The Hi-fi Magazine
The Hi-Fi Magazine, from London Sound, was started in 1983, but ceased as a multi-page A5 size magazine in 1985. However, even though the magazine is now only a single sheet, we have kept the title.
So why did the magazine cease to be published?
This coincided with London Sound ceasing to be a hi-fi retailing business, to allow Mike Solomons, who wrote the magazine, to concentrate on repairing hi-fi. We are now putting a slightly edited version of the Magazine onto this website, to give it a wider audience. We hope you will enjoy it!
So what does it contain? The ramblings of a hi-fi engineer dealing with items of interest that have cropped up during the past month. Sometimes directly hi-fi related, sometimes other items that I hope you will find of interest. Persevere - I am not a professional writer, so some items could be better written - but there's loads of really useful information spread out throughout the following Newsletters - have a look!
Some themes are repeated - take special notice, as this results from regular experience of the related issues, e.g. the daft business of people leaving hi-fi equipment switched on all the time!
To avoid any misunderstandings, I have to add a caution here covering mention of the 12 month guarantee in the Newsletters; the guarantee does not apply to repairs carried out free of charge, (yes, someone attempted to try it on!).
In keeping with the need to improve, the Hi-fi Magazine will no longer have a formalised monthly nature from March 2007, but instead will have entries added and where necessary edited, as things arise. Wade through, as apart from general moans, there should be much of interest for everyone.
On May 20th, a team from Two Four Broadcast came to London Sound, by appointment, to record a section of a programme called Storage Hoarders that was to be broadcast on ITV. I asked which one of the team I should speak to about payment and this caused some concern. Apparrently they expected me to let them take over my shop for around half a day and give them my professional view concerning an early Dynatron radiogram for nothing!
I was told that they had not expected to pay! What would happen if you or I went to seek a professional opinion and to take over the expert's premises for around half a day then state we were not intending to pay? I feel we'd be quickly shown the door! They offered a very small payment which I declined then gave up and went away without a word of apology!
They claimed that they had so far carried out 60 such interviews and paid none of the contributors. I find it astonishingly unprofessional for them to take advantage of people in this way. It's also amazing that so many experts had allowed themselves to be cheated in this way!
If you are ever approached by a broadcasting company to give an expert view for broadcast, my advice is to establish that if you work you expect to be paid at the outset and not suffer the disruption and inconvenience of the arguments over payment.
In conclusion, I'm left wondering who they went to for their interview and was he paid. I suppose either the expert was successfully cheated, or so desperate for work that the publicity seemed worthwhile - or more likely they were unable to find someone gullible enough!
By the way - if anyone from Two Four reads this, I think that an apology and compensation for the inconvenience would be appropriate. You know how to reach me, it's through Sarah Mageean, the researcher who originally contacted me.
Last year, I bought a brand new Jaguar, (with the Sovereign refinements), from a specialist Jaguar dealer in Watford. These "refinements" included a "Premium Sound System".
Crazy you might say, but the car seemed to suit my needs - well I thought it would. I have suffered from many problems with the car, but as this is a hi-fi specialist website, I'll concentrate on the "car stereo", (though linked to that, I also find the car rather noisy on some road surfaces - hardly what you'd expect with a Jaguar!). Basically, I think the Jaguar Premium Sound System fitted to my car is overpriced rubbish. Especially in view of their attitude to the problems, I now feel that buying my new car from Watford Jaguar was a very big mistake - be warned!
The Jaguar Premium Sound System is, in my opinion, rubbish. It goes quite loud, but suffers a major defect, (but the size of its power supply fuse strongly suggests that the output power is far less than specified - I estimate that it is around a third!).
The specified power output is 320 watts, but the supply fuse is rated at 30 amps, suggesting the power amplifier peaks at demanding 20 amps maximum, (to allow a reasonable safety margin). The arithmatic is a straightforward application of ohms law - amps times volts equals watts. If we take the available 20 amps and multiply by the battery supply voltage of 12 volts the available power is found to be 240 watts. With a 25 - 50% efficiency in a hi-fi amplifier likely, (maybe less depending on the circuit), this means that the maximum power output will be no more than 120 watts, possibly as little as 60 watts! I accept that it does go quite loud, but this published figure is simply not plausible.
The worst part concerns the tone controls. To adjust the volume, there is a very convenient control on the steering wheel, but tone control is quite different. If, (as is always necessary in a car), we wish to re-set the bass or treble, pressing a button brings up a visual representation of these and some other controls on the main screen that it also used for the satnav. It looks very impressive, but I have found it impossible to adjust bass or treble without having to look down at the screen for far too long to be safe. As an example, this means that on a long journey setting the bass high with soft music in the background, then reducing it when listening to the news is impossible.
Whoever heard of a car radio or car stereo at any price without any useable tone controls that a driver can safely operate whilst driving?
If instead, it had been fitted with a number of pre-set options, (like a "loudness" control), then that would have been acceptable, at least on a "cheapie", but this radio allows no options at all for the driver except when parked, (it even takes too long to be practical at traffic lights!). Astonishingly, Jaguar put a price on this system of around £1,000!
The advice that I offer is to avoid this piece of rubbish! Either buy a Jaguar which can be fitted with a good quality system, (I can't change this one, it is embedded into the car's electronic system), or if Jaguar produce a new better system, look closely at that before buying to be sure it's acceptable.
Yes, I have asked Watford Jaguar for a replacement or modification to the system that meets the performance one would expect from a "Premium Sound System" and which gets around this problem, and they have refused. I have also asked Jaguar Cars, the manufacturers, for help, and they also have refused to offer any help. If you are interested, (maybe you also have one of these systems), my contact at the Jaguar factory who thinks that the equipment is satisfactory is Mr Christopher Orr, whose direct line is 01926 649 547. If you also have one of these unsatisfactory systems, or are contemplating buying a Jaguar, it might be wise to contact him, as if enough of us complain, maybe Jaguar will be persuaded to put things right.
I've been asked what else I've complained about. Firstly the noise; at tickover, (idle), and during "ideal driving", for example on my test drive before buying the car, it was tolerably quiet. However, in practise, tyre noise is obtrusive on many roads. I have asked for the car to be properly soundproofed, (the advertising indicates that it is), but have been refused. Equally, I have been refused a handbook. Well, I have to admist this is not quite true; I have a handbook that does not correctly describe the car, and have been promised a replacement - but it hasn't arrived. There are operational and computer related problems, and probably the most upsetting is the widespread use of plastics - not only the bumpers, but also other parts of bodywork. There's even a substantial amount if what seems like well finished expanded polystyrene used as part of the car's construction! There are further detail problems that are far too numerous and boring to enumerate - but overall, although the car runs, it's nowhere near as good as one would expect.
Isn't it sad to find such rubbish with the name of such a prestigious British manufacturer.
As a postscript, I sued the dealer for £5,000 compensation. They spent in excess of £12,000 defending the claim. It's astonishing - surely it would have been more sensible for Jaguar to have built the car a bit better and/or the dealer to have dealt with my complaints! Big business - never can understand it!
The following is an interesting warning tale! If you've ever been approached to change your telephone or broadband provider, then read the following, and see just how things can go wrong, (but also note that if you ask, compensation will be paid - see end of this story)! The experience that I suffered is called "slamming". Slamming is possible, as OFCOM, the industry regulator, for reasons that are unclear, actually instructs B.T. to agree to a demand from any other supplier without the customer having had to have asked for this. All that seems to be required is for the customer to pass on some details, and XLN Telecom Ltd can take over the telephone provision, and have the B.T. internet broadband service closed down!
The following is derived from a formal demand for compensation submitted to XLN Ltd, 186K Ltd, and OFCOM
XLN Telecom Ltd
Late February or early march 2008, I contacted a company called XLN Telecom Ltd, seeking information regarding their terms for the provision of telephone and internet connection for London Sound.
In early March I received letters welcoming me to their services. I wrote back to them confirming that I had not ordered their services, and was just seeking information, (this letter was delivered on March 8th by recorded delivery).
On Wednesday March 26th, London Sound's broadband connection with B.T. failed to operate.
It transpired that a company called 186K Ltd had contacted B.T. Wholesale and persuaded it to disconnect my B.T. broadband connection. I am led to understand that they were able to do this, as XLN Telecom Ltd had passed London Sound details to them, and OFCOM regulations required B.T. to acceed to their demand even though this was not requested by me.
