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Hi-fi boss slams 'rip-off' industry


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from techradar.com

 

""I'm not going to mention the name of a company which sells an AV processor for several thousand quid. You boys with computers will know perfectly well that if you want Dolby 5.1 you can get a PC card for £7.50 with the same chipset in it," he said."

 

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Founder of Audiophile Style

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Even before I read the article I knew it was going to be Ashley. He is very opinionated, but he has always been very helpful every time I have asked him a question. I do know that he has a product to sell, and I can now say after owning the ADM9s since August they are extremely good, and I think AVI is on to something. My dealer came out last weekend and help me set them up, and also pointed out that I had ripped all of my cds to iTunes at 128k instead of AIFF (I thought the ADM9s sounded good with my Mini before, but now wow!)

 

ADM9.1s ,2.0 Ghz Mac Mini, Panasonic BD-35 blu-ray player.

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I am a dealer for high end audio. I have been exposed to many, many expensive products over the years. Some of it is very poor value and we avoid it; my basic contention is that the cost of building the piece should have a relationship to what it costs and, regardless of cost, there should be a value component. We recently replaced a $250,000 system with one that cost $75,000.00. No question that 75K is a lot of money and that you certainly don't have to spend nearly that much to have a really fine system. Also no question, in our mind's or our customer's, that his new system is superior to the old. The old one was sexy, and German and possessed the cachet of being incredibly exotic. It was just insane. There is an element of high end, especially the extreme high end, that has little or no relationship to value. I'm surprised that $25,0000 cables weren't mentioned.

 

Having said that, the article is a crock. I have never seen a single piece of equipment that has an 80 point margin (meaning that 20% of the selling price is what the dealer pays). Yes, the chips aren't very expensive. Go price high end boards, premium components, great power supplies, etc., not to mention cosmetics and build quality. These things don't look good on the marketing cutsheets but they have everything to do with sound quality (except the cosmetics). We swapped out a surround processor in our store today with one that costs more than double, 2200 to 5000. The difference was striking. They both use the same chip set. Was it worth the difference in cost? That is for the end user to answer and is completely subjective. For me it would be/is.

 

Chris and I have some similar tastes in some high end products. These are not cost no object products, they are expensive products that perform extremely well. I believe they offer excellent value. I sell them and I am proud to represent them. I own them, and I owned similar products back when I was paying retail. If you bought one of them from me tomorrow, assuming you were putting them in a system that was well chosen and maximized their strengths, I believe you would be happy for many years.

 

The guy is a nut case and it angers me that he essentially accuses my entire industry of being dishonest. For the most part, this is not where to go to make a lot of money. I make a third of what I did in the telecommunications industry. The other extreme of this view are those who say you can't buy a musical, enjoyable system without spending a fortune. We love finding wildly musical products at a price more people can afford. We have a $2500 pair of speakers that easily competes with products more than double their price. They are rather plain and/or ugly, depending upon your tastes but they are a great value.

 

I'm done. Sorry, I should have passed on this one but jeez.....

 

 

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Thanks very much for the honest post Rick. I agree with you 100%.

 

In addition to everyting you mentioned, it is like this guy wants manufacturers to sell products based on the cost of materials without considering much else.

 

I've heard some really good things about this guy's products, but it is a shame he draws attention to them this way.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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rom661, I didn't think what James said was so far out there. If anything, you seem to agree quite well with what he said:

 

He said: "James said later in the interview that some of the top-end hi-fi equipment that is sold for many thousands of pounds is worth nowhere near that amount, and isn't great quality in the first place"

 

You said: "I am a dealer for high end audio. I have been exposed to many, many expensive products over the years. Some of it is very poor value and we avoid it"

 

Sounds very much alike.

 

Also, James didn't condemn the entire industry at all, just a certain part of it.

 

If anything, James's opinions reflect nicely what a lot of people are thinking - both end users and 'professionals' (I hate using this word; it doesn't say anything about competence). And he is not the only one who has actually expressed that opinion.

