Amp repair cost — is this right?

I recently sent my Musical Fidelity a308cr power amp off to be recapped. This amp is somewhere around 16-18 years old and one of the power caps failed. I contacted Musical Fidelity and sent it to a repair shop they recommended. Today I received an estimate to replace 18 caps, 8 of which are large power caps, resolder the boards, and re-bias the transistors. Basically a full overhaul. The quote I received, including return shipping (prob around $100) Is over $1,300 which possibly exceeds the value of the amp. That doesn’t include the $115 it cost me to ship it out. Having never had an overhaul done on a power amp like this, I’m wondering if anyone with experience can tell me if this sounds right. I guess I was expecting something more like $600-$800 but I don’t know why since I really don’t have a frame of reference. Perhaps it was the assumption it might be 4 hours labor (say $400) plus max $200 for caps. Is $1,300+ on track? Either way I’m going to be out the shipping cost plus a $160 fee paid for the estimate.

I'm surprised that you were even able to "contact" Musical Fidelity, let alone receive a response - period.

DeKay (a previous MF owner).
@dekay There was nothing difficult about that. There’s a new email address since they were bought by ProJect. Someone in Austria forwarded my email to a person in Canada who works for MF North America and I had a response the next morning. He asked where I live so he could recommend a close repair shop and then replied with a recommendation within 30 minutes of me telling him where I live.
I asked a contractor how his quote for a bathroom remodeling came to $33k when the parts by my estimation came to $5k, and labor at $50 per hour for 3 men for 3 weeks came to $18k. Figure in $2k for truck, tools and insurance. $25k. He shrugged and said the remainder was profit.
Take the Long View

That much replacement, when done, is like buying a new 250 wpc dual mono amp. That’s not a lot of money if you think of it that way.

You are paying for years of expertise, knowledge regarding parts selection, warranty ...

If you really liked it’s sound, consider how smart you are to have it fixed. What would you be depriving yourself of, for many years, because you thought he charged too much?

Only 30 minutes away? I would drive a few hours to see the shop, meet the people, save shipping cost and risk.

There is only 1 shop in the country recommended by McIntosh to work on my 1962 mx110z, it’s 5 hours away, you are quite lucky when you think that way.

If you asked them to give you a better price, you will never know if they then used lesser quality parts.

You would not be able to sell it in it’s current condition ....
not a bad price for a complete over-haul of your a308CR amp.If you enjoy the presentation and sound from MF, go for it!
Happy Listening!
Audiogon is a very strange place. I'm simply asking if this price is in the right range and getting some really strange responses that don't answer that question.

@jafant thank you very much for your feedback. That's what I was trying to find out
My pleasure to assist.  If you are located in the U.S., consult Bill Thalmann (former lead electronic tech w/ Conrad-Johnson) for  2nd opinion/quote.He is very accomplished and can work on just about every brand out there.He is Music Technology 703.764.7005 -Keep me posted on your repair or replace decison.
Happy Listening!
I agree with the perspective of Elliot and Jafant, well reasoned and stated.
Electrolytic capacitors, regardless of size or manufacturer, are simply not that dear (exotic films being another story altogether).  I believe any competent technician should be able to perform this work for under $500, including re-biasing the output stage.  The work would take 4 hours maximum.  As a lifelong electronics tinkerer and professional, your estimate is ridiculous to be honest.  
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I agree with the long view, irrespective of the estimate. For an amp with problems this old, it is worth $0 not repaired. For the shipping costs to repair again after a partial repair, it is not worth the risk to only replace the bad cap. What else could you buy for $1300 that would give you equal sound and be expected to last another 15+ years?
Thanks, I get the perspective that the amp is intrinsically more valuable to me fixed. I'm not taking a short view. And I'm not worried about the money in and of itself. I've got $1,300 I can spend. My question isn't "should I invest $1,300 to fix this amp?" or "will I get $1,300 of enjoyment out of the amp over time?" In fact, I don't even use this amp and haven't for about 2 years.

My question is quite simply, "is $1,300 a reasonable cost for this particular repair." 

I thought that was a fairly simple yes or no question. So far I've gotten one yes and one no and a lot of other people talking about themselves.
Audiogon is a very strange place. I’m simply asking if this price is in the right range and getting some really strange responses that don’t answer that question.

