A Plague Upon Our House

The summer of 1975 will be remembered by us, with no fondness whatsoever, as The Time the Roof Fell In. Or the Murphy Months, or the Period of the Plague Upon Our House.

Ye Editor can recall from the days of WWII hearing and reading about the depredations of some mischievous sprites called Gremlins, who would cause aircraft hatchcovers to jam and control cables to get hung up at the worst possible moment, but I don't think I ever really did believe in Gremlins. I think I sensed somehow that the mishaps attributed to their malevolent machinations were too capricious to be the work of thinking, calculating little spirits. But I was not clever enough to put my finger on what was going on. That had to wait for a gentleman named something-or-other Murphy, who was (to my knowledge) the first person to put a tag on it, and to formulate a basic law about it. The tag was "the perversity of inanimate objects," and the law was "If anything can possibly go wrong, it will."

There are countless corollaries to Murphy's Law, some of which were published in Crown's excellent manual for their IC-150 preamp, and several of which are worth reproducing here in case you never bought an IC-150. To wit:

• "If a circuit cannot fail, it will."

• "The probability of failure of a component, assembly, subsystem or system is inversely proportional to ease of repair or replacement."

• "The probability of a dimension being omitted from a plan or drawing is directly proportional to its importance."

• A transistor protected by a fast-blowing fuse will protect the fuse by blowing first."

And so on.

We have our own corollary to Murphy's Law, which we read off like the Rights of the Accused to every manufacturer who sends us equipment for testing. It goes:

• "If one sample out of fifty off the production line is to become defective immediately after passing final inspection, that will be the one sent to Stereophile for testing (footnote 1)."

Well, this summer proved our point.

Actually, we had been doing pretty well for a couple of years. Only about one out of every eight components sent to us shriveled up or had apoplexy when first turned on. We are inclined to believe, in retrospect, that dbx provided our first inkling that this might be a bad summer. The first 119 they sent us was dead in one channel. It was duly replaced with one that worked. Then our trusty Harman-Kardon 1000 cassette machine refused to shut off at the end of the tape. We still thought they were isolated incidents. But when the Epicure Qne amplifier went dead in one channel three days later, we had a strange feeling of impending doom.

In April 1975, Murphy moved in to stay. Our preproduction prototypes of the Infinity SS-1A speaker system arrived, having been previously tested for only three months. It wasn't enough.

Within the first three days, the electronic crossover started cutting off the tweeter in one channel. Obviously a simple case of a defective part on a plug-in circuit board, right? Right. Except that when the new, production-type board arrived, it kept popping fuses on the crossover. Seems it was not quite like the pre-production one, and was shorting to a mounting bracket which, in the production crossover, had been moved so as not to short out the new board. We fixed that with insulating tape, but by then the rectifier had been so overtaxed that it let go.

Then the electrostatic speaker power supplies started popping. And so did two replacement circuit boards. Next, we lost two of the Infinity midrange panels, and somewhere in between, our first sample of the switching amplifier pooped out.

Meanwhile, we also lost: an Ampzilla amplifier, whose cooling fan froze up; a Dyna PAT-5 preamp that started making 60Hz buzzing noises and radiated a weird variety of picture interference into Channel 12 on our TV set; a Dyna FM-5 tuner that faded out and stayed out; an FMI J-Modular speaker whose middle range quit; a Decca pickup, one of whose coils came unglued; a Rabco SL-8E tonearm that started scraping cartridges across the disc at the end of the side; another Infinity panel whose power-transformer insulation broke down; and a Yamaha CT-7000 tuner that just quit receiving. Meanwhile, our air conditioner caught the prevailing mood and went out of commission during the soggiest week of the summer, and every paper cone in the house got waterlogged.

Still, we continued valiantly, testing components for all you avid readers out there until we found that, due to the massive power line load, because of local air conditioners fighting the weather, our AC supply was down to 104 volts and all the amp and preamp tests we had done were invalid. By then it was the end of July, so we just said "To Hell With It!" We started putting this issue together, mumbling apologies' for not having more full reports but that's the way the cookie crumbles! We did manage to include a number of Quickies though, based on what listening we were able to get in after things returned to a semblance of normalcy (and we installed an AC line Variac and voltage monitor}.

Anyway, that's why we are late and this issue is shy of full reports, but we felt it better to do the best we could with what we had on hand than to delay this issue any longer. Meanwhile, does anyone know of an exorcist who specializes in Gremlins?—J. Gordon Holt

Footnote 1: Some readers may have noticed another equipment reviewer, writing elsewhere, making the same statement. We should mention that we told him our Murphy corollary at a convention last September. If he came up with it before, it was a case of two independent discoveries of the same Immutable Truth.—J. Gordon Holt

Allen Fant's picture

If JGH were still here in 2015, he would deduce that Obama, is the "plague upon our house".

calaf's picture

you mean as in house of representatives?

Joe Whip's picture

Allen Fant. This is an audio site. Take your politics elsewhere please.

John Atkinson's picture
Joe Whip wrote:
Take your politics elsewhere please.

We have a section in our on-line forum called "The Open Bar" where political commentary should be posted.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Joe Whip's picture

He should take it there then. It has no place in an audio thread. If I wanted political stuff, I wouldn't come to Stereophile, I would go elsewhere. If it starts to pollute the threads here, I won't be back.

Sal1950's picture

First my 71 Monte Carlo was hit so hard while parked in front of the house at about 3 AM it was totaled.
I replaced it with a 72 Gran Prix that was hit while parked in the same place about 2 months later.
Then two weeks before Christmas the building I rented my apartment in burned to the ground.
Two years later the girl I married in 1975 divorced me.
Yep 75 was a bad year. RIP Gordon. LOL