Do you trust the small audio manufacturers these days? - diyAudio
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Old 27th September 2011, 07:52 AM   #1
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Default Do you trust the small audio manufacturers these days?

this is a rant I guess.

lately I'm beginning to notice that with the myriad of small audio manufacturers that keep emerging I'm simply having a hard time trusting their products.

it almost looks to me as if anyone can stuff a board with "audio-grade caps", the "best opamps out there" (or even better "discrete opamps"), use "discrete super regulators" and "ultra low jitter clocks", add the must-have "buyers feedback" section with the "I'm stunned as to what improvement over my ultra expensive high-end amp your product brings" BS and voila, here's your typical high-end audio manufacturer.

we all know the "internet wisdom": global feedback is bad, opamps are bad, discrete is better than integrated, R2R DACs are more musical than delta-sigma ones, audiophile caps bring large improvements etc. but when these are starting to be used as marketing buzzwords, credibility decreases.

sometimes I wonder if some of these guys even own a (good) oscilloscope, a signal generator and audio analyzer.

not saying that the products are necessarily bad, but seeing that the big names in audio seem to do with 7805 regulators and NE5532 opamps even in 10k products, makes me wonder...

makes me wonder if the reason, say, Accuphase chose to use that cheap opamp with a bad rep in the audiophile community in their top of the line CD is that their extensive research done by the best engineers out there really proved that using a more expensive part would bring absolutely no benefit?

and I'm not talking about the chinese guys only. at least their products are cheap.

is it only me... ?
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Old 27th September 2011, 09:00 AM   #2
nmiljac is offline nmiljac  Germany
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr_push_pull View Post
not saying that the products are necessarily bad, but seeing that the big names in audio seem to do with 7805 regulators and NE5532 opamps even in 10k products, makes me wonder...

makes me wonder if the reason, say, Accuphase chose to use that cheap opamp with a bad rep in the audiophile community in their top of the line CD is that their extensive research done by the best engineers out there really proved that using a more expensive part would bring absolutely no benefit?
Please note that the engineers in big companies usually need to use the components already in (internal) stock rather than using what they think will be the best fit.

I do know that at least in some small companies the measurements are taken as seriously (or even more so) than in big companies. Speaking one particular company I have in mind, I know that the sound was the definitve criteria, and you're right - small companies seem to value this aspect more than big ones. This will not always mean that these components do not measure well - the measurements may provide a hint on how a certain component will sound, but numbers do not play music and cannot tell the whole story.

AFAIK there is only one way to find out how a component will sound

Enough has been said on this topic here & on other forums on Internet.

As for me, I'd rather choose based on how it sounds than how it measures. And that only by judging a component in my system.
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Old 27th September 2011, 09:12 AM   #3
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that's not what I was trying to say. it's not about "measure vs. listen".

what I am trying to say is that I suspect that some of these guys don't engineer their products at all, let alone listen-test them. I sometimes think they stuff "audio grade" parts together and use all the buzzwords like "discrete regulators" as marketing without any scientific or sonic backup.
I'm not saying that this is the case but these thoughts crossed my mind.
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Old 27th September 2011, 09:29 AM   #4
nmiljac is offline nmiljac  Germany
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OK - I do/did not know many of them, just a few - and judging by them I really cannot say that these guys do not know how to engineer a product. On the contrary!
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Old 27th September 2011, 10:35 AM   #5
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I can rant too!

What is their agenda?
what is their measuring criteria? live -direct reproduced, classical, rock, pop?
What material do they listen to?
in what type of room?
how is it treated?
with what type of speakers?
what level of volume?
From what listening distance?
how many people used for cross reference? What are their biases?
How relevant is their listening tests to the way you listen and the other components in your system?
Because a component "sounds good" in one circuit should it therefore sound good or be the right component in another circuit topology?
What is a component that sounds good? exciting, smooth, neutral, accurate, vibrant, toe tapping, tonally accurate?
Are they fooling themselves or are they genuine electronic guru's who have heard every component imaginable and truly understand everything that went on when they changed a component in terms of subtle frequency response changes and distortion artifacts?

I think you would find that in most cases the guys doing the work believe in themselves and what they are doing fwiw, but if it smells like Voodoo.........
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Old 27th September 2011, 10:39 AM   #6
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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There are good engineers and bad engineers (who merely glue fashionable components together). There are those who can creatively design a product and those who are more creative in describing a product. All of them claim to be 'high-end', yet some struggle with basic circuit theory. You pays your money and you takes your choice. Alternatively, remember that this is a DIY site so we don't have to pay them at all.
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Old 27th September 2011, 10:53 AM   #7
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Of course there is a great deal more proper engineers in the commercial world with the right testing equipement, the right training and experience with access to high quality testing facilities most diy wannabees could only dream of.
For the sensible diy'er I would say the trick is to combine the best of both. For instance DIY makes sense when you want loudspeakers for absolute performance and not pandering to WAF. That said plenty of excellent loudspeakers produced commercially but the esoteric stuff tends to get a bit pricey.

Last edited by rob g; 27th September 2011 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 27th September 2011, 10:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DF96 View Post
fashionable components
Quote:
Originally Posted by DF96 View Post
All of them claim to be 'high-end', yet some struggle with basic circuit theory
yeap, exactly.

these days it's way easier to manufacture a product than it used to be. there are PCB manufacturing services, CNC services to build eye-catching, expensive cases, there is China and there is the Internet. add the Mundorfs, keep bragging about no global feedback and you're done. looks to me like a recipe.
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Old 27th September 2011, 11:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rob g View Post
Of course there is a great deal more proper engineers in the commercial world with the right testing equipement, the right training and experience with access to high quality testing facilities most diy wannabees could only dream of.
For the sensible diy'er I would say the trick is to combine the best of both.
couldn't agree more. I'm more and more inclined to the let's call it "semi-DIY".

I'm almost certain that the chinese simply tie some parts together and incidentally the results may sound decent out of pure luck but, like I said, I'm afraid that the same goes on in the rest of the world with the exception that the profit is much larger.

given the large number of self-titled "high-end audio" firms that keep emerging, it's starting to sound sensible to me that at least they could add some measurements of their products (well, with the exception of speakers). at least prove that they know how an oscilloscope looks like. and I'm not even joking.
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Old 27th September 2011, 11:25 AM   #10
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Many chinese manufacturers seem to do that. A lot of strange valve/tube products out there of dubious worth, dodgy circuits and crud output transformers.

Alternatively in terms of mainstream solid state (not the quirky boutique product) there more reputable Chinese manufacturing such as IAG with massive production facilities. IAG has taken dead or dying UK manufacturers and actually improved their product. It has also employed top quality western talent to design new product in state of the art facilities that even the commercial outfits in the UK would be jealous of.
Look at the Audiolab 8200CDQ designed by John Westlake.
Another example (thinking of another thread where someone asked about thoughts on a small three way) the new Wharfedale Jade speaker range designed by Peter Comeau. I suspect it will be extremely difficult to better these affordably with DIY, at least in a similar design.

Last edited by rob g; 27th September 2011 at 11:34 AM.
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