Old 08-09-2018, 09:31 AM   #1
karbomusic
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Default RME Heads Up

I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that RME still has some reliability challenges (long term) where PSUs are concerned. My UFX which I replaced my failing FF800 with is now also failing. Both units stayed powered on most of the time and thusly I have observed the following:

FF800: Somewhere around 4-5 year mark, it began to emit a loud whine, I ended up ordering and replacing all the caps in the PSU which fixed the issue.

FFUFX: Somewhere around the exact same time in service, my UFX now does this which began as intermittent and now can't seem get to go away:



Based on this thread and other similar threads I found by searching around as well as discussions with our fellow member cyrano. I'm 99.9% sure their power supplies tend to be substandard (I know the FF800 one was third party). I suppose there is some room for being powered on all the time and 5 years of use comes with some risk but I have had plenty of other electronic devices last far longer while also being "always on" and at this price point I do expect a little more.

I really wish they would up their game here, I'm getting a little tired of either repairing myself or spending roughly 2k ever ~4 years to keep my RME gear running. I don't know for sure if this issue is the PSU but it fits the scenario and is a tiny bit, well a lot frustrating.

Yes I expect many to reply "WOM" works on my machine which I understand, but I'm telling you that the problem exists in these devices and it's not if but when.

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Old 08-09-2018, 11:21 AM   #2
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It's the cooling that's substandard. But we don't want fans in our gear, do we?

Besides, other brands sometimes have beautiful cast cases, like MOTU, fi, but these don't seem to help either, in the long run. Look at gear that's still running after ten years. Most is cool running gear.

My FF400 is running hot. But not much hotter than fi, a Mindprint DI Port, which is the same size and mostly the same function, but less complex.
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Old 08-09-2018, 11:34 AM   #3
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It's the cooling that's substandard. But we don't want fans in our gear, do we?

Besides, other brands sometimes have beautiful cast cases, like MOTU, fi, but these don't seem to help either, in the long run. Look at gear that's still running after ten years. Most is cool running gear.

My FF400 is running hot. But not much hotter than fi, a Mindprint DI Port, which is the same size and mostly the same function, but less complex.
Right as I hit submit in the RME thread, I figured you might be here. I do want a fan if I can turn on and off. I came very close to installing one on the FF800 but since it is now mostly a backup unit, it isn't powered on enough to break anytime soon.

It is frustrating, no matter how much I understand the issue from a technical standpoint, having to send off and repair a $2k device every 4 years sucks. Of course, I'll be fixing it myself but I now have to crack it open find the cap values, source and order the better spec'd parts, then do the work and hope that's it. I do expect when gear is used the way it is expected to be used this should be less of an issue, I expect they can spend $10 USD and put better caps in the PSU or look at making this better. I don't think it would take "that much" additional R&D to double or triple the lifetime.

I'll say if it turns out to not be the PSU, I'll likely become and X-RME customer as I can't afford to chase reliability problems like this. The software/driver stack is incredibly stable, the hardware stability over time, less so - don't get me started on the nuetrik 1/4 plug debacle they had.

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Old 08-09-2018, 12:02 PM   #4
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That plug debacle wasn't really theirs, was it?

Just one of those cases where industry both sides of the pond can't seem to agree about standards. Who wants jacks with a straight collar? Lots of other gear had the same problem when used with those jacks.

Like most companies, board assembly is done in the Far East. They do keep a close eye on it. Every now and then, sh*t happens. Like the dodgy wheel on one series of BF Pro's. These were replaced, it was just bad plastic.

I do have a lot of older interfaces that still work perfectly. None of these were rackable and none of these have current drivers...
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Old 08-09-2018, 12:24 PM   #5
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That plug debacle wasn't really theirs, was it?
It was their choice to use it in their product, then not accept responsibility (at least at first). I love RME but they tend to pass blame sometimes which is a slight turnoff - if they were fixing these under warranty I'd chalk it up as an honest mistake but don't remember if they were, I just have a faint memory of the push back when users started complaining.

