Hall of Shame

Welcome to the Hall of Shame, probably the only page dedicated to terrible electronics repair.

I come across a lot of hi-fi equipment that others have worked on. Sometimes the work is neat, but often it’s terrible. I created the Hall of Shame to show what terrible repairs look like and what happens when the wrong people try to repair electronics.

Limitations

We are all good at something and, having been a science teacher for many years, I encourage everyone to pursue something you are good at, to the best of your ability.

bad quad 405 repair
This is how NOT to repair the power supply of a Quad 405 or 405-2

However, and as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan observed in the great Magnum Force:

“A man’s gotta know his limitations…”

I’m not a fan of pursuing something you are no good at. Electronics isn’t for everybody and if you are not good with your hands, don’t have a knack for fixing things, a logical approach to problem-solving and the necessary tools and equipment, then I suggest another pursuit.

I wholeheartedly encourage people to dive in and learn about electronics. Have fun, that’s how I started at 10 or 11 years of age, building every Dick Smith Electronics Fun Way 1 and 2 kit I could get my hands on.

The scary thing is that the people who did what you see in the Hall of Shame lack the self-awareness to appreciate how bad they really are. If you’ve churned out anything even remotely like the work you see here, you’re barking up the wrong tree as we say here in Australia.

Fall-Out and Disclaimer

You may be wondering if anyone who’s work is featured has ‘reached out’? Only one so far. Trevor Lees, who’s technician butchered the Krell KSA-150 with Jaycar parts in case number 6 threatened me several times to take down the video I made about the case. Everything in the video is factual, so naturally, I declined!

The images on this page are unaltered originals and the evidence presented is based on my observations and those of my industry colleagues. In most cases, I’ve not used real names, but if you need one and can’t figure it out, get in touch.


Hall of Shame

6 – Krell KSA-150
5 – Marantz CD85 CD Player
4 – Krell KRC Preamplifier
3 – Harman/Kardon PM-655 Integrated Amp
2 – Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier
1 – Kenwood KA-5700 Integrated Amplifier


Case 6 – Krell KSA-150 Power Amplifier

This classic case fully warrants its place in the Hall of Shame. I bought this amplifier many years ago from a dodgy hi-fi dealer in Australia called Trevor Lees. Trevor is unhappy about being featured in the Hall of Shame but you reap what you sow as they say.

Over the years, I’ve been contacted by numerous people in relation to this case, telling me their own stories of woe about Trevor Lees. Incredibly, the technician who did this awful work contacted me directly to apologise. I felt bad for him because he explained that Trevor always tries to repair things on the cheap, definitely in evidence here.


Case 5 – Marantz CD85 CD Player

Check out this modification abomination that rendered a wonderful old Marantz CD player unserviceable, cementing its place in the Hall of Shame.

The obvious question here is why? It’s hard to know, but I’d suggest the perpetrator read about improving the clock on a forum and failed to understand that the way you do something is actually more important than what you do. Equipment can often be improved, but not like this.

This is how the insides of a CD85 should look. Things are neat, tidy and serviceable.

The insides of the modified Marantz CD85. Note the home-brewed, hardwired PCB at the bottom left, transparent additional panel and bird’s nest wiring. This is a complete disaster.
Here’s a closer look at this home-brewed board. Note the extreme home-made appearance, but wait until you see how it’s attached…
Even closer. I know what you are asking – “Mike, what does this do..?” In truth, I don’t know. It could be some sort of additional power supply, or maybe a new crystal oscillator.
Here’s a clue – an ovenised crystal oscillator on the underside. This board is probably a clock module.
Check out the build quality though and how it is attached to the transparent cover. Is that chewing gum holding a wall plug as we call them in Australia? Is that more chewing gum under those capacitors…?
Chewing gum, or Blu Tac. Someone actually did this and thought it was a good job. I’m told the work was done by “an expert in CD player modification”…
Some sort of hot glue or epoxy perhaps, covering these resistors.
And for safety, the voltage selector has been left hanging inside the chassis, where the pointer no longer refers to any particular position. What voltage is this set for..?

Case 4 – Krell KRC Preamplifier

This one hurts the most and is the single worst case here and the one most deserving of its place here in the Hall of Shame. My good friend Jason @ The Turntable Doctor shared this case with me and we’ve talked about the need to get the story out. Read on, because you won’t believe this one.

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.

There’s a ‘repairer’ on the east coast of Australia we’ll call William ‘Frampton’. No offence to the great Peter Frampton, but change one letter and you have this guy’s last name. Anyway, ‘Frampton’ supposedly improves hi-fi equipment, so a Perth local sent his cherished KRC-HR over to him. Here’s what happened.

