Uber expensive repair at United Radio

Anybody’s experience with United Radio (East Syracuse) as a service center? I will never do business again with these guys. They charged me $1,971 to repair my Classé Audio C-M600 monoblock amp...Forteen hours @$120/hour to replace two 16 pins chipsets...They provided me a discount on their regular hourly rate, which is normally set at $140/hour...
Quality audio is expensive. 
  Same as BMW, Alfa Romero, etc, expensive , yes, overcharged,,.........maybe, maybe not, what parts did they use, top quality parts? Find out, ....
does not seem out of reach for such an amazing amplifier...

Why I drive a Hellcat.

But @arcticdeth is right, you get what you pay for. 
My buddy has an auto repair shoo and his sign says “We fix $39.00 Brake Jobs” his lot is always full fixing other people’s work. 
Did they give you an estimate before starting the repair work? You should have asked for that! 

Quality, customer service is priceless. How does the amp sound?

Happy Listening!
This is exactly  why I  went DIY for all my repairs. 
I rebuilt my amps completely, using high-end boutique parts and still came in below my quoted repairs. 
The mono Block amps now sound Breathtaking. 
Cannot beat DIY. 

Arcticdeth - They replaced two 16 pins IC ($56/each)...

Jasonbourne52 - They did provide an estimate, but what choice did I have? Scrap my monoblock pair? $140/hour to repair an amplifier? I have owned 2 Mercedes and 1 Audi and both  dealership repair tarifs were lower  than United Radio’s...

Jafant - The amp sounds great, but at what cost? Paid $6000 for the used pair. If I include shipping + brokerage fees + repair cost, I basically purchased my monoblock a second time.
I called them this spring to take a look at my McCormick DNA-125.  They wouldn't touch it.  All the techs around here ( Hionfi, Sig Sound) besides them had at least a 8 week back log.  I called Audio classics in Binghamton, they wouldn't work on it either.  But they did recommend a place called Hyle's Audio in Johnson City.  Brought the amp down there and he had it fixed in a week.  Total price was less then $100.

I think the only time I actually had United fix anything was an Alpine car CD player that was under warranty back in the 90's. 
They provided an estimate which you agreed to and now you are complaining about the cost? 
So in my situation, you would have just  shut your mouth and bit the bullet? Not my style. I just find that replacing two 16 pins chipsets + calibration and using 14 hours of labor is unjustified.

I called Classé Audio customer support to enquire their repair process. They indicated me to ship my amp to their repair center, but never told me that United Audio was a subcontractor.

My options:

1) Pay over $2,000 in repair cost and keep my $6,000 monoblocks 
2) Refuse the repair estimate and try to find a repair shop which has Classé Audio CA-M600 schematics, parts and repair expertise?
3) Sell the remaining functional monoblock amp and take a $3000 loss since I purchase the pair last year?
dasign OP171 posts05-25-2021 5:39amMy options:

1) Pay over $2,000 in repair cost and keep my $6,000 monoblocks
2) Refuse the repair estimate and try to find a repair shop which has Classé Audio CA-M600 schematics, parts and repair expertise?
3) Sell the remaining functional monoblock amp and take a $3000 loss since I purchase the pair last year?
Yes, your options, and you made your choice. No one else did. Poor form to whine about it now. Skilled labor is expensive. So is maintaining a brick and mortar business.
My two bits. 
I had my Mac 240 refurbished by Ryan at Audio Classics and it was worth every penny. Not quite the $1900 of the OP, but it wasn't cheap either. I fiddle around and refurbish old Triumph cars, NOS and reissue parts are very reasonable compared to some better HiFi. But i guess my point or correlation is that after all is said and done, one has a valuable and cherished item that will last another 50 years.

Thank you for this recommendation, sounds like United Repair is a great option for amp repairs:

1) Their estimate was accurate
2) They gave you a discount
3) They successfully completed the repair
4) They took on your work in a time when other repair shops are turning away new business

This is exactly the kind of shop I like to do business with. 

14 hours does seem like a lot, but you got them down on their rate.  Hopefully their work is first rate and you never have to worry about amp repairs again.  BTW, what prompted you to seek service?
Ok guys, I will just shut up my big mouth :-). Was just tryting to get some support from my Goner friends. Seems that paying top dollars for an amp repair is part of the hobby.

