Does the Audio Industry Have a Quality Problem?


Evaluating the audio equipment I’ve owned over the years there were issues (either technical or product quality) with virtually every piece. The issues affected both electronics and speakers; ranged from entry level kit to the expensive (for me) stuff I currently own; and was irrespective of country of manufacture. In most cases the retailer / manufacturer resolved the problems on the first attempt and thereafter I had no further issues. So a thumbs up for responsiveness and good customer service. Once working properly, all the products performed extremely well sound quality-wise as well as being user-friendly - another thumbs up for well thought out design. However, it would be better if the products were built to a higher standard and quality control was such that the need for after sales service was rare. My experience is that the problem has become worse over time. I was out of the hobby for the whole of the noughties. When I got back into it in 2012, the first product I purchased to bring my system up to date was a DAC - A new Rega DAC (the original not the DAC-R). It didn’t work - no analogue output signal. Replacement was despatched immediately. Three years later the internal power supply failed. Returned to Rega for FOC repair / shipping.

Here are some other examples

* Mission LX-5 floorstanding speakers (new - made in China): Horrible, unsightly 18 inch-long defect in the white Sandex finish of one speaker, Replaced.

* Naim Supernait 2 integrated amplifier (new - made in England): After approx 18 months, no output from one channel when AV bypass switched-in (activated). When unit came back from Naim service, the volume knob fell off! Amp has been incorrectly packed such that the not inconsiderable weight of the amp was forcing the knob inward which in turn compressed the split spindle on which it was mounted. The spindle no longer had sufficient springiness to grip the splines on the inside of the knob. Given the state of the packaging, the shipment appeared to have had quite a rough ride. I decided against returning it to Naim for a second time and modded it myself. A really great amp in so many ways. But disappointing that Naim used the universal type of knob you used to get on cheap electrical appliances and radios (the volume unit itself is a remote-controlled Blue Alps and is excellent). Also poorly designed packaging and staff that didn’t take the time to pack it correctly.

Linn Selekt DSM streaming DAC / pre-amp (new - made in Scotland): Unsightly clump of something in the black, silver flecked powder finish on the top of the unit. Returned. Replacement unit arrived with the same issue. Returned. Retailer got the production manager involved and the third unit was perfect. Disappointing in a product of this price.

Focal Kanta No. 2 floor standing speakers (ex-display - made in France): On one speaker the glass top is not flush with the outsize front baffle. There is a gap of 2mm-3mm. It’s the equivalent of the getting the ’shutlines’ wrong on a car - a casualty of mass production that’s not uncommon. As it’s only noticeable on close inspection and not visible from the front I’ve taken no action. Big, heavy speakers are a hassle moving and I’m not confident replacements wouldn’t have a different - maybe worse - defect.

Technics SL-1210GAE 55th Anniversary Limited Edition turntable (new - made in Japan): Really great sounding table! But there is a colour mismatch/blemish in the matte black finish of the plinth which is a composite of die-cast aluminium, bulk moulding compound, and heavyweight rubber. However, as it’s on the side and not visible from the front I’ve again taken no action. Also, upon on unpacking, I found that one of the aluminium isolation feet that were lightly screwed into the bottom of the plinth was loose in the box and as a result had become scratched. So much for the Japanese’s obsessive attention to detail.

Thoughts / experiences?




tandh12
Quicksilver power amps USA made 12 years old never a problem!
Quicksilver preamp USA made 10 years old never a problem!
Quicksilver phono preamp USA made 10 years old never a problem!
Vpi turntable 30 years old USA made never a problem!
Enough said!

Hahahaha!

Nice plug for 'Made in the U.S.A' and Quicksilver and VPI, in particular. I do like the look of some of the U.S. brands but won't be rushing out to buy any American-made kit I can find 'till we hear more from other forum members. The other issue we have on this side of the pond is the pricing. Obviously, import duty, taxes (VAT), shipping and other costs add up but even then, some of the pricing seems excessive when you convert the USD retail price. Take the mighty McIntosh MC462 power amp. Retails for $9,000. Price in the U.K. is £12,495 which is the equivalent of $17,618. That's a very large price discrepancy. Or the D'Agostino Progression integrated amp which is $23,000. In the UK it's £25,998 (or $36,657); and  I could go on.
Only two bad pieces in recent memory.
My first Schitt DAC was nfg. They quickly replaced. Fosi from China channel out. Thank ... for PayPal. Those mo's wanted me to send it back on my dime.
Stay away. 
All other stuff good.
Post removed 
I’ve only had issues buying used in recent years and only on occasion. 
China does have a problem! I will not buy Denafrips even though it has positive reviews.
Will read if I have a few hours.
My BlueCircle NSCS integrated amp and Shahinian speakers were flawless and functioned without issue for 16 years.

Does the Audio Industry Have a Quality Problem?

