Do Electronics Age?

The very short answer is YES!

Although you would think that a device built around solid state circuits wouldn’t age, some circuits in fact DO. We learned in the days when tube based circuits owned the market place, that tubes do age and need to be replaced at some point. Semiconductor parts like transistors, diodes, IC’s etc. really do not age. It is the parts that are used to help them work in a circuit that do.

One area that does age over time is the power supply circuit. In the power supply there are electrolytic capacitors that break down over time. That length of time can fluctuate between 10 to 20 years. Has the electronic piece been subjected to over voltage stress? Or conversely, has it seen under voltage stress? Have you cranked the amp up to very loud levels at times? Yeah you! This can definitely stress the power supply as it tries to keep up with getting enough current to the amplifier circuit.

Bryston, for example, doesn’t use traditional electrolytic caps. To minimize the aging issue Bryston uses non aqueous electrolytics. Further it employs specialized internal connection protocols and long life sealing methods to assure reliable performance even beyond its 20 year warranty period.
Signal or coupling capacitors do not age in the same way as electrolytics do. They generally just fail and that is fairly rare. This aging normally occurs slowly so you don’t really hear the degradation in sound. One day you may notice that the system just doesn’t have the air that it once had. But is it the electronics, the speakers or your ears? It’s tough to figure out unless a piece stops working or you do an A/B replacement test.

Remember that heat and moisture are the two worst enemies of electronics. Varying line voltage is hard on components as well. Today, you should have a surge filter on all your electronics as there is a lot more junk on the AC coming into your house.

With this in mind, the typical amplifier has a life span of 10-20 years. We find that most of the mid ranged amps like Haflers, Rotels, Adcoms, Parasounds, NADs etc, land closer to ten years than twenty. Of course there are exceptions where they last longer, and shorter as well!

It rarely makes sense to re-cap your old gear any more because the value of new gear today is friggen unbelievable! When you evaluate what you get from Emotiva, for example, it makes no sense to try to save your old gear.

For $500 you can get a power amp with 150×2, 360Va transformer, 8 output transistors, 90,000uF of storage caps- with a FIVE YEAR WARRANTY! Not only will it sound better than your old whatever, you get the fresh warranty!

For $900 you get a power amp with 300×2, 1200Va transformer, 20 output transistors with a 5 year warranty. Either of these amps will easily whip your old dog!

Please keep these facts in mind as you consider whether you should repair your amp as it stumbles ten years or so into its life.