First Signs of Trouble

When the customer eventually got his preamp back, neither the preamp nor the Krell remote control worked properly. He found a cheap Chinese remote control included in the package and when pressed, Frampton informed the owner that he had ‘upgraded’ the volume control and included an ‘improved’ $6 Chinese remote control to replace the clunky old machined and anodised aluminium Krell remote… Classy.

Oh boy, try to stop me writing the rest of this…

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-1990s, there aren’t many improvements you can make to a preamp like this and any real repairer would know enough not to try anything silly.

The KRC and KRC-HR use logic-controlled stepped resistive attenuators for volume control. This the best way to control volume. The attenuator uses an array of 0.1% precision laser-trimmed resistors, an optical encoder, CPU and switches. The signal is routed through expensive nitrogen-filled relays.

Let me be clear – you cannot upgrade this volume control – AT ALL. Krell did the engineering, it’s for us to try to learn something from it. It’s outrageous and foolish to think that you could improve the volume control implementation in this preamp.

Wanna see some REALLY bad repairs? Let’s go.

A Normal Krell KRC

This is what a Krell KRC preamp looks like. Check out this article where I completely restored one of these beauties.

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 precise volume control, it cannot technically be improved. Typical of Krell, there is very little wiring 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 Frampton Krell KRC…

Let’s take a look at the ‘improved’ KRC, after some bad repairs by Mr Frampton. We’ll start with the preamp and then look at the power supply.

Yes, this is the very same model. The entire precision attenuator board is missing. 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 ribbon cable, the bodged in resistors and replacement caps that are too tall and poorly soldered in.
This is not a joke, someone actually did this. Note the vaporized traces, appalling soldering, heinous flux residue and dumpster-dirty circuit board. This is an absolute disgrace, seriously, this is the worst work I have ever seen.

Frampton probably destroyed the precision Krell volume control board by accident. Nobody of sound mind would assume they could ‘upgrade’ it, let alone try to.

With the top board vaporized, this guy had to bodge all the top row of board mounted connectors to the bottom board.
This is, without doubt, the worst work I’ve ever seen. Sweet Jesus, this is bad.
Note the leftmost component lead of this capacitor doesn’t go through the board as it should and is barely soldered to the top of the board. These are multi-layer, through-hole plated boards. Components need to have their leads inserted into holes on a board like this to guarantee correct connection.
Let’s take another look at this Silicon Chip remote volume control upgrade. Again, no sane person would consider this an upgrade.
This replaces a CPU, switches and network of super-precision 0.1% metal film resistors. Why use precision parts when you can use the Studio Series Control Module with Chinese low-precision capacitors and resistors..?
Transistor and ribbon cable bodgery. Note the bodged blue relay. This replaces one previously on the top board.
Almost everything here is ruined. This preamp was someone’s pride and joy. What you see here is the total destruction of a beautiful and irreplaceable piece of equipment.

When asked how he could possibly have produced work of this standard, Mr Frampton cheerfully replied that he “taught this stuff”. Yes, he said that. I’d ask for a different teacher, kids.

These caps are too tall, the values are wrong and they are soldered in so badly, it looks like a child did it. This guy teaches soldering..?  Heaven help us.
More evidence of something blowing up and nasty repairs.

The Power Supply

Let’s take a look at bad repairs in the KRC power supply.

Not much to see from a distance other than a beautifully laid out symmetrical power supply.
Look more closely – what is this? Well, what it isn’t is a voltage regulator, which should be there, mounted to this heatsink. Why mounted to a heatsink? Because it dissipates thermal energy, which has to be removed.
Ah, here it is, with some random diodes and a Lelon cap. No need to use the heatsink, of course, Krell wasted their time with that. This component will die and I’ve never seen work this bad – ever.
Nothing lines up and look again at that voltage regulator. Easily the worst workmanship I’ve ever seen.
Once more, because I can’t believe it…

Mr Frampton likely blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp. Here’s more evidence.

There isn’t meant to be an insulating sheet under this board-mounted transformer.
Nor should there be residue like this.

The mains wiring isn’t meant to be tacked onto this point here under the transformer. He’s done this because he vaporized more traces in this power supply.
Bodgy wiring
Another bodge
And finally this. What is this? Again note the woeful soldering and what appears to be a shorted pair of legs on this device.

