Vintage HiFi for Music Lovers
We own two Carver receivers that we’ve used for over 30 years to play music from CDs and vinyl records. Both are proud members of a disappearing breed of hifi components designed and manufactured in the US, and aimed at music lovers. They’ve become collectors items, prized by people who still own CD/DVD players and turntables for vinyl records.
Carver receivers appeal to audiophiles who appreciate high quality music with significant detail and definition during playback. There’s a warm spaciousness to their sound that few of today’s digital devices and compressed codecs can equal.
Although we also own digital components with today’s standard HDMI, USB and coax interconnections, including WiFi access, we far prefer the sound produced by this Carver Receiver.
That said, these vintage devices are compatible only with audio devices that include legacy input and output connectors — no HDMI connectors on board.
Built to Last
Our Carver receivers were built to last. They weigh more than 30 pounds. Their build quality reflects traditional principles that no longer drive consumer brands: the notion that consumer devices should be designed for long lifetimes and ease of servicing.
This is a stark contrast to today’s reality, where brand name devices are designed for early obsolescence. All too many 21st century devices break just days or weeks after the warranty expires, and end up in a landfill not long after.
Unlike today’s consumer electronics you can still buy spare parts on eBay for our receiver, 33 years after it was manufactured. Long after the Carver brand went out of business, as a sad consequence of US labor costs that could no longer compete against cheap offshore labor.
Thanks to the Carver’s core design, if you know how to use a soldering iron and have the skills to work with circuit boards and analog parts, you can fix the Carver’s typical failure points (the output relays) in about 30 minutes. Sadly, my husband and I lack the skills and the know-how to do this.
Preparing for a Tune-up
The design flaw of this receiver is the way its output relays fail after 10,000 hours of use, probably due to heat-related challenges. We’ve learned that our receiver needs a tune-up about once a decade, when its output relays eventually fail. It was overdue…
Our Carver stopped working last year, so I’ve been on a 6‑month quest to get it repaired. I bought replacement parts on eBay for about $30, and downloaded a copy of the service manual written for repair technicians.
Then I had to solve the real challenge of obsolescence, finding someone who knows how to use a soldering iron, understands schematic diagrams, and can put those skills to use to repair a vintage analog device. These are fast disappearing skills…
Vintage Items, Specialized Skills
I’m not the only one looking for practical repair options for vintage gear. Fortunately, I live in a place where eco-minded people are experimenting with options to help us all keep stuff out of the landfills.
For example King County’s EcoConsumer group is on a mission to help people repair broken household items, including torn clothing and bedding materials. They’re experimenting with community-based solutions.
They’ve begun hosting Repair Café events. They line up volunteer “fixers” willing to take a stab at repairing household items that local community members will bring to those events.
The event hosts try to match on-site repair specialists with the items needing their attention. Besides managing attendees’ expectations about what’s feasible, the event host declines items that are outside the skills or scope that the day’s volunteer fixers are willing to tackle.
Luckily for me, last weekend’s Repair Café included two specialists who know how to repair a broad range of consumer electronics, including vintage receivers like mine. They’d brought the right tools for the job including the solder and soldering iron.
That said, my Carver could not have been fixed if I hadn’t come prepared. Thanks to online research and advance planning, I came equipped with the right spare parts. I also had a copy of the service manual on my iPad, so the technician could check the wiring diagrams. These were the key resources my fixer needed so he could do his magic with the soldering iron.
While I waited for the specialist to repair my Carver, I looked around to see what other kinds of repairs were popular. To my surprise the busiest “fixers” were the women operating the sewing machines. They restored a number of torn garments, broken zippers and damaged quilts.
I overheard that a number of the items awaiting repair had recently been purchased from thrift shops… A sewing machine had come from a pawn shop — indicative of how badly these events are needed by people struggling to make ends meet.
While I was there, the fixers repaired a weed whacker, several lamps, a Singer sewing machine, a juicer, a garden ornament made of stained glass, at least two music components, and dozens of torn garments. Plus my vintage Carver Receiver.
I couldn’t help but notice that most of the volunteers providing repair services are well over 40 years old. Their skills may be a disappearing art…
The room was crowded throughout the event. There were always people waiting in line for the next available fixer. Clearly, the EcoConsumer group is on to something that our community wants and needs. Attendees went home delighted.
I’m grateful to have found someone at the Repair Café with the soldering skills my Carver needed. This made me happy all weekend.
My husband and I are thrilled to know our vintage Carver is now ready to keep working for another 10,000 hours!