Discussion in 'SBAF Blogs' started by baldr, Dec 15, 2016.
Thank you for that bit of info, as it had nothing to do with the thread. Rando in truth.
In his Schiit Happened book, my co-founder recently chronicled our experience and some conclusions with respect to the manufacture and distribution of electronic components in this country, I must provide some additional information from some different viewpoints. Jason likened the component makers to pharmaceutical makers. Fair enough. It is just that the pharma makers depend upon health insurance companies, as do the component makers lie with distributors to form rackets.
Rackets? Is that not harsh? Part and parcel of the rackets are a lack of documented pricing anywhere, except some greatly inflated price reserved for the non-insured nor those buyers of components not registered to the distributor.
At smaller quantities, there are distributors such as Mouser and Digi-Key which feature pricing designed for smaller companies which is distinctly unfavorable to pricing available in other parts of the world. We found out early on that we had to shop for parts internationally to get pricing which allows us to scale up and favorably compete with other international makers.
The distributor model of electronic component sales includes free technical help in design. Given that audio is not a huge money maker for the distributors, audio help typically consists of the least sophisticated design help possible. Since sigma delta designs are proper to unsophisticates, this is exactly the sort of design help which a distributor will provide to otherwise lame audio companies.
Neither Schiit, nor Theta Digital in its time needed any such “help”. Twenty five years ago, when Theta Digital was thriving, the manufacturers of components were willing to take mid-sized companies direct, Theta had did direct business with Burr-Brown and Motorola. Those days are gone.
Start an electronic mfg. company today and you will need to deal with Digikey, Mouser, and Newark. When you get to the point where you need parts for thousands and thousands of affordable products, you will be directed to a larger distributor such as Arrow or Avnet who will give you no price until they are satisfied who you are, what you are doing, and how many parts you really will need, in their estimation. Then and only then will you get a quote. Maybe.
I went through a neck upgrade surgery 2.0 just about a year ago and was sent for a MRI. Just for shits and giggles, I called Tower Imaging and asked them how much it was going to be. What came back was who was my insurance company, what was their coverage, how much of my deductible had I used, etc., etc. I kept politely asking how much was a cervical MRI without contrast and whether they were in the business of providing a given service at a given price. Up and up I went in supervisor levels until I got my answer – they intended to bill my insurance company $4785. What they did not answer was how much they would accept.
The elephants in the room are rackets: Component Manufacturers in bed with Distributors and the Medical/Pharma in bed with Insurance Companies. Just as there are no uniform medical prices, there are also no uniform electronic component pricing. The only reason I am hopeful for change in our industry is there is far less regulation present than in medicine.
In EU we have the RoHS directive keeping hobbyists from going commercial. I'd say that's the main reason why here the audio electronics market has a dead zone between kitchen radio grade crap and golden knobbed sheikh-fi.
This is what surprises me the most. You know there's a racket going on when a company is willing to turn down large amounts of cash.
Your Asian subsidiary idea is probably the right direction though. In the long run, you'll end up saving a lot of money on most of your components that way.
..or one could stick one's face in a hornet's nest.
Don't do it. The Airport Express line is famous for some of the worst S/PDIF in consumer electronics. It's bad enough to light the "buy better gear" light on large Schiit DACs, which even motherboard S/PDIF doesn't usually manage.
I guess I can't say I'm surprised, non the less, this thread's been an excellent read. It's been great to hear some of your thoughts @baldr
What baffles me though is during my short time interning with a few loca sound Engineers, I came to understand they operate entirely within the Apple Eco System... I hadn't even realized what challenges I might face if I ever decide to start down that path. Having to switch to Apple, I'd most likely go with a MacBook... and possible have to find a digital output that works well
The definitive Moffat appraisal of the "glitch" concerns:
I see @baldr hasn't received any followup questions on that.
One day, Mike's going to have a Malcom Tucker moment...
That's a hell of a way to start the day! I think ol' Malcolm is a little pissed off....damn funny!
Oh, dear lord, how do I "watch" a thread.....
Hahahahahahaha. He basically said fuck off and buy a competitors' product. I love Mike.
On the top right of this thread (on the same line as the Pages), there's a link that says "Watch Thread".
Unless I'm mistaken, posting in a thread automatically makes you watch that thread
This is a recent post by @baldr over at Head-Fi. Im'ma include it in full as it's a good read:
Spoiler: baldr's head-fi post
I should have fun writing this, which is the first installment of how the Manhattan Project’s prehistory, although until a couple of years ago, I had NO idea a MP would ever exist. I am listening to analog this evening as I write on my homebrew TT, which I recently have come to realize is better than any of my storebought ones, even all the way up to my Well-Tempered and Oracle. Pain in the ass – I have to get up every 20-30 min or so. Anyway, here we go.
1967-it was a very good year, except I was drafted into the phuckin’ Army. I had just arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia for Advanced Infantry training. I was looking around for some other pickers to play Bluegrass. Trouble was, the Army was home to some really, really weird people, like those who otherwise would be wandering around in bus stations at midnight – and not just people who thought Banjo players from California were Communist folksingers. We were all newly arrived and it had not dawned on us that several of us would not be around a few months later. So we played music and drank. I had my Gibson Mastertone Banjo which I bought for $465 a few months before, when I was still sure that I would evade the draft and finish college on my terms. There were a number of very talented musicians around, and not a few of them quirky. The first guy I ran into was a mandolin picker named Phil who looked like a football defensive linesman. He excelled at playing mandolin, drinking, and fighting (most of the time in that order) and stood 6 and a half feet tall by the same width with about 1% body fat. He got there a bit late when they handed out brains, and he either liked you or wanted to kill you. He liked me because I drank almost as much as he did, and played real bluegrass, not Communist stuff. He had a high tenor voice which sounded as odd coming out of him as he looked playing that tiny mandolin. Damn, he could play it, though. It was ratty and beat-up and looked like Phil had used it frequently as a headbashing weapon in his frequent fights.
