Are High End Audio Products Unreliable?

I don't know if it's just my bad luck but since I've gotten back into high end audio in the past year I have purchased several components that have developed problems that I have never experienced while owning mass produced Japanese components of the 70's and 80's.
First was my Well Tempered turntable. Granted , it was old, but the design is so simple that it should be pretty bomb proof. That one got a lot better once I got everything dialed in, but what a pain in the butt just to get it there.
Second was my Lehmann Black Cube phono preamp, which developed a bad channel. Then it was the Parasound JC-3 phono preamp that was bad out of the box, but was replaced with a new one (no issues since). Next, my Cambridge Azur 840C CD player developed issues loading CDs (no other issues but this is annoying). Then I bought a Furutech GT-40 DAC that had noise when playing computer files through the USB (replaced with a new unit which works great). Next, I bought a CARY SLI-80 amp that was physically damaged out of the box but worked fine at first, but after a couple of weeks developed an issue with the remote relay and required me to send it back for repair. I got a new unit from Upscale that is working great.
I'm not a total hamfist who is hard on equipment, I swear. I'm super careful with my stuff, I run everything through power conditioners, and know how to set up equipment. I must be unlucky. Or have others had similar experiences as mine?
Few electronic manufacturers do any 'burn in' any more. The business model is to pass that on to the consumer/dealer, it is just more cost effective to do so. As most know, if an electronic product will fail, it most likely does so in the first 10 hours of use. Also, when a dealer is involved they 'eat' the out bound shipping and handling cost involved. Perhaps some dealers on the 'gon' could fill us in on failure rates.
You may not get too many responses as many members are frequently trading back and forth to sample different components......and the last thing a members wants is to admit they had a problem or defect with something they're trying to re sell
It's not just you, lousy reliability seems endemic to WAY too many audio products. I've just reconciled myself to this being the usual state of affairs and keep a reserve spare for every component (except turntable) in the audio chain. I admit my preconceived stereotypes about Italian product reliability have been proven wrong (to this point) and happily report that my Aloia amp/preamp combo have operated flawlessly for many years. Every cd player I've ever owned developed problems reading discs (Denon, Marantz, Cambridge Audio, Sony, among others.) My VPI and Acoustic Solid tables have also been very reliable.
The Japanese designed their equipment to be problem free, mainly because, at the heyday of Japanese electronics, it was a cutthroat business. No one could afford to put out junk and survive. Today the high end business is aimed at a very few folks, most with more money than brains, so, It could be that the Boy geniuses working in their garage or the boutique makers in the mountains, are a lot better at desiging the outside than they are at designing the inside. More into magic / hype, than audio engineering. The make beautiful stuff, just not very reliable.
Lo-Fi Rules!
I don't consider an old Well Tempered table, Lehmann, or Cambridge "high end".

i think one can say that some high-end products are unreliable. there are so many, and only a small sample of them have been mentioned.

for example, audio research, cj, magnepan, martin logan, vandersteen, ayre,halcro, levinson, krell, magico,hansen, lamm, esoteric etc., have not been mentioned as unreliable.
Dunno but when paying megabucks for anything, including expensive audio gear, reliability is an important thing to consider as is availability of quality service.

Its easy to get caught up in the looks, apparent build quality, and sound, but I really prefer to go with proven reliable companies with a track record. For less expensive items, I am more willing to take more chances.
I had trouble with a conrad-johnson preamp about 27 years ago (which was taken care of quickly and courteously as a warranty service), but can't think of any other product that's given me problems. Not that I buy lots of stuff, but everything I've had from Thorens, Naim, Linn, Rega, Vandersteen, Audio by Van Alstine, and Grado has worked great. Part of this may be due to my having purchased everything except the Audio by Van Alstine gear from local dealers, who typically check everything out prior to a sale to make sure you get a complete, properly-functioning unit, and the AVA stuff is built to order and tested prior to shipment.
Personally i've never experienced such things on hifi but it happens.
Some companies quality control is failing in some way.
So far most everything has worked out well. I have had very few problems over the years except with some "vintage" gear and some self inflicted wounds. It sounds like you have had a string of bad lick. OTOH this industry now is pretty small in many instances. The pieces are virtually one of a kind and hand built in small numbers. I wonder if bigger concerns would have better Quality Control and have tested things more thoroughly?
The mechanical components seem more problematic. Dont see much talk about speaker failures for eg. It is very hard for a small exotic manufacturer to be able to afford to invest the time and money in rigorous testing, and they also dont have the extensive field experience that a manufacturer of millions of units has, so to me it is no surprise. I have been mostly lucky but i accept that reduced reliability can be a part of the experience at this level. A trustworthy dealer and a manufacturer that will be supportive makes all the difference. I think this is why relationships are critical in this industry. I dont want a relationship with the guy who sold me my $100 DVD player, but i really have to trust the dealer who sells me a $50k turntable!
It's kind of nice to know I have more money than brains-makes me feel like I've arrived or something. But even if I now have more money than brains it still doesn't mean much if I don't have a lot of brains left.

