HELP - INCLUDING USEFUL SIMPLE FREE TECHNICAL REPAIR ADVICE
A lot of hi-fi repair queries can be resolved at home.
Before spending money, check the obvious.
Some silly faults:-
One customer asked me to repair an amplifier that was working only on one channel. The balance control had been turned round fully to the right! Turning it back resolved that problem, (Let there be no doubt, I spotted this while my customer was in the shop and resolved the problem at no charge at all - then we both had a chuckle!). OK that was a very silly mistake - but we all make silly mistakes from time to time and dishonest repairers make a lot of money cheating their customers - consider how much I could have charged for a "repair" if I had spotted the balance control but had not informed my customer!
I often find loose screws in a mains plug causing bad contact. Symptoms include crackling noises and sometimes not working. One customer with a Quad 44 control unit found it reverting to the tuner input unexpectedly simply as this is the automatic default. Repair is so simple!
Another customer found, after major redecoration, that his FM tuner worked poorly. He had managed to hammer a nail through the aerial wire!
Always start by checking for the obvious!
The bass unit coils of some very old loudspeakers drop with the effects of gravity over the years. Turn the whole cabinet upside down. If the 'speakers now sound ok, leave them upside down for about 3 weeks then return to normal. It is not unusual for this "repair" to last six months or more - with that wonderful benefit that it is free!
Always read the instructions. On many hi fi units, operation of certain controls can introduce unusual symptoms. A favourite is operation of the tape monitor switch on a good amplifier, which can introduce most odd effects if you do not understand what it does.
Finally, do email or telephone with queries as it is much cheaper than bringing the unit here if there's nothing wrong with it!
Unfortunately, there are a whole variety of pitfalls awaiting the unwary - some follow below:-
There are a number of options regarding repair and repairers.
There are those "repairers" we must call crooks. These rogues usually are hard to get to, (either working from home in a dodgy area or in a factory estate with a locked door or an inaccessible shop), so returning to complain is not easy. They will hold your equipment for around six weeks, then charge a relatively modest price, typically around £75. When you get home, you find nothing has been done. If you return, the door will not be opened, or if it is, you'll be told to go away.
Close to this are the bodging repairers. They will also charge a modest price, (the logic is that if you have not paid a lot of money after you find you've been cheated you won't bother to return). They are easy to identify as they only give a short guarantee, typically 30 to 90 days - 3 months at the most. There are many short term bodges that will last three months, but offer very poor value for money. A good modern example is cleaning a CD player lens when a new laser assembly should be fitted. It usually lasts another 2 - 3 months. As you were only charged for cleaning, if it doesn't last, the 3 month guarantee does not help - you then have to pay for a new laser assembly anyway, (if the bodger knows how to fit it!).
A competent repairer like London Sound will give you an estimate and work within it. If the estimate figure may be exceeded, we provide the option of return of the equipment unrepaired free of charge if you do not accept a new figure, (you only pay for carriage). The work carried out has to be sufficiently comprehensive to ensure the best chance of reliability and a full 12 month guarantee must be given. The London Sound guarantee is on the technical function of the whole piece of equipment, not just on the repair itself - it is rare to find any other repairers matching this. Probably the biggest benefit is that the work costs less than buying new yet usually the equipment will last as long as a new piece of equipment. In addition, you are familiar with your old unit and know what it does and how it works.
On a general note, it is important to be aware of a repairer's field of expertise. Although television, dvd players, home cinema, amplifiers, tuners, cd players and record decks all seem to be bundled together, they are different. Always ask your repairer first if he can help with the particular item that you want repaired. Also be aware of the poorer repairer who is so short of work that he will offer to repair anything, even if he has no relevant expertise.
Here I would also like to refer to value judgments regarding whether to bodge, repair or replace a piece of hi-fi. Consider the "how long" as well as the "how much". If you want to sell something, I can understand that a cheap bodge can make sense with the buyer only finding out that he's been cheated when it's too late. In my opinion, when selling, it is usually better if you sell as faulty in the interests of transparent honesty. You probably won't lose much money but you'll sleep better!
However, if you want to keep the piece of equipment, a cheap bodge not only means that it will go wrong again fairly soon, but probably won't sound all that good even straight after repair.
A limiting factor that I often hear is that the repair may cost more than the equipment can be sold for. So what? You are going to use it not sell it! Yes, you can often buy a replacement through eBay or elsewhere for less than the cost of repair, but not usually with a guarantee, not even a short one. Remember, if repair will cost £300, but a second hand replacement will cost £200, if the second hand one fails in a few months, you've lost £200 and still face the £300 repair! On the other hand, if competently repaired, your equipment will work as it did when it was brand new.
