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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.
    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:41PM (#46203901)

      look, you're not fooling anyone. they stopped selling blanket warrantys years ago.

      • 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 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:12PM (#46204173)

      What do you mean, "find a way"?

      It's a Dell. It's going to fail during the warranty period without requiring any shenanigans from the poster.

      • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
        They put a lot of money into making sure that most fail in the 1 to 3 month window after the warranty expires. They wouldn't want to ruin that by having too many fail under warranty.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:45PM (#46204923)

      Ex Dell grunt here. They fucked me and my town over, and are fucking over shareholders by going Private (the first thing they did when they no longer had to answer public questions was to outsource a bunch of jobs to themselves, the same thing they did to fuck my town over), so let me tell you how to fuck back.

      Escalate to a manager. The managers almost always capitulate. Doubly so if you keep calling back and keep escalating. Typically they bump you to a "resolution manager" which is just a Tier 2 tech with a very specifically worded title (Resolution Manager - see, they're MANAGERS) to prevent you from having to escalate directly to someone in charge. Escalate again, and you'll get a real manager.

      If you have a sales rep working with you, contact them directly. The sales reps will give you what you want to shut you up. If your employer or school has a Dell contract, THEIR sales rep can usually help - contact your IT staff or University's IT staff and see if they can help you. I replaced many a laptop part I shouldn't have because it was one of my contact's "boss's laptop" and they totally needed me to save them. And some universities are on a "just give the fuckers what they want" basis - the assclowns at Quinnipiac were the worst for this.

      Email support may be a better route - email support is usually handled by more advanced techs, often by people in the US or Canada.

      Don't threaten legal action directly, they have policies in place that basically say to end the call and blacklist you if you do.

      If you manage to get the idiots in consumer (India) annoyed enough at you they'll punt you over to their Pro Support for business just to be rid of you, who will capitulate if they can. It depends on the mood of the managers, they're not SUPPOSED to be working on non Pro Support systems. Unless they're workstations, because the Workstation customers usually can't deal with India.

      It's entirely possible the script has been updated to try and fuck you over if you ever use non-standard software on the PC, since Dell is bleeding money and can't afford to honor their warranties anymore. Keep fighting. You paid for that warranty and you're literally owed replacement speakers.

      • by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:37PM (#46205653)

        And you forgot the most important piece of advice: Don't buy a Dell next time!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by guyniraxn ( 1579409 )
        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 De
      • It's entirely possible the script has been updated to try and fuck you over if you ever use non-standard software on the PC

        What exactly is "non-standard software"? It's a general purpose computer so there is no such thing as non-standard applications unless we are talking complete operating system change.

    • by labnet ( 457441 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:48PM (#46205739)

      Well you are getting warmer.(Well warmer than any of the other posts I've read yet)

      There are only two ways to destroy a speaker.
      Overpowering (99%+ of cases), and Mechanical failure due to cone overextension.
      Speakers are rated in Watts (RMS) and appear like a resistor that varies a bit with frequency.
      If you take a 1W(RMS) speaker and match it to a 1W(RMS) amplifier, there is still a chance you can damage the speaker by overdriving it with a square wave which has 1.4 times the energy of a sine wave.
      Thus because VLC has 200% volume function, you could take a peaklimited song and clip it from a 'sine' to a 'square' wave and damage the speaker. Unlikely, but possible and good engineer would take this into account when designing the system.

  • Small Claims (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:34PM (#46203837)

    IANAL, but your first path for court action is small claims, not a class action.

    • Re:Small Claims (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IQGQNAU ( 643228 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:48PM (#46203955)
      You don't need a lawyer for small claims, so not being one isn't a big problem. Filing the claim will also get the attention of some higher ups that the tech support tree will block you from.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mysidia ( 191772 )

      IANAL, but your first path for court action is small claims, not a class action.

      OK, but to make the true claim of Unfair competition, and ANTICOMPETITIVE BEHAVIOR against open source software (VLC product), in favor of Dell Partners' products, a small claims action is not going to fit the bill.

      This should be the American People VS Dell, for half a billion dollars.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        He doesn't want to sue dell for unfairly treating VLC, he just wants his speaker repaired without obvious bullshit excuses.

    • 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.
  • bad engineering? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Any decent hardware engineer would not put out electronics for mass production that can be destroyed by software. Hopefully an EE from Levono or HP will reverse engineer the circuit and determine if the is bad engineering and put all of the information on the web. This may be the only way to get Dell to put out quality (or at least not defective) products into the marketplace.

