Update 6/2/18: I completed the discrete op-amp modification after I got the replacement diodes. You need to replace Diodes 11, 12, 13, & 14 with 16V Zener diodes. If you fail to do this, your op-amps will be getting +18 and -18V (36V total). This is a pretty high voltage to use on op-amps, these days we usually see 15V to 16V (30-32V total). If you skip this step, you should at the very least contact the manufacturer of your op-amps to ask what the recommended max voltage is (or check the data sheet).

I have been running the Kenwood C-2 with the Burson Audio op-amps for about 2 weeks. Overall, I have been very impressed with an already excellent pre-amp. I noticed better high frequency extension (without being fatiguing on the ears), surprisingly the low frequencies also seemed to be clearer with less distortion during bass tests (I used DSD256 reference disks). I am very pleased with this small little mod.


Update 6/25/18: Now I have been running a different setup for about 2 weeks. I am running a dual V5-OPA-S op-amp setup using an adapter and flexible extensions from Burson Audio. I have been running this setup for a little over 3 weeks and the performance has been remarkable. I also added a Siemens 1uF (EPCOS) 450V film capacitor across the output instead of the stacked MKT I had in before also made by Siemens. The heat output from the op-amps have been much better since doing the 16V Zener diode mod detailed more below. This mod is essential to making this a safe mod longevity wise. You might get by running +- 18V for a while, but over time it will kill the components faster than with normal use in modern circuits. Keep this in mind when you are looking to change the C-2’s op-amps.


Update 3/27/19: I have gone through and replaced every single electrolytic capacitor in the C-2 pre-amp, aside from the dual 1000uF 35V capacitors (due to a mistake in ordering), that’ll get swapped out soon. This re-cap made as much or maybe even more of a difference than the op-amp + 16V diode mod! This also fixed an issue I was having where the tone controls didn’t seem to work except for when the treble was between 9-10. Now I can easily hear both the bass and treble adjustments. I went with a lot of ELNA SILMIC-II and Nichicon Muse ES (Bi-Polar) capacitors. I also used an assortment of what I had on hand. It’s pretty straight forward: 1:) make sure to replace with equivalent capacitor 2:) put it in the PCB, in the right direction (if not, it will explode, unless it’s one of the Bi-Polar Electrolytics). I also replaced the original DIP-8 sockets I added last time with some AMP branded all metal DIP-8 mounts, they have a much tighter grip on the op-amp pins.

Note: Op-amps are still doing great and running reasonably cool with the 16V diode mod.


Update 7/21/20: I have had a few email questions about op-amp voltages and why I am picking 16V versus 15V Zener Diodes. You can certainly pick 15V Zeners and it should do just fine. I picked 16V because I figured the actual output voltage would be lower in practice. Due to the way loading works, it will vary somewhat (dipping below 16V). In other words, if you pick 15V, be sure it’s okay for your op-amps to run below 15V (most can go much lower).

The mod is still doing great and I love this pre-amp! I am very happy with those IC sockets that I picked, the clamping pressure is excellent (on the IC’s pins). I am currently running two of Sparkos Labs SS3602 in the unit and that is a great pairing. Just as good as running two Burson V6 “Classic”, perhaps, even better? The jury is still out, see upcoming discrete review!


Kenwood C-2 Owner’s Manual


Kenwood C-2 Service Manual


Kenwood C-2 + ES9038Pro + FUN01 (SU-1 clone) + Burson Play + SMSL sAp-10

One of the other projects on my workbench is this sweet combination of an excellent vintage pre-amp, using discrete op-amps from Burson Audio! The C-2 has an excellent flat amplifier and above average tone controls. Adding in discrete Burson op-amps really opened up the tonal signature, especially the higher frequencies. Then the re-cap gave me more headroom with a cleaner mid-to-low range.

Burson V6-OPA “Vivid” (Before Re-Cap)

Kenwood C-2 internal shot of the primary dual-DIP op-amp locations. V5-OPA Duals are shown.
Burson V6-OPA “Vivid” and “Classic” with cases removed and Re-Cap done (All green Muse-ES capacitors are Bi-Polar)
Internal shot of Kenwood C-2 restored with new capacitors and discrete op-amps.
A shot of the Burson V5i op-amps in the tone stack/EQ/filter circuits (Before Re-Cap)
Kenwood C-2 EQ boards

C-2 Tonestack with re-cap finished

Kenwood C-2 EQ boards after being restored with new capacitors and Burson Audio V5i op-amps
After re-cap was completed, this pre-amp really woke up!

See one of the C-2 threads on DIYAudio here (16V diode mod): http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/solid-state/184318-kenwood-basic-c2-preamp-mods.html

Few more pictures of the op-amp mod, prior to re-cap.

Shots of the Re-Cap of the C-2 pre-amp:

Another angle of the inside of the Kenwood C-2 restored.
Internal shot of Kenwood C-2 restored with V5-OPA and V6-OPA Classic op-amps
More Kenwood C-2 restored
2nd internal shot of restored Kenwood C-2 EQ boards.