|If You Absolutely MUST Have an Explanation...
|First Up: Delays Caused By CUSTOMERS - EVERY Job Takes Longer Than it Should
|After finishing my work on almost every single car unit, I have found it necessary to spend AT LEAST an additional 30 minutes
shooting a video of the unit operating properly on all functions before it leaves the shop. Why is this necessary? It is because some
customers don't know how to hook up a radio, but try it anyway. They hook the 12 volt wire straight into the amplifier output, which
instantly destroys the output section when they turn the key on. Next thing, they're calling me screaming and cussing at me since
they couldn't possibly make a mistake, and they think the resultant necessary "re-repair" should be covered by the warranty. YEAH!
Thus, it is necessary to include a DVD with the customer's unit, proving beyond all doubt that the unit itself is properly repaired and
operating properly on all functions. Even if all they have to do is plug the unit back in using the original connectors, their speakers
are decades old and are often defective. When you watch my many You Tube videos demonstrating the results of my work on many
different makes and models, keep in mind that these videos are largely an effort to attract more business to recoup my lost time and
expenses related to the necessary video I have to include with the unit to protect myself. In fact, they are direct copies of that DVD.
If I haven't yet done a You Tube video of a certain model, the DVD is first uploaded to You Tube, then goes into the customer's box.
Since I have to record so many DVD's, a consumer grade home DVD recorder simply doesn't last very long - not to mention that their
performance is not very consistent. Hangups, glitches, 10 seconds before the door will open while their cheap onboard computers
"think" about what to do. Time is money, and even 10 seconds make a difference Thus, I had to purchase top of the line professional
Pioneer, dual drive DVD duplicators at considerable expense. I now have 3 of these fine machines, which means I have a total of SIX
DVD drives (two per unit, with both having recording capability) so that I will always have a backup - here is a picture of one of them:
|This so-called "DVD Recorder" measures 21 inches from front to back, weighs 31 pounds and costs more than $4000 new.
Of course, most of us can't afford to plunk down $12,000 for 3 DVD recorders, so I buy them in "needs repair" condition
and must spend time repairing and maintaining them. This is the one I'm currently using for my performance verification
DVD's. Since I use this machine almost every day, it is impractical to cover it to keep out dust and airborne solder residue.
|And below are the other two. The one on the left is very seldom used, and spends its life mostly hanging around waiting to
be needed. Since this one is pretty much just being "stored" for the moment, I built a cabinet in which the front and rear
covers can be opened or closed and latched quickly, with a rubber gasket and a black leather patch to keep it sealed when
not being used. Dust and cigarette smoke can quickly build up and block the laser, so this saves time on maintenance.
The unit on the right enjoys occasional use in our living room, just to keep it exercised and "in use" to some degree.
|Oh - Did I Mention That Some Older Customer's Don't Even HAVE a DVD Player?
|Yep, that's right. Some don't even have a cell phone or a computer. This means I must also be able to send them a VHS
tape of their units operating properly. As you might know, electronic stuff needs to be operated at least occasionally -
especially cheap consumer grade stuff - or it develops problems. Thus, I have a professional JVC duplicator on hand
which was designed for demanding daily use - and long term storage in extreme temperatures when needed - and works
every time no matter what. That is, after I have fully restored it of course. 2 feet front to back, 51 pounds, $7000+ new.
|And Even THAT'S Not Enough:
|Even seeing their unit "working" still leaves room for some of these guys to suspect an incomplete repair job. Oh no, I have to
be able to actually show them that ALL FOUR speaker outputs are working. Thus, I had to build a box with 4 channel output
level meters ( you will see this on virtually ALL my You Tube videos ), AND be able to show them - and let them HEAR - the shift
from left to right when working the balance control, AND the shift from front to rear when working the fader. This means having
a microphone on each of all 4 speakers PLUS the mic I'm speaking into when describing which function I'm demonstrating.
