Are Instruction Manuals a complete waste of space?

Pete Callan

Standard Member
Apr 23, 2002
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This is a general point aimed mainly at Amps and Receivers although it could equally apply to other AV equipment.

My problem is instructions manuals. For instance, I have recently bought a Marantz 6200 and although I accept I am a somewhat dense person, I wonder whether it is that difficult to produce a manual in Plain English, which attempts to explain things to you without just telling you what inputs/outputs you have. For example (and this is just a random example - the manual reads like this throughout) on page 5 it says: "DIGITAL outputs. Optical and Coaxial. Connect digital input of your digital recording equipment." Full stop, no explanation, end of section!

Now what the hell are they going on about? Why can't they explain what they mean, and how these things work at the beginning of the manual so that people like me who haven't got any experience in these things, can get the full benefit of their equipment.

The other day I posted a question here saying I couldn't get the on screen display to work on my TV. I then found out I needed to connect a cable direct from my amp to my TV. How am I meant to know that? (At the moment, on the recommendation of the chap from Richer Sounds, I have a cable connected from my amp to my cable set box.) Why doesn't this manual explain anything properly? Is there such a book as "AVs for Dummies" cause I need one! Am I the only one out there who doesn't get it?
I find manuals annoying too, as I have this stuff pretty much figured out and a difficult time finding raw info in the manuals.

I think all manuals should have:
  1. An explanation of basic operation in plain English - not in Babyish and not in Nerdish
  2. A section for properly explaining what all the options are about and why they are there
  3. A quick reference chart for finding out what is there and what is not
  4. A troubleshooting chart

    I don't know why they have such trouble writing manuals. I guess it might be largely related to translation issues, and that the people who make the translations not having access to the equipment.

    But the example you gave is a sign of an especially poor manual. Either you don't yet know what they are talking about, or you know already and then can't gather any new valuable information from that.
Most manuals are like that though... If we started to talk about PC ones then it'll get everyone fuming ^_^ I agree that most manuals are difficult to decipher, especially if the person is new to the game and it certainly wouldn't hurt to be a lot more user friendly. I have a Marantz SR4200 and the first page was all I needed since it listed all the inputs for audio and video possible and I went on my way to connect everything up. Its probably because I have a background with PCs and technology that made things easy but if I gave the manual to my mum she'd walk away lol

Don't worry about it too much though Pete since once you have everything connected and know why, it'll help in the future. As for the
"DIGITAL outputs. Optical and Coaxial. Connect digital input of your digital recording equipment."
It means that there are two Digital Outputs available to you - Optical and Coaxial. The second part is a bit iffy since it says "digital recording equipment" which could imply to a MiniDisk... However I don't know ANY Minidisks that offer a coaxial jack o_O

Chances are its asking for you to connect the optical or coaxial cable from your DVD player into the receiver since this is the only way to get 5.1 surround sound. I haven't got the manual anyway so I've probably made things worse >_<
Zacabeb: yes I completely agree with your 4 point list. What these manufacturers don't realise is that thousands of people like me don't get the benefit of their machines because the manufacturers produce useless manuals, and even if the machine is good (and I assume my Marantz 6200 is good but I guess I'll just have to take the reviewer's word for that) those purchasers will never buy from them again because they will never know what their expensive machines can actually do.

NeoBlade: Believe me, that was just one example taken from random where the page fell open, the whole manual is like that! And if someone like you doesn't understand what they're talking about, how am I meant to? (think your mum, then think even less tech inclined!).

I said earlier I was dense but in reality, that's because these manuals keep you dense, like there's some magical secret about it all that they're not going to share with anyone. It really bugs me because I've just spent nearly £400 on an amp and I can't get any pleasure from it because I don't understand the "instruction" manual.
I can tell you why manuals are so bad.

My friend works for a semi-conductor company, he designs chips for set top boxes. This man has long hair, a small collection of clothing, no interest in home entertainment, repulses females with a single comment and relies on his flatmates shower supplies for personal hygeine.

He also has an unhealthy ability to program any computer language (incl assembly!), is fluent in all forms of Linux, has written his own Operating System and currently is producing all the documentation for his current chipset.

As you can imagine, this man has no concept of english (in fact he rarely speaks it as I have known him for 9 years and still cannot understand him). Hence, he writes his documentation under the impression that you by default understand Quantum physics and Superstring theory, therefore you would have to be a raving idiot to not know how to plug a cable in or what the H.J.L sub-condensor option does.
lol Sinzer, I knew a bloke like that before when I was starting to learn everything about Computer Science. He certainly wasn't the cleanest of peeps and had a soft spot for cheese. He also didn't make sense when talking and it was great when he tried to install our new scanner. He plugged in the old SCSI on the motherboard, installed the drivers and booted up the PC. The scanner didn't work. He spent probably 2 hours re-working the drivers, going into DOS to change the settings etc then he realised that the mains was not plugged in >_<

Pete, the receiver you have got is a stunning one alright, but you don't need to worry about the optical out from the receiver itself. That is reserved for the MiniDisk. I don't know if you've connected everything up yet or not but give us a shout if you need any help. We all had to start somewhere and I'm no different from anyone else... I just got into this AV lark over a year ago.
Agree big time.
Just bought a marantz sr5200 and the manual is total pants!

The set up description is non descript....some pretty diagrams and patently obvious desciptions of I/O.....and thhats it!....

the reason why i have signed on to this forum too.....
they should stop shipping manuals for 2 reasons.....

People who buy equipment will come here for advice or ask questions.....

and to save on the tree's...
The problem with most manuals is that they're written by people who know about equipment, not by people who know how to write good, clear, understandable instructions.

People who know both of these things are (a) very rare and therefore (b) very expensive.

I always download manuals before I make a purchase as its more reliable than web specs. It has to be said that Yamaha arent bad. they actually explain terms outside of a glossary and use diagrams.

Marantz are one of the worst Ive come across (I ended up with the SR5200 though) took me two or three readings to realise what it could and couldnt do. For example it doesnt tell you that 90% of the remote works on other kit, it only tells you the 10 main buttons. For example you can access DVD, TV and VCR menus using the menu keys on the remote, try and find that in the manual, it only says that the remote can change channel/chapter, RW/FF/Play and thats about it.

My brother used to do manual translations for SAP in germany, incredible considering he is a technophobe and completely non technical and doesnt really understand ERP concepts. Id love to have read some of his stuff.

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