Yes in a big way it has a growing problem with numbers of companies that are NOT honest and genuine, which are just in it to separate money from the gullible .
These "snake oil" companies have no conscience at all, and pray on the gullible through their "incognito disciple schillers".

These "disciples" at the same time also become a "buffer" between "snake oil" manufacture and these forums so they never have to answer to their disciple’s "snake oil" claims, which are left to the disciples them selves to answer with voodoo on top of voodoo claims.

Cheers George

Bought a phono preamp ($175) and used it once. Used it second time (6 months later) and had a dead channel. fixed under warranty (but PITA).

Purchased expensive amp (used). The dealer placed it in customary plastic bag and sealed with clear plastic shipping tape. The problem? They put it in the bag rear-end first. I over-estimated the toughness of the shipping tape, based on previous experience, and my box cutter scratched the front of the amp (1/4 inch, not serious). ALWAYS put equipment in head-first so rear would get scratched if accident.
Over the last 40 years I’ve owned dozens of amps, speakers and other pieces of audio equipment. Sure I had one Line Magnetic amp that self destructed after 5 years.. ,

But every other amp I’ve owned or own including: VAC, PrmaLuna amps, Belles amps, Bel Canto integrated, deHavilland UltraVerve Preamplifier and speakers I’ve owned or own including: KEF, Canton, ProAc, Thiel, B&W, Hales, Tyler, Davone Mojo, Martin Logan Ethos - ALL functioned or still function perfectly.

I’d say the opposite is true about audio gear.

The quality of audio gear I’ve purchased has been outstanding, typically made better and lasting longer than almost any other purchases I’ve ever made. The only other item that comes close is our KitchenAid mixer.
^^^^^Jesus man only use a box cutter to break the tape to box bond. Your not removing a tumor. 
I've had my share of troubles with audio equipment over the years. I've  blown tweeters on both my Celestion SL600's and on my Kef Corellis (twice!). And this without ever playing my stereo over 90db. 

When the Quicksilver Mono Amps came out, they were powered by matched pairs of 8417 output tubes.  Sound to die for, but how many times did I traipse over to Mike Sanders' house to get replacements? Three? Four? And yeah he got sick of me showing up. Luckily, I didn't live very far away from him.

My Electrocompaniet Preamp sometimes lost channels and, for a while, munched on fuses. 

My NAD Integrated (not a 3020 but the model just above it in the lineup) got finicky enough for my dealer to put me into a 3020, which I enjoyed for many years. BTW, I'm not going to include noisy volume controls on this list. You just gotta keep spraying Deoxit on their tender parts.

I mentioned my troubles with a Marantz SACD player in a previous thread.

Currently, my Mytek Brooklyn Bridge's opto input gave up the ghost about a week ago.  It really riles me because the Mytek gives me considerably better Red Book fidelity than my Sony player's DAC, and I"m going to have either suffer with worse CD fidelity, or prowl the internet in the hope of finding a cable that will fit both the Mytek's normal USB input and the cockamamie cable input the Sony seems to demand. (The only electronics store that isn't a plane flight away is the Office Max.)

Okay, I'll stop now. The Beethoven 2nd Piano Concerto LP is grinding away in the lead-out groove.  Happy trails!
No problems here. All made in Canada, USA, Germany Italy.

Sonus faber, Moon by Simaudio, Quicksilver, Clear Audio, Border Patrol, Raven Audio.
Are scratch and dent items being purchased exclusively?
I’m thinking there are clunkers and there are gems with most Hifi brands.  
In the seventies and early eighties I had problems with my Sumo preamp loosing the left channel and it never get fixed correctly. I had a Son of Ampzilla that kept blowing fuses and when it went back, they found nothing wrong.  I plugged it into some store speakers and the darn thing blew a fuse in less than five minutes.  They gave me a new amp.  Had a Nakiamichi cassette recorder.  It’s speed was way slow straight from the factory.  An easy fix for the tech, but for a great brand like Nak, to send something from the factory without them catching it? I know I had a few more clunkers, but I can’t remember now.

and on the flip side,

 I still have an ARC SP9 mkll and it still sounds pretty darn good and I still have some Acoustat Model X speakers.  After 36 years, one of the high voltage transformers is starting to hum.  I also have a Sony professional CD player from the late 80’s and it sounds as good if not better than my Oppo.

All the best.

JD
 
Wow….

