I have access to buying almost anything as an audio writer, and there’s some really nice audio gear out there, but for a preamplifier I chose the vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier, which was sold by McIntosh from 1962-1969 for the lofty price of $399.
The reason is that the vintage McIntosh MX110Z tuner-preamplifier is an example of one of the finest Golden Age preamplifiers you can buy, with perhaps the finest balance of musicality and sonics for my tastes that I have ever heard from a preamplifier, vintage or modern, along with the substantial bonus of having a terrific sounding and highly musical FM tuner and phono preamplifier.
Another thing I like about vintage McIntosh electronics is that they have the near equivalent of eternal life as an audio component, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all that through a thoughtful combination of maintenance and service that an MX110Z could play music for a century or more, delighting not only you, but your ancestors after you.
Mine’s been playing music now for over 50 years, and I expect that it’ll easily provide me musical pleasure for the rest of my life!
One service item that is easy to do in an MX110Z is quieting down a noisy volume potentiometer, which is a fairly common occurrence.
You’ll know you need to do some cleaning/lubing of your MX110Z’s volume pot when it starts sounding “scratchy” while changing volume, or “pops”.
I’ve also noticed that the volume potentiometer will let you know that it’s getting close to time for a cleaning/lubing by sounding a little harsh and edgy compared to it usual lush and liquid self.
When I contacted the McIntosh Customer Service Parts Department about a replacement volume potentiometer for my MX110Z, I was told “This part is no longer available and there is no substitute.”
I should point out that while McIntosh does not offer replacement volume potentiometers for the MX110Z, and as far as I know, no one currently manufacturers a suitable replacement for the factory version, all is not lost if your MX110Z’s volume potentiometer is getting noisy.
Why? Well most likely you can keep your potentiometer working longer than you might think with a cleaning/lubing with DeOXit.
I contacted vintage McIntosh specialist Terry DeWick to ask for a recommendation, and he told me, “I have had almost 100% success using Caig DeOXit F5 to clean the pots, depending on location, dust in the air, and humidity, a good cleaning is good from a year to 20 years.” Caig DeOXit F5 is available from Amazon.
There’s also a nice overview of using DeOxit for cleaning and lubing vintage gear out on Audiokarma, titled “The Idiots Guide to Using DeOXit“, that’s worthwhile reading through.
To lube/clean the volume pot on an MX110Z with DeOXit F5 you have to get access to the volume pot, which is fairly easy to do.
The steps are easy. Start with a nude and powered down MX110Z, as in the photo above.
The first step is to remove the 6 knobs of the “Input Level Adjust Controls” potentiometers on top of the chassis, which you can see above and to the right of the volume pot.
Each knob has a setscrew on its backside that you loosen, and the knobs slide off easily.
Once you’ve removed all the knobs it’s time to remove the two sheet metal screws on each side of the chassis that hold the top cover in place.
You can see the two screws just above the socket in the photo above, and on the other side of the chassis in the photo below.
After you’ve removed the 4 sheet metal screws that hold the top cover of the chassis in place, the top cover lifts off easily, revealing the volume pot (below left).
You can see the MX110Z’s volume pot on the left-hand side, just underneath the pulley for the tuner.
Spray a little bit of DeOXit F5 into the three openings of the volume potentiometer, then work the volume pot through its full range of motion a couple of dozen times.
Also, if you wish, you can put a drop on each of the input level adjust pots and work them back and forth a couple of dozen times through their full range of motion. I’ve had the input level adjust pots for phono inputs get a little noisy too, and a drop of DeOXit fixed them right up!
Now put everything back together, and be sure to only tighten the sheetmetal screws on the sides of the chassis so they’re just a smidgen past finger-tight, or you could risk stripping them, which would be a major bummer.
Ditto for input level adjust pot knobs, just tighten them to a gentle finger-tight, as you don’t want to damage them, or you’ll be sorry!
Now power up your MX110Z and you should have a nice quiet volume pot, and the music should be more liquid and smooth sounding.
If you go through the lube/clean drill and your volume pot is still noisy, just give it another try and see if that does the trick.
If you can’t get your MX110Z’s volume pot quieted down, there’s a possibility that it’s worn out.
If that’s the case, not all is lost, as Audio Classics can rebuild your MX110Z volume potentiometer for $175 USD plus shipping.
I hope that proves helpful for you, and as always, thanks for stopping by!