Despite very firm contact with all involved, it was not until Monday morning, March 31st 2008 that the service was found to be working again, (I do not know exactly when it was disconnected and reconnected, but it did not work on my attempting to use it around 8 am on Wednesday March 26th, and was only found to have been reinstated at 7.30 am on Monday March 31st).
I have received compensation from XLN Telecom Ltd on Friday, April 4th.
I seek compensation from 186K Ltd
I seek compensation from OFCOM
To their credit, XLN Telecom have apologised and made a very swift payment of compensation to me that has been accepted. B.T. has tried very hard to restore the service, and currently, everything functions well. I am now waiting to hear from OFCOM and 186K Ltd. I will report the results here in due course.
London Sound offers a Work Experience position.
"Work Experience" seems an odd idea, as you work here unpaid, and only receive necessary expenses, (e.g. travel).
So why would anyone want to work for nothing?
Basically, the position is for people without a satisfactory work record, and probably no useful current work skills, (we teach), who cannot get a job as a result. Work here for a few months, and our help, which will include a good well earned reference, should ease you into a "proper" well paid job, as has just happened with my last assistant.
For more information, look at the "Employment" page.
Monday, March 12th - I visited the Ideal Home Exhibition yesterday, and was rather depressed by the stands showing or using audio equipment. Whether they were showing hi-fi as a display item, or just playing "music", on the stands that I visited, the sound quality was uniformly poor.
No, I tell a lie - on some stands it was even poorer than on others.
Even where the equipment was fairly good, the signal sources, usually some form of pop video, were clearly themselves distorted. There is no excuse, as the technology to produce really good sound has existed for a great many years, so I am simply at a loss for words to explain why we are offered so much rubbish!
I obviously must add the caveat that I did not hear all demonstrations, so there may have been some good ones - but - - -
Monday, March 12th - Last Saturday, I saw a major news story; we are going, apparently, to be required to buy and use only low energy light bulbs from 2009, to save energy. Daft idea - most of the year, night time and, mainly winter, we switch lights on in the dark, when it's also cool or cold. Ordinary bulbs are rather wasteful, but the waste is in the form of heat.
When you have your whole house lit by low energy bulbs, you'll have to use more heating to make up for this, bringing consumption back up to where it was before. Some saving!
On this subject, I also have an answer for the motoring road pricing problem. Why not raise fuel prices throughout Europe, then issue "rations" according to need, so that, for example, fuel costs less for country dwellers and the disabled, with top price for those with large cars who drive vast distances just for leisure?
But then no-one asks me!
Last month, I touched on the subject of mains voltage variation.
Please don't "switch off" - read on - as this is important for everyone to understand, even though there's not much you can do about it!
As you'll guess from the 'photo, I'm not young, and have seen various examples of mains voltage fluctuation over the years, and its effects. Everyone knows about complete power cuts, although nowadays in Britain they are rare.
However, mains fluctuations are less well understood, and often disregarded, at considerable expense, (and sometimes potential danger).
So what is the danger, and what should we do?
Usually, the only danger is of damage to the wallet! I have a customer who routinely had large bills from me due to excess wear on his equipment, and who also spent quite a lot of money on replacing light bulbs that often failed. It was not until I visited him, tested his supply, and the error was reported to the supplier that anything was done, (he was compensated).
However, I do feel sorry for all the others living on his estate with the same power supply!
Another tale concerns London Sound directly. On the first cold Saturday morning of the winter of 1980, a lot of equipment in my shop failed to operate correctly. The first failure was to one of the brilliant NEAL 302 cassette decks that I was checking. It developed a hum on recording, (but not on playback)!
As other items quickly failed around me, I checked the mains supply voltage.
It was about 217 volts, which explained matters. Interestingly, the new regulations passed a few years ago permit supplies at this level! The tolerances have been widened, so your power switch, if selectable, must always be on its highest setting, (usually 240 - 250v).
I therefore suggest if problems occur on very cold days, at times when electricity use is greatest, (e.g. mealtimes), and normal performance is restored soon after, it may not be your equipment that is at fault!
Have you heard of the plan to force us to use economy lighting?
At first, it seems a good idea, as economy lights use less electricity.
But wait - where does the electricity go when it's being wasted on "normal" lights?
It generates heat. Throughout the winter, therefore, for every kilowatt hour you save with economy lighting, you can expect to require almost exactly the same amount of energy from your heating system! Obviously there is a saving in summer - but only if you have standard lights switched on when it's hot, (and even if you do, it's only late in the evening when it's usually getting colder anyway).
Think about it - the saving is there, but far less than you've been told!
We are told to get the gas guzzlers off the streets of the major cities, (where they cover only very low mileages). So what will happen? The gas guzzlers will be sold off cheaply, so that they can be used more frequently as high mileage vehicles for the "poor country dwellers"! Wouldn't it make better sense to tax petrol higher, and remove road tax - then expenditure would accurately match actual pollution from the cars!
Have you noticed how everything goes wrong at once! I was let off relatively lightly this winter - only the washing machine and central heating, (about two days apart!).
I found people's reactions fascinating. There were the doom mongers - your boiler's over 30 years old - can't be mended - a washing machine that's 5 years old - buy a new one.
Then there were those who recommended their favourite repairers.
I was very surprised how few contemplated the idea of me repairing these units myself! This despite some friends having seen me repairing almost anything over many decades!
Well, naturally, the central heating boiler wasn't hard to repair, it only had a failed fan. I rebuilt the motor in an evening, so we had the heating back to normal the following day.
The washing machine was harder - I needed my son's help lifting it out, putting it on one side, then putting it back again after I had completed repairs! Still only an evening's work!
Most people don't enjoy challenges like the above, and seek help - but the question that you ask can make a huge difference to what it will cost. Had I contacted most major heating concerns, I am convinced I would have been advised by a salesman to buy a new boiler, "as new boilers are so much better than the old ones". Oh yeah - will a new one run reliably for over 30 years, then first break down with only a minor DIY fault?
Are you sure it'll last that long? Not very likely! The sales literature says a new boiler is more economical, and will save its price in gas economy in about 5 years - but it's usually guaranteed only for one!
The question to ask when anything good fails, is "can it be repaired?" Do not generate the salesman's intro by asking if you should buy new - go down that route only if you are convinced that no one can carry out reliable repairs, (and I define reliable as guaranteed for at least 12 months, as is always the case with hi-fi repairs at London Sound).
Buying new can be justified if you want something better - but although technology continues to advance, there are still many day to day items, like hi-fi, central heating, washing machines, where technology offers very few improvements, if any.
A new fault is appearing. Recent changes in the regulations have resulted in the electricity suppliers in the UK being allowed to drop our mains supply to lower than it used to be - resulting in some malfunctions in older equipment. Most equipment is normally ok, but when things get bad, and if the equipment is about due for servicing, transitory problems may appear. If you have any suspicions, ring the shop, or email, for free advice.
The options usually are either repairs - or put up with it and moan!
As a reminder - contact details are on our Basic information page.
Looks as though I have won. They were running their competition bi-annually, spring and autumn, using the name "London Sound", but seem to have now given up! There has been no more of this trouble since last spring.
Success is always satisfying, isn't it, (or do I speak too soon?)! (for more details, look at the Capital Radio page)
I have increasingly come across stories of self appointed experts promoting the idea of replacing capacitors in older hi-fi units.
There seem to be three distinct groups:-
1) Those who sell capacitors, especially with fancy names, and very fancy prices!
2) Those who fit them, also often at a very high price!
3) The customers who have been misled into paying these high prices!
Let me put the record straight:-
Most capacitors last far longer than you would think - often in excess of 50 years.
Routine replacement, often argued as needed because, "capacitors dry up" is total nonsense, (I'd prefer it if certain people suggesting this would dry up instead!).
Replacement as "modern capacitors are better than older types" is also nonsense - as the original circuit assumed capacitors to the standard available at the time, not the latest developments.
A big problem for the competent repairer is that modern components being "better" often means that they are thus unsuitable. Just imagine the harm caused by replacement of not one or two capacitors as part of a repair, but 20 or 30! Sometimes no harm is caused, but it can have a devastating effect!
Other old fallacies die hard too. I still come across equipment seriously damaged or destroyed by being deliberately left on all the time.
DO NOT DO IT.
If the manufacturer fitted an on/off switch for you to use, he meant you to use it! If you do not, the result will be no improvement in sound, and yet a very large cost!
I speak as an enthusiast, but with a caution. Over the last year or so, I have made quite a few purchases, including a car, (it's great!), but find that regularly, in fact far too often, my customers buy cheaply on eBay, only to find that their bargains are faulty. Be very careful, and be sure of yourself before bidding, and ask me for help if you're stuck!