To mix together the signal from 5 microphones so that my voice is coming from the "center" - and to have left and right signals
separated - requires a fairly elaborate sound system. In addition to that, it is impossible to detect a front-rear shift on a standard
2 channel stereo system. So, how do we hear a front-rear shift? Unfortunately, the only way is to make the front speakers sound
drastically different from the rear speakers. To do this, I use professional Yahama 31 band graphic equalizers which allow me to,
for instance, give the front speakers a lot more bass, and the rear speakers an overabundance of midrange and treble.
" BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE - JUST PAY SEPARATE SHIPPING AND PROCESSING! "
Especially on a conversion job in which much more audio power is added, the difference in volume between low and high
settings is tremendous when listening to it "in person". And since most customers will simply pop the DVD into a computer
feeding a cheap pair of computer speakers, this creates yet another problem. It will sound fine at lower volume settings, but
at higher levels it can sound like the song is going through Jimi Hendriz' fuzz pedal. Great for rock lead guitar, but horrible
for the entire mix. Thus, there has to be a means of reducing what is called "dynamic range" - reducing the DIFFERENCE
between loud and soft sounds - BUT - without making the squeak of the engineer's chair end up being as loud as the vocals.
(I'm not kidding - listen to the opening vocal lines of The Animals' "Sky Pilot" and you can hear this squeak plainly.)
Enter the COMPRESSOR. This device "compresses" the difference between loud and soft sounds resulting in a more even
dynamic range. Compressors have many uses, and are even used as an "effect" in many songs. A guitarist uses compression
to make his notes sing out longer, as the compressor continuously boosts their volume as they start to fade out. A great
example of this can be heard on the Guess Who's "American Woman" where the liquid-sounding notes in the lead guitar solos
don't fade even a little bit, and each note sings at full volume until the next note is played. You will also notice that if left to
ring as long as it "wants", the note would continue to sing forever if combined with controlled feedback - that is, standing
in such a position that the note drives the amp - which, if close enough to the guitar, forces the string to continue vibrating,
which makes the speaker continue to sound it, which keeps the string vibrating, etc. Ted Nugent was a master at using
controlled feedback (that huge, long high "A" in the studio version of "Stranglehold") and for a time placed X's made with duct
tape on stage so he knew where to stand to optimize the effect for various pitches. But he didn't need the "X's for long.
A bass player can use compression, as well as a vocalist, drummer, and even the entire mix is often compressed. This effect
makes every note sound stronger and more powerful as it boosts any weak-sounding or comparatively softer notes. It brings
forth the sexy sound of a singer's breath between phrases, boosts harmonic content that would otherwise be buried beneath
the fundamental pitch, makes it easier to control a drummer's overall volume - and is a natural byproduct of AM radio since
the volume swing of Amplitude Modulation must be regulated to keep the transmission level within allowable standards.
Thus, in my demo videos, compression keeps computer speakers from distorting and regulates overall volume. Since I use a
headset mic for speaking, I can't vary the mic's distance from my mouth like we can do on stage with a handheld mic. So my
voice doesn't overload the system or trump the music if I happen to cough or say something a little loud, using compression.
In my system, compression also adds a HUGE bonus - the option of DUCKING. Ducking is an effect used in virtually every
radio and TV commercial that contains music, and its effect is to "duck" ( automatically lower the volume of ) the music any
time the narrator is speaking, and bring it back up when the narrator stops speaking. Not only does this action keep overall
volume within limits easier to control, it also adds clarity by "punching a hole" through the music during all spoken words.
In my capacity, ducking is not overly necessary - but it does add an element of professionalism (and you should know by
now that I'm all about professionalism), and what the heck - I have to use compressors anyway, so why not employ it ? The
ducking process requires the use of the compressor SIDECHAINS, which allow an external input signal to affect the volume
level of the signal going in to the compressor input. Thus, in my system, my vocal mic controls 4 compressor sidechains.
So now we have 4 mics on the speakers and 1 mic for my voice. How do we separate everything into where it needs to go?
We use a MIXER, that's how we do it. A mixer, as you probably know, allows you to adjust the volume, bass, treble and other
parameters of each mic individually before it exits as part of the overall signal. Thus, the front left and front rear mics are
panned fully to the left, right front and right rear mics are panned fully to the right, and my voice is panned to the center.
