When to think about service/recap?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by _cruster, Oct 12, 2021.

  1. _cruster

    _cruster Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tacoma, WA
    Wondering what the consensus is on this...if there can be one: my main system is a Rega Cursa 3 preamp and Rega Exon 3 monoblock amps. These would have been manufactured in roughly 2003, so they are pushing 20 years old. I bought them used, in 2010 or thereabouts.

    I know that capacitors have a lifespan. I leave my gear on almost all...the...time. I like it warmed up and ready to go.

    Is there a point at which I should have my gear serviced? What do you do? Service on time, or wait for something to go wrong? I haven't noticed anything egregiously wrong - I do get a pop from time to time when turning my turntable power supply on and off that seems new, but that could presumably be a mains issue as well...that said, I recognize that I am not likely to have noticed small changes over time, either.

    Is it worth me trying to find a Rega service center to have my gear gone over?
     
  2. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Consensus is usually every 15 years. Other people say never, or only if sound's changed (although that's not easy to tell, because we get used to the ¨degraded¨sound, and might not result obvious)

    I'm in the same boat right now. Even started a thread myself : Receiver needs servicing..........hope I don't have to replace it
     
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  3. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Never go with "consensus". That's like asking 100 people what they want for dinner. The service experts will all tell you that 20 yrs is about the life span of capacitors in good quality electronics. Cheaper stuff, I'd even go with only 10 years. The time to do it is before it fails.
    -Bill
     
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  4. John76

    John76 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest
    I’m at 22 years with my phono preamp, line preamp and power amp. I was told if it’s working well, leave it alone.
     
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  5. _cruster

    _cruster Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tacoma, WA
    Thanks - I always appreciate seeing your thoughts around here. Part of me wants to buy something newer, part of me thinks I should consider a pre-emptive recap and have it all reasonably guaranteed functional for another 15 years.
     
  6. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Well in my case, it's 43 years old and it broke down, hence my use of the word ¨consensus¨. I may fit the ¨right before it fails¨ category.
     
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  7. Guildx500

    Guildx500 Forum Resident

    Location:
    California
    As far as cap lifespan goes I think it can vary. I brought a 1967 Fender Super Reverb to a local tech that is well respected when it was about 50 years old. We had a lengthy discussion about caps. When he got to work on it he replaced a lot of parts but he told me the caps were still good and they were original so he wanted to leave them in.
     
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  8. telemike

    telemike Forum Resident

    Location:
    Greensboro, NC
    Caps can be tested for drift from spec
     
  9. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    2003 is a peculiar place in time - at the height of the "capacitor plague", where poor Chinese capacitors with stolen electrolyte formulas made their way into all sorts of electronics.

    Rega might say "Made in England" on the outside, but you open it up and you find circuit boards with roman fonts from Chinese font faces, Samwha capacitors, etc. They do the Schitt trick of receiving entire offshore units to put in a box and disguise the origin. Now they do the Rega trick of putting heat-shrink over the capacitor label.

    I would take off the cover myself, and see if the big and medium-sized capacitors on the power supply are such suspect no-name brands. Inspect for bulging tops, leaks around the bottom. If it is operating fine and shows no symptoms or signs, things are probably fine.
     
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  10. Blowby

    Blowby Static lp

    Location:
    Colorado
    I'm in the same boat. Not sure if any gain will be achieved until I have the caps replaced on my M-117's. With 30+ years on the clock I might be surprised or just an "Oh well", can't tell the difference!

    Already committed to purchasing two sets. Description: Nichicon KZ MUSE, FG Fine Gold, FW, KW, ES MUSE. Kit includes 37 Nichicon audio capacitor.
     
  11. _cruster

    _cruster Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tacoma, WA
    I appreciate the info and that's a good idea. Plus, hey - something to do!

    Edited to ask: is this really how Rega operates?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  12. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Just read this over at Audiokarma :

    Capacitors age and their performance declines. They operate within their design parameters for a given time, and eventually start going downhill. This is science and fact - heck, the manufacturers provide this information. Many capacitors do not fail outright - they continue functioning but affect the frequency response and dynamics and accuracy of the equipment.

    Capacitors are the known weak spot of vintage gear. In contrast, most resistors age pretty well, and a good tech will know which types of resistors age poorly and replace those during a restoration too. Likewise, transistors with known issues are selectively replaced. There's no point undertaking wholesale replacement of resistors and transistors for the heck of it, as they are generally not subject to the same lifespan issues as capacitors.

    Yes, some capacitors age surprisingly well, but old capacitor is a 'dead man walking'.

