EICO HF-81 integrated amplifier Restoring Vintage Hi-Fi Equipment

Sidebar 3: Restoring Vintage Hi-Fi Equipment

The EICO HF-81 was restored by Sam Kim at Sam's Audio Labs, in Montreal, Canada. The work done included replacing the output and filtering capacitors and all out-of-tolerance resistors, rebuilding the volume control, rewiring the undercarriage, and resoldering every connection.

Sam Kim's restorations are not the drop-in-and-solder jobs I'm used to. I've replaced coupling and filter caps in many components but have never taken the time to rewire, resolder, and check out the circuit to determine which values of modern-day parts are the best choices. Sam Kim does.

I compared the restored unit to two other HF-81s, and Sam Kim's restoration was superior in detail retrieval, soundstaging, and low-frequency extension and speed. This was the unit I sent to John Atkinson for bench testing.

A second HF-81 from a prior restoration was sent to Sam's Audio Labs for identical work and consistency testing. This unit's coupling caps were replaced with designer-grade Auricaps provided by Audience (footnote 1). Auricaps are metalized polypropylene capacitors precision-wound in the US, and are considered by many to be the finest DC-application capacitors available.

Restoring audio equipment is an art form. Over the years, I've listened to many restorations but have yet to experience, see, or hear anything close to the work done by this humble man. I place Sam Kim in the company of the Audio Gods: Hiroyasu Kondo of Audio Note and Nobu Shishido of Wavac (both of whom are no longer with us), and Noriyasu Komuro of Komuro Audio Labs. Sam Kim is a master audio artist who has memorized more than 500 schematics. One of 20 men selected in the 1960s by the Korean Government for training in PhD-level electronics engineering, he was the top engineer in the Korean Radio Regulation Department of the Ministry of Communication. He now lives modestly in Montreal, where he performs restorations that capture the magic of music.—Peter Breuninger

Footnote 1: Auricaps are available from all major suppliers of electronic parts. See the Audience website for dealers and ordering information.
EICO, Electronic Instrument Company
853 Broadway, New York, NY (1999)
no longer in business (2006)