If you love classic hi-fi gear, you’re not going to love what you’re about to see. Sorry.
Welcome to the hi-fi repair Hall of Shame. As far as I know, this is the only resource dedicated to documenting bad repair work done on hi-fi equipment *. It is also uniquely presented by a technician specialising in exactly the sort of equipment seen here, but repaired with precision rather than – well, you’ll see.
*Well, it was, until one of the perpetrators on this page copied my idea. I’ll leave it for readers to figure out who and why…
Speaking with colleagues, I believe this problem is a ‘dirty little secret’ of the electronics repair industry. It seems that many have known of these bad actors for a long time and perhaps not had the time, energy or means to do anything about them. I don’t have the time either, but I most definitely have the energy and means!
Everyone’s good at something. But, as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan observed in Magnum Force:
“A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
In an ideal world, everyone would choose their profession sensibly and according to their skills and abilities, acknowledging their limitations. We don’t live in that world and, whilst some individuals are exceptionally good at what they do, some are downright awful.
Few have any idea of the damage that can be inflicted by the wrong electronics repairer for example, and why would they? There’s no easy way to see the poor workmanship that destroys electronic equipment, no way, until now.
“But Mike, if this equipment works, who cares if the work looks bad?”
None of this equipment works properly, that’s the problem, and much of it has been ruined, beyond economic repair.
So, how do you pick ’em? Beware of people offering ‘quotes’ without inspecting equipment or identifying faults. They may promise unrealistically low prices, and quick turnaround times but professionals know that quoting on something you haven’t even seen is just silly. Professionals are also usually busy due to strong reputations and high levels of customer satisfaction.
A technician is only as good as his tools and bad operators rarely have anything of value in terms of hand tools, soldering equipment test and measurement equipment. I’ve just purchased $2.5K worth of premium soldering and rework equipment as an investment in my business. A good Fluke handheld multimeter costs $600 – $800, vs $20 for a cheapy. I’ve got six Fluke handhelds and my calibrated Keithley bench DMM is $4000 to replace. The Tektronix or Keysight oscilloscopes I use cost anywhere from $2000 – $10,000 new, vs a crappy Chinese scope for around $300.
These people often copy others, too. Many have copied my approach including my website aesthetic, the way I write and take photos. People copy because they have few original ideas of their own. Look for those who create, every word on this site is from my own head. Nothing is copied.
The idea that it’s worth paying just a little more for the right repairer is a logical one for most. We’ve probably all seen a Rolls Royce or Ferrari at Kmart Tyre and Auto and wondered what on earth the owner was thinking. My advice? Don’t try to scrimp and save when you own beautiful hi-fi gear. Ask around, find out who’s busy and who people in the know recommend. Speak with prospective repairers and look for evidence of their good work.
You may be wondering if anyone featured here in the Hall of Shame has reached out?
- Trevor Lees, the deceitful retailer featured in Krell KSA-150 in case number 6, threatened legal action if I didn’t take down my video about the case. Mind you, he admitted authorising the shonky repairs, misrepresenting the condition of the equipment and fraudulently claiming he originally sold the amplifier new. Peter, the technician who did the work contacted me and tearfully apologised for the poor workmanship, apparently done under duress. That video now has over 100,000 views.
- The technician who destroyed the Krell KRC HR in case number 4 may have contacted me. Apparently, he no longer works on Krell… 🤣
Keeping hi-fi stereo equipment alive and well is the foundation of this business. I’ve been accused of running a “hatchet job” on repairers featured here, but a comment like that is like saying you feel bad for Vladimir Putin. It’s unethical, at best. This work must be called for what it is: appalling ineptitude by people who should be doing something else.
If you want to claim otherwise, be my guest but a word of caution: someone will look dishonest, unethical and/or stupid and I promise it won’t be me. No honest person of sound mind could assess any of this work as acceptable. The worst part is that the repairers who should have looked at equipment like this are often left to clean up the mess. I’ve passed on bad news about cases on this page to owners and it’s not fun.
If you did any of the work here, seriously: do better.
Images on this page belong to Mike @ Liquid Audio and Jason @ The Speaker Doctor. Observations are mine, I’ve sanitised Jason’s thoughts where necessary and avoided using real names.
