PLEASE DO NOT BUTCHER OLD HIFI...
DO NOT FIT GOLD PLATED SOCKETS.
DO NOT FIT BIG 4mm SPEAKER SOCKETS.
DO NOT FIT PLUG-IN MAINS SOCKETS.
DO NOT PAINT REAL WOOD CASES BLACK.
DO NOT FIT BLUE LEDs ON VINTAGE GEAR.
If the Old Fittings Are Still Good on Collectable Vintage Amps.. LEAVE THEM ALONE. We get annoyed seeing amateurs who've butchered a Good amp because they think Modern Connectors are better. To us, this is mindless Butchering & makes us avoid amps like this. The only time it is acceptable to change things is if the Original Ones are broken & unfindable. If your "Upgrade-Butchering" involves cutting bigger holes that can't be refilled, Don't do It. IT'S NOT YOUR AMP, you are merely the custodian of it as it's 30-50 years old & the odds are the sort of person who does this will sell it on within a year, so Don't Mess With It! A lot of buyers Like Originality. but still like recapped & upgraded electronics which we do. But to mess with external fittings isn't good. Any upgrades should be fully reversable, a big hole cut into an amp isn't & you'll only get buyers avoiding your mess. No blue LEDs either on Classic Amps, bulbs are always findable, if often from Germany or USA ebay sellers. Some early amps have oversized Phono sockets that do need replacing as they aren't useable, but no DIN socket ever needs cutting holes for Phono ones. But if you want to Butcher some £50 1980s-modern amp, no-one will care as these won't be Collector's amps. But those Amps that are Wanted need to be preserved. If Speaker Connectors are awkward for big cables... improvise. Buy some of These for earlier amps with flat screw type connectors, meant for Spade-Fork type connectors. Cut a short piece of mains cable, solder the end to stop loose strands, get a 30A mains connector block strip & these can take 4mm speaker plugs or big cable. If you really must fit a mains socket, fit one to the cable, it allows the next buyer to just rewire the amp & it's still original. If you don't like DIN connectors, you can easily buy cables or adaptors, DIN sockets are still good to use. DIN speaker plugs are similarly easy to use & do similar to those as noted above to fit big cables. Look inside & see how skinny the cable is there, a few cm more won't hurt, but over a 10m run thicker cable is best. There is No Need to alter anything. If the Phono sockets are too close together for big plug cables, go buy some smaller ones.
SOME QUICK HINTS ON SPARES
New parts like Capacitors as well as bulbs & much more can be bought at RS Components or Farnell as well as on ebay at very high prices sometimes or by other suppliers like Maplin who are stocking much less of these now. Ebay sellers charge double what RS or Farnell charge to make it worth them making an order once you've bought so they can get it delivered Next Day. Bulbs are usually findable on ebay UK, USA & Germany. Buying Transistors is similar, you can sometimes find originals with the same numbers, but equivalents can be found, though this is not easy. Any transistor noted as Rare & selling for over £2 for a low powered one or £6 for a TO3 type can be done with an equivalent, a grey area that needs good research & beware of forums with random suggestions. Those we have to part out & bits that aren't sellable are kept as spares as one day they may be useful. Boxes of screws & junk bits could help one day. If upgrading capacitors, avoid very cheap ones made in China, stick to quality known brand names as these cheap ones are poorly made & a waste of time even considering them.
WHERE DO YOU GET RARE & OBSOLETE PARTS?
"Nowhere" or "You can't" is the answer. But you can buy another of the same amp as a Parts Amp or you can buy a new item & adjust it to fit. Watch "Rick's Restorations" or "Wheeler Dealers" on TV & they are dealing with old & obsolete items & this is the only way. Ingenuity & Problem Solving is how they do it. Modern items only have a limited supply of parts that may be sold out in 2 years, these amps we mention are 30-50 years old. Things can often be Serviced or Repaired, if you think to just buy a new Volume Control or lever switch as the old one is noisy or intermittent, then you need to wise up a lot before doing stupid things. New Parts sold by online sellers like Farnell or RS often aren't what you want & are too hard to fit easily. Badly fitted new parts will mean buyers will avoid buying amateur repair jobs. If this is what you are encountering, give up & sell it as 'Spares-Repairs' rather than ending up trashing it as there is always someone who can do it & will buy yours.
Please don't Ask if we have Spares for a certain Amp or know where to get them, the above answers that... we do hear from those hopefully looking for NOS KT88s & power transformers for a late 70w amp, either look online, a search engine will find anything. No other way. Manufacturers used to keep spares only for a few years in the early 1990s, until they sold out or were disposed of, if you want parts for a 2005 DVD player you're too late. Go buy a new one is the only way unless you go buy another one to get the parts from but risk the part you want being bad on that one too.
If you have Speakers with damaged cones or burnt out voicecoils, they can be repaired to a very high standard & be working again. We had a problem with our 1932 Pye G/GR radiogram & the ancient mains powered magnet speaker cone crumbed on the voicecoil tube as so old, Wembley Speakers reconed it for not much & now it works. It's not going to be the ancient design cone though, but a standard modern cone of the right impedance fitted back onto the original metalwork, with a little adjusting. No speaker is dead. Try the original manufacturers too for they are well established in refurb work with some makers.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
We've sold quite a few amplifiers that we've serviced, got working from the dead & in some cases upgraded & restored where it was needed. Many we've fully Refurbished, which to us means recapping & upgrading cheap parts to premium ones, if not bothering with the excessive exotic parts some swear by, based on 'Experts' opinions usually in paid advertising articles. Buyers are delighted with what they are receiving & there certainly is a need for getting old Hifi up & running good like people do with other Vintage Items on TV shows like "Wheeler Dealers" where Classic Cars are restored & "Rick's Restorations" where Classic Semi-Industrial Architectural Antiques & Collectables are restored. Only thing is, parts can mount up in price & the sort of work & knowledge is way beyond the basic £20 an hour TV repair guy of old, this involves a deeper understanding of an item. Today skilled labour starts at £35 an hour plus parts. We got a BTEC in Electronics & TV in 1992 though it didn't teach much practical stuff, it was mostly theory that to us meant little without seeing it. We've more recently rebuilt our valve amp to a very high standard of sound quality & therefore have an excellent reference idea of what "good sound" is. Amps for Rock or Classical merely means an amp for Rock is loud & without much finesse & the Classical type amp should aim for the ultra clean accurate dry sound, but not particularly having the wattage or reserves to Rock it.
Nonsense says we in our quests: we want it all & there are amps out there that can deliver this once updated with better parts & can do it well as found even. This does not involve redesigning the circuit unless really necessary & minor, but not for many to do themselves. Thinking you can improve an ordinary circuit into superfi is foolish arrogance, and often doesn't work out to the point you've trashed the amp, but improving quality items with better parts is good sense as well as some minor alterations such as component values. But you need patience & the know-how to do all this & many will shy away from such a huge project, even we go "blimey" looking at some amps, but we like to win & working methodically can repair most dead ones and improve good working ones within reason. As with any person in any trade, we've learnt the hard way with things & we're still learning. Because we find it enjoyable as well as the £££ aspect.
GENERAL REPAIR SHOPS HAVE NO IDEA NOW...
We hear of people taking their damaged Vintage Hifi to General TV Repair Shops & getting turned away as these items need Old School repair techniques, fault finding & tracing faults is a dark art & can take ages and then be annoyed that "is that all it is" giving little satisfaction in finding the fault if getting it working again. We know from the VHS days with a top range S-VHS player that had a minor fault that General Repair Guys haven't a clue, all they do is replace quality parts with cheap generic ones & still don't solve the issue. Today replacing the entire surface-mount IC based boards is the deal so it takes little skill & repair manuals will probably just point the fault towards a board to replace. If it's over 5 years old, just throw it away as it was made to be disposable is the way today, how dare you want a 40+ year old item fixed. We know from one amp that these lazy TV repair guys are an ignorant menace & still charge a high price for basically rubbishing a good item back to low spec as they don't understand anything but book smarts. Then in Feb 2015 we see a stupid £39 we'll fix & service your Hifi ad by some fool who claims to know Hifi servicing & repairs, there are similar £99 ones found online. This is why we stay away from general repairs as the money is low & we really can't be bothered with average gear. Having a CD player to fix for a guy wanting amps done, we wish we hadn't bothered as it just annoyed as cheap junk. Testing more recent gear can be difficult with awkward construction, if an IC is suspected, just to replace it often can be the only way. What sort of job £39 will bring is remarkable though, it'll not be a 3 to 6 hours spent servicing, checking & cleaning job like we'd do for sure. Hearing of one guy with the late 1970s Rotel amps who was forever taking them in for repair shows he was wasting his money on an incompetent tech. Tell them our price to fully redo the amp to perfection & they shy away as our way of doing upgrades, servicing & repairs is good for years use, but it's not what anyone offers so it's an unknown. The amount of good hifi working still but in poor unserviced condition, meaning it'll be noisy & off spec shows paying for quality remedial & upgrade work is still a very new thing to the Hifi scene, simply as so few can do this right.
SERVICED means very recently fully cleaned & tested with any parts found damaged or below spec replaced. Undoing or correcting inadequate earlier repairs by others can be necessary too. It does not mean every part replaced whether it needs it or not. It will be made into a hopefully reliable item with enough care & testing to see it's good. With amps we get, to take them apart logically, to check all that needs checking & knowing what to look for, clean and smarten up the item & then test all functions. This can involve making the wood case look nicer, we know antique restoration skills, but to make it look smart with a minimal amount of work is the idea in all. Some are easier than others a, some need parts replacing & certain ones need a bit of subtle redesign from design weaknesses. To use the item and/or run it in for a good few hours is required to check for faults that may occuir & to see the item is reliable. As the amp will be using it's original old components it's lifetime may be long or not so long. Only an experienced technician can look for areas that are known weaknesses & remedy as well as make safe whatever they don't like the look of. For a lazy technician to say 'oh it's not worth buying one, the buyer won't know' is a mean cop-out & they have no right to be called a technician. A good technician takes pride in their work & admires good design. We like Old Hifi and find quality in design & manufacture pleasing, to the jobbing solder-jock just out to fix an item as cheaply as possible, as was/is the case, they don't care in any way & we've seen & not liked their crappy work. The typical saying 'If it's not broke, don't fix it' can apply, but we see "Serviced" 1960s Valve amps still using 300-450v power supply capacitors that are always dried out from ones we've cut open. The fact many are dual capacitors, ie 2 units per can, means most will just leave them be if they are 'good enough'.
One Valve amp we had claimed to be Serviced, we didn't take much notice only seeing a few new coupling caps. Switches were noisy & poor contact, valves crackled & hummed until wiggled to get a better contact. Not fully cleaned. A tag by a London repair shop est 1948 reveals why, minimal work done 3.5 years ago, but TV repair guy quality job. Not Serviced properly in the way we do it: to the extremes. In fairness with Valve amps the contacts on valve pins do get tricky, but the switches weren't properly cleaned & shows a TV grade repairer.
RECAPPED means some, as stated, or all electrolytic capacitors have been replaced, but often by amateurs just using the exact same values, cheap basic grade caps or thinking a higher voltage is better. This sort of recapping to us is pointless & more a hindrance to have to redo it properly after two lots of soldering on thin tracks. Older capacitors are usually too low spec from cost-cutting, size restrictions with available items: this is Recapped & upgrade. A 1967 2200µf 25v is a huge item of 25mm diameter x 60mm tall item, today a Panasonic FC of the same value is 12mm diameter x 20mm tall. If someone is selling a Recapped Amp & won't show photos, to consider it not done properly is a fair estimate. Most work we see even if paid-for Repair Guy work of old is generally not of a good quality.
UPGRADING DESIGN is a cover-all term to cover redesign of certain circuits with different value components to upgrading basic components to higher quality. Upgrading to some is buying new cables or cleaning Phono sockets. Other terms used to cover various stages of upgradecing are Maxed Out, upgrade & Rebuilt. It all depends on the skills of the person who done it & you'll rarely find professional work. Tweaking we don't state now as it is generally stated to mean basic stuff like buying a £4.99 cable instead of a 99p one it appears.
REBUILT should mean all capacitors replaced meaning new quality products, getting rid of cheap ceramics & often putting in new transistors if the old ones were noisy or not from the same batch due to old repairs. Sometimes the main Capacitors, ie the biggest ones, can be left if of good condition & of a high enough value. We've found some resistors are poorly matched & some will age & fail even if they look right so resistors can be redone too. It's your amp, do as you wish with it, but be wise: only do it subtly & you might be selling the amp shortly or later on so be sure it's added value, not decreased it. You can go to extremes and use meters to match things to very tight tolerances even. We have on two of our 1967 receivers & the extra effort does pay.
WE NOTICE... some sellers try to offer Unserviced & Unmodified Amps we've got good prices for our nice Serviced ones and offer theirs at a Similar Price. But naturally they are not offering them Serviced, just nice lookers that 'work' but that could hide many minor faults as the age & nature would suggest. Is it a good idea to pay a high price for a raw item? Pay what you like really, but whatever you do with it, Servicing it yourself or paying someone does bring a far better product than a tired but nice looking untouched amp.
OH THOSE SODDING HIFI FORUMS...
We do have a look to see what advice is being given to upgrade amps as on getting some amps, we sometimes have to undo some amateur messing, including TV guy repairs, before we can even deal with things. The worst sort of fiddling is where half an idea has been taken from a totally different amp & badly applied to another, usually with poor workmanship as well. It's your amp after all, do as you wish, but making a mess & selling it on is not going to please anyone. Upgrading an amp, without wishing to fuel those who expect complex upgrading info to be given freely, requires more than just a few things done, it needs the lot to be in keeping with whatever you are to do. If that stumps you, then please leave the amp alone for the next person who gets it. Forums often stupidly say "Oh You Must Do This" with no explanation why because they have no idea either. Result: trashed amp. One stupid post went on about bypassing signal capacitors, ignoring the fact the cap blocks DC from the next stage. We've even seen some fool thinking to bypass the output capacitors on a capacitor-coupled pre 1971 amp is a good idea. Only when they fry their speakers with 20-50v DC will they understand. Be aware Forums in Hifi are usually used by those fishing for free advice & you'll get bits of advice at best which is the half-ideas problem. You could say you've got to learn somewhere, we did years ago when it was first abandoned, but Vintage Hifi is now much wanted not to idly be toyed with. If you want to play around with Hifi, go for the Black 1980s-90s stuff, tons of those on ebay £20-50 all day long. Upgrade it, get a mains shock, trash it, bin it, who cares. But don't mess with the Vintage pre 1980 stuff with such disrespect if you can see it's a quality item, messing around with the best stuff is best left once you've learnt enough to not trash amps but fix them & get results. It takes time, learning & patience. Take anything a nobody on any forum about any subject with a pinch of salt: such as we were told one amp is prone to the bulbs failing, er.. all incandescent light bulbs in amps or fridges have a finite life. Beware the liars who say you'd best recap it as it'll soon fail. If the amp has had heavy use signs of failure will show, but some 45 year old amps are perfectly good on the capacitors & having cut many ones we replaced open, we can see often many would still be good in 10 years. We've had an amp with small buffer transistors replaced with huge ones of 40x the power & the person had no idea how to solder so trashed the board copper track. A nightmare to undo messing like that.
REPAIRING IS NOT COPYING AN IDEA & APPLYING IT...
Further to the Forum types reading info unrelated to their amp & using, now twice we've seen what we put as a casual comment turning up in an amp we get that a newbie tried to repair & predictably it doesn't work. We have to be wary what we put as we know someone will copy it, we don't say how we 'industrially clean' very dirty amps as be sure someone will do it & kill themselves! Two we can say were a Yamaha amp known to be a great one but with overheating issues, we get a lovely grade one that was fiddled with badly, the seller was embarrassed so put it up very cheaply to get rid. We done it properly & it's one pictured on the site. The second one again was someone talking half an idea & getting it very wrong. The Sony amp we got had lots of parts replaced, if they missed the very obviously bad large items. They'd read to replace these parts on a related amp sorted out an issue that their amp sort of had if a huge lot more wrong, but it was near & an idea so they try it. A bag of bits was tucked away inside. The amp never worked as in playing audio. The Moral here is: don't fiddle with good amps if you have no idea. You'll mess it up & have to sell it on cheap. Get it professionally repaired, or if you realise it's beyond you, leave it alone & sell it as spares-repairs describing the item well & you'll find a buyer who hopes they can fix it. Again, if you want to fiddle with amps, get cheap 1980s-90s ones that are easily found for £20-50. Play with those, try to "upgrade" them & if they fail, who cares. But leave the Classic Hifi alone to those who can fix it up properly.
WHAT WE HATE TO SEE...
is when some amateur has taken out the Speaker connector original fitting & badly replaced it with a modern one. As bad is replacing old Phono sockets with new ones, simply as new is better to these unthinking sorts. All utterly pointless & we'd bypass any amp like this unless we had the original part as a spare. Some speaker connectors seem useless like the metal screw ones, actually these are great if you use one of those Gold Marantz-McIntosh blocks ebay has from China sellers, sorted. The Pioneer plug type are not great as a heavier wire will pull them out, but seeing the amp badly fitted with a modern one, the person needs a slap! There is nothing at all wrong with subtly putting in new connectors for 4mm plugs, but it needs to be done subtly, or buyers will run like we do. You can read plenty to see we can do things propery & have plenty of photos of our Sold Items, so to see bad work done does grate on our sensibilities. If you must do stupid things, at least keep the original parts & don't visibly damage the amp exterior so some more thoughtful person can undo your bad idea & salvage something. Putting in a mains cable socket as you think a captive cable isn't good, leave it alone, it'll only look an ugly mess. For those wondering, we've never ever needed to replace any Phono socket with new ones. We rarely touch the speaker connectors as options are available to compromise. Only ones that are broken & unsafe or are rubbish like the weak plastic tipped screws Luxman used in the late 1970s need careful replacing. If we can fit a very short cable & 30A size plastic screw connector block to that cable & use the amp with 4mm plugs, it'll do for ones with 3mm plugs, spring connectors or ones with only tiny cable holes. As we sell & upgrade amps, we do get asked to do these things that we see as objectionable. As we are being paid, we do as we are told you think? Not with us, we'll tell you (kindly) it's a bad idea as we don't want to be butchering an amp that doesn't need it. If it's broken, then to get as near original is the idea. Only those who no longer care about their subject become Mercenary...
