I Don’t Do Vehicles

I still get occasional calls for this type of work, and regrettably I have to say sorry, I don’t do vehicles. I used to, back when I had my storefront in Biltmore Village. But COVID knocked out that aspect of my business and I had to shift gears in order to survive. I closed down my storefront at the end of 2020 and gave up my retail trade. I moved my business into my home in West Asheville and I’ve made the necessary adjustments to comply with the City’s restrictions, including the one that prohibits working on vehicles in a residential zone.

I’m no longer able to recommend Dula’s Automotive Alterations for this type of work. Sorry to say, they’re not doing it any longer either. I’m out of suggestions. Nobody wants to hear “Best Buy” and don’t even ask about Freeman’s.

Consoles, Consoles, Consoles

Dec 1, 2022

I’ve had a run of old stereo consoles recently. Sometimes months go by and I don’t see even one, but lately I’ve had as many as a half dozen in my shop at the same time, and it seems like every week another one is coming in.

Legend has it that console stereos have the best sound. If you grew up with one and that’s how you listened to music during your formative years, then it’s true. If you’ve never heard one in your life and then one day … when you hear it, you will probably wonder if people who think they have “the best” sound should see someone about their hearing.

It’s a very subjective thing. “It was my grandmother’s” is the most common refrain I hear from people wanting to get one repaired. I get that. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth what it costs to restore one.

It is time consuming work and often involves two house calls and a few parts that cost more than a latte at Starbucks. I always tell people in advance what to expect in terms of cost and delay in completing the repair. But after all these years of repairing consoles, I have excellent resources for electronic parts and for rebuilding mechanical parts, and a very high success rate as a result.

StereoMan’s Rates

StereoMan’s labor rate is a mere $48 per hour. Routine maintenance and repair of stereo components typically runs in the $30 to $75 range. If it’s going to be more, you’ll get a call first!



“Just Like New”

One of the most delicate, and therefore most difficult, turntables to work on is one made by Harman Kardon about 40 years ago, a linear tracking model with a Rabco tone arm. The adjustments necessary to get the tone arm to move properly are time consuming, often frustrating, and the brushed aluminum plinth requires great care in handling lest it acquire an unredeemable scratch. I recently had occasion to repair one that had been out of service for some years – perhaps decades – along with a classic Bob Carver preamp and amp that were not performing well. I got through the work well enough and was able to restore the table and the preamp/amp to original spec’s for a reaonable price.

A couple of days after returning them to the customer, I got a call from him. When he identified himself, I a flash of dread went through me. What if something had happened to the turntable on the ride home? What if I had made a mistake on the preamp work? What if … But immediately my fears were allayed, when the next thing he said was “I can’t thank you enough!” He called to tell me how pleased he was that his equipment was working “just like it did when it was new.”

Well. That made my day!

All Signs Point To StereoMan

Since I’ve moved my business to my home there has been a little confusion about where to park and where to meet up with me, so I’ve put up some signs to help guide customers to the right place(s).

While street parking is entirely permissible, I encourage people to pull into my driveway. For one thing, it’s a narrow street, and for another I want to provide a direct path to drop off equipment without having to navigate any stairs or slip on a dangerous surface.

There’s plenty of room here for even a large sedan, SUV, or pickup truck and I’ve provided a raised pathway so no one has to get their shoes dirty walking across the yard, or slip on mud or ice.

The stairs lead to the front door of my private residence. Don’t go that way! I’ve located my countertop at yard level, sheltered from rain and snow by an orange pop-up canopy.

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??!

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.”

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!

Dog Day

Today I had three service calls, one install of two new tv’s, two consults. Each of the three households had at least one canine member. The first was a huge dog, some kind of Labrador mix, quiet and friendly but not overly. She followed her master everywhere. The second was a tiny ball of fluffy fur with endless energy, she never merely walked when bounding was possible. Two dogs in the third household, one border collie-ish, the other like a smallish Samoyed. The collie greeted me at the driveway and I gave her a cookie. She carried it around in her mouth, without biting it, for several minutes, then trotted over to a nearby hedge and buried it.

I love dogs and I feel like they tell me a lot about their human companions, what kind of people they are. All the dogs I met today, they all had good humans. Good people.

Saturdays … gotta love ’em!

I’m often in the shop by 8 a.m. even though I’m not officially “open” until 10. Gives me time for coffee and a little breakfast, tidying up, finishing paperwork, that sort of thing. Plus if one of my customers needs to drop off a vehicle, it’s convenient for them to do so before their work day begins. But I never make a 9 a.m. appointment.

This morning I was puttering around, cleaning the bathroom, emptying trash, around 8:30 someone came in, said “I’m your 9:00 appointment, I’m here early.” Heh. I thought for a second, then I said “OK, let’s get ‘er done.” So I gathered the equipment for the job and by 9:30 I was finished. Meanwhile, around 9:15, my 10:00 appointment showed up early. “Hang in there for a few minutes,” I said, “while I finish with this one.” I was done with the second job by 10:15.

The down side is that my breakfast got cold. And it looks like maybe my microwave is crapping out. On the bright side, I am ready for the usual Saturday onslaught of walk-ins without having to feel all apprehensive about getting my scheduled work done while I’m fielding their questions and making appointments with them.

Saturdays. Gotta love ’em.