And of course, I have a broken input due to that issue I'm 55 years old that that was the first time in 40 years someone botched a 1/4" inch connector this badly where simply grabbing a guitar cable in your studio and plugging it in breaks the unit - Monster cable's oversized connectors do get a runner's up consolation prize though but at least with those you can't actually get it plugged in.

I haven't searched but do you already know by chance if there is a list of the cap values for the UFX? I could go ahead and order now instead of waiting until I take it apart and look at them all.
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Old 08-09-2018, 12:29 PM   #6
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IMHO you should leave half a (horizontal) rack space on the top and bottom of the unit so that the heat has some room to dissipate.

I don't have my UFX+ like that, yet, but I will when I shuffle things around in my racks, once I feel like it
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Old 08-09-2018, 12:44 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
IMHO you should leave half a (horizontal) rack space on the top and bottom of the unit so that the heat has some room to dissipate.
Yea, thing is, I never found much heat there with the UFX. I was somewhat sensitive to knowing whether it did when I put it in the rack - because of the FF800 failure - the FF800 was obviously always hot. For the UFX, I'm not convinced its the rack but rather just being on all the time can kill it in this general time frame. Unless Cyrano corrects me, my memory of the FF800 3rd party PSU was that it was just above "crap".

Quote:
I don't have my UFX+ like that, yet, but I will when I shuffle things around in my racks, once I feel like it
I switched back to non audio apps using the built in sound card since that's easy with my presonus monitor station. Meaning, I can just turn the UFX off when I'm not mixing or critical listening. I'm still going to whine a little that I have to baby RME devices like this - I expect R&D at that price to cover this, especially since it's known to occur in previous models/designs. Waaaahhh.

Now if it isn't the PSU, I'm going to be a tad pissed off.
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Old 08-09-2018, 01:22 PM   #8
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That's a little disconcerting Karbo regardless of the arguments for and against 24/7 power up.

Regarding heat, my UFX is in a rack with a silent fan blowing directly on the case. I also have it racked in a manner that keeps plenty of ventilation space around it. The silent fan really is silent and it is adequate to keep everything in this rack cold to the touch.
Now that I have solar panels running my studio and home, I keep the A/C running 24/7 on a fixed temperature which is not only good for my comfort but also good for the gear.

Keep us up to date with what you discover regarding your UFX. Hopefully it is a simple repair.
Do you know if RME use 105C caps in the UFX PSU?
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Old 08-09-2018, 01:41 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
Do you know if RME use 105C caps in the UFX PSU?
My memory is telling me no - based on the caps I removed from the FF800 when I repaired it. My replacement caps were absolutely 105c caps though.
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Old 08-09-2018, 02:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
My memory is telling me no - based on the caps I removed from the FF800 when I repaired it. My replacement caps were absolutely 105c caps though.
I read your posts about the FF800 PSU and was kinda hoping they've upped their game with the newer units. There's no excuse for a high end product from a company such as RME for cutting corners and using 85C caps in power supplies as far as I'm concerned. These aren't cheap interfaces.
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Old 08-09-2018, 02:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
I read your posts about the FF800 PSU and was kinda hoping they've upped their game with the newer units. There's no excuse for a high end product from a company such as RME for cutting corners and using 85C caps in power supplies as far as I'm concerned. These aren't cheap interfaces.
My exact sentiments. I'm a huge RME fan but this bugs me and I can't find anything I've done to cause this from a misuse standpoint - not to mention I have tens of thousands of dollars in other gear that this doesn't occur with. Once I don't mind, later revs though bugs me because things like this is what iterative R&D is supposed to fix. I assume they still outsource the PSU but that's no excuse, as you are like me, you are going to look, complain, force what the design requires.

But I can't stand behind ^that until I open it and check out and replace the caps that are there so that I'm not guessing. I will report back on that, I expect to have it open and examined by the weekend but if it's like the FF800, it's going to take a couple hours to confirm all the values, source them from Mouser or similar, order, arrive, install, test.
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Old 08-09-2018, 02:15 PM   #12
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Sorry to hear about this.

are you 100% it's the caps? maybe some voltage regulator or something is causing trouble.

instead of a fan, and if you can identify the troublesome part(s), and if you have some old random heatsink from a motherboard north / south bridge, you can McGuyver up a suitable stop gap

I mixed thermal paste and epoxy together to make a cheap thermal epoxy here.

