Fix or replace an old Nest thermostat? High-end amplifier for $599 from $1,099, wonderful Focal Theva No. 1 speakers (Week 21, 2023)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 21, 2023

Q. I have a first generation Nest thermostat, model 01A. It stopped working and has a blinking red light, indicating a power problem. As recommended by the troubleshooting guide, I removed it and charged it via the USB port. It did not fix the problem. I have the same thermostat hooked up to a separate HVAC system downstairs, so I pulled it off the back plate and tried it with the upstairs system. It worked, so the problem is with the thermostat and not the HVAC system. Is it fixable? I really do not want to pay for a new thermostat and installation.

-J.M., Fredericktown, OH

A. Nest says the first generation thermostat battery is not replaceable. Despite this, there are multiple online vendors offering replacement batteries for under $20. The user reviews are very poor, complaining of fragile connectors, an unwillingness to charge and bulges in the battery case that prevent a proper fit.

For an inexpensive and simple fix look for a used Nest 01A in working condition, available online for under $50. You can just plug it into the existing wall plate, as you did with your downstairs unit. Given the batteries will not last forever you may eventually need new thermostats in both locations, so keep that in mind going forward. Current Nest models have user-replaceable batteries and if you want to change brands, I have had a good experience with Ecobee. You may also want to consider a basic thermostat for a low-cost, low maintenance, long-lasting solution. Not everyone has been happy with the complexity and expense of smart thermostats or the potential loss of privacy or control they represent, and are switching back to a simple thermostat.

More from AXPONA: Last week I highlighted high-end speakers from Alta Audio. Over the next few weeks I will be recommending several much more affordable speakers, and if you need an amplifier to accompany them I have a great one to tell you about.

The Cambridge Audio CXA61 is a 60-watt version of the $1,299 CXA81 80-watt integrated amplifier. Both amplifiers are perennial award winners, featuring top-shelf digital circuitry and strong amplification with great sound in the best British tradition. The formerly $1,099 CXA61 is now only $599, and it is hard to overstate what a great value that is. The CXA61 will make a fine hub for a high quality system, and they are going fast. Amazon and Audio Advice still showed availability at the time of column submission.

A perfect match for the CXA61 is the new $998/pair Theva No. 1 bookshelf speaker from Focal, a French high-end audio manufacturer specializing in speakers and headphones. Most Focal products are made in France, many of them using high-tech materials and components not available anywhere else. The Theva No. 1 excels at creating an intimate, personal space to enjoy music of any size and scope, from a solo vocalist to a powerful orchestra, while bringing a seemingly three-dimensional tonal quality beyond the stereo imaging. The sound is sweet but not too sweet, with crystal-clear detail and transparent, impactful bass. I have heard many fine speakers over my lifetime and the Theva No. 1 sounds like no other speaker I have encountered, rating as truly special. It easily competes with the Polk L100, which for several years has been my favorite sub-$1,000 bookshelf speaker. A Focal advantage is it is much less demanding on an amplifier than the power-hungry L100, making it easier to build a system around it. With its many fine qualities and European design and exclusivity for under $1,000 the Theva No. 1 is a big winner.