    • by arashi no garou ( 699761 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:50PM (#46203973)

      I'm pretty sure Dell doesn't design the actual circuits on their boards, they just pick a chipset and ship off the parts list to their builder in Shenzhen or wherever. I'm willing to bet there was a mismatch between what the speaker could handle and what the audio chipset puts out. Some engineer somewhere cut a corner and didn't test it, and of course at build time all they check for is that sound is produced (this is Dell, not Apple; they don't care if it's great audio quality, just that it works long enough to make it into the shipping box).

      That's all supposition on my part of course, but I'd put money on it being a mismatched speaker and chipset.

    • 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 mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:26PM (#46205189)

        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.

        The trouble is that the audio chipset hardware is by design meant to output arbitrary waveforms, including squarewaves, which is what VLC produces in the most extreme form of clipping.

        A wave file can hold the very same signal.

        Neither the user nor software is responsible for trying to figure out what waveforms are a problem on a system where the built in amp can destroy the built in speaker. It's the responsibility of the maker to limit the output of their own amp so that it doesn't cause damage. They put the amp in there in the first place. There's nothing about putting in a proper amp that in any way would affect portability.

    • Dell has a long and well documented history of poor quality products and even worse customer service. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that they used the cheapest, shittiest speakers possible, and, due to their shit quality, cannot handle the power output of the laptop's amplifier when driven at high volume.

      Also, the article mentions setting VLC's volume to 200%. This was changed some time ago (version 2.0 I think) and VLC only goes up to a maximum of 125% now.

    • Tell that to the miriad of engineers that put out monitors for mass production that got destroyed by people having the wrong modelines in the xfree86.conf files back in the day.
  • Well, I sued... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:37PM (#46203865)

    So to keep,a long story short, I had to sue Dell over a overheating Alienware M11x GAMING notebook.

    I had a friendly but non helpful support case with Dell and a short also friendly but also non helpful discussion afterwards. Then I sued.

    I won.

  • Two options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by synaptik ( 125 ) * on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:38PM (#46203867) Homepage
    Option The First:
    1. Buy Dell Laptop
    2. Do first-use OS initialization, power down, remove HDD, store away in a safe place
    3. Add new harddrive, install OS of choice
    4. If at any time you have warranty service needs, swap original HDD back in

    Option The Second:
    1. Don't buy Dell
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:39PM (#46203881)

    1) for class action you would need other people who had the same problem.

    2) Go see a lawyer and bring the warranty service contract. You can take them to small claims court and possibly get a judgement simply because they aren't likely to show. Just keep track of your lawyer's billing rates, and the filing fees for small claims because you're going to need that info when comparing your time, effort and money against option #4 I list below.

    3) Build a time machine and then go back in time and tell yourself to return the laptop for warranty service, and when they ask what's wrong, say "the speaker quit working, I have no idea why"

    4) Or the real thing you can do hit a pillow and get the anger out. Then grumble about Dell to your friends and let them pat you on the shoulder. Then buy a pair of external speakers that aren't shitty, and don't stop worrying about small potatoes. Really man, it sucks to get screwed on a fine line of a warranty issue.. we've all been there. Let it go.

  • physcial damage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:41PM (#46203899)

    I don't know what VLC player is, but any laptop that allows its speakers to be damage by software has a design flaw. Why is it that companies will try their damnedest to screw their customers over until publicly shamed with a bad-pr article like this?

    • Agreed. A computer should be able to perform any sequence of instructions the user can come up with. Otherwise it is not functioning as advertised.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Agreed. A computer should be able to perform any sequence of instructions the user can come up with.

        What about the sequences of instructions that relate to the system BIOS or add-in card/peripheral components' EEPROM or flash ROM, and allow you to zero it, or flash it with bits of your choice?

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          That particular sequence of instructions should zero the EEPROM of flash ROM or flash it with bits of my choice.
          It should not, however, blow up the speaker or do anything else it wasn't supposed to be able to do.

    • I don't know what VLC player is

      Well, this is the Internet. You could easily find out.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Actually almost any speaker can be damaged by overdriving it for long periods of time. Laptops are particularly vulnerable because they have small speakers trying to make a lot of noise.

      Having said that my money would be on Dell just trying to get out of the warranty.

      • 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.
        • Re:physcial damage (Score:5, Informative)

          by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:24PM (#46205165) Homepage Journal

          It isn't practical. Speakers can handle far more of a reasonable signal than a horribly clipped almost square wave. While a "normal" audio signal will be converted to transducer movement, a square wave will end up being dissipated primarily as heat in the driver coil. Speakers can handle normal overload far better than they can handle severe clipping. It's easier to destroy a 500W speaker with a 30W amp driven to clipping than with a 1000W amp driven to make the peaks push your threshold of pain.