    Regarding topology, it is king when determining the sound of your gear. Have a look inside any piece of Japanese vintage audio from the 70s - they all use exactly the same Elnas or Nichicons, the same resistors, the same kinds of transistors. They sound different to each other due to the topology of the gear, not the brand/type of capacitor.
     
  13. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco

    I’ve had filter caps in guitar amps which have lasted since the early 90’s. No prob.
    Haven’t leaked or anything.
    Also had filter caps and NOS coupling caps which have been fine since the late 60’s
     
  14. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    It's true that Chinese products are widely counterfeited in their own distribution chain, and most counterfeits use way out of tolerance component parts and chemistry. Some of these parts have unfortunately found their way into western made gear. Companies have learned that lesson already though, and many knew better than to trust the cheap sources.

    It's false that Rega assembles pre-packaged boards a la "entire offshore units" into their products. They do almost all board populating in house. Only the CD player transport board assemblies are out sourced, from everything that I have seen since I have paid attention, which is from 1995 until present. Rega actually keeps as much of their product as is possible sourced right from the UK. They have decades old relationships with those suppliers. There are some components such as resistors and capacitors which they and every other maker has to source from China now, but the brands and types used are rather well regarded. That cannot be said about many companies, so it's really odd to see their name mentioned in this way when they are one of the few consumer electronics mfr's who actually give a crap about their employees and their community.
    -Bill
     
  15. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    This is true. I have heard another tech quip that "There are two types of capacitors, those that have failed, and those that are failing." That is also true. All of the electrolytic type (the vast majority) have ratings for hours of operating life at specific operating temperatures, usually something expressed as "2000 hours at 85 degrees C". There is quite a variation of these, but all have such similar ratings, and none are going to make it intact 50 years, even if only laying in a box on a shelf. Some might "work", but they will not be able to perform as intended. And if left in an operating circuit, they can not only slowly lose performance, but fail rather spectacularly, taking out transistors (often no longer in production) in vintage gear. Just get the stuff checked-out and restored, folks. otherwise, you'll keep reading anecdotal garbage on forums about some outlier that has worked flawlessly for 40 years (until it doesn't).
    -Bill
     
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  16. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco

    You can slowly reform electrolytics with a variac in some cases for NOS stuff
     
  17. captouch

    captouch Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    A couple of things to weigh, if it sounds fine and works fine, are:
    1) Can you do the work yourself or have it done for a reasonable price?
    2) Do you plan to use this gear for many more years?

    If you can do the work yourself and/or you can have it done for a reasonable price, and your gear is 20+yrs old, it’s worth doing IMO as a preventative measure, not necessarily for sonic improvement. If you have to pay shop rates and the cost to have it done is fairly expensive compared to what the gear is worth itself, it may still be worth doing IF you plan to use it for many more years, because the cost will be spread out over another 20yrs (or however long you plan to use it).

    If you use something with a lot of electrolytic caps, eventually one will fail. It could happen anytime, but the chances grow higher the longer you have it. After say 20-25yrs, you’re kind of living on borrowed time. But just through luck, you may have a piece of gear 50yrs old where no caps have failed, though some will no doubt have drifted from original value.

    The appealing thing about recapping BEFORE something goes wrong is that it’s a straightforward exercise of replacing like for like (capacitor value, voltage rating, polar vs non-polar/bipolar) that a hobbyist can potentially DIY. No circuit or electronic design necessary. That doesn’t necessarily make it a trivial exercise, as accessing the caps may require more extensive disassembly, which could potentially be complicated. And of course you need to know how to desolder and solder. But even if you can’t do it yourself, you may be able to find a friend or acquaintance with soldering and basic electronics knowledge who can do this type of straightforward work for less than shop/tech rates.

    If you wait until a cap fails and then deal with the issue, there are two things that can complicate things:
    1) You have to find the bad cap, which most often requires troubleshooting (signal path tracing or circuit knowledge)
    2) The failed cap may take out other components adjacent/related to the failure. These could be small transistors, larger output transistors, resistors, even ICs which may no longer be available. So you have a bigger troubleshooting effort there to find all the bad components.

    I’ve had simple failures - a single signal path cap that took out a channel. Once I found it, I just replaced it and was back in business. It was an old quad Sansui receiver that had tons of caps and there was no way I was going to recap that.

    I’ve also had more complicated failures where fuses are blown, output transistors shorted, resistors burned up, etc. Sometimes, with help and a schematic of the unit, I’ve been able to repair the unit. Sometimes, I haven’t and had to sell it off for parts/repair. There’s no way to know (for me) that it was all originally caused by a failed cap, but if I can avoid this scenario, I’d definitely like to.

