Ian, Andrew, and I were standing around at the dog park, chatting as we do each morning. Three boomer-adjacent white males, keeping one eye on the dogs to make sure they weren’t eating things they shouldn’t, although this was more my concern; my dog’s an idiot and will eat anything, including mud and dog shit.


Our park times overlap by about 30 minutes each weekday morning. Audio comes up quite frequently, given that Andrew has a baller system comprising a Conrad-Johnson amp and preamp, VPI Scout turntable with a juicy Goldring cartridge, and Morel Octave speakers backed up by an REL sub.

Three boomers

Ian also has a good system: Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series tower speakers powered by a Cambridge Audio integrated amp–DAC. During one of our discussions, Ian let slip that he streams music to the Cambridge Audio amp via an add-on Bluetooth dongle.

We can’t have that. I strongly suggested that he purchase a WiiM streamer, as that seems like a fairly inexpensive way to allow him to cast CD-quality audio directly from his phone. Ian indicated his willingness to go this route, but he said that one channel on the amp seemed to be malfunctioning, as he was only getting sound out of one speaker—he needed to get this sorted first.

Over the next couple of mornings, we three sketched out some remote troubleshooting. Ian swapped speaker cables and tried a different input. Turns out Ian’s amp actually did have a dead channel.

“How old is that thing?” I asked.

“About three years,” Ian responded.

“Ok,” I replied. “Probably still under warranty.”

A quick search revealed that Ian’s amplifier was not within the warranty period. Cambridge Audio guarantees its products for two years. Color me surprised. I had assumed that any decent mid-to-hi-fi product without moving parts, such as an amp or preamp, would be covered for five years, because—really—there’s not much to go wrong inside there, and if an amp works for the first year, it’s likely to keep going for the long haul.

Further research revealed that Cambridge Audio is not alone in its adoption of a cheap-ass warranty. NAD? Two years. Yamaha? Two years. There are exceptions—Rotel guarantees its products for five years. Denon gives three years.

NADDennis Burger’s NAD C 3050—long may you run

But come on—my Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 preamp is approaching 30 years of age, with almost daily use, and all I’ve ever had to do is replace the tubes.

Sonic FrontiersMaybe it’s time to move the old girl down the road

Above my record rack is an Eico HF-81 that’s over 60 years old, and it refuses to die, although I occasionally have to hit it on the side like an old TV to stop it from spitting static.

EicoIt’s dusty in Jason’s amplifier graveyard

So what is a company such as Cambridge Audio saying about its products? That they won’t last much beyond two years? That’s what it felt like when Ian, Andrew, and I were discussing the situation.

To some degree, warranties have become irrelevant when purchasing technology. We rarely keep our phones past the two-year mark, and A/V receivers have tended to become obsolete shortly after purchase. We’ve been conditioned to upgrade at a galloping pace, and corporations have successfully convinced us that we need faster, better, more current products and that our older products which do exactly the same thing are no longer acceptable. The Onion is my barometer for satire, and their articles transcend the moment. I’m reminded of their timeless “New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable” article:

“The new device is an improvement over the old device, making it more attractive for purchase by all Americans,” said Thomas Wakefield, a spokesperson for the large conglomerate that manufactures the new device. “The old device is no longer sufficient. Consumers should no longer have any use or longing for the old device.”

“Its higher price indicates to me that it is superior, and that not everyone will be able to afford it, which only makes me want to possess it more,” said Tim Sturges, owner of the old device, which he obtained 18 months ago when it was still the new device. “I feel a strong urge to purchase the new device. Owning the new device will please me and improve my daily life.”

Consider the flat-panel television. Pretty much every house I visit has the TV (most of the time there’s no stereo) set up so far away from the viewing position that 1080p would be more than sufficient resolution-wise, yet in pretty much every house I visit, I see a fairly new 4K-resolution screen, purchased because, well, 4K is better.

On the other end of the upsell spectrum is my friend Rich. Rich is in the movie business, and he has a purpose-built, cost-no-object home theater, but his JVC projector is eight years old. He’s not going to upgrade for a good while yet, as he feels that his projector is the zenith of LCD technology, and he’d have to spend tens of thousands on a newfangled laser projector to net an incremental improvement.

