Sound Advice: Knowing when it's time to replace vintage audio gear
Published in Tech Advice
Q. I have a Sunfire True Subwoofer Junior that needs repair or replacement and wanted to get your thoughts before I proceed. Bill Flannery (now retired) at flannerysvintageaudio.com is a personal friend of the designer Bob Carver, and a mastermind regarding Sunfire and Carver gear. The website states, “all subwoofers with serial numbers starting with "99", "00", "01" or higher will no longer be accepted for service regardless of the model of the unit. The circuit boards in these units are of inferior quality compared to the earlier boards and are suffering from long term heat damage that makes a lasting repair unlikely.” Because my serial number starts with 00 I emailed him directly and asked if I should get it repaired locally. He replied that in his opinion it’s not worth the risk and even if it was fixed successfully, the odds the repair would last are pretty slim.
I would also appreciate your recommendations for a subwoofer similar in size and performance to what I have now. I use the subwoofer in a cabinet with a Marantz SR-19 receiver and Paradigm SE 1 speakers, and I’m looking for a cost-effective replacement.
—S.B., Eden Prairie, Minnesota
A. I think Bill Flannery is correct about this and I commend him for his directness. Some vintage audio equipment is worth repairing and keeping, but there is a lot of gear that is best left behind and it sounds like your subwoofer belongs in this category. With vintage audio repair, it is really easy to get in too deep in terms of time, expense and frustration, and I have been there myself with some 1980s amplifiers and my Nakamichi cassette deck. There is shipping both ways, the cost of an estimate, the cost of the repair, parts can be scarce, and as Mr. Flannery mentioned, the repairs are not always 100% satisfactory. I can tell you from experience that it is a sickening feeling when you spend over $150 on a repair only to discover your component still does not work properly, and the repairman insists it does! Given an expert on your subwoofer thinks it is not worth it, I can reflect on my own experience and confidently say it is time for something new.
Bob Carver’s Sunfire subwoofers packed tremendous performance in a small package, so only a top-notch replacement will do. SVS is known for their outstanding subwoofers and their $599.99 SB-1000 Pro would be ideal for your needs. It is less than 15 inches in every dimension and uses a sealed enclosure which makes it more suitable for use in a cabinet than a ported subwoofer, and the performance specs are very close to your Sunfire. The sealed enclosure is optimized for tight, controlled bass like your Sunfire delivers and with over 820 peak watts you will not want for power. Add the app’s advanced controls and in-room tuning and you have a great new subwoofer for your system.
SVS is also an excellent company to do business with. The SVS Customer Bill of Rights guarantees your satisfaction with a 45-day trial period that includes a money back guarantee, and they even pay return shipping, making it a truly risk-free purchase. I doubt you will need it as I have recommended SVS for years and never heard of anyone returning products, but the guarantee certainly provides peace of mind. Besides their fine subwoofers, some of my favorite SVS products are their SoundPath Accessories, Prime Series speakers, and their line of wireless products, including adapters, speakers and integrated amplifiers. All are worth a look if you are building a new system. Learn more at svsound.com.
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