Lastly, if you’ve had hi-fi equipment bodged or destroyed and wish to share the details, contact me.
Hall of Shame Case Files
Just click a case…
11 – Denon PMA-1060 Integrated Amplifier
10 – Gryphon DM100 Class-A Power Amplifier
9 – Pioneer PDS-507 CD Player
8 – MAS Solitaire Power Amplifier #2
7 – MAS Solitaire Power Amplifier #1
6 – Krell KSA-150 Power Amplifier
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
Sadly, we have yet another case of someone who shouldn’t go anywhere near a soldering iron, this time “upgrading” this classic Denon PMA-1060 integrated amplifier and then selling it on Gumtree. The numpty who does this work is located in Perth’s southern suburbs, Wellard I’m told, by the unfortunate new owner of this beautiful integrated amplifier.
In this case, the filthy dirty amplifier was not cleaned and left with most of its dust, grime and mud installed. Whoever did this simply worked around the muck and used a cotton bud here and there in a vain attempt to clean, then damaged the main board, badly installed various audio grade caps and either made no or incorrect electronic adjustments.
The owner brought it to me and I had to pass on the bad news. It was running on one channel, the quiescent current was way out and the trimmers for setting it were so clogged up with dirt that moving them slightly caused massive jumps in bias that threatened to kill her output devices. Scary stuff.
Setting bias on a Denon amp like this is a two-stage process. Trimmers have to be clean and power consumption should always be monitored whilst adjustments are made.
At least I was able to get this Denon PMA-1060 running well, idling stably. I resolved the absent channel and scary bias trimmer issues. I did not tackle the cleaning. Keep in mind, gear that arrives like this is not my problem to take on. My goal is to help the owner, not reverse the damage done by others.
In this instance, I could best serve this owner by repairing the amp to restore full functionality, which I did, and then advising him to move it on, which I also did. He was very appreciative, though understandably annoyed at the seller.
Be very wary of a Gumtree seller in Perth’s southern suburbs (Wellard). This is one of the worst pieces I’ve seen in a while in terms of general internal condition. Whoever did this needs to find another hobby or seek out some professional assistance to get him on the right track. If you are reading this Wellard man, you are destroying good equipment. Stop doing it.
Poor skills and a lack of understanding of what old equipment needs deliver the inevitable result here. I don’t want this to happen to others.
This is another of those sad stories that force you to drop your head to your hands, Patrick Stewart style. I’m sorry to have to say this but the owners of equipment like this stunning Gryphon DM100 bear at least some responsibility for who they take their equipment to.
Note that I’m not blaming the owners for what happened, but as I mentioned, we all have to exercise discretion and in this case speak to a few people, get some perspective, talk with respected repairers who work on this sort of equipment.
In the case of high-end equipment like this, it simply MUST go to a competent, well-regarded repairer. By that I don’t just mean someone who has a website and a few Google reviews, I mean someone who people know can tackle gear like this. Sending equipment like this to a TV repair guy or outer suburbs ‘electronics guy’ is like taking your Ferrari to the local petrol station. It’s just not a sensible idea and will only ever end badly.
To most people all of this seems obvious, so the bigger question is: how does a stunning, rare and irreplaceable piece of Danish hi-fi history end up with a repairer in the boondocks anyway? In most cases, it’s because someone was trying to save money, or a repairer misleadingly said they could fix it, no problem, it will be easy, blah, blah, blah.
How this ‘saving money’ equation makes sense to anyone is beyond me, but sadly it’s common. I’ve had customers baulk at spending a few hundred dollars on a Krell preamplifier repair. Oftentimes people just don’t want to spend money, even on a $50,000 amplifier. Yes, this is patently ridiculous, but I’m sure most of us have seen a Rolls Royce at Kmart Tyre and Auto.
People actively make these decisions. One can only educate and perhaps influence things a little, by raising awareness with pages like this. Being misled by a repairer is inexcusable though and if that happened here, that person deserves to be named and shamed.
I’m sure the guys at Gryphon aren’t amused. Sorry guys, I really tried with this one and lost money on it too.
