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Media Open Source Software Hardware

Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC 526

An anonymous reader writes "VLC is incapable of increasing the actual power past 100%, all that is being done is the waveform is being modified to be louder within the allowed constraints. But, that didn't stop Dell from denying warranty service for speaker damage if the popular VLC Media Player is installed on a Dell laptop. Also we got a report that service was denied because KMPlayer was installed on a laptop. The warranty remains valid on the other parts of the laptop. VLC player developer [Jean-Baptiste Kempf] denied the issue with VLC and further claimed that the player cannot be used to damage speakers. How can I convince Dell to replace my laptop speaker which is still in warranty? Or class action is only my option?"
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Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC

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  • by Pessime ( 1600787 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:34PM (#46203831)
    Find some way to ruin the whole unit in a way that doesn't void the warranty. Start a process that uses lots of power so your chips are working hard, and wrap it up in a hot blanket. Or something along those lines.
  • Devil's advocate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kurkosdr ( 2378710 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:53PM (#46203997)
    Playing the devil's advocate here, but most audio waveforms look like sine-waves (so to speak). Converting the waveform to a square-wave (what VLC's clipping does when you push the volume above 100%) puts a prolonged stress on the speakers even if you don't increase max output, which most speakers can't withstand. And the VLC dudes have helpfully mapped the volume controls to the scroll wheel, so you 'll probably push the volune above 100% accidentally. Thhe ability to push volume above 100% should be disabled by default IMO. Anyway, if your Dell fries speakers but can stilk boot, uninstall VLC and KM Player.
  • Re:bad engineering? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inasity_rules ( 1110095 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:57PM (#46204049) Journal

    No, it is compromise engineering. Which is OK for a lot of consumer electronics. For example, most laptops won't have enough cooling to dissipate full load heat at maximum rated temperature. This isn't a design flaw, it is a compromise to allow the designer to get more peak performance out of the laptop(or more peak volume in a movie, for example). It is the same with, say gmail. Do you really think google could have supplied every user 1Gb of mail space at launch?

    I personally don't do this sort of engineering, but I can see the reasoning. And if you are trying to push high volumes out of your laptop speaker, you probably should be carrying external speakers. There are physical limitations to systems designed to be portable.

  • by esten ( 1024885 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:05PM (#46204131)

    Ask Dell what the cost of the repairs are then fill in small claims court for that amount.

    Some other things you might do are:
    1. Complain to BBB
    2. Talk to your credit card company you have have additional warranty service under them.
    3. Email CEO. & link to Slashdot story

    4. Nuke option. Have Slashdot email CEO
    (Would we crash their email server?)

  • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:07PM (#46204139)

    You would think that cinema speakers (those big honkin' speakers that sit behind the screen at the movie theatre - mine are about about six feet tall but there are many larger than that) would be impervious to damage but some movies occasionally overdrive the speakers to a point that the drivers are damaged. The most recent one that I'm aware of is Paranormal Activity 2: The Marked Ones, where there was 7 seconds of high pitched buzzing on reel 4 that could destroy the speakers.

    Here is an email from Paramount that describes the problem:

    Dear Projectionist,
    Paramount has had reports of speaker damage from some theatres playing PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES. In several cases we have been able to research, the volume had been turned up to high levels at patronsâ(TM) requests.

    We are currently working to get information on speaker/amplifier brand and model to see if any particular combination of hardware might be more susceptible to damage. At this time, most of the damaged speakers have been identified as JBL model 4632â(TM)s, but this is preliminary data.

    We are also working on an audio patch which may lessen the potential for damage.

    For the time being, please do not set your volume at a high level on this film.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    Technicolor sent out a new soundtrack for that movie without the 7 seconds of buzzing and as far as I know that solved the problem.

    The point here is that even high-end cinema audio systems can be damaged by a poorly engineered soundtrack, so I'm not surprised to find that the speakers in a cheap laptop could be damaged the same way.

  • I tip the repairguy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by megabeck42 ( 45659 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:16PM (#46204201)

    I always include a $20.00 and a note when I send a laptop in for repair. In the note I explain exactly what I'd like done. Always works with Lenovo.

  • by jrronimo ( 978486 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:23PM (#46204277)
    I had a user whose laptop was replaced by Dell under warranty, except that they sent him back a 17" monstrosity rather than the 13" machine he had at the time. They wouldn't budget on giving him something smaller. After filing a small claims court case, they reimbursed him for the price of his original laptop and I think told him to keep the new one, too. He was happy after that.

    Another friend had a HTC One phone whose screen popped and shattered while he was browsing twitter. HTC refused the replacement despite being a month old, claiming he dropped it. After filing a Better Business Bureau complaint, they replaced it under warranty.

    Either way, something like that will get someone's eye and hopefully the original poster will be happy. The bigger problem is that this is a thing Dell will break a warranty over, which is ridiculous.
  • by ZeroPly ( 881915 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:29PM (#46204315)
    I know very little about audio, but a cursory search turned this up from Wikipedia:

    "Because the clipped waveform has more area underneath it than the smaller unclipped waveform, the amplifier produces more power than its rated (sine wave) output when it is clipping. This extra power can damage any part of the loudspeaker, including the woofer, or the tweeter, by causing over-excursion, or by overheating the voice coil. It may cause damage to the amplifier's power supply or simply blow a fuse."

    The digital signal obviously has to be converted to analog at some point, so I believe this is what Dell is talking about.
  • Re:Tell them... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:44PM (#46204449)

    Yep FUCK BETA!!!

    Didn't know how to give my opinion...

