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…”
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 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.
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.
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.
The Power Supply
Now let’s take a look at the KRC power supply. This is just as bad.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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…