16 January 2017

Pioneer sx-800 - happy distraction

Being stuck up in Portland away from my family
has been and still is the ongoing test of sanity,
especially after almost 17 years 
of supersaturated marriage and parenthood.
Fortunately the cellphone opens up a world of communication,
texting, calls and FaceTime really soften the blows on both sides.
The kids and wife really stepped it up for this adventure.
The work week is busy enough and scoots by.
The weekends are the killers,
especially 3 day weekends.
Compound that with a rare PDX snow,
and a bit of a cold or fever,
and mang now what do I do!?
Well some would wrap themselves in front of the boob tube.
I'd already trapped myself with a few Craigslist projects,
this was a chance to chill and tinker.
It only took 2 weeks here for my first CL score,
a Pioneer SX-800 tube receiver.
(The top one - I brought up the bottom)
Original owner said it worked great!
Yea right...
The dust would have started a house fire!
When I got the room,
one of the first things I did was vacuum it out.
This is when ya don't realize that hook is getting lodged in the throat.
The trap doesn't seem like a trap.
Typically an unused machine should have a slow start,
using a variac or a dim bulb tester.
Nah this was cheap enough to try it out.
Surprisingly the sound was clear and crisp,
that warm tubey sound people love.
Yea I was hooked.
Unsurprisingly there was major controller/pot static,
and definite popping from certain switches.
Spray cleaning helped,
but a deeper fix was long overdue.
Hours of online studying ensued.
A workshop was needed.
Building hot rods, boats, bikes...
fixing stereo equipment,
sometimes it feels like things happen,
and I'm just a conduit for those parts to come together.

I'd been searching craigslist for the two important house pieces,
a sturdy table and a bulb holder.
After work one day these were outside an old vacating house,
in an area I was only in by accident.
Way better than anything I'd seen on CL,
and I was prepared to spend some $$.
Now we've got a workbench and light,
and that $$ could go somewhere fun!
My weekend CL hunting grew.
These Polk Monitor 10 speakers were a score,
although there was a half hour drive to get them.
This was the best way to learn Portland,
driving to places I didn't need to be.
The woofer domes were punched in.
Using a small hose taped to a vacuum,
they popped right back out.
Still a little creased but better than before.
These babies sound great,
especially in a smaller room.
I can see why they've got a cult following.
The lower woofer is passive,
basically a valve for the air movement.
It's amazing how much bass is made
with the 2-6.5" speaks.
Than these Technics SB-L300's appeared.
I couldn't resist.
Good ole 3-way blasters.
They're a great higher range speaker,
coupled with the Klipsch Fortes they really fill the room.
I like them more than JBL 4311's!
Most importantly,
what perfect double shelf space!
Keys, wallet, knife, all have a home...
I was going to bring this pair to the shop.
In the meantime I'd studied tube amps online
and found potential problems in the Pioneer.
Early capacitors,
specifically the Suzuki brand,
were known to not last 10 years let alone 50.
Here's one that basically exploded.
Was that the crackly noise?
The best thing was to recap everything.
Ok the best thing would be to Ebay it and double the $$ while I could!
Not yet...
Get out the reading glasses!
Each capacitor was marked and sourced,
either from drug dealer type websites that cater to tube addicts
or straight from oversees mainliners.
There's basic $.50 caps and Gucci bouquet $16 caps.  
How trapped was I?
I did get tricked with the yellow "Dijon" caps,
which looked like Mallory caps with a sticker.
At only a few dollars total more a cheap lesson.
Fast forward to this snow weekend...
Thankfully half the caps showed up before.
I was able to solder in a handful.
Sucked being in a closed room!
Some repair guys swap one then test,
either to pinpoint exact issues,
or to doublecheck their soldering connection.
I kinda blew through the whole bag of yellows,
then seconded back for the big and little ones.
Wow these actually made a difference!
Turning the bass knobs before would make a flubbing sound,
now they controlled smooth like they were supposed too.
Many switches lost there violent pop,
and the tuner pulled in stations much smoother.
Bummer not all the caps had arrived,
it's obvious the old electrolytics were fried.
During the preliminary repair,
I did uncover a few mystery caps,
which now are ordered up.
By researching a little I learned to hold off replacing tubes,
at least until a full recap,
or each tube could actually be tested.
Working on this is kinda like moving here.
First I didn't have any idea where I was,
and through familiarity I know my way around.

So yea thanks for bearing with the ramble.
I'm trying to hold back more buying,
unless I do some selling to compensate!
It's tough cause there are some great deals,
and PDX craigslisters are waaay slower than in San Diego.
Next time I'll show the bike scores!!


  1. I hope you have thick walls..Or deaf neighbors....

    1. I've got a kinda restricted time slot for blasting,
      usually reserved for a few grateful dead jams.
      So good the neighbors need to hear!
      Recently nights are just mellow fm 89.1 KMHD Jazz,
      I must be getting old...