Total cost of ownership - how to reduce it

Audiogon members love their music - but I am not alone, I think, in finding that the requirements in terms of cost and time for keeping the system running at optimal, can become too steep. Can we help each other out?

Today I have spent two hours trying to find a failed tube in my system. Two months ago I had a bad episode with a repair service that did not repair and did not return my stuff. Some weeks ago, I blew a speaker driver, I am still waiting for the replacement. Thinking, I need a tube tester, since my system has a lot of tubes - I got the tester, but it blew tubes, not "dead on arrival" but "over-excited" - and has to be repaired. I am perhaps especially unlucky. But I ask myself, how much is enough? When such experiences accumulate, I can understand people plugging into Mp3, it is simple and it works.

I have thought about my situation and diagnosed two main types of problems - maybe, relevant for other Audiogon members also.

The first is where you buy a thing used and then get it upgraded by the manufacturer. You pay quite a lot for this, and you would expect the whole thing is checked - but it is not. In two cases now, I have experienced that even if the upgrade works fine, the box as a whole is not checked, and develops problems a year or two after the upgrade.

The second case is where you pay for an upgrade that is more like a new build (e g of a speaker) or rebuild (of a cartridge). Now, there is no lagging wear and tear problem, but it turns out that the upgrade parameters were not fully developed, things have to be changed or checked afterwards (speaker drivers dont work optimal, needle not quite in place, etc).

I would be the first to recognize that some of these costs (time, mainly, but money also) should be accepted. I have paid local repair costs without complaining, and have used many hours of my own time. As an advanced user, I accept some extra costs.

It is just that, sometimes it gets too much.

I would like other Audiogon users' thoughts on this dilemma, and especially, what can we do to reduce the total ownership costs.

Your thoughts and experiences welcome.
First of all, have the money to be in (no matter what you buy for a hobby) or get out. Keep doing the same thing you've always been doing, and you'll get the same results. If you pay for garbage you can't expect much. There are exceptions to every rule, but I still say that quality doesn't cost, it pays. Maintaining equipment is the responsibility of the owner.
Hi all and thanks for advice. The thread takes up a common concern but perhaps the question was too broad. So answers become quite general. Enjoy what works. Listen for what sounds good. Be patient. Plan ahead. Avoid complexity – if possible – but be aware that better-sounding and larger scale systems require time and money. Buy quality, although it costs more here and now. Check manufacturers’ customer support and solidity over time. Get a good tech. Make sure that older equipment is fully checked and serviced when repaired or upgraded. Avoid upgrades that aren’t really needed. Keep backup equipment. Make it easy to test the system and locate problems yourself.
Perhaps I overlooked something, but this is my summary for now.
In general output tubes have the shortest lifespan, so changing to an amp with less tubes would cut your cost and maintenance time. Using fans should reduce temperature and greatly extend component life. The heart and soul of any component is its power supply and usually they have electrolytic caps and they are the first parts that should be changed. Here, check the brand and model and check digikey or mouser or other major supply houses regarding its specs. Electrolytics caps with better specs come out about every 5 years, some of my components are 15 years old and I have just changed these caps for the second time and each change has resulted in a huge improvement, so much so that it outperforms their
current models that have lessor quality caps. The components are very stable and tube life has been greatly extended, a friends output tubes are about 15 yrs old and still going strong. Finally the current components from this manufacturer run in the lower five figure to the mid five figure price tag, so they are not cheap.
Thank you, Btselect!
I agree - more tubes, more maintenance. But they sound better (in my case) so I accept it - it is not a heavy burden although sometimes an output tube goes bad in the MA-1 amps (28 of them).
Fans, yes, I use one, a computer fan, slowed down to absolute silent operation (with a resistor), behind my preamp.
Electrolytic caps - interesting. I am getting a tube tester, and it seems I should do some caps inspection also. I am no engineer though, not sure what to look for.
Learn how to build your own gear and you can have it all. The finest sound, upgrades whenever you want them, a system that is tailored exactly to your preferences, and repairs at zero labor cost. The biggest misconception in this hobby is that this stuff requires an expert super-genius to build...not the case, especially with tube gear. Nothing new has been invented tube circuit-wise in decades; just various refinements on the same concepts. If you have any mechanical aptitude at all you can build this stuff.

There is so much information on the internet these days, you could be up to speed in a year just from reading the forums and playing around in your basement. In addition to saving you tons of money it turns out to be a pretty fun hobby,too!