@jafant thank you very much for your feedback. That’s what I was trying to find out

IMO and IME, the price is too high.

techs only WISH they could get paid that well. If I could get that rate, I’d love to do that sort of repair or rebuild, all day long. Lots of good vacations and so on. Put my kids through college on your dime, etc..

In the modern audio tech repair world, the pay rate is MUCH lower, overall.

That as a recap, in most cases, and with most techs I’ve witnessed or seen, should not cost over $600, max.

The reason we see rates like that, is the given tech has enough business so that they can pick and choose their jobs, like a plumber, or electrician.

Or in the modern covid world, a building/house/upgrade contractor. So busy right now, that they get the opportunity to pick and chose their jobs. Pay them enough, or they pick another job.

Akin to how cross breed mutt puppies have gone from give aways (pre-covid) to being $2000 dogs (post covid) in your local for sale Craiglist or craiglist equivalent.

The sad part for these dogs and cats, is when things go back to normal, and these idiots who should not have pets abandon them, after being so poorly treated when the idiots raised them. the moment a vaccine seems to be working good and goes universal, then these dogs and cats will end up at shelters and some will end up in landfills.

anyway, back to the repair. As for heavymehc, he got lucky in time and place and relatively speaking, hit a jackpot. So his special situation cannot be equated to the norm for an audio oriented technician.

The audio tech is expected to know more, and be more capable than a specialist and has to deal with audio addicts, who are ALWAYS looking to get more music and audio drugs, for as low a cost or price as possible.

to add, they come to the audio techican in a state of unhappiness, as they are just trying to score when their fix and dope went bad on them, so the money, as a cost not liked nor planned for, in many cases.

Car mechanics have it unbelievably easy in most cases, comparatively. they get to pick and choose. Cars are everywhere and always coming in the door. An endless supply. Especially when times get hard.

Of all the competent technicians of all varieties in the world, the audio technical specialist probably has the hardest poorest paying job there is.

the resource or the customer base and the quality of gear is drying up, less and less is in the world. Modern manufacturers are doing their best to make gear that is irreparable so as to create new purchases, and landfill and reclaim centers are being filled with electronics that should not be failing so fast.

Major electronics corporations are being allowed to eat the world and fill it with toxic crap, all for a profit motive.. and few people are wise to this ’UN-repariability’ tactic they have all moved into.

Eg, a 4k tv three years old and it breaks. They say the board is $300 and $200 to install, so they force the decision on the customer to buy a new TV. Meanwhile it is a 50 cent capacitor that has failed, and it is a common failure on all the boards. Happens every day. all day long. the perfectly good TV goes to the reclaim center and the reclaim centers have jiggered a deal with the governments to prevent anyone else from getting those TV’ make the population pay for their high profits of being the reclaim centers. (through government mandates and control of the given reclaim industry. It’s about money.)

Meanwhile, if the TV with the $500 repair cost...was put back in the field by fixing the 50 cent capacitor..., the damage to the environment would be be ten to 100 times times less than having a new TV manufactured to replace the one that could have been repaired.

Yet they’ve got you running down the emotional turmoil road of environmental saving, save the whales, save the fish, save the birds and the bees, etc, recycle that TV. Right. What a load of lies....

added to the mix, is that the general population does not know what is in the black box called electronics, so they price shop on the basic commodity of a cell phone, DVD player, etc. so they buy junk instead of quality as it is priced lower. This whole market accelerates the damage to all via the electronics load, of constant runs of junk gear. one can go to their local used goods store and see 50-100 DVD/cd/bluray players at the junk quality level, all sitting there, waiting their turn to be sent off to the recycle centers.

’Death to the audio technician’, is what all of this says.

Hi jenehma,
Maybe I’m inferring things differently than you. It seems that people are taking the time to provide context to assist you in your decision. Sometimes the best answer isn’t a ’simple ’ yes or no. The amplifier  certainly has little if any value in its present condition. All factors considered 1300.00 seems reasonable as a few others have alluded to. Good Luck,
@charles1dad Some are doing that, and I do appreciate it. Others are talking about bathroom remodels and bad experiences with Musical Fidelity, or ranting about their former career. I already know what the amp is worth to me. So while I appreciate people's "long view" justifications, I already know that. I'm just asking if the repair cost is right.

Imagine if you took a Honda Accord to be repaired. You'd never repaired a car in your life and have no knowledge of repair costs. The mechanic says "you need new brake pads, that'll be $12,000." Well the car is worth let's say $25,000 and replacing it with a new version is going to cost me more than $25,000, and I'll get years of driving enjoyment out of this car after repaired (the long view)... etcetera. None of that has anything to do with the fact that brake pads shouldn't cost $12,000, but that is the logic of most of the responses I have received.

