If you love classic hi-fi gear and neat repair work, you’re probably 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…
Speaking with colleagues, I believe crappy work 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.
Updated, September 2021
In an ideal world, everyone would be good at what they do. We don’t live in that world and, whilst some individuals are really good at what they do, some are appallingly 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.”
Ideally, the Digitech multimeter wielding inepts who did this stuff would accept their limitations and remove themselves from the industry. The problem is they don’t. Some have been run out of town and others may vaporise themselves, Darwin Awards style, but others stumble on, helped by the fact that potential customers don’t know any better. Let’s try to stop them.
“But Mike, if this equipment works, who cares if the work looks bad?”
Nope, none of this gear works properly and much of it has been ruined, beyond economic repair. Unsurprisingly, the owners care a lot about this.
These guys are often keen to offer ‘quotes’ without seeing equipment or identifying faults, so they can get hold of your gear. They often promise unrealistically low prices, they are usually not busy, eager to take your equipment and might promise quick turnaround times. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!
Well, a technician is only as good as his tools and these tools say a lot about how someone thinks and works. These folks rarely have anything of value in terms of hand tools, soldering equipment test and measurement equipment and so on. It’s usually the cheapest rubbish.
A good Fluke handheld multimeter is $600 – $800, vs $20 – $50 for the cheapies. I’ve got six Fluke handhelds. The calibrated Keithley bench DMM in my lab is worth $4000. Tektronix or Keysight oscilloscopes I use cost anywhere from $2000 – $10,000 new. A crappy Chinese scope might cost $300.
Even carefully staged photos of test gear may only contain 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.
For most, the idea that it’s worth paying just a little more for the right repairer makes sense. The people you want looking at your hi-fi gear have invested in education, equipment, calibration, parts, tools and these things are part of running a better business.
Think of it this way: Most bakers can bake a loaf of bread. Prices range anywhere from $1 to $10+ a loaf. Flavour ranges from zero to delicious. Price, effort, flavour and quality are pretty much directly correlated. The best bakers use experience, equipment and ingredients to bake the best bread and this pans out across various technical fields.
I’m not saying you should only consider the $10 loaf, but you get what you pay for, with bread and people. Ask around, find out who’s busy and who people who know a thing or two recommend, including hi-fi stores needing reliable repairs.
You may be wondering if anyone featured here in the Hall of Shame has reached out?
- Trevor Lees, the vapid and 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, so there’s that. Peter, the technician who actually 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. Maybe I’m getting paranoid, but I reckon this guy called me.
Ethics & Responsibility
I’m passionate about keeping hi-fi stereo equipment alive and well. Amusingly, I’ve been accused of running a “hatchet job” on repairers featured here, you’ll see why that’s funny in a moment. If true it would of course mean:
- I have no idea what I’m talking about
- That the work you are about to see is actually fantastic
If you are absolutely sure you want to put your name to that assessment, be my guest. I’ll even give you a mention here if you are brave/stupid enough to do it. Just a heads-up though: someone will look stupid, and I promise it ain’t me.
Take a look around and see if you honestly think any of this is good work. No person of sound mind could assess this work as acceptable. No, the hatchet jobs were done by these bad actors on this equipment. More fool anyone who pretends otherwise.
Keep in mind that it’s often the repairers who should have initially looked at equipment like this who are left to clean up the mess. I’ve had to pass on the bad news to the owners for example and try to calm them when they realise their equipment has been destroyed, beyond economic repair.
I don’t like seeing people ripped off and equipment destroyed and I’m sticking my neck out to educate people about these issues. Before you accuse me of running a hatchet job, what are YOU doing to help the hi-fi community..?
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 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.