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Hi-Fi Plus Magazine --  Hi-Fi+

October 2023

 

Let's Talk About The Right To Repair
Can we find a happy medium?
Editorial By Alan Sircom

 

Hi-Fi+ October 2023

 

  The Right to Repair is something audio magazines rarely consider, but automatically factor into reviews. But, in recent years, it has become an increasingly important issue in the longevity of good audio.

Let's get the easy part out of the way first; the need to discuss a Right to Repair doesn't apply when it comes to most turntables and loudspeakers. Products that are primarily exercises in engineering as opposed to electronic engineering have an ability to be repaired baked into their construction and design. Put simply, if you blow up a drive unit on a loudspeaker, you get a new drive unit!

The same doesn't hold true all the time with electronics today. Outside of audio, we moved from a 'repair' culture to a 'disposable' society. If you go through 'that drawer' of tech, you'll likely find several phones in various state of function. Some consigned to electronic purgatory for no other reason than 'Shiny New Thing Make It All Better', while others have a legitimate problem that needs resolving, but it's easier and sometimes cheaper to replace than repair. That culture is gradually leaking into audio.

We are sort of immune to these forces thanks to the sheer price of good audio. Just as anyone buying an expensive watch, car, pen, camera, stove, or guitar might expect it to be able to be maintained and repaired throughout its (hopefully) long life, so the purchase of good audio comes with an expectation of decades of operation and with that comes repair.

 

Hi-Fi+ October 2023

 

Sadly, the art and craft of good repair is becoming a rare commodity. Worse, a lot of circuit design is so integrated, repairs are impossible and replacement is recommended. This might sound feasible for something with a product life cycle measured in months, but isn't so good for a product that was expected to be on sale for a decade and in use for a generation.

While all audio magazines are largely driven by novelty we want it new and we want it now! the industry will suffer if today's audio royalty is tomorrow's landfill. This isn't intended as railing against surface-mount devices or VLSI chips, but is an understanding that with such products comes an additional level of complexity to any long-term repair strategy.

The problem is surface-mount technology brings so many benefits in circuit design. It makes a product infinitely more consistent, reduces factory failure rates to zero, and speeds up the production process (a complex circuit board could take hours for a skilled technician to populate, where a pick-and-place machine can do the same in seconds). However, aside from liking the artisan touch of hand-made products, testing and replacing surface-mount devices is difficult and time consuming. We need to find a happy medium for long-term owners.

 

 


Alan Sircom, Editor hi-fi+

 

 

 


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