I feel like a cheap old bastard :-). Final reply on this subject.
My '89 Toyota Camry had an oil leak. Toyota charged $350 to replace a 50 cent "O" ring. Where was the "O" ring and how much of the engine needed to be dismantled to get to it? I have no idea. My point is...
You weren't singled out for a rip off, audio repair is expensive. From first hand experience, I know it takes a lot of time to take things apart to replace a defective component and an untold amount of time to figure out the problem without a schematic or a working copy. On the other hand, I know of places that charge around a hundred dollars to tell you what's wrong. Couple that with another 14 hours to do the work, I would be suspicious. You can't tell me it takes hours to find and repair the problem if you charge an hour's labor minimum to find the problem. That tells me you're experienced enough -- and have the right bench equipment -- to zero in on the problem rather efficiently. Which is probably why they gave you a discount -- you were asking questions in the right direction.

Then again, it takes a mechanic hours to take apart the front end of a car just to change an $80 timing belt, so when you get the bill for $1500 you know it is the labor to get to it that bites you. Same with audio repair.
Don’t forget, electric bills have to be paid,people got get paid,insurance has to be paid.................... 
Except for when you can't DYI anymore.  
There's that.
Not much love here for complainers.
Playing with expensive stuff is expensive.
It's a given. If you can make used stuff last at half price you are just lucky. Like surviving without a vaccination.
I recently had an amplifier valued at ~2500.00 that needed repair. Bill Thalmann quoted me a repair price of 1500.00. I weighed the options and decided to sell the amp back to the manufacturer for a loss. It was a tough pill to swallow but the amp was 25+ years old and it seemed like the best course. I didn't find fault with Bill's assessment, it seemed fair to me. 

I also had a pair of Canary Audio monoblocks a few years ago and one blew an output transformer. I was quoted a price to fix the one amplifier that approached the resale value of both amps.  Not to mention a round trip from the east to the west coast. I went the same route that time too. Just part of the cost of being in this hobby. Win some, lose some.


Opening your wallet for service is never pleasant. Especially audio gear repair.

Suck it up, and listen to your stereo.

Who would've thunk, electronics repair would now be a highly specialized thing?
Unlike some of the "deep pockets" around here, I’m sympathetic though I’m not so surprised about the hourly rate as by the time required. An explanation about why the repairs required 14 hours might make the final bill easier to accept. Fourteen hours seems a lot. Inserting (plug-in?) chipsets seems like it should have taken maybe 5 minutes, but that’s 7 hours per amp...so a full day on each. Did you supply the replacement chipsets or did they? AND were they the ones to diagnose bad chipsets as the problem?? Diagnosing would certainly add to the time required. I’m no EE and haven’t a clue how deeply buried inside the amps the chipsets were. Maybe there was a good deal of careful parts removal to get to their location? Afterwards reassembly and warm up followed by some (re-biasing or other "tuning"?) with bench testing on a ’scope?? Maybe even actually playing some music to confirm successful repair! Might help to ask for details about what the job entailed.

PS - not to add fuel to your fire but $1971/14 = $140.79 per hour.  Given the quoted $120 per hour, maybe that does include cost of the chipsets.
"...I feel like a cheap old bastard :-). Final reply on this subject..."

I feel your pain, $2000 for a repair is a lot of money but if it goes back in service for another decade or more, probably well spent.  
Just realize the subject of the thread, when I finally looked in..

Classe 600 monoblocks.
I nearly worked on one, once (last year). I regained my senses at the last minute... and since classe had been reborn, so to speak, I had the store involved send it back to classe.

I’ll take on just about anything, electronically, a good electronics fistfight and beatings (emerge with black eyes but triumphant) or whatever... but that amp ... is a bit of a bear, to say the least. This, when I spent a good 20 years repairing audio commando style --- no schematics, ever. Is one a tech or a board swapper? Lets see who’s really got it, or not...can you hang with the tough crowd, or will you crash and burn? What does one do when discipline, logic, brains, and patience are required?