What We've Heard Since Writing...
Since writing all these pages & giving it to the World For Free simply as we want to progress Vintage Hifi & we are in a position to, we get comments from others which are interesting to read. We know Servicing & Amplifier Design if we are still learning what certain configurations of Transistors etc are actually for. We are hearing from readers who are So Tired of buying Vintage Gear that is sold as Working but usually is far from it's best. To pretty much ignore whatever the seller says & take it at face value is the best way or be disappointed. Faulty could be any amount of work is needed from a straightforward Service to a Rebuild of certain parts. But perhaps the Market for Vintage Goods is just that, it's OLD and to get it to be "as good as new" needs work. You'd not get a 1968 Ford Mustang out of a Garage unused for 20 years & them do a 300 mile run to the Coast with it. Cars can kill more readily than Hifi & need a very strict MOT & insurance to get them Street Legal. Buyers still think to use a 40 year old item without any work done is still how it is. We've noted elsewhere that 20 years ago we saw Hifi that was then 20 years old & still just about fine to use, but the age of these items has now Doubled. Metal casework starts to oxidise, controls are noisy or intermittent, components can age & fail, adjustments can be incorrect to the original spec. With 40 years of use may leave the item looking like new on the outside or even in poor grade but usually the insides will be similar: Aged. The problem further is users were careless & damaged the Amplifiers usually by shorting the Speaker outputs & the person who repaired it may not have been a good Technician, we've seen many bad repairs as well as half-assed repairs that never solved the fault. For a skilled Tech like we are, we sometimes have to rebuild sections that are a mess because of previous messing or design weaknesses. All this costs Time & Money as well as parts. But if you get your New Buy, bought as a Serviced one or get it Serviced by a Third Party then you can hope for your years of use, but again depending on how good they Service it as we know some leave it alone if it's Not Broken, but the Broken may not be obvious yet. Vintage Hifi is still very young & we hope we are setting a Standard for others to aspire to. But...
WE DON'T DO GENERAL REPAIRS OR SERVICING.
Read a more current view on the Upgrade Service page. We'll Repair & Service better amps so we can get reviews of them for the site, but we have no interest in repairing some cheap thing. Doing general electronics repairs is a miserable job on many levels, we've seen it with others & run away screaming. You have hard deadlines "we want it fixed yesterday" sort of demanding customers, unaware of the work needed on some. To deal with crappy goods you hate, ie IC riddled amps & the trouble of sourcing obsolete parts is hard enough with our ones. Fault finding is a Black Art & can take many hours as you need the Service Manuals, much pre 1990 is freely available now at least, there was nothing like this in 1990 for earlier items. Some amps we can try to fix a couple of times but still not find the issue & with 'easier' ones arriving, the rare awkward amp can sit for months & it'll get done when we can be bothered again. Or we give up even, we don't have to prove ourselves by wastying hours & refitting parts repeatedly on amps we don't care about. Ones we do care about will be endured. But no customer would be happy with that. Some items can need redesigning even if parts fail and standards have to be met in other ways. On getting our BTEC in Electronics, the TV repairs section, the nearest to Hifi, the tutor said to us the game of repairs was a miserable one on noting the sharp student he was talking to. No intention ever to do repairs but to learn the game & for the want of it, it really didn't teach much but looks good on paper as is most qualifications. Also the rush & pressure: who needs it? Repair shops are full of abandoned gear once the real cost is realised even after being priced. One site we found photos of amp insides actually says very basically the repairs the amps needed, a risky thing as no fault is the same & replacing original parts with something nearly right, in our experience, is the last thing we'll do. How much gear do 'Rick's Restorations' get abandoned? We sell amps we've worked on & the selling price doesn't cover the labour done, but it's a learning & hobby thing and if we cover costs of parts & sell it faster perhaps it's a double win. Some amps we have worked on for our own interest initially are Masterpieces & in a better world would sell for several times our price. Still Early Days...
CD players & Tape Recorders are not easy to repair if it's beyond buying new rubber belts. Plastic or Nylon parts once broken are unrepairable. Switches & Rotrary pots once worn are unreplaceable. You only option usually is to buy another one & make one good out of two or just do what people have been doing for decades: Bin It. Sad but true. A lot of electronics are made to be disposable & Repairs could be very costly to the point it's a write-off which is a hint on how to get a new one.
IT STILL WORKS, SO WHY BOTHER SERVICING IT?
This is Human Nature: people will put up with very poor quality sound, ignoring how awful most speakers sound compared to proper 12"+ bass drivers, simply because they don't really understand good sound. Speakers again, the tweeter should be aimed at the listener & best set below the ear line to not get an excess treble sound. But speakers are wall mounted up high or pointed in the wrong direction just as space is limited. Hifi can still work but sound a fraction of it's quality as compared to new or properly serviced, we've noticed this with some high quality but complex amps & the difference before & after is very obvious. With todays lo-fi portable players & MP3 compression, the odds are more people are listening to bad sound through poor items as well as aged & unserviced goods. So what says you? Remembering as a kid Cars that were rustbuckets that were still allowed on the road, much stricter MOTs got rid of these simply as they would probably not survive a crash like a high grade car could. There are no Hifi MOTs or even the need for the user to Service an item until it fails & needs repair. Then all the repair person, usually a pretty unskilled non-Hifi TV repair guy sort, will do a basic repair knowing the user wouldn't pay extra for a proper service or better quality parts even. Reading the Nick Beer 'Repairing Hifi' book, he clearly mocks the "enthusiast" who strives to better his lot with even sensible upgrades. Philistine is he. Even Computers & TVs need servicing, certain parts need to be kept cooled & some parts are weak points. But manufacturers today want you to buy a new one & iPhone users follow this corporate con like Sheep. Those with the mentality to fix & keep things at their best by servicing, repair & patching up are getting fewer by the year. People suffer with aches & pains rather than get them sorted, so why bother with your Hifi. There are those folk who can't tell the point of having a portable radio instead of a big Hifi, perhaps they are the lucky ones, but for those who demand a high standard, not perfection, in Hifi like to get the best out of an item, Guess which sort we are? That's why we've spent 20 years fiddling with Hifi, trying to better it in any way & now we are more refined in our skills the results are too. We replace capacitors a lot in our quest to find an amp that is a better one, often the amp can be hiding better quality but equally often not. To buy new parts on a big amp could use £100 of parts & take 6 hours work. Is an average user really going to bother with that? Does the buyer of amps we've done this too readily pay the premium for the effort. Not really is the answer. Hifi is still very young compared to Cars where full skilful restorations are shown on TV a lot now.
A SERVICED AMPLIFIER IS WORTH A PREMIUM.
We sell our Serviced Amps & buyers are happy to get an amp they know will be reliable. Servicing is not cheap, unless you do it yourself. You'd pay a lot more if it was your own amp than we put as a Premium on our amps. Not all amps make that much more Serviced, depends on how complex the amp is. We see dreamers with raw & rough amps have the cheek to ask the prices we get for our Serviced ones. Especially the big Yamahas where we do a trick to keep them running cool & reliable, apparently the dreamers ignore all that & hope you are gullible. The sellers oddly don't get a sale until priced at a fair "gamble" price. If you want to overpay & take a risk, it's your choice. But on the other hand as Hifi is still young, buyers are not aware of quality work, they probably expect amateur work & cheap parts. If you are selling serviced & upgraded items, let the buyers see. One ebay listing by a Nikko amp owner amusingly showed how misinformation is taken as fact... "the power has been switched on regularly to prevent joints drying out". Half information about things that can fail.
HOW TO SERVICE?
We're not giving tricks of the trade away for two reasons: it's another person's living & also we see the mess people make using half-ideas. No technical servicing can be learnt overnight & as with Fault Finding it's a learnt thing based on experience & how sharp you are. You can buy repair books, take snippets of info from Forums & still not really know what you are doing & make a mess. Some people fiddle with Cars instead of getting a Pro to service or repair, Hifi is no different. We learnt the hard way & even our BTEC qualification teaches you little & that means you will in your early days generally wreck rather than repair as in anything in life. In those days things were cheap so being a bit cavalier was not such a big deal, but some we had are now money items and 'oh well' is the idea. But finding a competent Hifi repair person is not easy either, you can find General Electronics repair people but few are also into Hifi to know what they are doing. In days of old, most were TV repair men with not much skill & just used ordinary parts, the cheapest capacitors, replacing like for like with no real knowledge of the Hifi aspect, just the audio stage ideals & not bothering to learn further. If you like Hifi, to learn it yourself is worthwhile, but you need to be a technical minded sort & give it years. Some people can't even wire a plug as we have seen quite often, but at least today a plug is a fitted item, until the 1990s you got no plug on UK bought items. We see items that a repair shop has done in the past & are a little shocked at their lack of skill. Hifi is a long way behind Car restoring as you see on the TV. Beware of those repair services quoting a fix-it for a set fee, they may be like dodgy garages in how they really price & what they'll actually do. Having people ask us what they should do to service an item is a crazy thing to be asking, beyond there being nothing in it for us, pus not knowing anything of your ability & do we really want to help you electrocute yourselves?. 240v mains is inside all amplifiers when on, and up to 500v is in Valve amps and these voltages can be very exposed. Electronic items today have a 5-10 year lifespan & are sadly purposely made not to last. Items that we are writing about are 30-50 years old & should have been disposed of years ago according to the cynical 5-10 year rule, but they are much better made, parts are usually readily available & your 40 year old amp can be as good as new, but who will do this for you? The Vintage Hifi Industry needs to grow & mature as there are certainly many buyers out there who want a reliable serviced item, way beyond a very basic PAT test. Most Vintage Hifi found for sale on ebay etc is attic finds, items unused and stored for decades & in need of some TLC. Our many pages are online because we want Vintage Hifi to progress further than the many sites just giving model & specs as well as the very useful service info that was unfindable to nearly all 20 years ago.
POOR QUALITY EFFORTS
We see Amplifiers that the sellers have done awful things with & claim they've Serviced & Improved them. The idea that the person who worked on any electrical item is an amateur or an idiot sadly is more true than not. Seeing a Heathkit S99 10w valve amp the seller claims to have recapped, they used the cheapest available capacitors, the same values as the original 50 year old spec, missed out plenty of them, left in ancient capacitors that are likely high risk, left in manky looking resistors without cleaning or checking they were even near to the values & it hums on the mains. We had a S99 before & it's got a page to itself, a good budget item for it's day it must be said, but now too aged & not worth the effort. They hum in noise from the unit vibrating & the hum in the audio as it needs a huge amount of work to improve a turd of an amp. Partly Serviced is insulting the gullible buyer. We do our Restoration as close to original looking as we can, we appreciate & understand Hifi, not butchering putting unsuitable connectors & leaving it looking like a mess. Clearly we are in the minority. Yet someone paid £125 for the ugly thing, painted black by brush, missing selector buttons & a piece of crap to us we'd find hard to consider for £20. Perhaps one has more grip of the reality of these things than the other. One hopes so.
HIFI FORUMS... again
By the Nature of a Forum, anyone can register & post comments & questions. Beware what you believe on Forums therefore as you have no idea who the person is who is foolishly stating damnation for a particular amplifier based on their experience. You can read many pages on our opinions, on Forums all you see is their few posts. We get amps fiddled with by Forum types & to undo their incorrect mess & amateur fiddling can take as long to do as us upgrading an amp. Forum folk quote utter nonsense as fact from their limited knowledge & guessing what is wrong. As an idea, we've had amps with 20w transistors put into a preamp circuit when ones 40x less power would do. We've had terrible soldering work leaving the track missing in multiple places, wires soldered wrongly, voltage carrying wires & resistors left hanging loose ready to short & much more. The usual Forum advice is to replace the Main Capacitors meaning the old but still perfectly good high quality capacitor is replaced by some lightweight modern junk & the part we'd want left intact is binned. A whole essay could be written on the guesswork & fiddling of amateurs & be sure most of what they do either doesn't work, is unreliable or is unsellable as stupid like some guy who fitted a valve amp inside a cheap late 1970s amp & wants £600 for his untidy mess. Forums are useful to find out the rarity of an amp & to get links to obscure sites with manuals, but we as professional hifi restorers find their content frustrating as either wrongly answered or left unanswered. To glean bits of info to unrelated amps & try it on your amp, unaware of what you are doing is guaranteed not to work. Please don't mess with things you don't understand as you'll ruin a good amp that someone would have wanted & when you've killed it it makes that otherwise good quality amp just a bit rarer. Respect for Vintage Hifi is required. Please do not Quote some nonsense you read on a Forum as Fact & expect us to explain why it's wrong. It takes years to learn Hifi, but the idea today is you can do anything without gaining the experience first & then wonder why it's in the bin broken & you got annoyed with it & hit it with a hammer. Forums never reveal they messed up though we have noticed bad ideas later get deleted as the person realises they've got it very wrong. But many others will have believed it was true. Dangerous.
FOR GAMBLERS ONLY?
If you like a Gamble & can do servicing yourself, buy unserviced raw from the loft or skip hifi items on ebay as this is what most vintage hifi is. You may get a great item just needing a clean & a minor service, or you will likely get an item that is unusable unless much money is spent on it, or you can do it yourself. Many amps are old "found" items unused for the large amount of the amp's life, the worst gambles are skip & recycling centre finds & the better ones are collector-owner ones that have been used lightly over time & stored in domestic conditions, ie not the shed or attic. Buying "Spares or Repairs" items is very high risk, if the seller adds in they've part tested it to make you think it's not so bad, you can still get a burnt out wreck & no way out. Recycling centres do get nice items though, but a lot of scrap items. Servicing & Adjusting is critical to keep Old Amps sounding their best. Learn how if you don't want to pay. To be fair & not offer unreasonable hope, non-Bad to us means 'OK but needs work', if you can service amps to any degree, you may win. Also, some of these 'non-Bad' have turned up faults that running in & use will bring out. Some were insulting items that were dangerous, hugely misdescribed as working when not much did work. Having the lights go on is not working, but people state "it powers up" which at least shows it's not dead, but often little better than. Sellers will not often openly lie, but often you don't hear the whole story, one was shown as not used in a long time then on asking if they had other hifi, we hear the seller's son used it for a while until finding out it was erratic as we'd expected anyway. We aren't really sure what buyers of Vintage gear actually do with them, many collect them & don't use them, some buy naively thinking they are plug & play and we suspect many are home tinkerers, not knowing too much. We don't like getting failed repair jobs as sorting out the usual mess made by a previous person can be worse than getting a non worker. If you get an amp that you can't fix, think of how much people like us will pay for it rather than you ruining it & binning it. Keeping old amps alive & working is important as the hobby is growing as these amps sound great & the looks are currently very fashionable in Retro terms. There aren't any other sellers like us & why buyers of our amps often mention our pages as we let them read the story & review of their amp, not that we mention this when selling else it looks like a hyping game. Buyers are pleased with our amps & we'll carry on as long as there is a market. We can only imagine what people buying vintage amps end up with, they probably just use them like more recent used items & sadly this will lead to failures.
DO WE OFFER A REPAIR SERVICE?
On a Basic level: No, but 'Possibly', see the Upgrades page link at the top. The pitfalls are many: finding bits or equivalents for pre 1980 amps is easier than post 1980 custom-made parts that only the amp manufacturer used & now the stock of those is gone as the internet has found them. Also some amps we get can sit here for ages until we feel like doing hard-core repairs as being in the mood for that isn't daily. Offering a guarantee is difficult to consider, you'll get no more money for it, but people still can wreck an amp through misuse & never admit they shorted the outputs when the damaged part can only mean that's what happened. One premium repair service only guarantees work done too, the wording elsewhere sort of suggests the whole item is guaranteed but seeing their invoice confirms that no guarantee is on original parts as we'd expect. But seeing ancient 1960s valve amp capacitors we know from our ones are dried out that are left in place. Human nature is difficult & why you see so many liars arguing on TV shows like "Hardcore Pawn" when it's obvious they are telling porkies beyond the actors that are scripted. But as amps get older, they will need service. We knew amps 20 years ago that were then 15-20 years old & looked not much different to new, but another 20+ years ages them quite heavily & these are now in need of work or they'll end up in the recycling centre or just thrown away. Owners who respect their amplifiers & receivers who'd want to spend money getting them to get back an amp that is as good as new and better will have such a wide range of amps. Ones like the Leak Delta 70 are straightforward, but the Delta 75 receiver is another thing. Having to need more tech equipment than we have is a likelihood. We don't like amps with ICs beyond basic FET ones that were used from the late 70s, go read our ICs page. Later amps with complex microprocessors will need a lot of fault finding only to find the part is obsolete & unrepairable beyond making it work by an invented bypassing or adding bits, ie a waste of time. Built-in obsolescence is the way Hifi is after 1980: if you can fix a more complex amp count yourself lucky. Odds are you'll need to buy another to make 1 good out of 2 more more junk amps. The makers just want to you buy a new one. But pre 1980 just about anything can be repaired or susbstitued or made, even going back to Valve amps of the 1930s, we got a 1932 Pye GR gram fully working, though it took buying the radio version & swapping parts to get it right. All is possible, but at a price with pre 1980.
AUTHORISED REPAIRS NOT ALWAYS BETTER?
