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quadlover
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Audio Research quality

Anyone else notice that this is the second power amp/int amp from Audio Research that has had a "hiccup" when tested by JA? When the Ref amp was tested for the last review (that the reviewer bought I may add) there were some poor measurments that Audio Research blamed on a tube. Now this unit has issues requiring some work. Are the units reviewed "new off the line" or are they units that go from reviewer to reviewer? To question Audio Research's ability to make a product of outstanding sonic quality is ridiculous. However as a consumer, however, this raises a serious question of short, and more importantly, long term quality/reliability. Or am I alone in this matter?

Editor
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Re: Audio Research quality


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Are the units reviewed "new off the line" or are they units that go from reviewer to reviewer?

Both can be the case. I believe that with the Audio Research VSi60, that this was a new sample that was sent straight to the reviewer. However. all too often, we receive review samples that have done the rounds of dealers and other reviewers before they are sent to Stereophile.

I believe that this, coupled with the fact that reviewers for other magazines almost never measure (and those on the Web often appear to have little critical listening ability and don't detect some faults), goes some way to explaining why we have so many failures. For instance, in recent issues see our reviews of Totem, NAT, Harbeth, Cary, etc. I am also spending this weekend checking out an amplifier we have in for review because the reviewer felt there was something wrong with it. There is, in that one channel has way too much distortion to be working properly. We will request another sample.

And in the case of the Audio Research this also illustrates something typical of Stereophile, in that we do test the a component's ultimate performance envelope, similar to the way a car magazine will take a car on to the skid pan to see where it starts to tip over. Review samples do tend to break under circumstances that are on the limit of what they will experience in normal use.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

It might be interesting for us to know how long, on average, does it take for you to do your complete measurements on an amp or CD player? I would not add in the essay part of your work, but just knowing how long it took during your measurement time to know if something was wrong.

I guess this follows that is there a price point where the manufacturer might be induced to test every unit for sale? I often wonder with some of the issues you have found would an unsuspecting customer KNOW if something was wrong? The Harbeth review is a case in point.

It may be an economic improbability to expect every unit to be inspected for moderately priced gear, but the expensive gear might deserve such treatment. Or I should say, the customers do.

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality

Agree. Even at around $2k I'd expect every piece of equipment to be thoroughly tested by the manufacturer before it leaves the premises.

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Re: Audio Research quality


Quote:
It might be interesting for us to know how long, on average, does it take for you to do your complete measurements on an amp or CD player?

Including writing the report, each measurements sidebar in the magazine represents a complete day of my life, but more than a day if there is something wrong with the review sample.


Quote:
just knowing how long it took during your measurement time to know if something was wrong.

With the amplifier I am currently working on, i knew there was something wrong within the first 30 minutes, but it took me the rest of yesterday to check out everything and fully characterize the performance of each of the channels. After all, when just one channel is bad, there might also be a problem with the test system, the test load, the wiring, etc. I used 2 different test systems, swapped all the tubes from one channel to the other, used a different test load, etc. No matter what I did, the problem remained with the same channel, confirming that it was, for want of a better word, "broken."


Quote:
I guess this follows that is there a price point where the manufacturer might be induced to test every unit for sale?

A conscientious manufacturer soak-tests _every_ unit to eliminate what are called "infant mortalities." But with so much production off-shored, the US company is basically reduced to a warehousing and order-servicing facility, with no additional QC performed. Even so, the dealer should weed out any further failures. Otherwise, why should he be entitled to a margin on the sale?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

quadlover
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Re: Audio Research quality

ja writes,
"A conscientious manufacturer soak-tests _every_ unit to eliminate what are called "infant mortalities." But with so much production off-shored, the US company is basically reduced to a warehousing and order-servicing facility, with no additional QC performed. Even so, the dealer should weed out any further failures. Otherwise, why should he be entitled to a margin on the sale?"

