View our comprehensive FAQs for answers to questions about vintage hi-fi, turntables and repairs.

The FAQs are divided into categories containing answers to questions I’m most often asked. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have a question I’ve not answered here.


Liquid Audio

I’d like assistance but I’m not a customer – why should I make a donation?

Basically, because you’re asking a specialist to provide their time and expertise to assist you, which is a one-way thing otherwise only benefitting one person!

My business and website bring enquiries from people everywhere who trust and value my advice. Traditionally I’ve donated my time to answer requests for help. These days I’m flat out. I have hundreds of paying customers. Answering enquiries takes time and time is money.

Given that I write the articles, repair the equipment and answer the enquiries, with the following in mind, I introduced the donation/shout me a coffee button:

  1. My time and expertise are valuable.
  2. It’s reasonable to receive something in return for using my time and expertise to provide assistance.

Non-customers can now make donations or micro-payments for my time and advice. The amounts are small but ensure that some value is placed on my time. This stops the one-way brain drain and everybody benefits, not just the enquirer.

People try to get around making donations. Some say they are customers or that they didn’t see the donation button. Others promise to donate after I help them and then ‘forget’ to. Looking at the funny side, taking a coffee from someone who’s helped you is fairly amusing 🙂

So what’s the takeaway? Simple – you value your time, so apply that value to mine. If you want people to generously assist you, be generous!

Bonus Amusement 🙂

I know many readers share my sense of humour, so I’ll leave you with this.

A gentleman recently emailed me asking for help. He told me he loved the site and used my articles to save money and improve his expensive Naim equipment. Great! He asked various questions about repairing/improving more of his Naim equipment. Critically, he avoided making any donation, explaining that he needed my help so he could do the work himself and save money. Naturally, he expected me to donate my time and expertise to help him with that, which I didn’t.

What equipment do you care for?

We service, repair and restore hi-fi stereo equipment, with a focus on turntables and amplifiers.

We work on: hi-fi stereo gear including most Japanese, European and North American amplifiers, preamplifiers, turntables, CD players, cassette decks and tuners produced since 1970.

We don’t work on: radiograms, stereograms, jukeboxes, mini-systems, midi-systems, DVD players, AV receivers, Bluetooth anything, docks, Sonos etc.

We carry out major overhaul and restoration work, as well as offer on-site work, inspections. Check out the Services page for more.

What brands and age of equipment do you look after?

All major brands and most hi-fi stereo equipment produced from 1970 onwards.

Brands we commonly see are Accuphase, Akai, Kenwood, Luxman, NAD, Pioneer, Sansui, Rotel, Sony, TEAC, Technics, Quad and Yamaha. We specialise in amplifiers, preamplifiers, turntables, CD players, DACs, cassette decks and tuners.

Do you need to inspect equipment before providing repair cost estimates?

We do. Every piece is unique and inspection allows me to accurately diagnose the issues and provide you with a reliable estimate.

Don’t worry, inspection just becomes part of the repair if you proceed. I only charge separately for them if you don’t go ahead with any work. Think of it this way: do you think a mechanic could tell you over the phone why your car wouldn’t start this morning and what it will cost to fix without looking at it?!

 

Everyone has a different opinion, where can I get really good advice?

Find people who understand the science and can advise from experience, rather than based on what they’ve read or heard.

Everyone has an opinion but thankfully in audio and most other areas, there are facts, derived from science and there is expert advice, based on first-hand experience and on understanding that science.

Customers often tell me: “I read in a forum that I should buy XYZ…”. There are some great, well-moderated forums out there but, even in the better forums, you’ll experience plenty of subjective, conflicting, technically incorrect misinformation and speculation. This is often then parroted by more people with no real experience or technical understanding, and so it goes. Readers often lack the knowledge necessary to filter out genuinely useful information, creating what can be a ‘rabbit hole’ of wasted time,  energy and money.

In most cases there are real answers, you just need to find folks who can give them to you! You should be skeptical of so-called experts who spend hours every day in forums. From experience, most real experts won’t be found in places like this.

Can you sell me parts to fix my equipment?

No, I don’t sell service parts on their own, but I do supply and fit parts and keep a wide range of items in stock.

How is Liquid Audio different from other repairers?

Our attention to detail, level of care, experience, passion and many other things make us different.

This is reflected in our work, lab equipment, professionalism, and so on. I own the business, repair the equipment, run the website and write the articles, so I’m heavily invested in keeping this a very successful business.

You take on some big jobs but are there any you won’t take on?

I try to avoid equipment in poor physical condition, gear that’s been destroyed by other repairers, heavily modified or equipment that isn’t designed to be serviceable.

