Welcome to the Hi-Fi Repair Hall of Shame. Unlike my other pages, this one 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. This page examines the reverse – poor workmanship and bad hi-fi repairs, using actual examples.
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 them are lazy, others are unskilled or completely incompetent. Many have work featured here on this page.
By the way, if you’re reading this and recognize your work, STOP! It’s not OK to destroy valuable equipment. Saying you repair things and commenting in forums doesn’t make you a great repairer, great repair work does.
Finally, nothing on this page is a one-off. Every case exhibits an unacceptable pattern of carelessness, destruction and appalling workmanship.
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.
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, Mr ‘Frampton’ is supposedly capable of improving this sort of equipment. One poor gentleman sent his cherished KRC over to Frampton for improvement. Here’s what happened.
Months later he received his preamp back. It didn’t work properly, the Krell remote control no longer worked and the customer found a cheap Chinese remote control included in the package. When pressed, Mr 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 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 $10,000 AUD in the mid-1990’s, there 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.
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.
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.
The Power Supply
Let’s take a look at the KRC power supply. This is just as bad.
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 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 the strongest advice, the owner sent it back. He’s not seen it since, 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 fault. The owner went back to Vince Ross, to see who he recommended.
Vince used a particular repairer, many of you may know of him. This repairer, with a German name, fixed a lot of gear, sometimes successfully, other times not. This sad case falls into the not category. I should point out that Vince is a lovely guy and I’m sure he recommended this repairer in good faith. This repairer also probably did some good work at one point. I don’t know how it came to this.
Anyway, this repairer destroyed several boards in his attempt to repair a volume control. Worse than that, he used the lowest quality Jaycar volume pot and ribbon cable. He also destroyed traces associated with much of the front panel controls, so many of these no longer work. He left horrible flux residue everywhere due to poor quality solder and failure to clean up. Needless to say, the volume control never worked properly again.
Well it does now, I had a look and did my best to rectify this appalling mess and make the amp reliable for my customer. I serviced the unit and fixed the volume problem. 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.
The Gory Details…
Case 2 – ‘Modified’ Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier
This incredible case of ultimate bodgery came to me via my good friend Jason, otherwise 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…
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 Radio Waves…