Category Archives: Test Equipment Repairs

For some, it is like solving crossword puzzles: fixing defective test equipment. Preferably, mid-70 to early 90s vintage.

SME Tonearm Series V: a really THIN wire!

A rare guest in my workshop, a high class “SME Series V” tonearm, a great item for the audiophile! Unfortunately, the arm we are dealing with is not working – easily traces the issue to a broken wire. Wait – with the tone arms, you can’t just pull out the old wire and put in some odd wire – it needs to be 0.0127 mm2 seven-strand silver wire!

sme tonarm 1

sme wire

After some careful disassembly action, one of the wires was found broken at the needle end, easy enough, soldered it back on, followed by even more gentle and careful re-assembly of the unit.

tonarm wiring

All in all, nothing too difficult, but not an everydays’ task, and it made a friend of mine, the proud owner, happy again!

HP 8569A Spectrum Analyzer: A shaky fix

Coming back to an earlier post, 8569A CRT DONOR NEEDED, I was desperately looking for a new CRT for an old 8569A.

After some hints of a kind reader of this blog, I decided to give the box another try, and removed the CRT. There was nothing wrong with the grounding, or the Aquadaq coverage, but at least, there was a sign of defect – a glass chip rattling loose inside the CRT. Turned the CRT with the face to the ground and gave it a few good hits. Reconnected everything (with carefully inserting the CRT back in the box). There result – all working great again. Seems that a piece of glass got stuck in CRT deflection unit, and caused the distortion of the screen. Appears to be a pretty rare defect, but at least, the CRT should be good for now (unless you sit the 8569A on the back feet so that the glas piece can get stuck again in the deflection unit).

Still, some more trouble with this unit:

(1) Rebuild the switch assembly and reference level encoders, about 3 hours of work, and a lot of tiny M1.2 screws, etc.

(2) Some start-up issues: the 8569A would sometimes only start when the “reset” button is pushed. Checked the EPROMs – and, one of them corrupted. Replaced the whole set, just to be sure. These are all TMS2516 EPROMs (let me know if you need the good binary images).

8569a differences

(3) Still more tedious work, replacing the mains filter… many wires… and the mains filter X2 cap.


Now, some quick tests: sensitivity test of all bands, and at 18 GHz, all to specification!


Also checked the power reference, with the best two powder meters at hand, all reading to at least 0.1 dB with no adjustments.


This repair is done, but please, don’t put this 8569A on its rear feet!

Marantz Stereo Amplifier PM-14 MkII: explosive silicon

A heavy beauty, a Marantz Amplifier, PM-14. Certainly worth a detail look – according to the owner, the left channel is not working, and some smoke escaped along with burned smell.

No wonder – the two main transistors of the left channel are blown, say, exploded. And, upon further inspection, also the traces leading to the transistors, at least some of the traces – evaporated.


This is the full view of the left channel amp (right channel is quite similar, but mirror image – some components placed at slightly different positions.



Some burnt resistors replaced…


The board is double sided, but not through-plated, and the quality, well, is not all that good – needs to be soldered with care, otherwise the traces will lift.

After some further checks, fitted a new set of transistors (ISC brand, China – still better than some fake “Sanken” transistors), but to the biggest disappointment, when switching on, these exploded in a loud BANG when adjusting the idle current. Well, turns out that also one of the earlier stages had a short transistor 2SA1145. More testing revealed another defect, a dead Zener (exchanged both Zener, to make sure that there are no issues with temperature drifts etc.).

With all these things fixed, time for a test, using a HP 8903A, and a scope. The HP 8903A is really handy, if your are into any quality audio repairs.

The test setup –


Distortion measured at several frequencies, and several volts RMS at the output (using a 5.6 Ohm dummy load – just because I didn’t want to take out the 4 Ohm precision load for these power levels). -80 dB total harmonic distortion+noise, not bad.




The front view – it has the classic Marantz indicator, for best sound, wait until it has warmed up.



As a reference, just in case you need it, the service manual Marantz PM-14 Service Manual. Or, just send me a message, or the come along with your dead amplifier.