  • It's their product and no proof you victimized it, unless using it at all isn't allowed. Escalate (with more noise) up the food chain, try another dealer, etc. until they realize keeping a customer happy is more valuable than a 22.1 cent speaker and the time to swap it/them out would ever be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:44PM (#46203933)

    That's the beauty of a digital signal: You simply can't put in a stronger signal than the bits allow. Yes, a "clipped" signal has high energy harmonics, but the same harmonics could be encoded right in the audio source signal without additional player amplification. For example, using mp3gain to set a high gain on any MP3 file will cause the decoder to happily produce a clipped time domain signal. Even Windows Media Player will play it clipped. Designing an audio system such that it can't handle any signal you could put in a WAV file is just idiotic. Such penny-pinching certainly isn't the user's fault and would not void legally mandated warranties. Dell can of course exclude anything they like from a voluntary warranty, if they make it clear upfront what is excluded.

    • 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.
      • That may very well be the case (it is), but it doesn't change the fact that Dell had a responsibility to ensure that its speakers aren't capable of producing a sound that would cause them to damage themselves. Dell should have simply dialed back the amplifier, such that ANY signal produced by the computer would be below the rated maximum. Given that Dell has full control over the amount of power being used to drive the speakers, they have no excuse for throwing too much at them.

        • by adolf ( 21054 ) <> on Monday February 10, 2014 @02:02AM (#46207977) Journal

          Given that Dell has full control over the amount of power being used to drive the speakers, they have no excuse for throwing too much at them.

          That's a little bit short-sighted.

          Without knowing the nature of the failure, it's impossible to say what the problem actually is. Were the loudspeakers destroyed through mechanical stress or thermal stress?

          Limiting the power output of an amplifier for the purpose of preventing loudspeaker damage is not a trivial thing to do.

          In terms of damage, loudspeakers don't care (within reason and obvious mechanical limits) about instantaneous power. They care about long-term heating.

          If you just clip the signal, you generate an approximation of a squarewave (which loudspeakers hate): This reduces peak power (which isn't normally a problem), and increases average power (which is always a problem), and reduces cooling, AND it sounds terrible (though some listeners seem to not care). Clipping, therefore, at any stage -- including within software (ala VLC), or even during the recording process -- is a problem.

          If you add a simple limiter, you've got the same problems all over again, although with less harmonic distortion: Peak power goes down, but average power stays high. Voice coils cook.

          If you add a complicated multiband limiter that understands heating, you might have a shot at solving it, but you're into real money in engineering dollars and DSP parts....over some $.50 laptop speakers.

          That all said, companies have been selling and folks have been buying integrated audio systems for well over half a decade. If this is 1949 and I crank up my RCA tube set so I can listen to music in the garden and cook the loudspeaker, that's my fault -- not RCA's fault. The best I can hope is that RCA is willing to sell me a replacement speaker at a reasonable price.

          Same with a 1980s Fisher "rack system," or a wall full of modern Krell and Martin Logan gear. Or any random boombox. And, I dare say, a laptop.

          It is traditionally the job of the listener to ensure that an audio system is performing within its limitations, and not the job of the audio system to protect itself from the listener.

          If I crank VLC up to 120 or 200% or whatever the maximum is, and it starts clipping samples and generating square waves, and I turn the other volume controls up so I can hear that distorted drone over the drone of my hot tub, and something breaks...gosh, I guess I'm going to say that it was my own fault for not hearing the plain and obvious distortion that was occurring, and you know, just turn things down. Just as with any other audio system, big or small.

          Back to legal stuff: The Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act does not protect consumers from their own stupidity. If I drop my Jeep down a 4-foot embankment and break a front control arm, that's my own dumb fault -- it's certainly not the manufacturer's fault for failing to ensure that I would be unable to perform such maneuvers in MY Jeep (yes, emphasis: If I owned a Jeep, it would be MINE).

          HOWEVER, what MMWA does do is ensure that if the manufacturer suspects that a failure is due to end-user modification, that the the onus is on the manufacturer to prove that this is the case. I can be rock-crawling in my Jeep with its trick aftermarket suspension, and if the engine dies from a broken pushrod, it's the manufacturer's responsibility to prove that it's either not a warranted fault OR that my modifications caused the pushrod to break.

          Likewise, the onus is on Dell to prove that some software (such as VLC) caused the failure...or that the speakers aren't warranted to begin with due to signs of abuse. Dismissing a warranty claim out-of-hand because of the software installed on a computer, or the shocks on a Jeep (even IF it might be the case that the software did in fact cause the problem, as VLC might be capable of doing) is illegal in all 50 states.

