The Ergosphere
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 

Never another Sony

We interrupt your regularly scheduled energy blogging for a short consumer product rating and rant.

Some years ago, I bought a Sony Discman player.  I took it out shortly after I bought it, put a disc in it and went for a walk.  It didn't play right.  It didn't play right at home after that, either; it would get maybe halfway through most discs and then error out.  The same discs would play fine on my stereo, so it was the Discman.  That thing never worked; I was going to send it back to Sony, but I was so disgusted to have something fail right out of the box that I couldn't bring myself to write the letter.  I think I eventually threw it away.

Come to 1997.  I needed a cheap stereo with a CD player, so I got an Aiwa.  Seemed to work okay.  A couple of years later, it stopped playing some discs; it would error out.  Then it errored out on most discs; finally it stopped recognizing any disc.  Cleaner discs did not help.  I finally resorted to using my Panasonic portable with the car adapter to run through the tape player.  No CD player should fail in just 2 years; I said, "No more Aiwa, ever."

Some time later I saw a news item that Sony had bought Aiwa.  I remember thinking, "So now Sony is going to be the same kind of junk that Aiwa made.  So much for them."  And then, having thought it, I forgot about it.  (You see where this is going.)

Fast-forward to May 2005.  I was looking for a compact stereo which played MP3's on CD-R.  Looking through Best Buy, I found a number of things which had lousy sound, didn't seem to handle discs properly, or didn't work at all (the satellite-enabled boom box wouldn't play anything, or even function on FM; who were they kidding?)  But there was a decent-looking (if somewhat bulky for my purposes) Sony CMT-HP somethingorother with a 5+1 CD changer, and it played my MP3 discs beautifully.

The alarm bells should have been going off in my head, but I didn't remember in time.

The unit worked fine for the week that I used it, then circumstances changed and it wound up being put away for a while.  A few months ago I hauled it out again and put it in the computer room.  The MP3 capability was good, but I noticed something ugly about it:  the CD wouldn't hold its place on a disc if you switched away from it.  It had no resume feature at all; not only wouldn't it recall a position if turned off and back on, it wouldn't even hold a spot when switching to the tuner!  Somehow I'd missed noticing that it had crap software when I bought it.

It didn't do much except play the radio until my favorite station killed its music programming and I was thrown back on my CD collection for background sound.  This started getting repetitive, so I began hitting the library for new things.  This worked fine until tonight.  The machine hit the end of a disc, started its groaning change to the next disc....

And never finished.  And then it wouldn't eject.  Powering it down and back up wouldn't allow an eject.  Holding it face down didn't produce an eject.  It was holding two library CD's hostage, and wouldn't even acknowledge that it was malfunctioning; it just sat there displaying "CD EJECT".

What kind of junk omits basic features from the outset, then has a mechanical failure after just a few months of regular use, and has software so bad it doesn't even note its own failure?

I had to take it apart to get the discs out.  After liberating the library's property from its malfunctioning clutches, I had a choice to make.  I could put it back together the best that I could, and be paranoid about it doing the same thing again in a month... or tomorrow.

Or I could write it off as yet another Sony piece of junk that cannot be trusted with anything ever again.

I refuse to inflict this thing on anyone else.  The main unit is in pieces in the wastebasket.  I have absolutely bought my last Sony, ever.

 
Comments:
I got a portable Panasonic CD player about twelve years ago as a premium for frequent purchase of lab filtration equipment. It still works perfectly. After about nine years, the hinge broke, but it still reads discs without a problem.

I have an iPod these days, but if I needed another disc player, I'd go with Panasonic.
 
I've had good luck with Sony, though I had the exact same Aiwa problem you had.

I swore off CD's a couple years ago. If it's not on my computer or iPod, I don't play it. Plus, computer speakers sound better for less money than a "regular" stereo (I love my Klipsch Promedia 2.1).
 
I 2nd that on Panasonic. Used to have a really no frills portable, but it broke after 6 yrs, having a tracking problem. My subsequent Sony crapped out with a similar problem but only in 3 yrs. But I was impressed it didn't break after I fumbled it and dropped on the sidewalk.

I never trusted CD changers ever since my first Aiwa. But it's increasingly hard to find a "consumer" single disc CD player. There's plenty of "audiophile" grade CD players, but who needs to spend 500 bux on a lousy CD player.

But alas, I might just go for a fancy audiophile one, just because I don't trust these throwaway electronics that are being pumped out of China these days.

And I bought an ipod, what a sellout, but I really hate using it. I don't claim to have golden ears, but something is amiss when I listen to my MP3s, even though I encode at 160-320kbps VBR.
 
FWIW - I read a recent comment somewhere on Sony and how they had lost their concentration on core products after chasing after unrelated non-core businesses such as film and computers.
 
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