Vintage Hi-Fi Upgrades
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*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.
A FRESH WAY TO UPGRADE & IMPROVE CLASSIC VINTAGE HIFI.
KEEP THOSE HIFI CLASSICS ALIVE & USE THEM DAILY.
The INDEX TO THIS PAGE is further down...
After the main sections that explain what we do, further sections are then indexed. To read the Intro first therefore then to make sense of the huge amount of sections covering all aspects of How We Upgrade.
WHAT ITEMS WILL WE WORK ON?
We Are Vintage Amplifier & Receiver Specialists. The Amplifier side is us.
YES: Amplifiers & Receivers 1960s-1980s Valve-Tube-Transistor.
YES: Quality 1960s Turntables Garrard 301, 401 etc. We do not have Parts.
YES: Recapping Quality Vintage Loudspeaker Crossovers.
YES: Tired Amps That Sound Lousy But You Know They Could Be Good.
YES: Repairing Quality Hifi That Doesn't Have ICs or is Budget Gear.
MAYBE: Repairing Bad Repairs & Work done by others, can be tricky.
MAYBE: Post 1980 Hifi That Is Generally Made To Be Disposable...
NO: General Repairs on Low Price Items, Portables or Radiograms.
NO: CD, Cassette, Minidisc, DAT, Dansette type Record Players.
NO: Repairing Speakers & Reconing. Google for Speaker Repairs.
NO: Tuner Repairs. This is a dying art sadly.
NO: Remaking Fascias and Casework. Get a nice amp to start with.
NO: Adding Modern Items like Bluetooth, USB or Remote Controls.
NO: Supplying Spare Parts, Free Repair Info & Repair Kits.
We are UK based & Restore, Service, Repair & Upgrade Quality Vintage Transistor & Valve Hifi, 1950s To Date.
We have the skill to Upgrade amps with Design Knowledge to get the best out of them. You can see we are into the Valve to 1980 era mostly, this is our interest & knowlege as the site reveals. For customers we offer various Service-Recap-Upgrade options that have proven to be what customers want. The More Complex your Amp is, the more work & parts it will need. Customers do ask for a full upgrade to "max out" an amp if it'll not be a cheap or even predictable job, so generally go for a more typical upgrade, but we've done these "max out" upgrades on several amps now & have sold then on this site without giving too much of that away, lucky is the buyer who gets one of these amps. We aren't interested in quick patch-up jobs or cost-cutting jobs, you have our skills here & for the amount of amps we have upgraded, prices are realistic. Customers who send us their amp from pre-1990 usually want it repaired, serviced & recap-upgraded. They get a great restored amp & we hear back saying how pleased they are. We use design ideas based on high spec to do far more than just idly recap an amplifier with the same like-for-like spec, which just leaves the amp often no better than it was before if it was in working order. We know Hifi design & can improve just about any worthwhile amp into a fresh sounding delight that will be true to the original design but upgraded to bring the best out of the design. We will consider any Valve or Transistor Amp 1950s to Modern current stock ones, but as with anything, read on to see if it's worth you spending your money on. After you've read this page more, ask us, we'll not just take on an upgrade job if we don't think it's worthwhile or a repair-service that could leave problems to arise & will suggest on some amps it's your choice. But if your amp sounds tired, we can update it subtly to make a better amp than it was new even, though as with anything, we can give an idea of how good it will be if we can see the circuit diagrams, inside photos & photos of any old repairs. Some amps with problems only by us seeing in front of us can we tell what is wrong. A service may sort the problem out, but if the amp is pre 1990, be sure if it has problems now it will likely develop ones later on. We hear of those forever taking amps in for repair, when what they need is the amp restored. Only you can decide how much you want to spend on an item. If you want it done properly for years of good use, try us, but don't expect it to be a cheap job & complex amps need a lot more work.
We are UK Based. This means UK & EU customers can send Amplifiers & Receivers for us to work on. We have 110v step down transformers, one is 300w the other is 200w so we can work on pre-power amps. USA-Japan Customers, we'd like to offer our Services, but it's not viable really as sending to us & returning needs to be done properly. Be aware Customs gets UK 20% VAT added plus about a £12 handling charge which is to be paid by the Customer, if we'll pay it on your behalf & bill you. We do not want the bother of Import Licences on Repair & Return gear. You can of course use a Third Party of your own choice, or family in the UK, but once the shipping costs & all the Customs issues are realised, the non EU buyer generally decides not to proceed.
WE DO REPAIRS & UPGRADES ON 'BETTER QUALITY HIFI' ONLY...
We are not interested in doing General Audio repairs, Quick Services or Cheap Jobs as usually they are more trouble than they are worth based on trying before, the problems can be impossible to repair & would you really want to spend £200+ on it? So we say YES to... Hi-Fi Separates in Valve & Transistor Hifi 1950s to Date that is of quality. Pre Digital Era Amplifiers & Receivers are Our Specialty. We can Service Garrard 301 & 401s & Direct Drive Technics Turntables, but if spare parts are needed this ranges from possible to impossible if buying donor units is possible. We say NO to... Tuners, Tape Decks, Cassette Decks, CD players, Digital gear including Active Speakers, B&O Turntables, Music Centres, IC based audio, belt drive Turntables, budget gear of any type & all combo units, portable digital audio & Radiograms. The reason mainly is the items aren't great quality & the fact these items are of low value means a Restoration isn't really worthwhile as well as some being a huge amount of work to only get caught out by unavailable parts. In Hifi & VCRs etc from the late 1970s on, once the numbers etc display fades, it's finished as emission has gone. You may find others in TV type repair shops but as time goes on, we hear many are turning away even the better stuff we deal in as they don't understand it. Look at our site & see the Hifi we've had & sold, 1950s-1990s Amps, Receivers & even two 1950s portable Valve record players. The old autochangers we can service but there is a huge amount of work involved. We've been into Electronics since the early 1990s & done a B-TEC course to further our interest, if only hands-on work teaches you about Hifi.
Why Bother Servicing, Recapping & Upgrading?
A 1974 Yamaha Still Works Fine. What Should We Do with It? we were asked. You have a quality amp, but the reality is it's 43 years old. You can still use it if it pleases you, we're not here to get you spending money. But the reality is, why do we Service, Recap & Upgrade amps? Because we know how much better they sound even after a Service. A 20 year old amp we had recently we tried as it arrived as the owner said it made odd noises, we played it until we heard the noises & then turned it off. In this case it needed a deep servicing only. As arrived we thought it sounded a bit boring & lifeless. Once serviced to try it again & it's far more fresh sounding totally transforming the sound, if it did reveal some weaknesses in the design. This amp was actually the Spectral preamp & we'd already serviced the amp for the customer as they tried to find out where the problem was. Another recent one the NAD 3030 we thought sounded great once Serviced if it hums slightly & as it's 39 years old we'll recap it if maybe the main caps are still good as they are a decent spec, if in reality to replace them is a better sell for the future buyer. To sell the NAD as serviced it makes only a certain price. Once recapped it puts a lot more confidence in the amp for the buyer plus they get our upgrades giving a better quality of sound. Upgrades bring cleaner midrange, crisper more extended treble & a fuller bass as most amps are limited on Bass to stop complainers as was found in the earlier 1970s. Better spec will give a faster cleaner sound overall. The NAD will sound great once upgraded & the buyer will have a better version of the original that should give years of use as basically it's been renewed with better quality parts to those in 1978. So for a 1974 Yamaha, to get it Serviced we see as a wasted opportunity & who knows if we'll find parts that need replacing. If the amp matters, get it renewed, service-recap-upgrade & the amp will sound so much better than the tired one you've been playing. It all comes down to Money is the reality. But look at how much you'd spend to get even slightly near the quality of the Yamaha & realise your old amp is a far better bet to get refreshed than buy New Disposable IC stuff that has a dull boring safe sound as we found with the 2007 Marantz PM 6002 that as you'd expect was a "What Hifi 5 Star Amp".
IS IT WORTH WORKING ON HIFI FROM POST 1980-TODAY?
"Probably Not" is the truth of it. The trouble with Modern Era Hifi & Audio is sadly "It's Made To Be Disposable". The quality of Hifi pre 1977 gets better even on cheaper items, but by 1980 cost cutting continued until audio by 1990-2000 is really not repairable. Only the High End gear will hopefully have quality to be repairable, but generally Post 1980 to get caught with No Service Info, Obsolete Parts, Weak Poor Construction is what makes Audio past 1980 Disposable. We had one ask about an AVI 200w integrated amp from 2004, no pictures findable of the insides, no manuals & at the £450 price new, really it's a budget 200w amp likely full of ICs & low spec design, raved about by the paid-advert reviews in the Hifi press, it's never as great as they say. If you've got 12 years use out of it, lucky you, treat it like a car or washing machine & sell it off for whatever you can get & go buy either Restored Vintage of better quality, or chance buying New Gear that'll probably not last more than 5 years. Some boards inside amplifiers are made like Computer boards, from the mid 1990s only. We've found in trying to repair Sound Cards that had failed capacitors that these cannot be reliably unsoldered on double sided track PCBs & the only option is a messy solder on top to the old capacitor remains. We know how post 1980 & especially post 1990 gear is made, it's really not worth spending money on, even a £600 amp from 1995 is still not going to be worth spending too much on beyond a service & still the risk of being told it's too far gone, it's to use it until it packs up. Harsh realities of Modern Gear & to accept you've bought Audio gear like you buy a TV or DVD etc, it'll be used for years & thrown out. Only Quality is worth spending money on, if a £600 amp is now bad after 5-10 years, then that's all the use you'll get from it. If the item has those fine Computer board type solder connections & runs hot then the likelihood of a good repair on post 1995 era gear as we've found even on 21st Century gear, much to our annoyance, is it's not repairable easily or neatly, if at all, which will hurt if the item was expensive.
POST 1980 AMPLIFIERS ARE OFTEN NOT REPAIRABLE
For the Construction, lack of good Service Data, Direct Coupling, excess Fuse Resistors & other cost cutting, much post 1980 gear is sadly Disposable. Post 1990-95 amps made with fine computer type boards are unrepairable. If you get a fault on some post 1980 amps, it is worth getting it Serviced & Checked, this will tell if it's got a difficult problem or not. Servicing may sort it, or you could end up with the amp back with the same fault, you must decide if it's worth 'getting it looked at'. It's a Gamble & depending on the amp may or may not be worth spending on. We don't want to take on Dead-End jobs & Waste Your Money, but the reality is it's not always apparent until work is done. We are aware others ask us if we can fix certain amps & then say another looked at it or was asked about it, yet didn't want to take the job on. Why did they not want the job? Because they also know it's a Gamble & can head into Open Cheque territory, a Money Pit where you are just chasing problem after problem. This all makes the Repair Tech look incompetent & giving an apparent poor service based on the Poor Amplifier Design sadly is only found out by trying. You see our skills are with 1963-80 era Valve & Transistor amps, just 17 years of Technology, but the Golden Era. We'll consider any amp to Service & Check it over if we see there is a chance of success, but the Customer needs to realise by paying for a Service & Check, the amp may not be in full working order still & expensive time-consuming repairs can be likely. To make it clear the amp is a Gamble if it appears to be lets the customer decide what to do. To do honest work & then find a part has been found faulty later & it's unavailable is the Gamble on these sort of Amplifiers. If you accept the Gamble, try us. But if the customer only sees "not working" , sends it away & expects 100% "works right" as the options for repairs, then perhaps you should stay away from these High Risk type of amplifiers. It's led to the world where Phones, Computers, Laptops & Cameras are thrown away as E-Waste, the only repairs phones get are the screens, any other problem it's trashed. This way of unrepairable tech started around 1980 as we see it. Hifi pre 1980 unless in poor grade or bad old repairs can be repaired with a high success rate.
WE ARE SPECIALIST HI-FI TECHS SPECIALISING IN VALVE-TUBE & TRANSISTOR AMPLIFIERS
The Hifi Tech is a Specialist in the Audio field of Electronics, there really are very few out there & we'd like to see other sites like ours, but there are none. Over many years we have learnt Hifi & have a Trained Ear to hear what is right & also to get the Best out of an amplifier within the Customer's Budget. Those thinking they can get a Cheaper Job & a Warranty will be dealing with a general Electronics person, one maybe fixing TVs or Domestic appliances. Be sure they have no idea about the qualities that Hi-Fi must have to be done right. We've seen enough bad TV Repair Guys & their work is not far off ignorant with zero care for doing the job right. The warranty for a Year is a cover-all for them not doing the job properly. We've sold & upgraded over 200 Amplifiers, we don't offer Warranties because the work you see we do in the Hifi Photos Gallery shows a standard that very few even can do. To try to do Hifi Work or Car Repairs etc on The Cheap is false economy, the stories of "his amp was always in for repair" is because he used a TV-grade repair shop and they did the least possible for as much as they could charge. You takes your Choice...
WHEN CONTACTING US, GIVE FULL DETAILS OF THE ITEM
You need to tell us exactly what the Hifi item is, such as Manufacturer, Model Number, Condition & Known Problems & what you want done with it. We Do Jobs from Repair & Service to Full Recap & Upgrade. Any Hifi sent for Repair gets a Service too as just fixing items is known to not do the job properly, as those who take their amp in for repair often know. If the amp is findable online with inside pictures we can get an idea of it, or we will ask for photos of inside top & base. We'll give the most economical idea of what needs doing, as in no point just repairing & servicing if it's 40+ years old & sounds tired as it needs a recap. So tell us what it is clearly & what the job is you want doing.
DELIVERY & COLLECTION BY COURIER ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS
With a Courier delivering your Amplifier & the same delivering it back to you plus using Bank Transfer, you have a full paper trail. We give our address details only to those going as far as saying they want to sent their item to us. This is because we are Not a Shop, but at a Residential Address & we do not trade from home. Unexpected Randoms will be ignored. The customer bringing their precious amp to a residential address will not like just leaving it at an address with no proof of leaving it there & we don't like doorstep deals either as who are you? So Courier is the only option best both ways. We give you the correct Packing Advice based on many sales. Use a 24hr Next Day Courier like UPS or Parcelforce 24 & you'll be fine. As we put on our Sales page, to insure or not is your choice, a next day delivery is rushed through with no sitting around as long as you avoid Weekends & Holidays, ie book collection Mon-Thurs only. See more about Couriers & Insurance on the Sales Page.
WE DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO 'HIDDEN' STORES OF RARE PARTS!
There is no Secret Stash of Rare Hifi Parts like there is with Cars who had dealerships & maintenance. With Hifi, if we need new parts we order them, find them or get another of the same hifi item as a spares unit to cobble one good one from. If the manufacturer or spare parts distributor doesn't have them then there is none. You can get things made such as 3D printing or tuner glasses remade, but you search online for those who do this. If a fragile part is broken, then go find a Spares unit, or accept it's not fixable & put it on ebay as someone will be glad of it for the spares. Consider your £300 Mobile Phone is worth £25 after 2 years, it's got a new version & people today want new ones. But a while back Spares were kept in stock of Hifi parts for 7 years only & once some sold they made no more. Today unlikely the Disposable £200 amp from Amazon has any spare parts buyable. We've tried to buy parts for Domestic Appliances & get the same thing, it's not buyable as it's past it's expected life. We do keep usable bits of failed amps & other spare bits & we have made use of them, but cosmetic exterior parts missing or broken means we don't get them unless we have the parts, as incomplete or damaged hifi has low value.
WE ARE IN THE UK, NON-EU CUSTOMERS WELCOME, BUT...
To send a heavy amp USA to UK will be around £300-£400 total, meaning send to us & return to you. Then there is the issue of Customs. For us you can't declare as "Gift" you have to declare a value & any import costs to us the customer will need to cover. UK charges VAT, currently 20% plus a handling fee. We've had USA customers interested in upgrading good quality amps, our prices reflect the amount of work to bring your amp up to the standard we sell amps at & then the high shipping costs put a customer off. In a world where few are doing Hifi restoration & probably no-one doing this to our upgrade-redesign way, there is always a price to pay. Don't be put off by the Shipping costs, but any upgrade-recap for any customer is not a quick cheap job for the new parts & many hours we spend. The results will delight you, so read our site deeper & see if our work is for you.
ARE YOU FOREVER TAKING YOUR AMP IN FOR REPAIR?
We hear this sometimes about amps that were the Higher Power ones amid their era. High Power Amps get used more, so they age & they break down. Take it in for Repair, they just fix one thing. A few months later it could fail again on another unrelated area & in for Repair. Bulbs go & yet again in for Repair. Think of all the Repair bills, but the reality is your amp is pre 1980 & it's now at least 37 years old. To Stop Forever Repairing Bits and Pieces of the Amp, get us to Fully Service it, Recap It or even Upgrade it. You don't have to spend high prices getting it Upgraded, though the high spec upgrades we do will make you play Music far more as it sounds unlike any amp you've heard. Buyers & those Upgrading tell us this. Money well spent in the long run. But if your amp is one you like but is fairly modest, we can Service & Recap it without going deeper & more expensive into Upgrading. We sort all the things that will be your Repairs of the Future as we've had many amps to learn how they operate & age. To just Service is wasteful as it probably needs replacement parts of some type. Take a Leap of Faith after reading our site & get your amp modernised so it's reliable for years more use. For a Service & Recap prices start at £250, to upgrade & for more complex amps prices can be much higher as it's Custom Work. We can work on Valve & Transistor amps with equal success. Considering you may go to buy a New Modern Amp on Amazon for that £250, why not get your "old friend" revived as the odds are the new amp with it's cold, boring & dumbed down sound won't please you & you'll not play music much. All amps we get are fully used & tested and as we write them up, you'll get a free review of your amp as we'll add it to the site.
SPEND WISELY ON VINTAGE GEAR AS REPAIRING IS A WASTED EFFORT.
An Aug 2017 listed 1969 Rogers Ravensbourne amp on ebay shows the Service & repair sheet plus £370 costs to service, check & replace a few capacitors. The amp is from 1969 & in very high visual grade, but it's 48 years old. The seller now optimistically wants £475 for it to cover their 2012 repairs. Note "Repairs", if we had an amp like this, it needs a full Recap as it's 48 years old, to have failings means the rest is on the way out as we've found out enough times on testing amps. At £370 no wonder they can guarantee it for a year, For that sort of price we'd just about recap & service it to be good for many years. Our 'Guarantee' of it being redone new is better than a hope & prayer that nothing else 48 years old will fail. The seller got it back & never used it for some reason. We have one amp to upgrade here as of typing. We found after recapping the lot of this 1969 amp that one of the output transistors was faulty in an odd non-electrical way. No good to us, we throw out the set of 4 & replace them with a set of working ones. If one is bad from a batch, it's not worth risking the others. We happened to have a set of the exact same ones so put those in as part of the job. Most Hifi repair techs are nerdy types who have no attitude. You've read our site, we are a different breed with an ability to fault find, redesign, upgrade & still give an authentic looking item as our sales pages show. We do it properly.
VALVE-TUBE AMP JOBS ARE FAR FROM SIMPLE
The ones we usually get asked about are the Early Era ones from the 1960s. Bear in mind these are now 50-60 years old, as with Vintage Radios & Radiograms, the capacitors are the main issue. To just Service & Repair an amp this early is a wasted effort as if you want to use it regularly, be sure you'll get issues from crackly noises to silence as something fails. The trouble with some techs is they think the 1965 Rogers Cadet III & HG88 Mk III amps are fine to leave with the original capacitors. This is poor thinking, we know these high voltage caps age badly. Ones on two HG88 IIIs were totally dried out & be sure if you used it a bit you'd get problems. Dry capacitors or any failed capacitor can trash the transformers & then your only option is to buy another one to salvage parts. So we'll never just Repair & Service these aged Valve amps as we know it'll not be reliable. Collectors aside who aren't too bothered if it works if it looks original, those reading our site actually want to use the amps. You've come to us as you've used the aged amp & now it's not working right. We'd tell you not to even use the pre 1967 valve amps without getting it fully checked as once you trash important parts, it can get very expensive to buy a parts amp. To redo early valve amps can be very difficult as it requires redesign. There are some capacitors that look like One Can but contain 4 capacitors. Valves with AC heaters on the Preamp will always Hum, this isn't acceptable to today's user as it'll just annoy. We worked all this out on the Trio WX400U putting DC heaters & redesigning the whole thing & even recapping the Tuner stage to get a great sound instead of the soft blurry mess on the old spec. We can redo these amps, but it's a Huge Job. You need to decide do you really want to spend big money & get a 60 year old amp that will never really sound as good as you hope? We can make them sound like you'd hope they'd be, but it's a Big Redesign Job that will be expensive as a Custom Job always is. If that's not given a reality to these Aged Vintage Amps, send us Photos. To ask us a price & time expectation shows you've not really read what we've put about Valve Restoration & think just a cheap repair is just needed. If we can't send you back your amp in a high grade from rebuilding knowing you can use it daily, then we won't start on it . Go find old Radio Tinkerers who'll patch it up, but don't expect it to be reliable. We have a 1932 Pye G/RG sunburst radiogram. It works. It gets plugged in once a year to test it, but even after buying the Radio version & swapping the innards as ours lacked too much originality, we know it's not very good, the volume control is ropey, the volume & radio aren't too good. But we like it as a furniture item & to know it works. We're not going to rebuild it. So with Vintage Valve amps, decide if you want it to keep to use daily or just have around to use occasionally. To ask for estimates & times without us even seeing it in photos suggests to us that you're just fishing for a cheap job. We do the job properly or not at all, as doing half-jobs gets comebacks as you'll expect use-daily quality. If you want Quality, pay for it. We can do the most complex jobs, but not under price & time restrictions.
THINKING OF GETTING YOUR AMP UPDATED BY US?
To send us a message first, say the amp you have, what sort of condition it's in, if it's working or not & we'll research the amp to see if it's worth you spending money upgrading. We write a lot on Hifi as you can see, but unlike some we are easy to deal with, no snobby attitude if you have a good but cheaper amp, look at the ones we've had to see our range. Not all cheaper amps are junk & not all expensive are that great sounding. Messages can give you a rough estimate if we'd need to see the Hifi to confirm an Estimate, as old repairs & less obvious issues can be there. We know from dealing with Vintage Hifi sometimes it doesn't work out as smoothly as you hoped, one amp had dodgy early ICs that we managed to find & another had a very imbalanced volume control. If you contact us about an amp, we're not here just to make you spend on any amp, if we feel the amp is worth upgrading we'll tell you, but if it's not so great or has too many ICs, our upgrades can improve it, but we'll know it'll not be as good as selling it & buying a better one. After all any recap-upgrade-service is going to be at least a £300 job, so we'll guide you fairly. We use high quality parts by brands we trust based on years using them, none of the cheapo ebay unbranded items. One asked about a Musical Fidelity amp that we had years ago, but we suggested it wasn't worth spending money on. Also if parts are broken such as power switches as another asked, you'd have a great amp with a duff power switch & it'd not be good enough, so we'd advise not to upgrade that. For amps we know of but haven't had, be sure we'll write it up on the Reviews page so you'll read our opinion on it too. If it's an amp you like, it's now over 30 years old, why not get it updated & have it to use for many more years, and get the benefit of a rebuild with better spec & sound quality than original.
WHAT SORT OF JOB DO YOU WANT US TO DO?
From us offering Servicing, Repairs & Upgrade-Recapping we are finding there are three types of customer. We aren't interested in General Hifi or Audio repairs as these are usually more trouble than they are worth & aren't worth you spending on. We are for your Better Transistor & Valve-Tube Hifi, from Quality Budget 1960s amps to High End of any era. We'll advise you if it's not really worth spending the money on an amp, ones with any sort of IC in the power amp or low powered average gear. We've had those proudly telling of their 15w amp they got in 1973 & clearly it means something to them, but to give price estimates & you never hear from them again. A cheap amp still needs an amount of work a better one does. Also to undo bad repairs or butchering by another is very time consuming & as with any amp, cheaply made post 1980 gear can risk getting problem after problem & it may not be worth spending on. The quality of post 1990 amps can be very poor even if it was £500 new. These sort of amps are 'disposable' sadly. Customer 1. The more straight-forward job requires the Amp Restored with our techniques of Recapping with Upgrades. Some want 2 core Mains upgraded to 3 core which is best for any UK amp & some want better Speaker Connectors, this we can do buy we do it subtly, trying to avoid those garish Gold Plated bulky ones as the Gold wears off quickly & the large metal surface makes a risk of shorting the amp. To say "we want it upgraded" can be quoted on many amps from seeing circuits & inside photos, but as with any amp, to find old repairs or the amp itself needs repairing can alter prices. With more complex high power amps, be aware there is a huge amount to do in both servicing & upgrading, some upgrades can easily be twice a typical amp upgrade for the amount of work & parts needed. With an amp upgraded like this, use it like a new amp & we get delighted customers getting amps like this from us, as bought or upgraded. Customer 2. The more difficult job to judge is when the amp is unreliable in use, cuts out on one or both channels is a typical comment. What causes this can sometimes be rectified with a standard service, but other amps are past their best & once you need to replace capacitors, be sure the rest of the amp will need it soon. Be aware a complex high power amp needs a lot more work than a more basic one. These sort of jobs leave jobs a little vague, we can say it works fine now but there is no guarantee an amp pre 1990 without recapping can be reliable. We know many buy old amps on ebay & just plug them in, often as we know from getting vintage amps, they are tired & past their best, but only experience with upgrading tells you that. Some take amps in for repair regularly, but a TV grade repair guy doesn't care. We'd tell you it needs recapping or it'll probably get more problems. These problems could arrive in 1 day or 5 years. We're not here to make you spend too much, but as with any repair or service as you'll know with Cars, problems do arise. The best thing to do here is offer various options, most do have a budget to spend unlike 10-15 years ago, so to not scare by saying you need to do this expensive job, but fairly point out the pitfalls to not recapping pre 1990 amps. On one amp, the Sansui AU-G90X we tried before getting ours, it had obvious bad capacitors & needed a full service too, but for some reason the customer wouldn't even spend for a basic service & to replace the bad caps, utter timewaster as you'll agree. Some do think repairs are £50 jobs is why, unaware of the cost of paets & skilled labour costs. The risk with not doing a proper upgrade, as in what we'd do with the amp if it was ours to try upgrading & then resell, is that the 'cheap job' customer will expect far more reliability than they actually paid for to be done. With a job like this, we'll run it in for several hours to be sure it'll have had use to see how reliable it'll be for you to use, but if this brings up issues that need remedy, then that will be an extra job to pay for. Customer 3 is never going to be a customer, they are chancers with complex amps who want quality work done cheap. They tell us another quoted a price, we look at the amp & see why. They have 200w+ receivers like Marantz that will need a ton of work & they expect a cheap job thinking someone will underquote & take the extra cost for their price error. Even with us going further with design-based upgrades, they'll never spend the money & odds are they'll put it on ebay once reality hits. Thankfully we rarely get that sort of 'customer' as they read our site to see comments like this...
