what are my options when/if my aging speakers (z680's) break?
November 21, 2008 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Seeking advice on what to do with (or looking for resources explaining how to fix) aging 5.1 PC speakers for when/if parts start breaking.

So I've got a set of 5 or 6 year old set of Logitech z680 speakers (http://images.google.com/images?q=z680) that have served me well over the years but have recently begun to make popping/ppptttfff-ing noises sporadically (cycling through the 'effect' button makes it go away for a bit, but it ends up coming back eventually. I fear the command module is on its way out) Is there a buyer's market for replacement parts for these speakers? It would appear that Logitech has replaced this line with a newer set, therefore no longer supporting them.

I've seen the satellite speakers available on ebay for an affordable price (at least for now), but I am more concerned with replacement command module/preamp (the console part with the volume knob and buttons on it) or subwoofer parts.

1) Are there places that sell replacement command modules/preamp or am I SOL if this breaks? I have seen the entire set still being sold, but not the individual components.

2) Will I be stuck with trying to dismantle the sub and spend hours reading up on how to fix it (and perhaps fry something) if that goes out (any resources you audiophiles frequent?)? What are some ways to tell if it's the sub or the command module or something else that's bad?

3) The remote control ceased to function long ago, but it would be nice to be able to replace that too ...

4) What's the life expectancy of these type of things anyways? I would ideally like to migrate them over to use for my secondary 'media' center speakers (I prefer

While I am not averse to dismantling things and I consider myself to have somewhat above average mechanical aptitude (perhaps not when comparing within the set of mefites), when it comes to troubleshooting electronic innards/circuitry like what might be in the sub or pre-amp, I feel quite ignorant (learning resources welcome!).
posted by weakcore to Technology (6 answers total)
I would think it's a replacement job, but given that, you may as well open up the sub and see if there're any loose connections or obviously broken glue-jobs near the cone which might be causing the farty sound (and be fixable).

If you've had them for 5 years, I think you're well past the expected lifetime of logitech speakers.
posted by pompomtom at 11:03 PM on November 21, 2008

For that kind of electronics, these days it's nearly always cheaper to replace than to repair.
posted by Class Goat at 11:35 PM on November 21, 2008

Class Goat is right: these things are so cheap that it's usually more efficient to just throw 'em out and buy new ones.

But before you do that, hook them up to another audio source. It may in fact be your sound card that's going. I've had the a set of logitechs for 5-6 years myself, and though I've gone through three sound cards in that time, the speakers have always been fine. From your description it may well be the speakers, but it's worth checking.
posted by valkyryn at 4:50 AM on November 22, 2008

Best answer: Trying to define a life span is really impossible.. Building in a limited lifespan is actually quite difficult for a complicated mix of political and financial reasons. No question, devices are designed as cheaply as possible so that they will survive the expected warranty period. But, for most electronics, once you've got to the expected warranty period, there just isn't much that is likely to break in the next 20 years.

I mean.. Any change that makes the product cheaper without causing more failures in the warranty period is a change that will be implemented. By extension you could argue that certain products, mostly those with moving parts like appliances and disk drives, do have a built in short lifespan. Also, there was the whole capacitor plague fiasco.. while the initial reasons for it had nothing to do with limited lifespan, there is talk that the cheap caps are still being used because they turned out to be fairly effective life span limiters. In general, you simply can't afford to increase the cost of a device simply to have it break sooner.

Next topic, repair in modern electronics.. It isn't practical to go to a repair shop with most modern electronics because the economics of the proposition just don't add up. Maintaining a store front and a parts inventory is expensive, and electronics are cheap. However, there is still a lot of electronics repair going on.. For example, there is a big aftermarket in broken laptops and LCD monitors. Those items are in high demand and still get a pretty good price on the used market.

You're speakers are nice enough that somebody would be glad to have a chance to diagnose the problem. They might not actually be worth a repair, but they are at least worth the time to part out.

General resources for repair.. There is the electronics repair faq. I normally just google the symptom, sometimes I get lucky and sometimes not. I see FixYa come up a lot when I'm searching for trouble.. I haven't found it to be particularly helpful yet :P More often, the answer is on some enthusiast forum that specialises in the particular kind of gear. For PC speakers, someplace like HardForum or Ars would be the place to go, I guess..

What can you do to repair them yourself.. Definitely try to drive them with another digital source (a DVD player should work), as well as with an analog source. Do that and report back, we might be able to help further.
posted by Chuckles at 3:03 PM on November 22, 2008

Best answer: The difficulty is that for a lot of these kinds of things, state of the art is to use an ASIC. ASICs can't be repaired; they can only be replaced by another of the exact same design. If the manufacturer doesn't sell those ASICs for repair purposes, or if they've run out, then you're SOL.

If your speakers have an "effect" button, by which I assume you mean different kinds of reverb, then there's definitely a DSP in there, and it's virtually certain it's part of an ASIC.

You may as well let someone who knows about such things look at it and try a diagnosis, but don't be too surprised if they tell you to replace them. (And do please try it with some other sound source; the problem might not be in the speakers.)
posted by Class Goat at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2008

Trying to define a life span is really impossible.. Building in a limited lifespan is actually quite difficult for a complicated mix of political and financial reasons.

Here is a great case study of exactly why this stuff doesn't work very well in practice. Dell has added an ID chipto prevent end users from buying knock off power supplies for their laptops. Problem is, the circuit is prone to failure, so it has probably cost Dell a lot more than it has made them. From that first link, reports suggest that only consumer oriented laptops are affected, similar units targeted at business customers are immune.
A couple of other links on the issue, just in case somebody with that problem lands here.

Still not a case of built in life span limit, but..
posted by Chuckles at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2009

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