Ralph was another drunk whose guitar playing and lead singing ability thankfully exceed his desire to fight. Fortunately, Phil liked him. Everybody except me could sing and harmonize. We were picking in the barracks one night and this skinny little kid who looked like he didn’t yet shave mentioned that we needed a bass player. This was the type of guy that the sergeants would yell at and do anything they could to get them to quit the Army so he wouldn’t do stupid schiit and die, or worse yet take others with them. This kid was about 5 foot 2, 120 pounds, and just happened to have a string bass that was about a foot taller than he was. He was a great bass player and could sing his ass off, although he didn’t fit in because he didn’t drink. Phil liked him because he could play bass and help us find our way around when we were too drunk to. His name was also Phil but we called him Pee Wee. (There were no snowflakes in the Army back then.) Everybody except me could sing and harmonize -- we practiced when we could and Pee Wee found out about a Banjo and Fiddle contest up at Stone Mountain. We went, qualified for the second string stage and a hell of a good time was had by all!
At least that was what I thought before I was exposed to all of the banjos and instruments at Stone Mountain. My brand new Mastertone Banjo (the one I had to save for months and months to buy) sounded not so much like ass, but more dull and non-lifelike than the pre WW2 Mastertones at the festival, which sold for the low thousands of dollars in 1967 bucks. Phil had a 1926 Gibson F-5 Mandolin which also killed all of the newer F-5's as well. I already knew the newer D-28 and D-18 Martin guitars sucked compared to the older ones. The wood has to age, I thought. Wait a minute, I considered years later and promptly dismissed; Mastertone banjos have many metal parts, as well as a tone ring which is supposed to ring like a bell.
Anyway, shortly after that, big Phil got sent to Viet Nam and broke up our little group. The impending uh-oh was getting louder. All of my questions had to wait, while I was doing my own time in Vietnam. I sent my Banjo back to my parents, and then when I got back from the Nam, distracted myself with life for a few years in South America. Twenty years would pass before I would pick up my Banjo again and take another step towards the Manhattan Project that I had no idea was in my future.
I did a bit of research. I guess we have figured that the Manhattan project was something to do with temperament, but I think the following seals the deal. I found on the website of Sullivan Banjo an article about their attempts to replicate the renowned prewar Gibson banjos. The whole thing is here and is again a great read. But I quote the following segment (emphasis mine):
Spoiler: Sullivan Banjo quote
Moving on up the banjo we now started focusing on the neck. This is the part of the banjo that most players have very strong opinions about. When we began this phase of the project the first thing we did was to get actual dimensions from as many true pre-war 5-string Gibson banjos as we could. Our neck profile is based on the dimensions we obtained from these rare necks. Each neck we made in the initial phase was expertly hand shaped to duplicate these old necks and after many necks, we finally produced what we felt was the perfect blend of pre-war shape and function coupled with today’s technology. We also found an anomaly in the fret scale of the old original necks. These old necks do not have a fret scale that is based on a geometric progression but rather is more closely related to that of a tempered scale. The math doesn’t work out, but the neck sure plays true.
So I was reading the Schiit Yggdrasil Stereophile Review Measurements thread with a CA thread linked:
Aside from the very high noise to signal ratio over there at CA, there was a thread within a thread lamenting the lack of a volume control on Schiit Dacs. I comment here, so as not to derail that thread.
Back over thirty years ago, I offered the very first (that I know of) HiFi DAC called the the Theta DSPre. It was a DAC with a volume control and another high level input. I built my first run of 100 units. Sales were slow, and everyone requested DACs without volume controls. So I took out the volume control, input and called it the DSPro. They sold and sold again. It turns out my DSPre idea was a wet dream. Couldn't move them with bran. Ten years later, when I sold Theta, we still had some DSPre metal in stock, even though we were up to Gen V DSPros by then. Who gets hurt by bad ideas? Of course, the maker, but very much the customer as the multiple SKUs and inefficiencies which cause delays and higher prices.
So what are the lessons?
1. In the long run customers will tell me which ideas are truly great. If in doubt, ask them.
2. This is true except when (and these instances are rare) when a bored mainstream and high-end audio press almost universally write and blog about "revolutionary" new formats such as 8 track cartridges, Quadraphonic records, mini discs, DAT, DVD Audio, DSD, and of course MQA. Over the years, a gallery of better bad mummified ideas in audio reproduction has been created, with DSD almost there (smelling bad but not quite yet desiccated) and MQA currently on the waiting list. Easy to do - even though I knew better, I took a run at DSD with the original Loki. It is very difficult against the crowd, but it took almost two years to rid of the Lokis.
Depends on the idea, really. I think it was the guy behind Sony who said that customers will never truly know what's possible so it's up to the entrepreneur to dream up the future and deliver it. Also consumers sometimes don't know what they need and even if they do, they won't know how to properly express it.
As for a "knob vs no knob", run a survey and control the results by respondent inclination to actually buy something from you.
I think this is entirely true. The trap many fall into is asking the customer for the ideas, rather than whether or not your ideas are any good.
Funny thing, though, that volume knob. I recently bought one of the last Metrum Musettes because the replacement Amethyst has a volume knob. I'll have to upgrade my Musette to the DAC TWO modules, which will end up costing me about the same as an Amethyst, so I can't really blame it on cost. We humans are indeed odd creatures....
I just like that Mike and Jason let us peek behind their Brain Curtain every now and then. Not many manufactures do that. That's what I love about these guys!
Funny about the volume knob. I'm sure many Schiit SYS units have been put in service as a volume knob for a Schiit DAC. Mine certainly is.
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