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Christmas Gift Guide
Audio

Warning! Some audio products and smartphones can kill you

Back in the day owner manuals were sources of information about how to use the product, now it's a warning manifesto.

No doubt, the world is a dangerous place, but if you stop and read all the dire warnings that come packed with audio gear and other devices you'd never let your guard down.

If you think I'm being overly dramatic, go ahead and read your amplifier or phone owner's manual, the warnings usually start on page one, and they aren't exactly subtle: "Caution. Risk of electrical shock." Some go further: "Failure to comply with safety warnings and regulations may cause serious injury or death." Do I have your attention?

These cautions are presented without any sense of proportion or logic, for example, receiver owners are advised, "To reduce the risk of fire or electric shock do not expose this appliance to snow, rain, dripping, or moisture." Damn, you mean I shouldn't put my new Onkyo receiver in the bathtub?

I chuckled over this one in an old speaker manual: "Do not touch hot spots during and immediately after use." I guess these warnings were written to reduce product liability, but did they work? Maybe the defendant's attorney's closing statement went something like this: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I think we have proved beyond reasonable doubt that the plaintiff, Mr. Jones, willfully touched his Reference 1000 speaker's hot spots, which unfortunately resulted in third-degree burns on his pinky finger. The defense rests."

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Heed all warnings!

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Touching a smartphone charging cable's plug when the other end is plugged into a power source "May cause discomfort or injury, sleeping on or sitting on the plug should be avoided." Oh, and don't even think of putting your device under a blanket, pillow, or your body when it's plugged into a power source. Do not bite or suck the device or battery, doing so might damage the device or result in an explosion or fire.

Then we have the receiver and amplifier manuals' perennial warning: "Use only with the cart, stand, tripod, bracket, or table specified by the manufacturer, or sold with the apparatus. When a cart is used, use caution when moving the cart/apparatus to avoid injury from tip-over." Huh, so in other words, by placing your new receiver on unauthorized furniture you're at some risk. Let the lawsuits begin.

There's menace lurking everywhere, so have the bomb squad emergency numbers handy before you pick up your TV remote control and remember the manufacturers' universal credo: "Heed all warnings." This is an exact quote: "Danger of explosion if battery is incorrectly replaced. Replace only with the same or equivalent battery type." A receiver's manual suggests "Do not expose the batteries to excessive heat, such as sunshine, fire and the like."

Blu-ray and DVD player manuals sometimes offer this advisory: "Invisible laser radiation when open. AVOID DIRECT EXPOSURE TO THE BEAM." I can't even imagine how you could zap yourself with a Blu-ray's laser, but I suppose somebody figured out a way.

I get it, we live in litigious times, but I wouldn't mind these warnings so much if the manuals also provided useful information about how to use the actual product; but it looks like manuals are merely patched together from other manuals. Cut and pasted bits that aren't relevant to the product and just serve to confuse the buyer. And I'm no fan of pictorial manuals with products that require detailed explanation of how to use the damned thing, I'm just sayin'.

At the end of the day, it feels like the manufacturers don't really give a hoot. They've already got your money, so they just need to cover their legal backsides.

Have you read any good manuals lately?