Audio Service FAQ
Austin Stereo Service focuses exclusively on the service and restoration of mid century analog amplifiers, turntables and receivers. We also service a small number of modern amplifiers, and modern turntables such as Rega and Pro-Ject. We do not service audio/video equipment, surround processors, powered speakers, consoles, portables, or all-in-one stereos. If it has bluetooth, wifi, remote control, we do not service it.
There is no diagnostic fee. Simply contact us with the make and model of your unit. We will let you know if it's something we offer service on, and what the expected cost of service or restoration will be. If your amplifier was restored elsewhere, we would need to see it in person to confirm the status of the restoration.
Amplifiers and Receivers
Amps, tuners, receivers and many turntables all have a few things in common. They all use certain components known to degrade over time. The primary components of interest are known as “electrolytic capacitors” and they 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. This particular problem is addressed by cleaning the controls and switches with a chemical solution.
For vintage units units with all original “caps”, we recommend replacement of all electrolytic capacitors in the amplifier and power supply circuits. Our typical “overhaul” involves replacing from 30 to over 60 individual components on average, and 100 components for a monster like the Pioneer SX-1250. Every control and switch is cleaned, all lamps are replaced, and upgraded to LED when possible. 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 only approach for vintage equipment.
With amplifiers and receivers, another 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.
If you're amplifier or receiver has blown the main fuse, it likely that service is needed. Do not attempt to change the fuse more than once, or use a higher rated fuse.
Vacuum tube amplifiers require the same attention as above, as well as checking and replacing tubes. It is not recommended to simply plug in and turn on a piece of tube gear that has be stored unused for extended periods. Permanent damage may result.
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 destroy output tubes, and potentially cause catastrophic damage to the amplifier.
Turntables needing only a new cartridge or belt can usually be taken care of while you wait. If you simply need the tonearm balanced, we offer this for most turntables at no charge. It usually takes no more than a minute.
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 distorted 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 and direct 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 belts 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, almost all 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 genuine replacements are rare to unavailable. Some clones are produced today, but are typically 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. For our own speakers, we use TexaSound. We do however sell new and reconditioned speakers.
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. Most speakers use capacitors in the crossover circuit. Some use a type of capacitor that decays over time, just as they do in amplifiers and receivers.
Some speakers from the 1960's and 1970's have adjustable level controls for the tweeters, and in the case of three way speakers, a midrange control. Nearly without fail, these controls are problematic. Usually cleaning will restore operation. Speaker manufacturers finally saw the light, and these have all but been eliminated from modern speakers.
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. It's important to choose the speakers appropriate for your room and listening requirements.