Any tech looking inside of it and seeing what it is.... and dealing with a ’ghost in the machine’, with overbearing unknown software that serves as a lock out on error.... means that finding that ghost, from a position of ignorance about the circuit... makes buying lottery tickets look like a better idea.

One of those ones that should be left with the orignal company that made it. They are really not all that common, these overbearingly complex unknowns about complex unknowns... but this is one of them. I hate giving in and and rarely do, but this was one of those rare times.

These are not all that common and you are from the Kingston area?

Maybe it was your amp that I turned down repairing...
A lot of very good points made by many here.  Very good posts.

As some mentioned, exactly how long does it take to diagnose where exactly the problem is?  That actually takes more time than pretty much anything else.  The OP mentioned two chipsets.  Well, how long did it take to find that the problem was the two chipsets? 

Typically, unless the amp displays error codes like modern cars, the tech has to start in certain sequence and move forward.

For example, disconnect everything from the power supplies and see if the power supplies are actually working.

If so, connect one side of the amp to the power supply, see if it works, then disconnect that side and connect the other.  Slowly bring up the voltage.

These are just small examples. 

Diagnose the protection circuitry, etc.  yep, I hate to tell you but, these take some time.  Unless I knew exactly what the problem originally was, I would take my time and go in sequence.
So, the time spent, actually does make sense to me.

I work on electronics all the time and I also restore classic cars and I work on cars also.

I own and restored a 1983 Volvo 244 Turbo.  It had a low oil pressure reading on the gauge and the idiot light.  Know what the problem was?  wasn't the gauge or wiring, wasn't the oil pump, bearings, etc.  it was a stupid five cents o ring on the oil pickup tube.  yep.  had to drop the oil pan (stupidly difficult on this car), had to move the steering rack and lots of other things to get that oil pan off, remove the oil pump tube.

This took an entire weekend.

So, having worked on (and still to) and repair and upgrade audio equipment, I can tell you that although it took them some time, I can see why it might have.


Big mouth (me)  is back again to shed some additional light. I got charged $140 for the initial troubleshooting. This is their normal hourly rate. My guess is that it took them around 1 hour to identify the problem. This is when they identified the 2 defective chipsets.

So my question is how could you come up with a 14 hours of labor time, if you found the problem in around 1 hour?

The Classé Audio amp is well designed and modular. I opened up the amp cover to give a look at the location of these chipsets. To get access to these 2 chipsets will take an experienced technician a maximum of 1 hour. To unsolder/resolder the 2 chipsets, another hour. To put back the PC board back in place another hour. Testing + warmup + bias adjustments around 2 hours. So around 5 hours of repair time.

How do I know this?  I am a certified telecommunications technician and owned a telecommunications equipment repair facility for 9 years specializing in Cable TV equipment. The gear I repaired included RF amplifiers, line power supplies, spectrum analysers, modulators, frequency processors , satellite receivers, field strength meters, etc. I repaired test gear during those 9 years and never spent more than a day on the most difficult repair tasks.

Why did I not repair my amp myself you may ask? I did not want to get personnaly involved in this repair, since I am retired from the workforce and do not have access to test gear. So this is when I decided to send the equipment to United Audio.

I don't get it, they gave you an estimate, you let them do the work then you say it's too much money. If you didn't like the price of the estimate you shouldn't of had them do the work. 
14 hours is ridiculous. You could build an amp in that time. Everyone wants to cover expenses and make a chunk of change on top. I went through a bathroom remodeling and analyzed the contractor's estimate with him. He couldn't account for $13,000 on a $27,000 and admitted it was payola.
Take a look at Marcello Rostagni’s YouTube of the Ampsandsound Nautilus and it’s creator Justin Weber (Google those search words and you will find it) or simply go to the Ampsandsound website and read the much shorter design philosophy there. Cliff Note version; simple tubed circuits are simply and cheaply repairable and enduring. Complex solid state circuits are not. Those Classe monoblocs are the epitome-for now-of the latter. As others have analogized to cars, it is a hell of a lot less expensive to repair a ‘67 Ford Mustang than a 2021 Tesla S. As I type this I am listening to amazing sound coming from an Aurender W20 streaming Qobuz to an SW1X DAC III Balanced through an ARC Ref 6 to a Luxman 750u head amp to ZMF Aeolus cans tied together with $5,000 plus of cabling. So I have the whole gamut of simple to complex. You made your choice and now you have to deal with it. Sorry for relating the inconvenient truth. 
Another +vote for Bill Thalmann for those close to Virginia.