(MOTU 828 MKII internals. the heatsink is stuck to a voltage regulator)

https://imgur.com/45WyBTc


the unit went from dropping out all the time to only dropping out when it hits 100 F or so in my non-climate controlled studio / shop.
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Old 08-09-2018, 02:25 PM   #13
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Sorry to hear about this.

are you 100% it's the caps? maybe some voltage regulator or something is causing trouble.
Not until I replace them but my FF800 around the same age did an extremely similar thing, I was certain it wasn't the caps then but it was.

Also in the RME thread the Synthax rep immediately stated it looks like the PSU when he saw the video so I'm expecting prior knowledge - and the fact electros can go bad, just by existing (though ironically, they can go bad faster when not being used )

Either way, I won't know until I replace them and at least with electros they're rarely a bad thing to replace at this age.
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Old 08-09-2018, 03:32 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
It was their choice to use it in their product, then not accept responsibility (at least at first). I love RME but they tend to pass blame sometimes which is a slight turnoff - if they were fixing these under warranty I'd chalk it up as an honest mistake but don't remember if they were, I just have a faint memory of the push back when users started complaining.
AFAIK all the boards with the wrong jack sockets were exchanged under warranty.

Quote:
I haven't searched but do you already know by chance if there is a list of the cap values for the UFX? I could go ahead and order now instead of waiting until I take it apart and look at them all.
Sorry, never seen one. Haven't got my greasy paws on a UFX yet.

BTW. RME seems to silently repair UDX PSU's under warranty:

https://www.forum.rme-audio.de/viewtopic.php?id=25492

So it seems you were right to suspect premature failure...

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Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
IMHO you should leave half a (horizontal) rack space on the top and bottom of the unit so that the heat has some room to dissipate.
I've been measuring the heat build-up in a very confined mini rack. Leaving half a HU only works when the heat can go somewhere. Not in this rack. Even a full HU isn't enough. So, a silent fan is needed. Of course, I've considered heat pipes and Peltier diodes...
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Old 08-10-2018, 04:24 AM   #15
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Are there even nice looking half-HU fans that could be slotted in above and below the unit?
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Old 08-10-2018, 06:28 PM   #16
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Default I Cracked It Open

OK, I cracked open the UFX a few minutes ago and the PSU looks strikingly familiar to the one in the FF800 but I haven't taken the time to dig up the pics from the FF800 repair.

That said, a problem is visibly obvious with the UFX - notice the two bulging caps below:



That's C16 and C17 which share values of 2200uf/16V/105C. I remembered that when I rebuilt the FF800 PSU, I ordered a few extras. Checking my leftovers I had exactly two 2200uf but... They are only rated at 10V and all the other 2200uf caps I have (of various voltages) are all way too big to fit. Well, this is a digital unit, and the PSU has different voltage taps on the output side where those caps are, so one of those power taps should be 5VDC, if I'm lucky, maybe those caps are filter caps for the 5V rail...

Took my meter, powered up the UFX and it reads 4.999V for both so it is the 5V rail. I'd rather replace with exact specs but 10V is 2*5V which does technically meet the criteria of the cap being rated to twice the voltage it sits on. Screw it, I'll at least test with them, otherwise, I'm removing 12 caps, sourcing, ordering and waiting. I'll pop these in, and if they don't explode, I'll see if the problem goes away - that's easy to partially confirm because the meters should have stopped their wonky dance and flickering....

Safety glasses on (check), head turned just so (check), tongue held in the right position (check).... Click... Flinch... Looking good so far. I put the cover back on, back in the rack, hooked it up, fired up Reaper and.... Back In Business! I'll watch it a couple of days to see if those caps explode. I didn't record the other cap values yet so I think I'm going to search around the net or pop the top off if I have to and order a full set. However, these bad ones didn't look as quality as the others but that's just an observation - however, they are the only two that seem to be failing badly.