Of course, each mic goes through its own graphic equalizer at some point in the signal path, mainly to dial in a noticeable
difference between the front and rear speakers so that they sound different from each other for front-rear fader operation.
The final stop for the audio before it reaches my DVD recorder is a NOISE GATE, another compressor with the added function.
Since a lot of my test equipment (as well as the DVD recorders) have cooling fans, my noise gates are adjusted so that all audio
is completely muted unless there is "good audio" coming through. By only allowing the cooling fans to come through while
there is other information happening, this effectively kills the sound of the fans by masking them with the music and my voice.
So, here is just the AUDIO portion of my DVD recording system:
|With the exception of the grey thing on the
bottom which is an RF amplifier for those
rare times I want to make my own in-house
FM broadcasts - and the small TV monitor
in the center for checking video quality - all
the equipment in this rack is strictly for my
DVD recording system to protect myself !
Top to bottom, we have a DVD recorder,
a Pioneer SX-737 as a speaker amplifier
with known good FM signals for testing and
troubleshooting, 8 channel mic preamp,
vocal compressor, vocal equalizer, mixer,
noise gate, video monitor and speakers,
rear left-right compressor, rear left-right
equalizer, front left-right compressor,
and finally the front left-right equalizer
This is only the AUDIO half of what is
required for my demo videos !
|...and here is the VIDEO half:
|Actually, this is just a tiny part of it -
the gear I placed within reach as I'm
speaking into the mic. What you don't
see is the 32 video cameras I have
mounted high up on shelves which
are all pointed at the readouts of my
various pieces of test equipment so
I can show the customer every
performance parameter including
true RMS output levels, distortion,
phase relationships, frequency, etc.
Shown here amid the spools of wire
are a video pattern generator for
equipment maintenance, two control
boxes for professional Sony studio
cameras (pre-digital era), a Sony
FXE-120 video switcher (mainly
for picture-in-picture and fades) and
a master 32-camera selector box.
|Now, let's take a look at the necessary wiring for this system:
|Yes - with just a very few exceptions, this entire rack of spaghetti was
assembled for one reason: To protect myself from customers who don't
know how to wire a car stereo and blow up stuff as a result. This system
has saved my butt legally on many occasions, and on most other occasions
simply keeps my stress levels from shooting through the ceiling. Now when
a customer says "I know my DVD shows the unit playing, but I'm not getting
anything from the left rear speaker", I have already given him absolute proof
that it's not because of the unit, and to replace his left rear speaker. ONLY
because I can separate all 4 speakers on the DVD has this become possible.
|Even though some of this stuff can be attributed to the "toy"
factor, it doesn't change the fact that 1) It was purchased
and assembled as a protective measure, and 2) It is not used
for any other purpose except when I bring home some cool
video toy from Goodwill and need a quick means of testing it.
This system has cost me more than $5000 and took me more
than 6 months to purchase, assemble and wire. And that's not
counting the thick snake of cables running along the ceiling
corners to the many cameras I have mounted everywhere.
$5000 or more, just to protect myself from customers! And
I didn't raise my prices so that you guys have to pay for it.
Again, I am "all in" to go ALL OUT for my customers!
|Now, a few true stories to further point up some past customer douchbaggery which
end up costing me dearly without my having set down very strict policies and controls:
|" Why is Barry so doggone strict about removing and keeping all my knobs and mounting hardware before I pack and send my radio? "
It's because people are human, and humans make mistakes and forget things. A set of original knobs for some classic radios can
easily cost $50, $100 or even more depending on their rarity. Many customers purchase units on eBay and have them sent directly to
me for repair or conversion. Other customers during my first few years in business were sending in radios with knobs, without knobs,
or with one of more knobs missing. At any rate, it became a problem when a customer would call after receiving his repaired radio,
asking me to return his knobs. "They weren't sent with the unit" "Yes they were" "NO, they weren't", etc. Enough said? Finally I was
forced to state in my Terms and Conditions that they MUST be removed before sending the unit, and I am not liable for their loss.
