Monday, September 05, 2005

Brasso cleans up!

Working in a HiFi shop has got to be one of the best jobs in the world. It's a collision of music and electronics.

I have an old Pioneer stereo amplifier (by 'old' I mean 'good' - before they started making mass market junk amplifiers). The RCA sockets had been slowly tarnishing away, unseen at the back, having never been cleaned. Quite a lot of corrosion had taken place over the years, and I had noticed that the sound wasn't as clear as it used to be. This is because metals oxidise when exposed to the air, forming a layer of insulating crud on the surface. This layer adds resistance to the signal path, allowing less current to pass through. Result? Reduced sound quality. In extreme cases, you get crackling through the speakers and the sound may even cut out intermittently. Bad.
(Incidentally, this is why cheap speaker cables are a false economy. Copper turns dull brown, and then green when it oxidises. What colour is your speaker cable?)

So I tried cleaning them up with Brasso metal polish*.
What a difference! I couldn't remove all of the corrosion on all the terminals, so I may end up replacing the old RCA's with new ones. But even so, I couldn't believe it. It was like coming home to a brand new amplifier!

I tested the newly revived amp with Squarepusher's "Go! Plastic", which has got to be one of the best test discs ever - lots of lovely hard digital edges and furniture-moving bass. (You may want to remove the china collection.) I have played this in the HiFi shop, to the astonishment and confusion of all. My boss' comment was "If you walked into a club, and they were playing this, what would be the first thought you would have?"
"Probably: 'I'm in the wrong place' " was my answer. In fact, I'd thought about slipping it into our $10,000 Wadia CD player, and telling him that it was broken, as a joke. If you've ever heard Squarepusher, you'll know what I mean.

*CAVEAT EMPTOR! Don't use Brasso on gold-plated terminals. I haven't tried it, but my guess is that it will eat away the plating, leaving you with shiny steel terminals.


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