I just had a prototype Joule Electra LA200 all-tube pre worked on by David at Stereo Exchange, located on Western Ave. in Chicago. I cherish this piece and have always had the designer, Jud Barber, do the work I needed. But I had a pesky, intermitant right channel problem and just didn't want to ship the unit and wait 3-5 months for the fix, so saw this thread and met with David.
I am an experienced audiophile and a former TAS reviewer and I was very happy with David's work - and here is why.
There are techs and there are techs. 50% are sloppy with solder and the other 49% think they know what "beautiful" sounds like but really just end up banging around the inside of your unit and making it more, um, "accurate." They mean well, but like a Ferrari mechanic, its hard to find someone who understands that the technical fix is in service of getting you to, or back to, that place where you sit for hours immersed in the music.
David gets that.
Just a quick example: He does the US repair work for Plinius and when I was there he had a pair of monster SS amps opened up on the counter. He said that they were working fine, but that he still couldn't quite get them to sound the way they could. 99% of techs would have handed them back and the owner would have none the wiser. My guess is that that owner is going to get his monos back sounding better than ever.
Because the artistry in being a tech is more than just swapping out parts until it runs.
I run WE300Bs, am brutal on harmonic and spatial presentation and have over $700 in NOS tubes just in my phono stage and last night, after getting the pre back from David, I was running around and too busy to give it a good run-through, so just quickly hooked it up to see that the lights went on. Two hours later, almost dark outside, I had to drag myself away from the system to finish the leaves outside.