OK now enjoy your hi-fi, and feel free to contact us for any help you need.
Silly idea No. 1
I warned against the silly idea of forcing us to use energy saving light bulbs by raising taxes on standard bulbs in the August newsletter, and am surprised that no one has told Gordon Brown that the economic argument is flawed. The Newsletter can be found here on our website - just scroll down.
I still regularly come across equipment damaged by being left on all the time.
Will someone please find out who is advising people to leave their equipment on all the time, and draw their attention to the stupidity and wastefulness of the idea?
In brief, all good hi-fi of which I am aware delivers its best performance within about 5 minutes of being switched on, unless it is faulty, (a fault can sometimes extend the warm up time). Unfortunately, although good hi-fi can be left switched on continuously, it dramatically reduces its life, (and as a repairer, I often find that it leads to quite large repair bills).
Following on from the above, I have, from time to time, come across people who think they will improve the performance of equipment, if they help it warm up by covering ventilation holes. Don't try it folks - it can lead to very, very expensive repairs!
Use the correct fuse. I often find people using 13 amp fuses in the mains plug of modest hi-fi units. I once even found a brass tube in place of a fuse! The argument in favour seems to be an intention to get the best and most stable supply of power.
a) It doesn't
b) It can lead to very expensive damage and possibly a fire!
If in doubt, ask me, but as a general rule, hi-fi equipment will usually safely run with a 5 amp fuse in the plug, and sound exactly the same as if fitted with a 13 amp fuse.
At the same time, check the mains voltage adjustment setting, if your units are adjustable. Set to the highest setting, (usually 240 - 250v). DO NOT set to 230v, (though modern units marked 230v, and which cannot be adjusted are ok, as they are made for the current standards of supply).
Wrong value judgments.
When discussing the economic viability of a repair, some people look at the second hand value of the equipment, comparing the cost of a repair by London Sound with a 12 month guarantee, with the purchase of a second hand unguaranteed unit. Compare like for like - and remember that the second hand bargain usually has no guarantee at all, (though some dealers will reluctantly offer a short 1 - 3 month limited warranty - not quite the same)!
From time to time, I come across repairers offering the usual "industry standard" of a very cautious one or three month guarantee. Remember, it is easy for a repairer to carry out a short term bodge, and gamble that it will last a few months. A proper repair given a 12 month guarantee has to be exactly what I just said - a proper repair, with no corners cut. I do not say that repairers giving short guarantees should never be used, but be aware of their own opinion of the standard of their workmanship - if they have so little confidence in their workmanship, then neither should you!
Now, if you have the time, look at some of the earlier newsletters below - they go right back to February 2005!
And as a PS - silliest idea of the lot - do you remember Capital Radio using the name of my business, London Sound? I may be speaking too soon, but I think they have given up, as I have heard nothing of them running it since last spring, and they had previously been running it twice a year!
Thank you Capital Radio.
I hope you didn't lose too much money over this, but you can't say that I didn't warn you!
As a professional repairer, you would expect me to oppose DIY repairs, but the contrary is true. I have no qualms about charging you for repairs that you cannot do, but am unhappy about matters that are easily within the capability of the average music lover.
Start with the obvious.
If one loudspeaker works, and the other does not, visually check the wiring of the faulty loudspeaker, and if no fault is found, swap the loudspeaker connections at the amplifier end. If the same loudspeaker remains silent, it is faulty. If the fault swaps to the other loudspeaker, then the loudspeakers are ok, the fault lies elsewhere.
If all inputs exhibit the same fault, (CD, tuner, record deck, tape, or whatever you use), the fault may lie in the amplifier. Please start with the obvious - turn the balance control! Yes, silly though it may sound, I have experienced a customer bringing an amplifier for repair with a claimed dead channel, with the only "fault" being that the balance control had been turned fully to one side! Best to find out in the privacy of your own home!
Then pretend you are a three year old child, and with the amplifier switched off, operate every switch and variable control. Switches should be turned on and off, or to all selections if multiple switch operations are required, and should be operated about 10 times. Turn or slide all variable controls end to end ten times. If this resolves the problem, pat yourself on the back and shout hip hip hooray!
If not, and you use only one input, (eg you only use a record deck), swap the phono leads over. If the fault stays on the same side, you have proved the amplifier faulty. If it changes side, the record deck is faulty. If it now works, there was a dirty plug which now makes a good connection having been pulled out and pushed back! Put it back in the right socket, and, (hopefully), all will be ok for years!
Contact me for advice on other faults.
To underline the simplicity of some problems, here's a lale from many years ago.
A customer brought an amplifier to me for repair. I checked it and found no fault, and let him have it back at no charge.
About three months later he returned as it again appeared faulty.
Same thing happened.
I found no fault, and returned it.
After a further three months, my customer telephoned to say it had gone wrong again, and to ask if I could figure out why it ran about three months each time after he brought it to me, when I had never found any evidence of fault, or had carried out any repairs. I thought about it, and said that it may be that there is a loose connection that becomes oxidised and fails over a period of stable use, but when transported, it gets shaken, and then makes good contact.
Over a year then passed without news, until my customer saw me over something else. Whilst talking, he told me what he did with the old amplifier - he took it for a drive in his car every time it went wrong, and thus resolved the fault almost completely free of charge, (apart from petrol)!
I thought this absolutely brilliant!
And the advice now? If in trouble, ask me, and if there's a DIY answer, I will tell you. Free. The only time you can expect a bill is if I actually carry out work for you for an agreed price.
Either email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone, (UK) 020 8868 9222
A year ago, I bought a second hand car, which had apparently been maintained to a very high standard. The engine, and underneath the body were beautifully clean, (memories of hi-fi where it has had loads of parts replaced - always looks good!).
A year on, I am now aware of three different parts damaged by excessive steam cleaning or pressure washing.
Not so good!
Interestingly, as the previous owners had been forced to pay for expensive repairs so regularly, quite a lot of the car's vulnerable parts are newish - so I have now a very good car. I just feel sorry for the previous owners who paid for all of this!
Over the years, I have differed over the diagnosis of doctors on a variety of issues, usually being proven to be right, (I sometimes wonder why I ever bother to consult them in the first place!), with my latest being a rather involved but astonishing tale of a cardiologist's mistake, which rather scarily could have killed me - but fortunately didn't! My apologies to the good doctors out there, but I've had some very silly experiences from time to time in the past!
We cannot all be experts on everything, life is complicated enough without it, but my advice is be aware. If professional advice doesn't make sense, then look into it. The repairer of hi-fi who wants to replace all of the small parts obviously doesn't understand how to find which part or parts have failed, so changes the lot in the hope of success! Relatively expensive, harmful, and rather silly!
And my latest medical query? I felt that there was something wrong with the diagnosis, (and the recommended remedy), allegedly concerning very serious heart disease requiring intervention.
After two months of being told by friends and family that I looked grey, unwell etc, and feeling very ill, I became fed up, and worked out what had to be done. I took a combination of drugs - Aspirin and a vasodilator - in a particular way, and seem to have dissolved and or dispersed the blood clots causing my problem. My latest hospital tests show a dramatic improvement, leaving me to ask why the consultant couldn't have suggested the drugs himself! I see him soon and will ask, ever so tactfully!
The big problem with such ineptitude is that it is usually not found out.
If a repairer replaces enough components, he's bound to replace the faulty one along with the rest. Result - the unit works, (and the insides look ever so pretty!). Unfortunately, as every component is inevitably slightly different from the original, the end result may not sound as good - or as I once found in a Leak Troughline Stereo tuner, may not work at all, (that was an interesting repair - for details see the Leak page on our website)! But usually the unit works, and the new parts look good - as does the steam cleaned engine of a car. The car owner is never aware that the huge further repair bills come from damage caused by cleaning, and the hi-fi owner doesn't realise a proper repair would have been better!
And obviously, if the doctor makes a mistake, the evidence is buried!
As I said - take care, and raise queries if unsure! As usual, all that remains is to tell you to enjoy the music, and leave me to deal with the, (hi-fi), problems - and to remind you that all our repair estimates are free!
I say it every year - be careful of heat. Over the past few weeks, I have heard of so many incidents of hi-fi equipment suffering often catastrophic damage that is beyond economic repair, and having to be replaced, purely due to heat. It seems so silly - if it's hot weather, why add to the dangers by leaving the equipment switched on if not in use, running it inside a closed cabinet, leaving newspapers on top of ventilation holes - the tales are endless, as is the cost!
