A golden age of audio equipment began in the mid 20th century, and peaked in the 1980s. Many examples are not only aesthetically beautiful, they also outperform modern day counterparts. There are still many examples of fine audio equipment produced today, but most all are in modest numbers by smaller companies, and are priced accordingly. The time when affordable mass produced audio gear was built for sound and built to last, has long since passed.
Amplifiers and Receivers
Amps, tuners, receivers and many turntables all have a few things in common. They all use certain components known to fail over time. Many of these components are known as “electrolytic capacitors” and use a chemical compound that decays with age. Fortunately, they can be replaced with new components, and with higher quality versions that will outlast and outperform the originals. Other symptoms, such as noise when switches and controls are moved, or channels cutting in and out when a knob is turned, or button is pushed, are caused by “dirty” controls. A common misconception is that the problem is dust or dirt, in fact it is actually caused by oxidation or tarnish. The same thing that makes a shiny penny turn brown.
For units with all original “caps”, we recommend extensive replacement of all electrolytic capacitors in the amplifier circuit. Our typical “overhaul” involves replacing from 30 to over 60 individual components. Every control and switch is cleaned, all lamps are replaced, receiver tuners are cleaned, the circuit board is hand resoldered, and any other known causes of problems are addressed. We have found that this complete service is the best approach for vintage equipment.
With amplifiers and receivers, another all too common repair is a “blown” channel. A significant number of these failures are actually caused by the user. One of the most common causes of amplifier failures is shorted speaker wiring. Even a single filament crossing between the red and black terminals can seriously damage your amplifier. We offer assistance in correctly terminating and installing speaker wire.
Vacuum tube amplifiers also utilize electrolytic capacitors, but often only a few of them. Many tube amps do require the user, or a technician to check and periodically set the output tube bias. Some tube amplifiers are designed for the user to make this adjustment. Especially when the power tubes are replaced. While plugging in the new tubes is quite easy, failure to correctly set the bias can cause catastrophic damage to the amplifier.
Turntables are some of the more durable audio components. With the possible exception of the stylus that is. If handled carefully, a high quality stylus can serve for hundreds, and of not thousands of hours. The tip should never be touched with your finger. If you hear distored sound, it may simply be dust on the stylus. Use a brush designed to clean the stylus, or a small artist’s paintbrush.
Turntables use one of several different drive systems. Belt drive, direct drive, and rim drive are the most common. Most record changers, such as those produced by DUAL, BSR, BIC and GARRARD, used rim drive. The key replaceable part was similar to a small tire on a metal or plastic wheel. The rubber decays over time, and sadly, few replacements are available.
Belt drive turntables are driven by what appears to be a giant rubber band. These “rubber bands” are actually critical in size and composition. Fortunately, replacements for most turntables are produced today. We sell replacements for many belt drive turntables. Bring your table by, and if we have it, we will install the replacement at no added charge.
Direct drive turntables operate by connecting the motor directing to the platter as the name implies. While direct drive turntables do not suffer from belt failure, due to their much more complex electronics, they eventually suffer from electrolytic capacitor failure.
The Stylus (needles) and Cartridge are where the music begins. The user replaceable part is the stylus or “needle”. Unfortunately, thousands of different types and models were made, and the replacements are rare to unavailable. Some clones were produced, but were of much lower quality. Fortunately, the entire pickup unit, or “cartridge” can be replaced. We sell new cartridges that fit the majority of component turntables. As with belts, we install these at no extra charge.
We no longer service speakers. Call or email for suggested referrals. We do however sell new and reconditioned speakers.
There are so many variations in speaker design, the scope is far beyond this document. The most common designs use two or more conical elements, usually known as a “woofer” and “tweeter”. Some include a device called a “midrange”. These components are also referred to as “drivers”. Usually constructed of paper and a flexible foam material, many more exotic materials are used for the cone (or dome) and surround material. There are countless variations using multiples of components, and other more exotic component types. Some speakers will operate for decades with no maintenance at all. Others will fail like clockwork in about ten to twenty years on average.
The most common speaker failure is caused by decay of the foam material surrounding the woofer cone. In many speakers, this material can be replaced. Another common mode of failure is caused by over-driving speakers, and burning out, or “blowing” a component. This type of failure may not be repairable, as replacements are only produced for a limited number of years. It is a myth that you must exceed a power rating of a speaker to cause damage. Operating even a much smaller amplifier until distortion is reached will eventually damage most speakers, no matter what the power rating.