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Old 13th June 2003, 02:52 PM   #21
EKG is offline EKG  United States
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Default re :homebrew

The wonderful subject of homebrew heatsinks. One very good source for aluminum extrusions with a good bit of surface area are laddedrs. A lightweight aluminum stepladder has enough potential heat sink material for several projects.
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Old 13th June 2003, 03:19 PM   #22
jcarr is offline jcarr  United States
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>I do not mean to disrespect what you are doing.<

No problem. I simply wanted to point out some of the costs that I have witnessed from first-hand experience, and to suggest that there are far more lucrative ways of earning a living than as an audio amplifier manufacturer.

>In the end if a competitor can come up with the same sounding product at 5,000 USD then it's also to everyones benefit.<

Absolutely. Even as a manufacturer, having worthy competition is always stimulating and enjoyable. And if a competitor can make a retail 5000USD product that matches what I need 20,000USD to accomplish, obviously there is much that I can learn from such a competitive product.

>As to the parts inside I still have serious doubts about how many dollars worth of electronics you can stuff in a box seeing that most are costed in cents worth. Even with Vishays, BG's etc it's just not going to add up to more than 1000 euro (unless you silver plate everything).<

If you start having custom parts made to your design and specification, you may discover that your tune changes rather quickly. Incidentally, silver plating can be done in large batches (and it is far cheaper than something like rhodium plating), so it doesn't add so much to the cost of the individual item.

>The rest of your post just proves that what we are paying for is the time , rent , interest , packaging , research of the producer which is of course acceptable in all economic systems but which the DIY er does not need to spend on.<

Unless you have a fairly thorough research and development program, I don't think that you will be able to come up with any sort of innovative, groundbreaking design. And if you do have a thorough research and development program, believe me, you will end up spending an unhealthy amount of money and time for each design that you come up with.

But if you think that you have good schematic, pcb layout and mechanical design capabilities, and if you think that you have the talent to match and/or surpass the best commercial designs, I definitely encourage you to become an amplifier manufacturer. If you build everything yourself, and if you keep your production limited and sell directly to end-users (relying on word-of-mouth and the internet for promotion), it should be possible to operate with a cost structure that is fairly similar to what you are now experiencing as a DIY'er.

Perhaps in the future, some sort of open-source amplifier design project could be organized - somewhat like the Teres turntable project. If the capabilities of a number of exceptionally talented schematic, pcb and mechanical design engineers could be pooled, maybe it is possible to come up with a design that is substantially more innovative and capable than anything presently in the public domain. Let's hope.

hth, jonathan carr
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Old 13th June 2003, 03:34 PM   #23
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I do not mean to disrespect what you're saying (in fact i always enjoy your write-ups) but your view is seriously oversimplified. Consider per example the research you need to do if you decide to manufacture, lets say a high end preamp. First of all you'll need to establish what the potential competition is offering and probably buy and thouroughly scrutinise quite a few high end designs. Lets see, a Boulder and a Connoisseur will be a good start but you'll certainly need a few more. Having pulled them down to bits and analysed what kind of cost/sound compromises are involved you'll have to set your own set of sound priorities. Going for the top end market certainly requires balls as your preferences in sound may turn out to be not so typical. And forget about getting high quality parts for a few cents each; even in quantities of 1000 good caps and resistors still cost real money and 1000 is probably an unatteinable number in the high end.
Your example with the 500 euro may not be that valid even for midfi - it is so easy to exceed this limit even in a simple gainclone project.
If, otoh you have a problem with the concept of the true high end then i'll probably side with you. Very expensive systems are often disappointing, especially for the outlay. No wonder so many owners of high-end system appear seriously neurotic.

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Old 13th June 2003, 03:42 PM   #24
grataku is offline grataku  United States
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Jcarr,
your preamp looks beautiful, you got all the buzzwords implemented, although I consider the implementation questionable at times, 3D layout, single piece chassis, burning 650watts to clean up the dc in the powersupply etc etc.
However, although the components cost more than 500 dollars, they cost less than 20000 and I find it extremely hard to believe that you need 150000USD to develop a product, that's an obscene statement. Except for your local Donald Trump nobody starting from scratch can dish out the kind of cash you are talking about nor it would be neccessary. Your costs maybe higher than at
Madrigal, the question is how many preamp are you selling/year and are you having 10 components at a time manifactured for you?