Mostly this is a very "grey" area. Be very wary of the small business which purports to know more than the manufacturer of your equipment. I have a handful of upgrades myself mostly developed with the manufacturers in the light of modern technology, but do not presume to accuse top manufacturers of not knowing what they were doing!
Particularly be wary of nonsence like an arbitrary need to replace all of a particular type of component. These practises are little more than fads, fashion or straight confidence tricks. Over the years I have found engineers advising replacement of all the resistors, all electrolytic capacitors, all of the valves or transistors, indeed these people seem to make a lot of money telling you to replace whatever seems popular at the time, (or what they hold in stock)! It is, of course, generally a waste of money. Despite what you see in the internet, most resistors, valves, transistors, capacitors, transformers, variable controls and other components have a lifespan measured in many decades.
There are, however, serious disadvantages in replacement of all of a particular kind of component. Firstly, as soon as a circuit is disturbed, there is a chance of accidentally introducing another fault. We also have to consider performance matching. In most cases, new parts risk outperforming the originals. This may be beneficial, but not often. More serious is the fact that sometimes it can be seriously detrimental.
A good repairer identifies faulty components and replaces them sympathetically, but otherwise leaves as much as possible of the circuitry untouched.
One of my favourites is the claim that "tone controls can introduce distortion". This is true, but only of very early designs, or poor modern circuits.
In around 1970 or thereabouts I had the privilege of meeting a Mr Baxendale, a very interesting man. I was later told that many years earlier, he was the inventor of a circuit used for tone controls. The main characteristic of his circuit was that, properly implemented, it did not add to the distortion present, and with the controls at a level setting, offered a completely level frequency response. At the time that I met him, his circuit, or variations, was used by most if not all amplifier manufacturers.
I think we can therefore assume that amplifier manufacturers who do not provide tone controls are somehow ignorant of Mr Baxendale's circuit, or cannot construct it properly. This also brings the rest of their knowledge and design skills into question!
What is output power? I regret that I do not have all of the details here but the way the customer is cheated disgusts me. Originally, if an amplifier delivered 10 watts output power, it could be attached to a 10 watt bulb of a suitable voltage and it would glow continuously. Then we had the first concept of "music power" which looked at the higher power that could be obtained over a very short period. Work has progressed on these increasingly imaginative methods of measurement so that now it is not unheard of for a 100 watt amplifier, (modern measurement method), to be unable to exceed the true continuous figure of 10 watts tested using the measurement method of the 1960s!
Do not be confused by current figures for "RMS continuous" measurements as there are international standards that look at figures that can be measured according to the more stringent "continuous" method - but "continuous" is meant to mean a couple of seconds only! Very silly when compared with the best designs that will deliver full power indefinitely!
Apart from the confusion, one rather nasty result of the current law on this kind of issue is how the manufacturers adapt to it. It is possible to contstruct an amplifier that is rated to give 100 watts output, but if used continuously at even 10 watts will overheat. Probably the most common method of dealing with this is by protection circuits that either cut the sound off when they get hot, or reduce available power so that there is often a serious loss of sound quality even when playing at modest volume over an extended period.
So what can you do about power? Be cautious and make sure that regardless of rated performance, the item you buy will actually do what you want.
The picture above is me in the workshop at the back of our shop.
We are slowly preparing special pages for the main products we deal with. The first ones are for Armstrong, Leak, Radford, Quad and Rogers - just click on the name on the left - or in this sentence. More will follow soon.
If another repairer has told you this, he may be right - but. That BUT is a very big but! For example, if the output transistors of an old amplifier have failed, it is not unusual to find that transistors of that type number are not available, but that other suitable substitutes are currently in stock! It can happen that we are unable to find spares, but then we either modify the equipment to use other parts - or make them!
High standard of workmanship, (we couldn't give a 12 month guarantee otherwise)!
With rare exceptions, all repairs are carried out by Mike Solomons, who has over 35 years professional experience, (it was a teenage hobby before then!). (Or, as I have often said, "put another way - nice people like you bring me interesting equipment to work on - then actually pay me for it! What better way to earn a living! For you, the benefit that, happy in my work, I do my best for you.")
We give Free Estimates and stick to them.
We operate from a high street shop with, (during our opening hours), an open door, (not a private home or industrial estate with a locked door to block out complaints).
This is not a selling operation, (so either we repair, or make no money - no false advice to buy new!).
All repair work guaranteed 12 months. Clearly, in writing, with no unreasonable exclusion clauses!
We specialise in older equipment, (Why? Usually good equipment is quite old when it first breaks!) How old is 'older equipment'? Most units repaired here are between ten and fifty years old, some even older!
We hold a wide range of spares and service manuals.
When spares are not available, we have the required knowledge and data to substitute and repair. Our facilities include basic woodwork and metalwork, for re-construction, and modification where required, as well as, as you would expect, full electronic research and development facilities.
