Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I hate audiphiles

This could be sub-titled "Why I quit the audio business". Written a few years back, when I was sorta still in the audio business. Some of you will point out that I never really was in the audio business, just some of you others thought that I was.

Or better yet, "What the 'eff was I thinking when I caved in and started selling PCBs to you damn DIYers."

Or "Yet one more reason not to quit your day job and start an audio company."

I get tons of mail most every day. It seems to be split, almost equally into 3 categories.

1.) Inquiries about my products. Usually from guys that I have nothing in common with.

2.) DIYers asking which op-amp, cap, o/s filter, etc., to this circuit works........."if you had to make one of these, how would you do it?".......that sort of stuff.

3.) Discussing "bidnis". Anything from "Do you have any.....blah, blah.....Digi-key is out of stock and I need some now" to "Have you seen this new .....blah, blah.......from....blah, blah, looks like it might be good for......more blah and blah....." to "I'm thinking of starting my own audio company, and I know you will say not to but........blah, blah and yet more blah".

OK, this is the last one I want to talk about. And how it relates to topic #1.

This is for all you technical types. Not necessarily for the DIYers who want to start a "bidnis", but you may want to read it anyway.

Do you know what the hardest obstacle guys like us have to deal with?

No, not the magazines that only review $60K turntables, and the same ol' gold-plated turd products from the same ol' con artists that spend tons of money on advertising.........

Not PITA companies like Toshiba who decide, "Hey, why the hell are we still making these damn parts? Stop now." Yep, they make life tough.

Not all the other obvious in decline, aging demographics, CE stickers, RoHS crap, etc........

Nope. The biggest problem is the guys who are buying our stuff are NOTHING like us.

Most of the enquiries always have some nonsense like "My music is very important to me. I have to connect with it emotionally. If I can not connect with it, I am not fulfilled. I feel hollow and naked, and my present system just does not have the magic that I thought it once had" in the first few sentences.'...........break, will ya'?

You know why guys like us build our own stereo system?

Because we can.

Yeah, it has to sound good. That is why we love to futz with it. But first and foremost, we build. Then we futz. If there is time left, we listen. We listen because we can take pride in what we have done. Knowing that we can do just as good (if not better!) than the Big Boys and all their stinking marketing weenies and cost accountants that strip the performance out so much commercial gear.

Not because "we connect with it". Hell, if we want to "connect", we play paintball, join some asinine drum circle, fly RC model planes powered by rubber bands, or any number of other equally pointless waste of time activities that shut our brains down.

(Me? I watch South Park, and root for Cartman when he yells "Screw you, hippies!" or "I hate hippies. They smell bad and have no money. Gawd, I hate 'em." I know.....some of you are going "Hey, you live in Texas. Jimbo has to be your favorite." Nope, haven't had to shoot anything since I was booted out of the Army. Some of you should be thankful for that............)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah.....audiophiles.............bunch of aging hippie.......uh, getting sidetracked again........

I don't know about you guys, but when I build something, I want something that I can listen to for hours on end. Something that I can listen to without wanting to get a rifle and shoot all the hippies afterwards. That is first. Next is performance. Yeah, we are nerds, we listen to see how good we can recreate bad recordings. But any of us ever talk about how it effects our emotions? How it has "magic"?

HELL NO! We are nerds, not dorks. But that is where the problem is.

We think that because we can design and build some kick-ass gear that we can sell it.

Yeah, we can.......if our customers thought the way we did.

Oh, but wait..........the guys who think like us are building their own, and have the same idea to sell it as we do.

So that leaves us with guys who can't build their own, and think, after 25+ years of dealing with them, I still don't know what the hell they think. Not sure they do either.

The bottom line is that we think one way, and the target consumer thinks something totally different. If you think that just because your gear sounds good to you and all your buddies, that it will sell, well, guess what.

Surprise! What sounds good to them isn't always the same thing. Trying to sell stuff based just on what you think is going to be tough. You are going to need someone working with you that can relate to your customers.

This is the big reason that solo engineer, or small group of engineers, companies don't make it in the high-end world.

I know......some of you are going: "Jocko, the reason that companies like yours or Phred's struggle is because you are........uh.........uh.......are challenged, in a personality sense."

Well, duh................duh! That has nothing to do with it. Some of the most successful companies around have people that are as despicable as can be imagined. Yet, they succeed because, as despicable as they are, they are not technical. And as such, can play into what audiophiles want.

Well, getting close to bean time, but one more thing to add:

Audiophiles are very insecure. They don't buy stuff that necessarily sounds good, but sounds like it should sound good. They need reviews, not to tell them if something is really good or not. They read them so that they know when they listen to it, what it is supposed to sound like. If the reviewer says it says it sounds this way or that, then, dammit! that is what they will hear. Even if it doesn't.

Yeah, Emperor's Clothes Syndrome.

Don't believe me??? Just go read the forums these guys hang out in. Tripping over each other to pat each other on the back with all of their cronies that are in their camp, and flaming the guys who think something else. Coming up with silly concepts like "PRAT" to describe something. (All of you back in the UK, gloss over that last part. At least for now.)

Yeah, I know......we do similar stuff. Arguing '5534 vs OPA627 vs AD whatever the hell it is makes the best I/V..............24-bit o/s vs the non-o/s crowd. The DIYers proclaiming their latest step backwards is an improvement and us engineer types telling then to get their heads out of their..................

Now it really is bean time!

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