This also applies to small items like iPods, mobile 'phones etc. Leave any of these on the garden table in the sun all afternoon - and they may be destroyed! It certainly doesn't do them any good!
In the past few days, it has been suggested that Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, may soon raise taxes on "standard" light bulbs, to persuade the nation to buy low energy bulbs, thus saving energy supplies.
Sorry - this is a daft idea that is most definitely more tax raising than technical.
It is quite true that "standard" light bulbs are very inefficient, but we have to look at the waste product, which is heat. Most light bulbs are used when it's dark, and it's mostly dark in the winter. Guess what - it's cold in the winter, so we run heating as well!
If we replace our light bulbs with more efficient bulbs, then there is less heat available from the lights, so we turn the heating up.
Almost the same energy use! I accept that there would be a saving, but as most electric light use with "standard" bulbs is in living areas, shops etc, the probability that the saving from security outdoor lights, hall lights etc will be very small.
On the other hand, as low energy bulbs cost much more to make, the net short term effect will be to add rather than save costs for the average household! When you add in that politically it may well prove unpopular, I do not see this idea going ahead.
However, I should point out that they do have their uses - security lighting, hall and stair lights, toilets and bathrooms - anywhere that doesn't benefit from the waste heat from a "standard" light bulb.
The next few months should prove interesting!
We will no longer accept most "all in one" systems for repair. This includes hi-fi systems that are all in one box, and systems where the units are connected together with some form of special connecting strip. We now accept only true separates, and vintage items for repair, including loudspeakers.
We also no longer repair CD players.
The reason is straightforward; we are very busy, so we are concentrating on our core interests in high quality separates, and vintage equipment, (oldest so far being a 1933 radiogram in for repair at the moment!).
However, please do not hesitate to ask if in doubt - as always we are happy to give free advice!
Contact details are:-
Tel 020 8868 9222 (uk)
for further contact details, look at Basic Information.
Given the way our weather changes, you are probably reading this in a snowstorm! But there is a hi-fi related interest in hot weather.
Firstly the fixed home hi-fi - as I warn every year - hi-fi suffers damage in hot weather.
1) In common with many other electronic gadgets, home hi-fi will suffer often very expensive damage if it exceeds a certain temperature.
As it generates heat internally, hot weather means the internally generated heat is added to the external heat, and above a certain point, failure can occur.
2) For reasons we needn't look at today, our mains supply voltages often now fluctuate more than in years gone by.
Crazy, I know - should be more stable than years ago, but we live in a mad world.
However, in hot weather, less power is used, (apart from by air conditioning!), so voltages rise! As a result of both of the above, in very hot weather, everything has a risk of trouble!
In our workshop, we have given consideration for many years to the effect of high working temperatures, but recently, since finding it a serious problem, we have taken to testing over the whole permitted voltage range as well. If failure appears to have resulted from the permitted range being exceeded, we are also able to carry out further tests. Fortunately, if no fault is found, the test has cost me about 5pence - not exactly an extravagence!
Equally obviously, if the test finds a fault, then repairs are so much cheaper than if we allow a breakdown to occur in a month or two by incompetence!
So without coming here, what can you do to avert difficulties at home? Do not allow any electrical equipment to be left in the sun, (yes, that even includes mobile telephones left on a garden table!).
Routinely feel the natural operating heat of all your hi-fi and television equipment, (but don't be silly - leave your hand on the hot part of a sandwich maker and you'll regret it! - here we're strictly dealing with hi-fi and related gadgets only!).
Opening Hours - a change We are normally open 10.00. am. to 5.00. pm. weekdays, but now on Saturday mornings open only by appointment. Appointments are easily made - just 'phone, even on a Saturday morning, and if we're here, we can discuss the arrangements.
Why are we making this change? Increasingly, I find that repairing hi-fi is not a "Saturday morning outing" type of item - and that our customers prefer to come here on a weekday. Intriguingly, although we are seeing record levels of business overall, it isn't on Saturdays, where things have dwindled almost to zero!
If you want to call on a Saturday, please do not let me put you off, just remember to 'phone or email first.
The telephone number is 020 8868 9222.
We can be emailed at: < email@example.com >.
For further information about opening, parking, connection by London Underground, faxes - well anything you would expect under the title "Basic Information", well go to - err - "Basic Information"!
I exchanged emails over the past few days with the owner of a Pioneer cassette deck, which was once very, very good. He wanted to have an idea of repair cost, and I tactfully advised a great deal more than I thought he was likely to expect.
His reply was that although, not in the wider scheme of things worthwhile, it was to him, especially as not only would I make it work, but guarantee the repairs for twelve months.
Quite simple really - he wanted the next best to a "brand new" unit!
This is a very sensible thinking process. When we buy new, we do not think immediately, "what is this worth", our thoughts are, "will it do what I want?".
With repair often costing only a fraction of the cost of new, in reality, a repair, although for more than the resale price, if viewed as we would view purchasing new, (and with the London Sound 12 month guarantee we can), it will usually beat the "purchase new" option - especially, as here, the "purchase new option" doesn't exist!
Maybe I'm stupid, but I thought I could trust my computer. Oh well, you're there already - I'm stupid!
More details further down, but Speedferries responded very fast to my written complaint, gave me a refund, explanation, and apology. Top marks Speedferries, we'll be traveling with you again!
I booked a brief break, with transport by Speedferries, on the Dover - Boulogne route. The problem was that some of the documentation said we returned on one day, and others - including a "screenshot" from my computer, (it was an internet booking), stating the day on which I booked, and wanted to travel.
At the check in desk in France, I was told - "it's only a computer print out - you have to pay extra to be allowed to travel", as, they insisted, the other day was the only valid date. The fact that I was there, and was able to show a screenshot of the booking for that day was of no importance - as their computer held the wrong date, I was required to pay a fee, or be stranded in France.
As I said above, victory for common sense! I emailed Speedferries explaining the situation, received an apology, refund, and a full explanation - and it all took only a week! So, again, top marks Speedferries, I will definitely be sailing Dover - Boulogne with you again! I'm pleased about that, as in Boulogne, my wife and I found a really super restaurant, and had a thoroughly rewarding shopping expedition at a hypermarket!
But this experience does underline the need to be careful if you purchase on the internet - as you only have a computer print out, printed on your own paper.
Anyone can print another version, and insist that applies!
Regularly, I help out customers who have been misled, and sold unsatisfactory hi-fi goods via the internet - if that applies to you - ask and I'll see if I can help.
Although I am a bit of an eBay addict, I still find it too easy for people to have unfortunate experiences if they are not very, very careful, even despite eBay's brilliant protection, (though I must state, my ferry was not booked through eBay).
So my advice?
Print out as much as you can before committing yourself to making a purchase, then, as I am doing with Speedferries, show the evidence, and request a correction, (in my case, I paid the amendment fee in France, and am asking for a refund, and for assurances for the future, now I'm safely back).
In the case of an eBay or other internet purchase, print out, or at least save on your computer, a copy of everything published concerning the item you're buying. If everything goes ok, you've wasted a few minutes, and maybe pennies. If not - it may prove invaluable evidence to save you pounds - possibly even hundreds!
Not foolproof, but it is very good to hold at least some evidence, (at the time of writing, I so far have no response to two emails - but will correct this entry if there's news)!
As many of the readers to this Newsletter now read it on the London Sound Website, it is becoming less and less justified to knock down trees to send out a mailshot by post.
No one will miss out altogether, but the mailshot used to include a large collection of other leaflets, but I am now cutting it down to a letter and this one sheet.
For those without access to the internet, I apologize, but to the rest, now the huge majority, I trust you will bear with me, as not only do I save a few pence on wasted paper, but also simplify the task!
For those still learning, the internet whilst a crazy beast, waiting to swallow up the unwary, is also the most incredible and exciting library - and it offers so much scope for publishing! The only real problem, is that as publishing is easy, there's an awful lot of rubbish out there!
On the London Sound website, << www.londonsound.org >> , you will find over a year's Newsletters, (scroll down. There are boring bits, but also genuinely vital advice), yes quite a lot that I haven't posted to you, (sorry!).
There's a substantial page on Capital Radio, including their latest bit of harassment - four 'phone calls in the space of a few minutes, which they deny, (but I can prove - I'm not that stupid!). By looking back at previous Newsletters, you can find all sorts of useful advice - indeed, I have considered, one day, trying to extract a digest of all "advice" bits from the Newsletters - it would make a formidable collection!