Speaking of Krell, Gryphon is a Danish high-end hi-fi equipment manufacturer, one of the best-regarded in my opinion and a company that produces some really stunning gear. For me, they are a Danish Krell, if that makes sense. Similar design ethos, similar build, a similar need for the right attention and maintenance.
The Gryphon DM100 is, without a doubt, one of the great class-A power amplifiers. It weighs 76kg or 168 pounds. It was Gryphon’s first power amplifier and a true statement piece. As such, it’s a rare piece of audio and Gryphon history. You can read more about it here, and here.
It’s a minimum two-man lift and, if you read my articles, you’ll know that means something. These amplifiers are a $10K seller all day long. Replacing it would set you back $50K+, and for that money, you’d likely end up with something not as good as this beautiful old girl.
I thought my old Krell KSA-150 class-A amplifier was a beast. It was, but this DM100 goes to 11. You can probably see where this is going.
I’ll never understand what drives someone who owns hi-fi gear like this to take it to a Shitsville repairer. As I said, it’s probably a combination of ignorance and an attempt to save money, but honestly, when you own gear like this, neither are entirely acceptable excuses. As an owner, you have a responsibility to care for a piece of equipment like this.
When you see what was done to this stunning amplifier, you’ll appreciate the irony of trying to save money repairing it. Far from saving anything, this cost someone. BIGTIME. This amp is effectively a write-off and Gryphon didn’t make many of them. Not exactly a money saver, when you look at it. All that needed to happen was for it to go to a careful, skilled repairer in the first place.
The last repairer this went to before I saw it – Mr RadioFreakinWaves – is featured elsewhere on this page and I’ve worked on many pieces he has damaged. It apparently also went to a semi-country repairer, and/or a ‘guru’ in the Perth hills, or both. I don’t exactly know. I really tried to find out but just couldn’t get clarity on this. I asked a lot of questions about this one.
The current owner swears Mr Radiowaves didn’t do the damage and really tried to convince me of that. I’m not sure what that was about. Maybe it was the Buzztronics boondocks guys, maybe it was Mr RadioFreakinWaves, I just don’t know who to believe I’m afraid. But somebody actually did this, that we know. I want to know who, because everybody deserves to know that. Why are people so reluctant to speak the truth I wonder…?
The moral of this story?
DO NOT take beautiful, high-end hi-fi gear to cheap repairers, VCR and TV guys, gurus, people who make their own ‘brand’ of homemade amplifiers, etc. It’s NEVER worth it, it only ever causes problems and in this case, it has written off yet another stunning piece of equipment. This amp carries a $50K+ replacement cost. Seriously, was it ever worth trying to save a few hundred bucks? Come on.
For reference, if a repairer seems too eager, not busy enough, not in possession of the right equipment, or unable to converse fluently on the topic of repairing your equipment, read between the lines and find someone else. There’s a reason why the people who should look at this are busy.
Nobody can quote you upfront on a job like this. Nobody who knows what they are doing would say they don’t need service data or factory support for a repair like this. Nobody competent would suggest this job should be straightforward. If someone gives you the impression that fixing an amplifier like this is easy, walk away.
AGAIN: Don’t take your Porsche to the local garage, don’t take your Rolex to a shopping centre watch booth and DON’T take your Gryphon amplifier to Buzztronics. EVER.
Is this amplifier repairable? Sure, given enough time and money, almost all gear is repairable. The key is to find someone willing to take it on despite all that’s happened to it (I’m not) and someone willing to pay for it (the current owner is not).
There’s obviously more to this story but I lost enough time and money on it, digging around, trying to help the owner, billing him a pittance and receiving little appreciation for it. Ultimately, my job is to educate and offer sensible advice. It’s more than most are doing and I can’t do much more than that!
This is another sad case, likely perpetrated by a local tinkerer named Clifford, or Pat. Both are known in the ‘scene’ here in Perth, so local readers may know who I’m referring to here.
On the surface, we have a perfectly nice and quite classic Pioneer PDS-507 CD player. These were good machines, nice transports, but often people tinkered with them and installed clocks, regulators and other bits and pieces, usually pretty terribly. Such is the case here.
