Headphone amp burned my hand. CS was bad. What would you do?
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Hi Everyone,

I want to share an incident that occurred with a headphone amp made by a reputable and popular company (that I am leaving nameless for now). The short story is that I purchased an amplifier from them in January of 2020. I was using it one day at my computer desk and it started to smoke and got hot enough to cause 2nd degree burns on the side/top of my hands (I have pictures, but don't want to gross anyone out). The burn caused me to jump up from my chair. On the way up I hit it with my legs and it tipped over damaging my computer and a whole bunch of my audio gear. When I contacted the company, they were really nice and concerned at first. Then they blamed "a short in my headphone wire" (which is not there because the headphones work perfectly and I measured it with a multimeter) and gave me a bunch of reasons why they didn't think the amp burned me, accusing me of opening the amp and messing with it or something. In the end, I got a refund.

I have been wanting to get opinions on the incident itself and their customer service, but I didn't want to put them on blast. And after that whole Woo Audio thread, I don't think it is a good idea to mention the company, share emails, etc... At the same time, I feel like people should be aware of this so they will be cautious when using the amp and hopefully it doesn't happen to anyone else. Also their bad customer service can help people make purchase decisions.

What would you do?
 
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The "short in the headphone wire" is an appalling excuse. Any properly designed amp should have short protection, particularly headphone amps that utilize TRS jacks (which frequently cause temporary short circuits).

It would be a service to the community and potential clientele base to know more details.
 
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Lucky87

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Did you take pictures of the AMP after this happen? Was is SOLID STATE or TUBE? Personally if this is affecting my day to day life or missed work because of this I would SUE. But if you gave them the unit back there was your proof that this happen etc.. But maybe they have had problems with this with other users and they have not came forward to complain. When it comes to SAFETY or LIFE the manufacture should identify and recall the product and fix it.

I hate to say it but I've seen many HeadFiers have problems with there equipment and the manufacture(s) says user error sorry not warrantied. I even read one guy stated a huge headphone company that is on here told him "he removed his headphones off his head to quickly and created the problem himself" and was giving him a bad time on the RNA and when he received them back NEW/REPLACEMENT he just sold them because of the BS.
 
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While the risk is probably low, I’ve heard that many expensive audiophile power cords are not UL listed which in theory can be a potential safety hazard.
 
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AnimalOnDrums

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Did you take pictures of the AMP after this happen? Was is SOLID STATE or TUBE? Personally if this is affecting my day to day life or missed work because of this I would SUE. But if you gave them the unit back there was your proof that this happen etc.. But maybe they have had problems with this with other users and they have not came forward to complain. When it comes to SAFETY or LIFE the manufacture should identify and recall the product and fix it.

I hate to say it but I've seen many HeadFiers have problems with there equipment and the manufacture(s) says user error sorry not warrantied. I even read one guy stated a huge headphone company that is on here told him "he removed his headphones off his head to quickly and created the problem himself" and was giving him a bad time on the RNA and when he received them back NEW/REPLACEMENT he just sold them because of the BS.
Yes, I took pictures and and a video of the amp smoking. It was a solid state amp. It did not cause me to miss work as I am still working from home. I did send them the unit, but they sent me a video of them inspecting it and showing the damaged output on the board. Also they did really want the amp back ASAP. I got pretty pissed off. I will upload that exchange tomorrow.

wow, that is one of the worst excuses ever. It’s the same way I feel now because I am going to sell other products of theirs that I have. It’s just not worth the BS.
 
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AnimalOnDrums

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The "short in the headphone wire" is an appalling excuse. Any properly designed amp should have short protection, particularly headphone amps that utilize TRS jacks (which frequently cause temporary short circuits).

It would be a service to the community and potential clientele base to know more details.
Yeah, I agree, I just ran out of time today. You are right about the protection circuits, and I don’t know why that didn’t cross my mind. The other excuse was that there was a faulty part. I was using a balanced cable but the amp has a TRS jack as well. I’ll come back tomorrow and give the more detailed version.
 
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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants

The year was 1994:
The MacDonalds Coffee law suit was really the first of it’s kind and opened the doorway to many such law suits. An elderly lady burned herself with coffee.

The results were MacDonalds paying the gal, which of course lawyers typically get close to 1/2. MacDonalds placed warning on their coffee cups and lowered the temperature of all their coffee being served.

This year in my eyes was the single changing of public views of liability.
Before if you tripped on the sidewalk it was your own fault and you couldn’t sue the city for 40 million. Then things changed. It seemed we were getting class action law suit paperwork in the mail a couple times a year. An insurance company ruthlessly overcharged then someone got a ruthless lawyer, you filled out a form and revived $300-$3000 in the mail. Maybe it was a message to insurance companies?