    For an older piece of gear that isn’t worth much anyway, I think there’s a lot to be said for using it until it fails and then moving on. For something that you really want to keep and want to avoid costly tech repairs on, it’s worth it IMO to at least open it up and look inside. If there aren’t a ton of caps and they’re all pretty accessible, I’d consider doing it or having it done and it shouldn’t be all that expensive and you should have a lot of options as alternatives to taking it in to a dealer and paying inflated rates.

    It’s that middle ground, where you’re not sure how long you really want to use/keep it, it’s kind of old but not really really old, etc where it’s hard to make the call.
     
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  18. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, OR, USA
    Well that's good to know. There are way too many "domestic" products that have tell-tale signs of outsourced asian PCB layout, and components you won't find in the Newark UK catalog but are common in completely offshored assemblies. It's nearly impossible to build something 100% made in one country (unless that country is China), but you can build with quality when the capacitors come in bags of 1000 from Panasonic Japan instead of a cap value you fill into a bill-of-materials order form for foreign placement.

    Edit: Here's a Rega "secret message". That font....
    [​IMG]

    And Samwha capacitors are not just figurative, they are found in Rega.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  19. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Actually they last longer when operating regularly than on a shelf. My amp sounded good, but 20 transistors at the power supply and pre have had to be replaced.
     
  20. searing75

    searing75 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Western NY
    I never had a piece of audio equipment over 20 years old not sound markedly better after replacing all electrolytics.
     
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  21. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    On the fence about recapping my Pioneer receiver or not. Would you be so kind as to share, in detail, what tonal/dynamics, etc improvements did you notice after the recapping ? I read some guy said the bass sounded tighter (does sound wooly on mine without my dynamic expander) the midrange backed off a little (would be great because I'm experiencing some shoutiness) and more air to the upper treble (which I feel is lacking on most recordings lately) Yet, it might as well be my hearing or my particilar type of speakers; dunno.

    Thanx.
     
  22. captouch

    captouch Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    You didn’t ask me. . .but from my experience, it really depends on where you’re starting from. Some vintage receivers already sound quite good before a recap and don’t change a lot after.

    I’ve had identical model receivers sound very different, likely due to how the caps aged and which ones drifted the most.

    But bloated bass, rolled off highs, and overall veiled/diffuse sounding sonics can often times be helped with a recap. This can be true recapping the crossover circuit of old vintage speakers as well.

    Bass will generally tighten up, highs may be clearer and extend further, more detail and more distinct imaging.

    But you also have to consider what it sounded like new. Marantz’s tended to be warmer, Yamahas leaner and more neutral, Sansui’s pretty full sounding. Of course, these are generalizations, but some brands did tend to have a certain sound in certain periods of their history. I never owned a Pioneer, so no idea what their house sound was or if they had a distinct one or not.
     
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  23. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROÑOSO

    Well fellas. The tech is fully recapping the unit as I type here. Final cost 300 including all of the source and pre transistors, 2 switches that are partially faulty replaced, and all of the others cleaned, inspected and lubed. The other tech did such a number on it, it took the new one 2 days to undone it (although you can expect every tech to diss the previous tech's works, in this case it's fully justified)

    The unit will be ready by the end of this month.
     
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  24. captouch

    captouch Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    That’s a reasonable price given the time/effort to undo previous faulty work as well as the extra parts (switches, transistors).

    Please report back how you find it after the work is done. Sometimes it does take a bit of time for new caps to burn in and for your ears to get used to the new sound, so if it’s initially different to the point of being maybe a little disappointing, give it a bit more time.
     
  25. Thermionic Dude

    Thermionic Dude Forum Resident

    Yes! That font - when you see it you can generally assume a 98% chance the board was fabbed in China, regardless of the "Made In [Western country]" label on the rear panel!

    Also agree 100% on the capacitor labelling. When you see an electrolytic cap (or any other part for that matter) that bears a label with the audio gear manufacturer's name on it, you can assume nearly 100% that it has been relabeled (as far as I know none of the audiophile equipment companies operate any parts factories). Funny enough, in my experience this relabeling seems to only happen with no-name parts! Given that I have yet to encounter a relabeled Rubycon, Panasonic, Nippon Chemi-con, Vishay, or Cornell-Dublier unit, one could conclude that this is a cynical ploy by the manufacturers to obfuscate the true origins of the parts used.
     

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