Ebay in their Condition standards, New Used etc, state a Refurbished item by a person approved by the Manufacturer appears to be better than one privately done. This is sadly just a False Hype, we've had items over the years repaired by these "approved" repairers only to end up with a worse item. There are no Standards a repair person has, only those better at it see others failing. One expensive Panasonic NV-HS950 VCR we had in the early 1990s was such an item. A S-VHS player that gave superior TV recording as we mostly used it as a Time shift as we do today with the Virgin+ box, no Tivo annoyance for us. These are the best VCRs for transferring old tapes & you can adjust out the tell-tale heads crossover line if you know how. This one worked fine, but on rewind search the picture messed up as the tape, we later found out, had inadequate back tension that needed minor adjusting of burrs. Stupid idiot "repair" person ignores the real reason as they knew nothing & puts a new & cheaper head drum in that wasn't as good. Nowadays we'd demand the original part back & give them a kick for being incompetent. That player got sold on as a newer model came out that did similar. Other authorised repairs were better, but a huge CRT TV 36" probably the biggest Panasonic made was so heavy at 75kg that the fool damaged the case a bit from dropping it as we helped him carry it down stairs. Other horror stories in Cars & probably any other repair-under-guarantee item will chuck up similar. Authorised repair guy under Guarantee does it as quick & cheaply as possible, no time for thought or learning. They are fiddling with your electronic goods. Expect to buy a new one soon.
THE LAST REPAIR GUY WAS AN IDIOT.
Sadly it's generally true. We always assume any old repairs to be incompetent ones until you check them yourself, checking equivalents are the same spec or better in the right way to the old parts. Uneducated amateur or low paid repair guy who doesn't care as long at it works & rushed the job is likely the person you have to double-check. Often you get half-assed efforts where the person knows not what they are doing, uses the wrong parts & is surprised it doesn't work. If we get tired of an amp & it's not ready, put it aside & come back another day, week or month later. The next time you'll be sharp & ready with thoughts to deal with it right. We've encountered awful "repairs" dry joints, capacitors connected with the wrong polarity, big transistors that need a mica insulator with big lumps of dirt in between, fuses removed & wire soldered in, wrong spec parts, bodged parts, dead fuse & a nail or tin foil put in. Wrong transistors used that are the wrong specs & cause others to repeatedly short, heatsinks missing so the transistor is burning hot, wrong value resistors used etc etc. Then the problems of more bad soldering, dry joints, using wrong parts deliberately or by mistake. They'll short things & blow the board track off. The age-old problem of weak track can mean even you'll end up taking a solder point off & having to improvise after. This is why a dusty item with untouched screws is preferred even if it needs work & it's obvious if you're the first one to take off the lid. Whatever you encounter, check old repairs were done properly first. If not, the repairs will be the last thing you encounter in finding why it still has a fault. Old repairs are spottable if you know the signs, messy solder on boards & non matching parts L to R are some. One Pioneer SX850 amp we had the original buyer done bad repairs on, he'd damaged it within weeks of buying it new & it went into a damp attic & at some time tried a repair, but missed damaged parts & wrecked it more. It took 12 new transistors to get it going, quite a feat to wreck so much. But the seller didn't reveal the truth on selling it as is typical.
NOBODY KNOWS NOTHING.
As we noted on our Headphones page, sales & also service people are not educated in their product & if you get repairs needed on any item, don't take the first verdict or go for the cheapest service. Noted this in the heady days of VCR with a Panasonic S-VHS player complaining about a back tension fault & the "authorised repair" people put a new drum head in without calibrating & it was worse & fault still there. Actually found the cause of the fault was a slight burr causing the plastic back tension part not to move freely, clearly advanced fault finding there beyond the repair jokers. Be it Hifi, your Car or House Builders work. Assume the repair person is out to con you or knows nothing & just wants a paid job as many TV shows reveal this often is the case. We heard of a central heating system visited by 6 "repair guys" all who diagnosed different expensive faults. Then they called out one related to the make of boiler & the said it only needed a setting set. These less honest or aware repair guys didn't want the owner seeing how they started the boiler either as it would stop them getting call out fees. Repair folk can make your "nothing" fault into a big deal & you are so relieved it works again you don't question their methods. Things like Washing machines, motor brushes wear out, but new brushes & it works, if you don't it'll either not work or short out something & cause more problem. But to replace the motor for £200 is the usual game you'll find. So not many people get things repaired so this is why certain items are so disposable. Our view is repair it until it can't be repaired no more or it looks too far gone. We can sift through the BS & money making as we have the knowlege & attitude, but most people pay out for "vanity" repairs only to keep the repair guy in a job.
DOING IT BY THE BOOK?
You can buy books that supposedly help in getting repairs done. But you'll only end up more confused is our opinion. We've had 1940s, 1960s ones & a 1994 Nick Beer Servicing Hifi book. To us who have spent 20 years+ fiddling with amps, re-reading the Nick Beer one, it merely gives a lazy idea that you just replace everything which really is totally wrong when dealing with Vintage. Modern electricals sadly are like this, an example are Panasonic DVD players were notorious for purposely overheating as heatsinking was rubbish, the ICs on the DMR-EX75 had a tiny heatsink of 1" square so it ran really hot. They expectedly fail & on trying to get the PCB involved you have to also buy the DVD mechanism "as they are linked together" supposedly in some settings-code BS way. We still have this DVD player, cobbled together from 2 machines & it gets used often, but ours we added a huge heatsink to the overhot IC that stretched from front to back & added air holes to the top lid. It now runs very cool & clearly has survived. Other Panasonic DVDs had a different overheating regulator that needed heatsinking to the metal case & that solved that problem. Read 'Hot Hifi' page for more, these things are deliberate to make you buy another one after a very short time. We don't accept that nonsense. Back to Hifi, to just buy new parts that likely are not original or the right spec is a bad idea. Parts can be cleaned & repaired. Another example is a washing machine of ours from 20 years ago, the motor brushes wore out & blew the control board out: a big piece of track was frazzled, so instead of paying £££ for a new board with the wrong fittings, we just repaired it, bought new transistors etc & it worked again for another 4 years until it leaked. To repair rather than buy new has clearly been forgotten by many, shoe repairs & phone repairs must be minimal as it's so easy to buy a new cheap & nasty one that will fail quickly. The Repair type books generally only cover modern items, so a 1994 book is all about power amp ICs & other crap that doesn't exist in the era of Hifi we cover. No book tells you how to fault find & us after 20 years are still picking up new ideas as we can be more "careless" and take risks that do pay off that most wouldn't consider. If it does the job & will be reliable, then it's a good one.
BEWARE THE KNOW-ALLS.
From early selling on ebay, before scammers want freebies of upgraded gear, selling our amps that we write about, but didn't put any links to these pages simply as we don't want it looking like we're hyping things, which we certainly aren't. But we did get the know-alls contacting us with their unwanted opinions, as is the deal of being online. Even the most stupid comment is worth reading, as those like that may be your customer one day & their opinion is worth noting, but it's never worth a reply. One who says he was a ex-repair man for one company is an illustration. He smugly says one amp we had pictured had a dead bulb in it. It was fine when we checked it, but bulbs do fail at any time & one certainly had, probably only when we turned it on again to photo it. Fair comment & we rectified it. But he also revealed the BS these repair guys think is aceptable in their trade..."the main caps on the psu will need replacement". This is how certain types boost a job: saying things "will need replacing" when there is no sign they do. We are sure other capacitors will need replacing too in 5, 10 or 20 years, who knows until signs of failure are apparent. "Will need" and "Do need" are very different things. We've seen the results of the "Will need" thinkers who do stupid things that aren't necessary. We are still learning as we say on the Hifi intro page and anyone in a trade should admit this too, but we know a little as you can read. This particular amp has the best & most reliable brands of capacitor the Japanese made amps have, Nippon & Elna. Read the Capacitors page as we've done reasearch. The Power Supply caps in a 50w amp in good condition will still be on a high likelihood of being good still in another 10 years. Ones in amps 10 years older still are. Anyone saying they need replacing is trying to get you to spend money where it's not needed. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
IT'S UNREPAIRABLE THEY SAY...?
To them it is, but that shows they are not very professional, or are afraid to try. Price limits apart, any item is repairable, yes ANY item however wrecked or trashed or obsolete, up to a limit, no incinerated item is usually, but any item that holds it's original form but is damaged is Repairable. New parts may solve a lot of issues, but then more will be totally obsolete parts like custom semi-conductors that you could put new parts in & modify a lot, but the best way is to have a "Parts Car" as they do in Car restorations. An item equally "unrepairable" in financial terms, but odds are it'll yield up most of what you need & then you go searching for other parts from other broken-up amps. It's a growing business. Parts may fit other amps amid other models & brands from the same era. Go watch "Desert Car Kings" & "Wheeler Dealers" for how inventive they are with Car restorations. Depending how much you like the item & money isn't an object, a few parts units will get yours back to 100%. Take what you need & then sell on the rest as someone will be after those other parts too. Don't let a good item die or throw away good useable parts based on one fool's worthless opinion. If you'd not be the one to fix it up, offer it for sale on ebay as spares-repairs, show the potential buyer good in & out photos & you'll readily find a buyer for items that are popular & wanted when working. On the other hand, an Alba amp offered as spare is unsellable as the working item is of such low value. You won't find many Luxman amps parted out but Pioneer & Yamaha are often found parted out as big power amps & power supplies are not easy to fix, so they give up & part out instead. Useful for us wanting parts, but tearing an amp apart into parts is a last resort to recoup money you have in it. To part out an amp with only a minor fault is stupid as it could be repaired by those who know.
TOO FAR GONE?
With how life & weather of today is, things are getting soaked & covered in mud & then rust. This sadly means everything including Hifi will be a write off. Or is it? We've had Sony amps twice now that the sellers weren't honest about. One was stored in it's original box yet totally drenched & the box half rotted. It survived, cleaned up to show no trace of it's ordeal & passed all our tests & sold on as it was perfectly good now. The next Sony was sold by a very dishonest seller who appeared to miss the rust, layer of muddy goo inside as well as how bad it stunk. Must have been left in the floods or in a very leaky out building, yet they had the cheek to sell it. The second one was so dirty we had to do industrial cleaning on it. We plugged it in with safety in mind a few days later & voltages read as they should, but no relay click so no sound. The transistors were good as we tested easier & later found one small transistor had rusted the legs so was no longer connected. Soldered back & plugged in with little hope of success, but it clicked the relay on. It worked. It played music. It still needs plenty of work & an extended run-in to see if it safe but if it is & it looks good enough, we've rescued it. Every component will need checking therefore. Not for anyone other than a very experienced tech to deal with ones this bad, but for the want of rescuing a good amp because we can, someone will take a gamble for a tiny price. If you have amps like this, describe them as badly watersoaked & in a very bad state for an experienced gambler only, to just say it's been stored for years is a disgrace as many amps that we get in high grade have been long stored in dry conditions. We know ebay can be an online rubbish skip to many who are not fair in how they describe items in extremely poor condition. But someone might take a gamble for a fiver if they are aware of how bad it is & if it's a money amp if in nice grade it could be worth a small gamble.
AMATEUR HALF-FIDDLERS LEAVE IT ALONE.
We don't like seeing amps, that people who have read our site or others, and they've thought by casually putting in some cheap capacitors or upgrading ceramics or tantalums this will solve the amp's weaknesses. No it won't. These ideas are good if you do it properly with some design knowledge & do the whole amp or at least the whole board. We had a NAD 160a amp that the seller claimed to have restored. To us that is of no value & with no photos also meaningless. We paid the price we wanted after others thought the same & found out his "restoring" was taking out 6 tantalums & putting in any old electrolytics. We like this amp & want to better it so we redo that Tone board properly losing their amateurish fiddling & overlong wires. The risk of buying half-fiddled amps is you need to heat the track once again & the track can lift. Also to trust they done it properly is never to be considered as they never do. Other fiddlers as we note elsewhere replace like for like & wonder why it sounds no different. A truth we'll reveal is that unless the parts are particularly aged, you'll get no difference. To get a difference, you need to design it up to better spec & that involves circuit reading & experience. So unless you know that, leave it alone, or you may just end up trashing the amp or doing it so badly no-one will dare buy it.
THINK YOU CAN FIX IT YOURSELF?
People will often try to repair things themselves & think a look at what is said on a forum & blindly go in thinking it's easy. No it isn't. The Pioneer guy in the paragraph above made a right mess. We've fixed many amps & a new unknown unusual dusty dirty amp to us can even look daunting & offputting until it's learnt. Amps like this we have a good look at & leave for another day once the mind is tuned into it, full speed ahead on it. What would an inexperienced repairer think? Transistor amps work from live 240v AC mains & with a 13 amp fuse a maximum 3120w of power can be zapping through your veins. That's a little unlikely to be that much, but a fraction of 1 Amp can kill you if your fingers get stuck on the live part. Your body works on electric signals, a huge external one will stop it. Valve amps work on 200 to 600v of DC voltage once rectified. If you touch live AC mains without being grounded, you'll feel a wobbly sensation and you'll remain alive, as 50 Hz is the cycle rate of the Mains. It'll make you spasm in some way or violently react in throwing your arms & whatever's in their reach sharply away. If you are touching an earth connection & touch live mains, a large current could flow & badness. 70mA appears to be a level of fatality depending on the person. Though there must be a voltage point as 2 fingers across a 9v battery won't do much, seems 20v-40v is when it starts, though you can touch 60v in amplifiers & only feel a tiny tingle. DC voltage is no less bad although it often is isolated from the mains, if not always with how cheap modern items are made. You'll get burns so you can smell what you would be like cooked.
If that hasn't made you think twice, what do you know is wrong? If you need to ask advice at every stage & haven't read books & information, then you are unwise to continue. Pay someone to do it properly & have a good item & no nasty surprises. To fiddle with screw adjusting presets is foolish as you'll get no good from it. You need to know what you are doing, or if you are learning, messing with high voltages & currents will sooner or later arrive in a ruined hifi item or an early grave. If you want to fiddle, do it with an unimportant item & learn the slow explosive way, or get qualified or well read at least. We learnt by a mix of all three. You'd not fiddle with a Car engine so casually. If you can open an amplifier you've never seen inside before & know that part is called this & that is the other & that this should be abc & that should be xyz within a few minutes, you are ready to try. If you don't... forget it for the while.
The hidden truth about Electrocution by Hifi is found by Googling for facts & figures on people killed by fidding with hifi, not railway lines or industrial accidents. The only things more usually to happen are wrecked items, burnt fingers, bruised egos, frayed tempers & blown fuses. But are you willing to risk any of that even?
RUINING YOUR AMP IS EASY.
We encounter this one often in having to repair this in amps & even one buyer done this himself. No-one ever admits they done this silly mistake either. What is It? SHORTING THE SPEAKER OUTPUTS TOGETHER. Some amplifiers have fiddly screws to be used as speaker wire connectors. The idea was you crimp or attach a Spade Connector on your cable & attach it easily. But about none will do this & just screw bare wires into the screw part which squash & unravel from the twisting. You could twist the wire into a part loop & add solder, but no-one will do that either. But this is where the trouble starts as just ONE STRAND can be loose & touch + and - together creating a short circuit & damaging the output transistors. Your speakers have 4 to 8 ohms of resistance which isn't much, but a short circuit is Zero Ohms and current grows until the Transistors in the output stages destroy themselves within a few seconds. We oddly had a DIN speaker plug cable with a wire that came loose inside despite being used OK before & the amp started smoking on a power resistor, the amp was lid off & open & the parts all visible so the smoking was immediately noticed. But we were very quick to turn it off as hand by the controls ready for playing music & yank out the DIN plug. Expecting ruined transistors, but nothing was faulty at all. All tested fine. It worked fine still too. It seems 2 seconds of a short starts the current growing but not high enough to damage, just alert with the resistor. You won't be so lucky as that as having the lid on, smoking parts take more seconds to get through lid grilles by the time ruination would have occured. Protection Circuits won't save your Amplifier, neither will fuses, but they should kick in to not ruin your speakers, assuming fuse values are correct.
IT NEEDS A LOT DONE & IT'S TATTY...
One faulty amplifier could involve several damaged parts. Servicing an older amp is usually needed before work on finding the fault can be done, as years of aging can hide the real source & may solve the problem without time-consuming fault finding. Spending £300 repairing an amp in poor physical condition with parts missing on the outside is a fool's game. Think of resale value if the outside is poor grade. Some amps can be repainted, but one with missing lettering & dents & scrapes is not wife-friendly. An amp that's worth £500 in nice grade is easy to sell in it's market, but in poor grade is worth only what the person not so fussed about looks wants to pay. It's worth £0.00 to the houseproud or maybe £200 to the rustic dweller or one who wants a cheap version of an expensive item. Buying old items like Portable radios that may not be easy to repair, but look nice as display items is worthwhile if priced right, a 1963 Decca radio we remembered a working one sold for £60 but a current non worker mostly in nice grade was a fraction of the price. A nice outer is the hard bit, there are plenty of rough ones to cobble a working one out of: 3 radios at a fiver each + your work = a £60 item. Got to be good value if you're going to keep it, maybe not for resale though. Repairing or restoring items, be they Hifi or any vintage item has a risk of not being as reliable as it is a little naively expected to be, it is Vintage after all.
A LIGHTBULB MOMENT...