In California right now there is a gentleman in a wheel chair with hundreds of law suits against restaurants (600 or something) who need to make their seating and bathrooms wheel-chair friendly. He went down a street in my home town and sued six restaurants for not having complete wheel-chair accessories. Six restaurants in a small 1/4 mile area. One small time family restaurant had wheelchair dinning inside but not on the outside. The cost to replace the bathroom and outside tables was $40,000; so she felt it was easer to go out of business. The family had had the restaurant since the 1980s. They researched the suits to find the man was willing to take a cash settlement and disregard if the improvements were made for others in wheelchairs or not. How much is this gentleman making? How much is this gentleman’s lawyers making? Is it truly a business or do they care for others in wheel-chairs and want to improve the world for them?

You need to see if this is a one time freak accident or the company is making hundreds of faulty amps which are a danger to the community.


Still people need to take responsibility for their own actions. Most people should really have their homes in a living trust. If a worker comes over to your house and falls off a ladder and dies the workers family can sue your family for the remainder income that worker would have made to provide to his family for the rest of the estimated years he would have worked if he lived. Typically home owners insurance will walk away at that point leaving liability for 100s of thousands if not a million to be paid. It’s something that can ruin anyone’s finances for the rest of their lives, not to mention the loss of a home. Yet, you hired the worker to hang a chandelier in the dinning room one afternoon. Who’s fault was it? Was it the ladder makers fault? Was it the homeowners fault? Of course it’s a bad thing, but is the homeowner really liable here?
 
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AnimalOnDrums

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants

The year was 1994:
The MacDonalds Coffee law suit was really the first of it’s kind and opened the doorway to many such law suits. An elderly lady burned herself with coffee.

The results were MacDonalds paying the gal, which of course lawyers typically get close to 1/2. MacDonalds placed warning on their coffee cups and lowered the temperature of all their coffee being served.

This year in my eyes was the single changing of public views of liability.
Before if you tripped on the sidewalk it was your own fault and you couldn’t sue the city for 40 million. Then things changed. It seemed we were getting class action law suit paperwork in the mail a couple times a year. An insurance company ruthlessly overcharged then someone got a ruthless lawyer, you filled out a form and revived $300-$3000 in the mail. Maybe it was a message to insurance companies?

In California right now there is a gentleman in a wheel chair with hundreds of law suits against restaurants (600 or something) who need to make their seating and bathrooms wheel-chair friendly. He went down a street in my home town and sued six restaurants for not having complete wheel-chair accessories. Six restaurants in a small 1/4 mile area. One small time family restaurant had wheelchair dinning inside but not on the outside. The cost to replace the bathroom and outside tables was $40,000; so she felt it was easer to go out of business. The family had had the restaurant since the 1980s. They researched the suits to find the man was willing to take a cash settlement and disregard if the improvements were made for others in wheelchairs or not. How much is this gentleman making? How much is this gentleman’s lawyers making? Is it truly a business or do they care for others in wheel-chairs and want to improve the world for them?

You need to see if this is a one time freak accident or the company is making hundreds of faulty amps which are a danger to the community.


Still people need to take responsibility for their own actions. Most people should really have their homes in a living trust. If a worker comes over to your house and falls off a ladder and dies the workers family can sue your family for the remainder income that worker would have made to provide to his family for the rest of the estimated years he would have worked if he lived. Typically home owners insurance will walk away at that point leaving liability for 100s of thousands if not a million to be paid. It’s something that can ruin anyone’s finances for the rest of their lives, not to mention the loss of a home. Yet, you hired the worker to hang a chandelier in the dinning room one afternoon. Who’s fault was it? Was it the ladder makers fault? Was it the homeowners fault? Of course it’s a bad thing, but is the homeowner really liable here?
I understand what you are getting at. I have searched online and have found a couple of instances of some of their amplifiers smoking, but no one says that they were burned. Strangely enough, after this happened to me, someone on reddit was sharing a similar incident of his amp get hot and smoking. This company sells a ton of amplifiers though so overall it is a very small percentage of their products that do this. While there are stories about smoking amps, they don't talk about getting burned, so that could be a different thing entirely. I am not looking to sue them and don't want them to go out of business. I am not even trying to get them to pay for any of the equipment that broke, which is going to cost me a lot of money, because its my fault that I reacted the way that I did, and its my fault that I had things placed on my desk the way that they were, and stuff like that. My girlfriend tells me I am wrong though because I never would have jumped back the way I did if I didn't get burned and have a smoking amp (which smelled horrible) right next to me. I feel like this is a homeowners insurance issue, even though they are saying its not. Anyway, I appreciate your post and insight, it got me thinking.
 
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This kind of thing is always difficult. If you are sure you are being honest with yourself it might be reasonable to consult an attorney who specializes in personal injury.
 