We are here to stay - Mike Solomons personally owns the freehold of the shop - without a mortgage - so you won't come here one day to find we've gone because of a rent review, (He says, "I now give them, but fairly, not suffer from them!").
Email, telephone, write or call into the shop, for a free estimate. Note, our estimates are completely free, you only pay us if your equipment is repaired in accordance with the estimate.
Free means free!
If such repairs cannot be carried out, then we charge exactly nothing, even if we have carried out a partial repair then found major further difficulties! The only cost to you is transport.
ALL REPAIR WORK is guaranteed for twelve months. "All" means "all", not just some. Whether old or new, whatever the equipment age, the guarantee on repairs is the same. We've even guaranteed the repairs on some mid 1930's vintage radio and radiogram units for twelve months - without difficulties! How? If the work is done properly, it isn't a problem!
There is only one exception, and that is for repairs carried out free of charge!
Not quite the same as buying new, as you don't have all the shiny new instruction books to read, packaging to dispose of etc! Neither do you have to research, purchase, or learn how the new item works - and find out what to do if it doesn't quite have the same facilities as your old unit!
Where you get a guarantee on repairs, (some repairers give no written guarantee at all), the "Industry Standard" is usually either one or three months.
It gets worse than that, as most repairers' guarantees are usually very tightly restricted just to the basic repair carried out - so, for example, if a volume control is replaced, but weeks later the amplifier fails again - as long as the volume control itself still is OK, you automatically have to pay again in full for repairs!
So - how much will it cost?
OUR ESTIMATING PROCEDURE:-
1) On the 'phone, we can often give a rough guide. It is also possible by email and by ordinary mail - it just takes longer, as we may ask questions, and have to wait for replies. "Longer" isn't all that long - apart from holidays, we usually reply to emails within 24 hours - often, during the day, within minutes.
2) Usually, when you bring the equipment here, on a brief assessment of the fault while you wait, we will give a free estimate. We will also give you a further much higher figure, to be a 'fixed ceiling', not to be exceeded without your written consent. This procedure is called a Qualified Estimate, and is much safer for you than an ordinary estimate, which can legally be exceeded, sometimes by a large amount!
3) If you agree the estimate, the goods will be accepted for repair. You will be given a written copy of the estimate, with the upper ceiling figure clearly in writing, so you know you are safe. Normally, you will soon receive an invoice on completion of repairs, which will not exceed the 'fixed ceiling'.
4) However, if repairs cannot be completed within the original agreed estimate, a further written estimate or report will be sent. In this case, for your protection, unless a revised estimate is agreed by you in writing, with an advance payment made to prove acceptance, you may collect the unrepaired equipment, with no charge at all to pay.
5) BY MAIL. We can also carry out repairs by mail. Even then, the estimates are free, but the cost of carriage both ways is your responsibility.
So why is London Sound Different?
From the start, I have tried my best to carry out repairs to a high standard. Why? It is far better to do the work properly, than to try to evade responsibility for cutting corners and getting it wrong. Everyone would agree with that, but not everyone has the skills, integrity and self confidence!
I have to admit that, many years ago, in the early stages of my business, I lacked the required confidence, and only gave the usual 3 month guarantee. However, on the rare occasions when things went wrong within less than a year, I never felt able to charge. And yet as I became more experienced, breakdowns after the first few days became rare - and I found myself having discussions with regular customers about repairs carried out five, six seven or more years previously - with the equipment still OK!
A typical example of such a discussion occurred in 1980, as London Sound moved into its shop in Eastcote. I remember it well, as a man with me at the time, (the B.T. engineer fitting in a 'phone with our "old" number, which had provided some problems), had been deriding the idea of customers remaining loyal over a period of years. On the 'phone, a man said, "You repaired my Rogers Cadet III about 8 years ago. Don't worry, it's still OK, but I have a problem with another piece of hi-fi - - -" Not only had the Rogers remained in good working order for 8 years, but so had my reputation! Amazingly, another owner of a Rogers Cadet III telephoned me with an almost exact copy of the first message, in 1990, when we moved to the present shop!
So firstly, why do breakdowns occur within days? Sometimes what we jokingly call a "faulty customer" - a failure to use the equipment correctly! But sometimes it is genuine - and then, whether after days, months, or even a year, if I am wrong, I always prefer to put things right, rather than argue. As, I would hope, but rarely find, should anyone else.
So what triggered the decision to give a written twelve month repair guarantee? It was those discussions with past customers, with tales of equipment which I repaired lasting for such long periods after the work was done! I simply decided to claim credit for what I was doing anyway!
For technical help and advice, please ring Mike Solomons on 020 8868 9222.