By the time you read this, a new Apprentice will have just started - let's hope he or she likes it here. Let's also hope he or she enjoys it here as have so many others in the past!
Please forgive my pride showing, but over the past two weeks, I've met one past assistant when she dropped in, with her husband and the new baby, received emails from at least two others, and been tackled - "you didn't recognise me it's - - - - " - yes, another former assistant, standing next to me in a shop! And then there are the "regulars"! I must be getting something right if they still want to keep in touch years after leaving!
Visiting for the first time? Then, telephone for advice.
For technical help and advice, please ring Mike Solomons on 020 8868 9222
The shop telephone line is normally open Monday to Friday 8.00. am. to 5.00. pm, (excluding early closing on Wednesdays - when we close at 1pm). We do not close for lunch. Please note that the shop door is not usually opened until 10 am.
Then there's emails, most welcome at:-
One of the most interesting changes that I have seen over the past fifteen years has been the increase in the number of record decks being brought here for repair. As far as I can tell, the demise in the market for new good medium price record decks has increased the number of people wanting older decks restored.
I don't suppose this is really a great surprise!
Do not worry, it is not unduly expensive, and the results are usually very, very good. Part of the argument in favour is that a typical record collection of 50 or more records would be very expensive to replace in CD, so compared with the cost of a new collection of CDs, the cost of repairing an old record deck is very small, (and some customers stretch the description "or more" to collections of hundreds or even thousands of lps!). Quite obviously at around £10 per CD, if you are to replace just 50 LPs, the cost will be £500 - if the whole collection has actually been issued on CD. A collection of 100 LPs naturally will cost around £1,000 to replace - compared, of course, with a much lower cost, in most cases, to restore the record deck - hence the popularity of record deck repairs.
But the other very impoertant issue is availability - there are still a lot of records that have not been issued on CD.
Also, if your records have deteriorated by becoming dirty over the years, look at the KMAL page.
The cassette deck has not yet completely reached its demise, but it does now seem that the choice of good new decks has now diminished, and may well soon stop altogether. It therefore obviously follows that we need to take care of our cassette decks! "Taking care" at home mainly means use, from time to time, advice which also applies to record decks.
The reason is that mechanical items can deteriorate if left unused for years.
As with the record decks, if your deck has developed faults, we are happy to carry out repairs, and will provide a free estimate on demand.
Please, please, please DO NOT put unused or unwanted hi-fi equipment in the loft, garage, shed, or any other place that suffers extremes of temperature or dampness.
The damage caused by storage for years in a loft is often very expensive to put right, and it is so unnecessary. If equipment is to be stored out of use for a long time, put it somewhere in the house - under the bed, on top of a wardrobe, behind the settee - anywhere that has a similar environment to its normal "home" in your hi-fi system.
It is very worrying that my dispute with Capital Radio in London has taken on a very ugly new aspect, (a brief reminder - they want to use the name "London Sound" without my permission).
Last month I received some deliberate nuisance telephone calls from Capital Radio - a quite astonishing development. For details, please see the Capital Radio page on this Website - you can go there by clicking the link in this sentence. I have written to Capital Radio, to demand that this harassment must cease, and, so far, at least they have complied with this, but I naturally fear the disruption that they could cause if this nasty little ploy is repeated, or maybe stepped up.
Anyway, it's just time for me to wish you much enjoyment from your hi-fi, and suggest you enjoy the music, and leave the technical problems to us!
In these Newsletters, I try to tell tales of recent experiences.
If I have found and learned from something recently, I like to pass it on whilst the thought's still current.
Recent examples have included warnings about eBay purchases, where customers have had unfortunate experiences, (though do remember - my customers don't complain when they have good experiences - I only hear what goes wrong!).
Also, the problem of damage to hi-fi equipment stored in the loft, garage or shed!
I have also commented on damage caused by mains voltage fluctuation.
I must first explode the myth that surge protection devices will help.
These devices protect against "spikes" - momentary enormous excesses - often up to or more than five times the official figure of 230v, and lasting microseconds.
These spikes do not usually damage hi-fi equipment, which is already well protected by the original designs, (as is most computer related equipment).
The big problem comes from very slight excesses.
Some months ago, I helped a customer who was in trouble, and learned, as a side issue, that his main living room light bulb usually lasted about 2 months. I was astonished that this had not alerted my customer to there being a problem, but I think it had developed gradually, and he simply grew used to it.
If my customer's supply had been hugely excessive, then catastrophic damage of his home electrical equipment, along with that of most of his neighbours would have alerted everyone, but the excesses were relatively minor.
The law permits up to 253v in Great Britain, and my customer's supply was peaking at 257v - well below the threshold of any ordinary surge protector - and as it "appeared" to be normal, would not have triggered most other protection devices.
Since reporting on this in an earlier newsletter, I have discovered that there seems to be a growing problem throughout the country. I wrote to a "trade" magazine, (and won a bottle of Champagne for my letter!), and later discovered that the magazine heard from quite a large number of other engineers who had similar experiences.
So should you worry? The vast majority of homes have a sensible and stable supply, but if you have reason to doubt your own supply, then ask for advice. And what constitutes good reason? Light bulbs and other electrical devices that last less than a year in normal use. Overheating electronic devices, (although this can also be a symptom of ordinary faults). If in doubt don't put it off until things go wrong - ask me.
From time to time, I come across hi-fi equipment that has suffered accidental damage.
In maybe as many as two thirds of these situations, it has not occurred to my customers to make an insurance claim, yet often ordinary basic household insurance covers accidental damage to hi-fi equipment.
So what constitutes an "accident"?
To a very great extent, an accident is as defined in the insurance documentation, but can include overload at a party, accidental damage to loudspeaker wiring, dropping it whilst carrying it around the house. It can also include more obvious things like water damage - and condensation if left in a very cold place.
I have recently come across some very expensive damage caused by storage of hi-fi equipment in a loft.
The worst and most unusual, was a Quad 34 control unit, that had been carefully packed in a plastic bag, then in the manufacturer's original box. You would think that this was ideal storage, but no. My customer had stored the unit for about five years, and in early December last year, needing it, he took it out of the loft, plugged it in, and tried to use it.
It malfunctioned seriously.
I found three failed integrated circuit chips, and replaced them.
It was still not functioning correctly, so I tried to find why voltage measurements on the circuit were incorrect. Not one or two, but many. In desperation, I removed all parts from one section of the printed circuit board, and to my utter astonishment, (although this what I was looking for), I found a small amount of power on the section of circuit that was connected to nothing at all!
I concluded that the insulated part of the printed circuit board was conducting electricity. Impossible, you may say - but I saw and measured it myself!
So how had this happened, and how did I repair it?
I assumed that condensation made its way into the board - probably no more than a few drops - but enough to conduct minute amounts of electricity. I therefore had to remove this water, without causing damage. I left the unit without its case on over a low heat source - the back of my workshop refrigerator!
After a week, I tried it, and found it was better, but not quite right, so I returned it to being gently dried out for another two weeks. That completed the repair, and it's now like new!
The moral to this story? Don't leave any hi-fi in a loft, garage or shed, as it will be destroyed!
Instead, store in the house. Good places are under a bed, on top of a wardrobe, behind furniture etc. But indoors!
I hope this month's tale was of interest, and look forward to seeing you again.
I recently wandered around Brent Cross, a local shopping centre, and was astonished to find no separates hi-fi equipment for sale at all. I may have missed a very small display somewhere - but there was certainly nothing like what I saw last time I was there a year or two ago, (I do not really enjoy shopping at Brent Cross!).
It is beginning to look as though separates hi-fi equipment is now the province of specialised hi-fi retailers only, with the main high street retailers having given up altogether. This, of course, suggests that prices of new equipment will rise a lot, if this has not happened already.
High quality repairs are therefore now increasingly being seen as a more and more attractive alternative to replacement, as budget new equipment slowly disappears from the mass market.
Semi obsolete items like tape and cassette recorders, and record decks are a particularly good example.
We now have little choice - in many cases we can only repair, dispose or give up!
As far as I am aware, there are now no other established hi-fi repair specialists operating from a high street shop anywhere in the country offering a twelve month repair guarantee in the way London Sound operates.
So are we unique?
Of course, I am careful with my words.
There are repair departments operated by importers and manufacturers guaranteeing repairs on their own products, though rarely with a 12 month guarantee.
There are still quite a few repairers operating from home, factory estates, or a room behind a retail shop, but again usually with only short guarantees.
