Russound On Fire – Background

Russound On Fire – Background

Russound’s rep firm questioned my ability to have an intelligent opinion of my fire at my home and what Russound’s reaction should have been to it. They basically said that I was just a dopey TV repair technician and could not have an informed viewpoint or that I had ulterior motives.

Others have questioned why I would put myself at additional risk to try to preserve evidence for later analysis. They have wondered out loud why I would carry a flaming Russound CAV6.6 out of my house to try to save Russound money rather than destroy all the equipment in the rack with a fire extinguisher. By telling you a little about my background, maybe it will make a little more sense.

I have been in the electronics business my whole life. Starting at the age of six, I washed sinks, emptied garbage cans and swept floors in my fathers television repair shop on Saturdays. By the time I was eight, I was replacing tubes and re-stringing dial cords in old AM table radios. Our family was always early adopters of new technology and I remember having the whole neighborhood crammed in our tiny living room to watch Bonanza on COLOR Television on Sunday nights. I remember the amazement in the faces of people that would bring their bacon or potatoes to our house to watch it cook in one of the first microwave ovens in the area.

Today, many of these electronic achievements are taken for granted, but I still marvel at the advancement of electronics, especially consumer electronics. I am naturally a real techno geek and surround myself with the latest technology and electronic gadgets. Today I live an a house that is largely automated and announces people in my driveway and when my mail arrives. My lighting is automated and lights turn on and off as you travel through my home. My audio sources are available throughout the house as well as my video sources. Simply put; I love this stuff! As well as being a user of all this technology, I am still doing consumer electronic repair in the business my father founded 48 years ago. We are authorized on 55 major brands and we are ranked Premier, Preferred, Select, Elite, Gold, and Master by those manufacturers.

We are the largest service center in our market, which is Chicago, and have several national service offerings where we receive product mailed to us from all over the country. Our field service coverage is 445 zip codes in the greater Chicago metropolitan market and NW Indiana. Performing consumer repair, single source projects, and refurbishment for electronics manufacturers, I have seen manufacturers and distributors react immediately to even a rumor of unsafe product. I must say I have been impressed time and time again. I have seen shipments stopped and engineers put on planes within hours of a complaint, all in the name of safety. One case I remember is that a customer complained of getting a shock from a computer. Shipment of that model and all models that had the same source of power supply was stopped immediately.

The manufacturer had a representative at the customers site within a day and the engineers could not recreate the problem. Rather than just assume the customer was wrong, The manufacturer sent us to the warehouse to un-box and and run a test sequence on EVERY UNIT (hundreds) to make sure they would be safe and that they could resume shipments. (Contrast that with Russound’s reaction to my fire. It took more than a month of prodding to get Russound to investigate my fire and they continued to ship the defective CAV6.6 units even after a defect had been discovered and the remedy defined.)

While working in this industry all these years, I have made many relationships with the people that work for these manufacturers. From field representatives and middle managers to National Service Managers and Directors of Sales, they have earned my respect through both their intent and deeds. I count many of them as my friends. I believe I have earned their respect in return by my continuing support of them and their products. One anecdotal story I was reminded of recently involved swapping computer monitors in several floors of a large pharmaceutical firm. I was managing the swap out and providing the labor for the computer monitor company and we were doing one floor per night as to not disrupt the employees.

I was called to the site early the next day because there was a big meeting about how the new monitors were “killing” the computers. The complaint was that many of the employees reconfigured their desks to better accommodate the larger monitor the next day and then the video cards on some of the computers smoked. The contention of the IT guy (we called them MIS guys back then) was that some voltage surge occurred when the new monitors were turn on. The monitor company claimed that the employees were static zapping the computers, due to high static electricity conditions, when they reattached the video. The IT people, the monitor people, myself and an executive of the drug company were all clustered around this “Compaq Killer” that had supposedly killed three computers.

They were arguing about this “surge” and how to detect it and what test setups could find it and on and on. It was starting to get a little loud and accusatory. I knew this was about to get out of hand shortly, so while all the hoopla continued, I took the connector and placed the pins in my hand and cycled the power on the monitor. Then I wet my hand and I still felt nothing. As I continued to cycle the power on and off, I drew the attention of the executive. Knowing that you can taste a very small amount of voltage and current, I stuck out my tongue and put the connector on my tongue and cycled the power on and off, on and off, on and off. The executive hit the IT guy on the shoulder and pointed at me as I continued to cycle the power on and off. When I had the attention of the whole room, I held out the cable and offered the executive to try it himself. The executive said, “I guess that resolves whether there was a static problem or a monitor problem”.

The meeting was over, the matter resolved. Sometimes stepping up a little to support the correct position is just what is needed. To me, it was a natural reaction to attempt to preserve evidence of the cause of the fire and minimize damage to the Russound CAV6.6. Russound needed the best information to make a determination what went wrong. From the time pulled the power and the flames did not immediately extinguish, I knew someone would be investigating my fire and it might lead to a recall of the Russound CAV6.6. It also made sense to me to minimize costs to Russound because I have done that for electronics manufacturers all my life.

Why Russound?

Shooting forward to when the fire occurred originating in my Russound CAV6.6, I had just built a house that was set up to display the ‘state of the art’ in home automation, home theater and whole house audio. I attended the week long Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustic Alliance (HAA) training and bought the $10,000.00 suitcase of test equipment to do proper video alignments and audio calibrations. I chose Russound for the whole house audio because we could use the CAV6.6 as the main audio controller and add 8 additional sub-zones using Russound A-Bus and Russound speakers. Also it had been rumored that the Russound CAV6.6 would soon integrate with the HAI home automation controllers. After my home automation system was complete the plan was to become a Russound dealer and sell complete systems from the prewire to completion.

Douglas McKalip
Rex Service Company