Hi-Fi Repair Hall of Shame

Welcome to the Hi-Fi Repair Hall of Shame. Unlike the rest of my site, this page is dedicated to bad hi-fi repairs and repairers.

High standards of workmanship, attention to detail and best practice in electronics repair, set Liquid Audio apart from other repairers. That’s on purpose, I deliberately do things differently.

This page is different, focusing instead on extremely poor workmanship and bad hi-fi repairs. I created this page to spare others the misfortune that befell the owners of the equipment you see here.

Know Your Limitations

Electronics repair isn’t for everyone. As ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan famously observed in Magnum Force:

“A man’s gotta know his limitations…”

Beware – there are some bad repairers out there, doing very bad hi-fi repairs. Some of these people are just lazy, others are unskilled or completely incompetent. Many of them have work featured here on this page.

If you’re reading this and recognize any of your own work, STOP! It’s not OK to destroy hi-fi equipment in pursuit of your hobby. Saying you repair things and commenting in forums doesn’t make you a great repairer, doing great repair work does.

Remember, nothing on this page is a one-off. Every case exhibits an unacceptable pattern of carelessness, destruction and appalling workmanship.

Case 4 – “Soldering Teacher” Completely Destroys Beautiful Krell KRC Preamplifier.

Brace yourselves for one of the most shocking cases of bad hi-fi repairs I’ve ever seen. My good friend Jason shared this tragic case with me a couple of years ago and we’ve talked about the need to get the story out ever since.

This is the complete package – a Krell KRC-HR in this case, including separate power supply and remote control. From the outside both KRC and KRC-HR look the same.

There’s a guy on the east coast of Australia we’ll call William ‘Frampton’. No offence to the great Peter Frampton, but this guy’s last name rhymes with Frampton, change one letter and you’re there. Anyway, ‘Frampton’ is supposedly capable of improving this sort of equipment. One poor fellow sent his cherished KRC over to Frampton, for unspecified improvement…

Months later, he received his preamp back. It didn’t work properly, the Krell remote control no longer worked, but the customer found a cheap Chinese remote control included in the package. When pressed, Frampton informed the owner that he had ‘upgraded’ the KRC volume control and included a new, ‘improved’ $6 Chinese remote control, to replace the heavy, machined aluminium Krell remote. It all went downhill from there.

The Krell KRC is a superb preamp. If you want to see more, check out my KRC-HR restoration. Costing over $AUD 10,000, in the mid 1990’s, there really aren’t many improvements you can make to it. The KRC and KRC-HR use a logic-controlled stepped resistive attenuator for volume control. This the best and most expensive way to control signal level.

The attenuator uses an array of 0.1% precision laser-trimmed resistors, controlled by an optical encoder, CPU and switches. The signal is routed through expensive nitrogen filled relays. Let me be clear – you simply cannot upgrade this preamp volume control – AT ALL. Krell did the engineering so that this preamp costing as much as a new car just worked.

The customer became suspicious about the Chinese remote and non-functional inputs and this is when I got to see it first hand, a couple of years ago.

Here we go…

How it Should Look

First, this is what a regular, un-messed with Krell KRC preamp looks like, with the cover off. Check out this article where I completely restore one of these beauties.

This image is important. Note the uppermost board, with the rows of chips, precision resistors and relays. Note also the volume encoder, top left. Spinning the encoder generates a series of pulses. These pulses are read by the CPU, which instructs the IC switches to select the correct resistor string to produce the commanded volume level. This is a very precise, very symmetrical volume control. Note that, typical of Krell, there is very little wiring. Connectors are board mounted, everything is super-neat and well laid out, and there is NO FLUX RESIDUE!
Standard unmodified Krell KRC. Dusty, yes, but see how all the capacitors fit correctly and how neatly they are installed.
The Gory Details

Let’s take a look at the ‘improved’ KRC, after work done by Mr Frampton, on the east coast of Australia. We’ll start with the preamp and then look at the power supply.

Before you ask, yes, this is the same model. Note the entire precision attenuator board is missing. This is a critically important board. In its place is a Silicon Chip remote control volume kit – that’s the smaller green board, and cheap ALPS volume pot. Note also the maze of shitty ribbon cable, mass of bodged in resistors and replacement caps that are too tall and very poorly soldered in.
No, this is not a joke, someone actually did this. Note the vaporized traces, appalling soldering, awful flux residue from cheap Chinese solder and no attempt made to clean the board. This is an absolute disgrace. Seriously, this is as bad as I’ve ever seen.

Frampton probably destroyed the precision Krell volume control board by accident, after shorting something. Nobody of sound mind would even think they could ‘upgrade’ it, let alone try to.