I strongly disagree. First off I am not employed in the audio industry at any level. How many consumers would buy non sealed equipment as new? Why should the dealer's margin (regardless of the price or percentage made) be dependent entirely on the quality or lack of it by their vendor? If every dealer was required to bench test every piece of equipment he/she sold do you really think they will survive? A retail dealers margin or gross profit if you will is dependent on many fixed items but quality controling their vendors is not one of them. Using your logic the Audio Reserch integrated you tested (as well as the Reference amp from before) should be sold at cost if the dealer sold it to you new in the box because Audio Research did not properly qc or bench test the unit. This is not to pick on Audio Research as there are many cases where Stereophile and other "high-end" magazines hint at or actually say or request a second unit due to quality issues. But the retail store should not have to be responsible unless the manufacturer will reimburse them for doing so.

Editor
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Re: Audio Research quality


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How many consumers would buy non sealed equipment as new?

That's a good question. I think I was thinking on wider lines, ie, if a dealer selling a product gets a signficant number of returns for serice and customer complaints about that product, that dealer will exert pressure on the manufacturer to sort out the problems. This happened, for example, with the an early, expensive, high-end DVD player, which suffered, I am told a >100% failure in the field, ie, samples didn't just fail once, but some did more than once.


Quote:
Why should the dealer's margin (regardless of the price or percentage made) be dependent entirely on the quality or lack of it by their vendor?

Seems to me that such a matter is part of the vendor's identity, and needs to be taken into account by the dealer. With the DVD player example I mentioned above, two service visits to the customer's home to fix or replace the product wipes out any profit the dealer would have made on the sale.


Quote:
the retail store should not have to be responsible unless the manufacturer will reimburse them for doing so.

Again a good point, But if the dealer is not going to pre-inspect what they sell (as car dealers do), and is not going to have samples on hand for audition (which is increasingly the case, according to the complaints I receive from readers), then all they are doing is to take the order and to arrange for the product to be shipped. In which case, what other value are they adding to the sale? What have I overlooked?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

I agree with John. I would not expect a dealer to inspect a $300 Marantz recevier.

On the other hand, a $10,000 mono block, the dealer could open up and run some tests similar to what JA does and include a printed copy of the tests with the units he has in stock. He could keep one sealed for that customer who wants his "untouched".

If the factory is not going to test them, the dealer might want to get on board with that as an important service for HIS customers. That is one way he could "differentiate" himself in the market. If you are just going to warehouse them, then a discount might be in order and the customer hope he has a good unit that meets its specifications..

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality

IMO the responsibility lies with the manufacturer. For the dealer it can be both time consuming, expensive and a general pain in the rear end to deal with multiple broken units. It shouldn't really be his problem, right?

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

I would agree, except that if a dealer sells a pair of $10K monoblocks and stands to make 40 points ($8grand) I'm not sure he could not stand to insure his customers are happy, becuase if the unit comes back for a return he has lost everything now deal with the manufacturer about a "possible" defective unit.

I do believe that at some price point testing every unit by the mfg should be done, but I doubt that it is and the dealer will suffer the brunt of the customer's rath. I would have no way of knowing if an amp in a new box is "B" stock (refurbished) or new.

It is hardly fair to push the QC of goods on the dealer or the customer. It is still done everyday.

quadlover
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Re: Audio Research quality

First off, new car dealers get paid a prep fee from maunfacturer's to inspect all new vehicles before they are sold to the customer. The fee is based on a typical time (for most domestics it is between 1 & 2 hours) and at their warranty labor rate. They do not, however, run it on a dynomometer to verify horsepower, run EPA gas test results, and verify fuel economy.

If any audio store has even a 40-50% failure rate of a new product within early ownership, they should seriously consider dropping that line, regardles of what it is, or else their reputation as an audio store goes out the window.

the dealer is entitled to a margin because he foots the bill for a building, staff, utilities, inventory, furniture/demo facilities. He provides an environment where the product can be evaluated, professional assistance and advice given, service drop off, etc.