 

Best - MM

 

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Hey MM - You seem to have a bone to pick with Rick and you've strayed pretty far from your usual informative posts lately. Part of your post here is just fine with me. Saying you don't think what "James said was so far out there" and that you think James' "opinions reflect nicely what a lot of people are thinking" is fine. I don't agree with your statement but we all benefit from people on both sides of an issue chiming in.

 

Unfortunately the rest of your post is quite inflammatory, totally misrepresents what Rick said, and it somewhat insulting. Accusing Rick of overreacting ads nothing to this topic and is typical of forum behavior that only turns people off. In addition telling Rick that he agrees quite well with what was said in the article is an insult to Rick and our intelligence. I think it is very clear Rick disagrees with James and Rick has detailed his opinion quite nicely. This part of your post really appears to be a blatant jab at Rick in an effort to get a rise out of him and to attempt to discredit him in front of all the readers.

 

James said, "Most hi-fi systems on sale worldwide are so heavily marked up that the majority of customers are being scandalously ripped off." It is preposterous to suggest Rick agrees with this statement. Rick clearly stated, "...Some of it is very poor value and we avoid it..." Computer Audiophile readers, including yourself, are pretty intelligent and would never put James and Rick in the same camp on this issue.

 

So, let's leave the personal stuff at home and keep the highly valued opinions coming. We have an enjoyable forum going here and we've all been offering some great information from all sides of the audio world. Let's keep it moving forward on the right track.

 

Thanks guys!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris: I have no personal bone to pick with Rick. I would have made the same remarks had the post come from somebody else. I am simply not agreeing with part of Rick's response to James' opinion. I still think there were substantial parallels in Rick's and James' opinion; just read Rick's post carefully. Rick seems to acknowledge that there are issues, but he doesn't think they are as widespread as James makes them out to be.

 

However, I also thought that Rick partially mis-represented what James actually said, and I have simply pointed that out.

 

I don't see anything inflammatory or insulting in my post. But I do see a lot of inflammatory things in Rick's post. Using words like 'crock' and garbage' to label the opinions of a competent member of the industry, and calling him a 'nut case' are personal and have little to do with the collegial spirit you strive to foster. Using such language is 'overreacting' in my opinion, and I stand by that.

 

I am not sure why I get a negative response when I don't agree with Rick. I have had disagreements with him on two accounts, and both times, I was labeled the 'bad guy'. In both cases, though, my disagreements were very specific, did not use foul language and were, IMHO, factually correct.

 

You are accusing me of trying to discredit Rick in front of all the readers. I, on the other hand, have the feeling that certain people here are protected, and that disagreement with them, however justified, is not welcome.

 

Best - MM

 

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This is what bugs me about Ashley, he is a very helpful guy and I think his company makes great products, however his opinionated nature tends to distract from that. So instead of people talking about what a great value the ADM9s are (my opinion) people start to take offense. Rick, I do not think he was talking about dealers, but rather manufacturers. I could see where you would get offended, as I am sure you go out of your way to find the best products and value for your customers.

 

ADM9.1s ,2.0 Ghz Mac Mini, Panasonic BD-35 blu-ray player.

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Thanks for the remarks. I agree with you about where the bulk of Ashley's comments were directed and I tried to be fair in acknowledging that it does happen but it is not the norm. Our free market system tends to deal with the problem on its own. Expensive boxes full of bad sounding junk tend not to make it long term.

 

I know a lot of people involved in manufacturing and by and large his assertions aren't true. I tried my hand at speaker manufacturing on a small scale and quickly realized the economic realities. Google Breve Audio. Hint - you won't find it. I have lots of brass logos though.

 

"Most" companies, to use his term, have reasonable multipliers that determine their margins. I was offended because I believe he is knowingly misrepresenting most of the industry as being unscrupulous and he is doing it to serve his own interests. For those who have an issue with high end and are convinced that anything above entry level pricing in this type of product isn't worth the money, the solution is simple: Don't buy it.

