Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Conundrum

In May of 2003 I purchased a Panasonic surround sound system that can be classified under the heading of a "home theatre in a box" as all the necessary components come in one convenient package: 5 speakers, sub-woofer, and 5-disk DVD player/receiver. This auditory wonder has served me well over the past 5 years, with only an easily fixed, over-heating problem to speak of. However there is now a problem:

It's dead.

About a week ago we noticed that after being turned on for several minutes, the unit would power down and go into standby mode. At this point, the unit can not be powered back on unless the power cord was unplugged.

Being the internet savy person that I am, I explored the wonders of Google to discover that this is a known issue with this, and other, surround sounds systems. Generically dubbed, "The F61 Error" has three possible causes: faulty cabling leading to the subwoofer, an amp being blown, or a power supply issue.

I removed all cabling from the device, yet the error persisted. I opened it up to see if there was any charring from something being blown, but nothing was evident. Thus I reach my conundrum: What is the best way to get this situation resolved?

My 2002 self would know what to do of course: go to futureshop and buy the coolest looking surround sound system they had. However, I'd like to think I've grown wiser in the intervening years and think I should investigate the following three options:

(NOTE: time frames and costs are estimates only as I have not done much research yet on options #2 and #3)

Option #1: Get it professionally repaired
Ideally, this option makes the most sense. However, there are a very limited supply of people that do consumer-level electronic repair work. I went through 6 places before I called one that could do it. The catch: they have a two month backlog because the main guy that would do it is always out repairing big-screen TVs since they make more bang per buck that way.
Estimated Option #1 Cost: $50 labour + parts
Estimated Option #1 Timeframe: 2+ months

Option #2: Purchase a new receiver w/o subwoofer and use current speakers
With this otion I would sell/get rid of the current 5-disk changer and subwoofer and get a new receiver which would hook-up to my current 5 speakers. I have to investigate whether any receiver can work for these speakers or it needs to have certain specifications. I'm wary about that since the instruction manual says not to hook different speakers to the subwoofer. Does anyone know if that works in reverse: hooking the speakers to a different receiver?
Estimated Option #2 Cost: $200-500
Estimated Option #2 Timeframe: 1-2 weeks as I need to research my concerns.

Option #3: Bite the bullet and get a brand new system
This option requires the least amount of thought and time yet will be the most expensive by far. It would be great to cave-in to my technolust and get a snazzy wireless suround sound system, but I can probably keep that crazy beast subdued in the back of my brain.
Estimated Option #3 Cost: $300-1500
Estimated Option #3 Timeframe: immediately

So looking at those options it's kind of neat to see the inverse correlation between cost and the time investment to resolve the situation.

However, despite all this, I have to ask the question: "Do I really need a working surround sound system at this point in my life?" It honestly does not get that much use as it is and if we want to watch a DVD we can always hook up the X-box to the tv in the living room. I'm more just pissed off that one of the constants in my life, my entertainment status-quo as it were, is effed up.


Scholarly Warrior said...

Hey John,

you mean the 2002 May self that bought the cell phone?

Your situation does sound annoying, especially if you had bought a three year extended warranty or something. Regarding option 1, how is it that nobody can repair the thing? I think option 2 is a good route provided you do some reading. You seem good at that kind of thing, although this route has no guaranteed success.

Although mixing and matching electronics is never endorsed by any company (they want you to buy their stuff exclusively), I would say it's possible. It may be a challenge to find someone learned enough to advise you.

If you choose option 3, be cautious if you want a wireless system. I find wireless electronics to be fickle and sometimes gimmicky.

/untuck your sheets
//push over

Cheeseburger said...

Ah yes, that cell phone. That might form a new post.

In terms of the lack of repair availability, I would guess that PEI is a small market with correspondingly fewer repair services for home electronics. I'm going to follow up on a reputable repair shop I was made aware of up west and I've got 2 possible replacements lined up for the receiver. The HTR6130B by Yamaha at Futureshop and last year's model, the HTR6040B.

Anonymous said...

I have a semi-related story. In grade 10? I was buying a CD player and decided to get it from Enman's Electronics instead of Zellers for 1 reason: Enman's had a repair department and I was told they could keep the CD player running for years and years. It turned out that the first time it broke (when it was about 7 or 8 years old after being used for hours a day every day) they did not have the necessary expertise to fix this particular problem.

I was "pissed off" and vouched to never buy electronics at Enman's again.


schaef said...

Cheez, my advice is to go with option #2, for 3 reasons. First, fixing it yourself would likely end in disaster (I'm assuming you've never done that kind of thing), or extreme boredom (unless you like that kind of thing, which would be coo). Second, when getting something fixed you should factor in your personal time used up as well as gas money while you're ferrying the broken receiving around (possibly up west). Third, you can mix and match stereo equipment all you want as long as the maximum amperage/voltage output of the receiver isn't higher than what the speakers can take (double check with an authority on this).

Sam, that's hilariously tragic. The mistake people make when they buy from a locally owned distributor of goods is that they automatically assume that the service is better, when this isn't necessarily true. Although advertisements will affect peoples' choices as consumers, quality of service is often what keeps people coming back. My advice is for everyone who gets ripped off by Enman's to call them up and tell them exactly why you're going to buy everything from a big box store from now on. Businesses that can't compete in a free market deserve to fail.

/but I get my money from the grease