HP 8640B Signal Generator: A new divider

The veritable 8640B generator, a marvel of engineering and still remarkable design today, it has reached an age where repair is often hampered by obsolete parts – sure, you can search for a donor unit or some NOS parts in some far away places, but in other cases, it is more practical to replace the circuitry with some new parts, especially, if the circuit is easily tested and verified.

This applies to the pre-scaler/frequency counter, which is an essential part of the 8640B, at least, if you want to use its internal counter (the 8640B is not PLL controlled).

Thanks to a kind contributor, Bodo, here a brief story of the repair:

(1) Symptom: the 8640B showed irregular frequency counts, completely unrelated to the expected output frequency. First consideration was a defective band switch (which has a cracked Delrin gear), but test with a spectrum analyzer revealed a perfectly good signal. Connecting a 0-10 MHz signal to the external counter input also gave perfectly good counting.

(2) After study of the schematic, the issue could be traced to the RF scaler, which is located in a die-cast cavity. Note that there are various versions of this board, but all feature some ECL logic ICs, with high power consumption.

prescaler 8640b assemblly

(3) Further tests showed that the first divider, :2 was defective.

(4) There are several ways to fix this. Here, the complete divider chain was replaced by a U644BS, available in DIP8. This IC is quite common in old TV tuners. There were also several projects in popular electronics magazines of the 90s to use the U664 as a pre-scaler up to 1.3 GHz.

Datasheet U664B U664BS

Picture of a random tuner from the web, using a U664B:
prescaler tuner

With the external input, the 8640B is counting up to 900MHz, sensitivity is better than -25dBm.

Note that the U866BS is self-oscillating (not a problem, because the 8640B oscillator is permanently attached for internal counting).

The modified prescaler board under test:

prescaler 8640b u664bs under test

One side effect is the much lower temperature of the RF scaler (much lower power consumption of the U664BS vs. the old ECL logic).

Finally, this is the schematic, the signal is connected from a-INPUT to b-OUTPUT.

prescaler 8640b schematic

HP 8569A Spectrum Analyzer: Any organ (ehh, CRT) donors out there

This 8569A came from the US, purchased by a local HAM operator, and in need of repair. Some switches don’t move nicely, so it seems liked a regular repair job of a 8569A.

First issue, 5 minutes after turn-on, where not the switches, but a blown mains capacitor (aging X2 grade capacitor). Well, this is easy to fix.

With the instrument powered on, it quickly became evident that the there is some distortion of the display, in particular, in the upper section of the CRT. This is not a common fault, and hard to explain other than by a broken deflection system of the CRT.

To be absolutely sure that no other assemblies are causing this defect, the X-Y deflection signals were coupled to a working 8569A, and indeed, no distortion visible.

The CRT display of a working 8569A – with the X-Y signals of routed from the unit that shows the distortions:

Sure, the display is not quite synced (also because of the extension leads with alligator clips). How to proceed? Well, this will need a 8569A CRT for repair, from a donor unit. Let’s hope, at least for the HAM friend that one will come around soon.

Dual CV 1600 Stereo Amplifier: a real HiFi classic with some capacitor smoke, and a very large dropout voltage regulator

This one is a real gem, a stereo amplifier, Made in Germany, and nicely constructed in the 1970s, using mostly discrete parts.

cv1600 front

Some issues are common to all old amplifier, like, defective switches, aged contacts, and so on, but these can be fixed with good contact spray, or by (mechanical) repairs. For the CV 1600, most common fault is the X2 mains capacitor, 47 nF, which will eventually turn into smoke and stench. Be sure to replace this part, if you have a CV 1600.

The 47 nF X2 rated cap is located on a fuse board, and to get access, you need to remove all the transistor wires. This is best done with great care, and without damaging the wires, otherwise, it is quite laborious to connect everything back up again.


This CV 1600 also had another issue, no signal from the distribution amplifier board. Some first check showed issues with the +15 V rail being stuck at ~7V. Probably a defective Tantalum or other capacitor? Probably not – not much current flowing either, so it is not related to a short at the output.


