Quoted from Rob_G:
More reliable connection, maybe the upper side traces aren't robust enough?
That's the "vibe" I got for speaking with Chas. He claims all the "new" Node 9 boards on the 1st generation Spike machines have these adhoc looking wires soldered on the back of the circuit board.
If this is true, and the original boards had a major bug that caused them to fail prematurely (in my case after 400 plays), it seems like the replacement board should be covered by Stern.
As you can see in this photo, my original board looks fresher/newer than the part I just paid $185 for (which I thought would be new/pristine).
I don't mind paying for a new board, but it doesn't feel good to expect new and get restored/hacked. Sometimes it feels like Stern is being less than totally upfront with us. Oh well...seems like the way of the world nowadays.