 

I don't know his products but I totally agree that he has every right to present his case that his products represent great value. Slandering most of an industry is not, in my view, a valid approach.

 

Hey, thanks again for the post. I wasn't going to respond.

 

Best wishes

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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I don't know Ashley or his products, but I'll be looking into them. I pretty much agree with him. Is it a rant? You bet. Opinionated? Aren't we all? Does what he says apply to every manufacturer of high-end audio? I hope not. But there's also nothing in what he says that is not true of many of them.

 

This is the stuff that drove me away from the hobby years ago. It is the stuff that will eventually drive me away again. It's not that I don't like hanging around with you fine people, I really do enjoy the discussion. But I have an objective of getting a computer-based system built for headphone and near field listening, and once that goal is accomplished, I know that hanging around the audiophile community will only fuel desire and discontent, not solely, but largely based on romance, wish fulfillment and purchase justification.

 

And I particularly appreciate Ashley saying out loud what I have believed for years: That, often, audio journalists don't help. It is even worse in the internet age of blogs and user reviews. The few pros out there really owe the hobby a measure of responsibility and objectivity, and it is rarely there. I read a review (pro, not user) online recently in which the reviewer said that a piece of gear (and I believe it was electronic, not even speakers) allowed him to hear beyond the usual bittersweet regret in Tracy Chapman's voice and pick up the subtle trace of hope there.

 

It's no wonder civilians often look at audiophiles as if we have a third eye in our foreheads.

 

Audio reviews are not poetry. They are the evaluation of expensive consumer products, and, in a world full of products that few of us can find locally, to hear for ourselves, people put weight them and sometimes even base purchase decisions upon them.

 

A modicum of reality, much less professional responsibility, might be called for. I have come, sadly, to the point where the only reviews I put any faith in are the ones for the "budget" hifi. When hi-end reviewers uncharacteristically hear something wonderful in a mainstream product at a mainstream price, I figure it must have really had something special to push past their prejudices. When they wax poetic about emotions revealed by circuits and vacuum tubes, attributing artistry to hardware, I only smell kool aid on their breath.

 

Caveat emptor.

 

Tim

 

PS: In pursuit of balance, I'd like to note that it is as unrealistic at the other end, where users post reviews of completely ordinary products, claiming thay are as good, or better than, anything on the market at any price. TF

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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I do have to agree on the reviewer front. When I first got into this business I had a huge shock when I encountered some of the reviewers I had been reading for years. I'm now to the point where I read reviews that pertain to my lines, just so I know what's out there, but that's about it. I have seen gear that I know is really good get a luke warm review and on one occasion a piece that we briefly carried and dropped because of it's mediocre performance received a total rave.

 

It is why I think good dealers are imperative. Not only are reviewers undependable at best, with the online stuff even worse, but there are subjective issues and system/room contexts to consider as well. Most of our products get loaned out over a weekend so that an evaluation can be made by the customer, with his associated gear, in his room without us whispering what he should be hearing. We normally suggest wine rather than Kool Aid, but as always, each to their own tastes. :-)

 

It always helps to remember that reviewers exist to sell magazines. One of our biggest challenges is getting some customers to trust themselves and how they respond to something, regardless of what we, or anyone else, has to say.

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Rick,

I agree if people are willing to pay a lot for a box and a couple of parts, them more power to them. I have heard plenty of expensive stuff that sounds great, and plenty that left me unimpressed. Same on the less expensive side, some stuff is great value and some is about what you would expect. I think it all boils down to having a good dealer that will let people demo gear and offer honest good advice.

 

ADM9.1s ,2.0 Ghz Mac Mini, Panasonic BD-35 blu-ray player.

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"It always helps to remember that reviewers exist to sell magazines. One of our biggest challenges is getting some customers to trust themselves and how they respond to something, regardless of what we, or anyone else, has to say."

