Investing

March 16, 2019
 by Paul McGowan

For most of us, our stereo systems are lifelong investments.

We’re not casual buyers of commodities. Instead, we do our research, get advice, study the forums, speak to our friends, go to shows, and work hard at getting up to speed like savvy Wall Street players.

We rarely subscribe to collectives as a monied mutual fund investor might. Instead, we’re more maverick than the herd mentality of consumer audio. For us, the personal choices we make individualize our systems in ways unique to each investment.

And our investments pay off in ways hard to describe to others until they sit down in front of a reference system. Then, the magic of what we’ve crafted reaches deep into the souls of people with heart.

We invest in personal pleasure.

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13 comments on “Investing”

  1. I met a Greek guy yesterday, a spiritual healer according to his business card, who’s recently spent 6 weeks in various religious/ spiritual places in Nepal searching for something, I know not what. Not exactly mainstream, but a very nice guy all the same. I was happy to buy him a coffee, he was short of change and it would seem that the esoteric work of spiritual healing does not pay that well.

    The fact is that most people get what they want at their church, mosque, synagogue or temple, without having to go sit in a cave or on top of a pillar for 40 years.

    I am a great believer in market forces providing the greatest number of people high quality products that provide value for money. That’s what most people want, me included. It is different from the herd mentality, which I associate with unthinking conformism, perhaps best illustrated by Eugene Ionescu in Rhinoceros (about the rise of Fascism in Roumania in the 1930s). The Hifi dealers I’ve used in recent years tell me that most customers are able to make informed consumer decisions and very few go on forums and certainly hardly any go to audio shows.

    We recently saw a superb production Ionescu’s Exit the King (Rhys Ifans at theNational Theatre). I do wonder if that play could be considered as analogous to the high end audio industry.

    I consider this high end “maverick” argument to be self-defeating. The determining factor may simply be money, which is no measure of quality and proves nothing other than the inequity of capitalism. If someone manufactures a product that does the required task as well as any competitor, irrespective of price, and is so affordable that 90% of consumers buy it, does that make those 90% any less audiophile or wrong? I’d happily be one of them.

  2. The freedom and encouragement to discuss the merits and deficits in all manner of audio products makes the PS forum unique. Especially for a forum supported by an audio manufacturer.

    Most manufacturer site forums suffer from what investors label a “herd mentality”. Yes, these forums facilitate the sharing of valuable information, but they mostly restrict discussion to the sponsors products. This serves to also promote consumers believing they have selected best product, by reading comments by others that have made the same choices.

    Thank you Paul for creating this unique forum that attracts an eclectic, eccentric, and independent group of thinkers. That also happen to be audiophiles.

  3. I have been wanting to post this for a while but waiting for a suitable lead from Paul. Today I think I have it. Investing, not from an emotional point of view but financial. I wonder how many people (here) know this story or have even heard of the company. I find it as shocking as it is surprising.

    When trawling the internet you stumble across some high end but lesser known manufacturers. One of these I discovered by chance (or was it luck?) is a French company called Neodio. They have a small range of products, mainly CD players and Amplifers. I was intrigued by the Neodio Origine CD player, it looked different to a lot of other makes, a very clean and pleasing design. I read a number of online reviews which were mostly very positive. In 2016 it retailed through the dealer network at 35,000 Euros. For comparison that’s about £30,000 or $40,000.

    Neodio couldn’t have been happy with the way things were going because in 2017 they decided to virtually eliminate the dealer network and sell direct at a revised price. A few dealers do remain but working to lower margins. Should you now wish to purchase a Neodio Origine CD player direct from the manufacturer the revised price is 15,000 Euros. Yes, that’s right 15,000 Euros, about £13,000 or $17,000. I couldn’t believe it either but a quick check to the website will confirm. You don’t need me to do the maths to appreciate the saving. Let me say now I am not an advocate of this company, neither have I purchased one, but was absolutely staggered at the price reduction. I found it so unbelievable I had to check it a few times. One can imagine how you’d feel if you’d bought at the old price, which goes some way to show what a brave decision it was by Neodio to take this step.

