ARC VT-50 Damage/Repair Advice


Forgive me in advance, for the very long post. But I am simply copying and pasting, what I posted at another forum...and they suggested I might get some good advice/feedback here.

Here goes:

I need some advice. There's no right or wrong answer; just opinions...though you do have to put yourself in my shoes a bit.

I purchased this used ARC VT-50 tube power-amp; as I am wont to do. You know how I roll: something catches my eye, or I have a need; I buy, I try...and some stuff sticks, and some stuff flips...lol.

Now...this is an "older" unit; point being, it has "manual" biasing. I'm not the world's foremost expert on tube biasing; so before I even unpacked it, or fired it up...I brought the amp into my office...and had some of the "techs" help me with it. We turned it on, waited 15 minutes...and tested the voltage. Left side was stable and spot-on; right side was a little wobbly. So we waited another 45 minutes or so (per manual...you should measure at 15 minutes and 1 hour).

At the 15 minute mark, I had the "tech" do it...so I could watch, and make sure there wasn't much to it. You just take your voltmeter leads, and touch them to each side of a test resistor. But at the 1 hour mark...I decided to give it a try. I swear...it seems all I did, was touch the 2 voltmeter leads to the test points; just as I had seen the other guy do it. But I must have shaky hands or something...because I got a pop that nearly made me sh*te me pants!

So I shut it down right away, and packed it right back up to be repaired at ARC. It looked to me...the untrained eye...that the damage was minimal; some noticeable burn, down on the tracer circuit...where things arced from the test point. And I talked to the previous owner, and he said he's arc'ed a tracer board before (not necessarily on the same unit); so I didn't feel like a total idiot.

Of course, I was hopeful and optimistic...that the repair, and therefore cost, would be minimal. After all: I had just bought this piece used, to "try out"; and now was having to shell-out for a repair bill...before I even had a chance to hear it, and/or flip it.

I didn't hear from ARC for a spell; so I just dropped them a polite line, to see if they had an update for me. Word came back "technician says unit has extensive PC board damage and will need a tube set. [tech name] is in the process of working up an estimate. Should have more info later in the week”.

Yikes; not, at all, wanted I wanted to hear. I'm especially surprised...by the need for a new tube set? Describing the incident that occurred; it didn't seem possible I could have blown all 8 tubes!!?? I asked the ARC forum, from another board...if ARC is pretty reputable, for giving it to you straight? Not that I had any doubts. I mean...ARC has been around forever, and I happen to love their kit.

One guy in particular said "they ain't cheap; but...", and I'll paraphrase here...they're not going to rip you off, by padding the bill or claiming unnecessary repairs.

OK, well; with a statement like that...maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. I mean...I was prepared for the "worst", but hopeful for the best. Well...you think I'm making this post, if the news turned out to be the latter?

I don't usually get into numbers...but for this discussion; the numbers are important. $1100 is what I was quoted for the repair...AND new set of tubes. Now I get it; a technician at a "reputable" house, like ARC...doesn't want to leave anything to chance. They want to replace ALL damaged parts...go ahead and put in a set of tubes, they KNOW they can trust (even though this incident occurred, when I was biasing the right channel. So even if I blew EVERYTHING on that side...which I wouldn't even bet on; I would be very surprised, if the 2 input tubes and 2 output tubes on the left side, were also "blown"); bias, tune...and send it back to you, knowing it's in tip-top shape.

Out of curiously, I asked the gal who is the admin for the Support department; if she could give me a "line-item" cost, on the tube set. Now again...let me reiterate: ARC...fine, fine company; and their policy and cost, is their policy and cost. I do not post this here to denigrate them; in fact...I usually keep my "dealings" pretty private. But they want $560 for the tubes!

Now...when this amp was on its way; I was already thinking about rolling something into the 6550 slots. Of course, the "best" 6550 known to be going right now...is the Svetlana "Winged" 6550C. But I already had a problem with them of late...and even the guy from Upscale said "smart to stay away"; because evidently, as they were stopping production, they really cut corners on QA at the end...so it's a dice-roll. He recommended Sovtek 6550WE, and even said "that's what ARC is using...now that the Svetlana Cs are out of production". Cost? $32/per; and that's retail, from Upscale! Let me do the math for ya; that's $128, for the Quad...American!!

Now...I don't know what ARC is using in the input slots (4 x 6922s); but I doubt it's anything "exotic". A) "stock" tubes usually aren't, and B) those "tech/engineer" types; they usually don't even think it makes any difference, lol. They often choose, based on reliability; not any audiophile mumbo-jumbo about NOS glass magic, lol. So let's say...they were going to go with something, like the EH Gold Pin? Cost? $25/per; and again...that's retail, and that's at Upscale, etc., etc.