Old amps used incandescent bulbs as a light source, LEDs were first used in Calculators & Watches in the early 1970s & by 1978 they were quite the fashion item, if pretty limited & Red only. Yamaha used LEDs for their 1977-78 ranges like the CR-2020 & CA-1010. Before this, makers used a plastic piece that looked like an LED but had a regular bulb behind it, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 uses ones that were supposed to be blue but look pink now. White & Blue LEDs were only first used in 1994. Back to the old type bulbs. These vary a lot in size and voltage, 6.3v is based on valve heater circuit voltage & 12v is found less often. Pioneer & Marantz used 8v 200-250mA fuse type 'festoon' bulbs, some are easy to find, others are not, ie 6.3v ones that Rotel used in the late 1970s. Wedge bulbs are still findable for B+O though the ratings are important as they are in series & rely on the other working & being correct spec. Yamaha bulbs are found on ebay.de & either the long wired ones or the ones with just the bulb's own wires. The problem with these bulbs is they all get hot. The worst ones are sadly the Marantz as the bulb is quite contained in a plastic holder diffuser part & just held on with lugs. After heat & aging these just fall off leaving no real way to hold & you can't just glue it as the bulbs will need replacing in the future. Other amps use a metal diffuser which acts as a heatsink & the bulbs do last longer. A 1967 Pioneer uses 4x 250mA small bayonet bulbs that will run warm, but they are in free air so can run cooler, the Marantz ones just get hot & stay hot and likely expire too early. Most bulbs can still be found from UK suppliers & USA & German ones on ebay. Some like to put LEDs in instead of a bulb, a better idea if you use a festoon type LED bulb, but LED by itself is directional & won't look the same. Having all the bulbs working is the appeal of a receiver amplifier, all meters showing is the deal. Another bulb related item is the LCD Digital display used in many items from Pioneer Fluorscan amps to VCR, DVD & PVR boxes. The displays do go dim on parts regularly used: we have a V+ HD box the time digits are much dimmer than the leftmost ones which are on much less, but it's only 2.5 years old. The power supply may be in need of repair on some items, low power equals dim display, but certain digits weak is cheap goods used & the inside of one of these boxes is actually well made for it's type, unlike the Sky boxes bad power supplies. If a LCD display is weak & the voltages are right, you are stuck wth it unless you buy another spares amp to swap parts, but they'll only fade again. How long will LCD & LED TVs last? Plasmas are known to fade & some have a calibration eye to look at the screen & adjust it. Passive-matrix LCD is like a wristwatch since the late 1970s, Active matrix is the sort with lights & fluorescent lamps like the Pioneer Fluorscan. How long will they last? DISHONEST REPAIR PEOPLE...
We've seen the TV repair invoice with a 5p resistor supposedly put in a high spec 1970s TV in the early 1990s and also the £50 total repair bill, inc VAT naturally. But we never found any new resistor, only those odd resolderable fuse type big white ceramic resistors could be resoldered. A Hacker record player with a £45 repair bill quoting an obscure part replaced 'the caul', a part that senses end of record by the arm movement to start the autochanger shut off, that was not only untouched it was not even oiled so was as aged as the rest, old oil goes hard over time. One amp we sold that we used a lot before selling & mention elsewhere we found relisted on ebay after the buyer took it in to "repair" a feature that we actually made a note of, clearly the unaware are there to be exploited, it's the natural laws of selection after all. The owner probably feels more proud "getting it working right again" unaware of the deception. The Pioneer amplifier involved has a Mic input that makes a hissy noise unless set to zero, we mentioned this in the ad as we do any unusual featured & it confused us on getting the amp too. The new owner apparently sends it to an online Repair guy we've though a bit "odd" before on being pointed their way. In the 3 months since he had it, it developed a "lot of faults" & looking at the Photos we kept as reference after selling it, we remember it well. It annoys us severely that such dishonesty is out there in Repairing, but that's the risk with any repair: they have to make things up to justify charging you the price. We don't do repairs for others so we can tell you on our pages. The seller quotes the Repair Guy's very believable invoice details, only for the fact we knew the amp very well & used it for a few months over more hours than an 8 hour run-in, so know every bit of it is 99% likely to be untrue, it is possible it could have developed the odd fault & been mistreated, but these detailed are slow-burn faults or imaginary ones. "Dismantled unit. Mic circuit unwanted by user and causing extra noise [disconnected]. Phono sockets tightened. Disk input 1 RCA sockets poor contact [replaced with HQ RCA mod]. Repositioned signal coupling wires to reduce noise pickup. Main power amp input coupling caps leaky [replaced]. Replaced several small signal electrolytics breaking down after soak test period – also cause of rustling noise on one channel. Rotary controls and selector switch contacts cleaned. Volume control/balance knob repaired. Realigned FM tuner front end phono stage response checked against reverse RIAA filter [passed]. Listening test [passed]. PAT [passed]." Well here's our response that is for this page only... we know what we had to do to get the amp working from dead too, quite extensive work. Oddly no comments on any of the things we done. Dismantled it = took off the lids, not undone every part & examined it as we do. Phono sockets tightened is pure BS, they are solid round outers & a sprung inner that would crease if bent. Phono worked fine for us using Straight wire connectors, no problem at all & all was cleaned. Main power amp input caps were fine if slightly marked on the plastic outer from others soldering wires & touching, all were fine in audio as we'd used them for hours. Yet both failed they say, it's a 10µf 6.3v one, there probably never will be one that small value & low voltage leaking ever unless put in the wrong way round. We've got a big box full of old capacitors that are still good, the bigger ones 100µf with higher voltages fail more. A capacitor either works fine or rustles & is bad immediately, they do not age & go bad in a few weeks after much use & not the quality Elnas as these were, total BS. Controls cleaned further BS as we'd done it heavily ourselves. Volume control repaired? It's a dual volume-balance & was well serviced to be as free moving as possible & these are not repairable if physically faulty, so more BS. FM tuner realigned? So us doing this ourselves to get the strongest FM Stereo signal ourselves as we do often was in vain? Phono response & other tests are more "important" sounding crap these cheats use, they need a thump. Anyone seeing the new parts & how clean it was would know they'd have to make things up. This is what happens folks, you'd not know any better as most people are not technical & rely helplessly on others.
KEEP YOUR HIFI CLEAN
Every cable or connector needs a clean surface to bind to. Easy to clean the outside ground on a Phono connector, the outer part gets the finger touches & dust, the inner is out of the way. Poor connections to ground can result in noise so shine up your phono plugs & keep other parts clean. Simply unplugging & replugging will help, though a proper solvent cleaner is needed if dirty though some aged ones just won't shine up. Solvent sprayed into a rotary volume or tone control of an unplugged amp removes the crackles on use, just twist the control back and forth several times and then the residue evaporates. Same for slider controls. Don't use WD40 here though it is great for cleaning any other part and also keeps old metal from aging further and revives tired casings. No, you don't need Gold Plated connectors instead of the old stainless steel ones that have been good for 30+ years, only amateurs believing the BS in magazines & the internet believe that one, as with expensive cables, weights to put on top of amplifiers & other nonsense. It just wastes your money.
A new one we just heard of is to cut a 12" circle of thick white art paper, cut a narrow notch out like a pie chart, twist it into a cone & fix it with some exotic glue called Prytte Stique. Then you get a non-toxic Blue marker pen & write a big capital 'D' on it & then you put the creation on your head. This helps channel all the energy to you when you in a room with others displaying your new Hifi & lets them know you are indeed the chosen one...
CIRCUIT DIAGRAM ERRORS?
This does happen: we found an error with a Marantz amp & have since found others. Great way to waste time. Also circuits get altered & the diagram you have might be for a later one so you'll never know what xxx does on your early one unless you understand circuits. Often you'll find parts are changed for different values or a very regular change is transistor numbers, especially on an amp that sells well over a few years & better quality ones were made. The B+O Beomaster 3000s have many circuit diagram variations with mostly transistor numbers changed. The one you have might be a later replacement with an equivalent & the one in the other channel might be a different number & different case size. Being fussy & only wanting the one in the circuit "for originality" might never have been how your unit was sold & obsolete parts are very expensive & odds are a £1 or £2 one will do the job the same or have better specs anyway.
is a problem that may hit you hard. Certain parts on pre 1975 amps have easy equivalents or can be researched, some supposed "high end" hi-fi from later use custom parts that are unfindable or extra pricy as few parts remain. For one who's been buying spares 20 years, what you could find easily 5-10 years ago is now GONE and you can't find it. Equivalents take some searching & for the nature of transistors, several can replace one old one & all work fine. The Internet has brought the world into your home & plenty of what was available in old stocks has now sold, especially the popular items. This came as a shock on us trying some repairs assumed to be pretty straightforward. On the other hand OLD VALVES-TUBES for Radios going back to the 1930s, especially ones that were used on many units, if not the wanted power tubes like PX25 are still found as NOS - new old stock usually in the old boxes. Early ones that aren't, such as Radio variable-mu valves usually have an equivalent that was developed in the 1940s so not hard to replace. And with the fact of who plays a 1930s radio daily means there'll be a stock in 100 years. Yet another worry is FAKE PARTS such as high power TO-3 size power transistors where oirdinary models are renumbered with higher spec ones. Read online of unsafe fakes ripping buyers off. Buying from safe sources for 3x the "bargain" price is the way to do it safely.
DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY
Some repairs are tricky to the point you'll give up as financially it eats too much of your money on suspected parts that test as failed, but is no better after replacement & needs more work, or you may suspect the big obvious part that is naturally obsolete & unfindable, as being the suspect. Only your tests will confirm this & testing each stage can be very involved. Sometimes you may replace one part only for it to fail again as another part that is faulty wrecked the original one, that is your lack of experience with the item, just learning the hard way experiences you. Repairing hifi (or anything old) is a lot of guesswork that leads to knowledge. Repair guys aren't magicians, they usually learned from another or the hard way at their own expense, so don't begrudge paying the charges for their experience if you don't think it's for you to do it. Sometimes you can save time by replacing all parts, it saves hours of nonsense, but only if parts are cheap & easily findable, often they aren't. You see some less-able repair guys saying they do valves only, simply as parts are easy unless you've got a ruined transformer. A lot of transistor equipment is not repairable due to custom parts the maker hasn't got stock of anymore, so beware buying exotic high powered amplifiers. Bang & Olufsen turntables are one nasty item to avoid, the turntable itself can be bought cheaply, but then you go look for a cartridge & stylus, both long obsolete & it'll cost £150+, not such a bargain now. B+O are very mean to their buyers by not keeping these players alive with making new ones, they sold well, but we're not buiying a silly cartridge for it when better & more replaceable is out there for much less. The B+O cartridges were midpriced when new if you check the Hifi Yearbooks. But if an amplifier fails to get repaired, sell it as non working explaining everything or part it out if tyou know there is a demand as US ebay shows similar parts.
BEWARE BUYING FAULTY ITEMS
You may think you have a bargain, but often on ebay, there are sellers scouring tips, skips & dumps & offering stuff to the unaware bargain hunter. Be aware not all sellers are honest & many we've ben told are "working" barely work & have lots of minor faults we can deal with, but may cost you high repair & service bills. Only carefully buy faulty if you can get a circuit diagram & know enough to fix & source parts. These sellers will have paid by the ton for the "recycled" items they sell. But most is crap & back in the bin it should go. One of these puts a label they'd done an important-looking PAT safety check, but when you find you're the first one to take the lid off & the dust inside is a perfect carpet, you know all they done was plug it in for 30 seconds. Be very careful buying faulty & recycled goods from these sort of sellers. On the other hand, they can label anything slightly faulty as "faulty" with no definitions why. Look closely, there are bargains to be found & only a service is needed to make the item right & you can make a nice profit. We have & we will continue doing so as it gets you trying items you'd not usually buy, but as with records, if there's a profit in it, to buy it is the game. Anyone buying used Computer parts, used CD players or anything with a Microchip that is stated as faulty is wasting their money. Unless you buy items in bulk & can cobble a few good out of a dozen non-workers, only then will you win.
DON'T BE WARY OF GIVING UP
If you do buy a decent amp you may find it's not worth repairing for some reason like outer damage, parts not findable, a spares amp isn;t findable or it's become too expensive or just giving up as no manual can be found & you're getting nowhere. Then is the time to consider bit-parting it out or selling it as spares-repairs if it's not such a popular one. If the amp is a wanted one or the brand was popular at the time, someone will be very pleased to find parts they'd otherwise have to buy a whole amp to get. There are USA sellers who bit-part out more popular amps, to the point of 75% of the reusable bits are for sale. They are afraid to repair it, but give a source of spares that are unfindable. We've found these sellers useful several times. We had a Fisher 440T from 1966 that was Germanium transistors, no top or base, missing a tuner knob cap, voltage kept frying the diodes so we gave up. Tried it on ebay for £50, no takers so broke it up & got more for some of the parts before binning the unwanted. We had done similar with a Sony STR6120, grouped the parts to maximise the possible profit. It's what car sellers do a lot, parts are worth more than the whole as a non-worker. You'd not break up a good working one. TV shows like Desert Car Kings show the huge acreage these dealers can have to store thousands of wrecks but they are a live working parts store & out in the desert rain isn't going to rust them. Recycling at it's best.
THE IDIOT WAY TO DEAL WITH A FAULTY AMP
We looked in disbelief as one idiot US seller had the high powered Harman-Kardon 930 amp, one we'd like to try (later did), and the fool parted out the entire amp. He said it worked but DC offset was wrong, big deal. It needed a repair, but clearly beyond him, so he cuts the amp to bits & offers to sell every part. The idea of parting out is a last resort & we've had some like that, but to chop up a working amp with a minor fault deserves the wrath of everyone who tells him he's an idiot. If it doesn't work fully & is beyond you, SELL IT COMPLETE & someone will be glad of it & will repair it. The parts he may sell a few of, but the rest won't & he'll bin them. Not many amps are popular enough for lots of parts to be needed, though we were pleased how much of our Sony STR-6120 we sold, the lid & base got used after storing them & only the Tuner glass remains unsold. But to part out the HK is insane, it's a rarer amp & many would have bid on it complete.
IS IT WORTH KEEPING OLD AMPS ALIVE
A lot of amps of any age are not very good & their owners may not realise that & keep repairing & trying to upgrade a poor item. Usually money is an issue & thinking to keep an average amp going by repairing & upgrading it is actually a waste of money. They should be buying a better amp if things were ideal. On the other hand, Hifi forums are full of mindnumbing info about how they upgraded their amp using silly name expensive parts that are more fashion than practically better. We don't bother with Sprague Orange Drop caps or Roederstein Resistors as we couldn't care less for the hype these things get. We do use the yellow now-made-by Vishay type ones that suit valve amps. You don't need exotic ones as you don't need exotic cables. Some hair-shirt types use delicate paper in oil capacitors, which are like 1920s radio ones & as always think they are better as they have some cred amid the hifi clique. If they make you happy, go buy, but as with a lot in life today, you are buying into a dream, not a reality. There is nothing wrong with using better quality general parts, ie the Panasonic capacitors & other plastic film capacitors. No amount of "funky" overrated parts will make a poor design sound good.
If a messy, dirty, badly repaired 40 year old amp with Elna capacitors still sounds good, as did a Sansui AU-999 we got as of typing, then the amp is good & recapping with good modern parts is wise to bring it to spec, get the best from it & keep it alive. If the amp is blurry & distorts easily at higher volume, as the big Pioneer SX950 type do, then as we found, no amount of new parts will improve it, only a resistor based redesign will. If you don't like the sound, sell it on & try something else.
But some amps that are the best of their type, as to us revealed by our Top Amps page only after comparing dozens of amps, restoring these is certainly worth it. Watching the Classic Cars TV shows, these old items are still pleasurable to use & own, so why not make them as good as possible. Car buyers like Originality, but don't mind newer workings if they are better, but still to keep as much Original as possible. To only use exact same value capacitors & have silly tiny ones in place of how big 40 year old ones were is an amateur mistake. Be aware in 40 years another generation may still care for these & upgrade them with parts of the future, so don't hack the amp about & put foolish upgrades in, or hugely oversized parts.
Indeed will future generations care about what we care about today? If they know them & see them, they are very likely to & will. 20-30 years ago people filled their homes with antiques & china & trinkets. We have & like an amount of these, but a lot of it now is out of date, worth much less than it used to & looks boring unless you bought better items. Most owners of these items would sell if they could get what they paid 10-20 years ago back on it, regardless of inflation. People will always want to hear music reproduced well, the awful MP3 through the phone or earphones today will soon tire their owners as will the ghastly manufactured "anthem" type pop junk music, and who will hopefully want to hear it resolved better & go look for "traditional" type hifi. The retro fashion of today, that is growing still has made these old fashioned hifi items popular for their looks, the amount of table top record players of general quality that sell today is still healthy, though big radiograms have always been unpopular for their size & generally poor sound except for the early hifi ones & the stylish designer or so-of-their-era ones.
Can We Make This Amp Sound Better? plus Capacitors
See the VALVES page about restoring Valve Amps. A page written 2012-14 mostly.
"Maybe, maybe not...".
This is the Hifi Dream many Hifi upgraders have, buy an old quality amp that has a good power output rating & improve it for a few quid of bits. It can be done to a certain degree on any amp, but the problem is deciding if the amp is worth the work & new parts. And then the "What to Do" is far from easy... We do Hifi Upgrades & have worked out what is good to do & what you don't mess with. Here are some ideas without giving Forum-like tips that are a bad idea to follow usually.
"If what you are doing looks out of place inside the amp, odds are it's a stupid idea. Sledge Hammer to crack a Nut sort of thinking is never good thinking."
There is no point trying to make a 30w amp into something it isn't, ie an 80w one as people do naively think is possible. Not without severe redesign it isn't. To decide if the amp is worthy, from one who has restored & improved several amps, is to first have a good listen to it, assuming the amp is not faulty, has been serviced & all the factory adjustment specs are met. Many amps will sound awful before a full service & then be great after, as well as some that are still lousy until recapped & upgraded, so there's the first step. There is absolutely no guarantee that any changes you make for the better will actually improve the sound. upgrade parts can actually reveal poor design that was hidden by average spec parts and poor design. You have to Kiss a lot of Frogs is the idea.
We have been asked if the amp owner should buy a new switch or volume control as the old one is noisy. 99.99% "No" & the 0.01% is for damaged ones, we've only once found a worn out one & the amp was a cheap nasty one. To replace switches isn't easy & yet they want to do surgery to the amp. It'd end up binned wouldn't it? They need to learn to crawl before running.
