Beancounters rant

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by gait, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. gait

    gait TDPRI Member

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    Howdie,
    My name is Gait and I repair amps. Done this for about 20 years and because it's not my dayjob it is still fun.
    And I noticed something. I've seen many Twins and Deluxes that are about 50 years old and still going strong.
    And I've also seen many amps with printed circuit boards that won make ten years. But pcb' s are only part of the
    problem. It is also the use of the cheapest components (resistors, capacitors, electrolytes) the manufacturer can get
    away with. As long as there are just a few casualties within the year of warranty everything is cool, they think.
    But it's not. Deliberately using components that are on the brink of collapsing even when new. It is an insult to us,
    buyers and users that buy amps and stuff in good faith. And it's not just Fender or Marshall/ If you see an amp
    that says " designed in U.S.A." you bet it's built in China with the cheapest of the cheap components availabe.
    I've also met the complete line of amps from Supro. None of them without faults. Wrong pcb-design which resulted
    in bad hum. Several destroyed themselves due to bad transformers. Others sounded really bad out of the box.
    Only one out of 14 sounded so heavenly good that I bought it myself.
    Anyways, rant over. I can sleep well now. Thanks for reading.
    Greetz,
    Gait.
     
  2. Deeve

    Deeve Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I'm with you on this.
    So, what does a customer do to let a manufacturer know we're on to their unfortunate bean-counting exercise.

    Unlike a side-saddle gas-tank on a pickup truck (or the flame-broiled Pinto model) the failure of an amplifier is not likely to result in a catastrophic fire along the highway.

    So, no meaningful threat of action by the products-liability bar.
    And, since customers like to save a few cents when they can, what manufacturer is going to (voluntarily) cause their product to be more costly?

    Peace - Deeve
     
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  3. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    A good friend of mine who has been a luthier since the 1950s likes to remind me that we've always built junk in this country, too, and that people often forget it because we have our junk built overseas now.

    As far as the trigger for items being made as junk, we have ourselves as consumers to look at. How educated do we make ourselves before we buy, and how well do we educate each other so that manufacturers and designers make what we want.

    If we tell manufacturers we want quality and they make two amps - one quality at X and one not quality at 1/2X and we say "I think I'll chance it with 1/2X" that's what they see. They will produce whatever we buy in the long term. In the short term, they may get away with some doosies, but in the long term, they won't.

    Going one step further, when we pour accolades on the old fenders, we often forget that what we see as a $1000 2x12 combo these days effectively cost more like $2500 in the old days (as the *production* option) in a market where consumers had lots less discretionary cash.
     
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  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    How many of the 50 year old amps have had more than one 'cap job' done to them?


    .
     
  5. Manual Slim

    Manual Slim Tele-Afflicted

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    As long as consumers are more concerned about price than quality there’s no reason for manufacturers to change. They’re in it to get paid.
     
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  6. thegeezer

    thegeezer Tele-Afflicted

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  7. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    one would look at the current menu of offerings and probably consider that the market is being served. A repair person (not trying to pick on the OP) has an opportunity to educate a consumer at that point.

    I've got what I think is a PCB amp coming in the next day or two - an old marshall Lead 30. I hope it works! if it doesn't, I'll probably keep the cab and speaker and use it as a drone (it was a whopping $175 - I can't make something better for that).

    At any rate, there are definitely quality amps on the market. If I was getting into this anew, i would probably find a vintage amp that I liked that was simple, and then go to a repair dude/ette and find out how I could get one of them reasonable and have them gone through.

    Until then, it's probably reasonable to surmise that the market is giving the consumers what they want to buy, and the average person buying something like a bugera or (can't remember the name of the amp that starts with P that seems to have reliability issues...panama? I could be wrong about that - someone advised me away from them) probably won't be playing in 10 years.

    As a consumer, I did buy an amp that's equivalent to $3K and gave up playing temporarily and sold it a few years ago for $1000. That was a worse investment than a disposable amp by far!
     
  8. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

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    have 3 home built circuits..using the best parts & can change component values at any time,,tweak the amps for personal preference..when you line em up against new ones..i always go back to them..finally had my amp guy make them all how i wanted them. In tone heaven with road worthy amps,1 by one my newer amps are being sold.The cost to build them is way ..way under what new amps cost..in fact all 3 might be close to 1 newer one with inferior parts costs.
     
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  9. thegeezer

    thegeezer Tele-Afflicted

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    What I massacred in the above post was in regard to the comment about how many cap jobs have most 50 year old amps had...

    One. I know that’s all mine have needed. And, it was after 40 years or so and literally thousands of hours at gig volume. Regardless of the recommendations generally made on these pages, and I have great respect for them, those amps ran for a long, long time.

    Yes, if I buy one I have no experience with I’m going through it. If I’ve had it and used it forever, I’ll tear into it when it starts to sound funky if that ever happens.

    Don’t discount what people like Fender did back then. Oh, and you did pay for it. They were a premium priced product.
     
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  10. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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  11. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    ...just for discussion: regardless as to whether a circuit is PCB or eyelet board or whatever, the electrolytic caps at some point are going to need to be replaced. Assuming a PCB circuit is still functioning after 20 years (and I'm not saying it wouldn't be) cap jobs aren't unique to the hand-assembled amps.

    It's not exactly expensive maintenance, but is it riskier working on a PCB board v. another?
     