But how many operate, as does London Sound, in a high street, (without being combined with a serious sales department), in a freehold shop, without a mortgage? Include being established nearly 40 years ago and I think that London Sound really can claim to be unique!
May I please remind readers, and advise new customers?
The shop is about 300 yards, south of Rayners Lane underground station. Leave the station by simply walking straight ahead for about 5 minutes, then find the shop opposite a new small Tesco.
If driving, note that outside the shop is a single yellow line. I understand that it is legal to stop to deliver and collect.
If you park where I can see your car, I will be able to let you know if a warden arrives. So far, in nearly 16 years, no one has had a parking ticket when I have known to watch their car.
Please DO NOT park on the pavement outside the shop. It is dangerous, and can be costly, (a driver was charged for repairs required some years ago when the weight of his vehicle broke water pipes just under the paving slabs!).
The Hi-fi Magazine - The December Newsletter from London Sound
The charge for record cleaning on the London Sound KMAL record cleaning machine has remained static for a very long time, but as costs rise, it has become obvious that a really serious increase in the charge is necessary, (see the record cleaning page).
As a result, the prices will double on January 1st 2006, unless you hold a voucher, (see below).
All users of our record cleaning service before December 31st 2005 will receive a voucher which will extend the old prices for a further 3 months - so if you are an occasional record cleaning customer, or just curious, it would be wise to use the service before the end of December 2005 - to ensure that you will receive a voucher.
Do please look at the rest of the website.
It is gradually growing, and holds much more information than in this newsletter. All Newsletters this year since February are here, and as they are written, more will be added!
I have also just started work on a second website, http://www.londonsound.org.uk, which at the time of writing simply redirects you back to here, but which it is intended will, eventually, be a backup site, (just in case something goes wrong with this site - you will understand I'm rather cautious!). I am sorry if this provides confusion, but for now, the site http://www.londonsound.org will remain the "primary" London Sound website.
I have also started the very big task of adding special pages for each brand. Currently, if you 'click on' the brand names Armstrong, Leak, and Rogers on the "home" page, you will see special brand related pages.
For example, if you click on "Armstrong", you will see a page referring to the repair of Armstrong equipment, with a little information on the various products made by the Armstrong company. It is a very basic page for now, but will be expanded.
Eventually, this facility will gradually expand to most brands.
I recently had a very awkward misunderstanding with a customer who denied ever receiving an estimate, and who did not want to pay for repairs, even though within this estimate, (quite astonishing - he could have paid £40 less than the estimate upper figure - and yet he was unhappy!). The matter actually ended up with considerable unpleasantness, which I wish to avoid in future.
I do not want to inconvenience the vast majority of my customers who justify my policy of trust, so I have decided on a very modest alteration.
I will now ask everyone bringing equipment in for repair to sign a very simple form confirming receipt of the written estimate. That's all - no big sign of distrust, payment in full in advance, or any other such draconian measures - just a receipt for the estimate form.
Estimates will continue to be absolutely free and available on demand.
I apologise for the small amount of time that this will take, and hope I will have your understanding.
Any goods sent in by post or other carrier must arrive with a written authority to charge up to the maximum figure given as a provisional telephone or email estimate - a print-out of an email correspondence, signed, will suffice. Otherwise no work will be carried out until an estimate is posted to you, accepted, and the written acceptance returned, (which obviously takes time, needlessly delaying repairs).
If you have any troubles or difficulties with any hi-fi related equipment, please always feel free to 'phone. No call centres, or "press button '3' after the tone" - just me, Mike Solomons, here in Harrow, ready to help.
Not always good.
Yes, it is essential when needed, and when done properly, but there is such a thing as overdoing things! Not the maintenance - but making things look good in the process!
In the 1970's, a customer brought an Armstrong 226 receiver, (see the Armstrong page), to me for repair, (yes, I am that old!). It was in open chassis form, for building into a cabinet built by a cabinet maker. It was clean. No not clean, but clean! Spotless!
A previous repairer, (now out of business, fortunately!), had pressure sprayed it with paraffin!
I think the idea was to make it look good for the customer, as well as functional after a repair - maybe an excuse to charge more! Unfortunately, considerable damage was caused, which was mainly why the unit was subsequently brought to me!
Interestingly I had a recent experience, outside our industry, of damage caused to a car apparently by over enthusiastic steam cleaning! That, however was certainly profitable - the repairers subsequently had to repair the resultant damage, and I'll bet the customer didn't know it was their fault, and paid up cheerfully!
After all, you may say, the repairer was so good, even the underneath of the car had been steam cleaned and was almost clean enough to eat off! (It's enough to make you cry!)
It is my experience that absolutely NOTHING should be done during a repair that is not essential.
This, unfortunately, can lead to misunderstandings with a customer, (one recently thought that, from the short list of components changed, that the repair had been "minor" in nature, so should be cheap! I explained!). If you have a piece of equipment, be it a car, hi-fi, television or anything else, when it stops, one part has failed. It may cause other damage, but the hard part of any repair is finding the first bit that broke! After finding that, the rest is easy, even if, as with catastrophic output circuit failure, it sounds impressive!
My customer had not understood just how much work had gone into isolating these components, rather than the usual idiot response of changing everything in sight!
But then, maybe I am the idiot!
At least if I had changed a load of faultless components as well as the faulty items, the bill would have "looked good"! A long list of parts replaced always looks impressive - just ask a rogue builder!
So should you clean the dust out of your amplifier? No
Should you routinely clean cassette and tape heads? No
Should you routinely clean your stylus? No
DO NOT routinely clean anything - not even vinyl records! The only part you can safely clean is the outside - but be careful not to polish off the labelling!
Clean the working parts when dirty, and when this dirt is affecting performance. Otherwise, it is quite likely that you will cause more harm than good - sometimes a great deal more harm! Please. Pretty please Pretty please with cream on! As, ultimately, I have to clear up the mess!
Meanwhile - the message, as usual, is that we can happily service and repair your hi-fi when necessary, and will always be pleased to give free advice. And with a full 12 month guarantee on all repairs!
Take care, and enjoy the music!
I am grateful to the many customers and friends who have helped me in my dispute concerning Capital Radio using the name of my business, and seeking to register it as though it were their Trade Mark. I feel that The Patent Office, responsible for this registration, has behaved very badly in regard to this matter. I suppose the incentive of the money that they make from the procedure weighs rather more heavily than the need for justice.
Fortunately, the relevant Government Ombudsman has now taken this matter over, and is giving it due consideration.
I will report further next month.
Such a waste of everyone's time and money.
Meanwhile, if you come across Capital Radio, (or anyone else!), using the name London Sound without my permission, please try to discourage them if you can!
Also, try looking at our Capital Radio leaflet, as well as the one on London Sound.
A reminder - we operate the KMAL, (Keith Monks Audio Ltd), record cleaning service, (the KMAL leaftet describes the service that we offer in more detail than below).
In brief, if you have a dirty record, bring it here for cleaning, and it will receive what I believe to be the best attention possible anywhere.
The charge will rise substantially on January 1st next year, so please bring your
collection here before then! As a further incentive, all users calling between October 1st 2005 and December 31st 2005, will be eligible for a voucher holding the old
prices until March 31st 2006
On the plus side, the London Sound Website continues to function well, and grows every month.
Sometimes it rambles a bit, (but you can see that here!), but there's loads of written material on there, so when you are bored, take a look - you may well find more than you expect!
On the negative side, barely a week goes by without hearing at least one tale of a customer cheated on the internet. The biggest problem concerns second hand purchases that turn out not to be as good as expected!
When you see an item on eBay, or elsewhere, especially if there is time to ask, get on to me as quickly as you can, and describe the item. I cannot advise on price, but I can advise on likely problems and difficulties, so you can make a realistic offer, fully aware of what repairs may cost - whether you've been told of problems or not.
On the other hand, if it's too late, and you are not happy with a purchase, I will write a report, usually for around £50, for you to show to the seller. But do not ask straight away for this - the first thing to do is tell the seller of the problem that you have found, and the cost of a report. In most cases, the seller will return your money before losing even more by having to pay for my report, as he can already guess what it will say!
But it is unlikely to go that far - the threat is usually enough!
And finally it now remains only for me remind you to look at the website, and to ask you to telephone before calling in, as we will be closed on a number of days this and next month.
Oh, and as a postscript to my item in last month's newsletter, (see below), my eBay car purchase remains still one I am pleased with. For now, look at the way I purchased it - and use this technique for your own uses. In the long run, I hope to prepare a better guide to purchasing - but for now, look at how I selected a good seller, and trusted him - and now own a very good car purchased at far less than the price I had expected to pay!
