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Beobloke

'Audiophile' components - a cautionary tale...

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Some of you may be aware that I scratched a long-term itch a few weeks ago and staggered home from the Tonbridge Audiojumble under the weight of a mighty Yamaha Centennial Series CX-10000 preamplifier.

Now, it was a good price (although Mrs. B. disagrees...:doh:) but I was aware that it had "a few issues". And boy, did it have a few issues.

After undoing the bodges that some previous rapscallion had foisted upon it (broken PCB tracks, a jumper link soldered across the power switch etc.), the reasons for its failure became apparent, and were located in two main areas:

(1) The lovely glue holding fast some of the internal cabling which, after 25 years or so had become both corrosive and conductive and was shorting out the PCB tracks that it wasn't eating away!

(2) These little b*stards:

DSC_0010_zps9f8e3448.jpg

What you are looking at here are capacitors. 108 of them. 104 of them are 'audio grade' Elna types and the remaining 4 are Rubycon Black Gates that are so beloved of the tweaking fraternity. Very pretty. Unfortunately EVERY SINGLE ONE of them is either open circuit or catastrophically out of spec and this reduced my new Yammie's sound to a lop-sided, distorted mess. :x I mentioned this to a friend who spends more time than I repairing all sorts of audio exotica and he said that if he sees them in an item he's fixing, he rips them out as a matter of course, as he hasn't encountered one in about ten years that has measured within spec.

I'm pleased to report that these have all been replaced by new items, which are high grade capacitors but chosen for their reliability, longevity and temperature rating, rather than the amount of magic fairy dust they contain. Consequently, my CX-10000 now works and, I'm happy to report, sounds utterly sublime.

So, when you're next building, fettling or repairing something and you need some capacitors, may I tentatively suggest you give them a wide berth?

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Why am I not surprised? I am immediately suspicious of anything labelled 'audiophile'. I would much rather use normal commercial grade components that are expected to last the operational life of a product rather than just long enough to be 'burnt in'.

S

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You want to put those on ebay, 2 at a time. It'll pay for the pre-amp!

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Err... Capacities are supposed to be open circuit.

Only to DC. And they're also supposed to exhibit a capacitance. Hence the name...;-)

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Only to DC. And they're also supposed to exhibit a capacitance. Hence the name...;-)

No shit. :roll:

So the amp was fucked about with and had several problems, it's obviously the fault of the components.

As Paul says, chances are they're fakes.

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Wow, and there I was thinking Rubycon was a company supplying aerospace and the like with an annual turnover nudging a trillion Yen. Guess they must have put those nasty suckers in that rocket today. Tut.

Really Adam, just because its in a foo product doesn't mean its foo. Black Gates weren't regarded as uber-foo when they were produced, nor were they the insane prices they now fetch. If Elna and Rubycon caps were really that feeble a couple of folks besides you might have noticed don't you think?

Are you sure these are original, might they have been underspecc'd anyway, is the unit 220V and overrun for most of its life, how old is it, and was it designed to last this long? And with the wiring shot (assume that was bog standard?) what stresses might it have put on the other components?

Humph, but even so I hope it is a pleasure to use and listen to music through at last.

Mind you...eBay :^

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I don't have a link to hand, but there has been a major issue for at least the last decade of faking of these, plus things like Oscons, Panny FC & FM, Elna Golds and many others, there are even examples of high value caps that when opened up contain a supercheapo little generic cap 10s or 100s of times below the the apparent rating!

I'm unsure of the present status of Black Gate manufacture (it had ceased a few years ago), but most of the others are in production by legitimate factories and are extremely high quality and long-lasting caps. Telling genuine from fake is less than easy for the average joe, so tweakers are strongly advised to buy ONLY from approved retailers - of whom there are precious few since the big boys like Farnell don't sell enough of the top spec stuff to stock them routinely, and the specialist audio electronics boys are too small to buy the quantities their Japanese manufacturers expect for minimum orders (genius business model there!).

So don't dismiss out of hand, just don't buy from the scammers on ebay etc.

This ^

There have been fakes around for years. Just like NOS tubes, once the comics realized the value, the forgeries started.

AFAIK, the remaining Black Gate production under licence has either now stopped, or soon will, and stocks are limited. Hifi Collective are the only UK stockist I know that I would trust (though there may be others) and they only have three or four types left. Certain websites, however, are stuffed full of them. Go figure.

I've used Black Gate and Elna in many things and never had a problem, but I've only bought them when they were definitely kosher and when the prices were sensible. There are many similar products around now at sensible money.

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AN capacitors made to a similar spec to BGs and by Rubycon are apparently due out next year, no doubt at exciting cost,

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AN capacitors made to a similar spec to BGs and by Rubycon are apparently due out next year, no doubt at exciting cost,

I would imagine you will be able to get an assorted bag full for around a tenner or so

:^

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... the big boys like Farnell don't sell enough of the top spec stuff to stock them routinely ...

I think the only specialised audio caps you can get from Farnell are Ampohm ones (British of course, not Japanese). Ansar Supersounds (also British) can be had in as small a quantity as you like from Cricklewood Electronics. Mouser also sell some of the current Elna range.

VB

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Can I just confirm that this is a discussion about electrolytic capacitors in a 27 year old pre-amplifier not working as they may have done back in 1987?

Obviously the problem is that they are foo types, can't be any other possible explanation :doh:

- - - Updated - - -

This ^

There have been fakes around for years. Just like NOS tubes, once the comics realized the value, the forgeries started.

AFAIK, the remaining Black Gate production under licence has either now stopped, or soon will, and stocks are limited. Hifi Collective are the only UK stockist I know that I would trust (though there may be others) and they only have three or four types left. Certain websites, however, are stuffed full of them. Go figure.

I've used Black Gate and Elna in many things and never had a problem, but I've only bought them when they were definitely kosher and when the prices were sensible. There are many similar products around now at sensible money.

Good, so you won't be touching any of my stash :)

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So the amp was fucked about with and had several problems, it's obviously the fault of the components.

Not sure what point you're making here. It didn't work before. All of the aforementioned components were found to be duff and it now works with them all replaced. This kind of suggests to me that perhaps they might have been the problem.

...is the unit 220V and overrun for most of its life, how old is it....

Its 27 years old and is a 240V version. As to over-running, frankly, I'm not quite sure how you "over-run" a preamplifier. Plug too many things into it at once, maybe?

was it designed to last this long?

Gosh, that must be it! Silly me - I never even considered the possibility that a top Japanese electronics manufacturer might come up with a high end 100th Anniversary range but only design it to last a few years. That must be it. After all, the high end Japanese items from the 1970s and 1980s are notorious for being hopelessly unreliable aren't they? :doh:

And with the wiring shot (assume that was bog standard?) what stresses might it have put on the other components?

A fair point, although funny that all the resistors and ICs seem to be fine.

Humph, but even so I hope it is a pleasure to use and listen to music through at last.

Oh indeed it is. :^

Can I just confirm that this is a discussion about electrolytic capacitors in a 27 year old pre-amplifier not working as they may have done back in 1987?

No, it's a discussion about 108 electrolytic capcitors from a 27 year old preamplifier that are all completely knackered. I like Yamaha gear and I've owned quite a bit of it, including older models than this. I have never had to change a single electrolytic capcitor in any of them ever before, but then none of them contained "audiophile specials". Make of this what you will.

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