    The point is though, if Neodio can do it why can’t other manufacturers follow suit? Okay, I appreciate it might not work for everyone, but it has the potential to make a huge difference to the investment we make in our hobby. Doing some further trawling I discovered some percentage figures for distributor and retail margins which would indicate that scope is clearly there.

    I have long thought that a lot of high end audio equipment is massively overpriced and this example obviously reinforces that view. I’m not having a go at PS Audio here, it makes me happy that Paul provides this platform for us to openly air our views, but do think the principle could be applied across all manufacturers.

    A couple of asides. Looking at an open lid shot of the aforementioned CD player there doesn’t seem a lot in there even at 15,000 Euros. I mean, how much do these components cost?

    Secondly, I’m back to watches. Some watch manufacturers are now looking towards dismantling their dealer network and selling direct or alternatively selling specific models direct. Sadly though they are not reducing prices accordingly but instead retaining all that extra profit for themselves. I also wonder about the cost of watch components and manufacturer but that’s another story.

    1. >> A couple of asides. Looking at an open lid shot of the aforementioned CD player there doesn’t seem a lot in there even at 15,000 Euros. I mean, how much do these components cost? <<

      I can't speak for the component manufacturers, but sometimes the accessories are grossly overpriced, when we know they are just commonly available items with the manufacturer's logo plastered on them. One prominent turntable manufacturer offered a digital tracking force scale for, I think, $80. Thing is, you could buy the exact same item from Amazon, without their logo, for $15-$20. I don't care what "secret sauce" the company claims their version has, but it's the same plastic molded body, same stamped metal weighing platform, same display…everything. A fancy logo apparently cost $60 or more to print. They have since revised their scale so it does not look like the generics, but I highly doubt it costs them much more to have manufactured for them.

      I also find it hard to believe that a puck of machined brass or aluminum used as a record weight costs what it does, from these manufacturers. I have an idea of what the metals cost and what it costs (in terms of tools and labor) to machine and anodize/powder coat/whatever something, as I've worked in the industrial sector for about 20 years. Electronics have R&D, testing, etc. that they have to go through and recover costs for, not to mention having a support network, but these types of accessories are probably raking in huge profits for the manufacturers selling them.

  4. When is anything a waste of time and money when buying a stereo system if that system moves you
    To a point of satisfaction or will Audioholics never be sadisfied ???
    Sometimes to much info can confused a person about what is good or bad or over priced, only ones budget and ears can decide that . “Just enjoy the music for what it is”

  5. The best investment by far I ever made was in myself. Paying for an education was not expensive in terms of money by today’s standards. The real investment was in the work of learning and then becoming a critical thinker questioning everything I learned using the powerful analytical tools my instructors gave me. The time and effort was worth every second. I’m still learning. I have a very wide range of interests. Two interests I had as a child that I grew out of was pop culture and sports. If they depended on my patronage MacDonalds would be a big night out for them. I’m interested in everything else. Audio and sound is just one of many things for me. I am trying to force myself to listen to one hour of music a day. I haven’t watched television in about two years.

    Money and material things are becoming increasingly less important to me as I grow older. As long as I am comfortable and have enough money to meet my needs I’m happy. To me a life spent pursuing material things and money is a wasted life. How much money can you spend? How many things can you have that you can keep track of? Ideas are what interest me most. Understanding the universe I was born into and how to control it are my passions and investments. I don’t do it for notoriety, I do it for myself. I’ve been far more absorbed by what is being learned in astronomy from instruments in the last few years than I am in audio.

    1. Mark,

      THE WORLD WITHOUT US – Alan Weisman.

      A fantastic read. We have screwed the pooch (world) even if all of us evaporate tomorrow and what is left without us continues on. Our impact on the world is simply too invasive to grasp, but this book does a heck of a good job with it. Education for the taking for sure and frighteningly fascinating.

