How are the mighty fallen!

My Sony S-790 BDP is fast becoming just another piece of crap. Its drive shakes, rattles and vibrates. It's getting progressively worse! The racket can be clearly heard above quieter moments in films and music. I measured the background noise in my room at about 38dB(C) The Sony produced 57dB(C) while playing a perfectly normal music CD! The player will have to go back. Probably to linger over-long in a busy repair workshop before being returned with exactly the same drive and a claim of no unusual problems. My, presumably much cheaper, DVD drive in my PC is silent when spinning exactly the same disks.

The Sony player was made in Malaysia. Unless Sony has suddenly developed a foreign factory, as a sign of of its charitable kindness, these players are made there because wages are lower than at home. In other words: They pay slave wages by Japanese standards and the staff are treated contemptibly. Presumably that would explain Shimano having their (expensive) bicycle pedals made there as well. It may even be the same factory. With armed guards to stop the overworked staff from committing suicide by jumping off the factory roof.

Despite the savings in wages and avoiding the expense of proper working conditions, in much of Asia, there is nothing new for the gullible customer in paying over the odds for crap products. Not just in the Japanese home electronics industry either. I have a British Naim NAP180 power amp which has to have the mains plug inserted at the rear every time I want to use it. Switched mains sockets are considered bad karma in subjective audio circles. But not (apparently) the essential switch on all mains powered equipment. It's probably required by law. So the few  remaining (endlessly gullible) subjectivists can only repeat the old mantras and turn a deaf ear.

The Naim isolated push switch design is aimed at some sort of unspoken but completely impractical ideal of isolation. The switch actually floats on its connecting cables, within the case and is actuated by an offset, plastic plunger. Nice theory until the switch will no longer keep still as it dangles limply on its own leads. Then the front panel, push button, on-off switch moves uselessly in and out without having the desired effect.

I thought I had finally solved the problem with a rubber packing piece between the switch and the inner drawer of the metal case. However, my fix was short lived and it was back to shoving the plug up the arse of the amp every single time I want to use it. Naim usually insists on leaving their equipment constantly powered up to obtain the best audio performance. As a committed believer in Global Warming I cannot bring myself to use that get-out clause for totally crap switch design!

Another odd thing about the Naim amps is their highly resonant alloy cases. The outer sleeve is made of a single, tubular, rectangular, alloy extrusion. It rings like a bell! So much so that simply switching the amp on produces a loud metallic ring with exactly the same tone as the tubular case bell! I kid you not! Even plugging it in, rather than using the completely non-functional on-off switch, produces the same, loud, metallic kerrang!

Naim's claim to fame doesn't end there though. It uses large diameter, construction kit, control knobs. These knobs have a plastic face plate held only by friction within a rubber band fitted around the plastic rim. Of course, you've guessed it, eventually the rubber stretches and the amp now has no security for its knob's face-plates. Last time I looked there was quite a market in overpriced, Naim style control knobs on eBay. Since the control knob face plates hide the fixing screw, which holds the bløødy knob on, then gluing the face plate on with something like super-glue is a probably a very bad idea.

There was a time [in the last century] when Linn turntables had a mutually parasitic association with Naim amplification in Subjective Circles. Until, inevitably, Linn decided to branch out from its mechanical roots and build the electronics as well. Most of Linn's reputation was built on the infamous LP12 Sondek turntable. It was far more expensive than competitors, like Thorens, but laid claim to improved sound quality over "lesser" record playing devices. The subjectively orientated audio magazines bought into this line, hook and bias counterweight.

I myself had bought heavily into the new "Subjective Audio" movement and started with a Thorens TD150AB. Which I heavily modified with sound absorbing materials. My later purchase of a Linn Sondek with a Basik arm did not provide the immediate satisfaction I had long hoped for. Repeated set-ups by the shop staff did not excite. Even the factory staff could do no better when they had an upgrade session at the local HiFi shop. No doubt the set-up free-bee and new springs was in the hope of sales of foolishly expensive, upgraded arms and cartridges to match their magik touch. BTW: Linn liked to add a trademark 'k' to every product name to separate itself from normality. So your immediate reaction to my obvious misspelling is only half correct.

Linn Son-deks were supposed to be "set up" in a unique way which could be heavily charged for. And was a nice little earner for many Linn dealers. Lot of mystique and snake oil were essential for this task. There being no official set-up instructions provided from beyond Hadrian's Wall. Not even to those LP12 owners who lived well beyond a grasping dealer's reach.

Those dealers with true witch doctor powers over the Sondek were much admired and repeatedly visited for the "laying on of the hands." The Linn Sondek would then [allegedly] achieve levels of musical rapture which no other turntable could possibly manage. We must not be cynical here and suggest that a ride home in the car afterwards might just undo some of the expensive "magik."

