It was pretty amazing to me to see your post, since I often wonder the same thing. In my case, many projects start with a 'what if' question. And too many times, the changing of one item becomes much bigger than I had planned. I have never been happy to leave things alone. So many times this has paid off. Then there are the cases where you open something up, and almost instantly know that what you are seeing is for admiration only, not modding or redesigning.
The Carver C9 has been my project for the past five years now with no end in sight. It is easy to work on, and has enough background research that I can try many different ideas out.
I wish i had the knowledge and the tools to upgrade my Tivoli #3 radio.
It is set up on either side of my bed with dual subwoofers. The radio
is connected to an Apple laptop with USB out to an AudioEngine DAC.
This "system" sounds really good and looks nice with real wood enclosures, etc. The DAC improves the sound A LOT- it becomes much clearer and cleaner. But... if only i could improve the wiring, connectors,
the power supply (external), and any other components. The subwoofers cut in right where the 3 inch mid-tweeter cuts off, but makes one-note bass too often. It has a 20W built-in amplifier (too little) and a 5.25 in. speaker (6 in. would be better). Even if all this might not be cost effective, i know of no other radio/system that sounds this good and fits on a night-stand. I even have the matching CD player which, while it's quite functional and does the job, could definitely use some modifications. I even had the nerve to ask the company to upgrade the connectors and wiring, and they told me that everything supplied was
already "top quality". If only I could... - I would.
I would love to, but I still lack the knowledge to know what the crap I'm doing. So I mess around with easy stuff, like DIY cables and vibration isolation. Soon, when my kids and house don't require constant attention, I shall start building amp kits and do me some learnin'.
I could write pages of info on what I’ve modified. I have both a full home theater system and a computer audio system. In both systems, there are only a couple items I have not "touched"/modified in some way. I have not touched my DirectTV satellite receiver - because of voiding warranty and I don’t actually "own" the receiver (lease). I have not touched my Lumagen video processor, though I have ran it through the freezer for a couple horus (for a pseudo cryo treatment -- this solidifies the SMD solder points to be just a bit denser). In my computer audio system, I have an Emotiva DAC and a Rane stereo line mixer that I have pretty much rebuilt internally to be Class-A based giant killers. I’ve gone through a LOT of testing using different components (capacitors, etc.) to see how different types of caps affect things. I hand make all my own power and interconnect cables. Even treating speakers in some way.
And, in spite of what modifications can be made, so many times it ends up being the total synergy of the system that wins. Seemingly, some just shouldn't go together, yet, the outcome is unbeatable. Having said that, I rarely have been stopped at good enough.
Thanks for everyone's input.
Auxinput - I had a kind of similar situation with my Linn Kremlin tuner (and my Linn Klassic for that matter) - They were just too "nice" to mess with (modify) because they're rather expensive, and I don't want to mess them up. BUT the backup battery in the Kremlin 'took a dump' on it's circuit board, so I had to try and fix it, and I did. While having it apart, I also changed the LED display from green to Blue, as I do all my equipment with LED displays - but not the Kremlin until it messed up.
Similar story with the Klassic - it gave an error message that was fixed with Recapping. So I also went ahead and put the blue 7-segments in.
Here's another thing I'd like to share - IF you do any amount of, say, Recapping or anything that has to to with Desoldering a component from a circuit board - IMO a Must Have is a Hakko Electric Desoldering Vacuum tool (current model is the FR-300 - the 808 I use has been discontinued).
But only if you do a lot of desoldering OR you want to protect your investment (don't DARE use a mechanical solder sucker to recap, say, an old Mark Levinson preamp) ;) ,as they're at least ~$265 not including supplies like filters and the proper size nozzles.
I’ve isolated circuit boards from vibration, mechanically isolated transformers from the component electronics, shielded electronics and wiring and fuse from the transformer’s magnetic field, damped capacitors, damped the fuse holder, absorbed background scattered laser light in CD players, damped the CD transport, oh, and of course seismic vibration isolation.
@joeylawn36111 - yup. I have both Hakko soldering station and an older Hakko de-soldering station. I also have a Quck 861DW hot air rework station. Though, I've been seriously considering investing in the Hakko FM206-DTS rework station. Having a soldering iron, hot tweezer, and de-soldering iron in one station looks really good! And I'm very interseted in the hot tweezer. I've used a combination of my hot air station with a soldering iron to remove SMD capacitors, but the hot tweezer would really help in that I don't have to worry about the hot air affecting surrounding SMD components.
@geoffkait what did you use to create a shield around the transformer? I've had limited success in this area..
I forgot about modding speakers. I've done that as well, mostly to kill vibrations
@geoffkait what did you use to create a shield around the transformer? I've had limited success in this area..
Just one word. Low frequency high permeability mu metal.
Auxinput - cool. You're ahead of me - I generally don't mess with SMD components - they're a real pain for hobbyists like me. But the problems I mentioned with my Kremlin were caused by the old memory battery "oozing" onto a 240Ω SMD resistor in the voltage regulator circuit, and changing it's value - I cleaned everything else up, removed it and rigged a regular thru-hole resistor in it's place.