    Oh by the way, just we are not against it because it's new, and we don't like change. We just don't like ugly change. Same with windows 8, people don't hate it, because it's different. People hate it because it's terrible to use, and looks ugly too...

    I want something new, that's easier to use, faster, or more features, or looks better... Not change for change....

    That might be so, but as someone who has been here almost since the beginning -- Slashdot community has always had a vocal negative reaction to change. I remember people here debating how stupid a thing mobile phones were, if they needed to call anyone they could use their landline, no need to change that. And when XP came we really hated it, the new UI and more, but 10 years later it is what many like to stick with. There are tons of examples like this. I think it might partly be that geeks invest more than others in how things are, so resist change.

  • Re:physcial damage (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Arker ( 91948 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:05PM (#46204615) Homepage
    "Actually almost any speaker can be damaged by overdriving it for long periods of time. "

    Which is why when you design a system with an integrated audio system (like, say, a laptop) you have to match the components. The last stage of amplification should never send a signal to the speakers that they cant handle, regardless of input.

    This sounds to me like a design defect.
  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:10PM (#46204651) Homepage
    After digging deeper it seems the problem is they have matched a sound card that will put out 10w max and speakers that are only safe up to 6w max. So yes, playing an Iron Maiden album and using VLC to saturate the speakers even more should blow the speakers, it's exactly what I would expect.

    And yes, they do this to cut costs, but they should be calculating warranty costs into it when they decide whether skimping is cost effective. Looks to me like they skipped that step and now want to disclaim their warranty. I get that they are putting out cheap crap because that is what customers demand but I dont think that gives them any legal grounds to deny the warranty.
  • Re:bad engineering? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GNious ( 953874 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:37PM (#46204841)

    Having literally seen a brick received in a Dell laptop box, instead of the purchased laptop, I'm thinking you're expecting too much of Dell's Q/A process.

    (note: the 3 other boxes contained actual laptops.)

  • Re:bad engineering? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arashi no garou ( 699761 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:51PM (#46204963)

    Can you cite references for this? I thought Dell in particular pawned off this type of work to their system builders in China. Dell still designs the look and feel of their machines and decides which parts go in, but the actual circuit board design is done further down the chain. At least, that's what I've always understood. Here's my source reference, btw: []

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @08:03PM (#46206293) Homepage

    And they're not fooling anyone either.

    If there is software that can damage those speakers in the manner that Dell's trying to claim, it fails upon UCC 2-314 and UCC 2-315 out of box.

    Per Mangusson-Moss, it's not legally possible for them to claim that their warranty is voided just because there is a piece of software put onto the machine because they didn't limit their warranty in this case in writing (and if they did put it in a fine-print manner, few would buy and they'd be in deep trouble with the Texas and other States Deceptive Trade Practices Act for doing so- because it's something that is deemed unconscionable (In fact, the TDTPA has the act in question as a laundry-list item for the's illegal out of box...)) and therefore, they have to PROVE (not just CLAIM) that it was the software in question for Mangusson-Moss to NOT apply here, that they did something deliberate to damage the product. Because of the explanation from one of the VLC crowd on the forum pretty much shoots that out of the water (Not realistically possible to damage the speakers unless the speakers were substandard or defective...), the Warranty STANDS. At this point, Dell has one of three options allowed them by the Uniform Commercial Code: Fix, Replace, or Refund. Seriously.

  • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @09:49PM (#46206881)

    The old 68000 processor (of Apple Macintosh fame) had an instruction that would turn the address and data buses into high-speed counters for diagnostic purposes. Unfortunately, this instruction could also overheat the chip if ran for too long.

    User's dubbed the assembly mnemonic as: HCF, Halt and Catch Fire!

  • by countach74 ( 2484150 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @09:51PM (#46206895)

    It should be impossible for software to damage modern hardware. Full stop...

    I'm not so sure about that, especially considering the way speakers cool themselves. If you crank the volume up to the point where you're essentially sending constant, large square waves to the speaker, you're literally telling the speaker, "OK, move all of the way in and stay there for a while. Now, move very quickly all of the way out and stay there for a while." The voice coil of a speaker is cooled by the speaker moving in and out and *not* staying in one place; it is a fundamental assumption that all speakers (that I know of) rely on. If you pump a ton of power into the voice coil and force the speaker to stay relatively stationary, expect a failure: the shielding around the voice coil will deteriorate and you will end up with a short circuit. So while VLC cannot send more than 100% power, it can cause the speaker to operate in such a fashion that is unintended and dangerous to the life of the speaker.

    Your solution may be that, "the voice coil should be designed to withstand this sort of [ab]use." But that is purely ideological and will likely lead to increased costs for manufacturers; it may also yield less powerful or inferior sound reproduction systems. I'm not sure what the consequences of such a mandate would be, but I'm almost certain neither of us would care for them.

    To be clear though, I am not saying that Dell should void the warranty over this, only that the belief that "it should be impossible for software to damage modern hardware" is likely flawed.

  • by guyniraxn ( 1579409 ) on Monday February 10, 2014 @09:30AM (#46209279)
    I've had luck by emailing Michael Dell himself. I had bought my mother an All-in-One that failed within a couple months, due to harddrive failure. After getting dicked around by support who insisted that the warranty was expired, even going so far as to manually change it so the next time I went online it showed expired. I had a previous screenshot of the warranty with my tag number from their website and a dated invoice, sent that to big ole Mike with some choice words about how I will never buy another Dell and advise against anyone else doing so (being that I'm the "tech guy" amongst my family and friends). I finished the email with "Thanks for nothing!" The next day I was contacted by Executive Customer Support and scheduled someone to come to me to replace the harddrive.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas