If you love hi-fi gear and neat work, you’re unfortunately not going to love this page. Sorry.
Welcome to the 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 from the perspective of a repairer specialising in exactly the sort of equipment and repairs seen here, but executed with neatness and precision, rather than, well you’ll see…
My feeling, based on speaking with colleagues, is that this is a ‘dirty little secret’ of the electronics repair industry. It seems that many have known of these bad agents for a long time and perhaps not had the time, energy or means to get the information out there. I may not have the time either, but I have the energy and means.
Updated, September 2021
In an ideal world, everyone would be good at what they do. We don’t live in an ideal world though and, whilst some individuals are really good at what they do, some are diabolically bad. Few have any idea of the damage that can be inflicted by the wrong electronics repairer for example, and why would they? There’s almost no way to see the sort of poor workmanship that destroys electronic equipment. No way that is, until now.
Everyone’s good at something. But, as ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan observed in Magnum Force:
“A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
I’ve always believed that we should focus on doing what we’re good at.
In each of the cases here, the work ranges from unacceptably bad to destructive, where equipment has been ruined and is beyond economic repair.
“But Mike, if this equipment works, who cares if it looks bad?”
None of this gear works properly, it can’t when it looks like this. Unsurprisingly, owners seem to care a heck of a lot when they realise what’s happened to their cherished equipment. Wouldn’t you?!
Ideally, the Jaycar soldering iron, Digitech multimeter wielding inepts who did this stuff would self regulate and remove themselves from the industry. Some of them are so bad they’ve literally been run out of town, but others stumble on, helped by the unfortunate fact that people who perhaps don’t know any better or just want the cheapest job.
So, how do you identify these people? I’ve alluded to one way already. A technician is only as good as his tools and the tinkerers rarely have anything of value in terms of hand tools, test and measurement equipment and so on.
Keep an eye out for cheap Chinese test and measurement gear. A good Fluke handheld multimeter is $600 – $800, vs $20 – $50 for the cheap stuff. I’ve got six Fluke handhelds. The calibrated Keithley bench DMM in my lab is worth $4000, a good Tektronix or Keysight oscilloscope can cost anywhere from $2000 – $10,000. I have a few. A crappy Chinese scope might cost $300.
Even carefully staged photos of test gear may actually contain only crappy gear if you look closely. Contrast this with the image below for example, with about $20K+ of visible test gear and much more you cannot see. Those of us invested in our work invest in our tools and test and measurement equipment.
For most, the idea that it might cost a little more to have the right person do the work you want, properly is an intuitive one. The people you want looking at gear like this invest heavily in equipment, parts, tools, education and so on. This means it may cost more for an hour of their time, but it’s worth it. Good work, performed by skilled practitioners, is always worth seeking out.
Most bakers can bake a loaf of bread. Prices range from $2 to $10 a loaf and flavour ranges from cardboard for the cheap white, to delicious for the $10 artisan sourdough. Price and flavour/quality are pretty much directly correlated. I’m not saying you should only consider the $10 loaf, but is the cheapest, nastiest bread ever worth buying? Certainly not for me.
We all need to exercise discretion in the choices we make. Decisions based on price alone are rarely the right ones. You get what you pay for, with bread, hi-fi equipment, and people. Remember this. My rates sit in the middle of the range, for those wondering.
You may be wondering if anyone ‘featured’ in the Hall of Shame has reached out.
- Trevor Lees, featured in Krell KSA-150 in case number 6, threatened legal action if I didn’t take down the video I made. He admitted authorising the shonky repairs, misrepresenting the condition of the equipment and fraudulently claiming he originally sold the amplifier new, so there’s that. The technician who actually did the work contacted me and tearfully apologised for the poor workmanship, apparently done under duress. With this in mind, I ignored the threats, and that video now has over 100,000 views.
- The technician who destroyed the Krell KRC HR in case number 4 may have contacted me. Several people called, wanting to chat about this repairer, over the space of only a few days. Their questions and how they asked them were a little suspicious. Maybe I’m getting paranoid, but I reckon one of these people WAS this repairer.
I’m passionate about hi-fi stereo equipment and doing the best work possible to help keep it alive and well. I take a dim view of the work featured in these cases and I’m writing from that perspective.
I’ve been accused of running a “hatchet job” on repairers featured here. That would of course mean that this is all just a big misunderstanding, that the work you are about to see is great and that I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Really? Are you absolutely sure you want to put your name on that assessment? Please, be my guest, it adds to the amusement and I’ll be happy to let people know, but just a heads-up because someone is about to look very, very foolish, and it ain’t me!
Take a look, see what you think. Look at all the photos, tell me if you think this is good work. I think you’ll agree, no sensible person could assess any of this work as acceptable. The hatchet jobs were done on this beautiful equipment.
Keep in mind that it’s often the repairers the equipment should have visited in the first place who are left to clean up the mess. It’s not a great position to be in, I’ve had to pass on the bad news to the owners and see their faces when they realise their equipment is destroyed or will cost thousands to repair. I’ve wasted my time and energy making equipment reliable again. Shouldn’t the people who create the mess have to deal with the fallout?
Ultimately, it’s obvious what happened to the equipment here. If you create or support work like this, please do let me know.
All images on this page belong to Mike @ Liquid Audio and Jason @ The Speaker Doctor. Observations are my own and I’ve condensed and sanitised Jason’s thoughts where necessary. I’ve avoided using real names.
PS: Get in touch if you’ve had hi-fi equipment bodged or destroyed and you’d like to share the details.
Hall of Shame Case Files
The cases listed are linked to the details. Just click and prepare to be shocked!
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
This is another of those sad stories that cause you to slowly put your head in your hands, Patrick Stewart style. I’m sorry to have to say this but the owners of equipment like this Gryphon DM100 bear at least some responsibility for who they take their equipment to. I’m not blaming the owners for what happened, but as I mentioned earlier, 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 is like taking your Ferrari to the local petrol station. It’s just not a sensible idea.
To most people this all seems obvious, so the bigger question is how does a stunning, rare and irreplaceable piece of Danish hi-fi history end up with a VCR repairer in the boondocks or ‘guru’ anyway? I’m guessing it’s because someone was trying to save money.
How this equation ever makes sense to anyone is beyond me, but sadly it’s relatively 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 silly. We cannot control what people do, one can only hope to influence things a little, by raising awareness with articles like this.
I’m sure the guys at Gryphon aren’t amused. Sorry guys, I tried, I promise.
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 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, so maybe it was the Buzztronics boondocks guys. I just don’t know who to believe I’m afraid, but somebody actually did this, that we know. I just want to know who, because everybody deserves to know that.
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 test gear, 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 right people to look at this are busy.
Nobody can quote you upfront on a complex 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 Porche to the local Ford and Holden guy, don’t take your Rolex to a shopping centre watch shop and DON’T take your Gryphon amp to Buzztronics.
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 that (the current owner is not).
There’s obviously a bit more to this story but I lost enough time and money on it, digging around, trying to help the owner. Ultimately, my job is to try to educate people 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.