WE WANT TO BUY AN UPGRADE KIT OF PARTS AND DO IT OURSELF
Not from us. We aren't going to help you do it yourself as you clearly are an amateur who probably can't even solder properly let alone follow circuit diagrams or understand basic safety. We only do Work on your amp yourself, you either Pay for Professional work or try it yourself on your Own. We aren't interested in your cheap ideas & be sure you'll expect free help when you mess it up, we've seen enough amateur repairs to know. Forum Reader types who cobble half ideas from other amp repair suggestions have no place asking a professional tech for easy options, so don't bother because it shows you haven't even bothered to read our site.
WE CAN HELP YOU FIND & BUY A GOOD AMP TO UPGRADE
We offer this on the basis you'll come to us for the upgrade job. To help you find an amp worth working on, to suit your needs & budget plus how to get amps packed to arrive safely. We've done this with a few customers & it ensures they get the right item rather than just going blind and ending up with a bad buy. There will always be those who abuse this, if you take our help then think you can get a cheaper job done elsewhere, then you'll not be welcome to come back to us after finding out that no-one can deal with it. Be aware some pre 1972 amps are highly complex & it's a specialist area that you'll find few are capable of doing the job right as the Repair Guy of today doesn't understand the scene. We've seen enough unfinished bad jobs done by amateurs to know that we'd rather not get involved with a messed up job, we got the Sony STR-6120 on the site front page back in a terrible mess after some 'expert' half trashed it as our blog page tells. We are here to help you & can help you in the future as all amps we deal with to upgrade we get to know very well. Our Bespoke Service is here for you.
MY AMP DOESN'T WORK ANYMORE. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO FIX?
Without actually seeing the amp here, the answer on being asked for a set price can only be "We Don't Know without Seeing It Here". Some in the past we've seen offer "Repairs for £150". How can they know even what the Amp is or what needs doing? It's a Scam is very likely the idea, or an amateur who may make a mess of it. Be careful who you trust with Your Hifi For Repairs. We sell Records on ebay as linked & those same records are on this site as linked back to. To give an Estimate is possible, especially if we know the amp or if you show some Photos of ones we don't know, but a Repair could be sorted by a Service, it may be pre 1980 & need a recap or it could be Unfixable as Rare Parts are no longer findable, such as ICs & V-FETs. As we say above, the idea of forever Repairing wastes your money & the time will come when it needs a rebuild. This isn't cheap, quality work never is, see our Solds page for many amps we've worked on. As with any job, how much do you want to spend? Often we find ourselves recommending the one asking that they'd be better off selling it on ebay as faulty & go buy something else. A job thrown away perhaps, but our approach is appreciated & we've had those come back later saying they got a far better amp & want to spend to get that updated. Generally most amps past 1980 that are only midprice quality, regardless of it being £500 new, aren't worth spending money on as they go into 'Disposable' territory. Do you fix the Washing Machine or Hoover if it breaks down? We do with ours, but generally people buy cheap ones, get a few years use & throw it away.
WE DON'T HAVE TO UPGRADE IT, TO JUST SERVICE & RECAP.
The more amps we get to Service, Upgrade & Repair, it's getting clear that to just Service an amp pre 1980 does seem a bit of a wasted effort. Having one to quote that is known to have aging capacitors, to say we'll service it for a price & then if parts clearly need replacing it will be extra. Bit pointless that, we know the amp is probably in need of a full recap to last more years & will be past it's best. But Not Every Amplifier Upgrades Well. We've tried enough amps & as you can read on the Goodmans Module 80 review we tried to upgrade it like the Japan/USA amps get. But it just couldn't take it, if it did sound good amid itself as original spec, upgraded it was just not stable or nice to use for noises it brought out & bad switch thumps. These sort of upgrades UK amps just can't do, they come from a heritage of TV-Radiogram designs & unlike even modest Japanese amps the designs can't take it. So to offer a Service & Recap WITHOUT the upgrades is a wise option. It'll sound all refreshed but just don't expect the transformations of fuller bass, cleaner treble & faster more dynamic sound an upgrade can usually bring. The amp in question will last many more years & sound better than it has, the owner will be happy with it & not need to risk buying a later amp with a dry sound that they will not like or use much. Not everyone has Ultra Hi-Fi ideals like us, but for us to go further than anyone else gets progress found. It's actually now an Advanced Repair. To just repair the known weak ones or replace-repair seems a wasted effort too when the age & knowledge of it means it's only half a job done & who knows what else could fail. You'll hear Car Garages say similar, but to know weaknesses & predict what will not last long is the skill here, rather just than a money-making opportunity. We hear of those with amps they've had for 20 years saying it had been in for repair lots of times. Think how much money they spent, instead of finding someone to redo the amp properly so it won't keep needing repairs. Do the job properly on pre 1980 amps & they'll be very reliable. We offer help to any buyer of our amps & in the years selling it's rare to hear anything back as we've done the job well. User damage apart, a properly serviced, recapped or upgraded amp will have years of use. You can't predict everything naturally, but it works out well for the owner.
UPGRADING IS DESIGN WORK & WE MUST FULLY TEST THE AMPLIFIER
Many will only recap like-for-like as this takes no real skill. One Repair Guy won't even recap unless the capacitor is bad, but falsely states recapping is risky because the can't rectify problems. We Can. We've been upgrading amps since 1990, learning what can be done & mastering it, starting from basic ideas early on. Today we can recap-upgrade to really Bring the Best out of a good amplifier. Often this needs fine tuning in the realms of design & no two amps are the same, even differing models in a range. To be sure the amp is good to use is the main thing, to check it's Stable in use, no noises, wobbles or unpredictability is a must. Switches & Controls once the amp has settled for 1-2 minutes after switch on have to be acceptable in use. Some amps are with minor noises on controls as made & to be aware this is how they are. Loud crack noises on speakers in use are scary as you don't know if it'll trash the speaker. To run the upgraded amp in for several hours & then test & adjust to be correct. Some amps again aren't perfect with some differential-era amps having 100mV on the speaker outputs & no way of adjusting. As long as DC on the speakers is no more than 100mV it's safe to use, if it's not ideal, it's the best it can be without having to overdo things, originality is important too. So to Upgrade takes design knowledge & problem/fault solving to rectify what is unexpected & be sure nearly every amp will have to be fine tuned to a degree to keep it safe to use.
UPGRADES ARE DONE BY US ON YOUR AMP ONLY
Our upgrade & service work is only done by us on your amplifier. For why, read the above section. We do not sell ideas, kits of parts, cheap options to do professional work, or even want to answer one who thinks we are willing to help their clueless ways for a price. No easy options, either you try it yourself or pay for it to be done properly. Similar with DIY Car repairs or use a garage, Hang wallpaper or try it yourself. Professionals offering a highly skilled service exist as amateurs thinking they can do a pro job often make a mess. You can learn how to hang wallpaper or do basic car repairs, but to upgrade electronics, mess with mains voltage & keep it reliable for safe use is hardly what any professional would want to guide you through. You'll expect endless help as you'll make a mess. Get real. We did a BTEC on electronics & in reality it teaches you very little practical work. You can be booksmart on formulas, but learning to upgrade hifi is a skill learnt by one who looks at things with a very different view of things to your usual tech. Look around to see how many offer professional upgrade work. The best you'll find usually is TV grade repairs who are scared to even recap as that goes into design territory that they can't solve. So please don't ask for easy options, we won't reply.
THE IDEA OF UPGRADING IS TO DO IT SUBTLY & ADD VALUE
We've serviced & upgraded many amps as you can see. To keep the amp looking as near to Original without doing harsh things is the idea. Some do need more updating than others, as the old ideas aren't practical. Of course you'll see amps that have been hacked about & done badly that are too badly done for us to consider bringing back to a quality. You Cannot Make A Low Powered Amp Into a High Power One... The Novice's Question that we still hear. You can uprate Car Engines if they'll fit, but will the rest cope with it? You'll need better brakes & suspension & the body may be too flexible so get issues. Be realistic. But an Amp is based on the Voltage from the Transformer & the Spec & Design that suits such a power. To try to make a 16w Sony into a 50w one as we were asked needs telling this, rather than dismissing. The 16w amp has a design made to suit 16w with limiting to keep it useable, a 50w or 100w amp has a very different design that makes the best of the Power, though not all actually do. You could rip any amp apart & put innards or design from another amp inside, but what's the point unless one is trashed & you have parts from another, but it's resell value will be low as who'd trust it? "We'll buy that preamp & put a valve one inside the case", you may try but it'll still look exactly what it is & you'll have wasted your time. Keep Things Original. Update them Subtly & make a revived item that people will want to use daily, be proud to own & trust. BUT... Upgrading is Not Straightforward. We've done many amps now & we do have proven ideas but not all fit every amp. They suit some amps perfectly but some 'don't like it'. So we need Design Knowledge as well as experience of sorting out issues to be sure the amp will be reliable & stable in use. We 'Rough Test' upgraded amps to see they are good in use, our Power Rating page shows we push them to clipping with test tones & all controls are used randomly like a kid would poke buttons, as chances are your kids may fiddle with your Hifi when you're out. Sometimes some 'don't behave' as well & need alteration. Problems arise that appear illogical, but can be sorted out, this is part of the 'fault finding' skill that Hifi Repairs brings, as well as Design Knowledge. This is why even long experienced techs wouldn't dare alter values, some won't even recap unless there is a failure, as they don't know from experimenting on what works & what doesn't. We do & from our experience Your Hifi Is In Good Hands, as this site will show. Here's our opinion on an Early "Difficult" Amp on being asked about upgrading it...
• • • NOT ALL AT ONCE PLEASE! • • •
We get those Wanting Upgrades asking by email for estimates & availability & for Hifi that isn't ours to Upgrade & Sell, to have 2 here is the maximum. Some amps stay longer as they need more done as well as redesign, but for more straightforward upgrades as in recap-rebuild-repairs we'll keep it to 2 so we don't feel pressure or overwhelmed. Our work is taken at a fairly leisurely pace as it takes time & being in the right focussed mood to do the work & devise the upgrades. We don't rush things in Hifi though we will give you an expected delivery date when Booking & then as we get into the job. If we have 2 amps here then we'll not take any more here but we'll give you a "Next In Line" status & keep you updated.
REPAIRS ARE OFTEN UNPREDICTABLE & TAKE TIME TO DO RIGHT...
If you need Repair on an Amp, as we say below, we can probably sort it. BUT... faults are often several hours work to sort out & check, to find there is then another fault because of the original one. We are aware costs can mount up, but on repairing one more modern MOSFET amp, we found unexpected issues that caused problems then caused other problems. A faulty amp may actually work, but do it back as it should be & problems occur. The "quick" option of replace those doesn't work we've found, only to fully test things to avoid the knock-on effect is how we'll operate. For this real sense of the unknown, you have to believe in a repair Tech to fully solve an issue, those with Cars will know cheap repairs are a waste of money. Only Doing It Properly is the way & that can add an extra 2 hours work to the job as we found. To have an amp in for service with a slight fault is a real unknown & as with any repair, it could end up being "A Money Pit". With Hifi you'll get success based on the below section, but to spend the money when you could buy another amp. But then end up with more problems. We're just telling it how it is. One major repair we did on one of the Marantz receivers we review needed 19 new parts, to check & identify every failed part took several hours & then more to repair & get parts. But we replaced the bad parts & it worked fine first try. If we had that amp as a repair job, we couldn't quote a price, but "do you want it fixed" with the possibility it could cost more than any of could expect, but then you know you've got a good reliable fully tested one. It's all down to The Money You Want To Spend.
BE AWARE REPAIRS ARE OFTEN GAMBLING...
Can We Fix It? Probably. But... Not all Hifi is repairable on the grounds of Not Being Reliable, Too Expensive or Unpredictable Cost to Repair & the Risk Of Obsolete Parts. If parts are broken externally, your only option is to buy another of the same amp & use it for Spares. You can see we've worked on many amps of all ages. Ones pre 1980 are the most reliable to be repaired, even after bad damage. Later amps past 1980 can be a real pain, the construction is poor, they use obsolete ICs, MOSFETS, custom Transistors (unobtainia) & even Power Amp blocks that you can't get. To find out the amp is unrepairable can take work to find out, in a worst case scenario the amp can be repaired, serviced & thought ready to go, but transistors can go slightly faulty causing a whole heap of trouble. Trouble we can sort, but if it goes into "Unobtainia" there is little we can do. We don't like the idea of doing work you've paid for & finding a dead end, but it happens & why we have spare parts to reuse as the amp didn't work out. It doesn't look good, so this is why we clearly put this "Risk" note. The Natural Lifespan for Electronics used to be 10 years, today you'll be lucky to get 3 years as Mobile Phones show. Be sure we'll do our best not to go into an amp & charge you for something that doesn't work out, but the Unknowns in Repairs you'll know from other things, car & house repairs can end up being way more than expected. Hifi is limited to what parts are findable or equivalents. Early amps are much easier to keep going, some require a full rebuild, but ones past 1977 can get more difficult. Sadly it seems if you got years use from your new amp, lucky you, go buy a new one. We had a question about fixing an Accuphase preamp, would have been expensive new, but on seeing the circuit, it was full of ICs, we know when to say 'no'. But all techs are still learning... "never seen one like that before" & sort of wish they hadn't got involved with it. Post 1990 gear with computer style tiny tracks & double sided board soldering are another one that heads into "unrepairable" as are items badly designed so they get very hot. One Spectral preamp was 89°C inside with unventilated casework plus the 'unfixable' computer type boards. We can only try our best & you must understand the risks with any repairs, not from us not knowing the game, but from "Built In Obsolescence" of the original design regardless of price. All is Gambling.
Repairs are Best Effort & you can see from our site our Effort is of a very high standard, but it's not Guaranteed to win everytime. In 2016 so far to Oct, three amps of our own ended up as parts as too unreliable. A few on the Reviews page later got problems & didn't survive, the Pioneer SX-1500TF being one sad failure, but it had bad repairs originally... can't sell that, but the parts have helped several to survive. Unfindable parts like the Nikko TRM 1200 IC in the Phono stage, we found an equivalent circuit Nikko issued & built it out of parts. This takes time though, but the amp without the Phono stage hasn't got much value, as with dead Tuner receivers. But Remember... the Limits on Repairs are 1. Availability of Parts. 2. Will It Be reliable? and 3. The Cost. Is it Worth Spending The Money? Is it worth spending £200-£300 on? Your decision. If it's your only amp, you'll have to buy a new amp & face either New gear or aged gear. Why not stay with your amp you've used? All amps differ & you'll miss the "old reliable" until it gave up, but keep it going. We had an amp that had caught fire, we considered it 'trashed' as parts ungettable were damaged, but only as we found we had spares from other amps we got it going. Once the amp was recapped further too, it would be a £500 job. The work we can do, but is your amp worth spending that on? We only repaired it for the challenge & the amp being a good one, many other amps we've parted & why we had spares to fix this. Repairing Old is possible, but it's Gambling, even for us. We will try our best to fix an item, but be aware some faults can leave it costing too much to fix, not be reliable or parts not findable. We're here to help, but ultimately any Repair we take in is entirely your risk, even if you've paid money for parts & time, the amplifier or receiver may still fail. Repairs are Best Efforts & you can read this site to see how high our effort standard is, but there are no Guarantees of success.
We can only go by what you say to decide if a job is worth taking on. To be told "it got regular use & just cut out occasionally" usually means a service will sort it. But to then see the amp, dirty & doesn't look used in ages, we don't know the amp, you just told us your issues with it. Ultimately all we can do with an amp such as one with bad soldering & needing a service based on your info is to solder it & service it. We've not tried it & we can't try it if we see faults. Often one problem leads to another & unexpected things go wrong, you see this on car repair shows a lot as you sort one thing & another thing is then a problem. 'Money Pit' is the term. But for the repair & service then to escalate as the bad soldering hid lots of problems takes hours fault finding. On one amp we said we'll look just for our own interest & found lots to replace taking a few hours, if all else tested spot on. But even after that & more spent, it failed. We'd have given up on it long ago, but the customer wants to carry on & is willing to pay despite us making clear it's a gamble, success expected isn't always success got. Only top end Hifi past 1978 is really worth spending the money on, the mass market "What Hifi 5*" budget-midprice gems are the disposable stuff. Sad but the reality of things. Bring us a tatty 1960s amp & we'll usually get good results with that, but these earlier amps were made well & are forever repairable. Seeing the pathetic board track on post 1980 gear will now mean we likely aren't prepared to waste your money on disposable junk that masquerades as "quality" because it's not... Unless your post 1980 amp was expensive, as in £1000 territory on today's resell prices, learn to give it up, put it on ebay as spares-repairs & go buy something else.
BE HONEST IN TELLING US WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT...
If you're paying us to fix your Hifi as well as Service or Upgrade you need to be honest saying what is wrong with it. Saves time, Saves you Money. If you say it works but ocassionally cuts out we'll consider there's not much wrong & go ahead with expected work. To be told it works & find a huge amount of problems that means it hasn't worked in years by how dirty & unused it is, you are misleading us & this will end up wasting time & your money, which is your choice & we don't like being misled. We had one 1990s amp the customer said "works but ocassionally cuts out" but clearly that was far from the case with multiple issues. The customer wanted to continue despite our reservations twice & despite faults being repaired it showed up even more making it a waste of time, based on their untruth about it working which it clearly didn't. Knowing how bad it is after wasting their money repairing a trashed amp, we'd never have started on it & would have told them an amp like this is a Money Pit where you will gamble on success but usually end up spending too much. 1960s & 1970s amps are far better made so ones in poor electrical condition can be sorted out & be reliable, but post 1980 gear is generally disposable unless it was over £1000 new. We don't want to waste your money on a dead-end repair job, so tell us the truth, not change opinions on being questioned. You are paying us for our work & parts which is non-refundable. We assess a job on what we are told or what we see. We will go further in fault finding & repairs than the majority of techs, but the base line is we don't want to waste your money.
WE OFFER COST-EFFECTIVE LEVELS OF SERVICE & CLEANING
An amp sent to us will have Cleaning & Servicing done once we have made sure of what needs doing to start on it. Cleaning is to a high standard as our Gallery photos show, the outside fittings are taken apart to be washed & the inside is cleaned to a high standard to make it smart. It does not mean we make the amp perfectly clean inside washing every board taking every single piece apart by unsoldering every cable as there is no need for this & would you pay for triple the work if we even offered that, we have done that with some very messy amps & it takes ages. To do a proper job to a high standard without being excessive or wasting your money is how we play it. Servicing involves making sure everything is up to standard to work correctly, be adjusted & be reliable, parts to replace goes under repairs or upgrading. MAINS PLUGS & PARCELS. Sending larger size amps with big UK plugs is often difficult for the size of amps & available boxes, so we'll try to pack it with the plug if at all possible, but if it can only be stuffed in a corner & risk damaging the casing then for a £1 plug & 5 minutes fixing one, we'd expect receiving with 'no plug' to be within your capabilities & the cable will be left prepared for a plug, not just chopped off. We've had amps arrive with plugs smashed & ugly dents in the amp casing so no plug is a better option sometimes. Even one amp with the plug left loose in a box totally ignoring our packing instructions & the tuner glass smashed with fascia dents.
DOES IT NEED RECAPPING & UPGRADING?
For the amount of amps we've recapped & upgraded we can give a general idea. Based on Serviced & Working Amps. You may be able to use a 1969 20w amp for a few years, but a 1969 50w one will have issues as will any amp that is considered 'high power' for it's era. 1967 45w was high power, 1987 45w was medium power. Some amps like the 1977 Yamaha CR-2020 have bad design & must be recapped in part with upgrading as it'll fail sooner rather than later. Some brands in any year 1965-80 used unreliable capacitors. Generally, pre 1968: don't plug it in without checking it over. 1969-73 is on the point of it needing recapping on all but Tuner. 1974-80 depending on brand can work well but be aware it'll be past it's best on some stages. 1981-1997 probably just needs Servicing. 1998-2005 often suffer from 'bad capacitors' as blighted the whole electronics industry from DVD to Computers including Hifi. These will be noticeably bad if you've given it use as these barely lasted 2 years before failing. Every amp ever made can benefit from our version of recapping & upgrading, to sweeten the treble & more obviously to give proper deep bass that all post 1969 amps seem to lack. If you plan to use any pre 1980 amp as a Daily Use amp, leaving it on for 4 hours or more a day, get it recapped is the safest advice.
IS IT WORTH RECAPPING & UPGRADING?
Do you want to spend £300+ on it is the easy answer. We get people fishing for advice, our reviews tell of what upgrading can do for amps, elevating from Very Good or less to Excellent. But we are aware people fish for free advice & even expect universal upgrade kits & be told of our skills for a price. Naive you... You can recap an amp with the same values & feel it's exactly the same sounding, which it will be as you've not really changed anything major. This is why you see recapped amps for sale, it was a wasted effort. Recapping like for like will better very tired aged amps from the 1960s, but generally amps past 1970 won't sound much different if they were working well. Upgrading is where the Improvements are. "Oh we'll save money & guess what to do" thinks you as do many forums. Not a good idea. We have our ideas but every amp is different & you can cause more bother blindly upgrading. The amp must be stable, run cool & be reliable, as well as look tidy. Only by using design based upgrade techniques can the best be brought out of an amp. They always need fine tuning which is fault finding skills. This is why hardly anyone is capable of recap-upgrading as they don't know what they are doing. One tech advises to not even recap, simply as they don't know how to problem solve & fine tune. They'll tell you your 1960s Rogers Cadet with dried out 50 year old caps is still good, no it isn't, it is too aged, wait for it to fail.
We can even now fine tune amps to match speakers, as in Differential era ones to 1960s Tannoys. We don't have later speakers if similar would be possible to match any speaker to any amp, if it involves redesign & listening skills to find the optimum redesign. We'd need your amp & your speakers to do this. Now no-one else offers that upgrade! Of course not all will be perfectly matchable due to design. The only way to find out would be to try...
THE BASIC IDEA IS... DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MONEY ON IT?
Your Hifi is probably worth repairing & restoring. We only do restoration & upgrades, if you just want it cheaply repaired & risk it faling due to age, then we are not for you. A general idea is any amp will need a proper recap with our upgrades for you to get years more use out of it. This we can do. But as always Money Is The Thing. Do you want to spend at least £300 on it and keep it for several years? If you do, send us a message. If not, put it on ebay & sell it as Spares-Repairs although value will be very low compared to a working or serviced and restored one.
We can Repair Hifi without the circuit diagrams & manuals, our fault finding skills are advanced, a Marantz 2265B we had needed 17 new parts & we found the lot & it worked first time is an example. We do repairs & servicing on "better" Hifi as we get to try ones we'd maybe not consider, if general Hifi repairs we aren't interested in & you can get TV repair guys for this sort of general work. The only limits in repairs are parts that are unfindable such as V-FETs & early IC output blocks as the stocks of these dried up pre internet days. But for proper upgrades to know the circuit is required to maximise the circuit so if you want your amp upgraded by us, we will need the circuit diagram. Many post 1980 & cottage industry brands don't do circuit diagrams, but we can usually find success with these as long as parts are finbdable as the same or equivalents. Transistor equivalent finding is like fault finding, a bit of a dark art, but we usually get success unless critical parts are broken or missing, then it can be a match nearly, make something a bit Heath Robinson that will do or realise it just doesn't work out as does happen. So therefore we ask for photos of the amp first to at least give an idea. We can give an estimate of price & you can decide if it's worth the spending, or put it on ebay as a non worker & you'll usually get a buyer if at a low price.
Most Amplifiers & Receivers have a huge amount of "Spoilers" & weaknesses to limit the sound hiding the Top Quality sound that Buyers Crave, but never get. If all Hifi was designed to Sound As Good As We Can Get From It, no buyer would ever need to buy a New Amp. But the makers wants repeat buyers so they'll never give the Good Stuff to you at any price, just teasing with minor changes marked as "better" but apparently never "getting it right". Well We Can. We have Upgraded Valve Amps from 1963 & a modern Marantz from 2007 to Our Standards of Upgrade. Our Upgrade usually involves subtle Redesign & the 2007 Marantz needed a huge amount of things altered but still was left wanting. We've done quite a bit of Valve amp upgrading & redesign of power supplies. This can take a lot of time & research to realise & some Hifi then reveals other weaknesses in the design that need to be brought to a higher standard & this can be far from easy. After much investigation into upgrades, the post 1971 'Differential' era amps can sound as smooth as the Earlier amps, if the overall design is good enough in these cost-cut later years, especially after 1972. A quality 1977 amp can upgraded to be as smooth as a 1967 one, a thing we've wanted to prove.
