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Longevity of the A85?

Discussion in 'Arcam Owners' Forum' started by Scrypt, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. Scrypt

    Scrypt
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    Hello, fellow and femlow Arcamophiles. Having bought an A85 recently (a demo with seventy-five hours' use), I'm curious about the following:

    1. What's the expected longevity of this software-driven amp? Is it expected to last for three years, four, eight or greater?

    2. Have longtime A85 owners had any minor problems (hum, software glitches, intermittent contacts) or is the performance of the A85 predictably solid?

    (Comments to be ignored if desired: I suspect a Unison Unico or Musical Fidelity A.3.2 might last longer due to the durable construction of those models, but this is an extremely uneducated guess. Why did I buy an Arcam? Because of its flexibility and 7.1 channel-sans-processor option. I'll be working on soundtracks with a G4 and don't need to be fettered by two-channel limitations or home theater receiver processing snafus.)

    3. Has anyone done mods successfully on the A85 (such as replacing the capactors with Blackgates or boosting the power supply)?

    (Explanation of situation, to be ignored if desired: I couldn't wait to pick up an A90 (with improved PS); I needed to begin work immediately because my antediluvian Arcam predecessor snuffed itself.)

    (Please keep in mind that my mod question is quite basic. I'm not wanting to go insane with witchcraft-like modifications. ("Did you know that stroking an A85 slowly with small pocket combs enhances the suppression of the upper highs?"))
     
  2. Scrypt

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    Note that I've simplified the questions in my initial post -- and all for you, you ewe(s), you.

    I'd love to know about the projected lifespan of the A85, and what people's experiences have been with the A85's durability. Can anyone illumi-laminate me on this higly important topic, hmmmmm?
     
  3. efraga

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    I’ve just bought a A90, so I would not be able to help you.

    I've posted a similar question type on the A90 and I didn't received replies.

    why can’t you have some 2 ch. Av questions answered here?

    Is it the money 5 ch. Av people have spent, usually for no better results ?

    Good look on your A85

    Edited: :lease:

    I was just kidding because I didn't have replies in a previous Message.

    :oops:

    It was just to get a responce :hiya:

    Edited2: :oops:
     
  4. sticker

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    I think you'll find that the main part of this forum is devoted to AV, but if you post in the hifi section it may attract more interest. Don't believe that there is any discrimination, lots of people want good 2 channel. I myself don't have enought knowledge to answer Scrypt's post.
    Ask a moderator to move it to the hifi section

    HTH
    John
     
  5. baileych

    baileych
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    What a bizarre conclusion to reach. I think you'll find that most people choose not to reply to a question if they don't know the answer rather than just post "I don't know".

    I've only had my A85 for two years so I can't comment on how long it will last. As the A85 was only introduced at most (AFAIK) a few years before this I doubt that anyone really knows, with the possible exception of Arcam themselves. You could trying ringing their support line and seeing what they say.

    Charles.
     
  6. Scrypt

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    Thanks so much, all of you, for replying to this thread. I appreciate your thoughts no matter how dodgy the tone (as interpreted by others). After all, the intention's what matters.

    Charles ("baileych"): Thanks for the direct response, and for offering your empirically tested opinion. Good to know your A85 is still in good shape. One question: Isn't said amp more than two years old at this point?

    Yes, I was hoping someone *highly key* from Arcam Support might respond -- not by phone, but on this very thread. In the words of Milanese probability theorist, Judy Tenuta, it could happen.

    Also: As I live in the States, I'm not certain Arcam's best customer support is a ring away. I've better luck with Grado Labs, which are located in Brooklyn, NY. Still, perhaps answering such a question here would be problematic for Arcam Support. Perhaps my question wasn't sufficiently tactful; perhaps it wouldn't be wise to suggest the idea of a shortened lifespan to users whose individual pieces might outlive it.

    John ("Sticker"): The reasons I haven't asked this question in the Hi-fi Section are simple:

    1. This is the Arcam Section and I'm asking about Arcam kit.

    2. I'm asking about an amp which, like the A90, is easily upgraded to *multichannel* analog and so is perfect for SACDs and DVDs. John Dawson has actually said that the DV88 and A90 (and by inference, I hope, the A85) will sound better than the AV300 if further surround processing is not required. The AV300 seems to be for use with sources which, unlike the DV88, are unable to do their own decoding. Since I'll be doing a fair amount of soundtrack composing/recording in multichannel with my A85, I believe I'm posting in the right place.

    3. The brilliant and helpful Mr. Dawson seems to reside in this forum, and he knows more about the A85 than anyone else I've read.

    4. Other threads about the A85 have appeared in this forum.

    Efraga ("?"): Since the A90 is not that different from the A85, the durability question is one you might usefully address. (I'm creaking to you, Large E.)

    I suppose the best people to ask about Arcam durability might reside in English repair shops and English Hi-Fi shops that allow for returns.

    -- Rob/Scrypt/Tweert

    (Edited for syntax, not for second thoughts.)
     