I don’t shy away from challenging jobs, but if I can see that we are trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, I’ll let you know. Ultimately I want a good outcome for both of us and that unfortunately means not taking on certain jobs where the odds are stacked against us.

Do you sell pre-owned hi-fi equipment?

Yes, we sell pre-owned hi-fi equipment and equipment on consignment.

Selling with Liquid Audio works because we:

  • Carefully select customers and stock
  • Look after photography, research and advertising
  • Have hundreds of visitors per day looking for hi-fi gear
  • Provide warranty for peace of mind
  • Take away the stress and hassle of selling
  • Get great prices for our sellers and customers

Visit our Store and Sold pages.

Can you provide me with service and technical data?

I may be able to share some technical data, but with factory support, we are bound by confidentiality and not permitted to share service manuals and data provided by manufacturers.

Do you offer inspections?

Yes, we offer pre and post-purchase inspections, cartridge inspections, and more.

A Liquid Audio report can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars and a great deal of pain!

Do you provide a warranty?

Yes, an industry-standard 3-month warranty applies to our work and parts we supply.

In the rare event that you experience an issue related to any work we’ve done, we will fix it for you, no matter how long it takes, as long as it’s viable to do so.

I like your upgrades, do you supply kits, parts lists etc?

No, and we aren’t planning to, putting these together would be time-consuming, unlikely to be profitable and offering support would make the exercise not viable.

Turntables

Does a cartridge really affect the sound of a turntable?

Yes, it most certainly does.

Remember that a cartridge is a transducer, just like a microphone or speaker. It’s doing an incredible amount of work, converting groove modulations into movement, and then into absolutely tiny electrical signals. This requires a staggering level of precision and materials engineering and, like anything similar, you really do get what you pay for.

Cartridges can cost anything from $10 to $10 000 and sound anywhere from sh@t to sublime! Spend as much as you can on a cartridge, sonically it’s a big part of the sound of a turntable, and better cartridges will last anywhere from 1000 – 2000 hours, as compared with just 200 hours for a real cheapy. A good cartridge will also preserve your vinyl by causing much less record wear. The larger contact area of a Shibata or line-contact diamond exerts much lower pressure on the vinyl, at the interface between the stylus and record. This causes less heat and therefore less wear.

Should I buy a Crosley?

No.

What’s the best turntable?

There isn’t one, just the best one you can afford.

All the really good machines are heavy, for various engineering reasons. Therefore, aim for something solid, well built, preferably costing over $1000AUD new if you want a good first turntable. Alternatively, you’ll get better performance in almost all cases from a second-hand classic turntable from the 1970s and ’80s.

Remember, for many years, vinyl was the highest resolution source that most hi-fi lovers had easy access to. One could argue this still is the case. This is important because the golden age of vinyl and record players was the ’70s and ’80s, so that’s when some of the greatest machines were made.

Which is better: belt-drive or direct-drive?

A good question, without a simple answer, despite what you might have heard.

This question comes up a lot and there are many technical considerations. Technically, direct-drive has advantages, specifically in terms of torque and drive speed consistency. It’s much cheaper to make a belt-drive turntable though, this is why affordable decks tend to be belt-driven. This suits small manufacturers who can build a belt-drive turntable using a readily available, low-cost motor.

It’s much more expensive to design and build a direct-drive machine, especially a really good one. The performance advantages of direct-drive systems explain why some of the best and most expensive turntables, tape machines and lathes from the most advanced manufacturers utilise direct-drive methods though.

Most of the records you listen to were recorded and mastered on direct-drive tape machines and cutting lathes. Ever wondered why that might be? The answer becomes obvious, if belt-drive was superior, it would be used, where cost is no option. This explains why many of the great turntables are direct-drive and why those machines are so highly sought after. It’s not what everyone wants to hear, but there’s no escaping the facts.

People get really angry about this, specifically, lovers of particular belt-drive brands, but there’s no need. This is simply about science rather than opinion and this can be hard for those who have an almost ‘religious’ belief in a brand or methodology because they are so heavily invested in it. The beauty of science is that it has no place for opinion, only facts.

There are some spectacular, highly desirable belt-drive machines, make no mistake and for all who think I hate belt drives, my current turntable reference IS a belt-drive, but it has a 10kg platter…!

But the record store guy says belt-drives are better..?

Yep, and these guys generally know almost nothing about the science or what makes a good turntable. Many people lacking experience with high-end turntables propagate this myth.

The reality is that there are stunning belt-drive and direct-drive turntables. It’s ultimately not the drive method alone that determines system performance. Unfortunately, most people aren’t interested in the technical details, nor have they been exposed to the range of equipment necessary to form a really valid opinion.

