Rich Warren: Reader needs repair on '60s-era stereo

This is the type of reader question with which I truly sympathize; it arrived via postal mail rather than email:

"My wife and I need someone to repair our Packard Bell stereo that we bought in 1965 when we lived in Springfield. It is in a large, heavy piece of furniture, so we cannot simply pick it up and take it anywhere.

"The AM-FM radio works, but the Garrard record player produces no sound. We wrote to Packard Bell in 1979 asking for its service departments in the Champaign area. We received a reply from Teledyne Service Co. of Los Angeles informing us there was no one in our area and that Teledyne Packard Bell was no longer in business, but Teledyne Service Co. in LA still has an ample supply of original replacement parts.

"At that time we ordered a part and repaired the stereo. Is there a local store or repair service you can recommend to fix and electronic product from the 1960s?"

This letter touches on a number of issues. First, the original Packard Bell ceased to exist about the time the reader purchased his stereo. Since then the name changed hands numerous times, finally dying in the United States about a decade ago as the name of a low-end, mass-market personal computer marketer.

Teledyne also owned Acoustic Research speakers for about 20 years. The AR name also changed owners several times after the founders sold out to Teledyne in 1967. In the current world, names mean nothing, as most transfer as easily and quickly as refrigerator magnets.

According to Wikipedia: The conglomerate Allegheny Teledyne Inc., a combination of the former Teledyne Inc. and the former Allegheny Ludlum Corp., on Nov. 29, 1999, (divided into) three separate entities, Teledyne Technologies, Allegheny Technologies and Water Pik Technologies. Allegheny Technologies retained several companies of the former Teledyne Inc. that fit with Allegheny's core business of steel and exotic metals production.

Packard Bell began as a radio manufacturer in the U.S. in 1926. It never was related to any other companies with Packard or Bell in their names. Since 1986, the name changed hands numerous times. None of the new owners applied it to radios or stereos.

It currently is used by a Dutch computer manufacturer that is a subsidiary of Taiwanese Acer computers.

Garrard began in 1721 as a jewelry company and evolved into an expert manufacturer of motors in the 1920s, eventually manufacturing turntables in the 1930s. It was purchased by a conglomerate in 1960 and ultimately sold to a Brazilian company 1979. That company eventually shuttered in 1992. A few years later, some turntable aficionados bought the name.

As to the reader's query, most companies stock replacement parts for a few years after the model is discontinued.

Contrary to popular assumption, no federal law requires manufacturers to stock electronic replacement parts. Some state contract laws might imply that manufacturers should keep parts on hand for seven years, but this is legally vague. Electronics companies operate under different regulations than automobile manufacturers.

We used to have a few skilled repair shops in the Champaign-Urbana area, but nearly all closed their doors. Current construction techniques and the inability to find replacement parts made service a fool's errand. Vizio, the second-largest seller of TV sets in the U.S., generally refuses to service or replace TVs over a year old.

One of the few local service survivors is Radio Doctors, 104 E. White St., C (phone: 352-2641). I don't know if it makes house calls.

Our reader noted that his Garrard turntable still functions perfectly mechanically. The one ray of hope for our reader is that his Packard Bell stereo may simply have loose or faulty cables from the turntable to the electronics or from the phono cartridge to the tonearm.

If the cartridge failed, it easily can be replaced. So all may not be lost.

Rich Warren is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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cardinalis wrote on October 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Analog Outfitters (http://analogoutfitters.com/) could probably help. Not sure about house calls.

pelagius wrote on October 18, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Those old console systems can sound great if they are properly restored.  There is a whole closet industry restoring such items and it can be found on the internet.  When I lived in C-U I always had good luck with Radio Doctors.  When I was younger, I would by those old consoles as TV stands and use the console stereos for "stereo TV."  When the amp blew, I bought a decent stereo reciever and drove the console speakers with it.  A very handy person might be able to remove the electronics from the console system and take them into Radio Doctors for repair.  The guts are not particularily exotic.  Probably dried out Capacitors, blown transistors and dirty volume/tone pots.  Most of these parts are still made and very easy to come by.  If the speakers are blown or worn out, they can be reloaded too.