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Vintage classics: restoration vs. modification

Discussion in 'classic' started by Arkless Electronics, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. chartz

    chartz pfm Member

    I choose not to modify, just to restore up to specs. No tweaks, no fancy components.
    Just fresh caps, new resistors if the old ones have drifted.
    I refuse to replace bulbs with LEDs.
    John_73 and George J like this.
  2. Copperjacket

    Copperjacket pfm Member

    In many fields there are are a variety of specialists modifying items to perform better than the manufacturer intended.

    In the automotive field there is a huge aftermarket industry modifying everything from BMW to Subarus.

    In the Hifi industry for example and on this site in particular there are both professionals and amatures who modify Naim kit in a variety of ways. What is the qualifying criteria to make this acceptable?
  3. chartz

    chartz pfm Member

    I don’t know.

    I trust Mr Walker, Studer or Vereker knew what they were doing when designing their products - at their price points.
    When I restore a Quad 303 or 405, a ReVox A77, a Beolab 5000, a CDP-101, I am content to get them back to their original, factory conditions.

    A few very competent techs, amateur or professional, are certainly able to improve these products - and change their character - but that’s just not the point, is it?
  4. awkwardbydesign

    awkwardbydesign Officially Awesome

    And there you have it in a nutshell. Shouldn't the first post be in the trade section?
  5. Steve Taylor

    Steve Taylor pfm Member

    No, it was split by Tony from another thread and is not a marketing exercise.
    I agree with Tony’s choice as it’s a fascinating topic.
  6. Hempknight

    Hempknight pfm Member

    Surely it must be quite difficult to do a true 'sypathetic' restoration by now, as I was under the impression that older caps don't age well even if their NOS, it seems pretty pointless to go to the effort and expense sourcing them, for them to just go up in smoke.
    As for carbon resistors, I've found Kiwame very good (experimented replacing some metal films in a crossover L-pad, in a successfull attemp to tame some sibilance).
  7. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    To my mind it is keeping the basic type the same, i.e. replace PIO caps with PIO, carbon comp resistors with at least a quality audio-grade carbon film if you don’t want the potential hassle/noise of old carbon comp. The Kiwame are carbon film, so perfectly stable and very accurate. Lots of choice available for each type.

    As an example my Stereo 20 is rebuilt with Takman carbon film resistors, bomb-proof Russian military K40-Y9 PIO caps, F&T electrolytics etc. I’d describe it as a ‘sympathetic restoration’ rather than ‘100% period correct’, i.e. I’ve tried my best not to modernise it but I am limited by what is available and reliable. The voicing should be close enough to original spec if not absolutely exact and it will be stable for a very, very long time.
    John_73 and Hempknight like this.
  8. John_73

    John_73 pfm Member

    I can see both sides of the arguments that inevitably seem to evolve regarding component choices when repairing or restoring or retro-modding vintage gear. I honestly don’t think there’s a ‘wrong’ approach, it’s up to the personal choices of the owner. BUT where I get annoyed is when people start hacking around the chassis, or just gut the insides and basically use the transformers and chassis and build something entirely different inside. I frequently see Stereo 20s and Quad IIs in appalling states from over-zealous modders via Ebay and some blogs.

    I can totally see why some would choose modern components to get the very best measured performance possible from this vintage circuit. I have no quarrel with that at all. But my own desire is to own something that’s as close to how a brand spanking new Stereo 20 would have sounded fresh out the factory, that’s my personal preference, and why I want to own a vintage amp, as the subjective ‘colourations’ of components chosen I find pleasing to listen too (and evocative of an earlier era) particularly with much of today’s strident mastering choices! This is when objectivity ends, and subjectivity takes over, as you are the one doing the listening and it must jive with your own preferences, or the item loses it’s reason for being owned.

    I think both sides of the debate could do with respecting the other a little more, frankly ;)
    booja30 likes this.
  9. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Yep fully agree with that.
  10. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    FWIW When I asked Mike Solomons to sort out an Armstrong 626 for me I was quite happy for him to 'update and improve' it. Reason being that the changes he made are ones I'm pretty sure I or Ted Rule would have been happy to make if it had continued to be developed and sold. In effect, he fixed the snags I never got around to! :) It still looks and sounds much the same. Just that it's behaviour is now more thermally stable and it doesn't make odd noises during power-up or power-off.

    One of the difficulties of the 'original' approach is that some designs evolved in a number of small ways over the years they were made. So not all examples will be the same anyway. Beyond that, whatever suits the user, so far as I'm concerned.

