Mods - Odds and Sods???


As we all know, here on Audiogon, there has been an increasing number of "modded" components being offered. However, I am wondering about the effectiveness of these mods. Are we often paying more money for equipment that has been modded, but not EFFECTIVELY modded?

I think the trap is to assume that just because something has been modded, it has been improved. Wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

I will not get into the details here yet, because I would like to see how others feel about it.

I will say that I have experience with a product that I have seen an advertisement for, modded. I can tell you that the component has a design flaw from the factory SO egregious that my friend who modded one for himself to correct the situation, feels it had to be intentional. Now, I don't believe that, I don't think a manufacturer would "mess up" a product just so it doesn't outshine their more expensive ones. But, the modded product did not address the issue. In fact, the mod they performed costs much more and is FAR less effective than the mod my friend performed(which happens to be free, outside of the labor involved). And, that is the most telling thing. In my opinion, anyone who performs mods without correcting this problem is not someone I would want to give my money to.

And, I ask, are we now to the point that we are willing to shell out more of our hard earned money for products which do not live up to their hype?
There is a difference between modifiers and parts swappers. Some of these "tweak guru's" simply swap existing parts whereas others modify ( add / remove ) existing circuitry and upgrade the parts that remain. Some are capable of designing / building / voicing their own circuit and others have to send mass produced units out for repair as needed.

As far as manufacturer's go and "sabotaging" their units, they do it all the time. It is not to ensure that their more expensive units sound better so much as it is poor engineering. This is exactly why many cheaper units can be made to sound just as good or even better than their more expensive units. Most units share the same building blocks, they just impliment those building blocks in a different manner. Sean
Sean, thanks for your perspective. It is definitely appreciated, coming from someone who has seen this for real. Anyway, you are so right about swapping parts as opposed to actually modifying a component.

In the situation I was alluding to, the component was "modded" in that the coupling caps were upgraded in these amplifiers. However, the number one issue the NEEDED to be corrected in this product was the fact that the power cabling is bundled with a lot of the other wiring in the amp. Sure, it makes for a cleaner presentation, and probably easier manufacturing, but the difference addressing the cable routing inside these amps overshadows a capacitor upgrade by several orders of magnitude.

My friend is a thorough modifier of equipment, as opposed to someone out to pad their bottom line, because he realized that this free tweak was the most effective and critical improvement that he could make. Over the phone, he wouldn't tell me what this "crime" was, as he wanted to surprise me in person. Of course, he also upgraded the coupling caps, as well as the binding posts, input jack, and tubes. When I asked him what kind of performance gains his changes had wrought, he had no idea, as he never listened to the amps stock. In his opinion, there was just no point.

The thing is with the items for auction here, upgrading a part enabled the seller to fetch 75% more for the used item than what it listed for new. Interesting
Joe: I went through an identical situation with some of my equipment. That is, i opened up a pair of large high bias monoblocks ( 250 / 500 / 800 wpc ) and found signal cables bundled together with power cables. Needless to say, i started re-arranging things and ended up with over four feet of wire being pulled out of each amp. Not only was the signal path WAY shorter, the whole installation was MUCH cleaner too. The funny thing is that the entire audio path was wired with Cardas cabling from the factory, which meant that the manufacturer was throwing money away by using such a backwards approach to assembly.

I think that if more people knew how poorly their gear was designed and assembled, there would be a lot fewer "audiophile approved" companies in business. Like i said, it's not "sabotage" so much as "idiocy" and lack of engineering / understanding. Sean
This is an interesting topic, really, because I've been doing quite a few modifications to tuners recently. Nothing terribly substantial really, but tuners are nice to do because the mods and alignment are both audible AND measurable in a very significant manner. As to manufacturers intentionally designing bad products: I have to wonder if this is true. I'll relate a case in point:

I just did a modification to a Magnum Dynalab FT-101A which was possibly three or four years old. The first thing I noticed was that the ceramic IF filters were types completely unsuited to high fidelity. A simple swap dropped THD from .2% to .03%, which is just a shocking amount without even a real circuit change. Even better, IM distortion dropped 20dB! This was also the only tuner I have ever seen without a channel separation adjustment, and as a result, the separation is over 20dB worse than most other tuners. So you have to wonder just how bad the engineering here is. Using different filters would cost the factory basically nothing.

They also used cheap electrolytic caps on the outputs (although there are spots on the board for the film caps used in the Etude, for which they charged an extra $500), which the customer wanted replaced with Black Gates. When I pulled the circuit board to replace them, I noticed bare traces on the board in a number of spots, a lot of white powdery oxidation, and some traces that had fallen right off the board, primarily in the ground plane. This unit looked pretty pristine, so I really can't explain that either.

So, there's one more example of poor engineering and construction to tack to the list, I suppose. Interesting topic. Has anyone else pulled an audiophile component apart and found things that just shouldn't be there?