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AnimalOnDrums

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This kind of thing is always difficult. If you are sure you are being honest with yourself it might be reasonable to consult an attorney who specializes in personal injury.
Yeah, That has crossed my mind as well but I am not going to sue over a burnt hand. I feel like the lawyers would cost more than any compensation I could receive for a burned hand, but maybe you are right.
 
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The "short in the headphone wire" is an appalling excuse. Any properly designed amp should have short protection, particularly headphone amps that utilize TRS jacks (which frequently cause temporary short circuits).

It would be a service to the community and potential clientele base to know more details.
Ok, I think you are correct. The amplifier that burned me was a Schiit Audio Jotunheim. Purchased it back in January of this year along with a Bitfrost 2 DAC. They have been working fine up until I got burned. Both of them were using their stock power cables and were connected using their balanced XLR interconnects. I also used their USB cable to connect the Bitfrost 2 to my streamer. I was using a pair of planar magnetic headphones with a XLR balanced cable. The amp was on low gain and the volume was at noon or 1:00, which is normal listening volume. And you know what happens next.

After reading everyones comments so far I have been searching for other instanced where something like this has happened. So far I have more than a few people on reddit saying their Magni amps started smoking, and a couple them stated that their amps did get hot, but no mention of other burns. Now, as much as I am not a fan of ASR, on their forum some said their amp started smoking because the jack was not fully inserted into the headphone output. This person wrote Schiit and they apparently to that person that they do not have short protection on their Magni amps, and this was a Magni 3. I can't find anything on the Jotunheim though so I have no idea if it has short protection or not.
 
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This is a product liability issue. For their own sake, they should be handling it that way, as well. I imagine they have product liability insurance as part of their general liability insurance coverages, but they certainly shouldn't be relying on it...

There are documented issues with their gear from a safety perspective. It's definitely case-by-case quality control issues (probably from keeping costs down while still being Made in USA, realistically). There is gear that was shown to be improperly grounded, lacking protection circuits, etc. Long story short (no pun intended), improperly designed and assembled gear without short protection can create a catastrophic fire situation when all those amps are being dumped, and improper chassic grounding can electrocute somebody.

This is serious business.
 
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wuwhere

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Some of these small headphone amp manufacturers make their products so cheap that they don't put in circuit protection. They don't go through any testing by any consumer product electrical certification. They make so few that they don't have to be certified? As a consumer, you are taking a risk. I guess you can ask the manufacturer what circuit protections their amps have.

I bought a headphone amp that has no over-current protection. The op-amp gets fried in over-current but it does not get hot.
 
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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants

The year was 1994:
The MacDonalds Coffee law suit was really the first of it’s kind and opened the doorway to many such law suits. An elderly lady burned herself with coffee.

The results were MacDonalds paying the gal, which of course lawyers typically get close to 1/2. MacDonalds placed warning on their coffee cups and lowered the temperature of all their coffee being served.

This year in my eyes was the single changing of public views of liability.
Before if you tripped on the sidewalk it was your own fault and you couldn’t sue the city for 40 million. Then things changed. It seemed we were getting class action law suit paperwork in the mail a couple times a year. An insurance company ruthlessly overcharged then someone got a ruthless lawyer, you filled out a form and revived $300-$3000 in the mail. Maybe it was a message to insurance companies?

In California right now there is a gentleman in a wheel chair with hundreds of law suits against restaurants (600 or something) who need to make their seating and bathrooms wheel-chair friendly. He went down a street in my home town and sued six restaurants for not having complete wheel-chair accessories. Six restaurants in a small 1/4 mile area. One small time family restaurant had wheelchair dinning inside but not on the outside. The cost to replace the bathroom and outside tables was $40,000; so she felt it was easer to go out of business. The family had had the restaurant since the 1980s. They researched the suits to find the man was willing to take a cash settlement and disregard if the improvements were made for others in wheelchairs or not. How much is this gentleman making? How much is this gentleman’s lawyers making? Is it truly a business or do they care for others in wheel-chairs and want to improve the world for them?

You need to see if this is a one time freak accident or the company is making hundreds of faulty amps which are a danger to the community.


Still people need to take responsibility for their own actions. Most people should really have their homes in a living trust. If a worker comes over to your house and falls off a ladder and dies the workers family can sue your family for the remainder income that worker would have made to provide to his family for the rest of the estimated years he would have worked if he lived. Typically home owners insurance will walk away at that point leaving liability for 100s of thousands if not a million to be paid. It’s something that can ruin anyone’s finances for the rest of their lives, not to mention the loss of a home. Yet, you hired the worker to hang a chandelier in the dinning room one afternoon. Who’s fault was it? Was it the ladder makers fault? Was it the homeowners fault? Of course it’s a bad thing, but is the homeowner really liable here?
Thank you for the eye opening post.
 
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