Underneath the hood, all is revealed…
Quite honestly, you couldn’t build something much worse than what you see here. Well, excluding the Marantz CD player mod in case # 5, which is actually worse!
Big globs of solder, crappy little wires holding a heavy board in place, burn marks. I know some people think work like this is ‘cool’ but really it’s not. I secured the board with some decent hot glue and told my customer two things:
- Stop going to ‘gurus’ for work like this. This sort of nonsense wastes time, money and devalues equipment.
- Don’t shake this CD player around too much!
Now, for the record, I’m not against modifications and improvements. On the contrary, I support well-engineered improvements to hi-fi equipment, but if you can’t do the work neatly and safely, get someone else to do it.
It’s probably best to check out the first MAS Solitaire I looked at from this pair of beautiful amplifiers before checking this story out. I won’t go through the details again, but you can read about the first Solitaire in Case 7.
This is the second amp from the pair. The owner was sure this one was OK and it looked good from the outside. Sadly, it was as bad or worse than the first one, truly diabolically butchered.
Sadly not so beautiful inside, at least not this poor Solitaire. Let’s examine some of the issues.
OK, so let’s start here. This was a TO-18 device, part of a complementary transistor pair. When you replace one device with, in this case, a different TO-220 device, you HAVE to replace the complementary device. These two transistors are mismatched and can never work properly together. Also, it’s necessary to use a heatsink that suits the transistor package. So, a TO-220 heatsink should have been used on this odd TO-220 device. Instead, this lazy repairer simply clamped the old TO-18 heatsink onto this new device, guaranteeing that it will overheat, short against something or fall off.
Apart from the obvious butchery here, the soldering and general filth are unbelievable, aren’t they? Honestly, as I put this case together, I can hardly believe what I’m seeing, and I’ve seen it all before!
Right, what’s next…
So, that’s it for another case of amplifier butchery. This is disgraceful work, there’s no other way to put it. The person who did this had no business working on an amplifier like this, pure and simple.
People ask why I don’t fix amplifiers in this condition. The amount of destruction and introduced faults make it so hard for anyone else to go in after and fix things that the pain is just too great. I could spend a week working on this, researching and locating parts, repairing damaged traces, sourcing NOS bits. Maybe it still wouldn’t work? Quite frankly, in some cases, the gear is past the point of no return.
Sadly, we have another case butchered by a technician back in the heyday of hi-fi retail. Given my updated knowledge of the pedigree of this amplifier and its partner, the work appears to have been done either by Vince Ross’s old technician or by Robert Regal, another diabolical repairer from back in the day.
This amplifier came to me for repair, but my first look told me everything I needed to know about my chances of success on this otherwise stunning amplifier, designed by the legendary Kostas Metaxas.
The MAS Solitaire is an extraordinary amplifier. With a claimed slew rate of 1000V/uS and outrageous styling for the time, this is a super-fast, wide-bandwidth amplifier, with power, stunning looks and premium parts. People rave on about ME, but ME gear has back-yard build quality compared to this beauty.
BUT, when you repair a MAS Solitaire using crappy tools, crappier parts and zero care, this is the inevitable result. The mainboard is too badly damaged and too many crappy parts have been installed to make working on this one viable. Someone might like to try, but not me. It’s a real shame, a sad end to this otherwise lovely unit.
Luckily, the owner has another MAS Solitaire, and it is now with me for service. Let’s see what a good one should look like, stay tuned.
UPDATE: See case # 8, the second MAS Solitaire. It’s no better, could almost be worse. Whoever did this worked on both amplifiers.
This classic case fully warrants its place in the Hall of Shame. I bought this amplifier many years ago from a 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 he was always pushed to repair things on the cheap. That’s definitely evident here.
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 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.
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 – period. Krell did the engineering and 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Power Supply
Let’s take a look at bad repairs in the KRC power supply.
Mr Frampton likely blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp. Here’s more evidence.
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.
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.
Vince used a repairer called Klaus, 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. He used the lowest quality Jaycar volume pot and ribbon cable and destroyed traces associated with the front panel controls, many of which no longer work. I found horrible flux residue everywhere due the lowest-quality solder and failure to clean up. Needless to say, the volume control never worked properly after this.
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 Klaus.
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…
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.