As a Rough Idea on 'Difficult' Amps... From the amount of amps we've worked on, as the pages show, generally a Silicon Transistor Amplifier after 1968-69 is usually fairly straightforward to work on. Repairs & tidying old TV-grade repair guy repairs can add to the job as there is where the unknown comes in, which is why we ask for Photos of the insides to get an idea, if we'll only know on seeing the amp & finding hidden bad repairs on closer inspection. Transistor amps from the 1960s of 40w or more generally have had repair & old problems is what we see. Amplifiers pre 1968 can need a huge amount doing to even get them working right, capacitors pre 1968 don't age as well as later ones & all will need replacing, even Tuner ones as risk of failure may be an issue. As with anything, the buyer decides what they want done & we can potentially make any amp to be "use daily" quality, we've used our Akai AA-7000 from 1966 for months daily, if so much needed redoing. The unknown comes further with Germanium amps. The Japanese Germaniums are better quality than the EU type 'AD 140' type ones, these EU ones are often aged & will need replacing with non EU Germaniums or Silicon, which is a big job but can be done. The only limit is "How much do you want to spend?" The prices Vintage amps go for, even restored, are still fairly low if prices are rising. If you spent £800 restoring a great amp, think of it as a Great amp to use, not to resell & if it's worth keeping a good amp alive, then go for it. With our upgrading work, some amps get 'everything done' just for our research, but if we had to price a job to this standard, a customer may be put off, so generally to offer upgrades to include a good amount of upgrade if keeping prices at a level to get customers. No decent amp upgraded is going to be done much under £300, so at this price it gives you an idea. Hours work based on our learning & skills, plus parts to buy.
What We'll Do... Your Amplifier or Receiver will be fully Taken Apart, Cleaned, Serviced, Adjusted and then we can Upgrade it on a Recap (fitting new electrolytic capacitors) but we always Stay As True To The Original Design As Possible. Nothing that would put off a Future Buyer by looking out of place or stops any of the original functions working. We Don't Just Recap Like For Like as that is pretty pointless on Hifi that is 30-50 years old as spec of today plus reduced sizes makes careful upgrading possible. Upgrades based on years of upgrading, knowing what can be upgraded & Doing It Properly, yet still keeping it looking As Near As Original. Upgrading done right improves the spec & deals with Lack Of Bass & Scratchy Treble. You'll not usually get a Wattage Increase, but with higher spec be sure you won't get that rough sound as the amp gets towards full power on amps of 50w or less. We use sensibly chosen components by Brands We Trust & your Amplifier will be returned sounding a lot better & cleaner sounding than you've ever heard it. In days of Old it'd be called 'Tuning Up' your Hifi, today it's called 'Pimping' or 'Customising' except we will always keep things as close to original, certainly no LEDs instead of finding the right bulbs or unwisely added sockets when an easy compromise is possible.
Will It Sound Better Than Modern Hifi?... We've sold many amps & upgraded quite a few now. Most customers email back to say how pleased they are with the amp, sort of surprised at how great they sound. We've had ones compared to Naim gear & other £20K systems & the sweet sound of the Best pre 1980 Hifi beats this modern 'unmusical' sound each time. With older amps you usually don't get more than 45w but one customer said a 40w Akai drove Dynaudio speakers with ease, if others say they need high power to control. So much for accepted opinion. You need to read this site further to understand the types of amp, but from the amount we've had to upgrade, the ones pre 1974 are certainly the best, assuming you pick a good amp, not just budget gear. The older ones pre 1969 can need a lot to rebuild them, but give wonderful results. Even playing these amps as original, the superior sound will be noticeable, but really the best sound is only from upgrading them to high spec to bring the best out in the amp. There will be other great amps pre 1985 we don't know of yet, but generally by the later 1980s unless you get top of the range expensive gear, most audio is so cost cut with ICs & cheap construction, that even the recent 2007 model Marantz PM 6002 upgraded didn't even survive as the construction was too poor, things today are made to be disposable, even £300+ items like mobile phones. But a great amp from 1967-72, getting towards 50 years old will sound better than anything you've heard, once it's recapped with our upgrades. It'll them be mostly new, so the critical parts aren't aged now.
Our idea with things is to play it fair. We've had people send pics of amps insides & we see a plug has come loose. Your old TV repair jock of old would plug it back in, pretend it needed parts they had to order in & charge you £175 for it. We just told the person to plug it back in & circled the offending item, all for free. Another suspected the outputs were damaged, so we took it all apart & found they were still good but found other issues. We charged only for our time, if again others would see a money making chance and add £100 to the bill. We've seen several 'repair invoices' in with items we've had & they were a joke. One big 1970s TV needed a '3 pence resistor' but even in 1990 the customer was charged over £100 & the date on the invoice was just few months before they gave it to a Charity shop, really kind of them as it had gone faulty again, so we got it to fiddle with, repaired it but it went in the bin as the tube was poor. We never found the 'new' resistor either. With Hifi to upgrade or repair, we'll tell it straight if it's not worth the money to work on it, but it's then up to the owner as the item may be important for sentimental reasons. All jobs are given an estimate, but to ask us to work to a budget on an unpredictable job won't work. Depending on how busy we are, a job could be returned in a few days to 14 days, if longer needed for more advanced jobs. If that soiunds god to you, try us. An estimate is just a price, we don't say all that is wrong to help someone else do it cheaper, so don't bother fishing for free advice as many do. We see an ebayer offering to Repair Amps for £25 plus parts in Oct 2015. If you actually think you'll see your amp again, or someone charging a very cheap hour's labour will do extreme fault finding, source or improvise rare parts or actually fix it, well go try them. But if you want High Quality Servicing, Upgrades & Repairs that naturally take Hours to do properly, then we are for you. We ask for photos first to see what the amp is like & have turned away many amps we fairly if a little hurtfully say aren't worth spending the money on. Most Repair Techs only know swapping boards & old glass tube TV grade work, not that the TVs exist much now & most items today are sadly just bin fodder once they stop working, look at all the broken AV amps on ebay.
We are not scared to upgrade & what we'll do to your amp has been Tried And Tested to be Good and Reliable. We know Old-school TV repair type techs don't like Upgrades as they don't understand design & can only be "Booksmart". Upgrading needs to be done fully, not just partially, we've tried upgrading one section to see how the rest copes & it reveals fully upgrading is the only way. Like putting a V8 engine in a Ford Escort, if it'd fit, you'd need better brakes & tyres to cope with the upgraded engine. Hifi is no different. Horses for Courses is a similar term too.
WE BELIEVE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE.
You are buying a custom restored Amplifier or paying for Upgrades on your Hifi, so for this to work as you will be using hifi we've modified, be sure we will be able to help you in the future with any issues. We keep our upgrading notes & photos of restored Amps as a reference. As of typing here are some recent issues. One amplifier we made a new Tuner glass from perspex, we can do top quality artwork to print out a new one. But the manufacturer of the new perspex 'glass' was less than professional. Despite getting one made by them before, this time they decided to print the design on the 'top' side & refused to sort it out. This is no good to us as the print could wear off, not instantly, but a few years ahead. This we decided was not good enough for our customer, as it makes us look amateurs, but sadly the printer failed miserably as well as upping the quoted price twice. To go find someone more professional to print is therefore needed. Some may have thought "ah, they'd not notice" but to do the job right is our way. Another issue was an amp we've had before, we got one to upgrade. This went well beyond finding a hidden bad repair we had to tidy & was ready to go after much testing. For delivery even the best couriers can let you down & there was an issue. We suggested ideas to the customer but it didn't solve the issue. An upgraded amp only working on the L channel is no good to them. So they returned the amp as we'd said to do previously. Turns out minor courier damage caused two transistors to need replacing, as the fault on first use caused this after delivery. To test the amp & repack was a 2 hour + job, but as it needed repair, we just charged an hour's work & as it's done & tested it'll go out the day after it arrived back. The world of Hifi repairs can need some skilled fault finding & then a groan. Yet another was an amp we've had a few times we got in for an upgrade. The amp was in unusually high grade externally, but the more we tried, the more obsolete spare parts it needed, which is usually a dead end & tricky to remedy, but the customer had a spare amp so we managed to cobble the parts to make one good one. To identify the problems & actually get it up to our standard is how we like to do Hifi work. A Nikko amp we had to sell was found to have dead Phono stage ICs so we found the circuit of the IC & built one from parts. Problem solving is what we're good at if it can be a challenge, but some challenges may take time, but we can usually solve them. We will deal with non-working 'gamble' amps simply as we can fix them & aren't too bothered by the risks, if choosing carefully, but when it comes to Customer's amps, to keep the price reasonable is the target, if a price is an Estimate, mostly we can stick to the price.
There are not many who can Repair Vintage Hifi these days. The scene of today when items are "Repaired Under Guarantee" is usually a case of board swapping, or if the board is the whole item, sadly writing it off as uneconomical as it usually is. As an example of what we've seen with others of recent years is one amp we sold. It's on our 'Gallery' page & we were pleased with it before selling. After some time a fault developed based on it getting shook up by the courier going overseas, unfortunately to less often-used countries the delivery took weeks. The fault was one channel gradually not clicking on with the Relay, we'd serviced it when it was here, but a sharp shock can dislodge items as we've found on getting amps here. The fault we told the customer what it was, but them being so far away could only take it to a repair shop when they visited the UK but it was too far from us. To explain further, to say we finally got sent the amp & fixed it in under 5 minutes as our diagnosis was right. But the other 'repair shop' hadn't even opened the amp as the light amount of dust a grille lets in showed no marking. The dishonest 'tech' had quoted it "an expensive repair" (yawn...) saying it needed new capacitors & servicing as aged. But we'd already fully recapped it on all but the tuner. Now fixed & works fine, we've offered to resend the amp to the customer at his cost, but as the fault was minor, no charge from us & also as we were amid testing Phono stages, as on the Turntables page, we got to record it's output too as we didn't have one of that brand. Finding the name on the box label was one we had question with before, it is a bit of a worry. But like all we type on this site, our repairs & upgrades, as no-one else was able to help us years ago, we learnt the subject ourselves. As the box below shows, we take Old Fashioned Pride in our work as it gives good reward in learning Hifi, difficult Problem Solving, finding Unexpected Gems & then the resell price. We don't bother with CD players or Portables as working on those is mindless, we deal only in amps that interest us, but No 'cheap' snobbery here, a recent find was a Goodmans 80 that we had long ago & one since, but as it was decent, why not get one for Extreme Upgrades, just because we can. Cheap, yes. Rubbish, no, so we see it as a worthwhile experiment.
PAGE INDEX TO THE BELOW SECTIONS
LOOKING DEEPER INTO UPGRADES
SECTIONS FROM THE PREVIOUS REPAIRS-SERVICING PAGE
A Lot of these were written 2011-2014 so seem a bit chatty as well as subjects better covered on this page also. To leave some that are still worth a read, if this whole page now is very busy...
GETTING YOUR AMP UPGRADED & ESTIMATES
It Still Works, So Why Spend Money On It?
You get your Car Serviced & it usually needs repairs every year past a certain age. You do this by Law so you can drive. Hifi needs maintenance & servicing too, but the general idea on any electrical item is use it until it fails & buy a new one! Our opinion has always been repair it until it won't be reliable anymore, having bought quality in the first place. But with Hifi, the Best Hifi was made 1965-1980 with Valves before this & IC nightmare with thin rough sound generally after, if there are exceptions. So if your 1977 Yamaha fails, never get rid of it, get it repaired. But if your Amp still works, you'll not realise how deteriorated the sound has become without Servicing. You don't notice people age if you see them regularly, but look at photos from 5-10 years ago & they'll be noticeably different. Your 40 year old amp will still play music, but it will be past it's best. Some amps only need a Service, as in a full take apart service like we do on all amps we get. Then the amp will be much more like it was when new, perhaps. But 40 years on an amp, even some of the best, will leave it not at it's best & not just from aging. As we state elsewhere, amps were priced to sell competitively in ever-changing markets & the spec in some amps even by 1969 is way down on ones from 1965-69. Doesn't mean they're no good, but it's why we upgrade & recap so many amps, to find how good they can really be. Upgrading & recapping the war we do it, meaning we do it our proven unique way, ignoring what the old design was, but optimising it to it's best, whilst still keeping it as near to original as possible. Originality is important & we respect it as far as we can. So your recapped & upgraded amp, what will you get for the money? The amp will be "better than new" for the upgrades & a 30 or 50 year old amp can be treated like it is 'brand new' because the critical parts that age will be renewed. Before we typed this, we played the JVC Nivico MCA 104Z, we have been raving about this brand like we did Yamaha before & know how good the JVC can be. Our opinion of the 104Z was it showed great potential, but the low spec of it held it back, if the musicality of the amp is obvious. This to us is irrestitable to upgrade if we've done a few JVC now & all were worthwhile, if manuals are tough to get. The imprecise & bass light sound the amp has as serviced to our ears is hard to play for long, it lacks the finesse & effortless the early JVC can bring when upgraded. This sort of upgrading is more like a redesign to our proven ideas, we've done enough of these amps now to know exactly what it needs, if we'll need the manual to perfect it. So what you get for spending on a still-working amp is a huge increase in quality. A buyer of two of our much-upgraded Yamahas: CR-800 & CR-2020 says he is still delighted with the sound. These were done as our experimental upgrades, if we can only price to the market, rather than add on what the job would cost in parts or time. But as long as we keep finding amps that interest us, these experimental deeply upgraded amps will be sold as we only keep a few reference amps. If you want a deeper relationship with your music, understanding the laters of it better, the effect of a blanket away from the speakers, then this is what we can do. Is it exciting to hear an amp transformed, yes it is, the thrill of success is why we upgrade amps still & the results can be exceptional. As an idea if you should recap & upgrade, any amp 50 years old or 1 year old will benefit from recapping with upgrades. Ones pre 1967 always need a full recap, ones 1967-70 often need a full recap, ones 1970-1980 often can work fine for years longer once serviced, but you'll not be hearing the amp at it's best. Recapping is putting in new capacitors. Our Recap-Upgrade is optimising the design with new capacitors to bring the best out. Capacitors are metal cans with a roll of paper & foil in a liquid, plastic film or the cheapest are the ceramic discs many amps have. See Wikipedia for much more. These act as storage, smoothing or filters depending which type & how used. The ones that have liquid inside will dry out over time, depending on voltage, useage, temperature the amp is stored or used in as well as the quality of them. Amps 1980-today are generally not worth bothering with unless top of the range or exotic ones, as the general quality of Hifi post 1980 is not worth spending the money on and often even the ones people rate have ICs in the audio stages, beyond phono stages & won't be worthy either. Most people who recap just do it like-for-like whioch is a wasted effort unless the amp didn't work. We upgrade the spec to 'improve the sound quality' dare we use that overused cliche, but what we do gives a huge difference. The owner of the Spectral amp noticed how much better it sounded if it took him a while to understand how different it was, not really sure if he was fooling himself, but our work on it in our opinion changed it from pretty average into something excellent. We can upgrade a 20w 1985 amp if it means a lot to you, but once it gets higher quality sound you'll play it louder & 20w won't be enough. This is why we've never upgraded midprice amps like Leak Delta 30 or 70, there isn't enough potential in it. We can upgrade valves & transistors equally well, we've done lots of valve amps now, if they can take a long time to fine tune. As with anything, how much do you want to spend?
We had a question about Servicing a 15 year old amp
'Theta Dreadnought Amp' 5 channel 3 x 200w + 2 x 100w. We'd like to hear what an amp like this sounds like, it has "Audiophile" credentials, whatever that means would need investigating. For an amp of this age, if it works fine & has been well cared for without being partied hard, generally it should not need Servicing yet. The nagging doubt with any Electrical or mechanical item is it will slowly age & deteriorate. We had to partly Service our Garrard 301 as the bearing oil was seen to have aged, if we didn't need to do anything else. With a big power amp like the one asked about, to be very careful who you let inside it is a big worry. We had a top range S-VHS Panasonic years ago & it had a back tension fault on search. So the idiot 'repair tech' lazily put a cheaper head drum in & the fault was still there. We found out the fault ourselves & remedied it, but felt cheated the best quality drum head was gone for some clueless tech. This is your gamble too. A power amp of that power works on high voltages & high currents. To naff a transistor is possible by an amateur & finding replacements of custom number transistors is often impossible as is finding equivalents. The scary bit dealt with, get a good tech who will be sensitive to any amp & have it checked out. We had the 1995 Spectral DMA90 here & it did need servicing as there were issues as well as tidying poor work done previously. As with a Car, to legally be made to MOT it will find faults, a car of ours had split gaiters each year & emissions were always problematic. But with Hifi, obviously no obligation. The quick answer to decide if it's worth Servicing a 15 year old amp is either "it'd not be money well spent" or "it'll reassure you it's good for another 15 years use". Based on chances of failure which can be totally random, the fairest answer is "do you want to keep using it regularly" & if so, get it checked out professionally. Keep it away from TV repair guys. Where would you find a Tech? There are certain sites that deal in Big Power Amps but we see they like to do heavy-handed upgrades that lose originality & resell potential. We do Servicing, Repairs & Upgrades to better Hifi. Ask us. It may add to our site like this has, an opinion you'd not usually get said without the wish to get you paying just because you asked.
WE ONLY DO HIGH QUALITY SUBTLE WORK ↑
Look at our Hifi Gallery: Sold Items page, see how nice & clean those amps look. See the ones we've upgraded: How neat & professional they look. No clumsy add-ons or silly small capacitors, we do the research to find items that add to the quality of these old amps & importantly it Keeps Their Value and Enhances It. This is what we can do with the dustiest ugliest Hifi if it's not otherwise damaged externally. Reviving, Repurposing, Restoring. Bringing Old Gems Back To Life. If your Hifi needs a careful, skilled Technician to Sympathetically Restore it, then this is what we can do. It won't be Cheap, but You Get What You Pay For in life. We can certainly bring your Vintage Hifi to a High Standard making it Better Than New if you get it fully upgraded, it's up to you to decide whether That Old Amp is worth spending the Money on, or do you really want to buy some IC & surface mount Modern Mass-Market Thing that is built to last 5 years. Vintage Hifi has already survived 30 to 50 years, why not Keep It Alive and Use It Daily for years more?
WHAT OUR UPGRADING & SERVICING BRINGS TO YOUR HIFI ↑
As with anything, you need to understand the craftsman at work. Read our site deeply & the valves page & be sure those ideas are going into our upgrades. See the "Vintage Amplfier Reviews" page as we rate many amps as original, serviced & then upgraded to various degrees depending when we done it. In terms of a rough noisy sounding amplifier, servicing will bring about improving the User Experience, no more annoying controls with intermittent randonmess or crackles. Servicing with us involves Cleaning, Taking Apart, Checking & Adjusting, there are Repair-Service jobs that do the same but Repair faults that stop the amp working. To revive a tired sounding amp into a delight you can read we've done many times & for example the rare 1965 Sony TA-1120 we had was in awful condition, filthy, smelly, leaky capacitors, bad noises, overheating, not working & generally in less enlightened times, fit for the bin & be sure many this bad or less ended up that way. But this amp being a rare & important one to try got everything done to it if every resistor is still original & for a few months of typing, it gets daily use for TV sound. So we can revived dead & too-far-gone amplifiers even, the work can be a lot to do, but the results will please & in the case of that Sony, it's better than when it was new 50 years ago. In terms of Sound quality, nearly every amp is limited on Bass, this was from the era of rumbly turntables so be sure as people compliained, manufacturers decided to just cut deep bass heavily from 1969 onwards on transistor amps & you'll still find even modern 21st Century amps are still Bass Light. We can undo this & give you the suble extended Bass you never had. Treble with recapping & upgrading is always more extended & fresher sounding without the soft grainy sound that gets wrongly called the 'transistor sound'. You'll read how the pre Differential-era amps give the best sound, but from research into getting the best sound from the post 1971 differential amps, we can now "tune" better quality later amps to sound like the earlier ones do, with rich bass, clean midrange & crisp treble. We have made later amps sound as good as early ones, if any amps with ICs in the audio stages won't deliver the quality that is required. This is advanced upgrading, but we can do it if you are tired of that thin 1980s sound & want to lose that false 'pretend' bass of a subwoofer. Our upgrading goes very deep, to the point we have discovered every weakness & limitation in amplifiers & can remedy it to reveal the cleanest sound you'd never imagine hides within an amplifier. But having done this to a few amps we keep as references, the job is an intense one. If you require The Full Max-Out of an amp & are prepared to pay for extreme upgrading, if still subtle work always, then here it is. From this, there are clearly several stages of upgrade we can do: from recap with upgrades to something quite remarkable. But the Max-Out upgrade takes much research & could never really be given a price beyond the customer stating a budget. After all, some of these maxed out ones took us a few months to do if the techniques are learnt, applying them to another amp is not predictable in time, work, research or results.
UPGRADING IS CUSTOM WORK, NOT GENERAL REPAIR WORK. ↑
A Service & Recap involving upgrade & design is going to be a Minimum of £300 and can rise to two or three times that for Complex higher power amplifiers or ones with low spec that take a lot of redesign to bring up to the quality, if you can't understand that it's not a cheap job, then you need to read our site. You may not understand or appreciate the upgrade either, as who else offers this? We offer our services, but many who ask don't realise the work involved, as no-one else offers this sort of work. It's like Custom Upgrades to your Car, but done much more Subtly to your Hifi, to bring the best out of a design. From questions we are asked regarding upgrading, the main issue is the person does not comprehend the Custom Upgrading Design Based Work involved in Upgrading Amps. This means the Price is beyond what they expect to pay to get a Good Amplifier upgraded into an Excellent one. People are used to TV grade repairs and average quality work & some we hear are forever taking their amp in for repair, suggesting their 'expert' just does the absolute minimum to get it working, ignoring other issues that will arise. We do everything in one go & from the many amps we've sold, we only hear of these amps again when the owner damages the output stages. The fact you'll not find anyone else offering this sort of service means it's a bit of a struggle to get what is being offered as an Upgrade understood. After all, it's only visible by taking the lid off, the improvement in sound takes knowledge to understand it's "better". The sound of most hifi is adequate, but upgrading brings the quality out. Qualities such as crisper treble, more solid midrange, deeper bass, better bass response is the obvious difference & a cleaner sound takes understanding to hear. One upgraded Sony amp we sold the buyer thought was 'clinical' on first try, comparing it to blurry sounding amps, but then the Eureka moment of understanding it arrived & they realised how much more dynamic & lively it sounded, never wanting to try the other ones again. The issue with Custom Upgrades, as you see on Car & Bike TV shows is the resell price of the item won't always cover upgrades done. For a customer to spend a considerable amount, in relation to the cost of the raw used amp, is still not realised by many yet. We sell upgraded amps as we are forever trying out amps to 'see how good they can be' as well as learn more by trying more, so often our sell prices don't reflect the work done. An amp could sell for a price but it'd cost more for the owner to get another one upgraded. We do ask some buyers how they liked the amp after having it for a while & the response usually is very positive, not expecting it to be that good. The ones not so sure are the ones with speaker matching issues, using an amp with speakers we've already discovered don't match so good.
REPAIRS & SERVICING ON 'BETTER' AMPS ONLY ↑
We are aware some Techs are scared to try certain amps that are complex or unusual. Look at those we've tackled so far as on the Top Amps page, valves & transistors, we can deal with anything that is fixable with parts availability. We have no interest in General Repairs on Ordinary Amps, but to get to try the Better amps from the 1980s for example, amps we may like ourselves to write up, then these we will offer a Repair Service on. This means the Amp will be Repaired & Serviced. But there are factors such as unobtainable parts even by equivalents that can make this very hard. We're willing to try & it'll only cost you the Courier both ways to see if we can deal with it, success depends on parts being available & condition of the item. Replacing ICs in budget amps is not going to appeal to us though & we'll tell you it's not worth spending the money on, any job will be £100 minimum & some have cost a lot more. We do not do 'Cheap' repairs, a Repair we'd undertake will include a full Service & Check too. We get those asking about servicing & upgrading ordinary amps to which we fairly say it's not really worth spending the money on them. This sort of talk is unknown today, we are turning away jobs in effect & unfortunately some get the wrong idea & insult us thinking we write all this just to try to sell you Hifi. We don't sell that many amps as is clear & those sort of comments asking us for recommendations that will only mention ones we have in stock. Doing service, upgrade & repair work brings in more than profits on selling Hifi so if we say it's not worth spending the money on, we are being honest. We write enough about amps so go read that. If asked, any recommendation we'll only give from Hifi in stock which is what we'd expect you to ask about, many sales have been to those asking just this & we match them to an amp that suits their needs. So if you want to deal with someone with better quality Hifi & get a no-BS response, here we are.
UPGRADE POWER WORTHINESS. ↑
If you are not sure of your Amplifier's power, Google it. To upgrade a 20w late 1970s Transistor amp is not worth doing as the spec is too low & would be a waste of your money. But one of the sweet sounding pre 1970 ones of 18w-20w is as they have a better volume for the power is worthwhile as our Top Amps page shows. Unlike some, we are not here to just take your money & upgrade, then have you realise after playing it louder as it'd sound much better that the power isn't enough now. In upgrading many amps, we've found 40w is generally the best power to start with unless it's a quality early one pre the differentials era. See more below in "Lower Powered Amplifiers".
HIGH END, ESOTERIC & EXOTIC GEAR? ↑
This means several things: items made in Japan or USA in the 1960s-1980 that were not generally exported, the obscure gems that showcase more adventurous design & styling than the ones they felt more confident to export. Past 1980 there are plenty of High End type items, which we take to mean Expensive items made in limited numbers, rather than how some foolish sellers call an ordinary amp like the Sony TA-1150 'High End'. These Exotic sort of designs can be rather overdesigned transistor circuits, but if looked at closer can make more sense as the 1984 Sansui AU-G90X does. Then there are the sort with capacitors rolled in virgin crocodile tears or other fanciful silliness, these will give tonal variations, but are they better? Probably not. We see no point in solid silver cabling either, but we are offering a service & if we get to hear these items we'll certainly add them to our reviews page. Are we Afraid To Tackle these sort of items? Not At All, we aren't phased by any of these sort of items, to have heavily rebuilt-redesigned several Valve Amps shows we will tackle what catches our interest. We don't rate any amp better than another for what it is until we try it or research it, see the wide range of amps we've had & reviewed. The Naim-Linn-Mission sort of corporate dull gear leaves us cold, is the mediocre-looking Naim NAP250 really worth over £1000? Our interest is 95% What It Sounds Like & still-important 5% checking that it's safe & stable in use. We've built valve amps that we use daily, we care not for their THD or IM rating, only the ear tells if they sound right based on much Hifi listening. We've said we don't care for the Naim gear, but if you have one, we'd love to upgrade it into sounding way better, if it's possible. One issue with any amp is ICs, once they are in the Audio Stages as preamps or Power Output blocks, these are only ever going to be the limit of the design. Also the limitations of obscure & unfindable output transistors like V-FETs on Sony & the high range late 1970s Yamaha. To upgrade an amp, a Service Manual or Circuit Diagram is generally required, if we've upgraded some earlier amps not having one.
