A Look At Reliability

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This morning a piece of audio gear broke. Given the amount of gear that I review and own, having something fail isn't exactly a rare occurrence. But it got me thinking about some of the components that I own that have worked day-after-day and year-after-year. The list would be longer, but  there's a lot of gear that I don't get to experience over the long haul, but here's some that has delivered years of listening pleasure.

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The top of my list of reliable and great sounding gear is my Pass X-150.3 power amplifier. I've had it since 2001 and it has been rock solid despite a myriad of power outages, spikes, and user errors resulting in full output. Besides being uber-reliable the Pass X-150.3 is a great sounding power amplifier. And while it did list for $4250, if you divide it over the years of ownership, it's cost me $354 per year (not counting electricity to run it). Less than $1 a day isn't bad for a solid top-flight piece of electronics.

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What other components have been as reliable? My Dunlavy SC-VI speakers    have been making beautiful music since I got them in 1996. I did blow up the tweeters once due to an amplifier going into oscillation, but since then I've never had any problems with these $25,500/pair full-range speakers. Since Dunlavy Audio has long since closed their doors, it's a good thing that John Dunlavy used "off-the-shelf" drivers that, except for more rigorous grading and testing, are identical to the original manufacturer's product. If I did manage to break a driver I can still find a drop-in replacement.

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Another power amplifier that has been extremely reliable is the Bryston PowerPac120 monoblock. I've had five of them since 1997, and I've used them for driving full-range speakers, subwoofers, and even PA columns, and they've never even blown a fuse. And while I've heard slightly better sounding amplifiers, such as the Pass X-150.3, the PowerPac120 is  still fine "straight, no chaser" amplifier. There's a reason that Bryston has a 20-year warranty - their stuff doesn't break.

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Other components that have remained in my system and proved their long-term worth are my two VPI turntables. My HW-19 as been spinning records since 1985, mounted with an original Souther Linear tracking arm and a Denon 103/VanDenHul cartridge. My other VPI turntable, a TNT III, has been equally reliable. Sure I've replaced some rubber belts and the TNT's air-support bladders do leak slightly, requiring pumping up before any critical listening session, but it sounds wonderful after just a couple of minutes of adjustment.

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The Meridian 500-series pre/pros have also been super-reliable over the years. I own a Meridian 568.2 in one system to decode surround sources while in my other system a 561 handles all my Dolby, Direct TV, and digital video signals. I also have a 518 digital converter and upsampling box that still sees occasional use (it's great for improving both Sonos and Squeezebox digital signals.) Given the number of 500 series components I see available on the used market, I can only assume that there are lots of 500 series components still going strong, just like mine.

I'm sure that there are many pieces of vintage and even semi-vintage components that have proved to be reliable and long-lasting - obviously there's a lot of old McIntosh, Marantz, and even Scott and Fisher audio gear that still works as well as when it was new.

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I also have some relatively new gear, such as my Krell S-150 monoblock power amplifiers, which so far have proven to be solid and able to deal with the vagaries of use in the field, including multiple power outages and brown-outs. But only time will tell if they are as long-term reliable as some of my older gear.

For my money one of the main reasons to buy high-performance high-quality audio components is for their reliability. Because if it breaks it doesn't matter how wonderful it USED to sound...

 

 

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