I agree with other posters that you must have had an unlucky streak. My stuff has been almost flawless for many years except for one on/off switch on a Rotel amp ($4.00 part). Only other issue was a BAT preamp I sold to another member who said it had hum but worked fine in my system after we worked out a return and refund. Later sold to a happy member w/o hum.

Sorry to hear about your frustrations that must distract from your musical enjoyment. Maybe my stuff hasn't been high-end enough and I need to raise my aspirations in order to acquire dissatisfaction.

I was not speaking of you. Your system seems to be that of a man who loves music. Hell, I could afford some of your stuff. :) Love the purple wall.
The only thing that kind of broke was Purist Audio cables that I had to refil after ten years, and I bought them used in the first place. Other than that, apart from replacing a belt in CEC cd player after thousands of play hours, nothing.
Off hand I would suspect the higher end products too be more reliable having been built with better parts and a greater attention to detail which would be demanded by the high end buyer. At least from established firms. Even the new on the block small time maker, can little afford to put out junk.
Maybe there`s some luck involved but I`m happy to say there have been zero problems with my current system which I`ve had for a while now.
The only units that ever gave me problems are CD players. Relatively short lives on early Sony and Micromega units that forced upgrades before i wanted to spend the extra money. Evrything else i have bought over some 30years has been problem free. Tanberg integrated, levinson 331, cj premier 14, B&W dm2000 speakers, Thiel 3.6, ar 2ax, sony receiver etc. I just purchased B&w 802 diamonds and classe 300 w per ch amp. No problems in the two months i have had them; but this is a little early to give them a thumbs up for reliability.
Not most some tukeys can always pop up.
I've had enough problems over the last 30 years to make me think that the there is some basis to the title of this thread. I won't get into naming names, and I have had some great service experiences too. However, overall, I'd rather not need the service in the first place.
Come to think of it a couple of CD players did die on me. I was told this was a common problem with the reading mechanisms. They were on the cheap side of "high end" but cost a fortune compared to "regular" cd players.
This is not my experience at all.

Cannot recall a component failing in a number of years, at any price point.

I've probably been a bit lucky, but the results are far different from the OPs experience.
I have the same issue with the Furutech GT-40 DAC. I sent mine back and received another with the same problems. I've hooked it up to 2 different pc/mac and still getting the noise via usb.

I've tried different rca and usb cables...

Anyone familiar with Furutech's warranty service?
Rok2id "Today the high end business is aimed at a very few folks, most with more money than brains, so, It could be that the Boy geniuses working in their garage or the boutique makers in the mountains, are a lot better at desiging the outside than they are at designing the inside. More into magic / hype, than audio engineering. The make beautiful stuff, just not very reliable.
Lo-Fi Rules!"

Really? Nice way to insult people. Not everyone is just out to make beautiful stuff that doesn't work.

Also just because someone is willing to spend more money on something than you would makes them stupid? I think it is you being closed minded to come to an audio forum and post as if you know all, and insult people who you don't agree with.

This hobby is about learning and finding what you like. You found it, good for you. Don't insult those you don't agree with just because they want to spend money on something they like.

No insult was intended. I offer my apologies to anyone who took it that way. Belive it or not, I sometimes type before I think. After reading it again, I withdraw it.
I'm happy to say that although I've had some issues with my various digital sources from time to time, I have experienced absolutely no problems with my current monoblock SET in over four years of healthy use. Same for my pre amp and speakers these past two years +.