A product like yours are in fact be what the original question was probably all about, what the diyer can point to as an alternative to current hi-end products. The circuitry is relatively simple, no digital components no fancy programming just good old hi quality analog stuff and solid concepts behind them. That is where the DIYer can excel because of lack of any time and market restrictions. The diyer can certainly achieve higher levels than hi-end commercial stuff for 10% the cost if enough time and energy is put into the project.
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Old 13th June 2003, 03:47 PM   #25
x-pro is offline x-pro  United Kingdom
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I think, it is not as simple as Johnathan writes. I left audio industry after 10 years of work for a quite well known company. I did design there many innovative and some groundbreaking products, well received by customers and press, including several "Recommended components" in Stereophile. I work now in the telecommmunication industry because as an audio designer I can not earn enough money . So now I do DIY audio at home for my own pleasure while making money by designing some very interesting electronics which has nothing to do with audio. This is somewhat sad, as audio is still my passion, but it looks like DIY could be not only a step up into the profession of audio designer but a step down as well .

So, answering the question in the title of this thread - I know for sure that I can do DIY product that would be better than most products from "big guys", and I suspect that many other people can do the same

Al
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Old 13th June 2003, 04:16 PM   #26
sam9 is offline sam9  United States
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What I think is left out of the equation is that manufacturing and distribution on any scale involves skills and costs that a DIYer doesn't need to think about.

Examples: UL certs, a warranty and repair service facility, manufacturability, reliable suppliers, dealer network, commission schedules . . . on and on.

All of these interact with the design and total cost of the product.
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Old 13th June 2003, 05:24 PM   #27
jcarr is offline jcarr  United States
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>although I consider the implementation questionable at times.<

I don't know about "questionable", but I certainly wouldn't design the 3.0 in the same way today if I had to do it again, nor would I recommend that anyone follow a similar approach. Certainly if redesigned today, the chassis would be less elaborate and cumbersome, but the circuitry would definitely be more ambitious and complex.

Incidentally, the regulators are a current-mode shunt-series push-pull design with multiple (nested) feedback loops, and they work really well. Even though the heat production is a pain to deal with, I intend to retain the high-voltage-dropping concept for any immediate successor design.

>Although the components cost more than 500 dollars, they cost less than 20000.<

The production cost of the 3.0 is somewhat less than 20,000USD, but it is well over 10,000USD.

>I find it extremely hard to believe that you need 150000USD to develop a product.<

Over 10 years ago, I asked Rick Fryer of Spectral what his general development costs were, and AFAIR, he also quoted the 120~150,000 USD range.

>Except for your local Donald Trump nobody starting from scratch can dish out the kind of cash you are talking about.<

Absolutely true. In our case, fortunately we already had the phono cartridge business, otherwise it would have been completely impossible to finance the 3.0 preamp project. As it was, both myself and my business partner borrowed heavily to finance the development, and we had to sell off one of our companies to (partially) pay back some of our larger creditors. Part of the debt from the 3.0 project still remains, but at least we are making headway in paying back the accumulated bills.

>nor it would be neccessary.<

I hope that you are right. Funding these development projects is downright painful much of the time, so if there is a more effective and efficient way of doing things, that would be very useful information.

>Your costs maybe higher than at Madrigal.<

I haven't asked Madrigal, but my guess is that the development costs for the Mark Levinson 32 preamp were even higher than 150,000USD.

>A product like yours are in fact be what the original question was probably all about, what the diyer can point to as an alternative to current hi-end products.<

As I said in a previous post, competition is always welcome, whether in the form of a commercial product or a DIY design.

