I picked up a CrownDC150a power amp at a garage sale. When I tested it on my bench, one side is rather distorted but then clears up once the amp warms up, making it hard to trace. Is this a common problem with these amps? Any troubleshooting tips are appreciated.
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Crowns are generally great amps, very few issues. My guess is you have a cracked or weak solder joint someplace, perhaps in the power stage, that makes better contact once things get hot and expand. It might also be a bad cap somewhere, but that seems less likely to me.
You mention the model is DC150A. Crown does not list that model but does have a D-150 and D-150AII listed.
Service info is here https://www.crownaudio.com/en/products/d-series.
The symptom you mention could be crossover distortion in the output stage due to an out of spec bias voltage (very low or non existent). As the amp warms up the bias voltage generator begins to function to some degree and the distortion becomes less. The bias voltage is designed to vary as the output stage temperature changes but should never fall to zero.
Connect an audio generator (1 KHz, variable 0 to about 2 V RMS sine wave) to the amps input and connect a suitable sized dummy load (8 ohm) resistor and oscilloscope to the output terminals. Power up the amp and observe the output sine wave for distortion at the zero crossing. Also look for a symmetrical sine wave amplitude. An offset step at the zero crossing is likely a bias problem.
A non symmetrical sine wave could be a power supply problem or output transistor problem. If the sine wave is clipped on the top (well before maximum output power is reached) but the zero crossing point seems ok then the bias may not be the issue. Rather, the power supply voltage could be too low or the distortion is being introduced at the input stage or possibly the VA (voltage amplifier) stage.
One can often use a controlled burst of freeze spray to hit individual components once it has warmed up. Hitting resistors or capacitors, or even solder connections may reveal the culprit.