Many readers will have heard this before, but it does deserve being repeated.
Don't buy the product, buy the seller.
No, this does not mean that if, say, you want to buy a particular piece of equipment, you should not look for it at all. However, it's definitely very important to look not so much at the product, but at who's selling it. No matter how good it looks, if the seller is a rogue, you may be cheated.
This does not only apply to shops selling new equipment, (buy from an honest shop, not "junky Joe's" with the bright stickers), but it also applies when buying second hand.
We all know not to buy expensive equipment from a dodgy looking character - but what if it's by an internet sale? You can't see if the seller is dodgy - but that doesn't make it any more sensible!
Recently I bought a car, successfully, on eBay - not by having a detailed technical examination of the car to see if it was good, but by assessing the seller of the car - correctly, as a decent and honest man who simply wanted to sell it. Then I believed what he said. Intriguingly, I do not think his advertisement was as well written as it might be - hence being able to buy at an acceptable price. All factors to look at!
If you want to buy either in a shop, or privately, concentrate on the seller.
If a shop - would you trust their advice? If not, don't buy, even if you want that actual product, (consider - maybe an honest retailer would advise you against for a good reason, or maybe a dishonest retailer may sell you a used unit re-packed as new - I've known it happen - quite often - with even the most prestigious manufacturers sometimes supplying original sealing tape to make the used goods look new!).
Anyway - back to my eBay purchase - I correctly judged the seller as sensible and honest - believed him - and the car he sold me is absolutely great, and far cheaper than ordinary garage sales!
As always, we are very happy to give free advice. You may wonder why. When I was young, and in the early stages of my business, I was shocked to find that many experts resented giving advice, and would often actively mislead me. The attitude was, "Why should I help you - if I help, I don't make money, so I'll sound good, but ensure you end in a mess". The attitude annoyed me so much, that I was, and remain, determined to help wherever possible.
As usual, all that remains is to tell you to enjoy the music, and leave me to deal with the problems - and to remind you that all repair estimates are free!
We returned late July tanned, with lots of French wine, sourced from various shops around the pretty fishing village we stayed in! Don't laugh too much - there's a picture of me in Honfleur to the right! We call this street the "street of a thousand restaurants". A bit of an exageration, but there are quite a lot!
I am fascinated by the varieties of different prices and markets just over the water in France, (things differ more as you travel further). Excellent wine is remarkably cheap, and plentiful, but hi-fi seems rare and expensive! Just as well I was buying wine not hi-fi! If we could match UK prices in France, it might make an interesting market!
Now that we are back, we are busy catching up on the backlog - ready to help out with all your hi-fi repair needs!
An interesting effect of the London Sound website is the increase in unusual products for repair, often very old. As a result, I now find myself able to view a very good variety of products from the 1930's, right up to earlier this century, (the idea of the 30's to the 90's being in the last century sounds grand, or frightening, doesn't it - depending on your age!).
As technology improves, there seems to be a relentless downhill slide in manufacture quality. Although we now see failure under guarantee of electronic goods has diminished to a very low level, acceptable life to the point where by choice we want to dispose, (as opposed to being forced to), is getting less frequent. My parents' generation assumed, with the occasional repair, that electronic equipment would last as long as they wanted to use it, like my grandfather's 1932 Pye wireless, which still works.
Today, we are having to get used to some units being made to last maybe only two years - with the best rarely lasting over 10. So what is the optimum age of equipment? I suppose the best is, usually, the oldest that does the job we want done!
If you are satisfied with your 1960's Leak Stereo 70, or a 1970's Armstrong 621, 625, 626 or maybe a Rogers Ravensbrook or Ravensbourne - hang on to it - it will almost certainly outlive most similar items sold today. If not, and you'd prefer a 1970's Quad or Radford amplifier, then sell the older unit, and buy a second-hand Quad or Radford! It will still be cheaper than a new unit, and will almost certainly last longer! (Particularly see the Armstrong, Leak, and Rogers pages)
Have a look through this website, there are links at the bottom of this page - there's much more literature on the site than I now give out as advisory sheets in the shop - which avoids paper being wasted. It may take a while, and you'll find it a bit disorganised, but there's lots there! I hope you enjoy it all!
If so, have a look at our website.
It's not very pretty, as I set it up as a DIY project, but it's very effective, and allows me to publish all of my leaflets for everyone - without wasting paper!
Some of the site shows 'literature' not published before, which I hope you will find of interest. There are even some photographs!
Far more of interest, from my point of view, is that the site is introducing new business at a satisfying rate, costing less than conventional advertising!
It also is bringing some very unusual business.
For those familiar with "Search Engines", the reason is no surprise - an enquiry for the repair of a rare an unusual item sees me "top of the list", whereas the major manufacturers are well down as there's more competition!
I have put a collection of Leak units on display in the shop, which are offered for sale.
All units - Leak Stereo 30, Stereo 30 + Delta 30, Troughline tuners, a Stereofetic and Delta FM - all are offered as faulty and electrically unsafe for £75.00, purely for spares. (see the Leak page for further Leak advice)
Linked to these sales, any of these units can be purchased at that price, and then overhauled to a standard which allows a 12 month guarantee for a fixed price of £225.00 - making a fixed total price of £300.00.
Obviously the final product when overhauled will be visually as seen and accepted, but working "virtually as new", with the usual 12 month guarantee, and fully electrically safety checked. This gives a wonderful opportunity to buy one of these excellent classic items safely, without the nasty surprises so often experienced with some second hand dealers and private sales. And with the 12 month guarantee, it feels almost like buying a piece of history, but with the safety of a guarantee that compares with new equipment!
Just a little reminder. When you bring something here for repair, the bill will show a "cash discount", available for payment within a set period, usually 7 days.
To benefit from the full discount, payment has to be in actual cash; cheques do not qualify. Credit and debit cards do qualify for the "cash discount", but with a £5.00. handling charge. Generally, most customers pay with real cash for lower price repairs, and use cards for expensive repairs - and you set your own "cut-off point"!
For technical help and advice, please ring Mike Solomons on 020 8868 9222 .
The shop telephone line is normally open Monday to Friday 8.00. am. to 5.00. pm, (excluding early closing on Wednesdays - when we close at 1pm). We do not close for lunch. Please note that the shop door is not usually opened until 10 am.
Most of my readers will already have learned not to leave the equipment switched on all the time, as advocated by some misguided people, (a mixture, in my view, of fools and rogues!), but for those reading this advice for the first time - don't do it!
Good hi-fi units of any age usually reach optimum performance after being switched on for about a minute, with some rare examples taking up to half an hour - but never more.
An argument is put forward that reliability is also an issue, which is true. But only within certain limits. I agree that, if you switch the amplifier off between records or discs, maybe half a dozen times in an evening - more over a weekend, then wear is increased.
However, leaving the unit switched on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is plain stupid, as the resultant harm is vastly greater than any wear from sensible use.
I shouldn't object, as equipment left on all the time creates more highly profitable work for me, but it is so depressing to have to explain to a customer facing a very large bill, that he's been stupid - and I had to do it again today, whilst writing this newsletter!
But I have digressed. Obviously equipment left on all the time will suffer from excessive heat related damage, but this kind of harm is inflicted on equipment even if used normally. Be sure, therefore, that you do not allow your equipment to become overheated by being in an enclosed unventilated cabinet, or in direct sunlight.
To ensure stability, all repairs carried out at London Sound are carried out in a controlled environment - never below 21 degrees C, and never over 25 degrees C. Whilst the heating and air conditioning required to achieve this is partly for my comfort, (ok - let's be truthful - mainly for my comfort), it does mean that all units are stabilised for these temperatures. As manufacturers specify many settings at these temperatures, working in this controlled environment gives us the best chance of long term reliability after repairs have been completed.
Fascinating - I am asked nowadays to carry out more repairs to record decks than maybe ten years ago. I think that, whilst we still use records, most of the main record deck manufacturers are out of reach. Either they are out of business, or have specialised in extremely high priced units. The message? Take great care of what you've got, and seek help if it fails - replacement units are now becoming increasingly rare!
For technical help and advice, please ring Mike Solomons on 020 8868 9222
The shop telephone line is normally open Monday to Friday 8.00. am. to 5.00. pm, (excluding early closing on Wednesdays - when we close at 1pm). We do not close for lunch. Please note that the shop door is not usually opened until 10 am.