A QUICK IDEA OF COST. ↑
Any amp we get ourselves gets a full Service: a deep clean, taking apart to check all is good, adjusting & running in. This takes time & is worthwhile, though many just buy an amp & use it then notice issues a Service can cure. Then to recap means upgrading based on design techniques, finding & ordering parts & fitting. This done professionally to a very high standard takes some time.
We do not do quick cheap jobs, quality is how we do it & we won't compromise. This means any amp sent to us to upgrade will be no cheaper than £300 with the more complex jobs much in excess of this, such as complex amps like Yamaha CR-2020 & fully rebuilding valve amps to a very high standard can take a lot of work as a lot of problem solving & design is required, as well as parts. The results are on a best effort & we are aware in our upgrading some amps can't really be perfected, but can still be excellent.
For Repairs... it is impossible to give a fixed price without even seeing the amp. We get amps ourselves & some are straightforward, yet others can be in awful condition & need a huge amount of work done. Some we don't end up selling as too unreliable, the Leak Delta 75 receiver is the worst amp we've had. We know some offer a Maximum Price, but having found out this 'estimate' it is a ridiculous price 3x what you'd expect. If you want a Repair Estimated, we Need To See The Hifi & some repairs will need work done before any estimate can be given. A dead amp with burnt bits might be salvageable, but it's impossible without much testing to find out exactly what is wrong. We've said this before, we had a 1970s Marantz receiver that got bad user damage, 17 parts replaced & it worked first time. That is how we can do Hifi, but if we were given this amp to repair, no way could we fix any price. We had one customer who was a cheapskate & wanted to only spend £xxx on the job. We looked at it, saw how much work it'd really need & they had it back without us doing anything to it, a pointless exercise. Hifi owners are Car owners & you know how the Repair Bills can mount up without you really knowing what they did. If you want to see what we did, take a photo of 'before' & then see how clean & repaired-upgraded the hifi comes back to you as.
We'd never spend your money on any upgrades that are not necessary, or ones that could bring more issues that could get expensive, such as putting in new connector sockets when the old ones are still fine or making changes that look out of place, as well as more complex design issues. The result is you get your amp back rebuilt to be "as new" in terms of reliability with often a very noticeable improvement in quality, aiming for the best Neutral sound the amp can deliver. We can upgrade to several stages, sorting out design weaknesses, upgrading & replacing capacitors to a full "max-out" getting the very best out of the amp. The cost of each will naturally be more expensive.
ESTIMATES FOR UPGRADING & REPAIRS ↑
We can Roughly Estimate what it would cost to Upgrade or Repair many Amps, but even familiar ones need seeing in front of us to give a proper Estimate. The idea we've found and seen elsewhere is to give a Range of Estimate as some Repair Jobs are very time consuming. The way the Customer will see this is it will possibly only cost the Lower Estimate but it could likely cost the Higher Estimate. Yes, it's a bit vague but the Higher Estimate may catch out the Repairer who says it might cost £300-£500 but it took three times as long so was actually an £800 job. The buyer having been Estimated £300-£500 would be paying £500 therefore but as Hifi is generally a Black Box affair, it's hard to state 'we had to do x y z...' when none of it makes the time spent clear. Next time the repairer, having been stung could widen the estimate to £300-£800, which would scare off a customer, but having fixed the last one would know what the problem was, adding to their skills knowledge, they would know the issue & likely do it mid estimate. Getting a tricky repair done doesn't give much pleasure after hours wasted, "Oh It Worked! Bastard, Why Couldn't You Have Done That Hours Ago", but each job is an education, at the sufferance of Murphy's Law... He who can overcome that makes a good repairer to know.
FEAR OF UPGRADING & PAYING THE PRICE? ↑
We know the Hifi Upgrading market, beyond Repairs, is just about Non Existent. This makes it a little hard for people to understand their aged unreliable Old Hifi is so much better than Anything Modern, but we hear they'd not want to spend £500 instead wanting to buy some modern item? The unknown on the results is why, despite all we write & it'll take time for this to get known. The unreliable amp can be made reliable by us & the results will exceed any expectations. You'll find others saying they "upgrade" but they don't do it as intensely as us, putting the same value capacitors in isn't upgrading. Can they make a 1977 amp sound like the richer 1960s amps keeping the treble detail still? We can, so if you are more adventurous, like a gamble with the odds in your favour & aren't afraid to spend the money, here is your chance. Some Vintage Hifi hides it's quality behind the typical Bass-Light sound that just about every amp since 1969 has. Not all amps are good enough to spend money on upgrading & we'll not waste your money, ask us if Your Amp is worth upgrading. If it isn't we'll tell it straight. You can see from the Top Amps page how many amps we've upgraded now & the ones we sell are upgraded & a great price as we price them to sell, not covering all the time that goes into them like upgrading would be. Some of our Upgraded Selling amps aren't too expensive, try one of those & see what we are on about by upgrading. We make Hifi sound like it should sound.
HOW TO GET AN UPGRADE DONE BY US. ↑
Please read this page more before just jumping in, it answers many questions. We are in the UK. Use the email form. Tell us what the amp model is. After having read this page, you'll have an idea of what you want upgraded. The miniumum upgrade is a full Service & Recap-Upgrade of capacitors. We also offer Yamaha CR-2020 power supply upgrades as noted below. A few emails back & forth gives you an Estimated Quote. This is not a fixed price simply as we've not seen the amplifier & it may have extra faults, damage or old repairs or fiddling that needs correcting first. If the amp is as expected, ie without extra issues, the price is firm. There is no obligation to accept any extra charges to repair or undo other problems, you just pay for the return, after all some issues could be expensive or uneconomical to remedy. Once you agree to the Estimate, it means you are ready to proceed, so we will send packing & delivery instructions. Send us the amplifier by courier, no personal drop-offs as for your own safety a courier is proof of delivery, we'll confirm the price after checking the amp over, the work will be done & it will be returned to you, usually within 2 weeks if parts are in stock. We do not send Estimated Invoices for you to ponder, that is dealt with by the informal emailing. An Invoice is sent once we've seen the amplifier to confirm the price being charged for the work done. If the job is a straightforward one, upfront payment is required, if it's a longer job, a 50% payment and the remainder on completion. We don't rush jobs but will give an expected time frame. Please read this page more before just jumping in, it answers many questions. Our Nature means we can quickly tell a Genuine Customer, or one who is just fishing for Free Advice. There is enough written on this site about what we can do, our ideals of What Decides Top Amps & more. If you want this sort work done on your amp by one who understands music & knows what the best upgraded hifi can sound like, then here it is & yuou'll not find this sort of upgrade work offered anywhere else.
BEST SUITED TO UK & EU CUSTOMERS. ↑
We are UK based. For UK & EU jobs, this isn't too expensive & we've had many customers for sales & some for upgrades. But for Other Countries such as USA, Canada, Australia & Asia the Shipping Costs will put you off. More on this below, but to expect a £200-£300 round trip, couriers to us & return & then the issues of customs declares, fees & insurance can add heavily to this.
MAKE THIS THE LAST AMPLIFIER YOU EVER BUY. ↑
Hifi buyers keep buying in search of their perfection in sound & you'll never ever find it in Shop Bought Hifi. Stop doing that time & money-wasting & get your Best Amplifier Improved & end your need to be forever upgrading & trying new items of Vintage or Modern types. This is your chance to get a Decent Amp Upgraded by us, we'll not tell you to upgrade an Amplifier or Receiver that we don't see as worthy. It'll still look Original enough & tidy so it could be resold & not put buyers off as some upgrades do, but you'll not be selling it. We hear hifi owners are regularly taking good hifi in for servicing & maintenance, don't you realise whoever is making you pay for these repeatedly isn't doing a very good job for it to keep needing to go in? Amps we repair, service & upgrade could give you ten years good daily use. Is that not more appealing?
TO SEE WHAT OUR WORK LOOKS LIKE... ↑
look on the Hifi for Sale page & scroll down to the "Hifi We Sold" to see some amps we've sold as Serviced & some of the Upgraded ones. More will be added as you like to see past work to know if a person is good, we show detailed inside-amp pics as then the customer could see what quality of Serviced & Upgraded we had to sell. We only use the traditional Tin-Lead 60/40 solder.
Unless parts are damaged, we never replace Phono Sockets, Speaker Sockets, put LED bulbs in or Rewire the amp. There is never any good reason to alter any sockets as DIN plugs & old Screw Type speaker connectors can have the original ones repurposed to make the Amp still be original, such as to fit 4mm Banana plugs to DIN Speaker plugs to keep the originality. Though if the Customer wants anything done specifically, we can usually do this.
Recapping means we use the best quality capacitors for the job, there are cheap larger can-type ones on ebay for a fraction of the price the quality ones are. Having found these in amps we got & we replaced hem with better ones, they are very cheaply made to the point of being unreliable as you can find online. Only the best we use, without going to the needless "exotic" vanity ones.
We are UK based & have a BTEC in Electronics from 1993 & have been into Hifi from before this & always liked the Practical Side of things more than the dull Theory. A Trained Ear for what is Good Hifi takes years of learning. This is why we can upgrade your Amplifier to Sound way better than sticking to tired accepted ideas of how things were always done. We question anything we see as not being necessary & years of experimentation proves the old ideas are equally worthy in some ways but outdated in many more. We actually done our first Hifi Repairs aged Twelve when the family Arena cassette deck pause button didn't latch down, well it did after it was taken apart & also earlier the Garrard SP25 Mk III cartridge slider was repaired so it played both channels due to a duff wire connection. Simple repairs, but no-one else could do them or understood it, the mystery of how they 'suddenly worked again' is still unknown to them...
If you want to buy an amp that has been Upgraded by us, see Our Sales Page, we are forever trying amps & those that are Serviced & Recapped with Upgrades always.
PLEASE ASK ABOUT GETTING YOUR HIFI UPGRADED. ↑
We'll assume you've read this page to understand the deal & we have to fend off those who just want to fish for free advice who should be using hifi forums. You'll realise to do an upgrade properly isn't cheap, be aware we'll not spend a penny of your money if we don't see you'll get worthwhile results. We'd assume you have used the amp for some time to want better out of it, asking about upgrading an amp we or anyone else recommends is pointless as how do you know it'll suit you? Very few Transistor amps under 40w RMS are worth upgrading & with valves at least 10w is needed. If the amp is damaged internally we probably can fix it, if spare parts are available. If the amp is damaged externally or parts missing then buy another amp & cobble together one good one from two or more of the same.
BUT YOU DON'T LIKE LINN & NAIM GEAR...? ↑
But we'd love to get some to upgrade with our 'real music' ideals based on Valves & Late 1960s Transistor amps. If you're Bored to Death by that ugly plain box 1980s Magazine-Hyped stuff, we can give it some life it's been waiting for & bring a smile to you. Beware any of these with ICs in the Audio Stages aren't worth upgrading, which may not please as Op-Amps are used too readily by the 1980s and are the limit to real hifi that one of these IC-free may reveal. We'll give it a fair critical write-up too like the 1984 Sansui we were surprised at recently. The prices these sell at frequently, maybe the same ones over and over, may put someone off, but we're willing to try. To upgrade amps over 200w would be something new, but these sort of amps are like the Hottest Chilli, all burn and no flavour, subtlety we can put in 100w amps, but these huge £kk amps aren't Hifi to us, similarly one guy took a cute Trio KA-4000 to a 'meathead' amp upgrade company & they dismissed him like he'd just soiled their floor. Different worlds, see. Ours is the Real one.
OTHER HIFI ITEMS TO UPGRADE & REPAIR? ↑
Not for us. Beyond Amplifiers & Receivers, odds are many will have a non working CD player, duff Turntable, wobbly Cassette Deck, Tuner that won't work or FM that won't play Stereo, or dead Speakers. Some of these are repairable, but the vast majority unless high priced items when new, are just disposable items, e-waste as your CRT TV was when you bought a flat screen one. A jammed up 1960s Turntable can be repaired, it takes a lot of work to do as we've done a few, and the repair-service cost will put you off. It took 8 tedious hours to service a 1957 Garrard autochanger & then parts could be needed. Generally this sort of repair does not interest us at all, it's more for the General Hifi Repair shop to do as we are Hifi Amplifier Specialists. We've done Cassette Decks and VHS players too & these often can be frustrating, so we'll say no to any repairs as even a CD player we recently looked at needed a belt that was hard to find & a tiny volume control you can only buy in Japan. It's just most Hifi post 1980 is made to be disposable as repair costs will be high & parts unfindable. If you like a certain item, go find another working one is often the best advice. For Speaker repairs, reconing & similar, try Wembley Speakers, we used them once & the work was good.
ARE WE IN YOUR PRICE RANGE? ↑
Having done quite a few Repairs, Servicing & Upgrade jobs, the base line is to Repair & Service will be at least £200, to fully recap, upgrade & service will be at least £300. We know 'Remedial work' on a working but substandard item isn't popular, but you'll wish you had when it fails & the repair costs a lot more. These are Minimum prices for Any Amplifier or Receiver job, more Complex Ones will be higher to substantially higher. If you are on a Budget, then consider how much would the amp being "as good as new" again mean to you? Save up for it, sell unwanted Hifi or other goods on ebay, but be sure if you think a £200 new Amazon-bought amplifier will do, you'll be disappointed as the friendly sound of 1960s & 1970s hifi won't be there & by 1985, the Good Old Sound was long gone forever having faded away since 1980. If you don't want to Spend £200-£300 on getting your Hifi going, then we aren't for you. Go sell it on ebay as you don't really want it anymore, but don't trash it, break it up for parts, gut it out to random projects on it or do bad things to it as be sure someone will pay money for it even if it doesn't work.
HOW WE DEAL WITH DIFFICULT JOBS & REPAIRS... ↑
The job we do involves a full Service, checking the item fully for faults & weaknesses as well as repairs as required & then recapping-upgrading. If the amp is basically working this is usually a straightforward job. But some hifi is very difficult to establish an accurate estimate as it can have unexpected problems. If you ask for a rough estimate then send the item but then don't like the final estimate as the amp is in worse condition or has been fiddled with or had bad repairs that all need undoing, you'll get it back once you've paid your return courier costs, you don't have to accept a price much higher than estimated. But some amplifiers need remedial work done to establish the damage, this we will expect to be paid upfront for. If you agree to have us then check further to establish the estimated final cost, we will do this & then give a final estimate. If the cost will be too high & a gamble on the results, we will let you decide what to do. Your option will be to agree to the estimate, to pay the further costs incurred plus return courier and have it back, or abandon it & not pay any further on it. The item is then ours to keep for spares or sell on to cover costs. Any abandoned item is final & we will ask you to agree it's abandoned, but we certainly don't want this to happen, but it is possible on badly damaged items with a certain risk of never being safe to use again. We had one valve amp where the transformers had got seriously overheated due to bias being wrong by careless tube rolling without adusting the bias right & sadly the amp could take months to get right & be safe again, if ever, the transformers had altered spec so bias even on the right valves was double what it was before, but the risky gamble here with the overheating is it would never be reliable again, yet cost a lot for the work & not give reliability.
PARTS THAT ARE UNFINDABLE : UNOBTAINIA ↑
Important, this means Your Amp Isn't Repairable. The trouble with Hifi past 1971 is a lot of experimental designs were sold to the public, the 1975 Sony V-FET series being a key example. If your V-FETs have failed, then beyond buying another one for parts & risking the same issues, these are Not Repairable, your option only is to get someone to build a power amp stage & fit inside, which is unlikely. ICs are often standard ones used in lots of audio items & can generally be found, if ICs do not mean Hifi. Amps that use Darlington Power Amplifier blocks, like the infamous STK type IC blocks are similarly unfindable beyond the low powered ones. Again these are not Hifi, so we wouldn't get these sort of amps ourselves, but know many do have them & find simplistic forums raving on about how 'great they are' unaware of pre 1971 audio or valves. By 1977-78 Relays beyond the bigger clear plastic cover ones were being used & for the fact these were not used for many items are long obsolete. You can only rely on the thin hope a batch of NOS ones turn up, which remarkably happened with a much fiddled with Luxman L-100 we had & put back correct. The odds of finding NOS is usually zero. This therefore makes a large amount of Hifi after 1977 at risk of being Unrepairable. If you know your amp comes under this 'unrepairable-no parts findable' category, then please don't waste our time hoping we can fix it & have a magical supplier of these parts. Some experimental amps like the 1978 Technics compact pre-power have dangerous designs involving direct to mains connections, we tried but gave up on ours as it's too unsafe & why would we want to knowingly sell such a dangerous item either? We have dreamers thinking we have NOS Osram KT88s in saying we had some old valves.
WE DON'T DO CHEAP JOBS OR HAGGLE ON ESTIMATES ↑
We do High Quality work, Bespoke work, Intensive work. If you want a cheap budget job, then we are not for you, go find someone who will do very little to your item & you can then wonder why it failed shortly after. If you don't want to pay the price to keep a quality amplifier running well for years, then either sell it while it still works or use it until it fails, which will cost a lot more to fix. Some difficult items need exploratory repairs done first, see above. One tiresome penny-pinching person was disappointed one of his very difficult same amps still wasn't working: one was revived proving we can do the job, but the other one was more difficult but would have worked. We'd spent much time on both already doing some difficult repairs but then they didn't want to spend the money to have us properly look at the one not working yet to fault find what may have been a three hour job plus parts & do the job right, spend no more than £xx they said, what is the point of that? We gave up & charged no more. So near but being small-minded meant it'll never work as they wouldn't pay. To same person had a quality but complicated 100w+ amp but wouldn't spend to even get it basically fixed as it needed as it still sort of worked if cut out often. How stupid is that? Utter timewaster, but you just have to let dreamers get on with it, their amp after all but a frustrating deal we'll be sure to avoid again. We did give an estimate price range on fixing the items & for the work done it was a good estimate that we could have done for the mid estimate, next time if it's refused, we'll just give the items back. So please don't waste our time if you are not willing to get the job done properly. We can't be bothered with small-time penny-pinchers who won't even get sentimentally important items fixed right, we've had one of those now so will now know the signs. You don't get a good job done cheap as it takes work to do it properly & you'll not easily find anyone like us willing to try difficult amps & can give good results. Remedial work we know is unpopular as you don't get the big rush after it failed & never worked to seeing it working again, but why not avoid the heartbreak of having a broken item that may not be economical to repair?
WHAT WE DON'T DO... ↑
WE DO NOT DO GENERAL REPAIRS OR SERVICING.
These are usually covered by those who can do a quick job at a low price. Your item will work but from the many amps we've seen, general TV repair guy work is with little regard for Hifi ideals & several times we've seen it can be disrespectful to Hifi qualities as they just do 'whatever' to solve an issue.
WE DO NOT SELL KITS OR QUICK DIY SOLUTIONS.
Those sort of kits only offer a General Repair rather than freely allowing upgrades. A kit may get your item working, be aware the kit maker offers general parts that can fail but will not actually know your fault. We don't sell info on how to upgrade or sell parts to upgrade with. We offer our Upgrading service done by us on your amplifier.
WE DO NOT GIVE FREE GENERAL ADVICE UNLIKELY TO GET US A SALE.
If you want to see if your Amp is worth upgrading or you're looking to get one of our Upgraded Amps we sell, then if we see a sale possibly we'll certainly reply, but those just fishing for ideas with no intention of buying anything should go to the many Hifi Forums & take their chances there.
UPGRADING OR REPAIR-SERVICING IS NOT CHEAP!
We only do High Quality Work, full servicing, cleaning, adjusting, upgrading & repairs. No part jobs, no cheap quick jobs. All or Nothing. For a full upgrade of the Preamp, Power Amp & Power Supply of a 40w+ amplifier or receiver, the cost of the new parts can easily be over £100. Take into consideration we are doing a full Service as well as Design-Based Upgrade Work, not just swapping like for like, the upgrade cost on even an amp we know is not going to be under £300 for the costs & time involved to research & do the work. It could be considerably more depending on how complex or hard to work on the amp is. If you want High Quality Work that doesn't come cheap, but money well spent is usually money not regretted as doing it on the cheap can bring. To get Hifi upgraded by us at a cheaper price, look for the ones we have for sale, many are Recapped & Upgraded as well as Serviced.
WE'LL NOT DO UPGRADES THAT WE DON'T LIKE.
You may want new Phono sockets or Speaker connectors when the old ones are still perfectly good. We've never altered Phono or DIN sockets on any amp & only would if they were broken & fit in something as near original as possible. If speaker connectors can be use with 4mm plugs with things like those McIntosh connector blocks or even wire & a screw connector block, then we'll not alter original ones unless it can be done neatly. We don't like spring connectors, but for the ease of making a wire & screw block to use 4mm plugs with, we'll leave it original. We did put big 4mm speaker sockets on a Sony amp for a customer as they wanted this, but on our one we'll leave it as original as we can still use the original ones. Another amp we kept had awful plastic capped screw connectors that were useless as marks from frustrated users before showed, so we found something to do it properly & keep most of the original part. Adding in LEDs for lighting instead of bulbs is not for us as is fitting mains sockets on an amp with a fixed wire, None are needed & think of trying to sell, buyers are very wary of things amateurishly fiddled with or that look wrong for the originality. Others do heavy-handed upgrades to post 1980 gear that is not so stylish & collector oriented, but a time will come when buyers won't like the mains sockets & ugly drilled holes with the old ones left there still. We see others are too lazy to research the big size capacitors & think dozens of small ones linked together is better. Stupid idea says we, strength in one good unit not lots of low-spec ones. Fluffy thinking is everywhere these days, if we see it we'll criticise it...
WE WON'T BUILD TRANSISTOR CIRCUITS TO REPLACE AN IC!
Generally an IC or Op-Amp is an overdesigned general purpose item that for one channel a few transistors would do the job as well & sound better. We actually had a 1970 Nikko TRM1200 amplifier that the ICs were weak in the Phono stage & even with a circuit equivalent issued by Nikko in 1976, to actually build it & fit it into the small space is quite a job that we'll need to do. To replace an op-amp with transistors involves design, you could get a circuit from other amps but then it would need fine tuning & checking, as well as impedance imbalances & several other problems. Even if we did do this, the rest of the amp would need upgrading & redesign to better it. The best advice is if you don't like ICs in preamp or power amp stages, just sell it & buy a non-IC one. Many music fans aren't bothered by ICs but when you know the weak sound they generally give, beyond the simple early ones, the IC sound generally means "cheap design" & is best avoided if quality sound is your desire.
WE WON'T "UPGRADE" SEMI COMPLIMENTARY TO FULLY COMPLIMENTARY
We see others do this, but why? There is absolutely no point in radically altering good original design. Do they "upgrade" capacitor coupled ones to fully complimentary too? You can bet someone has. Very early silicon amps with no bias adjusters & capacitor coupled "ancient" designs like the Coral A-550 have more musical value than just about any post 1975 fully complimentary over-designed amp can have. We don't mess with what is good, we upgrade sensitively in mind of what we see & don't like, as be sure other buyers care about it looking right rather than making a good amp unsellable with badly though out "upgrades". We see the same on the USA TV shows with cars & bikes, don't these ego-fools realise how stupid their "ride" looks? The chop bikes with high handlebars & huge long front fork are the dumbest.
WE DON'T WORK ON TUNERS OR PORTABLE ITEMS
Read more on Tuners on the Tuners page as we are trying to understand these to get duff ones fixed, but it seems only having FM generators & the right test gear will get these fixed. We can do minor adjustments on Tuners based on the Meter read out, but if the Tuner is faulty, then we can't deal with that as Amplifiers are our interest. Any Upgrades or Repairs do not guarantee the Tuner will work, we may do minor adjustments, but no more than that. Portable Record Players with valve amps to Ghetto Blasters really isn't Vintage Hifi to us, they are Vintage Audio, they can be got working usually by a general TV grade repair guy, but as they are nothing Hifi, not for us.
AMPLIFIERS DO AGE WITH USE! ↑
Strange as it may seem: they do deteriorate. We've got a few amps we've liked again later & there is a big risk of getting a false opinion of an amplifier based on trying just one of them. The first Yamaha CR-800 we got before we upgraded any, we thought was pretty average, but later having upgraded two find it's a particularly good one. The Sony TA-1120A we've had three of, the first two sounded similar but the latest one with little use & an early production one sounded very different. Also Yamaha CR-2020 with one with very little use sounded much crisper than they usually sound. What did these amps sound like when New 30-40+ years ago? We'll never know until we get the Time Machine working, or find NOS boxed ones, but having had several very light use ones the crispness of sound does deteriorate. A lot of Hifi even now uses cheap ceramic capacitors, sometimes in critical stages that better amps use proper poly- type ones. an example of way too many ceramics is the Marantz 2245. It creates a soft fuzzy blurry sound, but some may actually like that. Ceramics do appear to age, on trying barely used amps the ceramics barely sound n that blurry grainy way, but on more used ones they certainly do. It's Built In Obsolescence, you'd not know they were getting worse in use as you don't notice yourself age unless you look back at old photos. Upgrading & Recapping will reverse the aging, but if you only replace like for like, the improvement can go unnoticed. A 1967 amp with grey Elna capacitors can still be in good condition & it can still work fine, but these are now 48 years old & depending on how you want to use the hifi, to replace the capacitors to use the hifi daily is the best way. We've had 1967 capacitors & cut them open to reveal ones as good as new or similarly ones barely used but badly dry & crusty inside, as it depends on how they were stored. Transistors can age, Germaniums made by UK Mullard grow Tin Whiskers & short out & again Mullard with the half-hex BC147 type transistors age badly. Others go hissy, but generally a transistor will be reliable including the Japanese Germaniums. Resistors can fail from heat & weak construction else they can be good for decades more. Transformers only age if overheated or shorted.
