Mike Solomons: Repairer
Walking encyclopedia on hi-fi & audio
While trawling the Internet again, I came across a small
radio & hi-fi business in north Harrow. The owner, Mike Solomons, turned out to have 40
years' experience of repairing radios and hi-fi equipment. Not only that, he seemed to be a
walking encyclopaedia on audio and hi-fi equipment, and, as I later found out, receives a
constant stream of phone calls and e-mails from members of the public wanting to consult the
'oracle' about audio and hi-fi products and their reparability, among other
Repair workshop on Henson's premises
After an exchange of e-mails, I arranged for Mike Solomons to repair my Schaub-Lorenz Music Center
for me in the coming months. What I found even more amazing was that this audio/hi-fi repairer had
actually set up a repair workshop in the early 1970s, in the very wholesaler's premises where I had
bought my first Schaub-Lorenz Music Center back in 1969: Henson's of north Finchley! But I am
running ahead of my story...
Solomons quit school after mock 'A'levels
Despite enjoying a grammar-school education, Mike Solomons admits that he did
not do well at school, and simply upped and walked out after mock 'A' levels. The school was
"too specialised in the Arts", he said, whereas Solomons was more "practically"
Modest start-up capital
was only too happy to talk about himself, his past, and to share his recollections of repairing
Schaub-Lorenz Music Centers. Mike started out in the repair business
with £20 in the bank, his late grandfather's car, and some test equipment and
components originally bought for his hobby.
City & Guilds in 'Radio and TV Repairing'
Undaunted by his bold decision, Mike obtained a City & Guilds qualification
in 'Radio and Television
Repairing', and has been running a radio and hi-fi
repair business under various names ever since.
In search of new
Solomons pays wholesaler Hensons a visit
It was after setting up a radio and hi-fi business in
Edgware, London (Radio & Hi-Fi Service) in early 1970, that Mike heard about a small UK
wholesaler called R. Henson Ltd of north
Finchley. One day, Mike happened by Hensons the wholesaler, intending to buy goods and drum up
some work for his new repair business.
Schaub-Lorenz sells off faulty
Lorenz's consumer sales division, Schaub-Lorenz, was forced to buy back large
numbers of faulty units from
unhappy German retailers, and in order to cut their losses, had to sell off the
(returned) troublesome units to various interested parties, one of whom was Henson's.
Hensons buys machines from
Hensons had "....bought a batch of these faulty machines
as scrap..." from Schaub-Lorenz, had them shipped to England, and were already selling them by
the time Mike turned up on the scene. At that time, Mike says: "Henson's was being run by a
father and two sons, and at least two other employees".
Repair facility set up to handle guarantee
Mike Solomons believes that in the early days, music
centers were sold without warranties and therefore carried a cheaper price tag. By the late
1960s, however, the sale price had risen, presumably to cover the cost of the one-year guarantee
Hensons offered on later machines. As it turned out, this was a wise decision, as many of the
machines failed within three months of purchase, obliging the wholesaler to organise a repair
Selling prices in
The price customers paid for a music center varied
Solomons recalls that the later units that Hensons purchased from
Schaub-Lorenz were "new, unused stock", and so although they were more expensive (±
£89) , they
were probably "better value for money" than the used or recalled music centers that he
had been used to repairing earlier on
author recalls paying £89 for his machine
Lasky's, a retail chain, bought up a large batch of
these music centers, probably from from Hensons, and sold them for £69.95
Poll in South Africa purchased his 5001 music center second hand
in Woodside Park, north Finchley, London, in August 1968, after seeing an ad in the
personal column of The Times; although he
cannot remember exactly how much he paid for the machine back then, he did keep a flyer
that advertised the price of the 5001 Music Center at a staggering 275 guineas
(£288.75) (see Adverts)
Solomons had also heard of music centers being advertised for
£275, but never met anyone who had paid anything like that for a first-hand
Selling prices in
In Germany, the launch price of the music center was DM 1248. For an extra DM
48, you could purchase the optional, four-legged metal stand. Source: www.vintage-radio.com.
The launch price of the 5005 radiogram model,
which included a record player, radio and tape recorder, was DM 1498, although the author has come
across erroneous reports that the 5005 model was twice as expensive as the 5001 model (i.e. DM
2. See Lasky's advertisement for the 5001 Music Center, showing
selling price (late 1960s) in 'Sales adverts (5001)' in Miscellaneous.
Henson's soon discovered that the machines they'd bought were, according to
Mike, "extremely unreliable", making them a "selling disaster".
The failure rate of these music centers, Mike said, was "never better than about 90%, on
or within three months of delivery".
Hensons desperate to repair faulty machines
Henson Snr. was "desperate to get these machines working". During his visit, Mike Solomons and
Henson Snr got talking and quickly recognised the synergy between their respective businesses.
As a result, Mike soon found himself repairing a large number of Henson's music centers being
returned to the wholesaler under guarantee. Henson's then decided to buy in more machines,
selling them at a "very good profit", Mike recalls, to private customers and retail outlets
Repair facility for handling increasing
was never employed by Henson's. "I simply took on the repair of as many machines as I could
manage". In fact, at one point (1970) Mike was repairing so many machines that he decided to set
up a temporary workshop in a spare room on Henson's premises.
Dab hand at
Even though they were very unusual radio-tape
recorders at the time, full of state-of-the-art electronic circuitry and mechanics, Mike, who
became a dab hand at repairing the machines, was paid the princely sum of one pound sterling per
hour to turn as many faulty music centers into reliable ones as he could. He was able to repair "as
many as eight units in a day" when he was doing guarantee work for Henson's.
"It takes a certain type of nutcase to be able to mend these
machines!", Mike remarks candidly. "Given that you were such a fast worker, wouldn't it have been
better to have been paid on a piece-rate basis?, I enquired. "Yes, in retrospect, it probably would
have been", Mike replies.
Schaub engineer visits
Very clever German engineer
long after Mike began repairing the Schaub-Lorenz machines, Henson's arranged for a "senior
Schaub-Lorenz engineer to come to England to train a group of engineers". As it turned out, Mike
was "the only engineer in that group", and so he received a one-on-one training in how to
service and repair these machines, from a "very clever German engineer" who was described to
Mike as the designer of the music center. He was not able to recall the name of the
See Unusual uses.
Few repairers able to fix machine
Once I had discovered all this, I asked Mike if he would
repair my music center for me. Did I have any choice? Only Hobson's choice! Mike is not aware of
anyone else, either in the UK or elsewhere, who could carry out repairs on these machines,
which, he reliably informed me, need to be carried out by a "skilled and experienced repairer. The average DIY-er", he
claimed, "would not have the skill or know-how to do the job properly."
Expensive repair with 12-month guarantee
My time capsule would not be cheap to repair either.
Mike estimated the repair work would set me back £300-500 (max.). However, given that Mike has a
three-language service manual  for
these music centers, has hands-on experience of repairing these machines, and would guarantee
his workmanship and any parts replaced for 12 months, I felt confident that I would be making a
sound and worthwhile investment.
I now know of other repairers who can fix old Music Centers, so contact me if you need a cheaper repair job
1. Contact author if you need to obtain a copy of the two service