I could write a full article about the massive Chinese audiophile community, but I won’t go there for the sake of my sanity. Let’s just say they are very enthusiastic about Hi-Fi.
In one point I think most occidental audiophiles agree, the Chinese are very serious about their Hi-Fi and they have the power of numbers on their side.
Those numbers are in fact their biggest strength when it comes to demand accessible high-quality High-Fidelity gear, and Chinese companies are more than happy to deliver the goods usually at the expense of quality and originality.
During the 80’s Japan was in the forefront of everything Hi-Fi and the American and European companies struggled with the fierce Japanese competition.
That came to be because the occidental companies lacked the courage to release new radical products on the market. Sure some companies had great products but their fear to fail on their shareholders crippled their imagination.
Today ironically that very same problem plagues Sony, a company that in the 80’s was the perfect example of a Japanese giant with amazing research and development (R&D), factories, distribution, and marketing.
Japanese Hi-Fi companies like Sony had great quality assurance (QA) when they entered the international markets, mostly because they had very aggressive competition towards them and also because it’s was expensive to send the parts overseas to service the products.
Sure some Japanese companies built factories in the US and Europe but quality was and still is their best weapon to fight competition. That attention to detail and quality still stands today, as “Made in Japan” still means high-quality workmanship, QA and a heavy price tag.
The problem with quality is that you have to pay for it, that premium even if well received by most audiophiles is the weak point of companies that need to uphold their brand name, after all, it would be beyond awful if a batch of Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic headphones failed unexpectedly after 6 months.
When buying a product from an established Hi-Fi company the consumer pays R&D, production, distribution, marketing and of course QA, this is to name a few because it’s a complex subject which I didn’t study too deep.
With all that system in place for the established Hi-Fi makers, it’s normal that Chinese companies are now in a position to actually compete with cheaper prices because:
– They can literally copy designs without legal issues and have the equipment and materials available because most established companies make their stuff in China, thus no R&D.
– Production is cheap for various social-economic reasons I won’t explain here.
– Distribution is supported by the government and various local and international commercial agreements. Chinese companies help each other at least from my point of view, but as in all things, I can be wrong.
– Marketing is not really necessary because word-of-month between enthusiasts is enough, in fact word-of-mouth is so strong it can actually inflate the prices of products praised by the community.
– QA focus on making the product work in a short-term, because after all most of these Chinese companies don’t really worry about servicing their cheap gear, they can always send a replacement unit.
Sure not all Chinese Hi-Fi companies are like the above, but let’s be sincere most of them are and they face no competition besides their own.
Having a massive enthusiast base and small companies that only need to worry on the short term makes China the new audiophile superpower.
The large community gives their opinion about the gear and factories almost in real time adapt to their requests. Very few established companies can actually do that and in my opinion, some of them should actually start taking notes from their Chinese competition.
I still believe Chinese brands will have a hard time competing against established higher priced gear, after a certain price point enthusiasts will bash any company that doesn’t do serious QA on their products, plus legal problems will arise as soon as some companies set up offices outside China.
I must admit it’s a great time to be an audiophile, thanks to the Chinese enthusiasts and companies anyone in the world can enjoy a good song.