Upgrade, Mods & Tweaking
We have decided to lose "Tweak" as the term we use & use a more Professional "upgrade" instead, Upgrade could be used but we upgrade the specifications. Tweaking sounds like you're playing with the ladies in that certain radio-tuning way & in Hifi Tweaking sounds Amateurish as it involves buying a £4.99 cable instead of a 99p one. upgrade is what we do on Recapping amplifiers. Mods are Modifications, based on knowledge of what someone else has deemed to be the thing to do. Ignore them, they know nothing & if you do you can usually see their errors or lack of really trying to solve the issue. We Improve the Specifications to a More Modern or one We See As Ideal based on our knowledge. Improving Specifications involves Design Knowledge so we are Differentiating between the more casual term into something that takes a talent to do. How did we learn it? As with most things, the Blagger can become the Winner by Trial & Error, balancing in the thin line between informed and reckless as well as studying Form can make the Gambler into a Pro Gambler: learn your Subject & take chances. If you know you can get out of doing something more unknown, as in be able to repair it if it goes wrong, then you are pushed to go further in your trials as this is the way Humanity progressed until recent years dumbed it all down. Also in upgrade, the art of Realising You've Just Wasted Your Time comes into play, when things that are subtle and are huge improvements on some Amps can be way too much & cause instability problems on others to the point you are best just putting it back to how it was & offloading it. This is why to do subtle improvements only is the deal as you can unsolder it & leave no trace. We know we have to take a few upgrades out of ones we sell on to make sure they are compatible, in the same way the amps were 'spoiled' by the manufacturers to keep them universal with other items, and not too good. We also realise a person can get one of the Best Amps ever & because they know less than they think, will believe that it has the problem, not the mediocre gear they use with it. Very common really, exactly why were so many great amps put in the Attic for 30-40 years? Because the owner knew not how good they were. Who cares really, their loss is our gain & we thank them for keeping it through it's Wilderness Years until the world woke up to it's forgotten quality.
But We Can't Do Recapping & Upgrading Design.
We offer High quality Upgrades, see the link at the page top. We do say that some amps can be upgraded to heaven & some are a waste of time. It's all beyond buying a soldering iron & some capacitors. The idea is to give an idea that an amp is good in it's raw state & we know or see a potential to better it. We see crazy butchering of decent but lower-end amplifiers in the name of making a silk purse of them. With our hints, those who are adept will have a point in the right direction. Those who don't needn't worry & many people can't even wire a plug & we've seen many amazing plug wiring jobs. The desire for perfection is rarely met, a compromise in life is how we keep sane. Read on for more...
A Rough Idea...
An amplifier is designed to be "Good Enough" for most users, be useable with most other Hifi & not get complained about by buyers using mediocre gear with it. Shop bought design is always a compromise. Also it's designed to a price level so an amp £80 new (in 1974) is a lesser beast to a £200 new (in 1974) one. Depending on the design, the £80 one may still be a very good amp & the £200 one may be overpriced for the quality. Only those with advanced experience improving amps will know there is better than any of the best 'raw' amplifiers & receivers of their chosen era.
A Critique On One Upgrade...
An ebayer done all this to VTL 100 valve monoblocs. Why they bothered & only got £678 for 100w monobloc amp pair is another thing. "Each amp has 4 Siemens EL34 and 2 Barmar (Brimar 1960s surely) ECC81/12AT7 buying old NOS valves possibly, not worth buying used ones. Also, has 4 each 0.68 uF Jantzen Superior Z-Cap Range Audio Capacitors and 4 each 0.1 uF Auricap XO Metalized Polypropylene Capacitors. Then you will have a Bass-light amp. All the rectifier diodes have been replaced with ultra fast recovery diodes. Why? Mains is 50-60Hz, typical non-thinking in upgrades. The wire has been replaced with Vdh shielded cable. Oh dear, wire inside an amp is good enough as made, how could anyone trust you did it right to stop hum & crosstalk? The connectors are now 2 WBT-0703 nextgen™ Pole Terminal, copper and a RCA Phono Chassis Sockets ( Oxygen-Free Copper ) with 24K Gold-Plated Insulating materials is made of Teflon. Another wasted effort, it's only for the ego,, it makes no difference to good serviced original ones. The AC power is suppled by Supra LoRad 1.5 Power Cable UK, 1.5m with a Supra IEC connector and Black MK TOUGHPLUG. Once again, wasted effort. None of these things are beyond vanity additions & none will make any difference to an amp properly upgraded & serviced. It's all hype with no proof of 'being better' as it is no better, except it makes the 'upgrader' think he's important. This is why we never bother with any of this.
Some amps you will find were designed to 'perfection' and then 'spoiled' to dumb them down, to keep them more universal to avoid buyers complaining & to not be too good you'd never buy another. You can learn what the spoilers are & deal with them, but be aware without improving the spec of much more it'll sound pretty awful, after all the design was dumbed down & the 'spoilers' added to make it sound good enough. If you don't know Hifi circuitry, don't even think of trying to take out or add something, as you will ruin it or trash it. We certainly do experiment, but know what we are doing & still get problems as any good repair guy will admit to. To solve these problems is where you need experience. This is why we don't give 'hints & tips' and never will. Some amps are towards the perfection ideal & dumbed down & others are just made good enough. You can read our Top Amps to see ones that we rate & the fact we've improved more Yamaha than any other brand means we saw the quality. We have done several Sony, Pioneer, Sansui & Teac too and some were more worth the effort than others. Some we could research further too we know, but what to do with them if we did. Some amps we know well now but to offer a 'make over' service would be risky as you can imagine as the next owner may use lesser items with it & get the problems buyers did with the earlier ones when new & human nature means they'll not understand you can't use crap with the best. We know this is the deal by selling one prime amp & finding out the junk the buyer used with it...
Modifications by the Owner
On some amps we rate the highest, you can now read on some we are now going beyond just rating them as they are, as with Old Cars the old is nice but certain things can be improved & still be original enough to please a buyer. Very rare for anything beyond Capacitors & Transistors, resistors are generally left as-is. For the fact most amplifier mods or upgrades are badly thought through & are a bit pointless when they deliver no improvement as you'll read on forums, clearly these mods are not done with any idea of design knowledge. We have picked up certain ideas over the years, we can look at circuits & understand most of it, though you do see odd circuits that tend to actually be a weak design or limitation. A transistor circuit really needs to be no more than an equivalent of a good valve circuit, anything else is overdesign & compromises the sound. Things like Differential circuits are in most amps by 1971 though the earlier ones from 1967 are just transistor after transistor & sound exactly the same, making us question why they are needed if to find the answer is impedance related and supposedly limiting noise. We're not going to offer a "max out" service for amps as that would be insane for the fact an amp circuit needs to be learnt & understood & the fact that the results you want are not often what you get. As our 'Improve Old' page shows, we've recapped & upgraded many amps now & generally it is totally unpredictable to what you can get out & this depends on how far you go, learning the circuit & finding out what are the 'ideal' things to do to it. Some things we can predict: if it has too many transistors or even ICs in the main circuits, these will be the Brick Wall you hit in the upgrading. If your quest is to max out to get the best, go for the 1967-72 era before cost cutting & spec wars started. Having maxed out a Yamaha CR-2020 it improved it hugely, but it just couldn't compare to the best from 1967-72 in terms of naturalness & detail. We do buy lots of amps & from putting things in these pages, we can tell if the previous owner has half-read our pages & thought that by doing what we say it'll solve their problem. These people tinker with Cars too but Cars have MOTs for Safety. Ham-fisted repairs, using wrong replacements and a general lack of knowledge gets them selling it off cheap as they failed. We used to fail too in our early days & only by proper study of circuits & the item can you master the Dark Art of Fault Finding. The question of 'being bothered' or 'not worth the effort' can hamper any repair person, but what one says is "Unrepairable" is to another.
A Rogers Cadet III valve amp on ebay Jan 2014 claims to be expertly refurbished. The Cadet is a budget level valve amp & a bit crappy in some ways as well as being a bit small. But it can sound nice for it's 10w which is about the equivalent of a 35w transistor amp. But the output transformers are very small compared to other 10w valve amps so there isn't going to be 'perfection' lurking in this amp wheras the HG88 Mk III is far more worthy. Underneath tells instantly it's not expert but amateur: the small electrolytic capacitors they've lazily used radial (wires one end) instead of proper axials (wire each end) which can easily be bought on the electronics sites. It's clear they've just used the same values as the limited original design so likely wonder why it doesn't sound much better. To upgrade brings the amp alive, otherwise it's still going to sound ordinary. They oddly replaced most of the resistors but still left a few of the old ones. The power supply capacitors are awkward as one is a triple one, ie 3 caps in one can, so they hacked holes in the case to add more single ones. Typically put in new Phono sockets & Speaker connectors, all crappy looking as always as the space is too limited. It looks like they rewired the input to switches cable, totally unnecessary. At least they left the original mains switched Volume control, often taken out leaving no power switch. To one who done a HG88 Mk III properly expertly, we know this is just a bit lousy & for other people's messing, we'd not buy it for £50. These Valve amps need Design Knowledge to properly update things, we've done a few now. To blindly do what's been done here is a waste of effort & why they're selling it. £200 bid or £325 buy it now might seem reasonable, but to us it hasn't been done very well... It actually sold for £325, but we suspect the buyer might not be as pleased with it as they'd assume. The price is encouraging though.
We Have a Dream.
But if you are wanting to buy an improved amp or get yours improved, where do you go? Not easy. But we've decided to offer our Upgrade-upgrade service, see the page top link. Like in the early days of many things commonplace today, the DIY option is often the best and only one. Years ago people made their own soap & baked bread. We don't offer any sort of tech service, though we do sell our serviced amps. Beyond a few repair shops & services of good to questionable worth, hifi collecting is still very young. You buy a 1930s British Car & you'll find many places able to help, but Vintage Hifi is still at the crawling stage. Only by people realising how much enjoyment is still in old Hifi and become aware how much more pleasing it sounds will it progress. Repair & Customise services will appear as money is in it for the talented. Once serviced it'll be as good as any new item & still will be going strong years later when every i-phone has been recycled. When vintage Hifi is at it's best, you can lose yourself for hours playing all your music you've lost interest in as modern "hifi" makes it too bland sounding. The rich & detailed sound of Yesteryear is what people are finding is very appealing. If you enjoyed music when you were younger & have a music collection and still yearn to play it but are bored with how it sounds on Modern Hifi and have given up, go Vintage. Music is the key to life, it holds memories and emotions & it'll always be the same as it was decades ago. If you loved that song for a while then grew tired of it, 20 years later your opinion of it will be warmer. Go see our Record Pages & buy some Old 45s, there is still a good market for the collectable items in nice condition, a market we watched grow & hope to help survive with our Record Info pages. The amount of hits these Hifi pages get shows there is a want for information. Watch Vintage Hifi grow.
What Do We Know? Want To Try?
We have recapped & upgrade Three of the Yamaha CR-2020 receivers now. The third one we sold to a delighted buyer. Here is what he wrote..."It sounds good ....really good. Rediscovering listening pleasure. All the old music coming off the shelf. Sometimes sounds like there's an x-ray through the equipment and I'm hearing right through the productions. Pretty astonishing bit of kit. No idea how it was before your mods, but congratulations on a fine job." The thing is we've learnt upgrade tricks with Valve Amps & the 1967 receivers we write of. all adds in to what we can create from an amplifier. To offer an upgrade service to customers may happen, we know the tricks after all. The trouble is we make our amps very open & the risk of the buyer's equipment not being good enough is a risk. The fact we don't hurry for anyone is another thing: a job might be a quick do or we may need to research it or whatever and it could take months. There is the risk the amp design might not be good enough for our work and we have found this with some amps & had to annoyingly pull the spec back. We're not going to do harsh things to amps, a quality job is the only way. If you like the sound of our work to bring an amp into a much higher league, email us. It'll not be cheap & it'll not be fast. We'll only do amps that circuit diagrams are findable, which covers the majority. It'll be done to the standard we do amps we consider 'our amps' though we don't waste money on exotic components, if you heard one of our upgrade amps you'd realise the pricy glamour components market is unnecessary, though quality parts are what we use. One point though, if it's got ICs in the Audio stages beyond simple double FETs then we'd not feel interested enough to be bothered with it, being aware of the huge limits to IC & op amp based audio.
Most amps are just not good enough to improve.
Many amps that are around & rated are often designed pretty much to be what they are & little better can be got beyond minor improvements. Why would a company overspecify parts if their profits will be less? Why would a company sell a better quality item for a lower item price? Pioneer learnt that one in the early 1970s & their big late 1970s receivers are very cost cut. Forums are full of newbies desperate to "improve" their already pretty decent amp that already works fine. Capacitors are the main target, though if you think replacing resistors is needed, unless they are frazzled or off-spec, leave it alone. We try to improve some amps in hope of finding the Holy Grail but often the amp has limitations or weaknesses revealed by improving & it's best left as it was. But this endless search has revealed a few amps were designed to the height of Hifi wonder & then dumbed down as they were too good. Undoing their dumbed-down bits is the quest. On the other hand, one fairly early amp we were pleased to find but later found had very low coupling caps but an appealing 'created' bass & smooth slighty rolled off treble. Knowing the brand, who will remain nameless, the design was unupgradeable as it went into vile distortion as bandwidth was too wide with our usual upgrades that 99% of amps react favourably too. No, not this sodding one, it played half volume with dog-rough splashy treble until putting it back to the limited design. It put out a ferocious 'bloop' that appeared seconds after turning on until put back to the low spec. The design itself was one we've never seen on all the amps we've tried & it was not very well built despite looking nice. You need patience to avoid reaching for the hammer as it deserves it really. You really have absolutely no idea of how to tell if an amp will improve to be a wonder or just leave you wondering where the previous 4 hours went. For experimenters only, sounds like us. Some we have to put back to the original spec to be sure it'll work right for a buyer, or take out some of the upgrades we use as it makes amps too wide bandwidth.
Replace All The Transistors?
Amateurs on forums will say this, one we read was desperate to replace all as the legs on his had gone black as silver plating will do. But as an idea, replacing transistors is far from easy. To replace them with "what?" is the toughest part as most are obsolete now. Even if you can figure out what is an equivalent, be sure many will get it wrong, as old repairs on some amps we've had will reveal. The pin connections usually differ on the smaller sized ones, the odds of putting them in the wrong way is very high as boards are often unmarked, then finding the pin connections of old vs new is another job. Some transistors can be noisy & we've replaced certain ones in some early amps & then found the new ones are still not as quiet due to the low NFB design that gives a fresher sound but a lower S:N ratio. The opinion we'll give is if it's not broken or badly repaired, leave it alone as it is very advanced work. We can do these sort of upgrades & have done on many amps.
Speakers: Pre 1980s Connectors
See the Hifi Sales page for our current ideas on this... The standard type of speaker connector today is the 4mm Banana plug, though H+S regulations actually don't like them as they are a bit like USA mains plugs. Also the Spring bare wire connector. Ignoring that & prizing out the plastic stoppers on post 1980s amps, these are easy to use & the risk of shorting is lessened, though the huge area of outer bare metal these have can mean a bit of metal could short the amp still, though some are plastic encased. The earliest amps we cover, ie 1963 Trio & Rogers Valve amps have a basic Screw connector. These are actually excellent connectors, if hardly anyone uses them properly. The idea is to solder the U shaped or hoop ended spade type connectors & tighten the screw onto them. Tabs on the screw holder side on later ones stop them coming loose & twisting round & shorting. But just about everyone just puts a bit of bare wire round the screw after twisting the strands together & hope it will tighten up. This is very risky as one strand will be enough to short an amp out & it appears to happen quite often by amps we've had & repaired. Also the wire is not fixed very well & pulling loose isn't hard & risk of shorting again. If you can't find the spade connectors, you can buy gold plated blocks for McIntosh & Marantz amps & these have a 4mm banana hole & tightening screws. But to cut a long bare part of the wire & make a loop or spade then solder the end into a solid piece will do. These screw connectors last until about 1971 on amps. Pioneer from 1967 made a similar screw block that plugged in but gave a better way to connect with a bar between the + and - and the 1967 Sansui did similar as a fixed bar on the amp with the raised bars between to keep strands apart, as did the McIntosh. Next you get Spring Connectors like Marantz had from 1971 or a similar square block that took the wire in from the side. These are the easiest ones to use & these blocks are still made today. The only minus is you can only use thinner wire, 13A mains wire may be just too big. For European amps the DIN plug appears to be foolproof, which is why they were used so much. Sadly the wires inside the plugs can come loose as soldering is all that holds the wire on & again shorting is possible, so either buy new cables or fully check the old ones first. Then came binding posts with a 3mm plug as on Sony amps from the late 1960s. These are good & offer two ways to connect if the risk of shorting wires is possible if you cut the wire ends too long, so always check carefully. Technics used a push bare wire in & turn locking system which worked well, but the turning part is just on two thin tabs so be sure many got broken. The Sony type led to the 4mm Banana plug, though the Banana plug is pretty lousy really as the plug only contacts on the spring parts even if it's a more advanced 4 spring plug. To use the binding holes is the better idea. You can get screw on 4mm plugs, solder on & even crimp on ones that Hifi shops will do, though we found these type a bit fragile on the plug. To leave the Speaker connectors as Original is our advice, unless they are broken, though if 4mm sockets can be fitted neatly it won't put a buyer off, but a hacked up Rogers Cadet III instead of the small board of screws just looks awful. Risking Shorting cables is the problem as you create a zero resistance + to - and the current builds within 2 seconds to trash the amp & an expensive repair is likely.
Not all can take our treatment
This confirms our header line further: a few amps we've encountered now, otherwise with a higher rating by us, we had to put certain values back to the low original spec as it caused problems that we had never had in our experience. Not our ideas bad, but crappy design or unsuitable design. Another amp we tried much with expecting high results with tried ideas, but remarkably it sounded worse to the point loud treble couldn't cope, but take out what is a good idea on many others & it sounded right again. Bizarre & the issues were different, the solution was just to accept the limited original design & give up. Again this teaches clues that if it has "that" in the design, leave it be. Can only assume the stages just didn't have the rest of it designed well enough to cope with upgrade & the designers purposely made it this way to cut costs, even on pre 1975 amps. The extremes of High Treble and more importantly Deep Bass take a lot of power to deliver right. An average design with too much NFB if opened up to the full Audio Range like you'd hope it will deliver can show how poorly designed the amp is sometimes in unexpected ways & then try to remedy it. To deliver the full sound upgradecing will bring requires a transformer & power supply good enough to deliver the "extra" you are asking of the original design. Some better amps are designed overspec, but many are designed to only be what the original design needed. How will you find out? The Hard Way. You might have to give up & put the original parts back in is the sad truth of it. We know. Hours wasted. But thankfully some amps are a sheer & utter delight to improve to sound wonderful. There aren't many of them either.
