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    New technology and technofear, your thoughts.


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    New technology and technofear, your thoughts.

    Post by bordonbert on Mon Apr 04, 2016 9:29 am

    I started this thread because of a good comment made by Fabio in a different post where he admitted to being a bit frightened of today's miniature component PCB technology.  It started me wondering about how others felt, particularly those who just have to live with it rather than working in the field.

    When anything moves forward, in electronics in particular, there are fundamental differences in the way the new works from the old.  Sometimes these differences are highly significant and sometimes they are only significant in the minds of the marketing men who have to find a way of selling the new technology to us and getting us hooked.  There is no doubt that the onset of auto manufacture of PCBs with surface mount components has changed our field beyond all recognition.  There will always be a nostalgia for the equipment of the past, but that shouldn't shackle us from going forward.  Could we all afford to be be using classic amps from the 60s or modern hand crafted boutique amps based around NOS components starting at around £4,000 a throw?  A nice idea but patently ridiculous!

    I can tell you that today's electronics outperforms its older couterparts in almost every way.  There is no "sound of PCBs", and today's components are better in every way than yesterday's.  They are smaller, cheaper, more reliable with better characteristics than ever before.  Wider gain, higher bandwidth, better tolerance and stability.  And just by their diversity they open up more ways of doing things than we could ever have imagined 40 years ago.

    Convenience?  Well that's a grey area open to interpretation.  The manufacturer would say they are much more convenient, they can easily be fitted by a production line robot in super quick time.  For the hand builder or repairer they can be a nightmare.  But they make up for that with the fact that nowadays repair is as cheap because of modularity.  Rather than pay the time for a technician to trace out a fault and lovingly fit a replacement part, (and how many times is the fault still there when the amp comes back?), he can just whip out a whole damaged board and put a new one in, often without even turning on his soldering station.  Usually his time saved saves money and also means that other potentially stressed parts around the fault are replaced at the same time.

    Apart from the abounding myths which grow up around the charm of older gear and its superiority, I think it's the size of today's assembly which causes so much distrust and resistance.  There is a belief that that older massive valve based technology must be stronger and more robust simply because it is chunky and heavy.  It doesn't work that way.  Would you think that a bulky heavy resistor stretched out on two springy wire legs each around an inch long put in a heavily vibrating box is a recipe for longer life than a tiny chip soldered down onto a stiff substrate by tabs which, though small, make up most of the size of its body?  Once correct manufacture has been established after a short period, the unit is generally destined for a long life, accidents and stupidity permitting.   Just because components can all be seen spaced out in a 3D lattice soldered to massive posts does not make that approach more reliable.  As each one has to be hand wired the potential for error is infinitely greater.  Robots cannot solder a component into the wrong place, they do the same task reliably time after time so if it is correct the first time it is correct every time after.

    That old bulky technology badly restricts the functionality that can be offered to the ordinary guy like us and even to his professional counterparts.  There would be no MIDI control without it and recording studios would not have been able to move forward from even their solid state LM709/741 based desks, (which apparently sounded so great then even with such poor chips in).  If the simple amp is so darned big, (and even the great amps are basically very simple devices which have just had a lot of time put into optimising them to sound a particular way), think how big a complex studio would have to become!  Go look at the size of a 64MB disc backup unit from the early days of the computer revolution, it was literally bigger than a washing machine!

    Consider how much of that tiny technology there is out in the world now.  It's not just many times more than in the 60s, it's MEGA times more.  It's in everything everywhere.  And it rolls along doing its job without us ever really being aware of it.  The fact that we hear a lot of horror stories about how many times equipment goes wrong is more to do with how many units are in use than with how fault prone they are.  Think of this.  What is the worst environment you can put electronic equipment in?  One where there is massive shock and vibration, extremes of temperature in both directions, moisture and chemicals floating around, sound familiar?  Yet how many of our cars are running around year after year without any fuss or complaint.  Compare that to the car of yesteryear with it's constant need to be tinkered with to keep it running.  That is today's electronics.  Put it exactly where you shouldn't put it and even then it keeps on performing.

    So are we scared that the H&K amps are technologically advanced and therefore delicate and weak?  Well, nuclear EMP aside.....  Over to you, tell me where I'm wrong or call me a prophet! cheers

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    Re: New technology and technofear, your thoughts.

    Post by Cina on Tue May 02, 2017 3:39 pm

    So, I agree with you.

    And some of those tiny components can still be replaced if you're an adept solderer.

    Because I agree with you, I'm gonna play the other side: The argument might go like this -

    "What happens when/if that manufacturer shuts their doors, or stops making an old model, and you can't get the parts anymore? How are you gonna replace a PCB if you can't source one? At that point, a dead system is a door stopper."

    And it's a valid concern. For me, I'd think that if such a thing were to happen, it'd probably be years and years after I bought the amp, and after years and years of great use. So, personally, I'd consider my money well spent and just buy the new H&K Triamp Mark 3000 or whatever they're putting out then, if I couldn't suss out the problem with a multimeter and order the part off octopart or some similar website and replace it myself.

    So yeah, the future is coming whether we like it or not. As for me, I like it.

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