It's a relief these are 105c but I do think these two are still fairly cheap Chinese-made caps - not that one can't source decent caps from China, but these ain't them. Is it that hard to drop a couple Nichicon or Panasonics in from the get go? I'll update if it dies on me but right now I'm super happy that I didn't have to order/wait for new ones to arrive before I even knew if that was the problem. Here's a view from the top-front showing where C16/17 live for reference:


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Old 08-10-2018, 07:31 PM   #17
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That's great news so far Karbo! Good to know for future reference too. Hopefully it keeps working.
It would've been good to have seen the output rails on a scope before replacing those caps though, just for further confirmation.

Youll probably find the 10v rating would be fine but it is usually best to replace like for like as you know.
Sometimes, replacing caps with a voltage rating HIGHER than the originals can be a bad idea because they usually have higher ESR which means more heat produced, particularly in power supply filter caps.
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Old 08-10-2018, 07:33 PM   #18
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It would've been good to have seen the output rails on a scope before replacing those caps though, just for further confirmation.
That's a good point, scope was two feet away LOL.
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Old 08-10-2018, 07:34 PM   #19
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I agree with you about Nichicon or Panasonic caps too. Either of those two would be my choice for replacements personally.
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Old 08-10-2018, 07:35 PM   #20
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That's a good point, scope was two feet away LOL.
You could always put the old ones back in and have a look!!!
Kidding (sort of!)
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Old 08-10-2018, 07:40 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by ReaDave View Post
You could always put the old ones back in and have a look!!!
Kidding (sort of!)
After being removed one of them read as 892uf/vloss 22%/ESR 1.1r and it thinks the other one is a set of diodes. I can't say I trust the meter that read that as being super accurate though - it's that little ATMega meter I picked up a few years ago that we discussed in the diy thread. However, I'm not thinking those measurements are good.

Edit: I did just test a known good 2200uf and it read 1986uf/vloss 0%/ESR 0.01r

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Old 08-10-2018, 07:51 PM   #22
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After being removed one of them read as 892uf/vloss 22%/ESR 1.1r and it thinks the other one is a set of diodes. I can't say I trust the meter that read that as being super accurate though - it's that little ATMega meter I picked up a few years ago that we discussed in the diy thread. However, I'm not thinking those measurements are good.
As you know, I purchased one of those testers too and I have to say, it is remarkably good in most situations. I'd say it is probably pretty accurate with the reading of the first cap and that reading is definitely WAY out of spec for that cap. ESR should be less than 1/10th what it is and the capacitance reading is telling for sure.

...and the other one a pair of diodes? It must have some serious internal issues!!

I'd be about 97 percent confident you've found the cause of the fault even without seeing the scope trace.
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Old 08-10-2018, 08:09 PM   #23
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I'd be about 97 percent confident you've found the cause of the fault even without seeing the scope trace.
I was really hoping for 97.1 but will take what I can get. Yea, I'm fairly comfortable at the moment, been using it for a couple hours now and all seems well. I hate I missed scope because I'd almost guarantee the scope signal pattern would have something that aligned with the static noise/meter behavior in some way.
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Old 08-10-2018, 08:12 PM   #24
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Default Oh Yea...

While I was at it, I placed an ESP8266 based thingy I had built that has a hi quality ambient/direct temperature sensor that posts to my internal server via WiFi. I have in the back of the rack, aiming between the UFX and the rack wall, which is 30mm away from where those caps live in the unit.

It's reading this at the moment:

UFX Rack Temperature: 77.83F Ambient: 78.48F

So that's nothing, obviously warmer inside the unit itself, but that is still very low (only 5 degrees F hotter than room temp) compared to the FF800 which was hot to the touch in general on that side.

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Old 08-11-2018, 12:09 AM   #25
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I am so glad MY RME interface lives in a pci slot inside my box and just has breakouts to ADAT....

Never have felt that comfortable about those one-box 19" rack interfaces.

At least you (Karbo & Dave) have the skills to fix these psu faults yourselves.
Most guys working with a DAW wouldn`t even know what to do with a soldering iron.

I stopped "progressing" when surface mount became prevalent but still work as well as my failing eyesight and arthritic hands will allow on the older more conventional (for my generation) stuff.
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Old 08-11-2018, 07:39 AM   #26
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Thanks Ivan!

