by James Leahy
When it comes to Hi-Fi what certainly is a crime is seeling Hi-Fi
loving folk get taken advantage of and/or disappointed in their purchases.
"Digital Obsolescence' has claimed more victims that are destined for a one way
ticket to the Parts N.L.A. graveyard than any other single factor. When parts go
out of production for your expensive digital processor or laser mechanism for
your $20K+ Transport tears have been shed many a time and this trend will
continue as long as manufacturers fail to take sufficient responsibly and support their products.
While talking with my #1 Technician one
time about an unrepairable disaster we were dealing with he was kind enough to
share with me his personal thoughts and hypothesis on the subject. He is both a
wiser and more technically gifted man than I and whom I have the upmost respect
for. This man is an academic genius and I have found he has the rare ability to
speak at length and in solid depth on any subject matter. He has taught me that
being a Real Man is
not about being tough and macho... It's about being straight-up and honest. To
be able to stand-up and tell the truth in all situations is an amazingly tough gig that is
why it is so rare today to find one who can.
The story goes a bit like this...if my
memory serves me accurately.
digital product is designed by a boutique manufacturer the drafting lead time
can be as long as 12 months; then you have at least another 6 months of tooling
time in setting up production schedules and part suppliers. Then you might have
another 6 months lost in bringing that product to market and other marketing
issues. This 2 year plus time span takes it's toll in the real world repair life
cycle of the product. The digital processors, motor drives, laser assemblies or I.C. that were probably
quoted on and the product designed around when pen first went to paper 2 years
ago no longer exist as a replacement part to be ordered by the time the product hits the
showroom shelves and these parts are more and more commonly not even in production for the product manufacturer to
purchase increased quantities for residual stock supplies of if they so wanted.
Ever wondered why there are sometimes so
many different versions of High-End products...??? It is my belief, this happens
not necessarily because the company is bringing to the market a technically
better product although this may well be the case but more often than not it is
because the original specification components that the base product was designed
around all those years ago are N.L.A. from the O.E.M... So what do you do to
stay in business, be able to provide continued product support and at the same
time increase your profits...? Just bring out an updated generation of the same
This is the main reason why many companies
bring out Mk.II and Mk.III versions of products and do not create an entirely
new model. Because if they created a totally new model there would be
significant doubling up of engineering associated expenses but with an updated
version 90% or more of the original design can stay the same with the
implantation of current parts that are in production and they can at the
same time dissociate and relinquish any responsibility of previous generation
models with ease and relative impunity.
Small High-End boutique Hi-Fi manufacturers
mainly do not have the resources and production economies of scale to make their
own laser mechanisms, micro-processors etc so they buy them from large multi
national electronic superpowers such as Philips, Motorola, Pioneer, Marantz,
Sony and the like. They typically buy enough parts in for their estimated
production runs and factor in some extra materials for spares to cover a five
year product lifespan. Yes, that's the industry stand, FIVE YEARS. You thought
your investment would be protected and serviceable for your lifetime...?
The more a customer pays for a product the
greater their perceived expectations are going to generally be that their
purchase comes with a watertight factory back-up and support policy. The
operative word here is 'perceived', customers and manufacturers do not always
perceive the same thing.
Consumers might rightly expect lifetime
support but in the real world I can tell you quite the opposite is often the
case. I have to deal first hand with the anger and fallout of this economic
reality every week from buyers of products that the manufacturer no longer
It happens all to often in every industry
just like software companies not offering free support for a legacy program when
a newer version is released because it is not financially advantageous for them
to do so.
It's all about the $$$
C.E.C. TL-0 -
US$17,500.00 in 1995'
Today; in my workshop in 2009' with a
malfunctioning servo controller board and parts N.L.A. from C.E.C. Japan.
The owner of this transport is one
unhappy puppy and that's putting it mildly.