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Old 5th April 2011, 10:14 PM   #1
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Default Not promoting, more looking for your opinions

I want to turn my passion for working on hi-fi equipment into something that benefits myself and others looking for services that they can't perform themselves (DIY audio? I'm obviously preaching to the wrong crowd )

I have enjoyed refurbing a long given up on Cyrus II, which local hi-fi and repair shops wouldn't even attempt to repair, before it was handed to me, and, with a couple of weekends of parts buying, soldering and testing I've got it all up and running as should be. And I love the whole process!

So, IS there a market for someone who can refurb, recap, trace faults, mod, and use a soldering iron well amongst the hi-fi crowd? I know it's not exactly going to be inundated like an iPod/iPhone repair centre but I'm looking for a small trickle of jobs I can put time and effort into, are they out there?

What would you call this role? I've heard people referring to their 'techs'?
How would it work? Local only? Sending equipment to and from customers by courier?
The downfalls of turning such a hobby into a side job?

Does anyone have any tips? And not the soldering iron type

I've tinkered with a Facebook page the other night
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vintag...546933?sk=info
and toying with a website...

I would appreciate ANY input whatsoever, as this is a totally blind path for me, if there is a path to walk down...

Last edited by bleachershane; 5th April 2011 at 10:30 PM. Reason: Updated URL
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Old 5th April 2011, 10:24 PM   #2
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Hi, It sounds like you are describing the electronics repairman of old. They used to be fairly common before we got into a disposable society. These day's people don't even wait till something is broken before throwing it out and buying a new one.

This has resulted in it becoming harder and harder to find skilled technicians who will repair goods. I think there is still a market for this, your target will be audiphiles with older (or very expensive) equipment that has failed that they love to death and need repaired.

If you do it as a hobby for your own enjoyment (rather than to make a living out of it). You can charge reasonable rates and will probably get other customers as well (not just the people with super high end gear). The problem is that the cost of consumer goods makes it in most cases cheaper to buy a new one than to get it repaired. If a technician charges $80 / hour + parts, it doesn't take long to rack up a bill greater than the original cost of the equipment.

Tony.
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Old 5th April 2011, 10:29 PM   #3
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If this was my show, I would refer to myself and a "Vintage Fidelity Restoration Specialist" or something like that.

I know here in Phx, AZ some of the shops who would even think about tackling this sort of thing is becoming harder and harder to come by. I know one place in South Scottsdale iirc that will restore my Marantz 2020.
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Old 5th April 2011, 10:45 PM   #4
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I think that's what surprised me the most, the lack of skilled, or even WILLING repair engineers that can/will take on these jobs.

It's got me wondering why. Is it because 'repair' nowadays tends to mean, remove a board, replace a board from the manufacturer, as opposed to actual fault finding?

When I did a PC maintenance and repair course many years ago (the source of my basics in electronics), we were basically taught NOT to fault find but to replace. If a motherboard needed recapping, these people would have told us to ditch it instead of spending a few s on new caps and maybe a hour of soldering... And we wonder why there's so much waste these days...

I personally think that it's a huge shame that so many amazing pieces of hi-fi equipment are being shunned and consigned to the local city dump due to sometimes simple faults that could be easily repaired without running up huge labour charges. But no one is doing it...

As a 'hobbyist', I would indeed be looking to charge for parts + a reasonable overall labour cost, not per hour, etc. And indeed, charging a reasonable cost opens up the doors for people looking for work on non-ultra high end equipment, allowing them to get the work done without wondering if it's a false economy vs. replacing with new...

But then, why replace with new when half of today's equipment isn't a par on what some 'vintage' hi-fi owners already have?
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Old 5th April 2011, 10:54 PM   #5
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Keep in mind that liability is a huge part in not finding a qualified repair man. As for the newer gen gear, warranty is another part of it. I feel the manufacture has a responsibility to the customer and the environment to replacement bulk parts (system boards for example) and dispose of them properly instead of dumping them, but this is not always the case. But when a warranty is in affect, new free instead of repaired old always makes the customer happy.

As for the liability part, an insurance plan to protect you from those who are sue happy will save your bacon mate.
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Old 5th April 2011, 10:55 PM   #6
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In Adelaide there are very few specialist audio repair companies. The one I am thinking of is pretty well known in the market, and deals with high end gear. I imagine if I went into most decent hifi shops and asked where to take an older piece of equipment I would be pointed to them.

Have you tried asking a range of local hifi retailers who they refer customers (or their out of support gear) to? I guess I am suggesting you do a market survey, as referral from hifi shops would I suspect be your main source of work.