With the top board now vaporized, this guy had to bodge all the top row of board mounted connectors to the bottom board. They originally attach to the top board.
This is without doubt, some of the worst work I’ve ever seen. WHY???
Why use an axial capacitor, or neatly mount a radial one, when you can just do this? Note the left most component lead doesn’t even go through the board, and these are double sided, multi-layer, through-hole plated boards. The cap is barely even soldered to the top of the board. Components need to have their leads inserted into holes on a board like this to guarantee correct operation.
Let’s just re-orient ourselves and take another look at this work, with Silicon Chip remote volume control upgrade. I can only again say that no sane person would ever consider this an upgrade. This guy is either deluded or there is something very seriously wrong with him.
This replaces a CPU, switches and network of super-high precision 0.1% metal film resistors. Why use precision parts when you can improve things with the Studio Series Control Module with cheap Chinese low-precision capacitors and resistors..?
Transistor and ribbon cable bodgery. Note the bodged blue relay. This replaces one previously on the top board.
Almost everything here has been ruined. This is disgraceful, this preamp was someone’s pride and joy. This is no upgrade, it’s total destruction of a beautiful, irreplaceable piece of equipment. When asked how he could possibly have done this and do work with soldering this bad, Mr Frampton cheerfully replied that he actually “taught this stuff”. I’m not kidding. I pity whoever he’s taught this to.
These caps are too tall, the values are wrong and they are soldered in so badly, it looks like a child did it! This guy teaches soldering..? Bulls@#t.
More evidence of something blowing up and very hasty repairs. Remember – this preamp was perfect before Frampton touched it.
The Power Supply

Let’s take a look at the KRC power supply. This is just as bad.

Not much to see from a distance, other than a beautifully laid out symmetrical power supply, with several regulated rails.
Look more closely though and you’ll see stuff like this. What is this? Well, what it isn’t is a voltage regulator, which is meant to be right there, mounted to this heatsink. Why mounted to a heatsink? Because, by regulating, it dissipates power as thermal energy, which has to be removed.
Ah yes, here it is, bodged onto these traces, with some random diodes and a Lelon cap. No need to use the heatsink of course, Krell were just wasting their time with that heatsink. Needless to say, this component will die from thermal stress in a short time.
Nothing lines up and look again at that bodged voltage regulator. Absolutely appalling.
Once more, just because I still can’t actually believe it, and I saw it in the flesh!

We think Frampton blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp, due to one of his ‘improvements’. Here’s some more evidence.

There isn’t meant to be an insulating sheet under this board-mounted transformer.
Nor should the board look like this underneath.

Here we see more bodgery. The mains wiring isn’t meant to be tacked onto this point here under the transformer. He’s done this because he vaporized more traces in this power supply.
Bodgy tacked-in wiring
Another bodge
And finally this. What is this? Another awful bodge, probably another voltage regulator. Again note the woeful soldering by Frampton, child-like wiring and general mess. Just disgraceful.

There is an even sadder ending to this story. After the unit was assessed here in Perth, the owner got back in touch with Mr Frampton and expressed his disappointment. Frampton was unapologetic, saying he improved the volume control (yes, he actually said that), that the attenuator board broke and there were no more parts available from Krell (there were).

Finally, Frampton offered to do even more work on the preamp and against all advice, the owner sent it back. He’s not seen it since, and that was two years ago. The moral of the story – don’t EVER send any hi-fi equipment you care about to someone on the east coast Australia, with the name of Bill / William (rhymes with) Frampton.

Case 3 – Destroyed Harman / Kardon PM-655 Integrated Amplifier

This sad case came to me in February, 2018. My customer bought this new from Vince Ross Audio, back in the day.  It worked well for years until it developed a small fault. So the owner went back to Vince Ross, to see who he recommended.

Nice amp the PM-655. From the outside, all looks normal.

Vince used a particular repairer back in the day, many of you might know of him. This repairer, with a German name, fixed a lot of gear, sometimes successfully, other times not so much. This sad case falls into the not so much category. I should point out that Vince is a lovely guy and I’m sure he recommended this repairer in good faith.

The repairer in question destroyed several boards here in his attempt to repair a volume control. Worse than that, he used the lowest quality Jaycar volume pot and ribbon cable to wire it in. He also destroyed the traces associated with much of the front panel controls, so many of these no longer work. He left horrible fluxey residue everywhere he worked, due to use of poor quality solder and failure to clean up. Needless to say, the volume control never worked properly again.

Actually it does now, I had a look and did my best to rectify this appalling work and make the amp reliable for my customer. I serviced the unit and fixed the volume problem. Of course, I couldn’t undo the awful damage caused by the previous repairer.