If an amp is Rough Inside...
If your amp needs repair, the risk of doing a lot of work or paying for it to be done may result in it not being very good as that is all it was originally. For an amp you know is good & providing nothing major is missing or broken, then it is worth the effort. For the DIY-er like us, to buy new parts & do a possible interesting amp is more a hobby. If it's not as great as you'd have hoped as some we've done turn out to be, sell it on to cover your costs. If labour was taken into consideration, the price would be much higher, but to have had the opportunity to try it, work on it & try to better it & then write pages on it is a lot of the interest & to turn it over sometimes is better than holding for a higher price, especially for the size of some amps. Having more than one of the same amp is worthwhile as unless you do extreme tech tests, one amp may be working OK, but later can be found lacking due to aging issues or even changes in the design that usually are limiting the amp more than bettering it. With any amp you gert, you can only judge what you see & the more of them you get, the better you understand them, which is why we were surprised to like the Yamaha CR-800 after thinking it was not very good, what was wrong with the other one or was it early on in the learning curve? Only getting the Sony STR-6120 a year ago gave a reference, before that it was a bit crazy with some amps of wildly differing tone making more neutral ones appear dull compared to a brash overloud sound, the Radford the worst offender. If your reference is a 1960s valve amp still using old parts, the wonderful sound of the Sony STR-6120 may seem hard as the accuracy of the midrange has long gone on older amps. To hear a spoken voice is the balance. We've had Sony amps in pitiful grade, decades in a damp loft rusty but worked & actually tidied up nicely. Another flood damaged & left to sit so long transistor leg rusted through, all a crazed mess on the paint, but was got working if then found not reliable enough as it kept tripping the relay.
If an amp is Rough Outside...
This can mean the parts aren't findable as spares or makeable, then odds are the inside is a mess too. If you know the amp is good, like we got a second Teac AS-100 in awful grade, we knew the amp was good from the last one & once ready to sell it was unrecognisable from it's previous state. But it needed a lot done including case painting. Some amps we see with missing parts, usually switches & knobs & if they are findable then have a go, but if you can only find a part similar it will look very obvious to the buyer & they'll not want to know. We had the 1986 200w Pioneer C90/M90 pre-power. The case was scratchy, the power amp flap missing. Not going to make top £800 price like that even if working. We couldn't be bothered with it & just outed it as a repair project. We are still waiting for the buyer to list it & maybe they'll reach the same conclusion.
If an amp has been butchered by an idiot with parts missing...
then assume the idiot done other idiot things & the amp, however good, is only good for parts. We saw a big quadrophonic 120w Sansui 9001 & ignored it, but a buyer got it for what the fascia is probably worth. It's the quadro version of the big 9090DB from 1976 apparently. But you could see & read the idiot, which is usually the seller making out "someone else" did these horrors, had taken out vital preamp boards & for some insane reason. Wires with no plugs up in the air. The guy who bought it said this amp was a major 'want' for his Amplifier collecting, price paid is get out-of-able & he says he can get the missing boards via another. Slim chances can come true, or maybe he got the reject boards via another & will put the same ones back. Idiot hifi butchers may have thought bypassing the Tone, ripping it out or similar was a good idea & we have seen this before, though the value of these amps now will get them more respect. But this well meaning buyer will have a task we'd not care for, an IC laden amp in those Quadro sections with serious issues & the risk of "what else did they do". We like resurrecting "dead" items but this one is a huge gamble, but if you like gambling you certainly can win. Sometimes.
Generally if an amp is average, especially one with ICs, you usually can't make it a huge amount better than it is unless you tear it apart which usually means it'll never work again. If you need to go as far replace resistor values then it means the design overall may not be good enough, and can be hiding a noise floor. It may be cleaner, but it'll then show up other weaknesses which will be more annoying than it originally was, at least before the mediocre parts matched each other.
Even some of the best amps have deliberate "cheap outs" to not give all the "magic" away to lowly Domestic Hifi buyers. It really is that cynical, read the "Hot Hifi" page for even more cynical tricks, nearly every amp has them. If you know what you are doing stick two fingers up & blow a raspberry at them for treating you like everyone else. But be wise in your choice before spending money on parts & getting deep into an amp, be sure it's worth it, or at least an amp you are wanting to see how good it is as you suspect better may be there. Only by doing will you know of course. These tricks are done knowing buyers keep buying "better" and newer items & most don't realise different isn't usually better unless the price paid is significantly higher. Having tried this on better amps, the improvement can be substantial. But this isn't for many to do & those amps that have got fiddled with by amateurs who do stupid things based on what someone said on a forum about another amp, we don't want to give further ideas beyond that really.
Upgrading Inputs, Speaker Connectors, Bypassing Tone Controls
To us, this is usually going Too Far and Butchering an old amp. If an amp has DIN inputs or outputs, buy the right connectors & keep it Original, any future buyer will appreciate it. Many earlier Amps have skinny bare wire connectors or the nasty screw type ones that risk a wire strand shorting & to upgrade these to something safer if done right. The Sony TA-1130 amp we had was with awkward 3mm skinny holes & when we first had it 3 years earlier, we put in 4mm banana plugs to suit speaker cables we had, but kept the original parts & they could be fitted back with no trace of altering. Some well meaning fools think bypassing Tone Controls on an amp is a good idea as some 'expert' thinks it's better. Stupid idea & anyone seeing your hacked up job when you want to sell it will run a mile. Tone Controls can vary in quality but if you want a no-Tone Controls amp, go buy one, not hack up some old classic. Sometimes you have to alter inputs & Outputs if they are damaged, then to do as you wish seems more justified, but to put new ones just because someone tells you it is better, well see who wants your item when you go to sell it.
Early Days still
Buyers of Vintage Hifi aren't yet as advanced as Car buyers, it's odd how they buy an older car & get it serviced but don't think a 30-40 year old amp needs servicing. Servicing is what is required to get the Amp to a Good Standard to use & be reliable & safe too: gentle cleaning, repairing of obvious failures & faults if needed & adjusting: if it's not broke don't fix it & don't fix it unless it looks like it's about to fail too. Servicing is not rebuilding & recapping, that is called Rebuilding & Recapping...
Many Hifi users are unaware how much their amp can sound if properly serviced. We're not into making money for Repair Shops & we don't offer a Repair Service, but you get Cars serviced. Hifis need TLC too. Some amps we've had have been raved about by the often clueless previous owner, we hear it & use it & wonder how they put up with it. The hugest difference in unserviced raw sound to Fully Serviced if not altered in any way, was huge on the Luxman L-100. We reckon the amp was about 25% of it's pre recap quality on arrival.
We are very tired of reading about people saying XYZ is the best amp they've ever heard & we can easily see they are low down the Real Hifi ladder, at the Top is a Valve Amp with every design trick included. Then they tell us their 40w Pioneer from 1978 with an IC power amp stage is the best sounding amp you've ever heard. Made With Real Potatoes. Because You're Worth It. Helps Reduce The Signs Of Aging... Hifi shops must have laughed in the better Hifi sales years as they sold that idiot that crap. We know we were laughed at so readily buying their Tube Technology valve amps & 2 preamps that had been to every branch in hope of a weirdo liking valves, shows you what they know.
We've had quite a few amps now in buying & selling. A few needed recapping as problems were evident & certain types of capacitor have aged more than others whether heavily used or not. A heavily used amp will show itself as such with blackened dust patterns & darkening obvious. As buyers of amps, we dread messed with amps as they are always badly done, one Sansui AU-999 had been through a few repairs but was all over the place so we redone all the transistors on the power stages to make a match, as it was just not good enough, this is an extreme case though. We know a like for originality is what buyers prefer, or a good repair or upgrade with good proof of what was done.
We buy amps we like & have tried improving a few recently just to see the outcome & type it up, but always come up against other problems that ultimately stop any further progress: the limitations of the original design. Then again, some like a certain Sony TA-1120A are well made, look well designed but sound lousy & not a case of you having a poor one, they are all like that. But this particular one makes a great amp to improve to how it should be. Depends how good your talents are & how much you know about circuits.
Trying to make good out of an unremarkable design isn't possible which is why our valve amps were gutted to bare boards & designed from scratch as what was there wasn't good enough. And that's not for a person just learning to solder & unable to recognise resistor colour codes without the chart. We learned Hifi by trying all this stuff years ago, the amps weren't worth much then so it wasn't important. But they are now.
We see unsympathetic "work overs" by those with naive good intentions who actually are more Butchers than Restorers. Bypassing Tone Contrls on a 1960s Valve amp is particularly foolish as it's not original, taking out the old Volume Pot & likely messing up the gain by disconnecting the Loudness circuit depending on design is again too far from the original & who would want it. Not us at any price. This is what people with ideas bigger than their bank balance do & instead of butchering a decent Vintage amp, sell it & go buy something nearer to what you are hoping for. silk purse & sow's ear type situation. You can read we upgrade amps & beyond capacitors looking different, anything we try is fully reversable or for the god of the amplifier & keeping it basically as it was. On our Trio valve amp, we now need to redo the awful balance control & put the volume control after the tone to lose the noise. These are worthy improvements but it'll still function as before & will be a better item. To do some sympathetic restoration is the thing here, however much you like an item you may come to sell it on finding better & who will want some butchered classic if you've been heavy handed with it?
Upgrade it Baby...?
The word "upgrade" we use as it sounds easy to do, but what we do is actually design knowkedge based & tweaking to some is cleaning the Phono sockets or buying a £5 cable to 'upgrade' the 99p one: redesign is more our game. We learnt it by trial, lots of error & a cavalier attitude to do things just to try it. Because we can very likely fix it if we go too far we aren't too bothered, but 20 years of electric shocks, singed fingers & exploding things teaches you things are worth chancing. We've recapped & upgraded quite a few amps, as listed below, in the idea of seeing what can be done, what improves & what is best left alone. The basic idea is if an amp sounds much better than most other amps, such as the ones on our Top & Highly rated Amps listings, these will give better scope for improvement simply as they were superior designs in the first place. Only limitations of space & your knowledge of what to do are the pitfalls. Some amps already have a lot of good design features that later amps left out as the amps with them sounded too good & why would anyone buy another? The Sansui 3000A from 1967 & Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 are perhaps the best examples if you like circuits. The Sony TA-1130 we upgraded from being good to being improved to be similar to the Sansui 3000A but ultimately the Sansui was just much better as upgrades went on. The Sony STR-6120, released a year later, already has "gaps" in it's design that the knowledgeable can put back in & have an amp of remarkable quality, until you learn more about any amp and found out they done that which may be as far as it goes.... But for the ever decreasing amount of good early amps we can try as ones are tried & finished with ticks off the lists. Bear in mind designers can design the best amp & them put spoilers in to make it 'good enough' for domestic use but not stop you wanting to buy the next model 2 years later. To take out their spoilers, if possible, is where the design-upgradeer can waste many hours & much money recapping amps only to find they weren't good enough after all. For Gamblers only.
Going Too Far?
On upgrading amps we take little notice of the original spec of electrolytic capacitors, but to choose new values needs design knowledge as well as tried & tested ideas from other amps. The fully extended treble a new electrolytic has over an old one usually isn't a problem as the old capacitor was once new & extended treble almost as good. But there have been a few amps that just couldn't take the higher quality capacitors from having bass go deeper. This can result in oscillation, instability and silence as well as even playing sub bass record warp noises when usually they go unheard. The option then is to slightly redesign the circuit or just use the old values which sounds a bit of a cop out. One early transistor amp bass-oscillated violently (motorboated) when the treble control was set near max & to solve that one makes us wonder how the amp coped without. Other amps can make loud noises on switching the input selector & trip the relays even, again a little redesign can solve that as well as blanking plugs. But it shows you can open up a good amp to be better, but you can face problems that baffle. To upgrade a low wattage amp could get more problems as the deep sub bass may clip out & fry your speakers even though you think it sounds great like that, a tell tale burning smell & silence will teach you. On amplifiers, one way to tell the amp isn't perhaps so great is when you find yourself changing resistor values, it can better some amps, but again can reveal more problems. Don't be too arrogant in upgrading hifi, remember a designer made the item & the public liked it enough to buy it. Subtle upgrading is certainly worthwhile, but when you find you want to take out a certain component that will stop an external control from working, then you are going too far. No buyer will be pleased using a filter switch & it does nothing or finding out the Tone doesn't work as some fool bypassed it.
Insane Amps people think you'll buy.
We see some entertaining amps on ebay, awful messsed up crazy ideas someone has knocked up in their shed. The forums reveal even more horrors, but few actually try to sell them after making a mess. One modern £200 amp someone put a valve stage inside. But the most stooopid ever was a late 1970s midprice JVC HAS-22 amp that some person had gutted out & built a 25w Valve amp inside. Oh yes. They sold the JVC innards for £9.50 too. If that wasn't bad enough, they thought it was worth £700 & offered a 3 month warranty. We have no idea what they have done & neither will you, but it has FIFTEEN valves on a veroboard. 4 x EL84, 9 x 6N2 & 2 x EF86/80 they say. The underside where the valves board was left fully open & shows the main board was a fully coppered board they scraped islands on. Clearly a lot of time was spent on this by a fool making a messy cluttered thing they even don't want no more & their feedback shows they only sold the other unused transformers 3 months earlier. Wins the Award for Stupidest Amp Ever. Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear Award too.
A Big Clue an Amateur Has Recapped...
There are well-meaning Hifi folk out there like us, but easy to spot they really don't have a clue. Be aware some Repair Guys are little better than Amateurs with no Finesse or knowledge of better beyond the Old TV Repair guy of old who couldn't care less beyond actually gettying it going again, knowing perhaps it'd be back in for repair again soon. Older amps have large physical size Main Power & Speaker Coupling capacitors but compared to today the specs are low. Seeing some fool with tiny modern sized capacitors is a moment of hilarity and sadly quite commonly seen. The way to do it properly it to know design which few do & know what values you can put there to buy a higher spec item & fill the space properly. We have this to an art now & choose ones that look matched in size to others & are a feasible colour too. Now us writing this will annoy those & they'll just buy any big item and out a 300v one of the same capacitance as they don't know how to upgrade instead of a 50v one to fill the space... We'd avoid buying these as the tracks have had 2 extra heating sessions to unsolder old & resolder new & this can badly weaken tracks. Further clues are they buy the cheapest Made in China crap ones we've cut open & seen how budget they are & wouldn't trust anything like that to be reliable. We got our Sansui 500A valve amp & will redo it shortly. A previous repair person replaced a few parts with the same values rather than look at it with Designer Eyes & probably why it got sold on & not used much. It was far from Serviced as the seller stated & it took us Three Hours to do it properly in our way & that's not replacing anything. One major capacitor we found leaked recently, as in when it was last worked on in 2010 as the label said, yet they were too lazy to replace it or even clean off the mess. Having cut open these old caps we know it's risky using it with this.
Show Some Respect.
These old amps, if in good condition externally & not messed with inside are Future Treasures that we hope will continue to be appreciated. To put only subtle improvements & upgrades is acceptable, to do drastic things isn't. The fact good amps are growing in value now means things we did 20 years ago to amps worth £20 we'd not dream of doing now. If you find an amp & if your talents are more advanced, you can look at the amp & know what will need doing. If it requires too much tearing out, leave it alone unless you plan to use it daily & actually there is no guarantee the results will be what you want. There are collectors who want amps All Original but only for Display so as long as they are working, they aren't interested in recapping or new better spec components. Some Amps are too aged & will only be good if rebuilt, but as we've found out with ones we've tried for our own interest, the market will only pay a certain amount for amps however well done they are as nobody else really is offering high quality rebuilt amps. We now probably won't do any more rebuilds as we've tried many & found ones good enough to keep as reference, at least until the Next Unknown Gem arrives. Some we may have spent £100+ on new parts as well as 10 hours working & researching to upgrade, but if skilled labour is £35 per hour, design work is worth £100s per hour, well we're just covering parts costs really, so as it's for our research, we don't mind, but we'll not be doing it otherwise. But the more you do the better you get as do your ideas. If the amp itself is good enough to take improvement that is.
Rewire all the Cables inside?
No. We look around the web a lot & stumble across sites that give info on directly how they go about foolishly "improving amps". We read some of their nonsense with disbelief, you can see there isn't much knowledge behind their ideas. Any socket, input or output on an amplifier does NOT need changing unless it's broken or the type of connector is unfindable or inferior for use today. If an amp uses DIN 5 pin inputs, these work fine with adaptors or cables. DIN 2 pin speaker outputs are more controversial, but you don't find them on amps over 40w & the wire thickness if of good quality is entirely adequate for it's use, if it looks less than impressive. Only with higher powered amplifiers do big binding posts & thicker cables really make a difference. Many 1970s high power amps still only use spring connectors that aren't really acceptable, or will accept big cables. This brings us onto bad ideas, one site goes on about rewiring the insides of amplifiers. The old steel wiring you find in many old amps is absolutely fine, for Hifi uses to replace it with some fancy copper cable is a waste of time. The only things that are worth doing is separating those tied together bundles of signal cables at lower levels, the cross-talk between twisted together wires can be high & limit the sound. You can waste your time putting thicker wires with shielding to replace the old thinner shielded ones, but you'll never see a difference beyond worse if you mess things up. Leave it alone. Wiring in later 1970s amps consists of those ghastly wraparound a bare wire end on a post type connection. The 6 wraps around may hold good, but oxidisation can get in & if you move boards, you'll be upset at how readily the wires break off. To resolder the wrap of wire isn't great as you'll not fully solder it as parts are oxidised. To take the post out & solder the wire into the hole is a far better idea, but only once the rest is finished, save more wire breaks. There is no need at all to upgrade any wiring inside, an amp is as good as it's circuit & for the current wires inside an amp carry, they could work fine on just 1 strand of the 20 strand cable. PCB track isn't much thicker on older amps than 5 strands & look at your computer Motherboard, all those tracks on it are smaller than 1 strand. If you are thinking of rewiring or you get unlucky & break ones off, beware the loop the wire connected to. The wire usually is wrapped through & round the hole to secure. The odds of this breaking off as you try to pull out the old bit of wire is very high.