Another aspect I wonder about is the progression of technology. Unless you are based in a very heavily populated area with a significant number of people with old gear needing repair, you will be faced with a fair bit of newer gear. This would mean a lot of surface mount and specialist components, i.e. you would need:
- A relationship with the OEMs of the gear to source parts and data.
- Surface mount rework kit (not that bad)
- Some more specialist test equipment (again probably not a lot more than high speed DSO / logic analyser)

This is something you might want to look into as part of your consideration. Especially access to data and parts.

Aside from that - sounds like a fun business.
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Old 5th April 2011, 11:21 PM   #7
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Liability, good point. Have thought about the ways and whereabouts of that matter and it is of course, for any business providing a service to the public (not family, or friends) a toughie, but a nescessity.
And it's something I would have to think long and hard about, to make sure myself and any customers equipment is fully covered for. You could always take the stance, if it's broken we won't make it any worse, and if it's not fixable we won't charge your for anything more than the costs involved to tell you that. I have a seen a few people that do CD upgrades by mail order (send the unit to them to do the work) that seem to work on a strict policy of fully testing the unit at the point of arrival and documenting any issues and making these known to the customer before commencing further work so that the owner cannot claim afterwards for any faults that were already there and not caused by the 'tech'.

Googlyone, good idea, a sort of market survey of local hi-fi retailers as to how they deal with customers looking to have older equipment repaired. In terms of the Cyrus II I am currently finishing off, the customer was simply told "It's old, you'd be better off buying something new" which they then did. I imagine a lot of retailers will try to capitalize on any footfall into their stores looking for OOW repairs with a line very similar to the one above... they are, after all, probably wanting a sale rather than passing you on to have your equipment repaired.

And good point about the newer gear scenarios. Something for me to bear in mind, I thankfully haven't had to do a lot of hand soldering on SMT, and nearly all equipment I have dealt with has been in the analogue domain, or not requiring of DSO/logic analysers... But there will come a day!

And yep, sounds like a fun business to me, a lot more fun than bog standard retail, even if I would be doing it on the side of being a till monkey

Last edited by bleachershane; 5th April 2011 at 11:24 PM.
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Old 5th April 2011, 11:36 PM   #8
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My opinion... for newer gear in general, forget it. Low purchase cost, computerized, proprietary parts, etc. all add up to a losing proposition. Even a labor of love borders on masochism. This is why the repair shops of old have gone. Mechanical VCR repairs was really their last gasp. All the shops in my area promote their big screen TV service.
For quality stuff there is still a market. Keep in mind lots of hurdles remain. Manufacturers may not be very helpful, especially if you are not on their authorized service list, and I'm unsure if Sams still produces their Photofacts. Shipping heavy amps can limit non-local business.
Some people aren't confident in their soldering abilities and want their DIY outsourced (yes, it's an oxymoron, but if it pays...). And if you have the skills to repair an owner's beloved equipment you could make some income. I myself would not invest much capital into the business itself but instead look at it as an extension of my hobby. An extension that can help defray hobby costs, but won't ever pay for a new car.
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Old 6th April 2011, 12:19 AM   #9
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Sofaspud, I think you hit the nail on the head there.

It's really an extension of a hobby, some money for my time and effort (and not 80 an hour labour) and I get to exercise my passion for tinkering with and making simple improvements to hi-fi.

I am not really interested in putting myself through the hell of repairing newer, more complicated logic controlled pieces. I'm not a fan of masochism!!! :P

Outsourcing DIY is an oxymoron, BUT a market is there for those who read websites like these and get the bug, but have never soldered in their life nor understand polarity of capacitors, etc, and I'd be happy to do their wishes, in a 'technician' role, "You tell me what you want, I'll do it" sort of business.

It's starting to seem more plausible as a small, word gets around sort of thing. I know a high end hi-fi enthusiast who knows a lot of other hi-fi enthusiasts, and passing a few business cards onto someone like him could start bringing some work in. Then some cards in independent hi-fi shop windows could help spread the word too...
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Old 6th April 2011, 12:35 PM   #10
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I think one problem you may face is that as soon as it looks like a business, even a small part-time business, it gets complicated and expensive. Tax, insurance, accounting, safety regulations etc. all suddenly take effect - things which a hobbyist can ignore. If people are paying you, even if well below a 'commercial' rate, then they will expect a certain level of service. They won't know, and won't care, that they are paying 50 for 500-worth of effort.

There are two ways to do this: run it as a proper business with fees which are too expensive for most people, or run it as a hobby for people you know and trust and leave it to them to give you a gift if they wish. Either way is risky.
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