June 28, 2006

No More Wire Hangers!

by Chris Randall

Paul Schreiber, owner of Synthtech, dropped this info on pertinent mailing lists last night:

The EU's import ban on leaded solder begins July 1st. If you are interested in DIY/repair/kit building, I *strongly suggest* buying at least:

2 spools of Kester '245 No-Clean' solder, part # 24-6337-8800 (for repair and wiring front panel parts)
1 spool of Kester '331 Organic' solder, part # 24-6337-5401 (you use this on pc boards, then wash off the flux which is really vinegar).

This entire lead ban has caused quite a bit of consternation among companies that sell kits. It has put a couple European manufacturers out of business, and cost a _lot_ of money for others to become compliant. I ultimately unsubscribed from at least one mailing list because of a more or less relentless bitchfest viz. the RoHS lead ban. (Because, as we all know, there's only ONE way to DIY a synth, god dammit!)

In any case, like the man said, the RoHS ban goes in to effect on July 1st, so if you live in Europe, get your repair stuff in order now, else you might shortly be up Shit Creek sans paddle.




Jun.28.2006 @ 12:21 PM
It's nice to know that in an effort to prevent two year old PCs and cellphones from hitting the landfill they're going to cripple the high end audio and electronic music cottage industry in Europe. There really really needs to be an exception for recording equipment and electronic instruments. This exception shouldn't apply to all vendors, just those producing DIY kits and those under a certain yearly volume (eg under 1000 units/yr). Some of the EU boutique manufacturers affected by this are Oakley Sound, EOWave, MacBeth, Schippmann, Cwejman, JoMox, and Manikin. In the US folks like Synthtech, Plan B, Livewire, STS, and Future-Retro are all hosed. Vendors are switching over to lead free boards but I really don't want to own any gear with a questionable lifetime. And lead free boards make it much for difficult to safely replace components on faulty units.

I'd be interested in seeing SSL and Neve's take on this. It'd really suck for a 9000 owner to have his console fail in five years due to tin whiskers. Likewise I don't want to own any API gear that's rohs compliant. Most all the US boutique audio places are still using traditional assembly techniques so it's unlikely any will be meeting rohs anytime soon.


Jun.28.2006 @ 12:54 PM
Personally, I can't wait for the "warmer, more open/rounded/assbrained sound of lead solder" argument.

"Pre-RoHS gear has a more accessible sound because the solder contained lead and everyone knows about the effect it imparts on the electrons carrying the signal."


Jun.28.2006 @ 2:26 PM
<<Personally, I can't wait for the "warmer, more open/rounded/assbrained sound of lead solder" argument.

"Pre-RoHS gear has a more accessible sound because the solder contained lead and everyone knows about the effect it imparts on the electrons carrying the signal.">>

Hang out on many audiophile sites? That's a scary immitation.


Jun.28.2006 @ 3:06 PM
I have been using non-lead solder on a project I am working on... The device isn't high-fi enough to be able to detect the difference in sound, but in terms of the soldering connections I can't really tell the difference either. I am not getting any bad connections or anything. If you switch the solder with lead and without solder I probably wouldn't even notice.

Although, if I knew lead was gonna be a big issue, I would have purchased lead-based solder just to exercise my personal freedoms. :)


Jun.28.2006 @ 4:01 PM
Using lead free solder isn't the issue here although the higher melting point can cause issues. It's the lead free components and circuit boards that are the biggest issue. Some types of lead free PCBs have only a few days of open air life before they are worthless. Tin plated connectors (with no lead mix) are prone to tin whiskers and shorts in 3-5 years. The bigger issue is availability of through hole components and high quality switches and pots. Some manufacturers are discontinuing legacy products along with the move to rohs compliancy.

Jun.28.2006 @ 7:08 PM
Lead-free can work almost as well as the leaded stuff if you use one of those flux pens. I do mostly point to point, so I don't mind the added heat of a higher wattage iron. But if through-hole components go away, I'm boned.

Jun.29.2006 @ 8:39 AM
use mil-spec parts. they'll still contain a small (about 2%) amount of lead; just enough (according to various sources I've read) to prevent whisker growth. 100% tin non-bright finish is allegedly less prone to whisker growth too.



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