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  • Writer's pictureJim Cathey

Maintaining and fixing your vintage stereo system

My audio system here in San Diego has a vintage heart & soul and what makes it unique are the MC275 amps, the NOS tube selection and the C22 preamp. Undoubtedly, these make the system deliver performance with a sound that you can feel, is never exhausting and warm with details. It's a sound that can move you emotionally and pushes you to preserve it for generations.

The preservation, aka maintenance, is not a dusting or polishing activity. It's a severe discipline to keep backup amps, preamps, and a significant selection of vintage tubes all tested and all ready to be set into the system when a component fails and yes, that happens more than you would expect. Yet, we should not be surprised since we are operating with wires, capacitors, resistors, tubes, solder joints, and transformers that have been working since the 1960s. In Japan and Taiwan, I had trusted technicians that I could drive to and visit in person.

However, here in the US, that is not the case; there are very few technicians with vintage amps/preamp knowledge and inventory spread out over a much larger country. However, San Diego happens to have one of the best at this combination of art and science; Mike Zuccaro of Audiocraftsman.

A few years ago, before returning to the US with the equipment, I called Mike to see if he was the right technician for my vintage equipment when I settled in San Diego. The call confirmed Mike was the right choice; hence I would not have to ship my gear across the country when it needed repairs, but more importantly, during the call, I learned a semester of information within just 30 minutes. He is full of knowledge, all fact-based and not opinion based on personal bias, which this industry can exhibit with ease.

Mike is a unique tech shop that has been working this trade since 1975. Mike has endless positive references, all saying they would return and do. And yes, I, like others, returned this week.

Over the last 1.5 years, 2 of the amps suffered failed capacitors and it was time to have Mike take a look, repair and perform the general checking of the system. So I made that call and the journey for the drop-off and pick-up.

Within 24hrs the amps are back at my home repaired, checked and ready to be placed in the system when needed. Thank you, Mike, for the great vintage equipment service and the knowledge that seems to always come with any repair or discussion.

Here's what the failed capacitor looked like...

MC275 Amp with failed capacitor

I might mention Mike has an interesting background. It's not just the vintage stereo equipment he has worked on over the years but was also a pioneer as an AM station DJ here in San Diego. Notice I said DJ, not a talk show on AM 1170 (KCBQ) radio.

I will post again about Mike Zuccaro's work when I deliver a vintage 1957 'Wonder Bar' tube-based AM radio car player. Mike says he can bring it back to its original performance.

1957 Wonder Bar AM Radio

Thanks for reading and do share if you have found a great vintage audio equipment engineer here in the USA.


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