I had a Nordost IC to audition with a similar problem.Luckily since it was the only change it was obvious immediately.I can imagine how frustrating your situation was.
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I will say that in my experience customer service from Audience has been excellent and I have heard from others that they have likewise gotten exemplary service from the company. We see a lot of complaints about less than stellar service on these forums. Also important to praise those companies that do a great job of assisting their customers.
I had a short with my Kondo(Japan) silver interconnect recently. Kondo repaired it and now it is as good as new. I had owned the IC for probably 5 years (though bought pre-loved). Gently treated by me during my ownership. I identified the issue by happenstance as I was making sure I had solid connections on all my ICs (preventive maintenance) and when I checked this one, bamm, I could hear a 60 hz hum (the loudness thereof dependent on my volume knob). I could stop it if I rotated the IC connector end just so. So, yes, metallurgy can fail. I will say the Kondo customer response was very good for me.
Thanks for the responses. As I suspected, evidently the problem has occurred with several reputable companies' products. I must say again that I was very pleased with the Audience customer service. I purchased the cables here on Audiogon and certainly had no documentation to support their warranty, but no such questions were asked. The cables were repaired quickly and effectively.
Fineito, your experience would indicate potentially that the insecure connection could potentially introduce a different type of sound (hum), unlike the rustling type of sound and loss of output that were the symptoms of my problem. I'm curious whether anyone out there possesses sufficient electrical engineering knowledge to comment about possible underlying mechanisms to account for the symptoms.