JUST NOT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE... ↑
You can read from our other pages that we are different to the usual hifi thinking folks. We have no advertisers to please & question what we see as wrong. We don't like amps others rave about yet we find the 'sleepers' in Hifi a whole lot more interesting. We will push upgrading further than anyone perhaps would dare to, but be sure always that it works right and is reliable & safe to use. After all, we use many of our upgraded amps on our Tannoy Golds & to risk them frivolously is never the case. We read others upgrading ideas & for the fact to us the best years in Hifi for Musical Pleasure are 1967-69, we despair in seeing those 'upgrading' ICs & op amps. To us, no amp with ICs in the preamp or power amp is anything High Fidelity: it's a lazy cheap out. The best progress is by ignoring the old ideas and accepted-without-question ways & tackling things with new ideas. We've done BTEC electronics & it was mostly theory with nothing about Sound Quality at all, that is all learnt only by trying many amplifiers & being able to upgrade. Those upgrades used on other amps get refined & rarely meet with any bother beyond tackling very cost-cut low-spec amps & it takes dark skills to overcome weaknesses this brings up. We don't like silly terms like Audiophile & High End as these are words of dishonesty, selling you hifi's equivalent of wrinkle creams & the belief a quick fix sorts out all ills. The only way to sort out an average amplifier often is to sell it & go buy a 'better' one, but beware the Other Man's Grass isn't always Greener. We used to see lots of '2 hours use' hifi a few years ago when fools used to give up on a Hifi item before running it in. Others buy what another has, searching for that Holy Grail in Hifi. We could never find ours on our occasions of buying pointless new Hifi so over the last 20 years or more have tried to better the best vintage we could find. The result in what you read & can get done to your Hifi by us is the result of those years.
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.
OTHERS WON'T UPGRADE OR EVEN RECAP? ↑
This is the frustrating divide between us with the sensible upgrading and modernising of circuits and components, and those who refuse point blank to recap unless faulty. Our Upgrading is Sensible, Tidy, Logical & if you wished, you could put the original spec back in without a problem, we don't do anything that is not undo-able if at all possible. But on a general level, if you are happy with an amplifier & it works well, you need do nothing but dust it as you use it. You don't need to do anything to it because you feel that pressure to recap or upgrade it is on you. You can be happy with good things until you've tried or heard the better & find yours lacking. We get amps that we see are "Great" but our knowledge of Upgrading means we can estimate, not predict entirely, how an amplifier can probably sound at it's best. And we want to hear how good we can make them. If we were happy with how our first "Top Rated" amplifier, the B+O 4400 sounded a few years ago, we'd never have tried any others. Not many have the drive to find better & learn more each amp upgrade. The size of components has shrunk hugely over 40 years, a 1000µf 50v capacitor from 1968 is a quarter of the size today. You can't just put the biggest value in that fits, it needs design knowledge of 'what goes better in where' to optimise the circuit, without it looking messy, unprofessional or having loose bits. Get it wrong & it'll do odd things like not work or create effects or stray voltages which can damage the amp. A valve amp of unknown history will always sound better with a fresh set of quality valves in. The excuse of 'not wanting to disturb the circuit' is an excuse by one who doesn't take risks to see what is beyond the standardised cost-cut circuit. The Pioneer SA-9500 amp is the biggest improvement as-original to recap-upgraded we've found, but it took a lot to sort the circuit out as we certainly did disturb the low original spec & it can take a lot of effort to remedy. Some replace transistors or resistors that are not damaged or overly noisy, matching each one by spec to as close as possible. If you don't understand it, don't fiddle is wise advice. We dare to try what others daren't & the results we get are excellent as the Top Amps dual ratings show. We also do get amps that 'just won't take it' and need taming down again which is disappointing, though the more amps we upgrade, the better we get. Be aware we know what we are doing, but to do "that" to "this" as it looks a good idea usually means you'll go too far if you aren't understanding what you are doing. To 'Improve The Sound Quality' needs understanding of the circuit, rather than pick & poke and wonder why it stopped working next try. There are several amps with known bad design faults, to overcome them is like any problem solving, but losing quality to dumb down the problem is as bad as the weakness, as we've seen TV repair type techs do. To Upgrade requires the Circuit Diagrams, to attempt to upgrade without them is many times more difficult but possible, if in a more limited way unless you draw your own circuits by tracing the board track.
YAMAHA CR-2020 & CR-1020 OVERHEATING UPGRADES ↑
We have devised a full upgrade to solve all the overheating issues these great amplifiers get. Some parts run at a ridiculously hot 90°C even with the lid off & with the lid on it reads even higher. This naturally is poor design & was noticed quickly, but it needs proper redesigning to keep it running safely. Symptoms of failure as we've heard with the amp are the relay never clicking on always or sometimes, relay clicking off for no apparent reason and loud crackling noises. This we can do for you, together with Servicing the amp, generally this is all these big amps need to be working good again even if used more.
SO WHY PAY FOR IT...? ↑
Again having seen the mess some amp fiddlers get into, to get the job done professionally is your best bet, as those Car Tinkerers will realise when they have to embarrassedly take their failed work into a Garage. There are no Repair Books or Easy Ways to learn how to Repair or Upgrade Hifi, it is only learnt by one who dares to push the old ideas aside & do things afresh & get successes that are both much improved & reliable in use. If you want to trust Hifi Forums for advice & glean bits of info & try to use it on your Hifi, then perhaps you can learn things like we have in 20 years time, but the learning curve can be a very steep one & you will end up doing things wrong, but you do learn from your mistakes & if you like a challenge, become the Next Generation of Hifi Upgraders. Put your work in, expect to mess up but as with anything there are no quick solutions if you don't pay another. But to learn your mistakes on an expensive amplifier is not worth the risk. Experience in things is usually undervalued in today's shallow hurried world, but be sure for us to confidently offer upgrades as well as Sell Our Upgraded Hifi means we are modestly very good at it. We don't call ourselves Experts or Gurus though you can decide for yourself, we aren't after Glory. You'll find repair kits that will get your aged amp working, but it's not upgraded & you'll be disappointed with it.
THE EXPECTED CUSTOMER... ↑
You've got a Great Vintage Amp of 40w or more that you've used for a year or ten, but you are finding it doesn't quite sound as good as you want now. You'll probably have heard a friend's Hifi & think theirs sounded better. Hearing better elsewhere gets you wanting more. Your option is to go buy that £3000 system but you aren't sure. That Old amp or Receiver suited you well for long enough. You'll not find any other people offering extreme designer based upgrades, but with a keen eye to keep it as Original looking as possible to keep it's value & enhance it. Save your £3000 & get your Old Faithful upgraded to be better than it ever was, as well as it'll be Serviced & Cleaned inside & out too.
THE DREAMER WHO THINKS TO UPGRADE... ↑
We are offering Design Based ideas to bring the Best out of Good Vintage Hifi. You need to Read This Page properly before thinking your Hifi Nirvana is a cheap exercise. Nothing of Quality ever is cheap. We get those who see an amp they like, they've never heard the Amp, don't know if it matches the rest of their Hifi System or have much idea really. They've read other's opinions, usually Forum chatter of little value as you don't know anything of the person's Hifi Ideals giving the opinion. Us? We've got Pages of Hifi for you to read. The learning of your subject needs doing first. Who's to say you'd understand our upgrade as it'll sound clean & precise, you might think it sounds boring as you don't know enough of Hifi. Don't run before you can walk. Don't just buy one of our Top Amps rated 'Great' or better & expect it to match all you use. The amount who asked at one time about upgrading the Yamaha CR-1000 thinking they can have an upgraded one, it's a huge job & the amp we do state is great but not for most people. If you want a taste of upgraded Hifi, look at our Sales page, some are inexpensive & be sure the amount of work put into the cheaper amps would cost more than we're selling the amp for, but we get some of them for research. Upgrading is not some cheap £99 repair, it is carefully thought out upgrades based on design knowledge. To spend all the time working & buying quality parts cannot be cheap & certainly isn't.
WE CAN UPGRADE YOUR AMPLIFIER. ↑
Are you tired of forever Upgrading Hifi & never being satisfied with it? Get your Best Amp upgraded into something way beyond what you can buy in a Shop now or Then. We don't just restore it to "It's Old Glory" we take it much further into "It's New Wonder". We read one ridiculous comment on a Hifi site... "Caution, do not modify or refurbish Grundig products: the final result is always worse." What use is that to anyone? If your skills are good, as ours are, any amp on the planet can be improved, but do it badly & it certainly will be worse or never work again. Future Upgraders need encouragement not blanket foolish comments.
HIFI UPGRADING IS STILL YOUNG ↑
There are lots of Car Repair & Upgrade shows as well as others for Furniture, Machinery & Collectables. But Hifi upgrading is still very new & look online there are very few able to do it right. Vintage Hifi is a fascinating scene & we've found many great amps in our searching. Unlike Cars, there are very few vintage items being re-manufactured, perhaps only Garrard 301 Turntable parts with Idler Wheels & Switch Levers.
YOU WON'T REGRET UPGRADING ↑
Hifi users have been tweaking & upgrading Hifi for decades, but if you think buying Gold plug speaker cables is upgrading, then wer offer Real Upgrading, taking the aged weak parts out & bringing your amplifier to Be Better Than New in many ways. We keep all changes as subtle as possible, by doing things with care & thought. No capacitor stuffing or using big capacitor clips with tiny same-value caps as you often see. We've sold enough Hifi & always like to ask the buyer what they thought of the amp after a few weeks. The comments beyond those with mismatched speakers is very positive, never heard an amp sound like that before. You won't regret it either, but there is a cost to getting high quality work done. The cost once you hear how it sounds will seem a bargain compared to what you could spend on Boring New 'Hifi'. Take a chance.
BUT I WANT TO KEEP IT ALL ORIGINAL... ↑
The age & amount of use of Amplifier has had will decide how possible that is. But how do you know where it's been 30-40-50 years? Based on all the amps we've had & with cutting open the old capacitors to see how they age, we can tell this. Higher voltage capacitors have a shorter life, we've seen ones from 1978 in awful condition, this means valves & any Rogers valve amp on ebay be 100% sure has dried out main caps but it'll work... for now. Any amp pre 1969 will need fully recapping, we found this with a 1967 Sony TA-1120A that was in very high grade but had awful caps & other issues, probably why it was left unused. Capacitors this old are not as reliable as those by 1969-70 if again the voltage & power of the amp decides how they age. Also an amp kept in a warm place, such as in bright sunlight, faded wood lids reveal this, the capacitors again will be aged further than you'd expect. The answer is you can Gamble to keep using the amp, if you use it regularly, it might not last long. If you want to use it as it sounds nice, things will start to show as aged. To have it redone to be better than new to use is the choice, but it takes time plus quality parts. The result is a cleaner basier sounding amp that is reliable. To put new capacitors in the entire amp may be the only option, but then you'll have it 'better than new' in many ways. When we upgrade amps, to leave as much of the charm of the amp is the idea, no amateur stuffing capacitors here, but buyers want to use these amps plus have as much of the Originality as possible, as the Car TV shows reveal similarly. Generally if you want to keep Hifi pre 1969 'All Original' then don't expect to use it. Until a day comes when Museums of Hifi exist where the lids are left off to show all-originality, the buyer of Vintage Hifi wants to play it, at least occasionally & know it'll work. Unless the Hifi is brand new in the box opened but never used after decades, to be sentimental to keep it original isn't possible & you'll miss out on using it.
REPAIRING & UPGRADING POOR CONDITION HIFI ↑
The trouble here is, will it ever be reliable again? A much wanted Marantz 2285B someone naively paid over £200 for one in very poor condition inside late Dec 2014 & others unwisely thought it would be an easy repair. If it was, we'd have got it. But we have tried amps in this grade before & they are usually too far gone. This one looked long water soaked, as in lost in the UK floods over the last few years. Water soaked means corrosion & you are going to leave it plugged into the mains once you've considered it repaired. It is too risky even if professionally cleaned and dried then fully checked over. Heavy damp isn't so bad to an amp beyond cosmetics, but being immersed in water for so long it rusts is no good. Other bad damage like breaks & burns from fire inside can often make an amplifier only good for parts, or to buy another to make one good one out of. Remember you will expect to use it on the mains for hours on end. We'd not trust it to be reliable & we'd not want to sell something so far gone. We had a Sony that was water soaked with the dried mud traces inside. You could fully recap it, replace every transistor & resistor to be rid of any corroded parts, but you'd still have rough control switches & the mains transformer. In the end it got broken up for parts though it worked but was unreliable. Another Sony was stored in it's box in a very damp loft, the box half rotted away, the amp itself hadn't got wet wrapped in the box so actually cleaned up fine & was reliable again. As a note, any car that's sat in water after going into a lake is usually a write-off, why do you think a similarly wet soaked electrial item can be safe?
Q: WHY DO YOU THINK AMPLIFIERS NEED UPGRADING? THEY WERE DESIGNED BY PROFESSIONAL DESIGNERS. ↑
You need to understand the Economics of design. Built To Last A Lifetime may have been a good selling idea in the 1920s-30s & why so much of this old stuff can be brought back to life & still be useable, if today has the use for it. Hifi progressed in Quality from the start in the late 1940s & hit a level by 1956 for there to be Hifi Magazines & Yearbooks. Further progress by 1963 we see as the next turning point & then 1967 when Transistors were King. Less progress over the years & some 1967-68 amplifiers are as good as anything ever made. But by 1974-75 cost cutting took hold meaning 1977-78 ranges were the last of the Golden Era. By 1979-80 ICs & hard cost cutting made Hifi much lesser a Beast. In the pre CD era, the New Range was always considered better than the old, often very wrongly as Cheap All In One Systems replaced great Amps & Receivers, but the owners weren't Hifi Wise & relegated the better item to storage. Manufacturers want you to keep buying their New Product & many do believe the New One Is Better as still proved by the Sheep-like way i-Phones are sold. Many modern items do deliberately age in use & by the time 2 years later, the Hype of The New Range got people buying the new ones. These Mobile Phones are only designed to last 2 years so the New One will sometimes be required as the Old One has failed. Cynical. So on one of the best 1967 amps, the fact it's now 46 years old & capacitors are past their best, if still working. Sizes of them then to now related to values are roughly 10 to 20x bigger, so designs can now be upgraded to bring the best out of the circuit, but not done randomly. By the 1969-71 Second Generation, the complaints about bass being too deep revealing Turntable Rumble as well as various noises from using cheap gear got the spec of amps much reduced, to the point nearly all amps after 1968 are severely limited on Deep Bass, often having a false thick ringing bass. Some later designs dared to reverse the trend only to be found much dumbed down on their next range as complaints poured in. All these weak design issues can be got rid of with careful design-based amp tuning to reveal the amp at it's best, without it having any issues beyond taking a minute or so to stabilise on turn-on. Many low spec amps can be used within seconds of powering up which may be useful to some, but the sound quality suffers for the low spec designs. Others use cheap quality parts that affect the sound & these can be upgraded to give a much better sound. We can hear if an amp is of quality but is too low spec & after upgrading it, the amp is in a much higher league, if the rest of the design can be matched to the upgrades. This means upgrading an amp is more than just doing a few minor things, the whole lot needs to be upgraded similarly. This is What We Do.
THERE ARE NO STOCK UNIVERSAL UPGRADES ↑
Every amp we Upgrade is different. We may have set things we do, but every amp needs it's own custom upgrade suited to it in spec & also the amount of space available to fit things & keep it looking nice. Some amps are fine with some upgrades, others 'don't like them' so fine tuning is needed.
MOST THINGS ARE STILL AVAILABLE ↑
Most parts we upgrade involve through-hole Capacitors which are still easily available though the Surface Mount technology is what the electronics scene is today. Transistors are often obsolete but equivalents can be found. Resistors are still freely found. But the hard part comes with fittings, incandescent light bulbs for Hifi can usually be found with some searching, but when it comes to wanting a Bass Control switch for a Pioneer, your only option is to look for a salvage type seller who sells parts from Hifi. Ebay sellers who break up more popular amps for spares are great for those who need the parts, but it shows that many can't deal with complex repairs or are estimated too much to make it worthwhile. Some you see have parted a great amp for a minor issue & words may be grumbled at their foolishness but if it gets you a rare part, be thankful for their lack of expertise.
BROKEN HIFI GLASS FASCIAS ↑
If you get careless with an Amp in packaging or have an accident, it is possible to remake a new Glass Fascia in Perspex. We've had to do this with one of ours from a dozen or so bits & do the artwork from those bits to get a new one made. Our artwork skills are advanced in this sort of thing & it'll look like new if still with the imperfections of the original, no tacky new font remake here. The hours artwork & the making of the new 'glass' is far from cheap, after all the time to do the art & prepare it to be made & then the maker has to put it into their system. If you break your glass expect a £350-£400 job if the amp means a lot to you & finding another is impossible. If you need this bespoke service, as with any other, let us know via the Email form. 2017 update: having tried this twice, we can do the artwork to perfection, but getting a printing company to follow instructions & not print it blurry, off-centre or even on the right side means we gave up on the last one. Maybe we'll look at this again another time. Hard getting Professionals to do their job right...
LOWER POWERED AMPLIFIERS? ↑
The Techniques we use to upgrade amps are not dumbed down, though fine tuning is often needed, the fact your amp will be a wider range sound, ie deeper bass & more extended treble, this is best for amps of 40w or more. We can upgrade a low power amp, eg the 18w Trio-Kenwoods but then the risk of getting into distortion by using techniques suited to 40w+ ones can become a problem & by limiting things we can't be as free with our upgrading, but on certain 15w-35w amps of quality it is still worth upgrading as the quality will improve. This means amps pre 1970 especially. But the trouble on even the best 18w amp is if we upgraded it, you'd like the sound too much & play it to distortion, making it a bit of a wasted effort, so we'll generally stick to 40w or higher rather than spend your money only to have you wish you'd tried a 40w amp instead. Upgrading isn't cheap or to be considered lightly.
LOW SPEC AMP UPGRADES... ↑
These can be difficult as an amp that was designed to be 'low spec' to keep costs down can reveal a high quality sound, but at the same time it reveals all the cost-cutting & dumbing-down the original design has. This makes these amps a huge job as we have to redesign things & look for every weakness to better it. As our Top amps page shows, Pioneer by 1974 were making amps that are low spec for the ability to undersell Marantz & other big brands. The SX-838 & SA-9500 Mk I are heavily cost cut & low spec. Other amps are designed with better spec & are more straightforward to do in upgrading terms. All amps pre 1980 we've tried can be made better spec than the original design & still keep things looking original, but some make this very hard. Identifying stupid limiters & spoilers is more advanced than fault finding as there is no logic to it and issues can have several reasons why.
NOT WORTH UPGRADING? ↑
Having tried upgrading varied amps just to see what can be done, there is one sort that will never be good enough: the amp with ICs in the Audio Stages. This is beyond Darlington output stages, this means the complex preamp or power amp IC blocks that can contain 15 to 40 transistor stages with designs inside that no 1967 amp ever needed to sound good. The only ICs we consider acceptable are the very basic ones with 2 or 3 transistors in with just resistors inside. Some like a 1971 Hitachi you can see the transistors inside. So any op-amp modern amp is just a cost cut cheapout despite their wordy hype, it's junk to us & we'd not waste your money pretending we could get top sound from it as we know it's not possible. Some brands are not as well made as they can be & make upgrading as well as Servicing & Repairs difficult. But if the Customer is aware the costs can vary, then we'll certainly try. We're not into pretending we fixed something we didn't or to get away with a half-assed job. A bit of Hifi-OCD comes into the work we do & see how straightened up all the component parts are on our Sold items to see attention to detail doesn't get spared.
IT STARTED SMOKING BAD & NEARLY CAUGHT FIRE!! ↑
Yes, we get this sometimes on testing amps, usually the capacitor across the mains inlets are the bad, so one even 'perfect' looking can be a smoking mess within 15-30 minutes use. Fire is possible, but unlikely with the Hifi itself, the fuse will catch it or something will fail, fire is only when something near to the amp gets in the way. It is scary & will make you never want to touch the amp again, but to fix it is not too hard if clearing up the mess & smell is more involved. As of typing this we had a high grade amp unused in decades do just that. It worked fine for 10 minutes on first try, then 10 mins more use the part that failed looked perfect as it was visible so was watched. Leaving it running in will catch these nasties but seeing a cloud of burning sickly smoke coming your way is a bit of a shock. Windows open, fan on, Febreeze at the ready will lessen the smell but it'll still linger for a day unfortunately. We just cut out the offending part & 10 minutes later put it back on, it still worked fine, a new part will be fitted before it's sold. No big deal there, but it'll scare the life out of you. What can be more of a problem is when a resistor catches fire by some failure, the resistor is unimportant as you can find the value hopefully, but the board can be burnt if usually a bit of cleaning & the new resistor covers it, once the fault is found. But that's into the dark realms of Fault Finding & be sure not just one item has been affected, one Marantz receiver knocked out a remarkable 17 components, we traced them all & yes it worked fine on first plug-in. Parts that look 100% good can be in poor condition internally, these sort of issues & risks we deal with in Servicing & Upgrading.
UPGRADING POST 1980 AMPLIFIERS? ↑
By 1980, 40w to 50w was entry level for midprice, anything less as Transistors was budget gear or part of a system. Every amplifier from the 1980s will have it's fans who, having heard little else, think it sounds great. But with all the amps we've heard & upgraded, we know the truth of how 1980s hifi sounds & it's not pleasant. To upgrade these later amps, as we were asked about a 95w Sansui is a bit of a hard choice. We can upgrade them still quite a lot, sorting out overheating issues & other weaknesses which will give you an amp better than it was as new in terms of sound. But as the tone of this site elsewhere suggests, post 1980 & 1980s Hifi is far from being what we like. The 1980s brought the CD, even more cost cutting, lots of flimsy plastic, overdesign & the glut of ICs as shown by the once-mighty Yamaha making the CR-2040 a desperate IC stuffed nightmare. The trouble also is for higher power amps, the output transistors often could be custom ones, or in case of 160w to 300w+ a multiple row of them that gave extra current to bring 300w but not much extra volume. We did have a 1986 Pioneer C90-M90 & even on finally finding the double FET & Bias IC it needed, we really had little interest in getting it working, it was in poor grade also which didn't help. It just didn't inspire us, it sounded uninteresting, the working channel on the power amp had a feeble volume for 200w & the preamp was that IC stuffed nightmare. Of course if the customer is aware of the ICs & overdesign issue we can upgrade it to a certain level, but we are aware these amps with multiple differentials & other excessive needless circuitry in the design will never sound as sweet & effortless as the 1965-70 transistor era or valves. As you can see from the Top Amps page, for post 1970, there are still quite a few 'Excellent' amps giving very good results, so don't think only the pre 1970 ones are worth having, as usually the pre 1970 need a full recap & upgrade first. We don't want to say to everyone to go sell it & buy a better amp, as it disrespects the amp you may have had for years, but there is the point you've read our pages & find your 1980s amp lacking to want to better it. The fact is, upgraded it will be a lot better, but it will still be limited by overdesign & ICs. There is no escape. Even a 1980 amp is now 35 years old so a new high quality set of capacitors will freshen the sound a lot, but be aware upgrading can reveal the weaknesses that are not so noticeable now as per the original spec. Recapping & our upgrading brings more treble and natural deep bass to an amp & it can reveal the amp isn't that good after all. But as with a dirty mirror in a dark room, the more you clean it and open the curtains, the more wrinkles you see. Or a compressed jpeg photo enlarged too far looks all blocky. Hifi has it's wrinkles in 1980s audio with a grainy low-spec sound and lack of proper deep bass, even after servicing.
FURTHER PROBLEMS WITH 1980s-MODERN AMPS ↑
There are a lot of later amps that have over 60w, have all transistor pre & power amp stages, but being Big Brand items, be sure they are cost cut so heavily that it's not even worth repairing them. This may shock an owner of a 1980s amp that is rated by others, but the facts in repairing & upgrading them is they are not going to be reliable. The weak construction, the hair-thin board track, it doesn't take well to soldering irons & pulling out old components. The pre 1978 amps are much better made & these are generally "forever repairable". There are also 'High End' amps starting with £4k/£6k Technics in 1980 then more by 1986 with wood side cheeks & general 'classy' looks to appeal to certain buyers. The thing is these will still be made quite similarly, we had the Musical Fidelity A308CR pre-power that was made more like an earlier amp if sounded lousy & FMJ preamp that was one of the first surface mount components amps, what are you supposed to do with those, all surface mount non-can capacitors are ceramic or tantalum, ones we don't like. The fact is, the pre 1980 gear will sound better than any post 1980, so why bother with it unless it has earlier qualities of sound & production, not a mass-market item.
ANOTHER FOOL'S MESS... ↑
The Worst Job to do in Servicing, Restoring & Upgrading is first having to Undo Some Other Fool's Mess. Generally we'd not want to start on a job like this & it'll cost you too much also. Usually misguided efforts by those who glean bits of info from Forums, read below for our views on Forums. The bad soldering, the clumsy 'repair' leaving things Broken: how did they chip the PCB corner off?, using wrong cleaning products, finding missing Screws that are always lost, misguided ideas that a Transistor of 50x the power will correct a fault & a thousand more. The absolute worst is when someone thinks Soldering involves frying the connection to the point the track comes away. Most track is pretty well fixed to the board & to loosen it means it got fried for over a minute. To undo all these messes, imagine the groans.. 'they did what?' etc that come on seeing amateur messing & also bad TV repair guy messings such as any transistor used that then ruins other sections & the common one of too lazy to get the right ½w resistor value they instead twist together 2x 2w ones. Now we've had messages about these comments not being helpful to those learning hifi, but it's not our place to educate you & frankly we don't want to undo your mess either. The extra work to undo messing can double a job's time & for that reason, as well as the work needed to deal with some issues makes the amp a bit of a risky one unless much time is spent, any estimate is based on an amp being a 'Virgin' one, unfiddled with & straightforward, though one amp we have of typing had work dated 1981 & it looked as aged as the rest. Another bad amateur job was done on one of our top amps, the Trio-Kenwood KA-6000. The fool stuffed the old capacitors & sealed them to keep originality, yet painted the top lid & transformer silver, replaced a rusty preamp socket pair instead of cleaning them, used ultra cheap capacitors all round & put LEDs in instead of the easily found bulbs. That really annoys us. Do not disrespect good hifi, no-one will want it at any price as you've ruined it! Originality, Originality & then some Originality: keep as much original beyond capacitors as possible. Please! We care about these old amps & are probably a lot more perfectionist than most. We heard from one person who was too mean to pay for us to properly upgrade their amp that we know very well from having it & it's close versions 4 times now, that his "experienced Hifi tech" had managed to burn out the transformer & tells him lies about what has been damaged too. We know this amp well & know "the expert" likely a TV grade repair menace, has totally trashed it. Naturally he wanted free advice on how to fix it. We really couldn't care less as we state "No Free Advice" often enough so sent him on his way. It's not our job & as with anyone you can pay anyone to do the job & you take your chances. Reeks of forum mentality & we aren't interested. But how you manage to trash a transformer, the output transistors & the protection circuit is incompetence of the highest order, to even understand how this can be done & not blow the fuses is a mystery really, but the fool still believes in his tech, bless him. Again, what do we care, you've never spent with us & we'll not be interested in repairing the frazzled mess either.