From my experience - YES..and that hurts alot... after all, the "best sounding" amp is no better than a $400 receiver if you don't get to listen to music becasue it is broken again.
I have had some pieces that worked flawlessly but also had my share of equipment that either didn't work right or had some weird problems. I do feel that if I am willing to spend $5k or $10k on speakers or amp or whatever - the desinger / manufacturer should recognize the fact that this is relatively large sum of money for an audio equipment and proper attention should be paid to the quality of the product.
Most of my cheapo electronics never failed, but even if they did - I didn't feel so bad about it.
HOWEVER, when a $5k amp is not working right - I will surely remember that for a very long time.
If it works out of the box it must not be Hi End. Seriously, I won't take home a product from a dealer until he takes it out of the box and plugs it in and makes sure it works. I've had too many disappointments of unpacking a new component at home, all excited to see what it can do, and then it's DOA.

Failures in the field are minimal but I do have a back-up for every component. I expect some maintenance and repairs to play at this level.
The components are no more reliable than the people who build/service them.
Yes. I've experienced defects or failures with Art Audio, CAT, Tom Evans, Joule Electra, EAR, Kharma (minor) and PS Audio, and Sonus Faber (minor).

I've had excellent reliability with Conrad Johnson, David Berning, Air Tight, Technics (sp-10), Audio Note, K and K, Transfiguration and Sumiko.

That is about 50:50 and too high to me.
The idea that people should respect each other's money is an excellent one.
To defend Rok2id a little. There are many with more often undeserved money than perhaps also undeserved brains. Whether current hi-fi mostly aims at them is, I think, debatable.
Almost every piece of equipment I have bought has been defective in one way or another. Thank God for warranties!
Some items certainly seem to have a finite life, particularly CD players, which as someone has already said, will always have laser failure after some years. Usually the laser is no longer made. That is something to consider if you are looking at a $10000+ CD player, without a laser , it is junk.

Secondly, I have had problems with valves, not tube failure, you expect that, but thermal damage. As a class, they seem to be hard on the electronics. Still love them though.

As an example of good service, my 4 year old TW accustic Raven one turntable had a problem with the motor recently and an unreliable switch on the power supply. TW suppied a motor and GT audio in the UK, fitted it and replaced the switch, all for no charge.
Megabuck German table with junk switch and unreliable motor? Are you kidding me? Thank you for telling us that. No TW Acustic for me. Ever.
Been in this since 1995. Still just a rookie. Owned Adcom, B&W, Harmon Kardon, JBL, Kef, Marantz, Mcintosh, Mirage, and Meridian. Some mid-fi some high-end. Never had any issues or need of service on anything. I might add any of the above listed got used, not abused, but respectively played for many hours as TV holds no candle to music. Have always shut off after use, speakers never under driven or pushed with too much power. IME all of the above were very reliable.
What bothers me most about many of the replies here is the acceptance of things as they are.
I admit, I am one of those "consumer activists" who will call companies and bitch about their products if something doesn't work right.... When my friends make fun of me for doing this...I just say; You will thank me later when the next revision shows up on the market with improvements.

And the higher the price for a given product the greater my expectations.
I don't understand why $1000 amp or receiver can be absolutely quiet, but it's OK for $6000 unit to have a hum coming from the transformers (a hypothetical example based on some frequent question posted here).
I agree. Expectations should be high for high-priced components. I had a high-end component go DOA out after a year. I was not a happy camper. It was no longer under warranty. In fact, shortly after they brought it to market a "defect" was noted. Being clever marketers, they discovered a way to profit from their mistake. They declared an "upgrade" -- at a cost of $$$$ to the customer. Nice.

I had my unit repaired -- and upgraded -- and then sold it off. It cost me a bundle. I would never buy a product from this company again despite the fact they are one of the most well-known companies in the industry and many people rave about them. I suspect there is a lot being swept under the audio carpet here.

After I sold it off I was able to find photos of the inside of my unit on Internet. Photos were conspicuously missing from their site. It was then that I knew I made the right decision. It was clear they had used the cheapest resistors and capacitors to produce these world-class units. They had found one more way to improve their bottom line at the expense of the customer.
Sabai, why not name names? This is the kind of info the rest of us would like to know, otherwise you are not holding the manufacturers accountable. Their greatest motivation to make better products is consumers speak out.

03-03-12: Snackeyp
Sabai, why not name names?

You are new here Snackeyp, so I'll tell you why. Naming names will make this thread vanish into the abyss. So what's the point?
03-03-12: Inna
"Megabuck German table with junk switch and unreliable motor? Are you kidding me? Thank you for telling us that. No TW Acustic for me. Ever".

Sorry, but I could'nt agree less. Firstly, by current insane standards for turntables, the Raven one is relatively cheap. Now $20,000+ seems routine these days.