Buying amps "Improved" by Others
especially those not brave enough to show you any pictures, is a risky business simply as many who do this know nothing of design & just replace like for like & with cheap components, not using better values especially on capacitors to get a better quality amp. You have to trust they put them in the right way & can solder & didn't break wires off & solder badly or wrongly. To buy a recapped amp & see they used cheap parts & just the same old limited values means the one in the know would rip them all out & do it properly. But the trouble then is... the Board Tracks can come loose at the solder points creating problems & untidyness. This is why an original untouched item can be worth the same as a "restored" one unless it's clear what was done. As buyers of amps we like to research, to find a dry dusty one with leaky caps is OK as we can deal with it. But to find broken bits, bad old repairs & signs of chav disrespect of them isn't welcome. To find a good amp with the wire cut off to the case, scratched case & other minor dents really depends on how good the amp is. Only a quality one would be worthy, some we see on ebay look like a ton of builders debris crashed on top & they dug it out at the Tip or Recycling Centre as they are called today.
Some amps you liked years ago or still do after years service are worth maxing out with new capacitors etc to see how good they really are, if or not is the usual result. If the amp sounds rough & distorted as you hear it, even at below clipping volumes, odds are it'll sound basically the same except the distortion is cleaner. If that's the case, simply sell it & buy another better one as you'll not get a good result. We can look at circuits & see if amps are worth buying & how well they'll upgrade, but that's only through experience & some surprises good & bad are still out there. If you think Pioneer SX-950 is a great top quality amp, then we going to tell you "no it isn't" & refer you to our Pioneer page where you'll find all their amps are good but not exceptional and the earliest 1967-69 ones are better sounding. Even maxing out a top end amp like the Luxman L-100 revealed it too has "spoilers" in the design to stop it being as good as it could. To max out a lesser amp will often disappoint as it'll just reveal how bad the design is, as it was the average parts all balanced well enough to be OK if no better, but it's like setting Diamonds in a Silver Plated Ring, be within itself or look foolish.
Want to Replace Input Sockets?
Don't. We read of those impressionable types who have done this to Phono inputs adding an inch or 2 of silver wire & heard wonderful improvements. Bullshit is the curt answer to that. We've had good amps here with 40+ year old sockets including crusty & corroded ones that work OK once cleaned up. They obviously need a clean but it's just a mind fooling you thinking they must be replaced. Some Phono sockets are a tiny bit different in size to others, some 1960s ones are way too big & will trash your Phono plugs. Gold plated are little better as the plating wears off & is only really good to stop tarnishing & sound impressive to non-tech buyers. Steel ones on older amps are as good as their connections & if clean you will hear no difference. Also why hack up an old amp? The same woolly thinking person on a Forum done these mods after a conversation with a "legendary" bullshitter it appears who also made him buy an expensive mains cables. Nothing like gullibility in subjects that are a bit more secret & read our Cables page for more on that. People like to be spoon-fed, be told by "experts" this is what you want. The level of mire & false BS the entire world operates on is the last mystery of life. Hifi is just one subject affected, we try to demystify it. Let others think for you, it's easier. Want to put Gold Plated Sockets in now? Plenty on ebay...
An amp that has op-amps or ICs
in the Audio circuit will generally have those cheap parts as the weakness will be those however far you go. We hate ICs in Hifi & have written a whole page on them. Go see. If you find a great amp with an IC for a Phono, why not take a non IC phono board from another amp & fit that in instead?
RECAPPING: Do you need to?
Initially "NO", try it out and see if you like it first...
Those who've read a little about old hifi will think recapping is essential. No it isn't. 40+ years old amps with Elna capacitors we have, the Trio KA-6000, Sansui 3000A & Sony STR-6120 and they work fine. It won't tighten the Bass as one Ferrograph user though it did, see our Ferrograph page. If the sound wavers from left to right, they're leaking or another component is faulty. If the amp looks well used, has had a hard life by how dirty it is in & out, expect the capacitors to be more in need of changing. A high grade little used one should generally be fine for years more use if you are happy with it. Exceptions are ones where heat by the capacitors is involved, eg the Yamaha CR-1020/2020 receivers that ALWAYS need some replacement.
Vintage Capacitors by their nature are OLD. You don't know how the amp has been used & stored since new. In a hotter room the capacitors may dry out or long use do similar. A new Capacitor has the benefit of being New & Fresh & if the amplifier is one you'll use often, to recap is a good idea. Some capacitors only reveal themselves as leaky when you unsolder them & see old dried traces. Only the 2002-2008 era Chinese cheapo capacitors fail by exploding to a degree & ripping the top open or making a mess, most capacitors fail quietly. You can see videos on YouTube where little boys put 500v onto a 50v capacitor or wire ± the wrong way & they turn into bombs. In Electrical items they generally don't do that
But if you are hearing rustly noises that usually hints capacitors need upgrading, though not always as other parts can be at fault which is the black art of fault finding. Capacitors used by manufacturers were generally the lowest µf value they thought it'd need to be, so be more generous when you recap, but be aware of the circuit as a bigger value cap where a modest one is might be a good idea but probably isn't needed, but you're missing out on the potential if it does.
If you like the Amp & will use it Daily, then "YES"...
If the amp is going to be your main one, live with the old caps if they sound good until you realise it's going to stay, the many hours work & buying and ordering new caps is a big job to do on a whim & then sell it on having found a better amp. Then you need to solder the capacitors properly after you've put them in the right way round, else they'll explode if + and - are swapped. Caps also explode eg. if you put a 16v one in a 35v required place. Others you can use & see what you like & what you see as not as good in terms of focus or being bass light due to low value capacitors limiting bass. In some amps, a coupling capacitor of 0.47µf will severely limit bass, in others, due to impedance, it'll sound great still. It may be part of a filter & changing it messes up the filter. Therefore play it first & see what is lacking. The age of the Components may mean they are not as good as they used to be.
Many amps we see "recapped" only have the main power ones done. And usually with the same values. They wasted their money. It probably didn't need it. Recapping certain parts can give an obvious improvement, in other areas it's much less obvious, though you don't just recap parts to do it properly. To leave the Tuner stage & the power supply 2 large caps as they were is what we've done on some amps. Buy good quality parts when you recap, as to do once on an amp you are going to keep is good, but to recap again in 10 years as you can bet some will do can get problems with lifting track (the thin copper strips on the boards) or missing bits of track. However careful you are, on the 3rd heat of a piece of track it may start to come loose.
If you like an amp, keep using it until you realise through comparing to others it's not sounding as focussed as it could be. If it's your only amp, you may not notice. We have some amps we are holding on to, like the Sony STR-6120 & the Trio KA-6000 that are all original and in high grade & show no problems beyond their age. Some amps we recap & do more on as they are in need of repair or are tired from long use, with voltages not being correct. Recap if the Amp is faulty, as the Leak Delta 75 receiver always is due to the cheap capacitors, it's the only way. No real need to recap a 1980s amp yet, but we've recapped 1978 Yamahas. They were aged on power supplies & if the amp has got too hot through overheating or poor design that you can remedy, then to recap the lot is worthwhile. Heat dries out Capacitors & The Yamaha CR-2020 type can reach 100°C inside if it's starting to age. Older capacitors are only rated 85°C unlike ones today of 105°C. It really depends how aware of the aging. To recap is serious business. If you barely have used a soldering iron & don't know resistor colour codes, don't try the harder stuff yet. We've seen amateur work & we wish they hadn't bothered by their mess. You may wish you didn't bother on seeing it in the bin as you ruined it & now can't fix it. Recapping requires concentration & notes taken to do it precisely. Some amps are helpfully tagged with component numbers & polarity, others are blank boards making your preparation a harder job. Then the board tracks can come loose & leave nothing to solder directly to, so you have to improvise. This happens to the most careful, but how you deal with it is the matter then.
What Sections Benefit the Most?
Previously we've recapped amps by doing the lot then try it once complete. This way you don't get to see which improves more, but recently with our 2 best receivers the Sony STR-6120 & the Sansui 3000A, we decided to do the sections we'd expect to need it first, try it, then do more. The verdict both times, ignoring doing ones physically in need, was the hardest working section that gets the best improvement is... the power amp stage. We upgrade the values which is edging quite hard into design, but the power amp stage that drives the output transistors benefitted most. The main power supply caps with improved valves adds to the improvement, but not as strikingly obvious as the power amp. The least in-need are the preamp & phono stages unless the values are too low. To those who just idly replace the caps with the same values are unlikely to hear much improvement & are missing out on extended sound. To recap a tuner stage is less important. It sees much less power as does a Phono stage, but upgrading ceramics in both is worthwhile, but Tuner early stages may require ceramics & ones like 4pf value are only found as ceramics. To leave the "front end" as Sony call it & recap the rest & upgrade from ceramics is worthwhile, but can be a big job. If you want a Tuner to use yourself, to recap is worthwhile, for us to recap the Sony STR-6120 would be about £200 job & buyers won't pay extra for it.
Pay Extra for a Recapped & Rebuilt Amp?
A chance very few get & probably don't really understand what is involved. We've sold a few now that we've done & then decided to sell, but to cover Parts is about the best you'll get, no-one will pay £300+ labour unless they are the ones comissioning it. Buyers aren't used to paying for good work done simply as few offer it & are confident enough to show the work up close. A seller on ebay keeps relisting Valve receivers they say they done work on, but just one picture gives no idea of what they've done. This is how early Vintage Hifi still is. Many fiddlers, many bad fiddlers in those, but few with the knowledge & skill to do it right. It requires more than just replacing like for like. We look at the circuits & know design so can put "y" instead of the original "x" and know it's going to be better. Some of those "x's" are well underspec for their purpose, simply as manufacturers had to keep costs down to sell any. Some recapped & improved ones we sell are done either because they needed it or we wanted to research it. We've done Valves with the Armstrong & The Rogers and Transistor amps with ones from Realistic, Goodmans, Leak Delta 75, Sansui AU-999, NAD 300. Some we've part done, like losing the ceramics in the Technics SU-V707 made a subtle improvement. Ones like the B+O 3000(-2) would sound great recapped, but doing a parts count it was decided against as 30w would be it's limiting factor. We would like to see more people doing proper work, but look online at Repair shops for Hifi, one London guy sells his skills well and he deserves your trade, others appear very amateurish with a bucket price to fix an amp, which is impossible. The problem with much in life is the unknown & people are happy to accept good amps well below their potential as unserviced, simply as they don't know better or how much better they can be. We are perhaps unique in knowing how to get the best out of amps & we learn as we go along, some ideas are set but you never know everything. We were fiddling with amps 20+ years ago & we learnt the hard way, through experimenting which is the only way really. The amps we had and... well. That was then.
So What Will We Get if We Improve?
With our typical upgrades including uprating, the sound balance will generally sound the same on any amp be it 20w or 100w. An improvement in the Subtleties is what you'll get & any upgrade Design related work will improve Dynamics. But there are limits: ICs as stated already. The improved sound will get you wanting to play it louder as it's much cleaner & you'll head into clipping & distortion too early especially on the extended bass unless you have perhaps 70w or better depending on how much output voltage 70w really means. A rough sounding but otherwise OK amp (eg Goodmans 80) will have more gloss but the rough will still be there, based on limitations of design, though you can add sweeteners to focus the sound, perhaps. Fine tuning & overspec power supplies etc are what makes expensive amps expensive. Unless you want to fine tune which means circuit redesign & adding parts, which probably all isn't worth it. Thinking you can buy a good 60w amp & make it sound like your dream is unlikely however much you spend, unless you think beyond basic upgrades into design territory which is very advanced. Some amps we had years ago we maxed out for the hell of it & this is what we found, you cannot make a bacon sandwich out of a pig's ear to mangle a phrase, though we wanted to try so we could know properly & be done with it. An amp needs to be good & with overspec type components to allow your improvements room to work. We thought of maxing out the B+O Beomaster 3000, but after trying some other amps to see the results, it'll sound nice but with only 20w to do 130+ fiddly resolderings it's not really worth it. Having maxed out the Yamaha CA-1000 as it needed work anyway, the results on this 70w amp were worth it. Until we heard the CA-1010 that arrived the same week the CA-1000 was finished, upgrade-it-itis can happen.
In later amps, we've gone further in upgrades, such as matching HFE of preamp transistors & matching resistor values L to R with new ones, just to see what improvement it gets. It does improve, but as with anything, the base line has to be excellent before very subtle improvements will be noticeable. You got to do the lot, not just a bit is the idea.
Taking Advice from Forums.
Forums are generally inexperienced people waffling on about problems & show their lack of experience. They are unfortunately as trusted by people as are drivers asking directions, until you end up off the end of a Pier or with a frazzled amp. They ask really simplistic questions that show they've not even bought a book on the subject to learn the basics. Half-read facts about something they think is right makes a person dangerous, learn your subject the hard way or you'll fail. We learned our experience over 20 years amid trial & error and error occurs a lot, but you learn from your mistakes faster than learning dry Theory. Some forums can be very helpful as more advanced users put photos of amp insides & you can read of their problems, which from experience you can judge if they'd affect you if you bought that amp.
Reading forums is like panning for gold, so much grit to rake through. And lots of amateurs waffling on with half baked thoughts is tiresome to read. These sites are good if you are with a problem you are stuck on & taking advice sometimes helps, but sadly things we ask about are rarely answered. People love-hate amps in the same measure, our idea of sound you may not like, but our demanding tastes based on self-built valve amps wants it all at the same time & refined too, as valves can. Never believe a person saying that "part x" is an equivalent for the original as even in the Sansui AU-999 we see underrated equivalents mentioned elsewhere, check them out yourself. The Sansui 5000 for example supposedly has dodgy diodes as temperature-current adjusting, an idea long since dumped as was the person's foolish 'upgrade'. Overhot transistors means poor biasing, inadequate ventilation or using a part that is underpowered or without adequate heatsinking. You decide which. Well meaning sorts suggest to use "xyz" to overcome the problem, all well and good. But no-one offered a bypass solution, the idea is long out of date, so why keep the old bad design, a design so bad Sansui recalled the amp. And so soon after the wonderful 3000A, what went wrong?
If your Vintage Amp is in 'Mint' Condition
You have a Museum piece. You have the box & paperwork too, lucky you. If it works 100% then it is for you to treat it as an intact item & preserve it as an artifact for future importance. If you do "improvements" to it you will get Hifi Historians of the Future pissing on your grave as you had the arrogance to deface a perfect example. If the amp has issues or old repairs, it's not important, but the ones that are 'as good as new' need preserving & selling on if you only want to fiddle. If you are a little overwhelmed by how high grade it is, sell it on. Hifi History is still very young & the fact there are no sites like ours proves it. You are unlikely to find many or any like ours in most subjects either. In the Future there will be Hifi Museums as people realise how great the scene is. If you find an otherwise Mint Vintage Hifi item, ie pre 1980, and it has a minor fault or a popped capacitor, seek out the Original part, buy another one & swap bits. If you do use it regularly, it might fail & need obvious repairs then possibly lose it's Status if the old parts are unfindable. Keep your high grade one as a Collectors Item. Even on Old Cars they say it's 90% original bodywork, even if brand new paint & a new interior, but the originality matters. Watching shows like "Chasing Classic Cars" shows car collectors deeply appreciate an original item, but a bit annoyingly will make even a 1920s car look brand new & prefer it to a real mellow nice grade original. You can't tell a Collector paying $700,000 for a car what is bad taste...
Don't Do Heavy Handed "Improvements"
If you can't easily undo your work to the original, assuming you'd not repaired bad damage, then you are going too far with your fiddling. You can read online the butchering some fool does with an A&R Cambridge (later Arcam) A60 which we found checking out it's specs. Insane things like putting a bigger transformer that won't fit inside (eh?), soldering over fuses, removing protection circuits, putting parts in that are too big for the old design. WTF. Without resorting to further acronyms, this person is an idiot. Either enjoy the amp for what it is after recapping it or go buy something more substantial. Once you randomly start changing resistor values you might as well give up & buy a better amp instead of hacking up an amp to try to make it better, which we know from trying in our early days is a waste of time & bin fodder once you've ruined it. Well meaning but typically stupid "experts" advised him to do this, do that so a mix of bad ideas and poor ideas. The A60 is probably a £100 amp if serviced up, so it's hardly a major amp, though within itself probably is enjoyable to have been a good seller and still is a wanted amp & we'd certainly buy one if the price allows a profit. A quick look says 35w into 8 ohms, so a good budget amp. But why try to overcook good budget into what it'll never be? Be realistic. It's newbie stuff really, we played with many amps in a short time before realising it was wasteful & arrogant, even when they were just £10 to £20 to buy at bootsales, they being amps that would now sell £150-400 from ones we remember. He who fiddles learns more though. Look at our Intro page & what we done over 20 years ago to the Rogers Cadet III, it didn't matter then as no-one wanted them. To do such crazy stuff teaches you things, but to do it to amp that is now collected & more than £100 paid for one in any grade, the days of being reckless are long gone. But if we hadn't done that stuff years ago we'd not be typing acres on Hifi now. The unwanted Hifi junk of today will not be as interesting to fiddle recklessly with as the older stuff, what are you supposed to do with an IC block amp in the same way. Even the days of Hifi kits to build & make as Maplin used to devote pages of their big printed catalogs to are long over. No Tandy to buy a basic electronics kit from, we got one for Xmas one year. Learning a trade or skill has very different avenues today.