  6. I guess if you look at higher end audio as an investment then the ROI is for the most part strictly enjoyment. So then the trick then becomes how little cash you can spend for maximum enjoyment.

    There is only one US manufacturer that I am aware of that recently offered owners of their older equipment a trade in value of what they initially paid towards something new. From a monetary stand point a net gain of zero. From a enjoyment point of view stepping up to something new may provide an immeasurable amount of ROI in enjoyment.

  7. Music to me is a form of entertainment and enjoyment. I like to go to life concerts like listening to Renee Fleming and the BSO playing Also Sprach Zarathustra last night in Boston Symphony Hall but I can’t do it so often. The next best thing is to have a decent HiFi system at home that can mimic a performance as well as it can. So investing in good components is a way of getting there. Choosing one’s components and make them work is another enjoyable pastime. I don’t want to use items that are identical to other people as there will not be as fun as to tackle new items unknown to other people. Make the hobby as enjoyable in the way you want. That’s the way to go. Ha, ha.

  8. I recently had an experience that shook my listening world.

    We purchase a second home in Reno Nevada to be next to family, nothing new here. The new home had a living room with a barreled ceiling, a first for me ( 12 feet wide, 16 feet deep and 12 feet at the top of the barreled ceiling ) and totally opened on one side into a dining area.

    That is the setting, since it is a second home I brought some old Klipsch KG4’s from the 70″s, a raspberry pi with a inexpensive dac/ 30 watt amp add on, with Flac music files on a usb drive. Obviously i went way overboard on high end equipment. Now I always enjoyed my old Klipsch Speakers but they would never be accused of being the “Best” by anyone.

    So I get everything hooked up and played some music. Everything was good, a little better than expected. since the KG4″s sat on the floor and the tweeters are about 17 inches below ear level so some adjustment was needed. Based on my High End approach, I got 4 bars of soap each in their own box. These well engineered audio device were slipped under the front of the speaker cabinets to tilt the tweeter to more of an ear level. All I can say the barreled room took over and even my Wife said WOW. She even looked for rear surround speakers as the room was filled with sound.

    The whole point of this writing is that maybe we are looking for high end equipment to make up for rooms which are primarily rectangular boxes. Maybe spending more work on the room, more basic or even generic equipment can sound great.

    Just FYI I just remodeled a dedicated listening room in my primary home. Separate equipment closet, new 20 amp circuits, in wall wiring, all new speakers, subs, etc etc. While my wife approved of the use of the room, but to say the cost of the total project did not set as well. Oh well.

    Which one is better that is tuff to say, which is quite a statement. My wife sees enjoying Reno as it can be shared more than coming into my dedicated listening room at home.

    While way off the above comments, it is still relative to listening enjoyment

  9. Some vintage equipment has gone way up in price used. They are like cult items. Any tube Marantz or McIntosh equipment. Some Acoustic Research and KLH speakers. Empire Turntables. Certain JBL speakers. Tube Fisher and Harman Kardon equipment. It’s hard to say what tomorrow’s collector items you could buy today will be.

    During the time this speaker was marketed it sold for $1800 at its inception and rose to $4000 when it was discontinued.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/EXTREMELY-RARE-JBL-PROTO-D44000-PARAGON-SPEAKER-SYSTEM-World-Wide-Shipping/143106399615?hash=item2151ce5d7f:g:84QAAOSwAOtZzvmy&frcectupt=true

  10. My efforts and good ears have impressed many people who heard my audio systems over the years and I proudly turned them into audiophiles and people who no longer buy Emerson or other generic audio rack systems from Walmart or Sears. I’m amazed at how many people buy those cheap rack systems that have these big floor standing speakers. If you lift one of them up they weigh less then a quality pair of mini monitors. The speaker cabinets are made out of thin Masonite with giant woofers and tiny magnets that have almost a zero throw suspension. Man do those sound like shit. And in many cases they paid more then an entry level audiophile system. Research and knowledge is the key. Nobody even people on a tight budget should have to listen to a terrible sounding audio system.

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