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Old 25th April 2007, 04:39 PM   #11
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http://passlabs.com/dealers.htm
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Old 25th April 2007, 06:35 PM   #12
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Actually, at this instant there are technically no Pass Labs dealers
in the U.S., as management has decided to re-organize our
domestic distribution to focus more on traditional "brick and mortar" dealers.

This will be straightened out shortly.

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Old 25th April 2007, 09:56 PM   #13
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Hmmm...perhaps I should go back into retail.

Grey
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Old 25th April 2007, 10:17 PM   #14
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Well, it's interesting. In spite of all the Home-Theater-7 channel-
Install and Propellerhead-Internet-Business Models, old fashioned
hi-fi seems to be gaining some ground. Vinyl looks to continue its
upswing and quite a few companies that kept their commitment
to two channel are seeing growth.

In any case, dealers relying solely on internet discount sales
aren't necessarily doing the customer a favor - and after all,
manufacturers could just go direct themselves and keep the
profit, if they thought that would work.

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Old 26th April 2007, 12:28 AM   #15
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I find your First Watt business model fascinating. It's a niche within a niche, in the sense that low-powered amp/high efficiency speaker people are a subset of high end overall, which is itself a subset of the general music reproduction business. It is, however, necessarily limited in that it takes a "name" to make it work. Setting the startup costs aside, I, for instance, could not do a First Watt-type business because no one has a clue who I am. The 100 units-and-quit strategy strikes me as particularly interesting. To some extent I expect that you compete with yourself, in that someone who buys an F1 would then likely sit out the F2, F3, etc. (Yes, you've mentioned trade-ins and I'm certain that there are higher income individuals who can and do buy one of each...still, to some extent you run the risk of saturating a rather smallish market if you push too many. So you do small numbers of different topologies, instead. The whole idea tickles me.) Now, if the high efficiency speaker philosophy were to come into vogue...and no, I don't mean a few hobby folks like 'round here...then things abruptly change. First Watt could be the guppy that swallowed the Pass Labs whale. This is something I am watching with great interest.
The Pass Labs thing, with its more traditional approach, will presumably follow the general trend of the industry. To some extent, it's cyclical, with attendant ups and downs. But then there are the larger trends, to wit:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Musi....ap/index.html

wherein people want convenience rather than quality. What to do about that, I don't know. I personally have a lot of vinyl, some CDs, and some SACDs. Vinyl is vinyl. I prefer it, regardless of the frequently strident criticism of those who think that specs are everything. My experience is that SACD is superior to CD, but people who don't give a flip about sound quality wouldn't buy an SACD or DVD-A on a dare, much less an LP. And even CD sales are in free fall according to several articles I've seen recently.
I'm not sure about the percentage at the moment, but I was told at one point that something like 80% of the traffic on the network here at USC was illegal music transfers. (And lawdy, lawdy, how the students gripe about the technology fee they have to pay. Want it to drop, kids? Stop downloading songs. Poof! Suddenly, the existing hardware quits bogging down under the load. What a surprise!) Given the portable music mindset that prevails, I can't say that I'm optimistic about things. You don't see many stereo units being offloaded when the kids move into their dorms in the fall.
It's not as though we can uninvent digital.
And I don't anticipate a popular uprising among the masses demanding quality if it means giving up their cherished convenience.
As of today the Dow Industrials closed over 13,000 for the first time in history. How much longer this will go on I cannot say, but the next serious bear market will be the death of much of what we know as high end audio. By definition, hifi is a luxury and those who are having trouble putting food on the table will not be buying $20,000 CD playback decks. They probably won't even buy a $20 one at Wal-Mart.
What an amazing industry! Even out here on the fringes it's a wonder to watch the ebb and flow.

Grey
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Old 26th April 2007, 01:30 AM   #16
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Well, the First Watt "experiment" is yielding some interesting
data points. Since the amplifiers are done within a consistent
hardware structure, exploring different topologies and techniques
is like Haiku.

The barrier to a new amplifier is simply the time I am willing to
devote to circuit development, and there is no requirement for
sales volume.

"low-powered amp/high efficiency speaker people are a subset of
high end overall, which is itself a subset of the general music
reproduction business"

It's smaller than that, because solid state low-power amps
are a small subset of low-power amps, tubes being the dominant
player in low-power amps.

I think you are being overly pessimistic about the market overall.
TV didn't kill movies or radio, CD's didn't kill vinyl, Home theater
didn't kill stereo, Ipods won't kill CD's.

To quote Tony Hendra in Spinal Tap, "their appeal is becoming
more selective."


I remember over 20 years ago, when digitized audio arrived and
a propeller-head said to me "Well, that's going to just about wrap
it up for you analog guys."

A few years later a corporate president was complaining to me
about analog prima donnas - he had all the digital guys he needed,
but the analog engineers demanded higher pay and wouldn't
work more than 8 hours.

In any case, there's a big world out there, and sales are good.

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Old 26th April 2007, 06:12 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nelson Pass
Well, the First Watt "experiment" is yielding some interesting
data points. Since the amplifiers are done within a consistent
hardware structure, exploring different topologies and techniques
is like Haiku.

I think you are being overly pessimistic about the market overall.
TV didn't kill movies or radio, CD's didn't kill vinyl, Home theater
didn't kill stereo, Ipods won't kill CD's.

In any case, there's a big world out there, and sales are good.

I like the consistent hardware aspect--keeps costs down. It's a great idea for a First Watt sort of venture.
My view of things is not that digital will kill analog, for instance, but that increasing fragmentation of the market will leave individual slices of the pie too slender to be profitable. Amps and speakers are probably the best segments to be in because they are the most universal. I wouldn't go into the source end of things for all the tea in China. Preamps are iffy. Crossovers are always a limited sort of thing. Etc.
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? We all try to map the real world onto an internal framework that we can carry around inside our heads. I acknowledge that my worldview is somewhat less upbeat than others, but in my life it seems that more often than not some SOB snatches the glass just before I can lay hands on it. All this stuff goes back to my childhood, which is a story that has no place here...it's just a question of trying for best-fit between my internal map and what actually happens. I can say unequivocally that my life at it stands at the moment is the best it's ever been.
And, yes, I'm grateful for it.
Oh...and the reason I didn't include solid state in the string of subsets is that there really isn't any context. It seems to me that it's not so much a pre-existing subset that you're working with--it's more that you're creating one nearly from scratch. How that will play out is one of the more interesting parts of the story. For all I know, you may very well conquer the small amp market entirely over the next five to ten years. In which case you're no longer a subset, are you?

Grey
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