Secondly, all gear can have problems, Thomas, the TW designer was clear that this was the first motor that had ever needed replacing, other than one other, injured by dropping the unit. That's pretty good.
Nottingham turntable motor is designed to run all the time, and from what I heard they do break too but rarely.
And how do you know that Thomas told you the truth? Not to mention that power switch. Nottingham has none. I say go British - Nottingham, SME, Simon Yorke. Or, of course, some American. Germans not needed.
I don't know how anyone can go from one anecdotal account of a failure to a generalization about the product, the company producing the product and the company's country of origin. Rush Limbaugh would be proud of such leaps of logic (supporter of healthcare coverage for contraceptives to slut demanding payment for sex).

There could be a variety of reasons even good product lines will have occasional problems that are NOT the result of trying to cheat the customer, cutting corners, etc. Sometimes the company gets a bad batch of parts or the parts supplier changes the part without notifying its customers. This can happen to a company with a great record for reliability and quality control. An example of that would be the brief period of time when Basis motor controls were prone to premature failure. I own a Basis table and I am amazed at the machining tolerance of critical parts--no discernable runout issues with any of rotating parts--something I cannot say for some of the tables mentioned above.

I have great respect for Nottingham tables. But, I knew a dealer that had a brief period when several tables suffered motor failures in a matter of a few weeks after the sale. The distributor said that one batch of motors from the supplier were bad. These things happen.

I don't think high end gear is particularly prone to such failures, it is just more painfull when something expensive goes bad. What I have found is that most high end dealers work to get things right and make the customer happy even when that means doing repairs for free well outside of the warranty period.
I agree w Larryi and also point out that if you are operating on the bleeding edge, then you have to expect more failures. Nascar or F1 engines only go 500-600 miles or less between rebuild and or junking. Fuel dragster engines maybe a mile or 2. does that make them unreliable?
Rush would need two life times to equal the mangled logic of Bill Maher or Chris Matthews have provided.

Not trying to start an arguement, but your analogy is a bit flawed. If those engines are expected to fail at those times and the user knows this, then there's no issue. If an amp is expected to last, say, 10 years and goes bad after 2, there's a problem. If a CD laser is expected to last 1000 hours and goes bad after 10, that's an issue.

I don't have the money most here have (no issue with that), but I've bought what I can reasonably afford. My decision to buy a Bryston B60 had a lot to do with their warranty and service. Spending that much money, I expect to have it for a very long time. They also upgraded it to SST status for very little money.

I really like Bryston's model - every piece gets played for 100 hours and a final check-out sheet with measurements before it leaves the factory. Their warranty coverage is as rock solid as I've seen it come. I know several who've bought older gear, and Bryston updated it for very little cost, relatively speaking.

I'm not saying Bryston is the only company who does any of these things though.
Charles1dad- You may have blown your chance to borrow my KRs and AVVTs ;-) Just kidding. Drop me an email if you are interested.
Swampwalker I sent you an email last week but did`nt get a reply.It turns out someone locally will loan me his EML XLS and KR 300b tubes. Thanks again for your very kind offer.
Perhaps some high end gear is more prone to failure because the typical high end "manufacturer" is a very small operation with perhaps one person doing all of the designing/engineering. That one person may not be the absolute best at all aspects of design (e.g., not a power supply specialist).

Also, with a small operation, there is less likelihood that a design has been tested to work under a wide variety of conditions. I know someone who had a DAC that was way too sensitive to static discharge (damaged from someone touching the controls). Likewise, I had experience with a phonostage that would shut down from the static discharge from a table/arm that was prone to such discharges no matter how it was grounded. Interestingly, both products came from Southern California--I bet they don't have the same kind of dry winter air we have on the East Coast. A friend had multiple failures of his tube amps made in England--the diodes in the rectifier simply could not handle the poorly regulated power of Northern Virginia (more robust diodes finally cured the problem.
Charles1dad, Rush wouldn't know any logic if it hit him in the face with a two by four.
Hi Jmegrogan2,
We`re obviously at polar ends of the spectrum and I`ll leave it at that. We are`nt going to change each others perspectives for sure. I`ll see you at the polls in November 2012.
Update: In my original post I mentioned the CARY SLI-80 that was bad and got replaced. The replacement WAS working good but now has developed the same problem as the one it replaces. Guess I'll be sending this one back and will be without an amp for a month. :(