Ive experienced none of these issues. I’m still using the same 1980 integrated amplifier, same 1981 receiver, same 1985 and 1989 speakers, same 1977 TT, same 1958-1983 cartridges, same 1981 and 1988 cassette decks. No issues. 
Perhaps you spent too much, have expectations that out-qualify your over-priced gear? Yup.
@fiesta75 while I agree that one must always be careful from who they give business to, no matter what country they are in, and also when all things are equal I buy USA made, I have only had positive experiences with Denafrips. Have you bought anything or had any interactions with Denafrips? I can tell you first off that Vinshine Audio who is the sole distributor for Denafrips (a Chinese company) is a Singapore company. Alvin Chee from Vinshine is always pleasant, readily available and very communicative. He has support videos on YouTube. I own a Denafrips Gaia and Terminator Plus. Both came packed very well and the build quality on both is excellent. As for SQ, it is the tops. The products were well reviewed by Gutenberg and Beekhauzen. So my assessment is Vinshine and Denafrips are solid and reliable. If your issue is that they are made from China, I suggest you reassess that. Your cell phone is made in China along with who knows how many other things you and I own. I own gear made around the world and the USA. This hobby is an international hobby with vendors in many countries. If your issues with Denafrips are political, well ok. But those issues should be applied equally to all the Chinese made stuff you own. But if you think Denafrips has a QC problem because they are Chinese, IMO that is wrong. From my experience they have no QC issues. Their products are well made and perform at the top of their categories.
Thanks all for your many responses

If I can summarise the results of our little straw poll; the 3 main takeaways thus far are:

1. Buy American

2. Hang onto your 1980-vintage gear for dear life and IGNORE those heretics who will not stop claiming that the 20th Century is over and the world is not flat

3. Don’t expect too much regardless of the price asked
No problems with any of this gear:

US made - Daedalus speakers, Modwright preamp, amp and DAC, Mojo Audio DAC, Wadia IPOD transports, Channel Island Audio LPS

Canadian made - SimAudio CD transport, Finale Audio integrated amp , Blue Circle power conditioners, Blue Circle DAC (no longer own)

French made - JMReynaud speakers

Austrain Made - Ayon Audio integated amp (pre- China production)

China made - Line Magnetic integrated amp
Very few problems over the years. Some turntables and tonearms did not work well but they were not defective. I have had units go south after decades of service but I think that is expected.
Still got an aiwa ad f770 cassette deck made in 1983, and its little brother, the f660. They are both going strong, no issues. Just played some Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline cassettes through the 770, amazing! I got Tannoy eatons, Sugden A21se, Marantz pm14s1, Marantz sa 8005 sacd, Marantz hd cd-1, Marantz st6000, Music Hall mmf-7.3, Project the classic sb, Hana el, ortofon 2m bronze, border patrol dac, musical fidelity v90 dac, Tavish Design the classic phono preamp, Akg k550's, Graham slee novo headphone amp, Jensen and Rothwell SUT's....etc etc....all have zero issues!
Maybe I'm just unlucky!

However, with the near 100% free-from-defects and reliability levels being reported here surely the audio repair shops would be out of business. What about warranties? If products are as bullet proof as forum members report, why are warranties usu only 1-3 years (Bryston / PMC / Rega excepted)? Maybe one or two repair shops could weigh in here and give us their perspective?
No problems here with Pass, Magnepan, Ayre, VPI or Parasound. Also have a much older Kenwood tuner and Pioneer tape deck still working fine.
My bad past experience was with an SAE amp in the 90’s. First unit i received the balance and volume switches were reversed. Sent back on my dime for replacement. Then two tears out of warranty right channel out. Had local guy look at and fix. He had to re solder the entire unit. He said the used a cold solder process that is junk. He fixed and said he would never do it again. Still works great in my garage. All my new equipment no issues st all. Schiit, IfI, Vandersteen, Denfrspes all no issues. Also have a Sansui 7070 running in my wife's salon other than power outages it has not been turned off for 25 years. Still tock solid.
I've been really lucky with electronics
Not a single issue:
Primaluna amp (2 years)Don Sachs preamp (3 years)
Technics TT 1200, 1200G (17 years, 4 years)Salk speakers (11 years)Project phono preamp (3 years)
Paradigm speakers (20 years)
Carver TFM-35 (nos 12 years)
Nad preamp (12 years)

Issues:
Bad capacitors: Carver TFM-15 (25 years and left in storage)







edcyn - Just thought it was strange that you've blown several tweeters. Could it be that you had bad amp or drove them into clipping? The ONLY times I've blown tweeters is from clipping. Now have 6 kW, no more blown anything.
OP - Good summary. Good luck with your equipment!
kingbarbuda - I have not tried Denafrips. Have a friend that received a new DAC that failed in a couple days. I'm just saying I avoid made in China when possible. Of course cellphones, we don't have much choice. Happy you're satisfied with your equipment from China. 
sgreg1 - SAE, the newer series 2 stuff was unreliable, poor QC. Only the original 1970's and early 80's equipment was decent. I like the new big 2HP amp, 746 watts/channel @ 8 ohms.
In most cases the retailer / manufacturer resolved the problems on the first attempt and thereafter I had no further issues.