So I dug up a picture I took when I repaired the FF800 - this looks like the same basic PSU if you ask me.

FF800



UFX

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Old 08-11-2018, 09:28 AM   #27
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Nice you got it fixed!

Looks like the exact same PSU to me. Although there are at least two versions. One with connectors and another one with soldered leads...

You never know with caps. I recently recapped a pair of +30 years old active speakers and the old Philips caps are still OK, according to measurements. Most measure from +10 to +50% in value and show no leaks or high ESR. The faint distortion one of them had had before is gone, though. So, at least one of them was bad.
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Old 08-11-2018, 01:04 PM   #28
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Have to agree with Cyrano here. That PSU does indeed look the same to me too.
Interesting that the UFX runs so much cooler though. I can only draw one conclusion in that regard. The UFX must draw considerably less power on at least one of the rails.
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Old 08-11-2018, 01:19 PM   #29
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Same here and that's frustrating, they are obviously fully aware since at least FF800 and have done nothing that I can tell to prevent it. I'm not going to make a stink over on their forum, but every time someone asks me about RME in the future, I feel this should be mentioned.
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Old 08-12-2018, 12:48 AM   #30
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I recently had an intermittent fault in a powered monitor & on opening it up, discovered that the manufacturer had slopped some sort of glue over all the molex-type connectors, which had set rock hard, including on the main input loom, which had not been properly seated in the factory before they poured the glue over it!
Spent ages hacking all the glue off but at least it now works reliably.
Hate the way manufacturers STILL use potting compounds like this that set rigid, also introducing unnecessary mechanical strain on the connectors/components supposedly being held safely in place.
Is a silicone that doesnt generate too much heat when curing THAT much more expensive?

End of off topic rant
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Old 08-12-2018, 01:34 AM   #31
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Bad caps and bad connectors happen all the time.

I dismantled a Tascam SX1 recently. Nothing wrong with it, really, just has a lot of interconnect cables and I was unable to get all of them to connect properly. Once one part was working, an error surfaced in another part. I spent a lot of time on this.

Also, the fader board was drowned in contact cleaner. I cleaned and dried the board three times. It still wouldn't work reliably. The first three tries on powerup failed. After that, it would sometimes zero and work.

Never had a board I couldn't clean before. I even opened up the faders, to clean. They were hardly used, as the two previous owners never used it much and it had been stored in a clean environment. I could almost "see" the machine's history...

It's a shame, as it's a nice machine when it works. But now I have 16 nice mic pre's and 17 almost new faders for DIY. The rest goes to waste.

My interest in this machine was primarily fueled by it running BeOS on a fairly standard PC motherboard. AMD processor, 512 MB ram. Yes, it's almost 20 years old.
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Old 08-12-2018, 07:17 AM   #32
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Bad caps and bad connectors happen all the time.
Of course, I get it but I'm not buying that story for this issue. They have a PSU where the same two caps keep failing across multiple revs of the unit over a 10 year period, and hundreds if not more repairs of them as they fail and it looks like no action has been taken to correct it. I'm 100% sure they can do better than that with better caps. I'll put money on the fact that my replacement caps will last far longer - I will update this thread in 2022

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Old 08-12-2018, 08:03 AM   #33
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Would this include Babyface/Pro? I assume the Babyface have an easyer time in this record heat and beeing a table-thingie.
I have never had a soundcard failing Ever actually, c'moo0oon RME, stop provoking karbo's nerves will ya? thx
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Old 08-12-2018, 08:14 AM   #34
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Would this include Babyface/Pro? I assume the Babyface have an easyer time in this record heat and beeing a table-thingie.
I have never had a soundcard failing Ever actually, c'moo0oon RME, stop provoking karbo's nerves will ya? thx
I have a babyface pro but no, I don't think it applies there since it is USB powered and doesn't need additional power. That doesn't mean it isn't possible but I doubt it because in my case, it feels more like the 3rd party PSU they outsourced for the FF/UFX is the real issue and the BFPro doesn't use that type of PSU.

