HH Scott 357 Recap (reprinted from Tone)
There is an old Russian saying that drinking beer without vodka is like throwing your money to the wind. When it comes to restoring vintage hifi, this translates as: make sure your unit is in great cosmetic shape before investing in a bunch of new capacitors. Replacing caps and transistors are as important as enjoying a tall crisp beer after a hard day of work, but if the tuner glass is cracked, your good intentions and cash are about to fly out the window.
Last month our friend Mike rolled into Gig Harbor Audio carrying a bubble wrapped HH Scott 357 solid state receiver. This receiver was a great example of a unit in excellent cosmetic shape, like it had just been removed from Don Draper’s Manhattan office. Mike’s father had played it gently over 25 years until moving it to storage in a dry, clean box for another 2 decades.
The HH Scott 357 is a compact, smart-looking receiver with an FM display that turns from green to warm red when the station locks in! Unlike the rat’s nest of wires hiding in an earlier HH Scott 222 tube integrated, the 357 is a neat and tidy 25 wpc receiver with a punch. Mike was willing to sink in some cash to get it sounding close to what it did when his dad purchased it in 1971. This unit was special because Mike had spent his wonder years enjoying it with his dad, and since it was in great cosmetic shape, he could probably get his money out of it if he had to. Now he can pour a couple icy shots of Grey Goose.
Restored, this mini powerhouse came in at $275 and with all new caps. Our goal with recapping is to get as close as possible to what something sounded like when it first came out within reason. We don’t hot rod units but instead restore them as best we can to deliver: happiness. On this 357 we overhauled the power supply and changed all power supply caps, recapped the tone board and tuner using Nichicon capacitors, re-lamped and cleaned the display, and cleaned all controls and switches with contact cleaner and DeOx-It.
Before giving a unit back to a customer we break it in for at least 4-5 days. There are parts in a restored unit, like Mike’s 357, that were not replaced because we considered them still good. These parts have not experienced a signal passing through them for 25 years and need to get a thorough stress test. Plus the new parts need to break in. Imagine a pair of shoes. They aren’t comfy until they contour to one’s feet over 1-2 weeks. Capacitors, speaker drivers, and even turntable cartridges are the same. They break in over periods of months, even years.
This brings up some of the choices of a tech. Recap every single section in the unit? What if the phono-stage still sounds quite nice and strong? If you recap it you might gain 20 more years of play, but you’ll lose the benefit of break-in courtesy of 25 years ofMantovani and Martin Denny LPs. We shoot for the best bang for the buck to enjoy a unit again.
This success story of Mike’s HH Scott 357 is in contrast to the many people who bring in similar units and ask why they should pay $275 to restore a receiver that they picked up at a thrift-shop for 25 bucks. Great question. If the unit holds no sentimental value of evenings with Mom and Dad, then the receiver might just not be that into you. A good tech will lay out what you’re getting into. A good tech will dissuade you from dropping a chunk of change into a unit that will be hard to re-sell. And the best tech will try his or her utmost to give you the context of a piece no matter what you paid for it and hopefully help you understand and give the proper respect to a piece of audio history no matter what shape it is in. Amplifiers and receivers found on the shelves of thrift stores, relative’s attics, and estate sales are pieces of art, and before the world of 24 hour Twitter feeds, FM tuners were portals from the outside world into a family’s living room.
This Scott 357 receiver now resides safe at Mike’s home. His Acoustic Research EB-101 turntable is plugged into the moving magnet Phono input. Simple tinned speaker wire goes from the receiver to his Klipsch 1.5 speakers which are actually on a bookshelf between Hemingway and Salinger. He uses the warm metal knob to go between Mozart on 98.1 FM and the new Denon DL110 stylus hovering above his turntable platter. A simple, stylish set-up that allows Patsy Cline to come to life. Now he can pour whatever drink he pleases, even if it is just a nice cup of Earl Grey. -Written by GHA