Inspecting the regulator – it is a TO-202 LM341p15, pretty rare nowadays.

dav dav[/caption]

No heatsink on the regulator, so I got a bit worried with the dissipation of TO-202 vs. TO-220 devices – all I have in stock are TO-220 regulators, LM78xx series.

cv1600 to202 vs to220

lm341p15 to202

lm7815 to220 heat resistance

After inspection of the datasheets – nothing to worry about. Pretty similar heat resistance, junction to ambient. Voltage drop is about 10 V, current roughly 50 mA, so, 0.5 W – roughly 30 K temperature rise.

A quick test with a 5.6 Ohms, 250 W dummy load showed no further issues (except an incorrectly installed signal cable, probably from an earlier attempt of someone else to fix this unit?).

Finally, some performance data of the CV 1600.

cv1600 data

HP 6115A Precision Power Supply: repair complete!

No repair can proceed, without sufficient time, and without the right spare parts. Time was very much occupied by other business recently, spares took time to ship from Greece to Germany… the 2N6211 transistors.

Here they are – the 2N3442 are China-made (ISC) transistors of rather recent production, the 2N6211 date back to 1992.
Not much to write about the further repair, mounted the transistors on the heat sink, soldered-on the cables, replaced the Zener diodes of the main board (series regulator bias), and switched the 6115A on. Success! Some minor calibration of the panel meter. Other than that, all in good shape.


Various things can be measured to verify the correct operation of the 6115A, here just a quick test checking all the ranges, linearity, and deviations. In short, it is very much more accurate than the 0.025% + 1 mV output accuracy specification.




After a full cool-down, checked the stability/drift after a cold start, with the output programmed to 10 volts. It is ramping up nicely, with some very minor “instability” during the first hour, but then stabilizing to almost perfect level. This is with no load. Sure it may degrade a bit under full load, fair enough (horizontal axis shows measurement number, period is about 0.3 s per measurement).


Finally, this is the working precision supply.


HP 6115A Precision Power Supply: not just one defect mixed with a lot of precision

The HP 6115A is a really great power supply, 0-50 V @0.8 Amp, 50-100 V @0.4 Amp, 0.0005% load and line regulation, 0.01% current regulation, 100 uV p-p ripple, 0.0015% drift over 8 hours, 0.025 + 1 mV accuaracy of output voltage, all in all, challenging design objectives still today. Unfortunately, the unit discussed here has not any of these characteristics, it is dead, and missing the current adjustment pot.


At least, it is a reasonable clean unit, and at a first glance, nothing major, like a completely melted board or smoking transformer. Judging from the soldering, someone already tried to fix it but gave up mid-way. Sure, I will not give up with this supply too soon.

First things first – the current pot, a 10 turn 1 k, HP part 2100-1864 (Bourns 3540S): missing. Looking around in my parts collection – but no luck. At the very bottom of a stack of old electronics junk, a WTW 610 pH meter from the 1970s. This is used to convert pH electrode signals, to proper voltages, but even more important, it has 2 pcs 1k Helipot 7276 series 1 k pots. These are 20 ppm tempco, even better than the Bourns (50 ppm).




With the 1 kOhm pot fitted, still no function. About 60 V at the output, and the current limit LED lit, regardless of current or voltage setting.

Looking around inside – a few issues found. There are several uncommon parts, like, a STB523 = 1N4830 voltage stabilizer, which is more or less a stack of 3 Si diodes. These parts are not commonly available anymore, so I replaced the defect regulator diode with a series assembly of three 1N4148 diodes.



Found a few more issues, several blown Zener diodes, all around the Q1-Q4 transistors. This is not good, because it may indicate some blown power transistors. And if fact, it did not take long to find out that Q1 has a full B-E-C short, and Q4 is C-B short, E-C, E-B open. No wonder that this disturbed the bias network Zeners, VR3, VR4.


The transistors, 2N3442 NPN (Q1-Q3), and 2N6211 (PNP, high voltage power TO-66), at least the latter, not quite common – on order from an xbay seller in Greece, 5 EUR a piece of old and obsolete part, OK!
The power transistor board was an awful mix of bad soldering and flux, finally, cleaned and most of the solder removed.


