Specs

June 6, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When we begin a new product we start with a spec sheet that details our expectations for the product’s performance: a list of features and functions, projected costs, etc.

Think of it as a wish list.

From there we knuckle down and begin the process of actually designing all the bits and bobs that make it a real product. That’s an easy year to year and a half including all the many trips to the listening room and back to the design bench.

And, at the end of that entire process, we place the unit on the measurement desk and write yet another spec sheet.

This time, the spec sheet reflects what we actually wound up with and it is this that you see when you go to a product page and look for the specs.

Hopeful specs vs. actual specs.

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14 comments on “Specs”

  1. The modern way seems to be to design a driver, a circuit, a software package – the intellectual property that is the USP of not just one product, but a range of products, reducing the R&D per product, which can then be upgraded over time. Some companies partially or almost completely reinvent themselves, as Linn did with streaming and Class D about 15 years ago and Naim did with Uniti more recently. It seems you really need a vision about how people want to listen to music.

    I just read Frank Doris commenting on a product at Axpona called Devialet Dione, a $2,400 soundbar. He loved it and he said it seemed to be very popular, one of the hits of the show attracting a young crowd. The irony is that Devialet did a cheaper soundbar in the UK with Sky, the largest satellite provider (5m+ customers), cost about $600 and it was a total failure. To me the idea of a $2,400 soundbar is a little crazy, but what do I know? Apparently it’s packed with technology and sounds great.

    The majority of my listening is through speaker/lights, sound amazing (the pedigree is B&W and Vivid) and are even more packed with streaming technology, including Roon Ready. The development team has massive experience in design and all the tech, but it still took 5 years and something like $6m+ to bring the product to market. Someone, somewhere sat down with a spec sheet and wrote down multi-room hifi quality sound, world class lighting, motion detection, heat and smoke detection, voice control, 1minute installation, completely wireless and the size of a jam jar – and under $500. So I suspect there are spec sheets and spec sheets. It just depends on your vision.

    1. Interesting about that cheaper soundbar being such a failure. One wonders why? Lack of advertising. A perception that, at the price it couldn’t be very good against the established market leaders, or maybe it wasn’t very good. A real irony would be if the newer model were just the cheaper one repackaged with a higher price tag.

      1. I think the one that failed was made by Sky, licensing Devialet technology, and it probably wasn’t good enough or different enough to generate interest. Sometimes maybe you have to aim higher, by Sky customers are probably more earthbound (irony intended). The new one Frank saw is apparently a serious piece of kit. Plus, where most people see the future online, Devialet is touchy-feely retail, with almost 2,000 outlets worldwide.

  2. Specs vs actual specs vs how it actually ends up sounding.
    My only ‘wish-list’ is that it (whatever ‘it’ ends up being)
    ends up sounding better than it measures 😉

    1. These days you seem to have to really screw up for something to measure badly, and for bad measurements that are actually audibly bad you probably have to try quite hard. The only constant on my personal spec sheet is Roon, everything in my house is Roon Ready, I think I’m up to 11 zones. Personally, there is a lot of the same around and there probably always has been, the thing missing from my life is a streamer (Roon Ready) that can make a good double expresso.

      1. I can’t remember exactly which component, PS Audio phono or PS Audio
        DAC, measured poorly by ASR standards, & yet, apparently, sounds brilliant.
        Everyone knows my view on measurements, after production, by now.

        Joe Root: 115 not out; good for him.
        Did you make it to Lords on the weekend?

        1. ASR seems to have a vendetta on PSA, I think because ASR hates power products. I think they trashed the DSD DAC on measurements a long time ago, not that anyone cares. The Stellar Phono was very well reviewed in the UK. I once bought something based on ASR that cost $79, about $1 for every day before it broke, but it sounded fine during its short life. My view on measurements has always been that they are for engineers to use to make good products people listen to, set their feet tapping, and want to buy.

          Was abroad during the 1st Test, came back Sunday a.m., could have gone along for the finish but was whacko.

    1. Rich,

      A Specsavers ‘still’ ad was a photo taken from behind a very sexy girl in a skimpy see-
      through negligee looking into a large dressing table mirror whilst applying her make-up.
      If you look hard enough at said photo you can just see her (transsexual) ‘appendage’
      barely visible between her legs.
      And at the bottom of the photo is printed:- ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’

  3. Speaking from twenty plus years of experience doing product development I can tell you that Paul’s one paragraph description of how product development happens is a very simplified and sanitized version of what really happens. First, you fall behind schedule in the first month, then there are budget overruns, next key people leave for all kinds of reasons including “I’m having a baby” and finally a VP who doesn’t know his rear end from a hole in the ground decides that when the development is 2/3 done that instead of doing A,B and C we are going to do A,B and D. This description was valid pre-pandemic and before the supply chain issues that have followed. I sure things are worse today!

  4. Even though there is no longer any secret to designing great sounding audio components it’s amazing how so many eff up their product. Do they not know how to voice or tweak their products? Must have to do with poor fine tuning and cheap parts in critical areas. Bad parts that don’t test to spec need to be ejected into the garbage bin. Every part must be tested not just blindly trusted and installed. Solder joints must be verified in quality. Cold solder can ruin the sound. You can have the best musical instrument in the world but if it’s not properly tuned it’s not going to live up to it’s potential. Every component needs time on the bench. Quality control is important as well as good design engineering.

  5. I believe this article was mislabeled – it should read: “Speculation and Expectations: From Dating To Marriage”

    When we begin a new relationship we start with a spec sheet that details our expectations for the person’s performance: a list of features and functions, projected costs, etc.

    Think of it as a wish list.

    From there we knuckle down and begin the process of actually enduring all the bits and bobs that make it a real relationship. That’s an easy year to year and a half including all the many trips to the counselor’s room and back to the designer apartment.

    And, at the end of that entire process, we place the relationship on the measurement desk and write yet another expectation sheet.

    This time, the spec sheet reflects what we actually wound up with and it is this that you see when you go to the living room and look for your keys.

    Hopeful specs vs. actual specs.

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