This is the key. It costs considerably more to produce 100% flawless equipment vs 99% or 95%. As long as the dealer or manufacturer took care of the problem, it’s just an inconvenience you have to deal with. If they don’t, then we have a real problem.

The returned gear can be sold at a lower price to less discriminating buyers as B stock, blemished or whatever. As long as everyone is honest about the gear having cosmetic blemishes, it works out for everyone.
Just bought a brand new pair of KEF Blade two’s. They are being replaced because of a flaw in the finish on one speaker. I’m upgrading to the blades at this point, but highly disappointed that such a defect made it through!
When you decide it is time to stop "Buying" and start enjoying.
You are satisfied and done f-ing with your system. You no longer
want to be repairing anything. Thats when quality is key. My preference
is US made as the factories are stateside. Pass Labs is in a neighboring state. Yes you will pay more. 
But time is money. I won't live forever.
Oh yeah. My Primaluna integrated stopped running. At the time I lived within driving distance of Upscale Audio. Kevin Deal's techie fixed it there and then. A resister(?) evidently went bad.
Of the high end gear the only issue I can think of from equipment I bought new was the Brooklyn DAC not switching very well among high resolution formats. Fixed eventually via software.

Parasound, Focal, Monitor Audio, Luxman, Audio Research all worked flawlessly, though the AR DAC 8 had really odd noise on the scope.
The audio industry is a market....

In a market we can buy anything....

The problem is not the gear, defectuous or not, but the lack of a minimal education with which we can use it at his optimal level....

For example: acoustic controls (not only material treatment here) beat  almost any upgrade in raw upgrading  power...

Where this is explained?

No where.... All the market wanted you to upgrade....

i figure it out myself....

No, acoustic panels sellers will help you about that....They want you to buy their costly panels....
Post removed 
Post removed 

@tomcy6’s points about the compromises that are inherent in cost-efficient manufacturing are very salient. I have some experience of mass manufacturing quality control and know that it is (or at least it used to be many years ago) done through random sampling of the product at set intervals at various points throughout the production process and of the finished products. Not every item is inspected / tested to ensure it is within tolerance and defect free. The sampling rate is set to deliver the percentage of defect-free units the manufacturer or customer can tolerate (which in turn is dictated by the market - us!). Taking tomcy6’s 95% example, this would mean 5% maximum of the production can ship with a fault of some kind. That 5% limit might be relaxed for ‘minor’ defects and tightened for major ones. Obviously, for airplanes, spacecraft and the like, the only sample rate acceptable is 100%, 100% of the time. But for audio products it might be 1 in 20 for a contract mass manufacturer (say in Taiwan), increasing to 1 in 3 or 4 for a medium-sized producer in Europe or North America, right down to checking every single product at every stage for small-scale producers of really high-end gear.

I get it that audio equipment makers need to make a profit and are under the same competitive constraints as all manufacturers - especially in the budget to mid-level end of the market. But having to return / fix gear all the time is a hassle. I believe they can and should do better. And I’m not at all convinced that going further up market improves matters - just look at gregp858’s post about his new $25,000 KEF Blade Two speakers?


I assume that the biggest problem in audio build quality is what James Bonjiorno and David Hafler discovered, allowing the lowest bidder to build your stuff.
I think there are a lot of quality control issues with new gear and  believe the problem will only get worse during the covid situation with increased demand for products the magazines are already talking about a lot o the issues regarding quality control and quality in general I wish this was not the case but i think t will get a lot worse before it gets better.
I got my Mytek's Optical setting to work again. It turned out to be a simple matter of flipping a switch on the back of my Sony CD/SACD player. How did the little red switch get switched? My wife? One of the cats? Me in a momentary bout of insanity?

Anyway, the adventure got me to fish an analogue interconnect out of a box and plug the CD player digital output to the Mytek that way. Now I got three paths to listen to CD -- Mytek Opto, Mytek SPDF and the Sony CD player's DAC via another input in my integrated amp. Best in show? So far, the Sony-Mytek Opto.

In any case, I humbly take back my complaint against the Mytek. I'm currently listening to a minimally miked Mozart opera on a DG Archiv CD. Enjoying the heck out of it.
Bryston 3B, 38 years, blew a channel after 18 years, fixed under warranty.  Blew a channel 20 years after that, sold it as is.  Bought new.

DB Systems 1B/2A/4B blew a ps cap after 38 years.  Bought new.

Logic DM-101 TT, 37 years, still working, had to replace the motor cap after 27 years.  Bought new.

VPI TNT 4, Did some upgrades, still running about 24 years later.  Bought as dealer demo.

Eminent Technology ET 2.5.  Also about 24 years old. Still running.

PS Audio, blew a transistor after 18 years ownership, bought used.

Apogee Duetta II speakers, 22 years, replaced tweeter ribbons after 15, damaged bass panel on 1 speaker during move last year.  Bought used.