  7. ANDY_DUTTON

    ANDY_DUTTON
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    Hi Rob,

    I am not supprised you have not had any really useful replies to this question as it is almost impossible to know.

    The time to failure of any part is dependant upon to many different variables to be able to know how long it will last in any paticular situation.

    We try to work on the basis that amplifier should have a MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) for 8 hours high power (meaning loud and hot) use in a day, of greater than 5 years on the basis of the capacitor life. In normal use they will last much longer than this.

    The memory retention of the Flash memory in modern EEPROM is rated at 100 years data retention (I don't know how they measure this but that is what they are rated at) and 1million write cycles so you would have to change the settings alot of times before it wares out. The micro controler maximum reprograming count is 1000 times so you would need alot of software updates before it was worn out.

    However having said this the life of any product is dependant on many external factors. If you keep it somewhere where it is really hot all the time this will reduce the life of all the components inside the product but especially the electrolitic capacitors and the semiconductors.

    If you turn the product off at night the life of the capacitors will increased because the temperature will be lower and there will be no ripple current on the capacitor. (Swich mode PSU we have seen in cheap DVD players have a MTBF of the capacitors of only 8 - 12 months, parts usually last well past the MTBF however you are still looking at a life of only about 2 years for the PSU in some of these products if they are left on all the time, this is also ture of alot of the cheaper set top boxes)

    If your mains has lots of noisy spikes on it then the fuses and possibly the rectifier diodes will ware out more rapidly (Yes fuses do ware out) and may blow when there is no fault in the product. If you turn the product off at night the life of the fuses will decreased (however this is not by very much).

    If you live in a very dry climate and have nylon carpets and rubber soles on your shoes, you may charge yourself up to an incredible static voltage, many thousands of volts, and this can damge the parts inside the product. (paticularly if you open it up to change bits inside, so make sure you touch the metal of the chassis before touching any of the electronics inside any product from ARCAM or any other manufacturer or preferably work at an antistatic work sation) Power amps tend not to be that static sensitive, it is the optical parts in CD or DVD players that are very static sensitive. However it is possible to take out the electronic input selectors in modern amplifiers if they are not static protected by diodes or resistors and capacitors. (Needless to say all our amplifers are protected)

    The life of the relays in a product is determined by what load they are under when they are switched. If there is no load on the relay when it is switched there will be no arching (spark) so very low ware. If you turn a product off when it is playing flat out the relay may be passing alot of current and thus spark causing alot of ware. In ARCAM amplifers the microcontroller turns the signal off at the preamp before activating the mute realays in the amplifer to increase the life of the relays.

    I could go on but hope you now have some idea of just how complex a question you actually asked.

    Bottom line, your amplifer should last longer than 5 years probably much longer, however if you are unlucky or the environment the amplifer is in is really bad then it could be damged earlier. We get A60s back for repair after more than 20 years and the capacitors have only just got to the point of failure.

    I hope this helps and sorry I can't give you a precise answer.

    Best regards,
    Andrew
     
  8. Scrypt

    Scrypt
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    Andy D.:

    Thanks so much. Your answer was so sweepingly helpful that it might well change my listening hours and compel me to purchase more efficient A/C.

    Answer-wise, I was hoping not for the literal but the empirical: "My A85 spontaneously combusted Saturday," "I've beaten my great-grandson with the A85 for four years straight and it still sounds refreshingly neutral" -- that sort of thing.

    (Individuals on audioasylum.com have complained of the A85 "blowing up" in extremely vague terms; said controversy, however unsubstantiated, made me worry enough to post here.)

    Imagine how fortunate I feel to have received such a definitive, articulate and useful response from you in three senses -- literal, theoretical and empirical -- especially after you assured me that answering my question would be "nearly impossible." Nicely done.

    While I've got you on the wire: My firmware is 2.1, which I've read is vaguely "buggy" (though no one has explained the bug). 2.2 is said to have an undocumented fixed processor gain feature and also to snuff all insect life. Is any of this true?

    Also: I live in the States; how would I go about upgrading my firmware? If shipping to Cambridge is necessary, then perhaps I'll hold off until I'm ready to purchase the multichannel upgrade.

    Thanks again for your detailed response.

    (Edited for sense, not tact.)
     
  9. ANDY_DUTTON

    ANDY_DUTTON
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    Updating the software in an A85 is quite complex as the front pannel with the microcontroller on it has to come back to us to be reprogramed. Some of our distributors can change the front panel for a "recon unit" if you get my drift but as there is no actual fault with your unit I think this will be chargeable. Clearly you get a free upgrade (well its included in the price) with the multichannel board.

    Your dealer in the US should be able to tell you the best aproach as I don't know what we do for overseas customers, please contact them first as dealers get very upset if the internet bypasses them. Our US distributor, Audiophile systems is very good so if you have no luck with your dealer you could contact them.

