I purchased equipment from Japan and it blew up, can you help?

Sure, but we first need to establish what damage has been done. This can only be revealed by careful inspection. It may/may not be repairable.

Know Your Voltage

Different regions use different AC supply voltages. For example, Japan uses 100V, the USA uses 120V, and Europe and Asia use 220V, 230V or 240V, depending on the region. Anything other than 230V or 240V presents a big problem for people living in Australia where we have a 240/250V supply. Higher voltage AC supplies are better from a technical perspective which is great for us. More on that another time.

If you plug in a piece of electronic equipment set to run on 100V or 120V into a 240V socket here in Australia, IT WILL FAIL, unless a fuse saves it first. Electronic equipment doesn’t “automatically adjust” as one enquirer who blew up his newly acquired equipment told me. He was probably thinking of equipment that uses switching power supplies or SMPS, like phone chargers, USB power supplies etc. Good hi-fi equipment generally doesn’t use this type of power supply.

The Problem

Transformers ‘transform’ or convert AC voltages proportionally, according to the ratio of turns on their primary and secondary sides. For example, equipment set to run on 120VAC might contain a transformer that steps that voltage down to say 35VAC, which after rectification might be around 50VDC. What do you think happens when you feed that transformer 240V..? Double the input voltage equals double the output voltage and your 50VDC is now 100VDC.

If this happens with a piece of gear typically from Japan or the USA, you can say goodbye to any electrical components that were rated at 50 – 60VDC. If you are lucky, fast-acting fuses might save the equipment and I have seen this happen. In most cases though, the damage is more substantial, sometimes terminal.


Some hi-fi equipment can be set to run on a variety of line voltages and some cannot. It depends on the market the equipment was originally destined for and can vary among examples of the same model, dependent on production date and market. The adjustment may be a straightforward external one, or it may involve working inside a chassis, soldering unmarked jumpers into new positions in some cases. Some equipment cannot be reconfigured for other line voltages, most notably Japanese-only and North American-market equipment in many cases.

Manufacturers have a variety of models, years, markets and voltage reconfigurability. I’ve come to better understand these relationships over the years, but many examples remain where voltage adjustability cannot be known until physically inspecting the equipment. Equipment that is input voltage configurable is like gold though, as it can be used anywhere in the world without a step-up or step-down transformer and commands premium prices as a result. This is what you want!

Incredibly, I’ve seen locally supplied equipment set incorrectly, many times. The Mark Levinson ML-7 preamp I repaired and a pair of Accuphase M-60 amplifiers are just two examples of gear that was set to run on 220V. Therefore, all equipment should be checked to ensure it is configured to run on the line voltage where it is to be used. This is especially important for equipment purchased outside its originally intended market.

False Economy

Look, we all want to save money but how many times have you tried and it just ended up costing more? This is one of those scenarios for most people. If you know how to check and reconfigure your equipment without risking your equipment or health, go for it. For most owners though, having this work done professionally is the best and smartest option.

In addition to line voltage reconfiguration, new fuses of the correct current rating will be required. Even if Dick next door reckons he can do all this for you, it might be wise to ask how much Accuphase equipment Dick’s worked on, and what his warranty is, just in case something goes wrong.

But Mike, it will cost money to have my equipment checked and reconfigured.


Correct, and it will cost a lot more if your equipment is destroyed in an attempt to save a small fraction of its value. Some will want to gamble and some of those folks will contribute to the steady stream of enquiries I receive about blown equipment. For everyone else, pay the small amount needed to have your equipment inspected and reconfigured.

Pre and post-purchase inspections have saved my customers thousands and are one of the most sensible things one can do with a newly purchased piece of equipment. We usually find things that need attention, which can often be leveraged into a price reduction/partial refund. It’s one of many benefits of engaging a specialist.


I receive a steady stream of enquiries from people who’ve killed newly acquired imported hi-fi equipment with incorrect line voltage. This failure mode is completely avoidable by having your equipment assessed and reconfigured. If equipment cannot be reconfigured, a step-down transformer will be needed. More specific and detailed advice, as always, is available via our advisory service.

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