VALVE-TUBE AMPLIFIERS ↑
As you can see from our Valves page we have tried a few of the Vintage Valve amps. The thing is they are old, the transistor amp was considered 'better' than valves as early as 1963 & after 1964 very few new Valve Amps or Receivers were designed, until the Valve-Tube Revivals that started in about 1980 & were quite polular by the mid 1990s. But the old gear shows it's age: AC heaters on preamps gives hum, pre 1963 you get Valve Rectifiers which can't take a large smoothing capacitor & other circuit based issues. The old coupling capacitors are always very low values which we know is totally wrong, but these were designed this way as the power supplies were feeble with 40µf being considered a large value. To upgrade the coupling caps the power supply needs the extra quality or as we found on our Trio the voltages wobble as they can't draw enough power. The Rogers Cadet III & HG88 III upgrade well but the design has limitations to stop it being as good as others can be. Some valve amps are just not very good & to us even the money-making big Lowther & Radford 25w ones would need so much upgraded to be of a modern quality that it's best sadly just to keep them nearly original to avoid revealing their weaknesses. Our Trio valve receiver we gave up on several times only to retry new ideas & after over 3 years it now sounds like we'd want it to. But the amount of work to redo it is enormous & the amp more or less is fully rebuilt & redesigned if using the original fittings hiding perhaps all the work done. To put DC heaters & a proper DC bias instead of Hum Circuits & suffering hum was done more by luck than planning & looking at other amps it'd not be possible as 'easily' as ours was. So with Valve amps, we'll offer less intensive upgrades, unless you want to go the full deal on it.
WHAT DOES IT COST? ↑
On all amps we get they get cleaned, taken apart, serviced & have a good check of everything to see if certain parts are reliable or extra work needs doing. Then to recap & upgrade based on design work, to find the paets, order them, fit them in, to adjust & fine tune as well as run in the amp to see it's reliable in use with no issues. This can take a few hours to many hours & might be easy or it might be a very hard job put aside until having time to think on it further. Skilled Labour costs £35 per hour, but we are donig Upgrade-Design based work not hanging Wallpaper. You can see on TV 'Rick's Restorations' with his very high prices compared to what he charged in the first series, to the point the 'Pawn Stars' guy got a new restorer to restore his push cart for a much better price. But the 'RR' guy has lots of staff & preises overheads, the guys doing quality work are like us, working in a much smaller way & not wanting to go commercial. We've priced & done some Upgrades now so can quote a price on many amps, if not all until researching them. If you think a full professional amp rebuild is going to be under £300 then you'll not find that here, but if you have a quality amp you want upgraded, we can give an Estimate, based on expected work, allowing for the unknown or hidden issues.
THE OBJECTIVE IN UPGRADING ↑
Hifi has advanced over the years with better components but today's amplifier designs are to very different standards of what "Good Music" should sound like. Modern amps are very safe sounding with little emotion of the best Golden Era amps from 1967-77. In upgrading an Amplifier, the objective is to make it subtly the best it can be, but not make it look too different to how it looked when new. Beyond nerw capacitors it should basically look very much as designed. We've seen alleged 'expert' restorations that have zero design input so you see small modern electroytics padded to fit the old large holders. Be sure the spec is the same as it was originally, beyond new capacitors. It has been a wasted effort. We bring in design abilities to better the spec & make the amp sound better than it did when new, but nothing beyond subtle at all times. We are a little ahead with our ideas & we keep experimenting on amps we get so you will find high quality upgraded amps for sale with us, though the prices are rising for our quality, in comparison to what you'd get spending £2000 new in a shop, our product or upgraded amps are in a much higher league than some averaged out 'safe' design of today.
We've had 5 of the Garrard 301s to service now, involving a total strip down & service. One was a silver grease & the others were the white oil one. So we can service these up also, but there are problems of leaking gaskets, worn bearings, broken lever switches, missing parts as well as the paint being in poor condition which is best getting it powder coated. The 401 we serviced had a broken power switch which was totally unfindable & the only option is to improvise. Sourcing parts is possible on some items like the switch capacitors but other parts are long gone as ringing up the T&G guy revealed even 10+ years ago. The job of taking apart, cleaning & servicing up the mechanics as well as adjusting arms etc. Again with arms people like to rewire them & alter much involving buying new parts which is not really necessary. The most involved job we had to do for ourselves was a 1957 Garrard RC120/4H autochanger that took many hours to cure seized parts & sticky mechanisms, but it's not a Hifi item. If you have a quality non-autochanger turntable you want to get the best out of, including putting better external cables on, we can do this. We can do things like put a 78 speed on the Technics SL-1500 turntable which took much working out.
TWO STAGES OF UPGRADE ↑
As we only do Upgrades, not General Repairs or Servicing, there are only two stages of work we'll do. These upgrades are suited to 40w-110w amps & receivers only as lower power amps can't cope with the increased resolution as odds are you'll be wanting to play it louder now. In all cases to see photos of the amp & know what items you use with the amp is required.
The BASIC UPGRADE involves the Amp being fully serviced including repairs if required, new bulbs, adjusting & hours testing it's right on speakers & headphones. The Upgrade involves a full recap of all Power Supply, Preamp, Tone and Power Amp. On some amps there is no need to upgrade the power supply main capacitors, there is no need in the mid 1970s Yamaha for example, if they are still in good condition. They can be upgraded but these large capacitors are expensive & physical size can be a problem for no real benefit.
The FULL UPGRADE involves all the above but here our design techniques come more into the game & we go through the whole amp sorting out limitations of design & spoilers. Based on techniques with Valve amps that can be applied to Transistor amps with remarkable results, this is by it's nature experimental based on what has worked fine before. This service is best if you have very high quality items to use with the Amp or Receiver as the differences can be very noticeable. This sort of work by it's nature is more a labour of love on an amp & time spent doing this can be unpredictable, but if you want the best out of your amp, here is the opportunity. To do more than a Basic Upgrade on a valve amp is such a big job as vintage valve amps just about need fully rebuilding.
EXPECTATIONS & LIMITATIONS ↑
have to be taken into consideration. We got a Pioneer SA-9500 that had cosmetic courier damage so was an abandoned amp after a payout. It got working after much work, but as it had 'no value' why not do an extreme upgrade on it, knowing that failure wasn't an issue. This cavalier attitude actually gets more results than being careful, though we do it with many years & many amps knowledge, rather than the newbie with a chainsaw ideaology. The Pioneer amp as you can read elsewhere is more or less a perfect design stuffed full of spoilers & limiters to the point it sounds very rough even when serviced. We'd been surprised how bad the SX-950 receiver sounded & wanted to do it properly, so here was our chance. Doing this proved Transistor Grain is non-existent and Valve sound can be put into a Transistor amp using valve amp ideas. The Valve sound that we see, based on a fully upgraded amp, not the aged wallowy blurry sound, is when the amp actually sounds a bit dull as there is no 'grainy edgy sound' yet when treble is in the music, you know it's there & it's natural. This sort of sound takes getting used to as it's nothing like the sound Hifi is sold with. The rough grainy sound is all in the circuitry, we replaced no transistors at all & even the doubled output stages we previously thought added to the grainy sound were proven not to be the issue. The limitations with the SA-9500 involved the various switches to keep switching noises away as well as stability in use, again we just ignore the accepted ideas & do it our way, fine tuning as we go. An amp without all the switches can be done easier, though the compromise done with the SA-9500 was minimal as all was attempted. An amp made this lively does need careful handling, this is why all the spoilers are put in to make amps idiot-proof but at serious expense of Fidelity. They now need a minute or two to settle the voltages before using the controls & care in using a Turntable where hefty very low bass frequencies of 10Hz can be present if you drop a stylus on a record. To set volume to zero or use the low bass filter is the way here.
GOT ANY QUESTIONS HAVING READ THIS FAR? ↑
If you are Interested in having us Upgrade Your Amp, or to Buy One Of Ours, Please Ask Your Questions. We're here to help & selling can involve some back & forth with emails for the buyer to understand as well as understand what we would be upgrading. No question that leads to a Sale is a 'Silly Question' as we know Buyers aren't born knowing Hifi & we only know what we know by having the Hifi here to fully understand.
PROTECTION CIRCUITS ↑
These annoying In Standby - In Protection - We're Not Going To Tell You What's Wrong features are in a lot of post 1980 Hifi & generally they are beyond a pain. They should stop the age-old problem of shorting outputs causing damage, but if the repair is still a very slow one to trace, it's probably easier to repair the early ones. In earlier amps a minor fault could be traced by the amp being On so the fault could be found even if parts had failed. But these sodding protection circuits are usually very crude & just forever stay In Protection Mode with no hint of what is wrong. No fault finding codes or help in the Service Manuals either. This adds to making modern electronics Disposable as the cost for someone to fault find will outprice the cost of getting something to replace it. Earlier relays would stay Off but the reason why would be easy to find for an experienced Tech, but the later ones that give no hint despite everything been tested over many hours, are enough to drive you insane or reach for the hammer. Working on one 1980s amp, there are a lot of deliberate ruination features put in to confound the repair guy, things that break or can only be broken as you try to remove them, deliberate spoilers made to not fit back right & deliberate weak points to break & ruin the circuit. Big transistors on very weak board track is a typical 1980s wheeze. They Don't Want You To Fix It They Want You To Bin It And Buy Another. You can persevere with it & end up with annoying ugly repairs from having been caught by the deliberate weaknesses & also end up with a huge amount of time spent which is going to put off anyone paying for a repair, or annoy the repairer who quoted one price but it took three times as long. You can't expect the customer to pay three times an estimate. Care is needed with these Protection Circuit Amps. To run away screaming is the best advice...
OUR HIFI INTERESTS ↑
You can read plenty of this on the other pages. We enjoy upgrading amps & we've done quite a few now. We've done Valve Amps, more modern IC based amps & plenty of the Golden Era 1967-77 ones. We've upgraded these over the last few years to ever increasing standards: Yamaha CA-1000, Yamaha CA-1010, Yamaha CR-800, Yamaha CR-1000, Yamaha CR-2020 three times over a time; Sony STR-6120, Sony TA-1120A, Sony TA-1130, Sony TA-1140; Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 4000; Pioneer SX-1500TF; NAD 160, NAD 300; Goodmans Module 80; Realistic STA-2280; Hacker GAR550; Marantz PM62, Marantz 2245, Marantz 2265B; Leak 2000; Leak Delta 75; Sansui AU999, Sansui 3000A, Sansui 4000; Luxman L-100; Trio-Kenwood KA-6004; Teac AS-100, Teac AG-7000; Hitachi SR-1100. We've also serviced loads more from Bang & Olufsen, Sony, Quad, Pioneer, Rogers, Leak, Sugden, Panasonic, Rotel, Technics, Photax, Nikko, Consort, Radford, Marantz, Goodmans, Akai & Armstrong. All those you see on our Top Amps page. Only a few brands we've not tried yet in our current exploits include Harman-Kardon, Quad transistor era, Accuphase, Fisher & McIntosh as well as other small brands like Scott, Sherwood and the glut of European brands like Tandberg which mostly don't appeal much.
Of Valve amps we've done Sansui 500A, Rogers HG88 MK III both full rebuilds & also the Armstrong 221 and of course the Trio WX-400U that took many goes to finally get right.
We got a BTEC in Electronics in 1992 & though it gives you a qualification it teaches you very little beyond theory, the final part of the course was TV & VCR repairs as that was the nearest to Hifi & just a bit of fault finding was involved. We've been toying with amplifiers since about 1989 & things take time to progress as it's self taught, though with rebuilding our TT amps in 2002, then 2006-2008 & now the poor things are ready for the best upgrades we have been progressing. Finding a Sansui G301 in the gutter at the back of a charity shop in 2006 got the idea to see how good we were at fixing a wrecked amp that was free, after not having done much on Hifi for a while. Doing it methodically, if without a service manual in those days they weren't findable like now, got the thing working after replacing about a dozen parts. It wasn't a very good receiver, but it was now working & we sold it just to cover costs. Hearing another similar 1979 Hitachi one had the same issue, lights flickering on turn on, we realised this is low spec power supply struggling with the initial current surge on turn on, but after a few seconds it settles down & was fine after that. But on first use it looks scary. Odds are you'll not trust it & whether it'd cause speaker problems is a worry. Whether it's worth upgrading a budget amp worth under £100 to stop this issue is the problem.
OUR WAY OF DOING THIS ↑
is probably a bit different to how you expect a Repair Guy to fix a basic fault. We are not interested in doing basic Repair or Servicing Jobs on a budget, though if your Amp needs repair & you want it Upgraded too we can deal with that. A full deep Service is included also. We care not for any sort of hurrying or deadlines and for the nature of probably getting an unknown amp design it takes much time to learn the amp & then fine tune it after the basic upgrading has been done. To hurry on doing Hifi work just does not work out well. It might be done in two days, two weeks or two months or even longer if parts are difficult.
The idea with Upgrades is to subtly bring the best of the old design into a new dimension using modern capacitors to upspec a great design but generally leave the rest as original as possible, as the appeal of Vintage Hifi is it looks as near original rather than butchered or badly 'upgraded'. The lazy idea of 'If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It' doesn't apply with how we Upgrade. Having upgraded many amps now, none of them have been better or anywhere as good as original compared to the hugely improved Upgraded item.
Certain amps like the Sony V-FET we'd pass on for the high risk of failing V-FETs that are obsolete & unfindable, but most Transistors have equivalents. Amps that are over 100w to 350w are risky for the same reasons of unfindable output transistors and in any non-standard upgrading a tiny risk of transistor failure is possible & if the spares aren't findable the project is finished beyond finding a parts amp. We had a 1986 Pioneer 200w pre-power that we just didn't like or could be bothered with as the outer grade was poor & what we could hear was mediocre so outed it as a repair project. Oddly it's never been seen for sale since.
Today you can find many Service Manuals for all sorts of Hifi & we would require there to be a circuit available for us to use, either as one we can find as a .pdf or one the customer can supply. We do not work on amps with unfindable circuits as a full upgrade isn't possible, though we could upgrade it to a certain level, the fine tuning a circuit can help with won't be.
SUBTLE UPGRADES ONLY ↑
What we do optimises the amplifier into the best it can be within it's design. We've upgraded quite a few amps & some have turned out to be not such great designs after all, but a few have revealed they were designed to be 'perfection' and then cynically dumbed down with spoilers put in & spec limited by reducing or omitting others. The Dark Art of undoing the spoilers & putting back in the quality of sound that possibly was how it was designed. With any amp when you need to alter circuits beyond the spoilers, it's clear the design was not as good in the first place on one area, but having to redesign much more than this usually isn't worth the effort as it'll reveal weaknesses elsewhere. There are no amps we've encountered that are free from limiters & spoilers, every amp can be upgraded. Whether it's worth it is another issue as putting 50w amp ideas into a 20w might sound nice played low but it'll not be enough power when it gets played louder wheras before it was limited purposely to be good enough within itself. It's like putting a V8 into a Mini, it might be fun but it'll soon be found excessive & uncontrollable.
CAN WE PREDICT HOW AN AMP WILL SOUND? ↑
If we could know exactly what an amp would sound like using a standard bag of tricks then we'd not have upgraded nearly 40 amps (as of writing). It's been a learning curve & a few amps having got another chance to try got more ideas tried on them. Not wishing to do severe upgrades or totally redesign stages of a Transistor amp, though we have with Valve ones, there is a limit based on the original design on how far you can go as there is a knock-on effect of making one section much better resolution as the rest is unlikely to be good enough then. This is why we just about totally redesigned the Trio valve receiver though that was done over a few years. It's possible to put 'the sound' of another amp into the amp you have but the amount of fine tuning & further design it'd need is too much. To stick basically with the original design & subtly better it. Seeing one amp has 'that' in a place we know know another value will deliver better sound without getting other problems. A later amp needs a bit more of 'that' fine tuned but some of the 1960s amps of good quality you can go much further with ideas. Some others sort of hit a wall of quality and can't do better without doing non-subtle things they are best left looking as original as possible. It is very rare to find an amp that is willing to let you do what you like to it & still sound great. But only by doing more amps will we find more of these. It could be said one brand or two, as ideas get higher, can't quite take it yet there are surprises of those that can.
STABILITY FROM THE FIRST SWITCH-ON? ↑
Shop-bought spec Transistor Amps are usually designed to be Stable from the first switch on, or the first time the relay clicks on. This is because they use low-spec values that are ready straight away. We upgrade an amp to be it's best & this means On First Switch On it can take 1-2 minutes to settle the voltages. This means if you instantly try the Tone Controls or Switches like Filter or Tone on it can cause noises. It just means the higher spec components aren't ready yet for the 1-2 minutes. Those using valve amps will know they take 1-2 minutes to get to be settled right. Amps with Relays allow 5-20 seconds to settle which isn't enough. Non-relay amps like those pre 1971 usually are do start up the sound earlier, but if an amp makes loud noises just by powering on it has another issue, a fault or even a design fault. So if you get one of our upgraded amps, let it settle for 2 minutes before using proper & then it'll be fine. If you think this sounds a bit amateurish, then you need to understand how high quality we are aiming for to get the best sound sometimes way ahead of the original design spec.
WHAT WE DON'T DO ↑
Additional section... You can find sites that show how to totally redesign a Quad II into something that would be alien to Peter Walker & whether he'd like his classic design being altered so severely sadly can't be asked. This is deeply into the realms of Butchering a Classic & to rip out proven design that got the Quad II liked for what it was. But the Quad II used a valve rectifier that was old design as the 1963 Trio uses silicon diodes. The rectifier is left unused. The capacitor values are too low & then the cap block is redundant. Doesn't look much like a Quad now. Then the awkward Jones input socket that connects to the preamp & carries the voltages for the Pre is obsolete. The output sockets are not much good if aged. You need a mains earth from your Preamp or add one. The valves are generally obsolete unless you buy the few new versions. You get the idea, if you need to butcher a classic amp that much, go buy something nearer to what you want, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear as they say.
You'll read on Forums of those doing 'Mods' aka Modifications to Amplifiers. Heavens. Read the waffle they write & realise they haven't really got a clue & are attempting design. Often what they do in an uneducated way to amp ruins it & their story ends midway. As with anything you need to get it wrong before you get it right & it's the learning curve, assuming there is progress. Things like sorting out overhot power supplies is subtle redesign, trying to put a square peg in a round hole is a recipe for disaster.
Our way of Upgrading all the amps we have it to do it subtly & with respect to the original design. Not too much respect internally as we've done to our Trio valve amp to our own ideas making most of the original design redundant & that took many attempts over a few years. But it still looks very like it did & one part we made obsolete we just left in place for looks. Things like adding DC heater to that Trio valve amp we done for our own interest, but the odds of any other amp having the capability of a 'hidden' unused tap to get that is unlikely. To better the original amp without changing anything drastic is the idea, if you want 'mega bass' from your amp, we'll politely run a mile & say here that excess 'whoomp' like cars have is from pulling down treble & mid or having a very loud sub that only amplifies the bass. Hifi it isn't & we won't be doing any of that. Upgrading can bring a deeper bass though it won't be louder bass unless it was a limited spec originally. To better an old design only turns to arrogance when you want to do something that looks obvious & takes out major parts. But as with the Trio tube amp Hum Balance to DC conversion, it's worthwhile sometimes but must be done neatly or try selling it on looking messy & amateurish. One crazy ebayer took a cheap c1979 amp, ripped out the insides, built a basic valve amp inside & then wondered why no takers for £600. Because it was a nightmare. To fine tune & use better capacitors in a good amp is the subtle upgrading we'll do.
We have no interest in using fussy Exotic parts, there is no need for £40 capacitors or £10 resistors as we have got top results just with high quality parts like Panasonic FC & carbon resistors. We don't replace perfectly good steel or plated input sockets for Gold plated ones unless the old ones are useless like the oversized 1960s ones Sansui & Trio used on some. Output sockets for Speakers is less straightforward as some are awkward to use apparently, but even those screw-down ones like Rogers Cadet use are actually perfectly good if you take the time to fit fork connectors to cables. Some do prefer the 4mm binding posts that take a 4mm banana plug, but note most of these are a bit risky as the whole connector is live risking shorting. DIN sockets may be unpopular, but for amps that used them, usually 40w or less, they are still of good spec. You don't need 50A premium cables unless you are using 100w & even then they are way overspec. DIN cables are still found on ebay & for inputs we prefer the Y shape connector & use regular phono plugs. There is never any need to rip out DIN sockets & put in different types. No buyer will appreciate messed with amps as it looks amateurish. We do not replace high value capacitors in some amplifiers if the size difference is too extreme, eg Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 & Luxman L-100 have huge capacitors that if replaced would spoil the original look. With Yamaha, we've never replaced any of the big capacitors, on the CR-2020 for example modern ones may have a little higher value but are very expensive to replace an item that is still in good condition.
AH, BUT IT STILL WORKS, WE'LL LEAVE IT... ↑
Maintenance & Remedial work is often thought not worth the money as it'll 'be no better'. Wrong. We've had a good amp here that the owner said was cutting out, it was noisy on the controls & had a noticeable hiss on one channel. A brief look to estimate showed the amp needed quite a lot of work done, it was an amp we found surprisingly good, but the owner decided not to get it sorted. We don't do quick jobs or half jobs in servicing & repairs, it'll get fully cleaned, serviced, checked, tested & run in to be sure it's going to give good service. Why do anything less? We do all amps we get like this, to a very high quality, some may consider obsessive, but why do anything less? The amps are 30 to 50 years old & often unopened since new. Cars legally need checking & maintenance to get a MOT, but Hifi & other items get left be. Dentists used to say get the remedial work done to save further problems, but few do as they think it's just a money-making exercise. But as with anything, you'll be sorry when it goes badly wrong a day or year later if something has been diagnosed a problem. We're a little sad to give the amp back knowing it's life is finite & once it's failed, it'll never work again unless sold as faulty in which case it's value is very low as faults are a blind gamble. We'd have thought the amp having given years of good service already & been appreciated would be worth getting a clean bill of health to give many more years use, but maintenance is seen as wasted money, regardless of years of good use to get out of it. People appreciate faulty items being working again, but realising maintenance stops the expensive repairs isn't considered as there is no shock of failure then delight at revival. Take notice of someone who says your amp is on it's last legs. The owner of this amp could never find someone to even look at a complex amp, but on finding one who can do the job (us) the cost puts them off. We found out early on in selling Hifi that the better amps sell for a premium if properly serviced like our Sold Items pages show, the age of the hifi doesn't put buyers off, the knowledge it's raw & not looked at in 40 years is the gamble.
IT DOESN'T ALWAYS WORK OUT COMPLETELY... ↑
Sadly some amps, not just 1980s ones, are just too cost cut & with poor original design that upgrading can go so far, but try more & it brings out the weaknesses of the design. To go further & redesign the whole amp is possible but it's a huge job & takes a lot of mind-stretching to solve poor design that was made just to be what it was & little better. Others we've upgraded then reveal more hiss & background noise than before, other upgrades bring up crazy noises that previous low spec hid. In our experience the earlier amps let you do more to better them as they were well made & pre cost cutting that came in around 1974. Ones after 1974 seem to get more cost-cut each new range, so the 1978 range is usually pared to the bone in costs & the 1980 one goes even further. All brands were hard into cost cutting by 1977 which makes them hard work to try & have to undo things the better made earlier ones can take with ease. This is even being aware of every item they saved a few pence on. You could heavily redesign circuits, but then it gets to the point of going too far & getting another amp nearer to your ideals would suit better.
USER-BASED 'UPGRADES' ↑
Since hifi has been popular, from the late 1960s at least, there have always been 'easy cures' to Hifi woes. Most of it is sadly pointless & you may hear differences, but a differences is not usually better. Things like with Valve-Tube amps, 'tube rolling' where tonal differences in valves will only give a difference which you may prefer over another. The game of cables, directional, OFC six nines etc usually is rubbished when you see what cable is inside a 1963 valve amp, it's just tinned copper wire that still can deliver the best sound. Wire over a certain size will show no difference at all & the open lie about cables being directional for how the cable was rolled-stretched in manufacture is for the gullible only. So we've rubbished just about all user based upgrades, only ones that clean are any good really. The truth is the only upgrades that matter are firstly Servicing & Adjusting can change a dog rough Pioneer SA-9500 into something approaching the better end of Hifi. You can adjust to the settings stated in the service manuals, but we generally ignore this knowing their settings are still a compromise and are not bringing out the best in the amp, but may suit compatibility better. To then recap & upgrade based on design knowledge is the next step & this gives a subtle inprovement were finesse & quality come into play, treble is more focussed & extended, bass goes deeper though depending on design the thick retro bass may have vanished. In terms of design subtle tuning of components can make an infinite improvement difference than the illusions of user upgrades.
