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.
Keep it simple.

Also if  tubes you have to have a good tube tester to find the problem or keep spares around to swap one at a time to isolate the bad ones.   

Also good point with tube gear to try and find gear designed to help with tube life. 

Also I've found Class D integrated amps can deliver very competitive top notch sound reliably and the efficiency of operation also helps keep TCO down. 

+1 Keep it simple
Could we agree on two rules?

1 Total cost of ownership = money plus waste of time (repairs etc).
2 Also, cost must be judged relative to benefits in the ownership period.
So for example - you can invest in a safe brand to sell later, or invest in potentially best sounding gear, even if the resell price will be lower. Different folks, different takes.

Since I have a lot of tubes in my system, I've invested in a tube tester (Beck RM-1) despite the fact that it does not fully measure what is needed in the components I use.

It would be interesting to hear what class D can do. So far I've been hesitant, and happy with OTL class A.
  • No tubes. Solid-state only.
  • No vinyl.
  • Buy only from companies with records of standing behind their products.
  • Have a belt of scotch before you listen. It will keep you from focusing on those little niggles that lead to new purchases.
generally tube gear is less sensitive to major repairs, is easier and less costly to upgrade, as long as it follows a relatively simple design/construction. You have to change tubes regularly though to have it in perfect shape. Solid state generally is more complex and needs more parts to be replaced if something goes too bad. Speakers will determine if the amp will be tube or ss.
You can make true savings by never fixing a used cartridge (few exceptions are Koetsu, VDH or any MM type), get a new one by exchanging, try to DIY your cables (power, signal) after borrowing and testing samples, do not hunt too expensive or too many NOS tubes for better sound, it is wallet draining from start, you can find much cheaper alternatives that sound equally good. Check for second hand alternatives, downsize where and if necessary. Be patient and learn your system.