So including you and teo_audio, I now have 2 yes and 2 no responses.
@jnehma1  @noromance doesn't believe in profits so he or she probably has someone to recap for FREE labor.  Next time ....
Lets be clear, $400 is way too low, and $1300 is off the charts - too high a number.

Somewhere in the middle, maybe.

If it was me, for $1300 us, if I was the tech, it would come back as a wholly different sounding amplifier, and be notably superior. 

Where I would have second guessed all of the orignal designer's work and upgraded the quality of the unit to far beyond the orignal spec. 

changing parts out for new originals, or a basic repair being involved... is in no way shape or form worth $1300US. 

the only people who can charge that kind of money are the ones who have  a ridiculous outsized opinion of themselves, or others have built up the same sort of opinion of them.. simply due to the idea that if they (as customers) pay more, they get more. When really... that's not even remotely true.. 

Or they have too much work on their hands and are only doing the work that pays the highest...all tied to the outsized reputation ...tied a customer base that thinks of things being in a position and reality ---which it can't possibly be. 

Which happens often, far too often in the world of high end audio. It happens in other technical  spheres as well, and it is great work when you can get it... but most audio technicians are in some world of underpaid hurt.
My view......the price is what it is maybe a bit high but I'd be inclined to have it repaired. So that's another yes.
Upfront I do not know if that is a reasonable cost for a high quality job or not. In my profession quality cost more because of the time it takes to do a quality job. So getting an opinion from someone like Bill Thalmann ex conrad johnson could be a prudent inquiry.

I had a amp I thought of repairing and rebuilding/upgrading. I didn't do it. I got a new amp and that seemed to necessitate other changes that cost. So you may figure that in to your situation. Not only did it cost  more that just the amp for me to be happy. It took a long time for everything to settle in. If I had to do it over again I would have got it fixed. Just me though.
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Lets get this straight.

Those large power caps are about $15 each, MAX. OK? MAX. 

that's $120 raw cost then double that price as included in the repair. So we're at $240, plus and hour at $100 to put them in. Let's be generous and call it $150.

$390. $100 cost to return, max, as they get a discounted rate as they use the shipping service  (UPS/ Fed-EX) often. 

I'm having a tough time finding the other $810US in there.... 

It's impossible, in fact.

I have to stop myself from saying nasty things, here. I'm offended to the core.
Between the shipping and the estimate you are already in for close to $400.00. If you don’t get it repaired you have thrown that money down the tubes. It’s your call!
Audiogon is a very strange place. I’m simply asking if this price is in the right range and getting some really strange responses that don’t answer that question.
I don’t see that as unreasonable. If one cap has already failed and it has 18 caps in it, its reasonable to assume that if they are all the same part that they will have similar reliability. Electrolytic caps have a sort of ’half life’ which is to say that after a certain amount of time about half of them have failed. The thing is, they go downhill after a while and even though they might appear to be working and the amp seems to sound alright, if you change out the caps the amp sounds better.

IME the typical ’half life’ of caps in a tube amp is about 20 years. Its a little longer in solid state stuff because there is less heat but that might mean only 5 extra years. But some caps have known problems and may not last so long... So changing out all the caps is a good idea if you like the amp. Otherwise you put the power transformer at risk and sometimes that part can be really hard to find and really expensive- at that point you may well find that its not worth repair. So if you like the amp get the caps changed and you can keep liking it.

It takes time to remove parts and replace them without making a mess of the project. My shop is cheap- about $90.00/hour; expect to pay about the same as a good mechanic charges.

Just the 8 ’large filter caps’ might cost about $800.00-$1200.00 if they are large computer grade parts often seen in many amps; that does not leave a lot of room for the rest of the caps and the labor.

Hi everyone. Thanks to @jafant for the suggestion I reached out to Music Technology in Virginia and spoke to a very helpful tech. He said they charge $120/hr for labor, plus a flat $25 fee for little stuff like diodes, resistors, and disposal cost. When I told him I was guessing $200 for caps he said that was probably a high estimate. I asked, without knowing what's wrong, if you are recapping an old amp how many hours would you spend? He said it depends on many things like point to point wiring, schematics of the amp, etcetera but figure on about average 3 hours, so $360, plus parts and return shipping. When I asked if $600-$800 was a reasonable guess he said that sounded too high...
they are snap mount medium sized garden variety 63-80v capacitors. 15kuf-20kuf each. 8 of them. About $15US each at digikey.

something like this:

They are not high grade Nichicon non magnetic specialized ’found only at Parts connexion or Micheal Percy’ (or other specialty high end audio suppliers) ’super audio grade’ $50-60 each capacitors.

