Rejoice! A non-Apple device repair!
These ADJ Dotz Pars are very effective stage lighting units for their compact form factor, and provide true colour stage wash thanks to COB technology (not colour-mixing). I own a pair of Dotz Pars, but one fixture was faulty when I acquired it and never initialised correctly on power up. With live music finally returning in earnest after the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, I wanted to get this light up-and-running so I could use it in my stage productions later this year.
Thankfully, the whole experience of doing this repair was made very painless – largely thanks to ADJ themselves, who were beyond helpful and accommodating. A exemplar of how all companies dealing with technological products should be conducting themselves!
Firstly, the repair itself… This was a pretty straightforward like-for-like swap of the main PCB inside the light. The unit was easy to get into (no hidden screws or proprietary fittings – just four crosshead screws to remove the back casing, then four more to unseat the PCB itself), although the compact design made a few elements of the swap a little fiddly – especially the little plastic clips down the side for the data and power cables. But with the help of some electronics tweezers, and a little bit of patience, they were persuaded to copperate in the end!
I had to be careful with those cable bundles as well, as I was a little worried of getting them mixed up during the reassembly phase; I ended up labeling the outer sheaths with a marker pen to be sure I could put everything back in the right place.
Once the new PCB was seated correctly and the cables reattached to the board, I powered up the unit to run a quick test prior to reassembly, and all seemed to be working. Four more screws later, and the Dotz Par was once again ready to go out on the road with 90s Jam!
Now, the really good bit… I honestly cannot sing the praises of ADJ (Europe) highly enough.
Those of us who follow or are involved with repair movements are used to being frustrated at every turn by companies who don’t want us to be able to repair our own stuff; don’t want us to have easy access to the necessary tools or spare parts, and use obscure or proprietary fixings deliberately designed to make repairs more difficult; and tell us that this infuriating gatekeeping is all for our own ‘safety’ or ‘security’.
Even as they are dragged kicking and screaming towards better access for consumer repairs, Apple’s DIY Repair Programme puts as many barriers up as it tears down, with serial number locks for spare parts and high tooling costs likely to put many people off.
So it was both surprising and refreshing to have the exact opposite experience when dealing with ADJ. For starters, they had an actual phone number on their website, where I could contact their European HQ (in the Netherlands) directly; I phoned them up and explained my situation, and got put straight through to their Service Department, where a very helpul man was keen to understand the nature of the problem. I ended up booting both my working and non-working Dotz Pars fixtures whilst on the phone with him, and describing exactly what I saw in each case – and he was able to diagnose the issue over the phone, and told me he recommended replacing the main PCB.
At this point, I was expecting the standard spiel. ‘You have to send it back to us; it costs £9000 just to have us open the parcel, and a further £400 per screw we undo; it’s an old model so the parts may not be in stock; we’ll post it back to you within eleven years…’
But no! I asked ‘So where can I get a new PCB from, then?’ and he said ‘We sell them in our online parts shop! Here, I’ll give you the exact part number, so you can search for it…’ It ended up costing me less than £30 to order the correct replacement part and have that shipped to my house, and it arrived less than a week after I spoke to them.
This is exactly how these things should always work! If you have a problem with an electronic product, you absolutely should be able to ask the company what’s wrong, and get a straight, honest answer; you should be able to get transparent advice about what parts you need, and where; you should be able to buy parts inexpensively, even for legacy products, and get them quickly and easily.
As I say in my video rant on the subject (featuring a cameo from Eliza the rescue greyhound):
ADJ can do it. There is no good reason why other companies can’t.