TIP # 24:

No sound? Bad picture? Intermittent problem? Tracing the problem in an Audio and/or Video System can be a daunting task, and may require the services of the best “sleuth” available. In solving this mystery, every component, connection and wire are suspects in this case and there may even be accessories before or after the fact!

Here are some general “rules of thumb”, until now the long lost secrets of that super sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. His basic investigation techniques will help you isolate problems, and allow you to take the right suspect component to the Department (service) or, perhaps, you may decide to replace the offending unit. Regardless of component and System complexity, start by using Sherlock’s analytical approach. If you can accurately describe the problem, you are half way towards the solution. A methodical one step at a time approach, will resolve any problem. For instance, if the picture or sound is or is not doing “x”, Sherlock’s first thought would be, has the System been moved or modified since it last worked fine? You would be surprised how often we hear from people who have just moved, and are sure that the movers are the criminals responsible for damaging their gear, since it worked fine before the move. In this case, an examination of the cable hook up, from where the problem is noticed, backwards through the system will usually reveal an erroneously placed cable. Sherlock says that in his experience, 90% of all electrical problems are connections. If the faulty System hasn’t been modified for some time, Sherlock recommends establishing what the problem is NOT, thus arriving at what it must be. Our super sleuth once said, “When all the possibilities have been eliminated, then the impossible, no matter how unlikely, must be true.” Once upon a time, Sherlock was called in on complex stereo system case. Noting that no recent changes had been made to the System, his analysis of the situation quickly established the problem. He discovered the body of a “dead” right speaker. To solve this case, Sherlock began his investigation by first examining the source of the problem, in this case the “dead” right speaker. He then checked to see if all the connections were correct and tight. If no, he could be seen tightening them and testing. If yes, he would move backwards through the System, one component at a time. Now look! We see Sherlock swap the right speaker leads with the left leads at the speaker terminals. He checks, does the “dead” speaker now suddenly begin to speak? If the right speaker is not resuscitated, he will conclude that the right speaker is truly “mort” and call the coroner. However, if the left speaker is now suddenly “dead”, it means the right speaker was faking it. Ah ha! Now Sherlock moves up the line one more step. He checks to see if the problem occurs on all inputs (e.g.; Tuner, Tape Deck, CD, VCR, Satellite, etc.) If the problem is evident on all inputs, Sherlock will suspect the culprit is that extrovert, Mr. Amp! If on the other hand the problem occurs at one input only, Sherlock’s conclusion will be that the problem is in the component hooked to that input or, it’s close relatives – those dastardly interconnects! In this case, Sherlock has identical twins (the speakers) which can help simplify his investigation as he can swap the twin he knows is alive and in full voice, with it’s sibling. If the problem occurs only during playback of the tape deck, and there is only one tape deck in the system, then swapping a non-identical component will give Sherlock the evidence necessary for an arrest. To further isolate the problem, Sherlock will sometimes hook up another source to the tape deck’s jacks, which in turn is hooked into the Amp. “Hark”, you say. If the problem ceases, the suspect is in the one component you just changed, the sneaky tape deck! If it remains, then the sneaky tape deck is probably not suspect and the problem is further down the line. Now Sherlock’s investigation turns to those dastardly cables. He replaces them one at a time and tests again. No joy, you say? Assuming the speakers are now free of suspicion, that extrovert, Mr. Amp is the only suspect remaining without an alibi. Mr. Amp must be arrested and taken in to the Department for questioning. If Mr. Amp is charged with a serious crime against entertainment, and does not get a “hanging judge”, he may be sentenced to life imprisonment or, he might get lucky, and get off with a fine and a short stay in jail with some rehabilitation therapy, before returning to society. This illustration of the techniques used by Sherlock must be followed in order to efficiently locate a potentially daunting anomaly in any System. Remember, Sherlock always starts where the problem presents itself, and makes only one change or test at a time. He always works backwards through the system, testing cables as well as components, and is always methodical and patient. With a little practice you can amaze your friends with your Sherlock like abilities and, these techniques can help you in many other fields as well.