How many record store guys do you think have listened to an SP-10 or L-07D for example, let alone owned these grail machines? This lack of experience and education is at the heart of the problem. It’s similar to using and championing a camera or phone you think is amazing until you use a better one.

Do you dislike belt-drive turntables?

No not at all, there are many epic belt drive turntables and my current working reference deck is a Luxman PD-350 belt-drive!

I really enjoy the simplicity of the Rega Planar machines, I love decks like the PL-514, SL-23 and KD-2055, just to name a few. I work on a ton of belt-drive machines and enjoy working on most of them. I dislike bad turntables, no matter how their platters are driven, especially overpriced underperformers, some of which are the most famous and names you’d be familiar with!

What’s the better cartridge: moving magnet or moving coil?

How much have you got to spend? If your limit is $150, moving magnet is all you’ve got baby! There’s a bit to this but simply, almost all the best cartridges are moving coil designs.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some fantastic moving magnet cartridges out there, especially some vintage models. Rather, the best solution technically, is the moving coil design, because of its reduced moving mass. Lower mass means lower inertia and therefore better transient response and high-frequency performance. All of that translates to better dynamics, more of that elusive ‘air’.

Because coils are technically better, manufacturers also tend to spend more on these designs, using better diamonds, more expensive boron or even diamond cantilevers and better coil wire. This means you can spend a ton on a good MC cartridge, but remember that a really good moving magnet cartridge will be better than a cheap moving coil. You get what you pay for.

The caveat here is that because moving coil designs generally have much lower outputs, you need very high-quality electronics or a step-up transformer to get the most from them. Don’t expect a really good moving coil cartridge to sound its best using a built-in or cheap external phono preamp.

Everyone has a different opinion, where can I get really good advice?

Find people who understand the science and can advise from experience, rather than based on what they’ve read or heard.

Everyone has an opinion but thankfully in audio and most other areas, there are facts, derived from science and there is expert advice, based on first-hand experience and on understanding that science.

Customers often tell me: “I read in a forum that I should buy XYZ…”. There are some great, well-moderated forums out there but, even in the better forums, you’ll experience plenty of subjective, conflicting, technically incorrect misinformation and speculation. This is often then parroted by more people with no real experience or technical understanding, and so it goes. Readers often lack the knowledge necessary to filter out genuinely useful information, creating what can be a ‘rabbit hole’ of wasted time,  energy and money.

In most cases there are real answers, you just need to find folks who can give them to you! You should be skeptical of so-called experts who spend hours every day in forums. From experience, most real experts won’t be found in places like this.

Do you sell belts, styluses and cartridges?

Yes, we have many parts in stock and speedy access to thousands of others.

We don’t sell parts alone but supply and fit them as part of the services we offer. This ensures parts are correctly fitted, adjusted, and set for maximum performance and service life.

The guy in the hi-fi store promised me the newest turntable would kill my classic deck.

Ah yes, this old chestnut. I promise you it probably won’t.

There are some good salespeople out there, but they’re a rarity. Sales staff are generally paid a commission on each item they sell. This isn’t always the case but where it is, you’ll see that this creates a horrendous conflict of interest. They need you to sell you new equipment and the store needs the turnover. In almost all cases, older turntables are better than cheap new ones.

Repairs

Do you need to inspect equipment before providing repair cost estimates?

We do. Every piece is unique and inspection allows me to accurately diagnose the issues and provide you with a reliable estimate.

Don’t worry, inspection just becomes part of the repair if you proceed. I only charge separately for them if you don’t go ahead with any work. Think of it this way: do you think a mechanic could tell you over the phone why your car wouldn’t start this morning and what it will cost to fix without looking at it?!

 

Everyone has a different opinion, where can I get really good advice?

Find people who understand the science and can advise from experience, rather than based on what they’ve read or heard.

Everyone has an opinion but thankfully in audio and most other areas, there are facts, derived from science and there is expert advice, based on first-hand experience and on understanding that science.

Customers often tell me: “I read in a forum that I should buy XYZ…”. There are some great, well-moderated forums out there but, even in the better forums, you’ll experience plenty of subjective, conflicting, technically incorrect misinformation and speculation. This is often then parroted by more people with no real experience or technical understanding, and so it goes. Readers often lack the knowledge necessary to filter out genuinely useful information, creating what can be a ‘rabbit hole’ of wasted time,  energy and money.

In most cases there are real answers, you just need to find folks who can give them to you! You should be skeptical of so-called experts who spend hours every day in forums. From experience, most real experts won’t be found in places like this.

Can you help me fix my equipment without me bringing it to you..?

Probably not, I need to determine exactly what’s wrong with it and attend to any other issues at that time.

