Hi-Fi Repair Hall of Shame

Welcome, audio friends. Unlike the rest of my website, my Hall of Shame is dedicated to bad repairs. My hope is to raise awareness about the appallingly bad workmanship of certain local repairers.

If you’ve looked around, you’ll know my website showcases the very best practice in terms of high-quality hi-fi repairs and restorations. My focus on this page though, is to expose bad repairs, by bad repairers. Beware, my Hall of Shame is not for the faint-hearted, and bad repairers really aren’t going to like it either, especially when they spot some of their own work…

Knowing One’s Limitations…

Repairing hi-fi equipment isn’t for everyone. I guess the same could be said for deep-sea diving or bee-keeping. It takes aptitude, knowledge, skill and experience, and requires serious investment in expensive tools, test & measurement equipment and time learning how to use it. Not everyone does a good job repairing electronics, and some do a really awful job. It’s not enough to say:

“I’m an engineer working at Curtin Uni, so I can repair electronics…”

as one of the worst local offenders in Perth’s northern suburbs does.

Look, we can’t be good at everything. As ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan famously stated in Magnum Force:

“A man’s gotta know his limitations…”

Bad Repairers

Sadly, many of Perth’s hi-fi repairers, even some of the better known ones, do really poor quality work. Some is just lazy, whilst others is totally destructive. Liquid Audio and a couple of industry colleagues proudly champion the alternative – high-quality repair and service work, attention to detail, skill and the best test and measurement tools and equipment.

By the way, nothing featured on this page is just a goof. The cases featured here exhibit a pattern of destruction and appalling workmanship, perpetrated on customer equipment. Cases are in reverse chronological order, with those most recently added at the top.

Case 4 – “Soldering Teacher” Tries to Upgrade a Krell KRC Preamplifier & Completely Destroys it.

OK, brace yourselves, this is maybe the single worst case I’ve ever seen. My good friend Jason shared this tragic case with me a couple of years ago and we’ve talked about getting the story out there 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.

This Krell KRC preamp case really angers me. The KRC is a superb preamp. Krell was a proper electronics engineering company, and the KRC is a seriously well-engineered preamp. There aren’t many improvements possible, even by people who know what they are doing, let alone by some self-professed expert who can’t even solder.

So, there’s a guy on the east coast, let’s call him William ‘Frampton’. No offence to the great Peter Frampton, this guy’s name rhymes with Frampton, change one letter and you’re there… Anyway, this guy is supposedly capable of improving Krell and other gear. So the customer sent his cherished KRC over to Frampton, for improvement.

The customer eventually got his preamp back, but it didn’t working properly. The reasons why will become painfully obvious shortly. The original remote control volume didn’t  work any longer, and the customer found a cheap Chinese remote control in the package he received. Some of the inputs were also non-functional. Frampton informed the customer that he had ‘upgraded’ the (Krell precision stepped resistive divider) volume potentiometer and included a new, improved ($6 Chinese) remote control.

A little background is useful here. The KRC, (and KRC-HR) volume control is a precision, logic-controlled stepped resistive attenuator. This is just about the best, and one of most expensive ways to control signal level. The attenuator uses an array of 0.1% precision resistors, controlled by an optical encoder, CPU and switches. The signal is routed out through high-precision relays. You can’t upgrade this AT ALL, let alone with anything sold at Altronics or Jaycar!

Anyway, the customer became suspicious about the Chinese remote and non-functional inputs and asked Jason to inspect the KRC. This is when I got to see it first hand, a couple of years ago.

Here we go…

The Normal Details

First, this is what a regular, un-messed with Krell KRC preamp looks like, with the cover off.

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 great way to implement a volume control, very precise, very symmetrical in terms of channel balance. Note also 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 – The Preamp

Now let’s take a look at the ‘improved’ KRC, after work done by Mr ‘Frampton’, soldering teacher and hi-fi equipment destroyer extraordinaire, somewhere on the east coast of Australia. (Actually, we know where, ask me for more details). We’ll start with the preamp and then look at the seperate power supply.

Before you ask, yes, this is the same model, it should look like the images you’ve just seen. 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, this is what someone actually did. Note the vaporized traces, terrible soldering and no attempt made to clean the board. This is an absolute disgrace. Seriously, someone should find and have words with this fellow.

Frampton may have destroyed the precision Krell volume control board by accident, after shorting something. He should have stopped there. Instead, he then ‘upgraded’ it with a Silicon Chip kit remote volume control kit… Facepalm.

With the top board now ‘missing’ (vaporized), this idiot had to bodge all the top row of board mounted connectors to the bottom board. They originally attached to the top board.
This is without doubt, some of the worst bodgery I’ve ever seen. WHY???
Why use an axial capacitor, or neatly mount a radial one, when you can just bodge one in like 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 spectacular 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, ‘special’ or there is something else very wrong with him.
Yep, this replaces a CPU, switches and network of super-high precision 0.1% metal film resistors. Why use Krell parts when you can improve things with the Studio Series Control Module..?
Transistor and ribbon cable bodgery. Note the bodged in blue relay. This replaces one previously on the top board.
Almost everything here has been bodged. 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 replied that he actually “taught this stuff”. I’m not kidding.
These caps are too tall, the values are wrong and they are soldered in so badly, it looks like a child who never soldered before did it! And this guy teaches soldering..? Bulls@#t.
More evidence of something blowing up and very hasty repairs. Remember – this preamp was perfect before Mr ‘Destroyer’ Frampton touched it.
The Power Supply

Now 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 a voltage, 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 shitty Lelon cap. Excellent work Mr Frampton, no need to use the heatsink of course, Krell were just wasting their time adding that redundant heatsink. Needless to say, this will spontaneously combust once the unit powered on for any length of time.
Great work mounting these new capacitors so that nothing lines up. Why take any care with your work? And look again at that bodged voltage regulator. Absolutely appalling.
Once more, just because even I can’t believe it and I saw it in the flesh.

We reckon Mr Frampton blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp, no doubt due to one of his ‘improvements’. Here’s some more evidence.

See, there isn’t meant to be a random insulating sheet under this board-mounted transformer.
Evidence it had already been removed and re-installed with low-quality solder.

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

The sad ending to this story is even worse than what you’ve seen and read so far. After the unit was assessed here in Perth, the owner got back in touch with Mr Frampton and expressed his discontent with the work.

Frampton was unapologetic, saying he improved the volume control (yeah right) and saying that the attenuator board just 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 (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.
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 this circuit board, stuffed with original components, has been ‘upgraded’ 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 reasonable 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 just floating around on the board.

Cherishing Classic Audio

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