Much "Improvement" is just a Delusion
Harsh but true. It'll sound DIFFERENT but keep buying more amps as we do & you'll find out that DIFFERENT is rarely BETTER as you'll find amps that are all original that are BETTER. But the best general advice after having tried all this is simple: Buy it, try it, don't fiddle & if you find major weaknesses after a few listening sessions & it's not a fault, sell it on. Don't bother with it, don't touch it as it'll never be the Dream you are looking for without a total redesign even if you spend £250+ on new parts as well as many hours to "upgrade" it. You can go too far & fool yourself it's better even. Nope. Clean it to showroom clean, photo it well & make a profit. Unless it actually needs repairs. You can rip it to bits, take out every component & redo the lot & still have a crappy amp that will show itself up later when you hear something better. A better design using old parts, none of the exotic stuff of today will beat other ones. There are plenty of upgrades out there you can do in terms of design that are more advanced, but that's more design stuff so not really what we're wanting to cover here & you are wasting your time on an amp that's not "right up there" in the first place. The best designs have no limits to their designs, we see crazy ideas like a valve stage put into a £200 cheap modern amp. Build your house on a strong foundation & your design too, or you'll look silly like the valves in £200 amp guy did.
No You Don't.......
Unless an amp has parts that are BROKEN & unusuable, ignore all tedious Forum advice. You do not need to put Gold Plated phono sockets in; the old ones if clean are as good. You do not need to rewire the amp with Silver wire: stupid ideas, what's wrong with Copper or Steel wire? You do not need to take out DIN 5 pin inputs & put Phono plugs: buy an adapter. Keep the amplifier as Original as you can on bits that show, as the odd are you'll sell the amp at some time & who would want a butchered amp. If what you are doing looks out of place inside the amp, odds are it's a stupid idea. Sledge Hammer to crack a Nut sort of thinking is never good thinking.
RESISTORS you see in older amps are often various type carbon, carbon composition brown tube ones and wirewound varied types for higher power. Do you need to change them for new metal film ones? Unless they are damaged, again leave them alone. Our Rogers HG88 Mk III has very old 1950s type resistors with 10% tolerance bands, but measure them & the values L+R are matched, 100K may be 113K but both are very close. Considering gain tolerances in valves & transistors to be precise is hardly worth it, but on a Sony TA-1150 we found the 2 resistors dropping the voltage to the early IC were very mismatched, so the sound working on ±voltages that were not matched added a distortion straight away.
CAPACITORS on older amps can be a problem, new ones can look too new, so use tape or paint to disguise them if visible outside. Those well meaning types who cut open a big old capacitor & "Stuff" it with smaller new ones to the old value are wasting their time. How will you know if the new ones fail? If the old capacitor is no good, use the opportunity to put a bigger value in & improve the power supply. Do it neatly, add a PCB to put the new ones on or use capacitor brackets.
Is It Possible To Make Transistor Amps Sound Like Valve Amps?
Yes. With design ideas from both, on an already open & lively sounding amp, you really can make them very similar, have fun. Is that all we wrote. Probably as it's advanced design-upgradecing based on each item & not really info to give out generally.
Doing Up The Woodwork Or Case?
Early Hifi often has a Wood Case & Speakers are going to be Wood Veneered unless they are Piano Laquered or Vinyl Wrap. A knowledge of how to restore furniture helps. If you have speakers with a dark mark on top, be aware the whole speaker will need to be stripped down to bare & rubbed down, as just doing the top will reveal the original colour not the age faded softer colour. This is known as the Patina though Patina to some means a layer of dirt. What you like or don't dictates which. Small areas can be treated with skill, look online for French Polishing tips & you can have a successful job done. Or just clean the item up & not notice by putting a doily on top & a plant, as the women of homes have been doing to cover furniture blemishes for decades, if a bit old fashioned now, so improvise. If you think a tin of varnish & a brush or a spray can with a thick layer of varnish-lacquer will do, then you're better off not bothering as it will look awful & if not fully prepared it'll wear off & look even worse. We've seen wood cases & furniture with dark gloss varnish on & do they look vile. To use a French Polishing style of adding a thin layer of new lacquer over a prepared base of old finish is the best way. Scratches will be coloured to hide if still visible in harsh light, but saves sanding down & risking sanding the veneer off as some is very thin. Other advanced wood restoring tips you can find elsewhere. Metal lids can be rubbed down & resprayed to look much smarter, though some have textured paints that are less easy. Some lids have a plastic type finish that you should never spray paint, to deep clean them is the thing & touch up any bare dings with a bit of paint. If fascias & control knobs are scraped then you can really only look for the parts as spares or buy another whole item & keep the best parts & sell it on. To try to machine polish them will look awful & aluminium is anodised with a harder outer coating including colouring that will be left with bare spots & look awful. Recycle, restore & rejoice.
Can Putting More Powerful Transistors In An Amp Give More Power?
Was a question we were just asked & oddly one we asked ourselves when starting out too long ago. Anyone saying this is possible by taking out one & putting another transistor in is telling you porkies. Power in Watts is a combination of the music's maximum long term voltage & the current that goes with it. A 20w amp will always only be a 20w though you can fiddle with things to get it playing much louder, but you'll then be playing dangerously into clipping & burn out your speakers. Things we tried & suffered many years ago. The Watts RMS that your amp delivers is based entirely on your amp's Power Supply. If it delivers +-35v you'll only ever have an approx 35w-50w RMS amp. A 200w amp we had before you'd expect to be running on 150v+, but not so, it only used 85v & the rest was boosted with current it could deliver, see the POWER RATINGS page. With some TO3 transistors you can buy the MJ versions that can handle 200w instead of 100w before. You can't get out more than you put in. But they'll play & use the exact same power as that's all they're seeing. Only with extra power can you be assure the transistors can cope better with transients, but overall unless you play music deafeningly loud, you'd never notice & odds are clipping will be due to the voltage hitting it's peak. Smaller transistors have voltage gain HFE that if mismatched will be too loud for the rest of the circuit. There is no easy fix beyond totally redesigning the power supply & making a cheap amp better than it is will be time wasted as it'll reveal how weak the rest is.
Expensive Exotic Components
Again we hear of expensive capacitors rolled in virgin pygmy sweat rolled under the skin of the fifth leg of a 5 legged cat & these are somehow superior. Cut open a capacitor. It's a roll of paper or plastic film with a foil layer and it's sometimes wet. There's really not much to it if done with good parts, to think any exotic capacitor is better than the types an online seller like RS sells, well go enjoy the dream as it's only a dream. Cheap ones or cheap anything is a false economy. There is always someone trying to say some junk is better in order for you to pay for nothing, audiophile fuses at £35 each is the latest hilarious one. Often the expert raving about some obscure "miracle" is the one selling it though they may not make it too obvious.
Capacitors are the problem.
An electrolytic capacitor ages. It's a roll of layers of paper & foil left wet in mildly acidic fluid. Through heavy use & decades left unused they deteriorate. You can see below how some bigger capacitors have aged as we've cut many open. Certain brands are reliable but even 45 year old Elna ones are past their best as well as the values are smaller than they need be for the spec of today's ones. The most common thing people say to do on an Amplifier is replace the main capacitors. Usually Wrong. But on most quality amps made after 1973 these are actually still good, the values are comparable to a modern design & they do not need replacing. The smaller capacitors are the ones that do more often need replacing & even the 45 year old Elnas may be in good condition physically, after decades unused they are not able to 'reform' themselves to work right again on re-use as the voltage in the design isn't anywere near the rated voltage to awaken them. Other capacitors are best upgraded too, no Ceramic capacitor has any place in Hifi beyond the Front End in a FM tuner, but these are heavily used simply as they are cheap. Silvered Mica & varied Poly-film type ones are more expensive, eg a 100pf ceramic is 3p but a 100pf polystyrene is over £1. Any pre 1980 amplifier will benefit from recapping, but be aware if you only use the exact same values, you'll struggle to hear a difference unless the caps were obviously faulty, ie leaking.
This is a subject you don't see mentioned as few see enough to cut then open & have a look inside. We cut them open like a bean can using large wirecutters. We have recapped quite a few amplifiers now and if a capacitor is leaky, no longer wet now or crusty mush growing out of it, it is obviously far gone. We've written up on 3 amps we've recapped & we had a box of bigger capacitors that are here to cut up too. Small signal level capacitors on low voltage age the least, but they are small & their life to be the best for signal coupling & allowing the Sound Signal through usually means an amp from 1978 or before needs recapping to sound it's best, if you could still happily use it. Depends on your needs & ability to recap or pay the tech price to do it. After cutting open a batch, the bin is very smelly. For those repair guys lazily leaving in 45-50 year old power supply capacitors of 200v to 350v they are not doing their job properly & as well as being aged & on the edge of failure especially if used often & they are underspec. Replacing those 2 capacitors in one can job isn't so difficult & there is space in these amps to put additional axial ones after the resistor stages.
Vintage Valve Amp Capacitors... are usually Dead.
Will always be dried out and/or sickening. Be it a Radio, Amplifier etc, the high voltage capacitors are just about dead if 45+ years old. We've done the Rogers HG88 Mk III twice & the Sansui 500A had all 4 main 100v-400v capacitors Totally Dry, the few 100v+ axial ones similarly dry & some are powdery inside and are not working right. All will not last for long if you think as long as they're not leaky, you're safe to use it freely. No you're not. 'Experts' who have repaired these amps lazily always leave the old caps in, unaware of the dried out status. Other valve items we've cut open the capacitors & always the same story. To use a vintage Valve Amp with the old capacitors is a dangerous thing. The difference in sound quality from the dead old capacitors to fresh new ones, even if the same old values will show how worthwhile it is to recap & not risk damaging the amp. But there are Double, Triple & Quad capacitors, meaning 2, 3 or 4 separate capacitor stages in one can, the Sansui 500A has one Double & one Quad. To recap is possible with some redesign and full learning of the circuit & what all does with safety in mind.
Rogers HG88 Mk III we're keeping we cut open the old power supply capacitors... The Back capacitor with the metal case is bone dry inside, a tiny bit of corrosion on the exiting lug inside. It is useless as a capacitor that dry & further use would have got problems. Another one from another HG88/3 in the same place was similar. The blue plastic encased one was the worst, just slightly damp but very crusty-crystallised inside. This was the one that rustled & stopped vfor a bit once tapped It would rapidly get worse in regular use. The inside 32+32µf one still has a little dampness & would not be a problem yet. The 3x 16µf was similar, though 3 capacitor stages coiled together with polythene in between & pitch to keep bits in place seems an odd idea. From seeing other Rogers amps, the power caps failing & causing burnt out resistors must be common. Valves will fail but they either go silent or play low, as well as more advanced visual faults.
Sansui 3000A The 4 main ones were looking good & wet still, if a little sour smelling. Similar on the other 2 smaller. These would therefore be good for use still.
Sony STR-6120 The old Elna capacitors no-one will want, so we cut them open to see how aged these 44 year old ones are. The 2 main power supply ones, the front one looked good inside but was barely damp so it would need replacing soon. The back one was very wet still like the Sansui 3000A ones were, it would be good for a while yet. The 2 speaker output ones looked good but were barely damp again. The 2 smaller power supply ones differered, one was slighty wet whilst the other barely damp. The Sony STR-6120 clearly uses up the capacitors in use as it runs on 86-93v & the speaker output ones we found one on another amp that was way low in volume & inside it was all crystallised & crusty.
Bang & Olufsen The small hard plastic capacitors used in the Beomasters we've had from 1969-78 are generally good unless obviously cracked when they'll be dried out. The power supply capacitors unless obviously leaky, which is rare, are often OK. Just cut one spare one open & it was still very wet inside, even 40+ years old.
Teac AS-100 This amp arrived in awful dirty condition, a prime example of a great amp that had a hard life, read more on the Teac page. The power supply Nippon Chemicons were cut open, both a little smelly, not crusty looking but barely damp. A minor rustling was noted before & the likely cause. The smaller one was not smelly but still barely damp. The early 1970s RS brand axial capacitor underneath that had been replaced at a time it was cared for was still wet & would have been good for years more use.
Trio WX400-U These are 1964 ones so 49 years old. Nichicon 100µf 250v that sees the first voltage was dry & a bit crusty. The Elna 3x 40µf 350v was dry but not crusty. Both still worked, but are clearly failing & one of the 40µf stages more failed as noisy, likely the one that sees the first voltage.
Pioneer SX-1500TF 45 year old 1000µf 100v Nippon Chemicons: one barely damp that would be the main one, one still wet that would be the secondary one as they were used in parallel, not crusty would still be ok if not for prolonged use.
Other Brands of Vintage Capacitor
ELNA depending on use these often are still good, but beware speaker output stages & hardest working main power supply ones. ***OFTEN STILL GOOD ALL SIZES
ERIE 2200µf 63v x3 of them, crystallised so too far gone. Erie 100µf 350v from a HG88 Mk III replacement dated 1975: all dry & crusty. To not trash the brand totally, one medium size 25v ones were still very wet ***REPLACEMENT 100% NEEDED ON BIGGER ONES
CE62 light grey ones from a 1978 Eagle amplifier that had a hard life: barely damp if looked OK. CE62 black ones from a NAD 60 amplifier, one slightly damp, the other a bit more if not very. ***OFTEN STILL GOOD
NIPPON-CHEMICON are from a 1969 Pioneer speaker outputs, and are still looking good with some wet left after 43 years. **OFTEN STILL GOOD
NOVER is a more modern one, the sort of general anonymous made in China budget price capacitor we'd not bother with for our own use, you can buy similar new on ebay. But as too tatty from bad user, cut it open too. 6800µf 63v 'Hi Ripple' it says, maybe only 2 years old? But looking inside you see why it's cheap, no pitch to hold the roll of the insides in place & oddly just barely damp. It'd not last long...
THE VERDICT: If you care for your amp, buy the best capacitors for it. We use 105° Panasonic FC ones for all uses a smaller electrolytic needs. For power supply caps, we've used these in no particular order: Epcos, Nichicon, Panasonic, Rubycon & the RS own brand. Some you can see are cheaper or more expensive for the same value & size.
We used test tones to read before & after the cap to see there are no losses in the 20Hz to 20kHz audible range even in a 4700µf coupling capacitor as found in most pre 1974 amplifiers. How much higher than 20kHz may or may not matter, according to varied rules. Your ears can rarely hear 20kHz at any age & as you age the ability to hear the higher frequencies will fade. Even an amp with a 2200µf coupling capacitor surprisingly had no bass loss at 20Hz, but one with only a 1000µf did, as the Pioneer SX-1500 has on early ones. Only an aged capacitor that has not been run in can show bass & treble loss in the output capacitor stages and it may take several days use to waken it up. 2200µf we've found was adequate on one amp, but bear in mind design impedances make amps differ in their response through the complexities you can read of elsewhere. On the Sony STR-6120, the early 'Tape Head' ones only have 1000µf, the 'Aux 3' ones have 2200µf. In replacing some, a 4700µf appears to give a benefit & you could go up higher, but then risk inherent problems with high capacitance limiting the treble.
Replacing Early Electrolytic Capacitors
Early electrolytics going back to the 1930s Pepperpot type, 1940s card tube type and 1950s-60s 3 values in one can leave a problem as putting a new style capacitor can look too new, though it's operation is needed. If possible, leave the old ones in place but disconnect them & solder new much smaller ones underneath out of sight. Easy to do with a 1930s-40s radio & any future buyer will be glad you done that rather than threw out an original & obvious part.
is a bad idea some amateurs do. They cut open the old capacitor can, take out the innards & solder a few new capacitors to fit in the old can. Bad idea simply as you can't see the new parts & if they leak, how would you know? Cutting the can & resealing it is never a good repair even if you can hide the cut under a clamp. The best option depending on the use & the visual impact is to leave the old one there disconnected & solder ones underneath, or go the whole deal & buy a larger capacitance value, which if used after a valve rectifier may only allow a certain value, so read up on it. Then you can paint it to match the old one & even go as far as scanning the old can & printing out a label. Depends who'd see it & how much you care. An early radio or radiogram like our Pye G/RG from 1932 with the "pepperpot" type capacitors will have dried out over 50 years ago, but they are so big they need to be left visible. If you're lucky, the unit stayed unused & unrepaired & if not, they just added modern ones underneath & hidden after disconnecting the old ones. Just keep the new capacitor on show is the easiest way, but it'll look too new in a 50 year old amp. A Leak 20 with new caps on show looks awful, but why not paint the new capacitor to match? If it's hidden in a case like a Rogers Cadet or HG88 it's not important to see old or new & you can use bigger values to make a better power supply, which is what we've done with our HG88, but purposely buying black case ones to not look too obvious. Seeing new caps in the Sony STR-6120 & Sansui 3000A doesn't look odd as long as you buy the same physical size to go in the clip fitting.
Flux Capacitor Upgrades?
We get asked about this often, especially in the first week of April & at Christmas, so we need to clarify the issue. There is no such thing as a genuine Flux Capacitor. The 'Back To The Future' writers made it up, sorry. "Flux" is a substance used in Soldering to clean the joint & allow the Solder to flow cleanly on clean metal. Wikipedia says "the primary purpose of flux is to prevent oxidation of the base and filler materials". A Capacitor we cover above, it's an Electrolytic, Plastic Film or Solid item made from various materials. The item BTTF shows as a "Flux Capacitor" is nothing of the sort & shows they didn't do their research to avoid looking stupid. A capacitor does not generate anything, it is used as an audio high-pass filter due to reactance, audio decoupler to block DC voltage, voltage smoothing & reservoir for voltages like a temporary battery. The "Flux Capacitor" more resembles a Semi Conductor as in a Transistor or Diode configuration. as it's only fictional & does nothing apart from 'look impressive' there is no point saying further apart from you can buy 'replica' ones, though it's unlikely they work or else we'd all be time travelling.