Big A$$ repair bills for vintage guitars, amps — your take?

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Big A$$ repair bills for vintage guitars, amps — your take?

Postby Hiwattophile on Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:07 pm

Hello all; forum newbie here. Having only scanned this forum briefly, I can see there are loads of exceptionally knowledgeable people here — and I look forward to digging in more to the various threads. Eager to hear feedback on this subject:

Over the past couple of years, I've finally mustered the courage to take some of my neediest instruments and amps in for servicing. Did the usual research on reputation of techs and decided to try a few people in and around NYC. I'm not gigging or recording at all, merely a hobbyist who still composes and jams on occasion. I had taken a few pieces in to various word-of-mouth tech gods in the past and been mostly disappointed by lackluster or incomplete work that didn't really fix what I'd brought the gear in for.

I'm finding that when I take pieces in, I get them back with far more work than intended done on them. I can appreciate techs, particularly those with great reputations, wanting to make every piece of gear that comes into their shops as road-worthy and sonically sharp as possible. And I admit up front, at least in a couple of instances, that I simply dropped the gear off with a brief description of the problems and did not specify that the tech not go over a certain dollar limit for repairs — not figuring the repair would run well into the hundreds of dollars.

In a couple of instances, gear has come back in far, far better shape than it had been in. In another instance, the tech "fixed" a ton of other problems — without fixing the main issue I'd described — until I finally pulled the piece out of the shop.

Of course, finding a good amp or guitar tech is as personal an experience as chasing our perfect tone with our perfect gear, perfect tubes, etc. I'm curious as to how many of you have received what you felt might be exorbitant repair bills — but also if you felt that the higher price might be worth it given the tech's rep, attention to detail and final sonic outcome (particularly if that outcome was a dramatic improvement). How do you approach the more guru-type techs and delineate your needs and desires beforehand (e.g., "Amp doesn't work ...  but please, keep the fix under $X, or don't replace X, Y and Z if it doesn't need it)? I don't want to offend a tech; I also have to watch my budget, of course, and I'm not using my gear for significant work at present — just want to get it working decently. In at least one case, I know I can rely on the tech to do give 110 percent on the job ... but maybe 75 percent would do. I certainly don't want to be cracking open amp chassis or trying to bias tubes — but is the tech choosing the right tubes for the job, or simply following his own ear? 

A lot to chew on; would really appreciate everyone's thoughts while I continue to digest the total experience I've been having with gear techs of late. To further clarify, the gear in question is not particularly rare or collectible, but 30-plus years old and fairly garden variety and easily obtainable.


(P.S.: If anyone has a schematic of a Steve Fidler-designed Hiwatt Hi-gain 100, I'd love to see it).
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Re: Big A$$ repair bills for vintage guitars, amps — your ta

Postby Baron Von Machinenmann on Thu Mar 31, 2016 10:57 pm

Welcome aboard! :cheers:

I would suggest that you poll your musically inclined friends about their respective experiences with the local techs. Like mechanics, it can take time to find one you trust that treats you fairly when charging for repairs. I have been working on vintage amps on the side for over thirty-five years and pretty much all of my bench work is by word of mouth. Every tech has their own philosophy regarding the do's and don'ts of amp repair; some guys will mod anything (vintage be damned!)-if the customer wants it and they will charge $$$. I love old gear and have a decent collection of various stock amps that are all unique. The first thing I do when a new client contacts me is to find out what style of music they play, what type of guitar is their number one (pickups etc)and then discuss their current amp and what they would like done to it. Sometimes I will suggest an amp more suited to their style rather than hacking up a perfectly good amp that another player would appreciate in stock form. If they are close to getting the tone they want with their existing rig, often a simple speaker swap, bias adjustment or preamp tube swap will get them that something special they haven't been hearing. Beware of 'gurus', hundreds of them on the internet and the bulk of them IMHO are snake oil salesmen. If you'd like the numbers of some lads I trust in your area, shoot me a p.m.

John Lennon/Jimi Hendrix/Jimmy Page Fan
Baron Von Machinenmann
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Re: Big A$$ repair bills for vintage guitars, amps — your ta

Postby Hiwattophile on Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:03 pm

Thank you for your insights; very much appreciated. I will PM you for some contacts for sure.
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Re: Big A$$ repair bills for vintage guitars, amps — your ta

Postby Jeffery on Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:17 pm

Hey, Been doing amp repair for awhile. Alot of what one needs to keep in mind is communication. As a tech, I need to KNOW what your expectations are and what is the issue(s). We need to get a idea of what is wrong with the amp, what is it doing/or not doing. "Doesn't work" is not a description and will likely lead you down that path. By the time we see most amps they usually have multiple issues. I had guys tell me when I ask what the problem is say "your the tech , you figure it out" . I will, throughly, and your paying by the hour. Not to be mean, but people need to be involved with their amp, write down the issues before you bring it in if you have too.
Amps tend to die slowly over time, so many don't realize the full extent of their issues. I also get the "it worked great when I put it away years ago. Amps , well more accuretly electrolytic capacitors (this does NOT included most coupling caps) have about a 20 year life span. They will leak their oils,crystalize inside, dry up, leak DC voltages. Using the amp regurally helps control and ward off these issues. Having been let set for long periods of time bring on these issues and other oxidation issues.
The more experience one has the quicker you can move through evaluating an amp, but it takes X amount of time to take the amp apart and look it over. The more infromation you have to start with regaurding issues, faster/easier to diagnose and fix.
Most tech's love gear. Total gear heads. They'll want to make everything all it can be..... It's their job. Don't be afraid to ask for estimates and let people know what's important to you. But, lets keep clearly in mind , if I could just put my hand on it and tell you all thats wrong, I get a job at the hospitale and join the God team , pays better,.... :jam:
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