Welcome to one of my most popular pages, the hi-fi repair Hall of Shame, dedicated to bad repairs.
Industry best-practice drives Liquid Audio’s obsessive care for hi-fi equipment. Not all repairers share this approach though and the results often come to me for repair, clutched by disappointed owners who’ve learned this the hard way. This page examines the inevitable results of people who shouldn’t be working on electronics doing it anyway: really bad repairs.
Know Your Limitations
Everybody’s good at something and I’m a firm believer in doing what you are good at, to the best of your ability. I’m not good at tax stuff, but my accountant is. Similarly, electronics repair isn’t for everyone, any more than macramé is. As Dirty Harry Callahan observed in Magnum Force:
“A man’s gotta know his limitations…”
Some technicians simply shouldn’t be working with electronics. This isn’t a judgement, just a statement of fact. Those who wreaked the havoc you’ll see below might mean well, but that isn’t enough. We wouldn’t have these bad repairs if people acknowledged their limitations and pursued things they are good at.
Check out this modification abomination, rendering this wonderful old Marantz CD player unserviceable. The obvious question 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 implementation is more important than the components. Equipment can be improved, but not like this.
Case 4 – Krell KRC Preamplifier
This one hurts the most, like when you see your ex with someone new just weeks after you broke up. My good friend Jason @ The Turntable Doctor shared this tragic case with me and we’ve talked about the need to get the story out ever since. This is certainly the most shocking bad repairs case I’ve ever seen.
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, someone 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.
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.
The Power Supply
Let’s take a look at bad repairs in the KRC power supply.
Frampton likely blew up the power supply by shorting something in the preamp. Here’s some more evidence.
After the unit was assessed here in Perth, the owner contacted Frampton. Frampton was unapologetic, explaining that he improved the volume control (yes, he actually said that). Helpfully, he explained that the attenuator board ‘broke’ and that parts were not available from Krell (they were).
I guess by ‘it broke’ he meant like when you spill petrol on your lawnmower, drop your lit cigarette butt and it ignites, ‘breaking’ the lawnmower or 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.
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 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.
Case 2 – Perreaux PMF 3150 Power Amplifier
This incredible bad repairs case came to me via my good friend Jason, otherwise 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 good value for money…
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.
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? 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.