Do any of you like cool lights and cool displays on your audio gear? If so, will you publicly admit it? I will.
I had always found the dim, anemic, pastel purplish-blue power switch LED's on my JC 1 amps to be aesthetically inappropriate for a big, burly amp. Three guests have specifically commented on the lack of brightness of the JC 1's power switch LED's. One guest, after comparing the dim lights of the JC 1's to the bright, star-like LED's on my preamp, phono preamp, SACD player, and wireless router, asked if there was something wrong with the amp's lights.
Over time, the dim, anemic, pastel purplish-blue LED's began to distract from my musical enjoyment...sort of like an otherwise very beautiful woman with a dark mustache.
I decided to take corrective action. But first, I contacted Parasound to ask if replacing the stock LED's with brighter ones would void the warranty or cause any other unforeseen problems. I was advised that replacing the LED would not void the warranty or cause problems, but the entire face plate would have to be dismantled and I should send the amps back to Parasound or to an authorized service center to have the LED's replaced. Sure Mac....sure. I'd be thrilled to pack up nearly 150 pounds of amplifiers and pay shipping both ways just to have the LED's switched out.
The fellow I consulted with talked like replacing the LED's was the electronic equivalent of brain surgery. I assured the technical service rep that I had adequate experience with this sort of thing and thanked him for his counsel. I also asked about purchasing a service manual and I was told that SM's for current products are only sold to service centers.
During the course of my research on LED alternatives, I ran across some posts on Audio Asylum that discussed a problem with the power switch LED's on some earlier JC 1's burning out prematurely. There were also some complaints about the power switch LED dimness and color.
Figure 1. The JC 1's stock power switch LED paled into insignificance
compared to the bright blue LED's of my preamps...or even to that of
the red "P" LED above the name plate...or even to that of my wireless
Cosmetic Surgery Procedure
Figure 2. Use care when removing and replacing the 14 flathead hex screws on top and 3 flathead hex screws on each side of the faceplate. The screw heads are easily sheared off if too much force is used. By the way, replacement screws are $3.00 each plus $6.95 shipping. Be careful now.;)
Figure 3. After the top cover and side covers are removed, three Phillips screws must be removed from an aluminum retaining bar.
Figure 4. After the top cover, side plates, retaining bars and faceplate end caps are removed, remove 5 Phillips screws from the bottom of the faceplate.
Use care when handling the faceplate end caps. They are made of plastic and are easily scratched. I don't know if the plastic end caps were a cost cutting measure or if they have some practical design purpose. Every other part on the outer case is either milled or stamped aluminum.
You can use either of two methods to access the screws on the bottom of the faceplate. I had the amplifier resting on a smooth cotton sheet over a granite counter top. It was easy to slide the amp forward just enough for the front edge of the faceplate to extend over the edge of the counter top. Alternatively, you could carefully turn the amp on either side. The faceplate (on my JC 1's) fit snugly over the frame, so it did not just fall off when the last 5 screws were removed. After the bottom screws are removed, ease the amp back into the workplace position and gently slide the faceplate forward until it comes off and then slide it to your right side.
The faceplate will not come completely off unless you disconnect the wires running to the red "P" LED and the thermal warning LED. However, it is really not necessary to disconnect those LED's in order to access the power switch LED board.
It took 11 minutes to take the faceplate apart and access the power switch LED board and another 10 minutes to replace the LED. The most difficult part of the process was removing, transporting, and reinstalling the amps.
Figure 5. The wires leading from the power switch LED circuit board are bound to other wires behind the frame front. A binding strap must be cut to separate the LED wire ribbon so that the board can be removed and brought forward to work on.
Figure 6. How faint. The blue LED is just a common 5 millimeter diameter LED with an intensity of 300 mcd (millicandelas).The pastel purplish-blue light comes from mixing the light from the red and blue LED's.
Figure 7. The stock 300 mcd LED was replaced with a bright blue LED with an intensity of 3460 mcd. This equated to a increase in light intensity 4 times greater than the stock LED. I get pure bright blue light because the red LED's are "drowned out".
The replacement LED's are 5 mm diameter parts with a radiation angle of 15 degrees. They were purchased from LEDSupply.com and cost 88 cents each (part #L1-0-B5TH15-1).
Figure 8. If you decide to try this at home, please don't hold the teeny, tiny LED circuit board with your fingers. An unpleasant accident could occur with the desoldering and soldering irons that close to your fingers. Get help.
Figure 9. Post surgery, the power switch was surrounded by a bright blue halo.:)
Figure 10. If I sit the JC 1's directly on the audio cabinet bottom, the bottom of the door frames cover the power switch and thermal overload LED's. That is not a good thing. A couple of 16" x 18" x 2" solid maple cutting boards raised the JC 1's to the required visual height.
The cutting boards had no effect on the sound. Which is what I expected. The JC 1 has a highly damped frame and was designed to be highly resistant to sonic degradation due to internally and externally generated vibration. The cutting boards have the additional practical benefit of making the JC 1's much easier to slide in and out of my audio cabinet. By the way, those are just common kitchen cutting boards. I didn't believe that the much more expensive, audiophile approved, "isolation stand" cutting boards were warranted in this application.:)
Figure 11. Ahhhhh....much better. Now the JC 1's can keep up with the rest of the two channel light show.:) Such Good Light.