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  12. Blrfl

    Blrfl Tele-Holic

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    Not if you know what you're doing and have the right tools to do it. The exception is that if the PC board is so cheap that the traces and pads can't take more than one heat cycle. But consumers like those because it gets them a less-expensive product.

    And yeah, electrolytic caps are consumables. They contain a liquid electrolyte that evaporates over time because they're not hermetically sealed. It's not a parts quality issue.
     
  13. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

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    There are PCB's that have held up very well, thick with wide substantial solder traces usually. I agree it's more cost cutting that is the issue with many amps. Tubes mounted ON the PCB etc.
    I often wonder if real component mounted turret boards couldn't be assembled in foreign countries for under $5 each. I keep hearing "the people of XXXXX make on average $2 a day..." etc. But then the bean counters can get a PCB for $.07 less....
     
  14. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    So, what's the over/under on a monoprice 15 at Lloyds these days. Just curious, as I had one of those and it was a dandy little amp. I didn't get confused and think it was a matchless, but it was nice - really nice for the price. I can't help but compare it to the LGA 15 amplifier that I got from sears in 1989 for about $125 as my first amp. No gain, no ability to make gain other than fart the speaker out by turning it up the whole way.

    Not all progress is bad.

    (the current dollar price inflated for a 1968 champ would be $483.)
     
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  15. aerhed

    aerhed Friend of Leo's

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    No, the market isn't being "served". It's being " serviced", as in screwed. Nobody said please bring back the Supros, they were great. What happened was somebody went shopping for a cheap obscure name tag. Then they started a marketing campaign to convince a bunch of clueless consumers that THESE THINGS ARE GREAT. Then they cranked them out as cheap as possible and priced them as high as they could get away with. That's how it's done today.
     
  16. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

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    The cost difference between my DSL20CR and the new Studio Classic 20watt combo is almost $1000. Just sayin'.

    I'm not too convinced the tones are $1000 in difference. But they might be. The reality is that I won't be buying the Studio Classic any time soon. I wanted a new amp last year, and my budget was only in the range of the DSL20. It was that, or nothing at all. It has some QC warts, but it otherwise does and sound exactly what I wanted. Maybe the Studio Classic will have less QC issues, but that remains to be seen. I have seen gut pics, and it was all PC board.

    Cost often has little to do with quality, consistency, reliability, support, etc... There are zillions of boutique amp builders out there. Running a small business is extremely difficult, and most are destined to fail. From a consumer standpoint, I'm not necessarily comfortable shelling out a lot of money to an amp builder who may not be around next year. Sadly, that's too often the case. I would likely buy the Studio Classic instead. That's just me.

    That, or build something. I'm learning to do this with the goal of just that. But I need something to play on while I'm researching and tinkering on my little amp projects. My DSL20CR has been perfect for that. Plug in and play for a while. Then go back to working on an amp.
     
  17. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    How are the hand wired marshall astorias? They're about the same price (or a little less) vs. the fenders. And they look to be similar in quality.

    What about the vintage amp's that weren't that great? because there were plenty.

    Always assuming that the market is just dumb is a very european engineering thing. I have a friend who worked for a company over here as the operations manager, they made industrial equipment. Their mantra was that they always knew more than the customer, so you should defer to listening to them.

    What they failed to recognize is that sometimes the customer did know less than them, but quite often, the customer knew exactly what they wanted and got tired of listening to said company telling them why they wouldn't deliver and the customer just went elsewhere to a company that would build them what they wanted.

    In this case, the engineers didn't do enough on-the-ground work with the companies ordering stuff to see what conditions they were being used in. In europe, conditions were tougher. In the US, they were easier and the customers wanted a cheaper machine that made more revenue and didn't have protections built into them that weren't needed here. The euro engineers said "no way" and pretty much gave away market share.

    Even growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I well recall buying a toy or something that was junk because I wanted to spend less. It's a lesson everyone can learn. You could get away with more fraudulent claims back then, too vs. what you can do now. In my mind, things have gotten better, not worse.

    Doesn't mean it's nice to work on cheap stuff which generally comes in through cheap customers, but they're getting what they want. I kind of like the repro supros, but not enough to buy one. If I could find one for $1100 or some such price, I'd figure that I'd do an hour or two of reading to find out what the specs are and what's in them, and if I got $1100 worth, I'd be OK.

    If the only option was a dead on accurate reproduction at $3k or something like that, I'd be looking for the $1100 version that sounds like the expensive one, and I'd probably be looking used.

    Fender's current version of the '68 twin is about $1200 new if I'm reading things correctly. I'm sure it's not made the same way (of course) as the 1968 version, but I'll bet I couldn't go through three of them in my lifetime, no matter how "bad" they might be.
     
  18. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

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    The amp in my avatar is one. It's PTP wired - no turret. But it's a throwaway amp. Horribly cheap design and building. Grid leak input design is eating pre-amp tubes (I suspect). It's only less throwaway to me, because it's ridiculously funky and rare, and it's been a great economical way for me to get into amp repair and/or building. Maybe I could make back what I put into it, which really isn't that much. Maybe. But I doubt it. Not when there are better and cheaper choices available now for people who just want to plug in and play. It's a vintage amp, to be sure. But that's about all it has going for it. :D
     
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  19. Mike_LA

    Mike_LA Tele-Afflicted

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    How many MBAs from how many colleges, for how many years, create HOW MANY BEAN COUNTERS trying to work the system in their favor.
    What would you expect?
     
  20. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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    you should hear what the beancounters say about you.
     
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