Needless to say, the owner was horrified when I showed him these images and explained what happened. He couldn’t believe it. He confirmed for me that it had only ever been to the German repairer. Lucky for everyone he’s stopped repairing stuff.

The Gory Details…
A closer look after removing the lid reveals this mess. Flux residue everywhere, and this is just the beginning.
This is the bodged volume control repair. Note the cut quality factory wiring loom, and the shitty, bodged in ribbon cable, just tacked onto the underside of the board. One question – WHY??
This is an abomination. My soldering at 16 years of age was ten times better. Who would leave a job like this??
Look closely at the joints
This is appalling, note the unsoldered joints and mass of fluxey residue. This job should never have gone back to a customer like this.
Note the cut trace ‘bodges’ here and general mess. This I think was in an effort to fix the mess he’d made of the front panel controls.
More shoddy work
This is how the boards should look. You’ll note I’ve cleaned away as much of the mess and re-worked as many of the joints as was reasonable.

Case 2 – ‘Modified’ Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier

This incredible and terrible case of ultimate bodgery came to me via my good friend Jason, also known as the Speaker Doctor and the Turntable Doctor. Jason does fantastic work and we often share stories and compare cases like this.

Anyway this amplifier came to Jason recently, for repair. The owner bought it for $900, from a guy who ‘upgraded’ it. You be the judge on whether these are upgrades and whether $900 for a destroyed amplifier is actually good value for money …

The Gory Details…
Interesting ‘circuit board’. This is not factory, and anyway, why is it there?
Panasonic FC caps in the foreground, but what the hell is that behind them?? It looks like an attempt at a soft-start circuit, you can be sure it didn’t leave the factory looking like this.
We couldn’t fathom the logic of installing a 40 Amp polyswitch in series with the outputs. It will sound really bad, and it trips at 40 Amps. What sort of speakers did this guy imagine needed protection, only once the output current reached 40 Amps? 40 Amps!!! WHY???
Let’s just say about this that every bodgy automotive-style crimp was literally just sliding off its spade. No connector was the same as any other. It’s surprising this ever even turned on. What a disgraceful mess.
For reference, this is what SHOULD be there in the image above. This is a power distribution board, with nice factory Perreaux caps, some other small diodes, bleeder resistors and wiring. I guess the idiot who removed this knew better than Perreaux’s own highly regarded engineer Peter Perreaux! If only Peter had asked this guy how to design and build the 3150… NOTE – the factory Hitachi MOSFETs in this standard image on a non-destroyed 3150.
Now look again at this mess. Note the missing factory power distribution board, the bird’s nest of shitty wiring and the non-factory MOSFETs. This last point is critical. The amp has low-quality, non-standard and completely unmatched replacement MOSFET output devices. It cannot operate correctly in this configuration. The only solution is to purchase around $500 of rare replacement MOSFETs. Sadly, when you add that cost to the missing factory power board, this once great amplifier is now a complete write off.
Nothing about this wiring is OK. Nothing.
As for this, we couldn’t figure out why someone did this or what the heck it was for. Check out the lone abandoned diode, on the chassis bottom, in its own little puddle of solder. The QC is non-existent.
Facepalm…
Another facepalm…
Why anyone would destroy a very, very nice MOSFET amplifier like this is beyond me. If you don’t know what you are doing, leave it alone! Anyway, what is this wiring??

Case 1 – Kenwood KA-5700 Integrated Amplifier

This lovely little amplifier came to me via a very nice customer. She’d taken this otherwise good amp to a local repairer who told her that, because he’s an engineer, he’s able to repair equipment like this.

I’ve got to be honest, this makes me angry. You can see from the images below that the repairer has ‘upgraded’ this circuit board to include a special new short-circuit, that prevented the amp from working properly. Low-quality contact cleaner, and I use that term loosely, covered literally everything, and necessitated my thorough washing of the chassis.

To add insult to injury, when my customer took the amplifier back to Mr Radio Waves, he had the audacity to tell her that the unit was now too old and damaged to be worth repairing! Seriously? He did the damage!

Thankfully, this lovely customer brought the unit in to me and I’ve repaired it. The KA-5700 is now working perfectly, though a little worse for wear after her near-death experience at the hands of Mr Radiowaves…

The Gory Details…
Everywhere this guy removed capacitors, he damaged the board. He didn’t even clean away his or the factory flux, nor did he properly repair the parts of the board he damaged. Facepalm…
Here, you can see the same area after I re-worked it, within the bounds of what’s possible given the damage.
What on earth is going on here..?
Lifted traces…
And general bodgery…
This image is most alarming of all. It shows repair work this guy did, to rectify damage he caused. However, this then potentially caused a short, where this wire jumper sits right next to these two other pads. Note that the pad that the guy destroyed is now floating on the board.

Cherishing Classic Audio

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