In the case of mounting hardware, that is just a nuisance, plain and simple. I am not about to have my day interrupted with a call asking
if I still have a certain screw, a tiny bracket, or anything else not needed to test and repair the unit. It's usually not a question of value,
but an interruption to my work that I will not tolerate - not to mention that this kind of uncertainty can ruin a business relationship over
a few pennies' worth of easily replaceable garbage. It's either not allow it to be sent, or to spend undue time cataloging it. Not here !
Besides, by the time a customer receives his unit, I've likely done 10 to 20 more jobs - and forget about hunting for the item at that point.
|A more extreme case:
|Before I became wise and put the hammer down on items the customer must remove and keep, some customers were sending me
their radios - with half the dash still attached to it. Yep, a huge piece of plastic, poorly packed, with a 10 pound hunk of steel firmly
attached to it. In this situation, there is only one possible outcome: A potentially very expensive piece of original dash broken into
100 pieces. Now, would you believe this customer tried to get ME to buy him a new dash? Yes, he tried that - with the reason being
that I did not specifically say NOT to remove it from the radio before sending it ! YES - THIS HONESTLY, REALLY DID HAPPEN !
So when you see statements on the Work Order requiring your signature and seeming totally ridiculous, remember this story.
|30 minutes or more of wasted time per job shooting a video is bad enough. Add to that another
30 minutes locating a customer's unit, looking in the customer's file, then sitting down at the
computer to provide a "status" report - all said and done, adds a full hour to that job. This means
that out of every 8 units I finish, I HAVE LOST AN ENTIRE DAY OF PRODUCTIVITY ON THE BENCH !
If you had to come in every week on your "day off" - and/or lose an entire day of being with family -
WOULDN'T YOU BE PISSED AND MAKE SOME DRASTIC CHANGES TOO ? Of course you would.
|Okay, that pretty much covers the tremendous delays caused by some customers. Now,
let's discuss delays that are caused by the process of repairing Vintage Audio gear:
|Parts Availability Issues - and What Barry is Continuously Doing About It
It's no secret that many units are becoming very hard to find new parts for, and in many cases new parts simply no longer exist. There
is not nearly enough demand for most parts for any manufacturer to bother tooling up to make them. I can assure you that there is not
one single factory owner saying to himself "Well, I'll lose my ass on this, but someone has to step in and help out the classic car radio
industry. Joe, call Chrysler and ask the receptionist to put me in contact with whoever has the microfiche of all the output transformer
specs for their radios and 8 track players from the 50's, 60's and 70's." That simply will never happen, let alone the fact that Chrysler
units from this era were made by several different companies - Motorola, Philips, Bendix, etc.
There are a few shops run by expert old timers who have amassed a large collection of radios that could not be repaired - or even radios
that COULD be repaired but the customer chose not to spend the money. For the hard core "keep it all original" enthusiast, these shops
will often be wiling to dig through these old radios to secure a needed part for a customer's unit. I WILL NEVER, EVER DO THAT. After
working for 5 years as a top level Avionics Technician - during which time I maintained a warranty return rate of less than 1 percent while
almost always producing the highest monthly output of 12 technicians (see my history at this job elsewhere on this website) - and after
repairing equipment for NASA, Lockheed, Boeing, Cessna - virtually every major airplane manufacturer, as well as the U.S. Army, Coast
Guard, UPS, FedEx, police departments all over the country - you get the idea - I simply will not replace a 40 year old part with a known
high failure rate with another 40 year old part with a known high failure rate. If other shops want to put themselves into a situation in
which the used part they installed fails and they don't happen to have another one on hand for a job they collected $400 for initially, that
is a mess they are choosing to get themselves into. But I will never do that - for anyone, under any circumstances, for any amount. It is
simply below my standards of quality and does not offer enough in terms of long term reliability. So - what do I do instead of that?
Thankfully, companies like AARI and Aurora design have developed what amounts to an entire new radio on a small board. These are
excellent products, and are designed to be installed into any vintage radio - even the old tube sets - connect to the original controls and
tuner assembly, and deliver reception, output power and overall performance that far surpass the original electronics. This generally
requires complete removal of all existing electronics which some customers don't want, and their cost makes it impractical for some.
