Thermal Aging of Audio Components

Let Your Components Breathe


Author: Roger McCuaig - TNT Canada
Published: December, 2020

In this era of ubiquitous social media, everyone is proudly posting photos of their audio systems. I am a member of several audio-related groups on Facebook and one finds there a constant supply of new photos of audio systems. What has struck me about these photos is the frequent lack of any kind of consideration for heat removal! Any industrial electronics designer will tell you that heat is the worst enemy of electronic devices. The rule of thumb that we all learn is: for every 10 degrees in temperature rise above the rated operating temperature of the equipment, the life expectancy of the equipment is reduced by half. Exactly the same rule applies to your audio components. Audio equipment manufacturers very seldom publish temperature ratings but that doesn't mean that they don't exist. Imagine what would happen if you unplugged the fans for the CPU, the power supply and the graphics card in your desktop PC. How long would it run? A few years ago I owned several vintage Marantz and Yamaha receivers and amplifiers. Age and heat take a heavy toll. Some of these units were unrepairable because the boards and components were so brittle. That's thermal aging at work.

Take a look at your stereo system, every box has some combination of heat sinks and ventilation holes (or slots). Some even have fans! The heat is removed by conduction to the heat sinks and then by convection from the heat sinks to the air. If the air around the heat sinks and the ventilation slots is trapped there, then the component will heat up. If your equipment is stacked one on top of the other, the whole system may heat up. If you run your system an hour a day, well, maybe it's not a big deal. If, like me, you turn it on in the morning and turn it off when you go to bed, then it is a big deal.

For some owners, aesthetic considerations seem to be more important than the well-being of the equipment. Beautiful cabinets of finely finished hardwoods, equipment laid out with the utmost care. No cables showing anywhere, no space left for accessing the back of the equipment and most of all no space left for air circulation around each component. Sometimes with as little as 1 or 2 centimeters all around! YIKES! The photos are often of quite high-end systems with very large price tags. I am thinking to myself, “if this equipment runs every day, in 5 years the components will start failing due to overheating”.

So what is going on here? Do people really not care if their very expensive components overheat? Or do they wrongly think that the designer/manufacturer has taken all of this into consideration and there isnothing to worry about? Dear readers, the truth is that if you don't let your components breathe, they will die young. It's up to you.

DISCLAIMER. TNT-Audio is a 100% independent magazine that neither accepts advertising from companies nor requires readers to register or pay for subscriptions. After publication of reviews, the authors do not retain samples other than on long-term loan for further evaluation or comparison with later-received gear. Hence, all contents are written free of any “editorial” or “advertising” influence, and all reviews in this publication, positive or negative, reflect the independent opinions of their respective authors. TNT-Audio will publish all manufacturer responses, subject to the reviewer's right to reply in turn.

Copyright © 2020 Roger McCuaig - -