More Flex! Ability

Starting Jan 2, 2020, StereoMan will be cutting mandatory shop hours from three days a week to two, and will start scheduling car stereo work on any of the five work days each week. This will help StereoMan handle installation work and outside service calls more efficiently, with minimal inconvenience to customers seeking bench repairs.

New shop hours will be Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And of course, other hours will be more available than ever, by appointment!

Monitor Mod

What happens when StereoMan makes a commitment based on written spec’s only to find out that the written spec’s were wrong? Giving up would be the last choice for StereoMan! Always trying first to think outside the box, sometimes the answer turns out to be INside the box – literally.

My customer had two vans with overhead DVD monitors that were supposed to play through the vehicles’ FM radio, but there was no direct connection, and so the sound was of poor quality and outside broadcasts would sometimes interfere. A review of the monitor’s specifications led me to believe that the jacks on the side of the monitor were A/V output jacks. Why would there be input jacks? The unit had a built in DVD player and no speakers, so input jacks would be useless and useless.

So I gave my customer a quote, based on the written spec’s, to direct wire the monitors to the stereo, and we scheduled the work. But when I took down the first monitor, I saw the jacks on the side were marked “A/V input”. Daunted, but not defeated, I carried the unit back to the shop to see if I could figure out a way to wire an output. On the bench, I took the bottom cover off and there on the inside cover was a label, indicating that there WAS an output, or at least there was supposed to be an output.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was no 5-Pin Harness to be seen anywhere, but there were several 5-pin sockets where a 5-Pin harness might plug in. And a couple of them were white! Could one of them be CN1?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hooked up the monitor on my test bench and played a DVD while I poked around the white 5-pin sockets with my oscilloscope. Before long I had located the correct pins in the correct socket to derive the audio output. To each of the output pins I soldered the center lead of a short coax terminated with an RCA jack. To the ground pin I soldered a short wire …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next I soldered the wire to the coax shields …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after that, covered the ground connection with electrical tape …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, to prevent undue stress on the wires I’d added, I hot-glued the assembly to the circuit board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I connected an RCA cable to my finished assembly, long enough to reach the back of the radio, and remounted the monitor overhead. When I played a DVD, the sweet, clear sound came through the vehicle’s speakers, just like I had planned. Success!

 

Retreat! Retreat!

Next week my annual spiritual retreat is coming up, and the shop will be closed June 13, 14, and 15. I will get as much bench work done as I can between now and then so it will be the least possible inconvenience. I have quite a few pieces finished right now that have not been picked up yet, so if you brought something in during the months of Feb and March and you haven’t heard from me, please check in.

Land Cruiser Partial Bypass

Today I completed one of my biggest car stereo jobs of the year, and the result far exceeded expectations! My customer brought me a 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser with the premium sound system in it. He wanted a complete upgrade: Apple Car Play stereo, new speakers all around, satellite radio, and backup camera.

Just one catch. According to the various Land Cruiser blogs I consulted, integrating the new stereo to the factory amp was problematic. Due to an oddly designed ground loop, if the new stereo’s line level output was connected to the factory amp’s input wiring, it would generate unacceptable noise levels. The amp had to be bypassed. I suggested, and my customer agreed, to insert Pioneer’s tiny GMD1004 amplifier into the bypass to provide him with the extra volume he craved.

But wait! What about the factory subwoofer? If I bypassed the factory amp, the subwoofer would no longer function. Would my customer have to buy another amp? or do without the low bass? Or was there another solution? It seemed to me there was! And so I set about performing a partial bypass.

It’s commonly believed that all aftermarket stereos have four output channels, but that’s not quite true. Some have six, some eight, some ten! Only four are powered, true, but line level outputs can be used at the same time as speaker level outputs, with no harmful effects. And so I set about utilizing eight of the new stereo’s ten outputs to feed both the factory amp and Pioneer’s tiny GMD1004.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I connected the line level channels to the amp integration wiring adapter, to feed the factory amplifier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I fed the speaker level connections into a pair of 16×4 speaker cables. I routed these cables behind the glove box, under the passenger door sill plate, and then routed alongside the factory amp’s wiring to the Pioneer “tiny amp”, which I installed right behind the factory amp. I tucked it under the carpet after the photo shoot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the surgery. I tapped into the factory amp’s power and ground wires to run the Pioneer amp. I always use an inline noise filter with these tiny amps, I find that the amp produces a much cleaner sound as a result. I cut the leads running from the factory amp to the door speakers, and spliced the speaker ends to the tiny amp’s output leads. I left the subwoofer leads connected to the factory amp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I fired it all up and made some adjustments to the stereo, the results were amazing!  I turned on the stereo’s high pass filters and set them to 100hz front and rear, and then adjusted the equalizer to reduce the 6khz and 12khz bands by 6db. I tested with Joe Bonamassa’s “Mountain Climbing” and I had to admit, it sounded almost as good as my own car! It was like magic!

My customer came to pick up the vehicle and I gave him a test run with his selection of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'”. I thought he was going to burst into tears. “You just made my YEAR!” he exclaimed.

My customers are the BEST!

I took in a preamp for repair recently, and as usual I took a $25 deposit for my bench fee. A week or so later, the same customer decided to have his amp checked out and I said I’d do it at the same time as I did the repairs on the preamp, and I took it in without charging the bench fee.

Turned out the preamp needed some work, but the amp was in good shape, only needed a thorough cleaning. I completed the work on both pieces but when I wrote up the invoices, I forgot that I hadn’t charged a bench fee on the amp, so the invoice showed an $11 balance instead of $36. My customer picked up the equipment and paid the invoices, we had a nice chat, and he went on his way.

Not ten minutes later, he was back. He remembered that I hadn’t charged that second deposit, and he still owed me 25 bucks. How’s that for honesty??!