After a few years of love-hate relationship with my Linn Sondek I had it "upgraded" with new drive electronics. Plus an inner platter and bearing set, much more expensive Linn arm and a very expensive moving coil cartridge. I also purchased the supposedly well respected 72/180 Naim pre-power amp combo at the same time. All from the same, highly regarded Linn/Naim dealer.

Imagine my surprise to find that when I got home that the outer platter now wobbled up and down at the rim by several millimetres! [1/8"+ in old money] That would be the Linn ultra-high precision, platter shaft engineering, would it? The cheapo Philips drive motor still ticked incredibly loudly. Just as it had done from brand new despite several replacement ball bearings and new springs. Nor would the arm board ever sit straight in the [deliberately] sagging top plate cut-out.

Perhaps I shouldn't dwell on the roughly carved slots of the Linn's Afrormosia plinth. It must have been a Friday afternoon at the factory when a vat broke at the local whiskey distillery and the contents could only be saved by lapping it up. It took me hours of rubbing at the slots with a folded piece of sandpaper to get rid of the ugly raggedness. Given Linn's claim to owning expensive CNC machinery I cannot imagine why they needed to have a registered blind person hand carve these slots with a safely blunted chisel. [In case they cut themselves, silly!] 

I can't say the rebuilt turntable sounded very much better for all the added expense. In case you are wondering: I ended up using cellotape to pack up one side of the inner platter so the outer rim rotated evenly by eye. The outer platter still rings like a bell and corrodes continuously to powdery white ugliness unless constantly repolished. That will be Linn's special, low resonance alloy. Fabled to be left outside for months to weather in the special, Scottish climate. I have often wondered if it made any audible difference if the platter storage rack faces north or south? No doubt there are those in the subjective audio movement who can quote chapter and verse on such matters. What-ever. 

Meanwhile, back at the Malaysian sweat shop: The Sony's [supposedly] touch sensitive top plate has taken umbrage with my earlier criticism. It now refuses to switch on, or off, with a stroke of the hand. Well, not with my hand, anyway. I have tried both and it seems to prefer the left even though I am right handed. When the player does work it grows increasingly sensitive about its [pristine] quality requirements in DVD disks. We borrow free DVD films from the library but are constantly plagued by stutters and total freeze-ups. The drive continues to rattle like a North Korean tank running on the gas purged, by force, from several million empty stomachs.

PS. The Sony BDPs790B has gone back to the shop [independent workshop] to be repaired. It had added freezing to its usual box of tricks. Requiring the power be switched off at the wall to reset it. I tried changing the disk but that didn't help. Even the film elapsed time clock on the little screen packed up. Leaving us with just a series of hyphens. The picture freezing and hiccuping was the last straw after a year of listening to the Sony disk drive rattling even above action films! The touch sensitive case "buttons" had also given up the ghost recently. Becoming erratic in their reaction to my increasingly desperate hand movements. Often ignoring me altogether when I wanted to switch it off.

I bought a £50[equiv] Philips BDP1200 as backup and to provide us with our our nightly film watching experience. At least while the Sony is being repaired. Hopefully it will only need to be repaired once. Though I have very little faith remaining in any of Sony's products. The cheap little Philips BDP offers an excellent picture and cuts nicely through the background crap to the dialogue on Deadwood.  [DTS Master Audio popped up by default.] The first time I have seen it come up on the Onkyo screen. This seemed to lift the background noise at times but the dialogue remained nicely clear throughout. Fans of Deadwood will know how "convoluted" some of the character's voices are.

We have been blaming the Onkyo '818 for the lack of dialogue clarity ever since its purchase. I have been constantly fiddling with the channel levels. Though this provided no relief. We both thought we were going deaf! It seems the overpriced, seriously substandard Sony BDPs790B was to blame all along! The Philips also plays disks silently. Unlike the racket which has always emanated from the pathetic Sony drawer! The Philips also has nice "slow motion" drawer action as it opens and closes which the Sony at three times the price cannot emulate with a following wind.

Perhaps Sony thought they'd throw in a free bass shaker in the drawer. To save the purchaser from having to buy a subwoofer as well? Heaven knows what the Japanese dinosaur thinks it's doing on sourcing and QC these days. Perhaps a few of their QC directors, if there are any, should offer to fall on their swords? I just hope Sony doesn't make swords as well. They'd probably snap in half before they could do any real harm!

Talking of subwoofers: Some fuckwit is driving along a nearby road with his system banging away before 6am! He/it has woken me/us several mornings in a row now. Perhaps they should bring back the death penalty? Perhaps not. How, on earth, would they check whether he was brain dead?