  • by MpVpRb ( 1423381 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:48PM (#46203951) uses Windows system calls which then call the sound driver

    If the damage was caused by software, it's clearly the fault of the driver

    VLC is too far up the stack to cause anything abnormal

  • Already in the law. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:48PM (#46203953) Homepage Journal

    Warrantors cannot require that only branded parts be used with the product in order to retain the warranty.[7] This is commonly referred to as the "tie-in sales" provisions,[8] and is frequently mentioned in the context of third-party computer parts, such as memory and hard drives. []

  • First of all, they mention VLC only because it happens to have a volume-clipping feature. There's nothing "destroying" about VLC per se, and Dell acknowledges this. Secondly, by booming your speakers with high volume and high-energy audio signal is just asking for trouble. I'm sure that many small tweeters would be damaged by that. You can always find corner cases like this from hardware. Task all CPU cores and all GPU shader units at the same time and many laptops will overheat.
    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Task all CPU cores and all GPU shader units at the same time and many laptops will overheat.

      That's a defective product. The CPU and GPU units are engineered for a certain thermal capacity, and the product would be advertised as containing these CPUs and GPUs that have a certain number of cores, frequency, etc; the laptop itself must be engineered to handle them at full load, or apply a thermal limiting technology, otherwise the overheat condition when it occurs is a hardware product defect that

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @02:49PM (#46203967) Homepage

    You can damage speakers by putting too much sound through them. I do not know why there are not more safeguards, but this happens (at least for normal stereo system speakers).

    So any program that allows you to increase the original file volume would only help you do this. Based on what I have seen with the quality of dell laptops, it probably is possible to break the speakers by pumping too much noise out of them, and using VLC to up the file volume could help you do this.

    • yeah but for normal stereo system speakers (detached ones, not ones built into a boom box) you're also running an amp that provides high-watt power to them. the speakers are rated for a certain power, and you could attach an amp that provides too much power. If the hardware stack is ok, eg. the max amp output matches the max speaker input, then you should be able to turn the amp up to 11 with no problems.

      separately, what does everybody mean about VLC doing clipping of the waveform for movies? I don't unders

      • VLC, and many other programs, give you the option to crank the volume up to 20 or so, well past the normal maximum. Now it can't actually push the hardware past 100%, so what it does instead is amplify the sound wave data before passing it to the audio system.

        Basically all the quiet parts get made as loud as the normal parts would be, the normal parts get as loud as the loud parts were, and the loudest parts... can't get much louder because they're already near the maximum volume. Any time the amplified s

    • I do not know why there are not more safeguards

      Probably because the safeguards would have to be part of the analog amplification circuit, and anything extra that you put there will potentially hamper sound quality.

    • by Arker ( 91948 )
      Dell has the whole chain here, it's their amplifier and their speaker. Anything VLC will feed into that system is something you could feed into it in other ways as well. That system should be designed so that the amplifier will not send a signal that destroys the speakers no matter what input it is given. If they cut corners and made a system that is given to damaging the speakers, then at minimum they should be replacing said speakers.
  • The correct answer is: why the hell did you buy a Dell, you idiot? Buy a real laptop! The best 5 with the lowest defects are Asus, MSI, Toshiba, Samsung, Sony and they also have the highest rated support quality.
    • remember the commercials, dude you got a dell! that guy was funny.

    • The correct answer is: why the hell did you buy a Dell, you idiot? Buy a real laptop! The best 5 with the lowest defects are Asus, MSI, Toshiba, Samsung, Sony and they also have the highest rated support quality.

      Apple. Best quality and best support.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        You can destroy two Dell laptops, buy a third and still spend less than a single Apple laptop.

  • Devil's advocate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kurkosdr ( 2378710 )
    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 disa
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      Running DC through a speaker is practically impossible with any halfway decent implemented amp (even the all-in-one chips you buy for these purposes have such protection). Good individual speakers will have a protection circuit as well. Heck, a simple condenser would do the trick (given these tin sheets don't produce any worthwhile sound anyway). This is simply an issue of using sub-par speakers, mismatched to the power output of the miniature amp, not enough cooling for the amp (depending on what the issue

  • If dell's speakers are damaged by playing clipped audio, couldn't the same damage be caused by playing a poorly-mastered CD?

    eg: http://mastering-media.blogspo... []

  • 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.

    • You would think that cinema speakers ... would be impervious to damage but some movies occasionally overdrive the speakers to a point that the drivers are damaged. ... there was 7 seconds of high pitched buzzing on reel 4 that could destroy the speakers.