>The circuitry is relatively simple.<

Originally I asked a Toshiba-contracted production facility to do some of the production work, but their yield rate was alarmingly poor, so I had to fire them. OTOH, the work that we have done in-house has been quite reliable. If you know what you are doing, the circuitry is well-mannered (if not exactly simple), but that Toshiba facility didn't know what they were doing and had never experienced anything quite like the 3.0, and the result was blown circuits left and right.

>The diyer can certainly achieve higher levels than hi-end commercial stuff for 10% the cost if enough time and energy is put into the project.<

FWIW, not including any development costs, the production costs for the Connoisseur electronics are much greater than 10% of retail.

hth, jonathan carr
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Old 13th June 2003, 05:49 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally posted by jcarr
Originally I asked a Toshiba-contracted production facility to do some of the production work, but their yield rate was alarmingly poor, so I had to fire them. OTOH, the work that we have done in-house has been quite reliable. If you know what you are doing, the circuitry is well-mannered (if not exactly simple), but that Toshiba facility didn't know what they were doing and had never experienced anything quite like the 3.0, and the result was blown circuits left and right.
A bit off-topic, but you reminded me of a story I was told from
a local electronics company many years ago about a woman
who worked at the assembly line. These people were given
pictures showing how the components were to be placed on
the PCBs so they wouldn't need any knowledge of electronics.
Anyway, this woman were assembling PCBs with transistors
packaged in one of those metal cans with a little tab to indicate
the orientation. After assembling a bunch of PCBs she suddenly
realized she had made a mistake and the tab of the cans was
pointing in the wrong direction on all of the PCBs. Well, she
wasn't stupid so she did what seemed right from her point of
view and twisted all the transistors so the tab pointed the way
it should.


On-topic then, I would guess another important factor is that
the higher the manufacturing cost, the higher the out price to
customers, meaning fewer customers who can/are willing to
buy, meaning that development costs must be paid back on
fewer units sold, meaning that the profit margins must be
higher, meaning that the price must be even higher, meaning
even fewer customers...
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Old 13th June 2003, 05:53 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by grataku

However, although the components cost more than 500 dollars, they cost less than 20000 and I find it extremely hard to believe that you need 150000USD to develop a product, that's an obscene statement.

I'll give the example of the costs involved in my GC production. The parts are $500 (after discounts) and it takes about 10 hours to assemble one unit with a PS. So my cost to produce one unit is around $800 CAD (which equals around USD 600). I spent at least 3 months designing and improving that unit, so I might say that it cost me around $30,000 CAD in development. Selling it direct, I would be probably satisfied with $950 USD per unit, especially if I assemble amps myself. My partner wants to go through distributors/dealers network and currently we came with a price of $1,795 USD to provide a cut to everybody and margin for discounts. Is it expensive? Of course it is, and myself, I wouldn't pay that much. Is it worth it? Probably it is, comparing offerings from other manufacturers and current prices.

Considering that a product like that is at least 20 times less complicated that Connoisseur preamp, I can actually quite believe in Jonathan's numbers, but untill you try to run production yourself, you can't realize what's really involved.

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showt...545#post189545
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Old 13th June 2003, 09:42 PM   #30
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Default My turn........

"Is it possible?"

Yes. How do you think some of us got started. Some of us are still there. Some of us are now considered to be "the big boys".

"What do they know that we don't know?"

Usually, they are expert at manufacturing, financing, and marketing, because that is what ultimately decides if you make it or not. It helps to be able to design stuff that sounds good.

Not all can, and they get by on marketing: making you think that they do make stuff that sounds good when it is pedestrian. Yes, some do come up with innovations, but most do not.

Not all of them have a John Curl in the company to design their own stuff. So they pay him, or jerks like me who can. And then find ways to shortchange us on royalties.

However, it will take years of futzing with this stuff to get to that level. Something that many of you will not have the time to devote. Sometimes the expertise comes from listening to every possible combination you can come up with, including parts as well as topologies.

My advice: go for it. The "big boys" are not going to miss any meals if the fanatics of the world all decide that they can do the same, if not better, on their own.

The caveat: you may end up going nuts like some of us here..............or broke.............or both.

Jocko
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