The Leaking Roof Remedy

My latest effort to address the leaking roof problem. Two professional roofers have failed to solve it, and my two previous efforts were also epic fails. So here we have a ten foot gutter guard glued to the rooftop with four tubes of liquid nails all-weather adhesive, a tarp covering the base of the chimney sandwiched between it and a ten foot 2×4, all topped with 16 paving bricks. Lucky to have this mild weather for it to set up before a long period of rain tests the efficacy of the cure.

Update: two months and ten inches of rain later, it’s dry as a bone inside! StereoMan wins!

Kind help

Yesterday I provided in home service for a blind woman. Not merely “legally blind”, but absolutely not able to see. I got her two CD players hooked up and working (she has a backup just in case), and then figured out how to turn off the wake-up alarm on the backup (she had turned it on by mistake, and when it started beeping she thought it was a smoke detector and called in the fire department!). Then I helped her identify the different buttons on the remote, which involved guiding her fingers to the right positions as I explained what each button did.

When all that was done, she asked me to come in the kitchen and see if I could get her dishwasher started. To which I, of course, complied. She knew where the different buttons were located, but unable to see the indicator lights, she couldn’t tell that she had pushed one button too many and turned the wash cycle off instead of on.

Then when it was time to pay, she asked me to fill out the check, and then guide her finger to where she was supposed to sign it. I charged her $46 for my travel and my time. It was close by, and less than an hour.

I imagined how stressful it inevitably must be for a not-sighted person like her to let a total stranger like me into her house and allow me to work on her precious audio equipment. A lot of trust involved! It was so gratifying to me to feel that I had earned it, so satisfying to hear her say as I was leaving, “Thank you for your kind help.”

VW’s Are Strange

An unexpected challenge arose when I was doing a relatively routine speaker replacement on a 2011 VW Jetta. As is my habit, after replacing each speaker I turned on the stereo to let it play while I was reinstalling the door panel, to make sure it works and works right. When I got to this point on the fourth door, though, there was suddenly no sound through any speaker, and much to my surprise several other electrical components in the car stopped working: the door locks, the windows, the horn!

Blown fuse, right? How could I have blown a fuse by replacing a speaker??? There was no fuse diagram in the owner’s manual though, and nothing I could find online, so I had to hunt through the 50 fuses in the car’s interior panel one by one. But before I could finish this, the customer needed her car back, so I had to make an arrangement with her to return the car so I could resolve the problem.

Turned out not to be a blown fuse, but a shorted speaker wire inside the door frame, where I couldn’t possibly get to it. How to remedy such an issue? Replace the wire! Not an easy task, but not impossible. And once it was done, like magic all of the other issues were resolved as well.

VW’s are strange.

 

First step is to remove the rubber boot from the door frame and cut the shorted wire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First step is to remove the rubber boot from the door frame and cut the shorted wire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the wire is cut at the other end, going into the speaker connector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the wire is cut at the other end, going into the speaker connector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new wire has been run through the door frame, twisted and taped to the wire going into the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new wire has been run through the door frame, twisted and taped to the wire going into the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's the other end of the new wire twisted and taped to the wire going into the speaker connector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the other end of the new wire twisted and taped to the wire going into the speaker connector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then taped the new wire to the factory wire bundle and reinserted the rubber boot in the door frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shorted wire is inside that factory wire bundle, but it's no longer connected to anything at either end.

 

 

 

 

 

The shorted wire is inside that factory wire bundle, but it’s no longer connected to anything at either end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generous taping is a must-do on any vehicle wiring job, not just for neatness, but more to protect the wires from the elements. esp. water and road chemicals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generous taping is a must-do on any vehicle wiring job, not just for neatness, but more to protect the wires from the elements. esp. water and road chemicals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the repair is done and the rubber boot is reinstalled on the door frame near the hinges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the repair is done and the rubber boot is reinstalled on the door frame near the hinges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, the speaker is reinstalled, tested, and working properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, the speaker is reinstalled, tested, and working properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberation

Are you one of those people who pays hundreds of $$ every year for cable or satellite service just so you can watch the local news and a few favorite broadcast TV programs? You might be a candidate for liberation!

Today I liberated a client from Charter cable by installing a simple rooftop antenna. Not one of those old school monstrosities with the long metal rods, just a simple little dish, less than a foot in diameter. Total cost for labor and materials was less than the cost of a year of cable TV service. When I was done, my client could get all the major networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and Fox Entertainment – and all the sub-channels that are now being broadcast because of the extra bandwidth that digital TV affords. 29 channels in all!

 

Not everyone’s results are that good, but you can contact StereoMan with your physical address and I will let you know what is possible where you live. If it won’t work for you, I will recommend you stay with what you have. But if you’re in a good location, like my client today on Fairview Rd. in Oakley, I’d be delighted to provide the tools and skills to liberate you from your monthly TV bill!

Bose Makes Waves

I’ve been working on Bose products for years and years, with some success despite their complete lack of support for field repair. No replacement parts, no service information, no tech support, nothing. Still, I can boast a better than 50% success rate, just knowing how to take them apart, what common problems to look for, and what replacement parts can and can’t be used to complete a repair. Due to their immense popularity – and high cost – I have at least one Bose unit in my shop at any given time.

Recently a customer bringing one in for repair told me they had found out about StereoMan on the Bose website! Imagine my surprise to learn that although they are doing absolutely nothing to support my efforts, they are happy to tell people that I am out here to support their products. The irony is not lost on me, but I take it in stride. I’m here to support my customers, and if they’re willing to take a chance on me repairing their Bose stereo, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Apparently my best shot is pretty good. Good enough to get mention on the Bose website. Huzzah!