 

I applaud you for this attitude. As a vendor, selling one "bad" piece to a customer may mean losing that customer and getting a bad reputation through word of mouth, selling a "good" piece likely means retaining that customer and potentially getting a few new ones through word of mouth. A place like BestBuy probably couldn't care less, but as an independent high-end audio vendor, those considerations are critical. Unfortunately, not all high-end vendors share this attitude. I have seen some that are obviously trying to push equipment from certain brands, irrespective of whether it's a fitting piece or not. I have also seen some who are impeccably impartial.

 

The same applies to review sites and magazines: some seem to be outright sponsored by certain manufacturers to provide good reviews for their equipment, and potentially even bad reviews for equipment from competing brands.

 

That's why an honest vendor is so important. I see one of the most important roles of a vendor to help a customer find out what s/he actually wants in the first place, and then guide them to find the right equipment - very much what you said.

 

It's just a pity that vendors have to assume the role of a filter, preventing 'bad' equipment from reaching the customer (undeniably, there is quite some exorbitantly overpriced stuff out there). It doesn't help that, for a customer, finding a good vendor is as difficult as finding a good car mechanic...

 

Best - MM

 

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Agreed but the box with a couple of part has to sound good, even if I don't understand why it does...

 

 

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Unfortunately not all dealers are the same, just as in any other industry. One of the biggest complaints we hear, especially when talking to an average guy interested in "better" stuff is of encountering arrogance when they walked into a high end store. I think it is a shame because we see it as an opportunity to turn someone on to something that we share a passion for, not as a litmus test for your credit card limit or income.

 

I guess we are kind of filters but in fairnesss, and this is where we got sidetracked before, there are also some really fine, reputable manufacturers out there with great ethics.

 

Nice talking to you MM

 

Rick

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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"but there are subjective issues and system/room contexts to consider as well."

 

This reminds me of a review I saw recently. One that fit my criteria for a high possibility of credibility, by the way -- a relatively inexpensive product that a reviewer known for reviewing very high end equipment found merit in. So I want to believe him. I'm just afraid he really couldn't tell me what he was hearing. There were lots of photos of the room and equipment being used; the systems he was testing were sitting out on hardwood floors, with the speakers in front of a glass wall. No bass traps, no side treatments; a throw rug a few feet in front of the speakers was the closest thing to any kind of reflection control his room in sight. The poor guy's job was to report on the subtle differences between electronic components in a system that was set up in such a way that I doubt he could have heard the speakers wired out of phase.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Yeah, it's scary how much impact the room can have. Some treatment can help but the low frequencies in particular are largely determined by the ratios of the room dimensions and the construction.

 

We had a customer a few years ago who came in and did a lot of listening. He picked out his system; Wilson, Mark Levinson Reference transport/DAC, VTL tube monoblocks, REL sub, expensive cable. He described his room to me and I was concerned. I went out to visit and was even more concerned. I can usually tell a fair amount about a room by listening to my voice. My loan you the piece you are considering policy is difficult when it is a whole system purchase. Because of the amount involved and my serious misgivings about the room, we took this whole $80,000.00 system to his place and let him audition it there. Not good. I have heard systems at one tenth the price sound better. I told him that, in a more tactful way, and suggested he might want to reconsider. I'm sure most would consider me crazy but this was really bad. He decided to move forward anyway. I had done my due diligence and ordered the equipment and we put it in.

 

He was very dissatisifed. I don't know how to describe this but the system just wouldn't couple to, or drive the room. He complained repeatedly about the results and I reminded him that I had advised against it. He then told me that the reason he had ignored my advice was because he had read in a magazine that if your equipment is good enough it will override any acoustic issues your room may have. I realized that my experience and my willingness to give up a big sale was completely discounted just because some "journalist" made a ludicrous statement in a magazine; if it's in print it must be true. The last time I talked to him he was thinking of changing houses to alleviate the problem.

 

In my opinion, doing reviews in a room like you described is almost as irresponsible and virtually meaningless. Yet people will make purchasing decisions based on it.

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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