Can you sell me parts to fix my equipment?

No, I don’t sell service parts on their own, but I do supply and fit parts and keep a wide range of items in stock.

I’m thinking of using the cheapest repairer, what are your thoughts?

I’m thinking how my Dad always warned me: “You get what you pay for.”

He was right, and a better question to ask is: “Do you want the work done cheaply, or do you want it done well?” Our Hall of Shame highlights what can happen when people try to save money and cut corners.

How long will my repair take?

This depends on your equipment, what you’ve asked me to do and how much work is in the queue.

Everyone wants their equipment back quickly but there’s only one of me! I promise I will get to your equipment as quickly as I can.

Is my equipment repairable?

Most likely yes, though this depends on various factors including what’s wrong with it, its general condition, whether others have had their hands on it previously, and your budget.

Most faults are repairable, but certain combinations of equipment, faults, condition, and other factors may render repairs difficult, or not even viable. Inspection is the only way to know.

Do you provide a warranty?

Yes, an industry-standard 3-month warranty applies to our work and parts we supply.

In the rare event that you experience an issue related to any work we’ve done, we will fix it for you, no matter how long it takes, as long as it’s viable to do so.

Why service or repair my vintage equipment when I can buy new gear?

Because vintage gear is almost always better than the new gear you can afford.

Nothing you can buy for sensible money is built like your old hi-fi equipment, or made in Japan. I regularly service and repair equipment that has lasted 40+ YEARS. Reckon your Sonos will be working in 40 years time..?

Vintage vs Modern Gear

Everyone has a different opinion, where can I get really good advice?

Find people who understand the science and can advise from experience, rather than based on what they’ve read or heard.

Everyone has an opinion but thankfully in audio and most other areas, there are facts, derived from science and there is expert advice, based on first-hand experience and on understanding that science.

Customers often tell me: “I read in a forum that I should buy XYZ…”. There are some great, well-moderated forums out there but, even in the better forums, you’ll experience plenty of subjective, conflicting, technically incorrect misinformation and speculation. This is often then parroted by more people with no real experience or technical understanding, and so it goes. Readers often lack the knowledge necessary to filter out genuinely useful information, creating what can be a ‘rabbit hole’ of wasted time,  energy and money.

In most cases there are real answers, you just need to find folks who can give them to you! You should be skeptical of so-called experts who spend hours every day in forums. From experience, most real experts won’t be found in places like this.

Why service or repair my vintage equipment when I can buy new gear?

Because vintage gear is almost always better than the new gear you can afford.

Nothing you can buy for sensible money is built like your old hi-fi equipment, or made in Japan. I regularly service and repair equipment that has lasted 40+ YEARS. Reckon your Sonos will be working in 40 years time..?

The guy in the hi-fi store promised me the newest turntable would kill my classic deck.

Ah yes, this old chestnut. I promise you it probably won’t.

There are some good salespeople out there, but they’re a rarity. Sales staff are generally paid a commission on each item they sell. This isn’t always the case but where it is, you’ll see that this creates a horrendous conflict of interest. They need you to sell you new equipment and the store needs the turnover. In almost all cases, older turntables are better than cheap new ones.

But surely new technology must sound better?

Ah yes, now THIS old chestnut! What new technology is that, exactly? Modern analog gear uses the same classic circuits, but often with lower quality parts and construction.

There is very little ‘new technology’ in analog audio. Most analog electronic circuits and circuit topologies date back to the earliest days of tubes and transistors. Even things like class-D and class-T amps are not new.

All the best tubes have already been made, as have many of the great transistors. There are some amazing integrated circuits now, for sure, but this new technology thing is grossly overstated and misunderstood. Digital is different and things have certainly improved, so newer DACs often sound better. I’m not saying there’s no great-sounding new gear out there, but boy do you have to pay for it.

I’m not buying this, I bet your hi-fi system contains lots of new gear.

Nope, it doesn’t. My amplifier, preamplifier, turntable, headshell, transformer and speakers from the 1970s and ’80s. I also own a tuner from 1975, a cassette deck from 1983, my DAC is from 2013 and my cartridge is from 2009.

So the retail hi-fi industry is designed to get people to ‘trade-up’ to new, often inferior equipment..?

Sadly, yes.

Just ask the owners of newer NAD or Cambridge Audio gear how they felt when their expensive equipment died after five years or so.

Read the reviews. Every new piece of gear sounds significantly better than the one preceding it. How then is it possible for a 40-year-old amplifier to sound better than a new one? What about all the advancements..? If each year brought significant improvements, older gear would have to sound awful compared with gear with 40 years of continuous improvement, but it doesn’t and this should tell you a lot.