The given shop should attach a cost, maybe 25-30% extra for the parts (some go as high as 50%), than the total cost of procuring the ’common’ parts. Money out, all of it - needs to be compensated for. But things should stay in some form/shape of reason...
this concerns a repair shop, cars, electronics, etc.
manufacturing is a different beast altogether. One that requires much greater ratios, in order to survive the long lists of costs and financial extensions that take place - when attempting to manufacture in such a crazy world as high end audio. Overhead is insane.

@ atmasphere (Ralph) you say the replacement cost for the large multiple filter caps is 800 to 1200.00. Then teo_audio says 15.00 max cost per cap. Also roberjerman says these caps are quite inexpensive. Are you all referring to the ’same’ capacitors? Such a vast cost spectrum being cited. Ralph you build and repair audio electronics and would know. Just curious as to the wide variance of price.
Ralph uses  far more expensive capacitors in his gear. Inescapably so.

Much higher voltages, much lower manufacturing levels of those capacitors, thus per unit costs are much higher for a plethora of reasons., so his costs are a totally different beast.

And I'll get no deeper into it than that - not my purview.
When I pulled out the bad cap I googled for a matching replacement based on the same specs printed on the side and the measurements I took using a caliper. There were around 10 brands available and costs varied from $5 to $20 per cap. That's for the eight 10k microfarad filter capacitors. Then there about ten more little baby caps in there which I didn't check but assumed wouldn't be $20 each.
@ Noromance. I've faced similar ridiculous quotes. In Canada we call them hosers- they'll hose you for whatever they can get :)  Always get 3 estimates, and I talk the issue before having anyone come by for an actual quote. If a tradesman/contractor can't discuss the reno, without any requirement to be precise, then I don't go further and won't call them again.
@oldheavymec. B--s. You misspeak and criticize w/o knowledge :(   silly
Great to hear the good response from Bill Thalmann at Music Technology !  He did great work for me at reasonable cost. I'm going to give him a call today to say hi, let him know the great feedback he has, and discuss possibilities in some of my gear. Cheers :)
@ptss The tech I spoke to was Corey, not Bill, but yes he was very helpful and patient on the phone. Regardless of the cost questions surrounding my particular situation, it was an interaction that would make me feel good about doing business with them.
@teo-audio. Your comments are appreciated as genuine and realistic. We all realize Rolex watches are make with some expensive parts and gold - but don't keep better time than, -- dare I say Timex ? :)  And those Rolex also state they require cleaning and tune up but do not provide better timekeeping - which is the goal of timepieces. No? So too with some expensive parts in some expensive audio equipment, they impress with high cost and cachet - but don't necessarily make said equipment "sound" better.
Spectral Audio has kept costs reasonable but avoiding "jewelry" type finish. I'm not dissing the gold plated audio equipment. It may look very pretty to some, and many people makes purchases to look impressive- to each their (careful not to discriminate here :) own ...
@jnehma1.  Why not forward your gear to Teo Audio ? As a result of this conversation you're sure to get good service - and we will look forward to hearing about it :)
I used Bill Thalmann to restore a whole bunch of old components I owned for use in a second, vintage system. I dropped off all the equipment at his shop- got a tour-quite a place, packed to the gills with hi-fi, musical instruments, vintage electronic keyboards, etc. Bill did great work on a variety of equipment, from restoring an old SP-10 turntable to a vintage McI pre-tuner to a pair of ancient Quad II power amps. He helped me source some NOS tubes as well. Very nice guy, very good work, not crazy money. Just make sure you pack well. 
I just recapped an old Krell 400xi integrated amp for a friend. I replaced almost every single electrolytic cap for him.  This included about 20 surface mounts and perhaps another 50 caps including the larger power supply filtering caps.  I used common parts and the amp sounded much better after the work. Ralph at Atmasphere is spot on regarding the life of these capacitors and the sound improvement that can be realized.  