    Regards,
    Andrew
     
  10. Harbornebloke

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    Hi Scrypt

    I have had my A85 for about two years now and have not had a single problem with it apart from whwn I accidentally scratched the volume dial. Arcam sent a new one in the mail.

    I have had an internal fuse blow on a P85 within a couple of hours worth of use and Arcam even offered to send a sales rep round to fix the problem!

    The DAC on my CD82 failed after about 3 months and Arcam sorted the problem in about 10 days.

    I know this reply is probably redunant following Andrew's reply but it does show that when things go wrong Arcam are very efficient and helpful.

    Regards
    Phil

    ps If you don't already have one buy a P85 and bi-amp your speakers, the improvement is well worth the investment!
     
  11. baileych

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    My particular one? Well I've checked the receipt and I've only had it for two years and one month but I guess it's at least slightly older. I only ever had one problem with it and it was a software problem due which I noticed probably due my (then) slightly unusal system configuration.

    See here:
    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=33673

    Charles.
     
  12. Scrypt

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    These last replies were extremely useful -- not only Andy Dutton's (which was excellent, as expected), but Charles's and Phil's as well.

    Andy: Thanks for the swift reply. Audiophile Systems (or perhaps Stereo Exchange in Manhattan) sound like proper places to go for the Multi-channel/2.2 FW upgrade. I'm using the A85 in a music-only setup (for now), so the fixed input upgrade FW might not be necessary for the moment. I'm relieved the 2.1 bug was only that. I won't be going back to the original dealer, as he resides in Georgia. I intend to send the amp back for the multi upgrade in aabout two months' time, when I expect to have to mix in multi mode.

    Right now, I'm looking forward to enjoying the A85's (yes, installed) phono pre. I also have a tubed analog preamp/headphone amp and will be interested in finding the best use for it among the flexible options offered by the A85.

    Phil: Your reply was not redundant -- not at all. You gave three really good examples of Arcam's response time and one testimonial to the A85's reliability. Arcam's customer service sounds extremely good, though at a bit of remove from NYC. Still, I factored that in before making the purchase.

    Charles: Actually, I meant the vintage of the A85 in general, since I trust you to know precisely when you purchased your specific amp. Even so, thanks for the qualification. For me, the best part of your reply was in your short swift second paragraph:

    I don't know if you realize this, Charles, but your link to a previous thread answered *every other question I had* about the 2.1 FW bug. Extremely helpful of you to have provided it.

    The people on this forum have been unbelievably decent. I've only been here for four days and you've given me much to think about and allayed my most pointed worries. Thanks again.
     
  13. baileych

    baileych
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    Ah, I originally meant that the A85 had only been around for at most a few years before the two years which I had mine, i.e. three to four years. I'm fairly sure it's a post 2000 thing as I have I magazine of that date which reviews Arcam kit which predates the Diva range.

    Glad my link was helpful (even though my post's grammer went screwy due to careless editing :blush: ).

    Charles.
     
  14. efraga

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    I have to say that Arcam support is great.

    1 mail 1 quick responce, on a extra setting of the A90 and a volume question.

    I think that this is good information for all so I post it were:




    From: Stephen Elderfield [mailto:StephenE@arcam.co.uk] On Behalf Of Support EMail
    Sent: quinta-feira, 22 de Abril de 2004 13:22
    To: Eduardo Fraga
    Subject: RE: Arcam A90 support

    Dear Eduardo,

    The "MAX ON VOLUME" is a default setting for the amplifier, what ever level you set it to is the level that when turned on the amplifier will always revert to that level.

    The A90 uses a microprocessor to control all levels and gains on the unit, unlike the old volume pot system, so the way we measure volume and the degree in which we set listening levels are very different.

    On the old models there is a certain amount of volume and gain on the same control, on the new A90 there is no extra gain it is pure volume control, this is why on the older amps if you turned them up to full with no music playing you would get a certain amount of white noise (hiss) this is not the case on the A90 even on full with no music there is little to no white noise.


    Regards

    Steve Elderfield

    Arcam
    Customer Support Engineer

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Eduardo Fraga [mailto:eduardo.fraga@ist.utl.pt]
    Sent: 22 April 2004 13:11
    To: Support EMail
    Subject: Arcam A90 support

    Dear Sirs,

    I've just purchase an A90 Integrated Amplifier and I have a couple of questions on the Customizing amplifier settings and overall sound volume.

    1 -Between INPUT TRIMS and TONE CONTROL customizing amplifier settings, I have an extra "VOLUME ON MAX" setting not mentioned in the handbook.
    Can you give me the meaning of this setting?

    2- When using a universal DVD player (Pioneer 656A) to listen to DVD-Audio discs the general sound volume is a bit low, and I say this because in my oldest arcam Alfa 8 at 25% of volume the sound was realy loud, as the walls started to tremble and now with the A90 at 50% of volume the sound is still calm and bearable (and of course more clear).
    Is this big difference in sound volume a normal attribute of the A90?


    Best regards,

    Eduardo Fraga
     

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