Happy Listening!
Mmmm, did that include the price of the chipsets?  You paid full boat + mark-up....

Proper dis- & re-assembly, testing before & after, time spent discerning and ordering the proper replacements, blah blah....

Still seems a bit much, but...it's not my business to fix your bits.
Nice bits, bills the fits.

Skill & experience counts....your $, as it changes hands. ;)
I’m not in the US, but I have never found that good audio repair has to be expensive. It is amazing the services you can turn up with a little ’outside the box’ research.
I found a guy less than 10 miles from me who has thousands of hours experience, and works out of a workshop in his back garden. I have taken equipment of all sorts both valve and SS to him for repair, and have never been disappointed at the results or the price. So the right service at the right price is probably available somewhere near you, it’s probably just not well advertised so you haven’t found it. https://www.facebook.com/RussAudio-258730347512577
This is a job I had done recently at around £350 https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=4158294247556148&id=258730347512577
There is a modification that he did FOC that isn’t mentioned there, he also added a few components to elevate the heaters by 50 Volts.
This is another job I had done at around £450 https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=4009448215774086&id=258730347512577
imho, it’s poor form to play Monday morning quarterback when you failed to perform the necessary due diligence of getting a second opinion when you had doubts about the original estimated cost of repair.  
I know first hand that quality audio equipment repair doesn’t come cheaply, but the price the OP got charged seems exorbitant.  
It is often the case that repair places will charge a fixed rate for the diagnosis, such as the one hour time, even though it might take much longer.  The fixed rate protects the customer; the customer is not charged for several hours only to find out the item is unrepairable.  That $140 does not cover the expense and time involved in unboxing, potentially boxing up and shipping the item if a repair is not attempted, so there is some incentive for the shop to investigate even this exceeds that one hour diagnostic time, with the hope of recouping the extra cost via the repair job.  If the repair is approved, I would expect that extra time diagnosing to be added to the total repair time.

As to the total of 14 hours, this does seem to be a lot of time, but, you seem to have the experience to have made an assessment at the time an estimate was provided.  If you had told them this was too much and you would just pay for the assessment and you want the amps back, they might have found a way to lower the price.  The $140 to check out your amp and do nothing else would clearly be a loss to the shop.  I don't like to haggle, so I would have probably just accepted the estimate, but, this is clearly an issue with you; the problem is that you should have acted before, not after, the repair.
@dasign I get you.

However, knowing/diagnosing what area in an amp is the problem is not the same as knowing what circuit(s) is the culprit.

I can determine that the protection board is the problem, but, unless (like most repair shops), I replace the entire circuit board with a new one, I decide to take the time (and yes this really does take time) to find out which components are the culprit (in this case, two chips), then, this will take substantial time.

14 hours is not unreasonable.  People are commenting as if it is obvious that the two chips were the problem on that circuit.  It could just as well have been capacitors, transistors, or worse diodes.  you (as a technician) have to take the time and use standard testing techniques to find out.

Again, this is why many replace the entire circuit board instead of taking the time to find the actual component and remove and replace it.  In many cases, that circuit board (stuffed by-the-way) is unobtainable.  So, you are left with finding the actual failed circuit component and fixing it.

I have several units where I know which circuit board is at fault.  But, this circuit board has all kinds of components on it that could be the problem, including on-board mounted integrated circuits.  And very small ones at that.  Try, just try to un-solder those and put new ones on.  They are a bear.

Ever try to repair a Mark Levinson 23.5 amp?  Great amp even today, but that amp is a serious PITA to work on.

My point?  unless you actually worked on that particular unit yourself and had the same problem, you have no clue how difficult is would be to diagnose (not just the culprit circuit board, but the actual failed component on that particular circuit board), remove the failed items (on-board mounted circuits are a royal pain) and install the new ones, test it and make sure that it works.