    PS: It amazed me when I started seeing programmes on TV about old paintings and they showed the 'restorations' that take place. It seems pretty likely than a number of 'old master' examples are heavily 'restored'. And sometimes this can mean the restorer has to use judgement to decide what the artist 'originally wanted'... only for a later 'restorer' to disagree! :)
  11. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth pfm Member

    I have a pair of Quad IIs that need work doing on them. They need at least one transformer replacing (can’t remember if it’s input or output). My understanding is that to use them standalone I’ll need to get them modded with a three pin socket fitted to have them earthed correctly. So before I’ve started I’ll need to deviate from the original casework design. To be honest using newer components ‘under the hood’ wouldn’t bother me.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of getting in touch with these people as they can replace transformers and respray the cases...

  12. oldius

    oldius I miss baked beans and brown sauce.

    If ever I have work done, I just replace with like for like, modern components from major suppliers. All my vintage equipment has worked flawlessly since. I am not enamoured with boutique, unproven components.
  13. Rug Doc

    Rug Doc pfm Member

    Something can only be original once.

    Cars, houses, Carpets & Rugs etc etc. The value in something Antique is within its originality. I advocate keeping things original, but if something can be done to enhance longevity and be unobtrusive to the aesthetic then so be it.

    I have been so tempted to respray and restore my 1973 Porsche completely so many times, but it will then only be (yet) another ‘restored’ car, it could have been restored in 1983, or 2018 it doesn’t matter as it’s then ‘restored’, but it will never be ‘original’ ever again.
    Woodface likes this.
  14. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    It's up to the owner surely if they want as historically as possible, or the best modern implementation using new parts, or a frankenamp. My own stuff I want as good as technically possible, my 63s are being rebuilt with new boards and best parts, but I wouldn't take a rare/classic piece of kit with historical and monetary value and futz it up.
  15. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    I find it interesting to see what older kit is really capable of in terms of the design itself, freed from the limitations of the components they had to work with back then. e.g even what we would regard as inadequately small smoothing caps would have been huge back then so it's often easy to make the PSU vastly more capable within the confines of the chassis.
    Personally I draw the line at anything that makes a classic unable to be put back to original form should the historic aspects begin to outweigh the sheer performance ones, or maybe to get greatest return by making it standard again.
    I never drill, cut, re-spray a different colour or anything like that when modernising a classic.

    I may however end up re-purposing parts and even the entire things in the case of the Leak Troughline tuners I have.... I'm sure they breed.... loads of 'em... a few very scruffy anyway... I can see those handily valve pre amp/phono stage sized mains transformers having a new life... and maybe valve sockets and some of the valves.
  16. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    Savour the moment, because it won't last. Perhaps most of us won't have to worry given we're knocking-on in years, but the generation to come simply won't have access to the parts required to restore classics.
    Already with each passing year, the major component suppliers are reducing the number of larger through hole discrete components they carry which forces ever greater reliance on NOS. The big suppliers are pretty much moving to SMD.
    NOS tubes - fine. NOS caps and semiconductors, often not so fine as even the latter degrade with time. When I pick up a 70s Pioneer or Marantz amplifier, often it's the transistors going bad, not the caps which are often still perfectly serviceable.
    Many of the low noise specialist semiconductors used in high end equipment of days past are close to unobtainium. You can often find a bodge, but then bye to originality.

    There are of course boutique components produced in tiny quantities which claim to better approach the performance of older parts, but these are pretty much limited to capacitors and resistors. At a considerable premium which will only climb higher.
    Arkless Electronics likes this.
  17. Beobloke

    Beobloke pfm Member

    A friend and I who, between us, repair a fair bit of old stuff came up with a set of rules ages ago that cover modifications, in that they are only acceptable as follows:

    (1) To correct design and production errors (e.g. B&O’s choice of capacitors in their 1960s amplifiers' phono stages that removes treble!).

    (2) To remove the effects of penny-pinching (e.g. replacing cheap polarised electrolytics in loudspeaker crossovers)

    (3) To overcome the issue of failed but now unobtainable components (e.g. The speed control chip on various Technics DD turntables)

    (4) To experiment with equipment that is otherwise of no value (e.g. removing the permanent loudness facility on some cheap, old amplifiers). Modifications in this case should still ideally be easily reversible, however.

    Here endeth the lesson...
    Snufkin likes this.
  18. S-Man

    S-Man Kinkless Tetrode Admirer

    Looks like they need Arkless to lead the rebuilding of Notre Dame de Paris :D
  19. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Too busy with the rebuilding of Notre Dame de Krell today :D Rather less magic smoke than the Paris one!
    Hempknight and S-Man like this.
  20. Steve Taylor

    Steve Taylor pfm Member

    Always keep the magic smoke inside the cables!

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