      A big difference is that those are speakers with separate woofers and tweeters. A typical audio signal has the vast majority of the acoustic signal in the low frequencies, so a loudspeaker capable of handling 100 W could have 90 W for the woofer and 10 W for

  • 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.

  • ...kills woofers.

    Not enough amplifier kills tweeters, because clipping produces high-frequency (as in higher than you can hear) square waves and the tweeters cannot respond to that high a frequency and so the energy is turned into heat instead of air movement and it burns out their voice coils.

    Maybe that's what Dell is trying to say happened here.

  • If I were a lawyer I'd provide you with legal advice. And charge you for it of course.
  • by pem ( 1013437 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:41PM (#46204427)


    The people who advocate small claims are half right. In many states, you have to send a demand letter before you can do that anyway.

    Some idiots will say to email the CEO, but if you're lucky, that will just get down to the lawyer, and the lawyer will already be miffed because you've piled more work on him from above. Better to go straight to the lawyer.

    I have had several successes, some quite large, and no failures, with the following strategy:

    1) Try sincerely to resolve it through normal channels, as you apparently have.

    2) Document how that didn't work. If you don't have good documentation, do (1) again.

    3) Find the attorney or registered agent's email address. I have never had a problem doing this, but I'm pretty good at the google-fu. Good starting points for names are corporate bios, 10K filings at the SEC, and the Secretary of State's office (which might require a phone call). Since Dell is in Texas, they are required to have a registered agent with the Texas Secretary of state. I live in Texas, and I got Fry's registered agent's name from the Texas Secretary of State when I had an issue with them.

    4) Send the attorney an email POLITELY explaining exactly what happened, and what needs to happen to make you a happy camper. Give them two deadlines. The first one should be about two weeks out to let the legal department research the problem on their end. The second one, at the end of the email, goes something like this:

    "Please acknowledge receipt of this email within three days to save me the time and expense of sending a registered letter."

    A registered letter is exactly what you need to do, in most cases, to put them on notice before you file in small claims. So this sentence puts them on notice that you are preparing to legally put them on notice, and since your speaker repair is way cheaper than dealing with you in court (you're not claiming the bad speaker damaged your hearing, or lost you business when the presentation went awry, are you?), they should be more than happy to do that.

    One purpose of the letter that cannot be stressed enough is that you are not arguing with the lawyer. You are essentially presenting the same case that you would present in court. Your letter should be polite, without speling or grandmar erors, and compelling. Do not attempt lawyerese, because that is not required or even encouraged in small claims court. Just write it in plain English. You are not arguing with the lawyer, but you are showing him that you will present yourself well in court, and after expending time and money to defend, he will stand a good chance of losing.

  • by dogsbreath ( 730413 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @03:49PM (#46204499)

    One option is what you did here on /. . . . but in a planned campaign that includes getting the VLC org on your side.

    Another is civil (small claims) court. No lawyer necessary and guaranteed to cost Dell more than you if they fight it. You are very likely to get a judgement on your side if Dell doesn't send a representative. You can have oodles of fun serving the judgement on Dell. I have gone to civil court twice and both times the judge was very good.

    In Alberta: []

    A bit of a windmill tilt since after all is said and done you could easily replace the speakers yourself for much less.

    Your local state/provincial/federal government is bound to have a consumer affairs section which has an interest in making sure businesses treat consumers fairly. You could look into that.

    Finally, go around the service desk if you can. See if you can make contact with someone other than a scripted service droid.

    I had an HP inkjet that would not pick up paper no matter what I did. I had several trouble calls in with them while it was under warranty but nothing helped so I tossed the offender into the closet and got on with my life. About a year later (outside of the warranty) I happened to read online about a service kit from HP that would cure the problem. Free under warranty. Called HP up and you know they said too bad, so sad, your warranty has expired. They would sell the kit for $40 bucks plus shipping. Half the cost of the printer. I protested about my trouble calls and they said the tickets were no longer in the system.

    On the off chance, I sent an email explaining my situation to the HP CEO as Expecting nothing, I was floored when the next day I received a response from HP apologizing for the situation and that a kit plus a set of ink cartridges were being shipped to me.

    I am sure that the email did not go to the CEO of the time (uh, about 8 yrs ago so ...) but someone read the mail and dealt with it.

    Nice, but I wasted at least 40 hours on the issue. Wayyyyyyyyyyy more value than the printer. I shudda just thrown the darn thing out at the first sign of trouble.

    How upset are you? How much are you prepared to put into it.

    Have fun.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"