I think many of us forget, not Ralph, how long it takes to just disassemble the amp to get at the underside of the boards etc... With this Krell it was not easy or fast. Just disassembly and desoldering/cleaning took 3-4 hours.  Some units are ridiculously hard to work on due to the time and hassle of disassembly and re-assembly. Goodness many companies make it so hard. 

In addition, it takes time to properly desolder all the old parts plus clean the boards for the replacement parts.  This can be more time consuming when space is tight and you do a clean and professional job. 

Replacing  electrolytic caps can be an hour job with an amp that is simple to disassemble with just a handful of large caps being attended to. However,  with other amps this can take many hours....up to 6-8.  

 Not sure about this amp as I never worked on one, but just giving some realities for us to consider. 

Are you all referring to the ’same’ capacitors? Such a vast cost spectrum being cited. Ralph you build and repair audio electronics and would know. Just curious as to the wide variance of price.
Apparently not! Snap caps are a *lot* less expensive! They are a little harder to remove but not so much that the labor is significantly affected. So this really does suggest that $1300 or so is too high. I would expect to pay at a retail price about $15-24.00 each for those snap caps (assuming a service department that has enough fair markup to actually stay in business; Digi-Key prices are wholesale); that puts the overall repair price realistically more in the $400-$600 range.
As above, good to read that Bill and Corey are alive and well doing Audio business.  I have only spoken to Bill via phone.  He is highly regarded in this community.
Happy Listening!
Music Technology does terrific work and they are fair when it comes to pricing.  That is not to say that the shop that did the original appraisal is overpriced or otherwise not a wise choice.  At this juncture, that shop is the only one that really knows the scope of the work involved, so any other appraisal offered here is closer to a guess than anything else.

If you go with Music Technology, the one sort of downside is that they are pretty busy and may not be the quickest alternative out there.  They are good, but, that is no secret, which is why they are busy.
It would seem fair to me....I sent out my working Ayre amp to Ayre...  was this and that (don’t remember the parts)....1250.00
@grannyring @atmasphere @teo_audio - thank you for the direct experiential feedback and thanks to everyone else for what turned out to be a FAR more lively discussion than I ever imagined when I posed the question!

At this point my plan is to contact the original repair shop and ask a few more detailed questions about what they are doing. All I got on the phone was "replace all the caps, re-bias the amp, re-solder the board, $1,340." If it sounds somewhat close to reasonable I will proceed. Otherwise I think just based on the great interaction I had with Music Technology, I'd rather get it back and send it to them even if it's not going to save me money given what I've already sunk so far.

Hindsight being 20/20 I should have asked for repair shop recommendations first, but I did some forum searching and found a couple of (old) recommendations for the shop where it is now, then Musical Fidelity themselves recommended them too, so I went with it. I've only ever had one other amp repaired (not for caps) and unfortunately the gentleman who did it (great work and very reasonable) was a one man operation and passed away several years ago.
@stringreen ,
I have sent a number of pieces of equipment to Ayre.-Some for repair, others for upgrade.
In every case, the price they quoted for repair was very, very reasonable.
One of the caps in my MX-R’s blew. I sent both monoblocks to be checked, and Ayre provided a very low price to have the offending amp repaired as well as checking the other.
The only bad part was shipping them back to CO, as far as cost, but they included shipping with the repair, so I was very happy.  And, I bought all my equipment second hand, so they could have soaked me.
So, if they charged you $1250, it must have been something serious or a very expensive part.

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The price is reasonable if the person doing the work does great work.  A customer of mine took a non CJ amp to Bill Thalmann to see if he could upgrade his amp.  Bill installed 10 diodes and charged him $10 per diode.  They cost about $2.00 each so who knows.

The point being what capacitors are going to be installed.  Nichicon for that price is reasonable, computer grade caps IMO would be over priced for the job.  Grannyring is correct though.  A Counterpoint SA-5000 preamp requires 48 wires to be unsoldered before you can get the circuit board out and then 48 to put back together.  Nor sure how I charge for that time.  What kind of amp can you get for lets say $2000?  Would that amp be a sonic upgrade?

Happy Listening.
jnehma1 OP

To dismantle (unsolder those transformers and the chokes he used) and anything else, pull the boards out of this, and do all the electrolytic caps on them, as well as the power supply caps.
And then to bench test, measure everything, watch the scope with test signals to make sure it’s stable, then re-bias the whole thing when it’s hot, it looks like a days job to me to do it with care.

Cheers George