Found another defect – no voltage on C8, one of the main capacitors. Reason: a blown trace, from tap 16 of the transformer. Temporary fix with a yellow wire….


After some repairs, at least the basic voltages and supplies are up and working again, all capacitors tested, and working fine. Also reviewed the regulator board and its voltages (not shown in below diagram, red cross means dead part removed, green cross means part absent but tested good), all is fine and working.


Note the working principle of the series pass regulator – it is a dual range setup, with a high voltage regulator, Q1 and the low voltage regulator Q2/Q3, all driven by the common Q4. Diodes CR11 and CR12 (a dual-diode element) is directing the current from the appropriate transformer DC supply (2 equal DC voltages of about 80 Volts are generated from two separate windings).


Apart from a 1N829 0.0005% tempco temperature compensate diode, there is another remarkable part used in the circuit, a 10 ppm 10 turn trimmer – not quite cheap, and still available today!


This is the current state of the instrument, waiting for the spare transistors, before I can put it back together, and hopefully, put it back in service.


HP 83572A RF Plug-in 26.5-40 GHz: only a fuse away from the highest frequencies

Not one of the most preferred things to repair – a rather rare 26.5-40 GHz sweeper plug-in, not producing any output. Despite its rather simple function as a signal source, typically, not easy to fix if any of the microwave parts are faulty. New, close to 18 kUSD, so it is nothing you can easily replace from a hobby budget, and 26.5-40 GHz sources are not easy to come by.



Inside, all full of heatsinks, and a few waveguides.


The modulator.


The YTO. Not many companies around that can manufacture such devices.


First thing to test, with no output present – the YIG oscillator. This has two main items: the bias supply, which is more or less just a variable voltage power supply which is tuned along with the frequency sweep. Secondly, the main tuning coil current, providing the magnetic field for the YTO. Checked both – and found the bias supply at 0 Volts. No wonder there is no output.


Upon inspection of the schematic, I noticed the fuse, which is rather hidden down on the motherboard. And, it was blown. No idea why – maybe just because of its age? Sure enough, HP did not use just any ordinary fuse, but a BUSS GMW model.


USD 9 per piece – that’s a steep price for a fuse.


Cut the fuse open, and connected a 5×20 mm European style fuse. All protected by a piece of shrink tubing.


Well, an about 1 hour later, the YTO is oscillating again, and you can see a nice and strong signal, well over 90 dB useful range, to test attenuators, or whatever 26.5-40 GHz device you want to put to test.



HP 8566B Spectrum Analyzer: A19 board, YTO unlock, bad precision trimmer(s)

Not the first HP 8566B on the bench, and not the first at all showing the famous “YTO unlock” message. Most of these YTO unlock message issues can be traced to defective capacitors, but not this time.

With the 8566B, take my advise, don’t touch any of the assemblies if you aren’t really sure which one is at fault, it is a fairly complex machine. To troubleshoot, a microwave counter is handy, to check the LO frequency.


Next, the PLL was disengaged by disconnecting the cable from the sampler/LO pll. Still, no good LO frequency output. This leaves two main assemblies to be checked, the LO pretune DAC, and the YTO driver assembly, A19 and A20, respectively.

Quickly traced the issue to the A19 DAC assembly, and luckily enough, had a spare one around, albeit, an older version. After swapping the boards, it was confirmed that the A19 assembly is really the faulty part.



Next – desoldered all the capacitors at one end, but, to my surprise, all useless work, all caps in best working order, even after 25+ years!
Checked various components, and finally, found some issue with the precision trimmers – seems a cold or aged solder joint. To be sure the the fix is as permanent as possible, all the trimmers were removed, the solder connections cleaned, and all installed back in. Easy fix, all working again.

With this unit, there was no intention to do a full calibration, but as an extra service, I checked the power at the reference signal outlet – see below. Quite amazing how accurate, and pretty sure that this unit hadn’t been at a cal lab for at least 15 years….. this is really a superb level of lasting precision and quality, and ingenious engineering.