Now if all equiment requires presale verification/certification without customer or mfg's reimbusement for time and cost of test equipment there will be fewer dealer outlets than there are now and their prices will be higher than today's consumer will spend.

That will be a no win for all. Bottom line is all manufacturer's have an obligation to distribute a quality product. The dealer's obligation is to merchandise the best product available to the customer at their given price point at a price the dealer can survive in and the customer can afford to pay. After all a good deal is a state of mind!

JIMV
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Re: Audio Research quality


Quote:
It might be interesting for us to know how long, on average, does it take for you to do your complete measurements on an amp or CD player?

On a related question...often the recommendation is to find a dealer who will let you audition at home or use a company with a good return policy. My question is, will 30 days from shipment to return deadline in normal use be enough to tell what a unit sounds like if it take hundreds of hours to sound right, as described in some reviews?

I feel one is taking advantage of a dealer if one returns a unit before it has had time to sound as it should after that LOOOONNNNNGGGGG a break in.

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality

Over here the normal loan period is two weeks, which is clearly inadequate IMO.

tom collins
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Re: Audio Research quality

if the loaner is an in service demo, it should have its breakin issues sorted out.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

Now we get to another issue of audiophile expectation and how much each of us agonize over particular performance requirements. We must remember that the audio dealer is not a "library" where we can check things out and try them free of comittment.

I am further enough along in my life where I see things sounding different rather than "better", what ever that means. I could be very happy with any equipment in Stereophile categories A or B, but I own much that is not even close to that, but still enjoy it because it does mosts things right that I think are important. Many of you have great systems that you enjoy and you could probaably change out a piece of gear to something else and possibly be just as happy.

Many people don't buy the Motor Trend Car or Truck of the year and are happy with other features or styling. It is no different for our hobby.

Most of us get it as the "listening to" thread goes on and on becuase it is about the music in the end, not the gear.

I know buyer's remorse is a bad thing, but that is not the dealer's fault once one gets gear home. Don't leave the store unless you are convinced you might not want to take it back. We can't always view mistakes we think we make in life as someone else's fault. Most of mine are self-inflicted.

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality


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if the loaner is an in service demo, it should have its breakin issues sorted out.

When I went to audition my new speakers a few months ago, the dealer didn't have the same model, but a smaller one, and they had never played as much as 5 minutes. Luckily they opened up quite a bit within that hour I spent listening to my own CD's. Either way, that the dealer was "unprepared" was not what I expected.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

Were you able to listen to them at another dealer, or did he bring in a pair for you to try?

My AR swere intesting as my wife was buying me a BDay present at our local dealer and mentioned to him that I had owned AR 3's years ago and he showed her the AR 58's which were $800 a pair, but he offered them for $350 and she called me right way. I quickly went down to the store with some music, listen for about 15 minutes and rapped them up. AT $350, that would have been a cheap mistake to get over. Lukily for me I have been very content. Contentment is a great thing and a huge money saver.

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality

No other dealer in my area that had any of those speakers. No he did not offer to bring in a pair, but I was adequately satisfied after having heard their smaller "brother". I was certain that the ones I wanted were better. 6

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Audio Research quality

I think also in your favor is that I doubt Dynaudio has ever made a bad speaker.

Freako
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Re: Audio Research quality

I tend to agree

Jerryg
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Re: Audio Research quality

Audio Research has such a fine reputation that I have to lean in their favor. Unless those amps were hand carried and delivered to JA by Audio Research or one of their reps, you have no idea of what they have been through while in transit. Freight haulers, UPS, FedEx and the US Postal service are not known for handle-with-care philosophies, even when the box is marked fragile. (Ugly realworld experience)

Audio Research could also be the victim of a production run of bad tubes. What really matters is how well does Audio Research handle and promptly correct the issue. I would hope that their QA folks are taking a long hard look right about now at both their processes and those of their tube supplier.

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