Repair or replace?
March 21, 2011 1:00 AM   Subscribe

I bought a budget receiver (Pioneer VSX-50) about 5 years ago. I had no problem with it until a few days ago, when I head a pop when I turned it on, and since then all audio is gone. Is this worth trying to fix?

The unit seems to operate fine -- it turns on, switches modes, etc. I can hear a hum if I turn it up loud enough, both through the speakers and the headphone jack. But there's nothing more than that. It has a number of inputs as well as its own AM/FM tuner, and none of them produce any sound beyond that line hum.

I have very basic needs -- I have 2 bookshelf speakers, and want to listen to the radio and run the TV output to the speakers when watching movies. I'm having a hard time finding anything decent on Amazon for less than $150 -- most of them are 5- and 7-channel setups with all sorts of bells and whistles I don't need.

Is it worth trying to fix this? It sounded like a blown capacitor, but I figure a budget unit probably has lots of integrated pieces and is meant to be thrown out rather than repaired. I suppose I have a followup question, which is for a recommendation for a new unit. My top candidate right now is the Onkyo TX-8255 which is $168 at Amazon.
posted by bjrubble to Technology (6 answers total)
If it's a blown cap, then a replacement will be cheap & relatively easy to solder in place if you have any skill with a soldering iron at all. Can't hurt to open it up and have a look: the specs will be on the side of the capacitor in question.

If it's one of the power supply capacitors that's gone, then you'll need to consider whether you're happy with the risk of working on the mains side of the box, but if it's on the DC side then there's no electrical risk. Worst case will be that it simply doesn't work afterwards, so you'll be no worse off than you are now.
posted by pharm at 2:49 AM on March 21, 2011

Honestly, I would say if you paid less than $1000 originally for it I would call it a day, bin it and pick up something else. If you paid less than $200 for it after five years it doesn't owe you a thing; If you saw how little a receiver costs to manufacture at this price point, and the fair to middling quality of the components that go in them, it makes it all the more surprising it lasted as long as it did. Time for another one, I'm afraid.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 2:59 AM on March 21, 2011

If you can fix it yourself, and want to just for the fun of it, why not give it a shot? However, if you have to pay somebody to do , they will likely want $75 for a diagnosis charge, plus at least $75 for an hour of labor for the repair if it is real simple, plus parts. You could have just bought a new receiver with that money.

As a very general statement, I like Onkyo gear better than Pioneer anyway. Even though it wouldn't surprise me if somebody here points out that they are made in the same factory.
posted by COD at 5:13 AM on March 21, 2011

I figure a budget unit probably has lots of integrated pieces and is meant to be thrown out rather than repaired

Larger caps tend to not be surface-mounted, which means you can replace them if you can track the suckers down. If you don't have the schematic to the circuit boards or any oscilloscope skillz, you can always try the old-fashioned method: go with your nose. Blown caps tend to have an acrid smell to them and often-times will be visibly blackened.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 AM on March 21, 2011

Best answer: Another mildly useful way of finding a bad cap is to let the unit run for a while and see if any of them are hot. Other visual indicators are swelled tops, swelled bottoms. (There is a little rubber plug at the bottom that is supposed to be flush with the bottom. If it has popped out, that's a bad cap.

Also, caps are cheap. There is probably a giant one in there, like 400v 20uf. It's probably not that one. Start replacing the larger ones.

It is almost for sure in the power supply area. It is likely one "leg" of the power supply, that feeds one of the amplifier sections. Because the lights and logic of the machine probably runs on 5V, and that's working. Then there are other sections of the power supply that feeds the amplifier sections, maybe a 12v and a 35v.

Follow the AC cord as it goes in to the PS circuit board. There will be a couple of components, probably not shot. Then a transformer, then some more components, then another transformer, then even more components. The shot piece(s) are likely in this area.

You need to get caps that are mostly the same as the one(s) you are replacing. Likely electrolytic, low ESR caps. These kind are polarized, they have a plus and a minus side. The minus side is usually marked with a stripe and minus/dash signs. This will correspond to markings on the board, circles with a filled in half. Sometimes the filled in area means minus, sometimes it doesn't. But on every board I've seen, it is the same throughout the board.

So, identify the cap you want to replace. You need to always at least match the ratings printed on the cap. You can go over, but never under. The voltage rating can be whatever you want, mostly, because that's just a tolerance rating. A 12V cap will perform the same as a 25V cap, it will just be twice the size. The uf rating should be as close as you can get, but (from what I've heard and my experience) going up as high as 50% is no big deal. (1000uf to 1500uf). But you should stick to 10 or 20%, because some power supplies can get angry if they see a large variation.

Or, buy a used Panasonic sa-xr-## off of ebay. The best sounding receivers I've ever heard, especially for the price.
posted by gjc at 7:18 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want to watch movies you say? Have a look at this thread.

If the receiver is not repairable, $30 more will get you Onkyo high current with 5.1 Surround Sound, along with a plethora of digital ins and outs, etc. Given the 20 year expected life-time of a receiver, it seems odd to so drastically limit your choices, for just $30. Your situation will change, why lock yourself into analog stereo?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:29 PM on March 21, 2011

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