For some years, I've commented that I've cornered a very small market - and it's true! It could be argued that I am in a very special position, or maybe just the last silly fool still repairing hi-fi! Whatever your viewpoint, I enjoy my work, and also enjoy helping people who otherwise would be in real difficulties.
I do know that there are other repairers, but I am unaware of any well established repairers, (we were first registered as "London Sound" in 1969), operating from a high street shop, giving a full twelve month repair guarantee, and specialising to the almost complete exclusion of sales, (almost - we sold about four or five items of second hand hi-fi equipment last year - hardly a major part of the business!).
I also am so pleased that repair is "green" - in that we re-cycle back to the original owner! All told, a useful occupation!
As you may see from our other leaflet, the battle continues with Capital Radio. They have applied to The Patent Office to register the name "London Sound" as though it were their Trade Mark - and The Patent Office is taking them seriously!
For reasons that I find baffling, The Patent Office is giving me a really hard time, and has seriously suggested that they will grant Capital Radio rights to my name!
The law is clearly on my side, but it seems equally clear to me that money talks!
The latest incident was a meeting last month at which only one of the three Patent Office officials attending would even give me his name - and he refused to agree to start or take part in the meeting, talking over me and raising his voice - he was really quite angry, though I do not understand why - and minutes after I entered the room where The Patent Office and the Capital Radio delegation were waiting for me, the Patent Office delegation walked out with the Capital Radio delegation! Nasty business, but clearly Capital Radio is influential!
Have you visited our website, <<< www.londonsound.org >>> ?
Not very professional looking, (as you can see here!), but it works very well! It's good news for everyone, as by replacing other, more expensive advertising, it reduces our overheads, so allowing us to be a little keener with pricing! That way, everyone, (except where I will cut back with advertising), will gain!
If you have a chance, take a look around, as it has some information that doesn't appear elsewhere!
At present, the leaflet of capital Radio's application to register the name of our business as though it were theirs is not on the website, but is coming soon. Meanwhile, it will be posted to uk addresses on request.
Probably one of the most interesting sides of repairing hi-fi equipment is the people I meet, and learning from them.
There are the interesting variations in value judgments - some will repair regardless of cost because the equipment suits their needs, and repair is the easiest option, whilst others, at the other extreme, will only repair if they cannot obtain anything similar second hand cheaper!
Then there are the, now fortunately rare, arguments over cost.
A typical argument over ten years ago ran like this - "I ain't paying £50 for this repair". But the estimate was up to £80 - so it's quite a bit less than you had agreed to pay - you should be pleased.
"No, I aint paying more than £40, my friend says all you've done is clean the dust out, so I ain't paying more than £40", (it should be mentioned that the repair had been quite involved, and was carried out on a quite expensive amplifier, which had originaly cost some hundreds of pounds).
The explanation took a little while - my customer had agreed to pay up to £80 - but didn't have the money, and was in quite a difficult position. She simply did not have the £50, wanted her equipment back, and was therefore trying to beat me down on price.
A compromise was arrived at, as realising that, as far as any hi-fi repair problems fit this description, it was a genuine case of hardship - I allowed her to take the full cash discount already offered to her, but let her have just over a month to pay.
Then there was another row. Just over fifteen years ago, a young woman brought me a very good but quite old B&O receiver for repair. A young man came to collect. The bill was £140 - the full estimate figure. "I ain't paying more than £70 - it's not worth more than £70". I asked, "If you didn't want to pay more than £70, why did you agree to pay up to £140?" He replied, "I didn't, she did. She's stupid". And with that, he left, and all further letters were ignored!
Arguments like those mentioned are very rare - those are the only two such coherent arguments over the past fifteen years.
There were two others, but in both cases, it was simply clear that money was not the problem - these customers had simply changed their minds, (which, after I have carried out the work, is most unfair to me)!
Generally, my clear policy of agreeing an estimate before work starts works out fairest and best for everyone, and makes me the envy of the other repairers who I know, all of whom seem to have arguments with their customers almost daily - yet assure me it is the unreasonable customers - never their own fault!
As you see, I have set up this simple website, which holds a little more info than is seen on the literature handed out in the shop, and is proving to be a very interesting project. Learning how to set up and operate the website has been, how shall I put it, challenging, (absolute nightmare!), but it is now running, with quite startling results - many new customers have found London Sound via the internet, and the cost, compared with the cost of other advertising, is very reasonable.
Have a look round, and see what you think.
We have a website!
The address is:- http://www.londonsound.org
As with all such addresses, you can usually get away with just entering "londonsound.org", or maybe you'll have to add the "www" bit!
At the moment, the site is a bit of a mess, but I am developing it myself - and having some difficulty, (maybe I'm too old for this - need a teenager!).
It includes copies of most of our standard leaflets, newsletters etc, with some unique text that hasn't been printed elsewhere.
Planned for the next few weeks are a few "for sale" items, a new 'gadget' to allow seriously long audio interconnects to work without signal deterioration, and possibly more help leaflets. And pictures, as I'm learning how to add bits to the site!
However, regular readers will be interested to learn that the website has already introduced business - and is paying for itself!
So why is this good news? A substantial part of the price for any goods or services, is the overheads of the business. I have already capped the biggest - the cost of the premises, by purchasing the shop freehold fifteen years ago - so no rent reviews. Now that the website seems set to reduce the advertising budget, all customers visiting through the website, rather than in response to expensive advertisements, will have the benefit of not, (albeit indirectly), having had to pay for the adverts!
Over the years, I have found that many repair requests have come from people who've recently purchased second hand equipment, which wasn't as good as they'd hoped.
What should you look for?
If you are buying from a second hand dealer, look at his guarantee.
If the guarantee is less than twelve months, regard it as little better than buying privately - more a warning of the trader's confidence than a guarantee!
Be very cautious with the private purchase, as you may find out why the equipment is being sold - just too late! I often hear tales of breakdowns months, or even weeks after a purchase - especially purchases through the internet!
Find out how much a typical repair may cost, gamble you've a 50/50 chance of failure, and then you can assess a sensible price to pay.
Probably the best way to purchase second hand equipment, is to buy unmarked or reasonably good looking equipment, but known to be faulty, (hence cheap), and be certain you know how much repairs will cost - then, if the repairs are guaranteed for twelve months, as always with London Sound, it's safe, and almost like buying new!
Meanwhile, if you can, try to visit the whole of the website - and let me know what you think!
They don't make them like they used to!
I am both fascinated, and rather depressed at the falling quality of the manufacture of hi-fi equipment.
Over the years, I have seen many changes in the world of hi-fi. Sometimes for the better, where I have seen smaller loudspeakers give a 'bigger' sound, but only too often, there is a rather sad side effect of modern developments - shorter life.
I accept that if the price is reduced, and so is the life, this can sometimes be cost effective, but things are now getting ridiculous.
I well remember a customer, over twenty years ago, shrugging off advice that his cassette deck was beyond economic repair, by commenting 'it didn't owe him anything' - then saying it was two years old! I found this attitude quite amazing, as I was used to equipment lasting far longer.
On the other hand, in 1932, my grandfather bought a "wireless". It was undoubtedly expensive at the time, but served him until he died in 1961 - he had 29 years of reliable use from it with, as far as I am aware, one precautionary bit of servicing in 1939. I have serviced it since - once. If Pye could make a radio with that level of reliability 73 years ago, why do so many modern units often last as little as 2 years?
How can we get longer life?
A rather more important question, is how can we protect ourselves from these horribly short lived units? It's not easy, though avoidance of 'junk' brands will help. Ultimately, though, the only really reliable way to find that something is well built, is to use it over a period of years! So, if you have something good, hang onto it! I dread repairing equipment that has broken down after only a year or two - as if the manufacturers cannot make the unit run reliably for more than two years, I have to ask what chance have I of doing any better, (though I try)!
What is the most reliable?
On the other hand, a question often asked, what is the most reliable? The answer, regrettably, has to be that only time will tell. However, a magical trick is to look at experience. If your amplifier breaks down for the first time after its first twenty years, it is far more likely to last another ten years, (if repaired properly), than a replacement seemingly of the same calibre has of making its first 10 years! And, the repair is often a lot cheaper! Simpler, as you know all about the old unit, and no need to go shopping!
The Twelve Month Guarantee
It costs a little more to repair things properly, but it's cheaper in the long run. For further help with any hi-fi queries, and advice on guarantees, the contact details are below:-
For technical help and advice, please ring Mike Solomons on 020 8868 9222