Typically, I stick to either tube equipment and some of the integrated circuits for upgrades and mods.
I also use the FR300 de-soldering gun. My only complaint is that there is as much cleaning involved as with using de-solder braid, except that it is cleaning out the heat tube of the gun and not cleaning excess flux off the circuit board.
Many designs out there try to get away with the cheapest setup that will work, and that is where I try to improve at least the component quality.
Vibration isolation and shielding are also important to me. So far, I have tried copper foil tape and lead sheeting that is very thin. Seems that the lead is most effective.
I stopped doing mods to my components and began building my own. I was kind of taken back years ago by all the people modifying CDPs preamp and amps, etc. and the prices that they were charging. I also was disappointed by seeing very little high end parts in many high priced components I repaired. Things like cheap volume controls, cheap caps and basic resistors. I first built a preamp because that is where I thought I could improve my system. I actually installed a switch that I could switch between resistors to hear how each one changed the sound by a simply a turn of a switch. People came over and told me that there is no way they would hear a difference but as I turned the dial they asked, what did you just do and then told me the differences they heard. I learned so much from swapping out different parts and how they changed the sound, improving voltage regulation, rectification, current limiters, volume controls, etc. Heck even the chassis has an impact on the sound. It was an eye opening experience and I am still learning more each day.
I mod innocent drivers into Walsh radiators. I can't afford a pair of German Physiks so I amuse myself with a different sort of complexity...
I got a laugh from Samsung's byline from their Academy Awards commercials, and decided 'Yup, that's about right...."
"Do what you can't."
...and it's good cheap fun. ;)
Gotta admit, for the amount of effort, there is nothing like building your own set of speakers. I have been through a few of them over the years. All in all, they usually outperform my expectations, but not always.
Recently, I added bass drivers to a set of speakers that I built a few years ago. The result was pretty great. Somehow, the match made for good music, and that is pretty much hit or miss unless you have the proper diagnostic tools at your disposal.
Seriously. Especially when it comes to users trading amps and cables to try to get the tonal qualities they want, nothing beats your own speakers and crossovers.
Every day I listen to the best sounding loudspeakers in the world. Not because they are better than any one else's but because they sound exactly like what I want. It is the difference between going to a restaurant and ordering food, and cooking yourself and having it come out just right for you.
Except perhaps room acoustics.
Between the speakers and the room acoustics, I have more than enough to tinker with, adjust, and make right. If I don't like the tonal balance, or whatever I change the crossover, or the room damping. Done.
My biggest obstacle really is affording an apartment with a room conducive to proper speaker placement. :)
...and thanks for the morale support, guys. *S*
I'll be the first to admit that they're not 'perfect', but for a 'work in progress' they're coming along. Every iteration is showing improvement which is half of the satisfaction for me. The balance is owning something that has sprung from my own efforts that is beginning to replicate the speakers I heard long ago....perhaps not in the same approach as the originals, but per my thoughts on 'improving the breed', if you will.
One goal is to not have them fry @ 201 watts...the nemesis of the originals. I'm getting there... ;)
Some good thoughts here.
I agree, a good desoldering station and a good soldering station should be your first investments. I would add a good Fluke multimeter to that. And a word of caution: beware of teflon! When teflon gets hot, 260 C, it begins to decompose into some of the meanest chemicals known. I use a fume hood with exhaust, as well as gloves and a respirator. If you get near teflon, you might want to do likewise.
I know that some of the local John Waynes hereabouts don't give no hoots about HF (hydrogen fluouride), but that's their problem, not mine.
I suggest that you don't mess with high voltage until you learn about it. Everything over 1 KV is qualitatively different from everything under 1 KV.
If you want to get started, joey, there is a wonderful resource, The Art of Electronics by Horowitz and Hill. Lots of stuff you will never find elsewhere, like characteristics of capacitors - they were talking about this stuff in the 80's ! Lots of practical advice and circuits analyzed.
From there it's an obvious step to DIY. The big advantage is not that your equipment will have the best circuit topology, but that you can compensate by using the best components. For much less than the price of top class used, you can have top class that you made yourself. And since you are building everything yourself, you can build in resistor comparisons like 'bigkidz' did, and like I did. By the way, nude Vishay is hands down the best, though costly.
Another thing you can do is design the system as a whole. For example, my Quad ESL's have protection circuits that cut in at 7 KV. So i designed my amps and replaced the step-up transformers to produce a maximum of 4 KV. This allowed me to remove the ESL's protection circuits for a clear improvement in sound.
As you build more and more, you will start to notice other people's mistakes. Even some of the top dogs can make them. There is nothing more satisfying than making your very own!
If you go down the DIY road, you will need a little test equipment. Buy old stuff from HP or Tek; just make sure they are still working. Good quality, low price.
Above all - have fun. And stay safe.