I'm not super annoyed but I'm a bit annoyed that I have to keep repairing 2000 dollar devices from the same company. If I didn't have the ability to fix them myself, and had to instead ship them off each time, I'd have bailed on their products by now because I expect part of that price to guarantee better reliability. Had this occurred in the middle of my CD tracking a few months ago, I'd have been furious.

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Old 08-12-2018, 09:14 AM   #35
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If I evsedropped correctly, then you know what is wrong and how much or, little.. they have saved per unit in chosing components, no clue if the components are famous for failing or just %sch-tuff happends in random, if this is a rare thing.

Yeah well bleh, if it happened to me I would be totally'ness screwed without any warranty, and Thomann say 3 years from them, not sure about what RME have, but even 5 years lifetime would be way below my expectations for sure with RME.

I would be surprised if RME knew about this as in.. confirmed! and continue for next gens or what ever gadget without doing something about it.
That would compromize my smiley.
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:22 AM   #36
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If I evsedropped correctly, then you know what is wrong and how much or, little.. they have saved per unit in chosing components, no clue if the components are famous for failing or just %sch-tuff happends in random, if this is a rare thing.
Usually, companies will outsource something like a PSU to someone else, then a manufacturer in China or similar will build them. The designer often requires some specification to be followed. What I often see is that the specification either doesn't demand the better parts or it does and the manufacturer occasionally sneaks something cheap in.

I think it's just rare enough that RME feels it's more profitable to just fix the ones that break. My argument there is that they sell reliability and stability to the customer marketing wise, they should live up to their proverbial mission statement instead of taking the attitude that they'll just fix it when it breaks - because people use these professionally and there is an expectation they are up to mission critical tasks long term - and it is a real PIA to have to pack up, send off and wait for a repair.

To be fair, there could be some backstory I'm unaware of, but as someone who occasionally designs and builds stuff that my name goes on, skimping on parts isn't going to be part of my reputation.
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Old 08-12-2018, 09:36 AM   #37
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Let me help you: "this is horse shit! I tell ya!" c'mon now! roflmao & swosh/snap!
Yw..
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Old 08-12-2018, 11:17 AM   #38
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Of course, I get it but I'm not buying that story for this issue. They have a PSU where the same two caps keep failing across multiple revs of the unit over a 10 year period, and hundreds if not more repairs of them as they fail and it looks like no action has been taken to correct it. I'm 100% sure they can do better than that with better caps. I'll put money on the fact that my replacement caps will last far longer - I will update this thread in 2022
THE problem when buying from OEM's in the Far East is that you have to keep an eye on quality all the time. Profit margins are small enough and it's almost a tradition to try to cheat.

Behringer found that out too. Now they have their own production plants and the quality is much more constant.

Western manufacturers make one kind of products.
The Far East manufacturers make anything. From deep-fryers over teddy bears to garden furniture. All in one plant.

Of course that's not an excuse. Just a sign RME needs to address that problem with this PSU. I've searched a lot for an off-the-shelf replacement and there seems to be none. The manufacturer also doesn't sell to others. They're probably under contract obligations.

I was expecting at least a few other sources as the only difference is the 48V phantom voltage. I mean, other manufacturers must be using this kind of PSU too?

AFAIK this PSU is only in the UFX, UFX+ and the FF800. The Babyface, BF Pro, FF400 and the UCX have a different PSU, made by RME. There's also one of the micpre/AD boxes that uses this PSU, but I don't remember which one.

Another problem is that there's no specification for longevity of caps. The 100 nF power decoupling cap that sits near most digital chips is one that fails a lot too. And it seems no manufacturer is free from that kind of failure.
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Old 08-12-2018, 11:46 AM   #39
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Of course that's not an excuse. Just a sign RME needs to address that problem with this PSU. I've searched a lot for an off-the-shelf replacement and there seems to be none. The manufacturer also doesn't sell to others. They're probably under contract obligations.

I was expecting at least a few other sources as the only difference is the 48V phantom voltage. I mean, other manufacturers must be using this kind of PSU too?
Maybe you, I and Dave can just design our own. But tbh, I don't think that much is wrong with the existing PSU other than component quality, well at least a couple of the caps.
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Old 08-12-2018, 12:34 PM   #40
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Maybe you, I and Dave can just design our own.
https://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=68163.0

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