Follow-Up

After the unit was assessed here in Perth, the owner contacted Mr Frampton. Frampton was unapologetic, explaining that he ‘improved’ the volume control (yes, he said that). Helpfully, he explained that the attenuator board ‘broke’. He also explained that parts were no longer available from Krell (they were, we checked).

I guess that by saying the volume board ‘broke’, he meant like when you spill petrol on your hot lawnmower and it ignites, ‘breaking’ it. Perhaps it’s like when you drive your car into a wall because you are looking at your phone and ‘break’ the car…

Anyway, Frampton offered to fix the preamp (it cannot be fixed). Against the strongest advice, the owner sent it back. He’s not seen it since. The moral of the story, don’t EVER take hi-fi equipment to this repairer.


Case 3 – Harman/Kardon PM-655 Integrated Amplifier

This case of bad repairs 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.

Nice amp the PM-655. From the outside, all looks normal.

Vince used a repairer with a German name, you may know of him. He worked on a lot of gear, sometimes successfully, other times not. This case falls into the not category. I should point out that Vince is a lovely guy and used this repairer in good faith. This repairer likely did good work at some point, I don’t know how it came to this.

Anyway, this repairer destroyed several boards in his attempt to repair a volume control. The guy used the lowest quality Jaycar volume pot and ribbon cable. He destroyed traces associated with the front panel controls, so many of these no longer work.

I found horrible flux residue everywhere due to low-quality solder and failure to clean up. Needless to say, the volume control never worked properly after this. 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 to see these images. He confirmed for me that it had only ever been to the German repairer.

Bad Repairs…

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 flux 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 many of the joints.

Case 2 – Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier

This addition to the Hall of Shame is another case from my friend Jason (Speaker Doctor and Turntable Doctor).

This amplifier came to Jason for repair. The owner bought it for $900, from a guy who ‘upgraded’ it. You be the judge on whether these are upgrades…

Bad Repairs

Interesting… What does this do?
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 poly switch in series with the outputs. It will sound really bad and it trips at 40 Amps. What sort of speakers did this guy think needed protection, only once the output current reached 40 Amps? 40 Amps!!! So 30 Amps to the speakers was OK, just not 40 Amps..?!
It’s surprising this amp ever even turned on. What a mess.
For reference, this is what SHOULD be there in the image above. This is a power distribution board, with factory Perreaux caps, 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 improve 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 crappy wiring and the non-factory MOSFETs. This last point is critical. The amp has low-quality, non-standard and unmatched replacement output devices. It cannot operate correctly like this. 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 write-off.
Nothing about this wiring is OK.
As for this, we couldn’t figure out what the heck it was for. Check out the abandoned diode on the chassis bottom, in its own little puddle of solder. QC was non-existent on this job.
Ummm, what IS this??
A recipe for poor sound quality
Why anyone would do 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. You can see from the images below that the repairer has ‘upgraded’ this circuit board to include a special short-circuit that prevented the amp from working properly.

My customer took the amplifier back to Mr Radio Waves. He had the audacity to say that the unit is too old and damaged to be repaired! But he did the damage!!

Thankfully, this lovely customer brought the unit into me and I’ve repaired it. The KA-5700 is now working perfectly, though a little worse for wear after its near-death experience at the hands of Mr Radio Waves.

Bad Repairs…
Everywhere this guy removed capacitors, he damaged the board. He didn’t even clean away the flux, nor did he properly repair the parts of the board he damaged.
Here, you can see the same area after I re-worked it. Given the damage, its a solid, reliable repair.
What on earth is going on here..?
Lifted traces…
General bad repairs bodgery caused by poor soldering and desoldering tools and technique, leading to bad repairs.
This image is most alarming. It shows repair work this guy did to rectify the damage he caused but this caused a short, where this wire jumper sits right next to these two other pads. Note that the destroyed pad is floating on the board, shorting a line next to it.

7 thoughts on “Hall of Shame”

  1. I have worked in both pro and high-end consumer audio manufacturing. Those ‘repairs’ make me want to weep!!! Where is the care and love for these lovely bits of kit? Disgraceful!

    1. Hi Nicki, thanks for your comment and I couldn’t agree more. The work I highlighted here is truly disgraceful. It would almost be acceptable if it was the result of backyard tinkering, but these are the results of so-called specialist repairers. It’s mind-boggling!

  2. I didn’t think my amateur work was that great but after seeing these horror stories I don’t feel so bad !
    I think I might cry if some of my work looked like these examples.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Mike. I guarantee that your work is 100% better than anything in the Hall of Shame! It’s truly staggering to me that work like this is seen as acceptable by the perpetrators.

Feel free to share your thoughts and leave a comment!

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