$2k is a lot of money. Hopefully the second monoblock stays problem free for a few years. Just like cars, some models are simpler to work on than others. I believe the old Pontiac Fiero had to have the engine lifted to just change the spark plugs. I’m not certain how one would shop for an amp and know how simple it is to repair one before purchasing. My FirstWatt j2 looks fairly simple inside compared to the innards of other amps I have seen

I saw this place in Brooklyn that repairs Classe. http://www.highendaudiorepair.com/cd-players-cd-transports.html It would be interesting to find out (I know its probably not possible) what they would charge for same repair. 
Ya probably could have hired the engineers who designed it to fix it for 1/2 that rate. Hourly rate to me was quite high. Low overhead business. Biggest variable on cost is pricing in risk of destroying your stuff.
I've dealt with United for several years,  mainly with Consumer level receivers, amplifiers, etc.  I've also been in the AV business most of my life and have owned all kinds of the good stuff as well.  Being in the business and having to deal with Customer Support all these years, CS has really gone down the tubes with a lot of the Vendors, esp. this past year. You can't blame Covid for poor CS, in most cases, I believe.  Business that care about there Customers will find a way to make things work, or at least give it there best shot.  So where am I going w/ all of this?  I've had 3 high end receivers that were sent into United this past year on separate occasions.  I have not experienced the level of quality that they provided by any service center that I can ever remember.  I filled out their forms, sent the pieces in, got an email response when they were received at United, plus received a status call on when it was shipped, and a follow up after I received it. The repairs took less time than they had estimated as well.  Needless to say, I'm impressed with there service, esp. with all that is going on. It made me want to do better at what I do, too.   I can also tell you that a lot of the manufactures aren't taking in equipment for repair because of the parts shortage that's out there.  A friend of mine works in a very High-End audio store, and when you walk into one of the rooms there are stacks of products sitting there waiting to get an RMA so they can get it fixed or replaced.  There are some products out there that have been at the Manufacture for over a year, waiting for parts.  The largest DAC chip manufacturer burned down in Japan last year and it's affected AV, Automobiles, etc.   Anyway, it's ugly out there in the electronics world.   That's my soapbox!
The OP may or may not have a point about his experience with United, BUT I do believe that there are now numerous examples of the ’repair’ shop trying to gouge the customer. Just yesterday I called up my car dealer for a simple oil and filter change. Since I have a newer vehicle, I prefer to go to the authorized dealer for service. The dealer tells me that they won’t just do an oil and filter change, they have to check that the headlights work, the windshield wipers work, the turn signals work and the tires have the proper tread life remaining. Therefore, the cost of the ’service’ is about $650-, of which the oil change portion is about one quarter. ( which is still pricey). So, what happens when i ask how much are they charging for checking that the headlights work, I get a laugh as a response ( I kid you not!). DO you guys think this kind of attitude/business plan and CS is acceptable, after all I knew the estimate up front?
Ya probably could have hired the engineers who designed it to fix it for 1/2 that rate. Hourly rate to me was quite high. Low overhead business.
You do not know what you are talking about. Proper electronics repair requires a suite of test equipment and personnel capable of using it. Neither come cheap. Then there’s rent, insurance and all the costs associated with running a real business that has earned its reputation over a period of decades. So it’s a very different overhead requirement than you starting up as an Amway rep.
Minorl and abg2018, thank you for some good insight and personal experience.  I think you have added to my understanding of what goes into a service request.  Given how little the owner of the gear can actually know about the actual cost of the repair, it is easy to suspect that one has been taken advantage of by the shop.  It helps to know that that might not be the case.
I fully understand what you are saying. However, an experienced technician should easily find its way through the amp troubleshooting process and identify the faulty component(s). After a few years of experience, my technicians knew exactly or had a pretty good idea of the cause of any malfunction, on any specific manufacturer’s equipment.
When I had my repair shop, my most experienced technicians were working on the more complex gear. They never spent more than a work day to fix sophisticated telecommunications equipment. The rookie technicians were working on the less complex gear.

In a situation where the tech is having difficulties troubleshooting the gear, they could always ask a senior tech to help them out. Worse comes to worse, we contacted the manufacturer’s engineering department to get additional support.

United Radio is the exclusive Classé Audio service center for NA. They have access to the amp’s schematics and Classé Audio’s engineering department which is still located in Montreal, Canada.