Barry Develops Affordable Solutions That No Other Shops Have Done - But it Takes TIME
- - - - - NEW motors for OLD 8 track machines - - - - -
There is ONE reason I can install a BRAND NEW MOTOR in a classic car 8 track machine - because I developed it myself. Roughly a year
in the making, my new motors not only fit into the units and work flawlessly, they also have adjustable speed whereas the original did
not in many cases - namely Ford, Chrysler, AMC and many aftermarket units. These motors didn't just fall into my lap, but were the result
of many, many hours of overnight Internet searching and hour upon hour of research and experimentation to arrive at a motor that is not
the original model, but that could be combined with an electronic circuit in order to produce the correct RPM. For the guys who like to
hound me to get their units back quickly, I can only say that the unit could not even be repaired if it weren't for MY willingness to make
huge sacrifices in my home and family life years ago, and that my workload is continuously heavy thanks to those efforts and time spent.
While you guys were kicking back on the couch watching TV and entertaining the grandkids in your comfy home, I was WORKING - and
I was likely still working when you got up the next morning. My motor development has allowed literally hundreds of classic car owners
to once again live the memories of driving down the road on a cool evening, listening to their favorite artists on 8 track, "click" and all.
This is the main reason why most classic car repair shops refer all 8 track customers to ME - in at least two instances, right there on the
HOME PAGE of their websites. They either ran out of new original motors, have become swamped with conversions, don't have time to
mess with this temperamental format in favor of more profitable types of jobs, or a combination of all these reasons.
- - - - - MY new, brighter sounding 8 track tape head preamp - - - - -
Just when I thought I could stop and catch my breath from the motor development project, it became evident that something needed to
be done about the dull, murky sound of most 8 track tapes when compared to the shimmering treble of the amplifiers used in the FM
conversion products. The sound of 8 tracks wasn't too bad compared to the equally dull, lifeless sound of the original radio. But after
performing a modern conversion on a combination 8 track radio (and even separate-component Delco systems), the 8 track was sadly
lacking in fidelity, especially with older tapes that had lost much of their treble from repeated plays.
Another problem was that the conversion modules produce 4 times as much power running into a NON-GROUNDED speaker system,
and thus most customers prefer to rewire their speakers to eliminate the common ground. But since the speaker switching between the
radio and 8 track player in ALL Delco separate-component systems occurs inside the 8 TRACK PLAYER, there needed to be a way to
also make the 8 track somehow work with a fully isolated system since the 8 track forces common-ground mode.
The obvious solution was to simply add a line input to the radio, then install a line out jack in the 8 track player and disable its speaker
amplifiers as they are no longer needed anyway. Great idea, terrible results. Since the 8 track's amplifiers were only designed (and thus
budgeted) to sound good through the original low-wattage, limited range car speakers, any noise outside of that range created by the
original motor was not audible. BUT - due to the increased power and fidelity of the conversion modules combined with the improved
sound of modern speakers, the noise from the motor is very objectionable. TIME FOR BARRY TO PULL UP HIS SLEEVES AGAIN !
Yep. Since I'm recognized as (and have worked very hard to be) the official top dawg of 8 track machine repair, it was up to me to come
up with yet another solution specifically for 8 track players. So - again between jobs coming in at the usual clip - I had to sit down, do
some more research and spend hours experimenting with a way to design and perfect yet ANOTHER solution no one else is doing.
The best - and in fact the only - solution was to completely remove all existing electronics to make way for my new development. The
reason complete gutting of the unit is necessary is because parts of the existing tape head preamp circuitry are very close to the motor
speed control circuitry, allowing noise from the motor to radiate into the head preamp circuit. Leaving them in place is not an option.
SO - as you will see (and hear) in my first video listed under "Delco" on my Videos page, MY development is again a smashing success.
By ripping everything out, installing MY special motor with its speed control board close to IT - then installing MY new preamp board
in the opposite corner, well away from the speed control board - you get the INCREDIBLY BRIGHTER sound of my new preamp, but
without any of the motor noise seeping through. You literally have to hear it to believe it, so please go check out that video ASAP.