I recall that the warranty was quite important to Rich. Projectors are fussy, delicate precision devices. Rich demands atom-splitting accuracy, and I remember that when the first projector he received had some minor flaw in its projected picture, he had it replaced under warranty.

After the initial out-of-the-box issue, his replacement projector has been working flawlessly for years. I purchased my JVC projector from Rich eight years ago when he upgraded. Rich sold his then-two-year-old projector to me for a good, no-haggle price for two reasons. First off, he wanted visitation rights, because he visits often and was disgusted by the picture quality from my ancient Panasonic projector. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Rich is wary of having potential buyers visiting his house and clocking his very expensive stereo system: “Nice place you’ve got here . . . you going away this weekend?”

ProjectorJason’s projector, courtesy of Rich

Anyway, my JVC projector is ten years old now, and I’m on my second bulb. We use it maybe four hours per week, and it’s working as well now as it did when I got it. JVC warrants their projectors for three years—and that’s a good number, I’d say, considering that the interior of a projector is a high-heat environment, with lots of fiddly little pieces that have to work together with extreme precision.

But two years! What does the length of a warranty mean, to you and me, about the quality of a product? Does it indicate the faith a company has in its products, about how long they’re supposed to last? An amplifier has no moving parts, and as such, should last a good long time. But what about an amp that’s stuffed with network components? I guess that’s a high-impact environment, and maybe the warranty should be a touch shorter. That said, consumer-grade switches and routers are generally warranted for one year, but those things are designed for 24/7 use, running full-out the whole time. A stereo amp runs, for the most part, a few hours a day, and not every day.

So two years still feels a little skimpy to me. Here’s where Bryston enters the chat and laughs in Canadian.


For a good long while now, Bryston, the Canadian manufacturer of a full range of high-end pro- and home-audio gear, has offered, and stood behind, a 20-year warranty on their amplifiers and preamps. And for a good long while, the company was quite liberal with its definition of “20 years.” If you found a rain-soaked 30-year-old 3B in a dumpster, there was a good chance they’d roll their corporate eyes and just fix the damn thing. I remember when Bryston announced their 20-year warranty. They’d been fixing everything free of charge anyway, so they figured they might as well formalize the process and—wonder!—they gained a whole bunch of very positive publicity essentially for free.

Back in 2022, Bryston made a change to its warranty program. Any product that was out of warranty—older than 20 years—would be eligible for their Vintage Amplifier Restoration Program, whereby the consumer could choose from three levels of revitalization. So even a Bryston product that’s out of warranty still has cachet, still has value, and can be brought up to new condition ready for another lifetime of use. Jeff Fritz interviewed James Tanner, Bryston’s CEO, about this new program, so check out their video on SoundStage! Talks to learn more about it.

Admittedly, Bryston’s products are more expensive than Cambridge Audio’s. But not by orders of magnitude, which is often the case in high-end audio. Bryston’s amps are solid, rugged, and sound fantastic—and you can buy an amp and preamp from them and just barely break ten grand. Consider this, though: that one purchase means you’ve got a kick-ass amp and preamp that is guaranteed to last 20 years. At least 20 years.


A few days later at the park, we resumed our conversation. “So what are you gonna do, Ian?” I asked. “Fix it, or buy something new?”

“Well, I might as well fix it, otherwise it’ll be worth nothing,” he replied with some resignation. So here was Ian, an upper-middle-class guy with plenty of years of buying power left in him, who now viewed his integrated amplifier as an obligation, as a liability. Well, maybe liability is a bit strong, but would he purchase another Cambridge Audio product after this experience? Would he recommend the brand to someone else? Did Ian still feel pride in his purchase?

If Cambridge Audio offered a five-year warranty, they may well have lost money on this specific transaction with Ian. I have no reason to suspect that Ian’s early-death experience with his amp is anything but an isolated case. Cambridge Audio components are well-made, high-quality products, and should last for many years. We’ve reviewed several Cambridge Audio products in these pages, and they’ve all performed well. The occasional goodwill warranty fix would probably generate more sales down the road, or at the minimum, circumvent a loss of goodwill that’s worth far more than the cost of a free repair.

Amp with smoke

I haven’t really paid much attention to the warranties attached to the products I review. I think that will change going forward.

. . . Jason Thorpe