So how can ARC justify charging me, $560; for $228 "worth" of tubes...retail? Well, like I said; they do what they do...and if you want to play the game, which is have them stand 1000% behind the work. You have to pay the price of admission.

So I asked them...is there any way, for them to repair this thing...without the fresh set of tubes? I mean...I understand they need tubes to test it, after repair; but couldn't they use some kind of house "testers", and then send it back tube-less? I mean...this MIGHT end up staying (I actually bought it, because I have a Wyred STP-SE pre-amp...that I think has potential; but needed some warmth, in the way of a tube amp). OTOH...I might just want to sell this thing (as I am again, wont to do).

On top of everything else; I actually already have...(4) 6922s I could use. So I'd cut my repair bill in HALF, and at worst...I'd be looking at ~$130 for a new quad of 6550s. Or...I might just cut bait, sell it advertised as "repaired by ARC; sans tubes...new owner, roll your own".

Sure...if I bought this new, treasured this amp, and were going to leave it to my kids; I'd let ARC do their thing, and know I had a finely-tuned machine...that I wasn't going to have to turn around and bias again (at least not right away). But this ain't that.

I wasn't even sure ARC would consider it; but I got word today..."Per our technician, you will receive NO SERVICE WARRANTY WHATSOEVER, if you choose this course of action. If the unit is damaged as a result of your tubes, you will be fully responsible for another repair and shipping both ways.” CYA and fear of god accomplished, lol.

I don't know; it's sure attractive...to cut that repair cost in half (for the record...the full cost of the repair, is damn near what I paid for the amp to begin with!)...get some tubes, AND some HELP! And just very carefully, try to get this thing back in good working order; without losing my shirt.

Now...another suggestion I've been given, is asking ARC if they will repair, and bias; with MY tubes. The 4 existing 6922s I have...and a new Quad of (reputable) 6550s, I would purchase. I think that's an excellent compromise; but IDK. Is that a little like bringing your own steak to a restaurant...and asking them to cook it for you? You know...because their mark-up is too high, lol.

It has also been suggested to me...that it is a SURPRISING amount of damage; to have "slipped" (if that's even what I did)...off the test resistor.

Trying to make a decision, one way or another, quickly; just feel confused and conflicted about my best course of action. Thanks for any feedback or advice!

CD
128x128hiendpawn

The VT50 is a breeze to bias compared to the Classic 60. This is a superb sounding amp but not easy to bias, especially for a beginner. Both the Classic and V series are some of my favorite ARC amps

Just curious, Is your Classic 60 balanced? The very late CL60s had no holes in the face plate and were balanced. Much like the later V series.
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08-27-15: Hiendpawn
So even if I blew EVERYTHING on that side...which I wouldn't even bet on; I would be very surprised, if the 2 input tubes and 2 output tubes on the left side, were also "blown."

08-28-15: Jea48
Just guessing you shorted the B+ 420Vdc to the silver color Phillips head circuit board mounting screw just above the right hand side of the bias resistor....

As for the tubes it sounds like the 6550 tubes were near their end of life. Good chance so were the 6922 tubes.
If B+ was momentarily shorted to ground via that screw, it's also possible that the power tubes in BOTH channels were damaged as a result of high voltage spikes caused by "inductive kickback" from the output transformers. Especially if the amp wasn't connected to speakers, or an equivalent load, when the procedure was being performed.

Inductive kickback is the principle by which the ignition coils in automobiles generate the thousands of volts needed to fire the spark plugs. When the current through an inductance, in this case the primary of the output transformers, is abruptly changed (as it would be if B+ were momentarily shorted to ground), voltage spikes at extremely high voltages can result, especially if the transformer is unloaded on the secondary side.

I'm assuming, btw, that the B+ is generated by a power supply circuit that is common to both channels, which I suspect is the case but don't know for a fact.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
Al, that is all over my head...as I'm no EE; but it makes sense.

I will tell you this; the flash and pop, was pretty damn scary. And maybe I should look at the bright side; which is...I didn't get shocked at all. So maybe I got lucky in that sense?

CD

I'm assuming, btw, that the B+ is generated by a power supply circuit that is common to both channels, which I suspect is the case but don't know for a fact.
08-30-15: Almarg

Hi Al,

VT50 Schematic and parts list.
Note the two R30 10 ohm resistors on the schematic. Especially the one on the power supply diagram that connects the common B- DC rail of the power supplies to chassis. I would bet that resistor blew apart and opened like a fuse and limited the damage. I am not an expert on power supplies but isn't 354 joules a hell of a lot of DC storage power?

You made a good point about having a load connected to the output transformers. I just assumed the OP had speakers or a dummy load connected to the speaker output terminals of the amp.
When I spoke of the power tubes being near their end of life it was because the OP said his friend could not get the bias of the right channel to hold steady and not drift.
That was before the OP tried to set the bias himself and damaged the amp.
.
Jim