CARE IN USING AN UPGRADED AMP ↑
Having done quite a few now, the amp will now be upgraded in many ways & the amp is best left after switching on for a minute or two to get all stages to the correct voltages. Often the original spec was very limited so things settled quickly. Some later amps relays turn on within 2 seconds, after upgrading it can take about 10 seconds to click on as the spec is much higher. This means occasionally to avoid instantly using reactive controls like Low Filter stages and to a lesser extent Bass Tone controls for that minute or two. Once the voltages have settled in, the amp is ready to go. We'll test any features to be sure they don't make bad noises & it can mean a slight compromise is needed, but way less than the 'spoilers' the manufacturer used. Some amps also get Low Filters making a slight sound when used, this is usually compromised by putting in a component that limits bass which is against our ideals, so just a mild noise on Filter switch use is a minor compromise. Later amps use buffer stages to deal with this properly. We've watched some amps with meters on the test points to see things do take a little time to settle after upgrading. Some amps pre the relay era can make a noise on turn on which is due to design issues, and some make no sound at all until the amp is ready for music. Bigger power amps do make a mechanical 'bump' on turn on that is the transformer with pole reversal & you can see a traditional light bulb on the same mains circuit briefly dim. It does depend on the amp & if you are unsure of little uncertainty like this, it's why most amps are heavily limited to be universal & play totally safe & boringly. People didn't understand & complained. The spec we put into the amps is about the Sound Quality & like Valve Amps and Cars, a little time is needed to be at the optimal point that it will remain at. Once it's been on a few minutes, it'll be good for normal use. The amp will be much more extended on bass & treble so careful use of it is recommended, as the original spec of nearly every amp is made to be very limited on deep bass. Having unlimited bass sounds wonderful but care with it & speaker cones is recommended. As an example, if you drop the stylus on a record it may damage the record with a scratch, but also it'll give out a loud deep bass 'boop' that if set to high volume may cause problems. Again, this is why amp makers limit amps so heavily & mess the sound up. Our upgrades make a very lively amp that needs to be treated with respect.
We don't use the Lead-free solder as it just doesn't solder very well, looking like a dry joint. We use proper 1mm 60/40 Tin-Lead with 2% resin flux. Solder we usually use is the HQ Products Nedis Flux Cored Solder, it works great with an Antex 25w soldering iron. But not all Solder is equal: we have a big roll of 'Activity Solder' that doesn't flow very well leaving clumps as the flux is not good enough, needing the iron dipped in the flux tin sometimes. The Lead-Free stuff we first tried years ago as it was all Maplins sold when it was on general sale. It was horrible quality as stated & worst of all the different sort or strength of flux fumes gave us a red rash on the lower face & neck. Quickly dumped it & went back to the Good Stuff. Finding 100g reels are easier to use but run out quick, the 250g ones unravel a bit when new if the weight isn't a problem, No Solder flux is great as searching Google for 'solder flux rash' reveals, Rosin is the problem & also Tin and Lead are not exactly easy on you either but no problem at soldering temperatures. Rosin is used on Violin strings too, it's Tree Resin & when you solder, the smoke that comes off is Rosin oil smoke that goes on your face, lick your upper lip after a soldering session & understand. Good ventilation is the way around this, in cold weather to have a fan on is required, blowing the fumes away isn't enough. But a tiny USB powered desk fan is on ebay for £3 delivered as of typing, just enough to clear the fumes without making you cold. Also when soldering, be sure you'll touch the iron, to deal with the white bit now cooked, but some Vaseline on it to put oil on the cooked meat & it will ease the hurt & barely leave a mark.
VALVE AMPS ↑
We've worked on the 1960s ones as noted above as well as rebuilding Tube Technology amps for ourselves, the latest rebuild only recently & not completed the preamp yet. These usually take a lot of work to Upgrade & Recap as they are Hardwired, ie no PCB with a parts diagram. With a hard wired amp they can have several layers of component going over or across others & it takes a lot of working out. Only really the Rogers Cadet & HG88 amps are more straightforward, a valve receiver takes a huge amount to learn what is what. We've got a 1932 Pye G/GR radiogram that works, but all we did was buy the Pye G radio in nice original condition & do swapping. To replace 80 year old resistors & capacitors & keep it looking original is not really possible, though on this one you can hide the new capacitors in the case that's not visible & just leave the old 'pepperpot' ones in place if not connected. Similar with a Murphy 1936 console radio, the main capacitor block will need modern capacitors to work & they are again hidden. We've has Old Radiograms & 1950s portable record players & generally the old valve circuitry is very hard to work on & not really what we are interested in as these items aren't Hifi & are best left as original as you can, for collectors prefer them original not sounding or looking modern. On Valve 1960s receivers, for our own interest these end up being totally rebuilt but for the work & time involved we doubt there are customers willing to pay the price, though the results can be exceptional, it takes much time. To service a 1960s valve amp & leave in old power supply capacitors that we know are dried out is a poor service job. The Rogers Cadet & HG88 main capacitors are always dry & risk failing at the high voltages, we've seen one repair shop put his sticker on saying it's serviced but still has all the old capacitors so is a risky item to use. Another tagged with a Serviced label had obvious crusty leaking capacitor traces as well as swelling and it ran at 400v. So for Valve amps, we'll not offer a basic service as we know it'll not be good enough, only rebuilds using all new capacitors. No cheesy valve-stuffing either, only doing it properly will do. To offer valve amps back as Serviced that we know are almost dead & risky is not what we want to offer. If you have a Radford, Quad, Lowther or Leak you want rebuilt way beyond the jobs you see elsewhere & bringing a sound out of them that is far more modern than the blurry flabby old sound, then we may be for you. From our Amplifiers listing pages, it appears Stereo and the 1959 HFYB ranges were a turning point in quality, anything under 10w or older than 1959 is not for us & is best left as original as possible. We'll require the matching preamp to be sent too so we can use it with it's correct preamp, even if you don't want that upgraded. We've cut open enough old capacitors to know how they age too & see the Capacitors page for more.
1980s-MODERN AMPS? ↑
The thing is with most post 1980 beyond the risk of ICs in the Audio stages is that they are much too heavily cost cut. They can be very ugly things too with little collector appeal. Some more recent have surface mount parts including ceramic capacitors, no chance to upgrade those. Only the more traditional discrete components type amps are worth trying. The 1984 Technics SU-V707 computer controlled ones were just so cheaply made upgrading wasn't worth it. We did like the 1980 Yamaha A-720 though it was a one-board job & we didn't upgrade it. But one we did upgrade is one we bought when new, the Marantz PM62 amplifier. We gave it more of a vintage richer sound that worked well though with an IC for the preamp stage & phono it could upgrade too much. If you have a 50w or higher modern amp free of ICs in the Tone & Main Amp stages then you might like it upgraded using our 'Old School' 1960s-early 1970s ideals of sound. How well they would upgrade is an unknown & we'd see the circuit diagrams before even agreeing to do anything. It could work well or not be much different depending on which amp & we'd not want to waste your money if we didn't think it was with a good chance to improve noticeably. We know people will ask if a Pioneer A-400 is worth upgrading. 'No' is the answer, it's just a cheap amp of no finesse despite the hype of the era comparing it to other mediocre new items. Another popular modern one, NAD C-370 we bought one that got mashed by the courier but had a look inside anyway & were shocked how poor the design was & at that era the bad capacitor syndrome meant the capacitors were swelling up. We'd not bother with that either. Anything post 1980 for us must be 50w to 100w, no ICs in the Audio Stages & to be worthy it must have been a top range sort of item when new. Anything higher power will not be 'Hi Fi' enough for the multiple output stages. Does that actually leave very many to try?
WHAT DO WE DO? ↑
To put it simply: get the amp to sing it's best. Specifications, square wave & lab tests? We aren't much interested in that is our perhaps surprising reply. We do it for the Sound Improvement. We've been doing our Trio valve amp recently, designing by ear & deciding the sound was spot on, decided to get the test gear out. The test values were correct & for the sound we like, we run the valves hot, as in current draw. We don't usually do heavy handed alterations to need to retest for specifications, the Trio valve we've redesigned from AC heaters to DC & added the bias in, see the Valves page for more. Your ears tell you more about an amplifier sound being good or having a distortion or edginess especially when you've heard & worked on Valve amps where the best sound is possible though nothing comes easily & you can't buy it in a shop from any manufacturer. Tried & tested 'experiments' are what all ideas are, some things work better with some amps & others don't. The ones that don't will let you know by making unexpected sounds & getting too warm, these are usually poor designs to start with & you only find out by giving things a try with known good ideas. A lot of music listening goes into perfecting an amp, or deciding that it's not worth going further for reasons such as awkwardness or needing to unsolder parts that are difficult. One Yamaha has several fiddly boards & to unsolder those more than once is not a good idea. One Sony has a lot of hard wiring that tends to come loose on too much board turning & checking is required. Listen to the amp & listen through the obvious weakness to see if there is anything good in it, try some ideas & listen more. Have a couple of reference amps to refresh the mind as it's easy to fool yourself on sound balance. Making an amp sound very focussed may mean it sounds clean but it can sound harsh compared to others as the design was made less focussed to hide the harshness. Again only finding out by experimenting will reveal things. Not many transistor amps can be perfected like a valve amp can, but to do the best you can with the design without involving changing critical resistors is the aim. We'll keep looking for amps for our own experimenting & keep going further in our valves vs transistors ideals, one amp we are currently going to do 'pure valve style' and see if it can take it. If it sounds like we're experimenting on your amp, then perhaps it is. Unless we know the amp ideas will be tried & adjusted to the needs of that amp, all based on good ideas that are known to be safe, sound good & are reliable. He who dares wins. He who does his daring with knowledge behind it wins more often.
WHY HIFI ISN'T MADE LIKE THIS ↑
See below for one seasoned hifi buyer's opinion the day after he got one of our Beauties. He sees no need to buy anything better ever again. No manufacturer would want you buying one product & being happy with it for more than 5 years nowadays, but older items are so much better made & can last 100 years. Our old Pye G/GR radiogram is 82 years old now & still works, the only limits are the crude technology of the day. Assuming you pick a good amp to upgrade, you too could have an amplifier you'll keep for many years. There are no guarantees with Vintage gear but just about all can be repaired & even transformers rewound so the odds are in years to come people will be using 100 year old Hifi & still thinking it sounds better than whatever is around. A person who keeps buying Hifi is a person who's never found their best yet & relying on Reviews that may be advertiser backed, their search will continue. You are reading an unique website & others have said this too. We are just doing this for our own interest & making some money along the way as with the Record Dealing. We've found there aren't as many good amps as there could be, though there are quite a few we've not tried & still look out for them. Some of our favourites we've revisited again after having so many here at once it got a bit much, but the better amp will stand out & for techniques found with Valve amps, to transfer the ideals to Transistor has given remarkable results. Not all amps are good enough & just because it's 50w doesn't mean it's a good amp. Some 25w amps like 1960s Pioneer & Trio-Kenwood as on our Top Amps page were of very good quality, but to upgrade them using techniques for 50w amps will need some taming still, but we'd be happy to deal with quality amps of any power. Not that we consider amps over 100w particularly to be quality, 340w Marantz 2600, do you really need that much power? It'll just be mostly current for the low efficiency craze of old.
LIMITATIONS OF UPGRADING ↑
By upgrading amps they become a much higher spec. On some amps we see they've put certain limiters in to stop certain minor issues, but to keep these limits in is not what we are doing. As an example, some mid 1970s amps have a capacitor-charged delay for the Relay to turn on. Sometimes this is adequate & sometimes it's turned on too soon & then it turns the relay off & on again. Also we've noticed Low Filters can make a 'boop' noise on use, especially if you use it right on turning it on. Later ones added buffers to stop this, but it adds more circuitry. Some can even make a noise on using the Tone control unless you put in very limited capacitor values. On upgrading, we set the relay turn on to suit a typical delay though know it might not always be adequate, but better than putting a very long delay. In this case, best to use the amp with Speakers switched Off until the amp has settled after 2 minutes to avoid the relay click noises. To watch the Bias & DC offset settle to a normal level can take 60 seconds after the relay turns on. It's not perfect we know but to put the old limited values in or not upgrade certain parts is not the point to stop minor issues like this. We are working with designs that were limited to be universal, really all we can say is a few mid 1970s amps with these features may need a little learning to use as stated. Those upgrading cars find similar problems, but with Hifi to put back heavy limiters to cover a minor issue is against the idea of upgrading. Some amps before the days of the relay, which was 1970-71 with semi complimentary design the standard, there can be noises on turn-on even on the original spec. Just turn the Speaker switch off, if there is one, until a minute after turning on. Valve amps awaken in stages as one stage gets to optimal voltages so you'll often hear adjusting noises & levels of background hiss in the first 60 seconds until it settles. Upgraded amps are unlimited amps to a certain degree, to tame it & limit it as the manufacturers do is why it sounds so different after removing limitations & upgrading. To have a few minor things on turn-on is a small price to pay for the best sound out of an amp.
UPGRADING CAPACITORS: Good or Bad? ↑
We read with a little amusement then bemusement that one Repair Shop states that Upgrading Many Capacitors Is A Bad Thing without them explaining further. Not very helpful or knowledgeable sadly. To firstly Agree with them and state that the amateur blindly replacing like with like or guessing is pretty pointless in an otherwise good amp. But then easily to rubbish such comment... these Capacitors are Old & some amps despite working perfectly can really come alive with upgraded quality capacitors, but always at further cost: the rest needs to match the quality. One Sony amp we had was still with all the original Elna grey capacitors & all were in good order even after cutting some open after recapping. But the old capacitors were left unused for decades so not even a long running-in could "reform" them so they were below optimal from how other amps sound. We use design techniques in upgrading & this nice but unremarkable amp is now remarkably good. But here comes the balance of More Agreement with the other person: Upgrading reveals weaknesses & what might have sounded quite decent as-is can now be too wild & need further deep upgrading to bring the low spec of the design up to the quality those new capacitors can reveal. It's like putting a V8 into a Mini. That Sony amp needed a lot more major if subtle upgrading including some unexpected issues that arose from it's modest origins once exposed. They mention recapping Tuner Circuits, not to be touched unless you understand is our opinion, but we've upgraded a few Tuner stages completely both in Transistor & Valve & this is very much an improvement, but it takes care as does all we do. That same Repair shop had their large shop sticker on the back of a Rogers Cadet III valve amp they say they serviced. We know the 50+ year old caps are long since dried out & when they'll fail is the risk to take... We'd certainly not trust any amp over 30 years age for daily use as having tried enough, problems do develop. Anyone blindly replacing things with no knowledge of what they are doing is surely going to get it wrong & we didn't learn what we do now the easy way.
TO UPGRADE OR NOT TO UPGRADE? ↑
This is the Dilemma we have with our 1966 Coral A-550 18w amp. It sounds wonderful and the intention was to keep it all original as a reference. But the thing is it worked but the L channel was louder than the R channel & readings proved both the pre & power amp were inaccurate with a total of 30% difference. For it's purpose as an amplifier, you can still use it adjusting the balance but you're not getting the full sound volume. Recapping made it look too new so we kept the old ones in a bag but a coupe were a bit crusty so they are not to be reused. The transistors are long obsolete with no data findable, but to one who knows hifi not too hard to put in new ones, the old ones are quite hissy as so early. Also the early amps as we note on the Top Amps page are sometimes needing 3-core mains cables as a AC potential from floating ground is on the case & this needs the 3-core cable. So the question would be: keep an off-spec amp all original & use the balance control or upgrade it within it's 18w to work properly. The fact it needed a new neon & the case was painted dark needing refinishing shows old hifi can be a big job. The conclusion is still to be decided, but to sell it imbalanced is not good enough so it'll likely get a new set of transistors if not the output ones.
UNDOING BAD REPAIRS & FIDDLING ↑
Some amps had an easy life, they got used by the owner for 2-4 years & then got stored away for decades. Buyers do (or did) generally believe 'new is better' and bought a newer item & abandoned the old one which was often a better item in retrospect. These amps usually sat in lofts & attics unprotected so will have been subject to heat & cold and possibly damp. These amps are usually the better sort of amp to find. Other amps were used for much longer years, sometimes used continually for all their life. It means they will have got repairs done & sadly those who fiddle amateurishly with the insides means these efforts need to be undone. Our Luxman L-100 had been through a few owners & one fool had taken out one relay & soldered on the push on block wires instead of knowing how to get them serviced. It took a lot to find these parts & put it back, the raw luck of finding the odd flat relays is unusual. So this is a Grey Area: for us to service we can undo old fiddling & do the repairs properly, but naturally it'll cost more. We've seen awful TV grade repairs where they are too lazy to get the right resistors, they use unsuitable equivalents & then the bad soldering. What may lurk inside a nice looking amp will only be found on investigation. Again, the customer will be told & given the option of what to do, but we're not happy saying old bad work is properly Serviced or Upgraded until the old bad work is remedied. Call it Perfectionism, but to do it properly it's the only way.
WHAT ARE BAD UPGRADES? ↑
We see amps occasionally Amateurishly 'Upgraded' but to us these are just getting them working but no better at all. Signs of Amateur work are being lazy not to source the right type of components: using coaxial (wires same end) capacitors where a proper axial (wire each end) capacitor is required. Similarly using PCB mount coupling capacitors joined mid wire with a blob of solder in valve amps, be sure neither of these last long as they will get knocked & come loose as well as possibly touching where they shouldn't. The Amateur on one Leak Stereo 20 did just this but never thought to touch the 50 year old main caps that will be dried out. The usual way here is to not understand upgrading & just use the same aged hopeless values, so you see tiny capacitors in big capacitor holders as well as the awful 'capacitor stuffing' idea where new caps are put inside the old cans. It takes research & design knowledge to do this properly & not having it look unreliable, this is why buyers prefer Original Items rather than badly fiddled with ones. There are some who do it right, as we do, but as we write this to encourage rather than put down, it is extremely rare we see a well upgraded amp skillfully done.
HIFI FORUMS... ↑
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 the unknown 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 (in 2012), 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.
A Critique On One Valve Amp 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.
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.
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.
Not all Amps can take our Full Upgrades
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 now 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.
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.
Has an Amateur Worked On The Amp?
There are amateur well-meaning Hifi folk out there, 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.
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.
Taking Advice from Hi-Fi Forums.
Forums are generally inexperienced people waffling on about problems & show their lack of experience. No professional is going to bother wasting their time answering questions. 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.
WE'VE SOLD QUITE A FEW OF OUR 'EXPERIMENTAL' AMPS... ↑
'Our Amps' meaning ones we've kept around for quite a while & upgraded as new ideas emerged. In designing our Valve amps a few years back, we could often be taken aback at how much better the Music sounds. It's like taking a Blanket away from in front of the speakers. It's all down to fine tuning & upgrading. These Amplifiers are the ones we've done just to see what can be done with time & money not considered. Most of the highest rated ones we've done this to. Not all buyers of our own upgraded amps are so eloquent to say how they feel, the Trio TK-140 liked it & mentioned how loud it played, The Rogers HG88 Mk III buyer we didn't think quite understood it, the Yamaha CR-2020 buyer we sold the upgraded CR-800 too & he felt the 2020 had spoiled him for how great he said it sounded.
The Sony STR-6120 we've raved about for ages we've recently sold as we don't need all these amps anymore. The buyer had tried our Sony TA-1130 which we traded back & are in the process of giving 'the treatment' although it was basically recapped it didn't have the dynamic sound of the 6120. His opinion of our STR-6120 is this... "To say that I was staggered by what I heard would be putting it mildly. I have never heard such a marked and huge improvement in all my years of enjoying hi-fi, it was like the first time I saw an HD TV with the difference in picture quality. The bass output is like I have never heard before and was totally unexpected. Over the last couple of years I have bought and subsequently sold quite a large number of so called high end amplifiers that were touted as being prodigious in that department but the 6120 simply blows them all away. I knew within the first hour that this is the final amp for me and I will not be replacing this ever. The sound quality is very clean and is so effortless, nothing I have had before even comes close to what I heard yesterday evening. You have done an excellent job on it and I can fully understand why you praised it so much. It's amazing that a 46 year old amplifier is so much better than anything made today and will probably outlast me. I liked the 1130 but this is in a different league altogether. Many thanks for all your advice and for selling the 6120, it is worth every penny."
We know the feeling, it's like Falling in Love and seeing the World in a new light. On finally getting some amps right we can hear it extends beyond others in a similar way, to use amazing & jawdropping words today seems a little crass, but to sit there genuinely feeling that is what Hifi done Properly can be. No shop bought Hifi can sound the way we get them to sound, fine tuning & subtle upgrading is the only way.
VALVE TECHNIQUES IN TRANSISTORS? ↑
Having the Sony TA-1130 back again, we went to teach it a lesson & ourselves too, it's getting Valve-type upgrades. No limiters or spoilers. Nothing but pushing it a little further than any other, but at 65w there is enough headroom. A similar less extreme ideal had worked fine on the Sansui 3000A & Yamaha CR-1000, but this went fully unclothed into the road. It now sounds remarkable, how much further up the Remarkable Tree can we go? (quite a bit... reading this later) The midrange & bass is not what we've heard in a Transistor amp before & with the finely detailed treble, it's a big improvement. It takes informed if a bit deranged nerve to do these things, but it's how advances are made. It makes us think some amps were designed to perfection & then heavily limited as "they ain't getting that." or the manufacturers would never sell any later product as they couldn't hype it as being 'better' in the hifi golden years. Whether an amp like this could be done for another and hope the rest of their hifi would work fine or they'd not misuse their loaded gun of an amp & get into trouble. This is why manufacturers dumb down & limit amps as they don't know the end user. Only bad or cost cut designs need limiting. Would the original spec of the TA-1130 sound anything like this without recapping & upgrading? We'd not dare try & don't suggest you try just a few things hoping the rest will be good enough, you need to build your amp on very solid foundations before doing the extreme stuff. Because we like to play, our next amp to look at is the Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I. You can read we don't rate the similar SX-950 receivers too highly, so what will we think of this? Our Top Amps (Reviews) page tells.
FAKE TRANSISTORS? ↑
In the amps we deal with, 1967 to 1980 the vast majority of the transistors are available either as original or a better spec equivalent. These are easy & reliable. But those dealing with 300w late 1970s amps, IC type outputs or V-FETS can run into the big problem of these rare-unfindable parts being faked. Some transistors we use as equivalents are tried & tested ones that are still in production after 40 years, simply as they are ideal. But the ones faked are custom ones only used on certain amps & the stock of them long sold out. Rare transistors are being relabelled from ones of the same case type. The nasty STK power amp ICs ones are faked too, but we'd never consider a STK designed amp hifi anyway. But be sure a lot of "fakes" are actually real ones misused by the person fitting them who done it wrong. One forum shows a TDA7240A 7 pin transistor sized IC saying 2 are "fake" but one is good, but it's a £4-5 part, unlikely they are faked. The specs of any transistor made by another company would be the same. Faulty transistors do exist, we had one for a Marantz amp to repair that the newly bought transistor BCE pins were the wrong way round to the case shape. But it was a £1 item commonly found, it'd not be a fake. Case markings change over time & a 1960s output transistor from a B+O amp looks very different to the new ones. For this reason, if we had an amp that had damaged rare output transistors, the customer would be made aware of the risk in buying new ones or to pay the expected high prices to be sure you get a real one. Even Capacitors are faked, the trusted brands are often £15-20+ for big value high voltage ones so to see ones from China for £4 each is clearly a fake. If unsure, Google & find reports.
IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW, GET IN A PRO. ↑
We've had those who want the facts & info on how to Upgrade amps valve & transistor and think one who knows how will gladly tell. That's more than a bit naive & even if you do trust another to tell you, do you really think you could do the job properly & not trash the thing or hurt yourself? This is why the Yellow Pages is full of Tradesmen willing to do Work for you. But with dealing with us, we've written all these pages so you can get where were coming from & know our ideals in things. In other ways you get a recommendation or just take your chance & you might get something truly wonderful or you might end up in more bother. Do you go & tinker with your car & have it never work again? Get in someone who knows & get it done properly. We've spend a lot of time learning how to do this for our own interests to a very high standard some may see a little obsessive even. Do you know how to wire a mains plug to a high standard? Wires go in places indeed but when you do it is it with skill leaving a tidy job? There are no step by step guides when it comes to electronics & even Car manuals expect you to know what you are doing & just give the circuit diagram of the car as we see with hifi circuits. If you want to do it on the cheap, you are welcome to glean bits of info from amateurs on forums & then wonder why you ruined it as you will. We had our learning curve, you don't learn overnight without consequence. Would you trust leaving it plugged into the mains even? The sort of advice people naively want is to say do this to that & the other to here & know exactly what they mean, provide full diagrams & hints on how to do it & for having given advice take responsibilty for them trusting another who'll likely fail? Away with ya. Forums are full of this & you'll find ways to do things too that are not a good idea. To even consider to mess with things without a clue of what is involved is insane. Leave it to the skilled professional though be aware many 'Skilled' or Qualified people know very little on their subject. We got a BTEC in Electronics years ago & for what was involved it is valueless without years of hands-on experience within your chosen field. All our qualifications show is we put enough effort into learn a set syllabus to prepare us to do the theoretical side of Electronics, very little was practical work beyond basic circuits. Considering deep fault finding, audio design, knowledge of the best sound & upgrading isn't part of any course we could have done, all we learnt is from our efforts & it's often done the hard way over many years & with a rare desire to better things as well as the mental capabilities & nerve to try. And you think you can do it too without any experience?