Thus far, we have two MAJOR 8 track fixes that ONLY Barry's 8 Track Repair is making possible !
This stuff all takes tremendous amounts of TIME, gentlemen. And now
yet ANOTHER unique solution for 8 track machines is on my shoulders:
|The Output Section in Ford Quadrasonic 8 Track Radios
Some of the Ford Quad units used very limited production 9-pin output chips. These chips have not been available for at least the last
10 years, and there is no practical way to substitute for them on the small amplifier board. The only feasible solution is to replace the
entire circuit with modern electronics. Again every single part of the original output amplifier - FOUR amplifiers mind you - has to go,
and an entirely new design must somehow be fitted to the original board. The original board contains roughly SIXTY parts, which is
borderline impossible to build, likely requiring 2 to 3 full days - which due to labor cost is simply too expensive to even consider.
After yet MORE overnight sessions on the Internet and a lot of creative thought, I have come up with an excellent amplifier redesign.
And what's more, this entire new 4 channel amplifier requires only 44 parts - BUT PRODUCES MORE THAN TWICE THE OUTPUT
POWER if the car owner is willing to rewire all speakers to eliminate the common ground. Without doing this, my new amplifier still
produces more than the orignal. Its input circuit is identical to that of my new tape head preamp but with a few more adjustments.
You might be interested in having a peek at a product still in the design stage. This is something you don't try in the customer's unit
as many changes are required on the way to perfection, and taking the unit apart each time is extremely impractical. Thus, new ideas
are first "breadboarded" - that is, built in such a way that it's very quick and easy to replace one part with another. I built the design
into an old computer data switch box - a PERFECT and much cheaper alternative to project boxes. So here's a peek at that:
|The first finished product was installed in a customer's unit in January 2017
|So here's the bottom line, guys. When you're sitting there getting impatient and thinking I'm kicked back on the couch
eating bon bons and watching soap operas, know that in one way or another, I am WORKING on various projects that
will ALLOW me to continue cranking out the best possible work on whichever types of units will be coming my way now
and in the future. It is NEVER the car restoration shops who used to give me a hard time; it was always the individual
one-off customer who thinks his money gives him the right to pressure, cajole me and put his job before everyone else's.
Now, my work schedule (or LACK of one): My workload and dedication to quality and long term reliability DO NOT ALLOW
me to maintain any kind of "schedule". At times - in fact most of the time - I work for 48 hours straight, then crash and burn
for 15 hours - only to wake up, suck down a few cups and get right back on it. My version of sleeping with my wife amounts
to lapsing in and out of consciousness while we steal an hour or two on the couch in front of the TV - and even then I have
my nose in a service manual trying to figure out an elusive problem with a customer's unit.
I offer flat rate pricing for almost every service I offer - which means I end up doing tremendous amounts of extra work I'm
not charging for. If a unit comes in covered in rust or has a 1/8 inch thick coating of mud on the circuit boards from being
submerged in flood waters for a month - I generally will not charge more for that unit than I would for any other unit. To me
it's all about delivering an honest service with no hidden charges, and I do whatever is necessary to maintain those ethics.
In light of these efforts and much self-sacrifice, I absolutely refuse to be PUNISHED for my insistence on top notch quality
and outstanding long term reliability - qualities I not only claim, but of which I also have PROOF in the form of statistics,
performance reviews and outstandingly low warranty return rates from my last job as a top level Avionics Technician. If
there is any doubt whatsoever that I am telling the absolute truth about this, just take a look at my outstanding HISTORY
|The days of my being drawn into arguments from customers who don't "get it" are LONG GONE. I will no
longer even spend time discussing it. Bottom line: If you can't go along with my necessary terms to which
you have agreed IN WRITING by signing the Work Order, you simply will not be my customer any more. My
reputation for top quality work is well established, well proven - and will now be well maintained by my total
refusal to be interrupted unnecessarily, and my absolute insistence that you wait your turn in line - PERIOD.
Hard-boiled blowhards WILL NOT make ME hard-boiled as a result - their jobs will be cancelled, end of story.