How to fix leaking capacitors in Adcom GFA-565, FOR GOOD!

Exciting! Newly manufactured circuit boards for the GFA-565 just arrived!

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New and old, respectively.

Why create new boards for an old amp? Exploding capacitors, that’s why.

A little background; The GFA-565 is infamous for sending speakers up in smoke, due to a bad batch of Elna capacitors that tend to explode and spray conductive electrolyte all over the board. (Pretty much every 565 ever made has this problem.) The fluid residue is conductive, making connections where there should be none, which causes a DC offset to appear on the speaker outputs. The DC smokes the speaker’s voice coil.

Repairing the board is no fun at all! The electrolytic fluid is vile and pernicious stuff—extremely corrosive, turning copper traces turn to crust, and blackening the board. It leaves an invisible conductive film and it’s very easy to miss a spot. It soaks into through-holes, and even gets on component leads. It’s a mess.

So, I had a customer with a pair of GFA-565’s with DC offset that had already been unsuccessfully serviced by another shop. (Frankly, it was poor quality work throughout. Electrical tape falling off bodgy solder joints, inappropriate replacement parts, etc. A cheap DC protection board was hacked in.) The offset was only 100mV or so, but the GFA-565 has a DC servo circuit, so it should be near zero. The DC servo was pegged to one side trying to correct this fault.

I stared in dismay at this disgusting circuit board. Besides the mangled copper traces, how can I be absolutely sure I’m removing every speck of electrolyte? The original evidence was gone.

I can’t be sure. So make new boards!

I stripped all the components off the board, and sanded the copper side down to bare metal, and scanned it on the flatbed. The copper turns out white in the image, so I flipped the color, and used the curves tool to split the image into a 2-color B&W image.

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But it was a fuzzy image that needed many hours of editing to get the clean result you see here.

gfa-565-traces

 

I call this one “Surprised clown / angry clown”.

Next, I needed to design the board in Eagle and have boards manufactured. I chose the Fusion PCB service from Seeed Studio on the recommendation of a friend.

They arrived today! Beautiful quality!

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Can’t wait to try them!

UPDATE: 5-12-2016

Board is populated!

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I found a bunch of minor errors along the way—hole sizes, lead spacing, clarity of text, and whatnot—and corrected them in Eagle CAD for the next batch of boards. But I’m confident this board will work great.

UPDATE: 06-03-2016

They work! On the first try too.

New circuit board installed in GFA-565
New circuit board installed in GFA-565

The torroid in the foreground is not original. This 565 has a custom power supply with 2x1000va transformers in place of the original 1250VA.

UPDATE: 7-19-2016:

Rev 2.0 boards arrived and they are even better! I can now say that these are better quality boards than the originals! These have plated through-holes for a more solid solder connection, and greater pad strength. They are also less affected by heat cycling. Even with poor soldering, a plated through-hole is extremely reliable.

UPDATE 5-22-17: These are the latest revision.

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6 thoughts on “How to fix leaking capacitors in Adcom GFA-565, FOR GOOD!

    1. Yes! I have four available right now. More on the way shortly. $35ea. If you’re interested, please send your email address and physical address to chris@hoppesbrain and I’ll send you an invoice that can be paid online. Thank! Chris

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  1. Hi Chris,

    I was curious to know what the cost of a no holds barred, no compromise restoration/upgrade for a pair of the Adcom GFA-565’s. I was wondering if the pair could be upgraded so that the circuit would be a true fully balanced dual differential design.

    Regards,

    Steve

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    1. Hi Steve,

      There are no holds barred with my refurbishing package for the 565. ($1080/pair) It’s even got 0.1% resistors. If you have a favorite brand of resistorsn capacitors, or whatever, they can be installed, but I doubt there is much more to be gained.

      It is a fully balanced, dual differential design already, but the input is single-ended. I have not investigated making it balanced input, but that could be a lot more difficult than it seems, and in my opinion, not worth it unless you actually have noise problems. It’s a dead-quiet amp.

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  2. There are amplifier repair services, There a Adcom specialist, & Then there is Chris Hoppe. Chris restored my GFA 5802 which was not a easy task given the factory flawed conditions/Other tech repairs that were discovered & refined through the restoration & stress testing revealed the weakness of the chassis design integrity along with other intricate issues that can only be found by attention to detail.
    This 5802 put Chris to the test & ultimately lessens learned by a passionate Adcom specialist were others would have gave up or misdiagnosed the problem Chris found the exact culprit which is specific to this Amplifier.So if you have a GFA 5802 that you want to perform better than new? (Like Mine) without question. Chris Hoppe is the Man!

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