IS IT WORTH BOTHERING TO UPGRADE? ↑
What's the amp worth to you? If it's externally in good condition with the wood case if one was available as an extra, then if the amp means something to you & you want it to be 'like new' inside if done subtly but upgraded beyond the limited old spec, then it is worthwhile. Is it worth you spending £500 or £1000 on is the next decider. We're not going to do rebuilds cheap or use cheap parts & based on many amps we've rebuilt the cost would be in this region. If you don't want to spend £200 on it even, either do it yourself & not have the designer based upgrades, or just get it serviced & working 'good enough' or sell it on if you decide you don't want to spend on it. Unless we've rebuilt the amp before we can't be sure how well it will upgrade, some do better than you expect & some can't do much beyond the original limited design. We keep finding amps we like to rebuild & by taking this approach it can rewrite opinions on brands as well as lessen others. Some can sound as good as a rebuilt valve amp yet others have limitations that can't be overcome without doing heavy alterations which may suit the owner but anyone buying it after you tire of it might not be interested as it has too much non-original. We do subtle work only. To ask us if we think it's worth upgrading an amp is difficult. We've done quite a few & some were not really worth bothering & those we can now weed out. But one person asked about an early Sony STR-6060. What it would upgrade to be is uncertain. It's got a lot of early parts that we'd upgrade to better spec but it's a big job. If we had one a while back when we had 10+ amps here trying them all out, it would have got redone as we think it's an interesting amp. But now we have sold off the upgraded amps that we had, to do more will happen if we pick ones to do more carefully. For example, a Pioneer SA-9500 Mk I is arriving the day after we typed this. We are interested in it to see what a Pioneer higher range amp is like compared to the receivers, but whether we'll rebuild it will be decided on. A year ago we'd have rebuilt a SX-850 but the sale didn't work out & to rebuild & find if Pioneer upgrade as good as Sansui, Sony & Yamaha is still tempting, if perhaps on an earlier model. We did try with the SX-1500TF but found old repairs made it too hard to do well enough. Valve receivers & amps we'd like to do more of, the big USA brands McIntosh, Marantz, Fisher & Sherwood are worthy of rebuilding, but here some of the prices are so high that rebuilding a Marantz 8 & paying the $k to do it properly might not be popular with anyone we'd sell it to at any time. Usually vintage valve amp buyers like to do the work themselves as the forums reveal, to trust any other person's ideas of upgrading is difficult. At least with us you have all these pages written by the person who'll be working on your amp to decide if their ideals agree with yours. Those lucky buyers who got our few rebuilt amps recently we've asked back how they like them & those that are wordy tell us of their delight as seen on one comment.
A FULL UPGRADE IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED. ↑
You've got one of the better amps or receivers. They make a good price but on hearing yours you think it's not really good enough compared to it's reputation. A reputation based on how it was when new, but that was 30-50 years ago. Your amp still looks great in high grade but ou just don't play it as often anymore. It might sound a bit rough now & the bass doesn't go as deep as you'd like. Your amp is very likely tired & age-limited by old spec parts. You might have played music a lot when you were younger but now those songs are only playing in your head. You need to rediscover them in a sound quality way better than you remember. You want to sit there really agape in surprise at how great that track sounds now. No mere OMG hype, you really can be surprised at how much deeper you can get into the music. Music is one of the most vital entertainment sources, you can't watch a TV show or Film 20 times without being considered a nerd, but the best music you can hear dozens of times & still enjoy after 30 years as it becomes Nostalgia of nice times as well as it being understood more. We're not into Classical, but like the detail of music in the way a Classical person likes to pick out the third violin. The best Nostalgia is having the old better than it was when new which is why 'Counting Cars' TV show & Danny's car restorations & builds make people so happy. If you like the amp as it is even, to get it upgraded means you’ll likely never want any other.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT DONE ↑
If you want a Service & maybe an Upgrade, discuss it first & agree a set price. Upgrading includes a Service anyway so to do the whole job in one go will be better value. If you want a quality job done rather than a cheap job, then you've found the right place. If you want our Upgrades be sure your other Hifi is good enough to reveal how much improved it is. To use it with budget modern items is a waste of time & for the issues of incompatibility that may arise. A good basic system today can simply be a Computer Soundcard & a decent pair of headphones. Using old tape decks, bits from Midi systems & the like even if you're hoping to buy better ones isn't recommended. The price of our upgrade will limit the likelihood though we have sold our upgraded amps to people who then said it wasn't compatible & revealed what junk they used with it. To have to dumb down the amp to suit mediocre gear is pointless. Cheap speakers with wild impedance curves are one menace, grounding issues, RF & Hum are another.
ONE AT A TIME, PLEASE. ↑
We don't know how popular this Upgrading will be. Once those who've bought our upgraded amps sold quite recently get the word around as well as any upgrade jobs, we might have to limit things to having one job on the go & when the current one is nearly done then start dealing with another one arriving. To have more than one amp here is pressure & we don't care to rush or have deadlines or piles of awaiting hifi. How quick an amp can be turned round to deliver back is unpredictable, though even for a complex job once things start to head beyond 4 weeks, not including delays in trying to source spares etc, then that's a bit too long. But rebuilding valve amps & receivers as you can read on the Valves page with our Trio WX-400U is the most advanced job as will be any item more complex.
For a repair shop doing very basic work, to Guarantee just the Work They Have Done is the usual deal. Anyone saying they Guarantee the Whole Item for a Year is either charging a bonus or is a little naive. All Hifi we get gets a full Service meaning all things are cleaned & checked. A Repair involving eg. a Rogers Cadet III offering a Year Guarantee will have no idea the 50 year old capacitors in the power supply are already dried out & are not going to survive a Year of Daily Use. For us, we've sold quite a lot of Serviced Amplifiers as well as more of our Upgraded "Experimental" ones. The way we look at it is the Amp goes out to the Customer in top condition with every little issue dealt with already & time proves we are successful in how Obsessive our work is. There will always be the Few who do dumb things, the Shorting The Speaker Wires one sadly does occur as well as those who misuse & don't understand things. Our Detective Skills in the Black Art of Fault Finding in Hifi means we can tell what caused an amp to fail & therefore know what to look at first. So if ever any issue arises, we'll gladly help you out & most problems can be answered with a few paragraphs of not too technical text. The likelihood of a fault occuring in normal use is miniscule though things do happen as we find out during our deep testing of these amps & this is the catch-all for Amp Problems. The bottom line is do we offer an Unconditional Guarantee on a full amplifier of 30 to 45 years age? No. Our Guarantee to you is that we've deeply checked & tested it to be sure things won't fail the day after the year passes. Your Guarantee is the Skill of the Craftsman. A Guarantee usually covers the rushed way a Repair Person may work & things they missed, we don't rush & we know your amp intimately. Look at our Amps Sold pages to see what we sell as Serviced & Upgraded Hifi. The Standard is exceedingly high. Please note We Do Not Work On Tuners beyond minor adjustments, any of these minor adjustments are based on the meter on the tuner stage or by ear to get MPX playing stereo. This is done as a courtesy & if you have further issues with the Tuner, as we have stated that Tuners are Not Part of Upgrades or Repairs, then you need to find a Tuner Specialist. We tried one London based repair guy who talks himself up a bit about fixing a misaligned Tuner of ours & got no reply, even he knows that results with Tuners are very unpredictable to stay away.
is one aspect a Customer will want to know. If you have an amp you want upgraded, send us some photos, ones of the inside to see if it's untouched original or not are the most helpful. No quotes blind are possible on what an "xxx" would cost as that is too vague without seeing the amp. We can tidy wood cases if not reveneer them, you need a Car Interior veneer shop to do that sort of work & we couldn't get a quote out of one.
Bear in mind a full upgrade & service could take 10-20-40 hours work to research it, apply the upgrades & then do the components work. You can see elsewhere Skilled Labour is about £35 per hour & bear in mind we are adding in Design Work too, not just replacing like for like. Amps we know & have upgraded will be easier & there is more hifi than just Yamaha though we have done several. There is no fixed routine, ideas are tailored to the amp itself to keep it within it's limits & to be sure it behaves well. Skilled labour costs plus design work are not cheap & neither are we. If you think a full upgrade & recap is going to be cheap then you don't have much idea of the work involved. You might be better off looking for our upgraded amps we sell as retailing an upgraded amp has to be priced to sell, rather than charge full costs involved. Not that we have any to sell now but our experimenting will continue & we don't want a hoard of upgraded amps.
Any price Estimate assumes the Amplifier is in decent external & internal condition, ie not damaged or missing parts or heavily modified by another. For those who got caught up in the floods, your Hifi may be salvageable, but based on soggy ex-attic finds they might not be as reliable anymore even after a full rebuild. These amps are best sold on fairly described as what they are as people do buy them for parts & spares, wanting controls & other non-electrical bits. An estimate to fully recap a quality amp could be a £300 to £1000+ job depending on how complex it is & how far you want us to go. A lot of work, parts & time is put into these jobs. Any repair or service will be a minimum of £100. There are no cheap jobs or just do a lottle bit jobs, TV repair guys are there for that, not us.
Our way of upgrading cares for the best from the Amp & this is what you are paying for: A Quality Upgrading Service. So after having done the CR-800 already & being familiar with it, we could get a second one done at a cheaper price than if it was an unknown. The unknown amp will take hours more learning of it & then knowing what to do. We offered a rebuild upgrade to the enquirer for our upgrade at a price plus any extras in addition to the expected job, to cover for damage that the amp already had or extra repairs needing doing. It's not cheap & for the fact you are paying for Skilled Labour & Design Knowledge, it won't ever be cheap. We have the risk of encountering problems too & have to stick to a price regardless. Unless you don't want to spend that much & don't think the amp is worth spending that on. We'd tell you if your amp wasn't worth the effort as we probably wouldn't be interested in working on a mediocre project anyway. If you have a power amp that needs work, we'll need the matching preamp ideally to make sure it's working right, if we don't need to have you get the preamp serviced. As we are in the UK, any amp must be 220-240v rated. We'll not work on 110-120v only ones unless you have a suitable external transformer.
On looking at your Amp, we will give an Estimate of what we expect it to cost to Repair or Upgrade on seeing it. Giving a price without seeing an unknown-to-us amp is very hard. Once we've seen it we'll give an estimate. An Estimate means what we'd expect it to cost. Some amplifiers need repair first to even know what could be wrong. In doing an estimate, as we deal in Hifi, we may offer a Buy-In price if the cost may put you off Repairing or Upgrading. We don't boost estimates so you'll sell it & we don't harvest parts to make a better amp elsewhere. Yours is all yours always, unless replaced or repaired naturally. We don't offer our work just to end up buying or trading amps, but it at least gives you an option, after all an amp we can see is worth more to us than a blind gamble on an unknown non-worker. If you send us an amp & don't fancy the price to Repair or Upgrade it, some amps will need both, the Estimates are Free beyond the cost of Courier both ways. No obligation to take our offer, but don't think it's a fishing expedition as we don't give free diagnosis telling all the faults & work needed, just a general idea. If we have to do things to the hifi item to get it working, as in it's sent as 'not working' for any reason, then this is charged as a job by the hour even if you don't decide to proceed. Payment for this plus return delivery is what it'll cost to get it back if you decide it's too expensive, but you'll have understood any recap or repair job will be a certain price level as stated above in 'Pricing'. We'll give an estimate of varying possibilities from minor to major jobs & there may be the option tro trade in the amp for one of ours that are recapped & ready to go. Saying that keeps the freeloaders away.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN OUR WORK... ↑
Send us a message & we'll discuss your amp. If you're not sure you want to spend a Few Hundred Pounds on improving your Amp, then we are not for you. We don't do General Repairs & won't waste your time by trying to make out an inferior amp is worth spending Money on. You may insist we do upgrade a budget priced late 1970s 25w amp, but we probably aren't much interested in working on amps that can't take proper upgrades. Not all amps by the better brands are good ones, though power ratings usually narrows it down.
Send us a couple of photos of the amp, front & back so we can see the amp itself. No need to take it apart for inside photos if it's a Transistor amp, but for a Valve one this will help. If there are any faults we can deal with these as part of the job. Your amp will be Serviced which includes cleaning, adjusting, new bulbs if they are dead or blackened & hours running in to check it is reliable, especially good on amps left for a few years.
A quote might not be possible if we've not had the amp to see how it is, some amps can be very awkward to work on & we'll need to see it first, offer a quote & then the customer can accept or decline & pay for the courier return. This counts as a Free Estimate with no obligation, but you'll be paying two lots of courier fees. If you don't accept the Upgrade costs and want it returned, we may offer you a price to buy it which you are not obliged to accept. Many pictures of amps are findable online but don't tell the whole story.
If you want to spend the money getting your amp rebuilt into something wonderful, we are for you. If like quite a few asking so far, you want to do it on the cheap & be told how to do it yourself, thinking you can get all our design knowledge & experience then you are wasting your time and need a reality kick. No book tells you how to do these things, it's is all based on experience & informed experimenting as is the way things progress. We offer a Service & the idea here is to do it for you & be paid for the work. There are no "easy fix kits" and there never will be.
See the Hifi Sales Page for more Terms of Sale, including Courier Insurance.
To send us any Amplifier, it needs to be packed solidly in a strong box with at least 2" of solid packaging at all corners to protect. Several wraps of the big-bubble bubblewrap is fine even for a 20kg amp but be aware damage occurs most often at corners so be sure they are firmly packed as just bubblewrap at corners isn't enough. For sending us amps, the Mains Plug is best removed leaving a bare wire, these are a nuisance to pack & we've bought a few amps where the plug had damaged the amp. If the amp has the 'kettle-computer mains' style 3 pin mains plug-in cable, no need to include that as we have plenty, though more obscure types we probably don't have.
COURIER DELIVERY & BANK TRANSFER. ↑
Insurance is required for using a Courier & we recommend UPS. We use Interparcel at www.interparcel.com & select Interparcel Standard (or Economy) for their same 1 day delivery, despite what is noted by Interparcel. We are in Watford, UK, though this is a residential address & we deal strictly by Courier only. We give our postal address & details only on invoices as some people think any address is a shop they can turn up to uninvited.
Buyer pays UPS Courier delivery to us & the price will add the UPS return to you at cost using your same packaging. We don't do home visits or collections, only Couriers. Non UK buyers will differ with rates & possibly UPS availabilty. We'll provide packing info to ensure the amp arrives safely & Full Insurance both ways is required.
As you are basically dealing with a stranger with a website on the Internet, to use Couriers to prove delivery & Bank Transfer to prove payment makes it a safe & confident way to deal. Trusting dropping things off in person to an address be it a shop or home & paying by Cash used to be good years ago, but to safeguard yourself with proof of delivery & payment is the safest way today.
Payment on straightforward jobs is full payment up front & it'll be returned within 2 weeks. Payment on more advanced or expensive jobs is 50% upfront & the remainder before delivery. No Paypal, Bank Transfer is the only way. If you have other Hifi you want to use as a Trade-In to pay for our Upgrades, we'll consider any quality Transistor Amplifiers or Receivers of 40w or more only, or certain valve amps of 10w or more, so contact us first. We do deal in Vintage Records as the Website suggests & will take good quality 45s & EPs as trade in.
FROM OUTSIDE OF THE EU ZONE & CUSTOMS. ↑
USA-WORLDWIDE CUSTOMERS: We are in the UK & have had USA buyers wanting upgrades, but the trouble is USA to UK by a Courier is Expensive. For a 20kg parcel it can add £250 or $400 to the cost of upgrading. If you aware of this, then we can upgrade your amp, but it needs to be a Multivoltage one as UK uses 240v.
SEMI-EU COUNTRIES: Some European countries are not fully in the EU so require Customs Declarations, such as Switzerland & Norway. This makes things difficult as to get full Insurance you must fully Declare the Value. There are other ways such as declaring 'as you wish' and being sure the amp is properly packed to arrive safely. It is your item after all & how you pack it & Insure-Declare it is your choice.
CUSTOMS: For us in the UK to import items, we get 20% VAT on the Declared Value over £20 plus now they cynically add in the Postage paid to the Declared amount, and then an £8.00 Customs Fee. In days of old, Customs actually used to read $400 as £400 and charge on that, but with Courier Forms the Currency is clear. The thing is if we get Customs Charges the customer must cover them or we'll just refuse to accept & it'll be returned to you. There are commercial ways such as the IPR procedure & RGR that we are not getting involved in as this is for Corporations. The deal here is entirely your choice if you are happy covering all costs. On getting an item that has Customs Fee to pay, it is posted to us with the amount to pay clearly shown. For some Countries the big Couriers like UPS & DHL charge £300 which is a undiscounted rate, but a 20kg limit is possible via your Post Office for £30 to £40 plus insurance etc. All paperwork must be compledted by yourself, we do not issue Customs invoices or anything else like that. On the return we will follow the Customer's instructions similarly & use the same packaging.
IMPORTANT SMALL PRINT. ↑
FOR RECAP-UPGRADE ON WORKING AMPS WITH NO OBVIOUS SERIOUS FAULTS, our usual way is to Invoice & start the job once paid, with the intention of returning it to you in 3-4 weeks, so please only send us Hifi if you are ready to pay.
FOR RECAP-UPGRADE ON WORKING AMPS WITH NO OBVIOUS SERIOUS FAULTS, our usual way is to Invoice & start the job once paid, with the intention of returning it to you in 3-4 weeks, so please only send us Hifi if you are ready to pay.
FOR REPAIRS & MAJOR UPGRADES, Hifi that is too advanced to estimate straight away, it’s too aged, isn’t working & needs fault finding, our usual way is to ask for an expected payment up front & invoice once the Hifi is to a stage where we know where we can guarantee a price. With Hifi like this, we’d not start any job without a good chance of success, but with some Amps we’ve had there really is no other option than to do work to see what the item can potentially bring. All amps are different & some may have hidden faults that are only discovered after doing work to the amp. Jobs like this will take longer, as we’ve found out on ones we’ve sold. Fixing Hifi can be a real pain sometimes but we don’t like to give up & don’t want to spend your money without a good chance of success.
NOT ALL REPAIRS ARE SUCCESSFUL. Some Hifi will need repair before we will plug it in to try it. Most we can be confident working on & trying after repair as the amount we’ve sold shows. We can spot problems that may stop a repair being worthwhile or reliable, to not waste money on a dud item. But in some cases, in interests of covering ourself on untried equipment, we will tell you the unexpected issues we find, with photos & ask your authorisation to turn it on. To risk amps with obsolete parts such as output transistors or MOSFETS has to be your responsibility & if you do authorise us to turn it on, any extra costs will need adding to the bill if there are issues. It may be fine, but there is a chance on amps like this that it could be unrepairable or uneconomical to continue, which is why we’ll ask. This will apply more to post 1980s amps that use custom obsolete parts. The sort of amps many repair shops wouldn’t touch… If we see an amp that we see as too risky or will be unreliable for hidden faults, we reserve the right to refuse it & we’ll need courier payment to return. We always read up on amps we are offered to repair or upgrade, so to not offer false hope & will always give a clear opinion.
THE BASELINE WITH REPAIRS is we work on a ‘Best Effort’ and by reading this site you can see our effort is very advanced. But it is not a guarantee of success. The amp may be unreliable for regular use, parts may be unfindable or costs could be excessive. Using a faulty amp as with a car, it can cause lots more issues. We want to return safe working reliable hifi to you, but you need to be aware THE RISK is the amp may not fixable & we will require payment for parts & time spent on the job.
1. 'Amplifier' is taken to mean any Amplifier, Receiver or Pre-Power Amplifier combination hereon. All amplifiers are accepted on a 'Best Efforts' term with no guarantees your amplifier is capable of taking upgrades or will sound much better for it. We will do our best to not accept amplifiers we don't see as worthwhile to do, we don't just want to do any upgrade & then have a customer think it wasn't worth it.
2. Do not just send us an amplifier without any communication or us agreeing to accept it. Any amplifier received that does not get our work done or Unsolicited Goods must have a courier payment sent to return the item within two weeks or they are treated as abandoned and become our property.
3. We deal by Courier only & only take Bank Transfers for payment to ensure the Customer has full proof of delivery & payment for the work on their amplifier.
4. Once any work has started on an item it cannot be cancelled. If we have started to clean and service the item, the job will be completed as quoted. Any item arriving will usually get looked at as soon as we can, so generally once an item is with us, work has begun.
5. All amplifiers remain our property until we are fully paid for the work done. Any amplifier left fully unpaid after One Month after it is ready to deliver back becomes our property to dispose of to cover the quoted fees, no exceptions, so please plan yourself to keep to these terms. Any excess amount less any selling fees will be credited to the customer as a Bank Transfer. Do not send us any jobs to do if you do not have ready funds to complete payment when it is ready, we don't work & buy new parts to then store unpaid item jobs that are ready.
6. If the customer does not want an item to be delivered or collected within 7 days of notification of it being ready, it will be charged £25.00 storage fee per week from the 8th day with 8 days counting as 2 weeks, just to discourage this as we don't want to store items or be responsible for them. We are aware of a large amount of abandoned Hifi in repair shops & put our terms clearly to avoid 'dead' items sitting around.
6a. Abandonment. For Upgrades & Servicing, we expect you to only send goods if you are ready to pay for the work. Once goods have been invoiced, if the invoice has not been paid within 6 weeks of that invoice, the goods are considered Abandoned. For all amps, we will have done Cleaning, Taking Apart & Servicing to know the condition of the Amp to quote an Invoice. We consider by you sending the item you want to pay for the servicing & upgrades so will start working on it once it arrives. For Goods Considered Abandoned, based on one that this has happened with, if the Invoice is unpaid within 6 weeks, the item is considered Abandoned. Certain amps that need repair work done to establish a price are not subject to this time limit, but once the final invoice is sent, they will. For Abandoned Goods, we will offer to return the item covering the work already done. We may offer a "buy outright" price if we see we can resell the item. If we don't want to buy it & you don't want to pay to have it back, then you need to email us saying it is abandoned & we'll keep it for spare parts. You have chosen to send goods to be worked on, you may decide you can't afford the price or don't want to continue. This is your get-out at any time before 6 weeks, but either you pay to get it back as Serviced, or we Buy it if we want it. Legal definitions of "abandoned" vary if the cost to recover can outweigh the cost of our work, so we make it clear. If a request about Abandonment is ignored, we will charge £25.00 per week for having to store & be responsible for abandoned goods, 8 days is 2 weeks. This weekly charge will be added to the Service & Return invoice & if repeatedly ignored, it will mean you have abandoned the item & given us ownership title on it.
7. We will send Packing Instructions and all details to a buyer who has requested an invoice. The Customer is solely responsible for packing the item properly & insuring it as they choose. Following our Packing details correctly will make any damage risk negligible. We will usually only insure a returned item to £100 unless the customer requests higher insurance, as per the posting rates on the Hifi Sales page.
8. An estimated time frame may be given, but we do not work to deadlines as the unknown on these items can take much time to learn to offer a high quality service. A usual turn-around time on an amplifier, if required parts are in stock, is 2 weeks, we do not rush our work.
9. Any work done is final & there is no option to 'undo' anything if you don't like it, as the increased fidelity may show up your other hifi as being substandard. Be sure you want someone who understands Hifi to make your amplifier a more lively & open sounding item.
10. If the customer wants minor alterations done, such as 3 core mains cable instead of the skinny 2 core USA type cable we can deal with this usually, but we don't alter inputs or speaker outputs unless they are broken or missing. If you like Hifi sounding warm & blurry then our result will be the opposite of that. Any fine tuning the customer may want done is chargeable as a new job & we don't wish to 'dumb down' an item we have worked on to the best we see in the item. Spend time to read our pages about Hifi to see you like our ideas, you'll find no site like this anywhere else.
11. As with our Hifi sales, We Do Not Offer Any Warranty or Guarantee on work on Vintage Electrical Goods. As with our Hifi Sales, your Hifi will be fully checked & serviced, as well as run in for several hours, we check them on Speakers & Headphones so to be sure they are 100% working with no issues. It is not possible to know what will fail next in an amplifier, but be sure our years of experience & running in your amp for many hours will catch every issue the amp has at that moment by checking & servicing it. If the hifi is not fully recapped, there is a chance of failure sooner or later, but it is your choice to what you have us do with your amp when we work on it. As with the Sales page, we expect customers to get issues & we'll forward them to the Sales page Help Section HERE it starts about halfway down. These Help items will usually solve all your issues & we are here to help, but once a customer gets hostile, demanding or threatening, do not expect us to put up with that, so be nice, leave out the accusations as you will always get further by editing your replies to sound mellow rather than aggressive.
12. We offer a High Quality service and Fully Test & Check items before returning. Be sure any problems we encounter that are beyond the job as paid for you will be told of & if it can be dealt with. We would expect the item to have been used by you for you to know what it's like, if perhaps it doesn't work properly now needing repair, you do at least know the amplifier is what you want. We are here to answer you & help as much as we can on any Sale or Upgrade, but there are limits. As with any online dealing, we reserve the right to no longer Reply to questions that cannot be dealt with positively or are expecting more than the sale or upgrade has offered.
13. Hifi Repairs are done on a "Best Efforts" based on about 90% success rate with our own hifi. All repairs are a gamble, most work out right, but there is a chance that however much is tried with hifi, it will still fail, not be reliable or safe in use. To accept that 90% success means 10% failure is the terms of us accepting repairs. We are not here to spend your money on a job that won't work out, but you will be given the option to quit or continue if we see high risks. We can only go by what you tell us with hifi repairs, if you say it works mostly right then based on what you have told us we will continue, but the customer has to accept if they choose to continue, failure is possible. Work paid for is work done, plus parts bought. None of this is refundable if the job ends up failing you agree to remove any responsibility from us for your item failing. It could be repairable but at a cost we consider not worth going further with. This sort of problem we've found with budget-midprice post 1980 amplifiers, especially post 1990 so will refuse to work on then if it seems too high risk. Some post 1990 amplifiers are "unrepairable" with very fine computer track type boards & double sided soldering. This is impossible to repair & sadly these items are "return to Manufacturer" or disposable, which may shock for the price they cost. We are very advanced in our work & fault finding & we are here to offer Repairs on a "Best Efforts" basis with no guarantee of success, if the above comments are a known reality of success. You must accept these terms on sending faulty items for repair. Be assured we want your hifi to be returned fully working, but if you demand it works & don't accept the risk of failures, then don't send us faulty items to repair as it is always a gamble with electronics as our experience proves.
14. All Work done is final, we do not undo work we've done, you can see from our Hifi Gallery the sort of work we do & this & other pages tell of the sort of differences our work will do to improve your Hifi. The contract you make with us by paying for a Repair or Upgrade is to do the work "repair" or "upgrade" entails.