The Portuguese headphone scene.

siddharth-bhogra-143322What you’ll read next is my view about the headphone scene in Portugal, it’s a incomplete and somewhat subjective opinion, so please keep that in mind when reading.

Portugal like all countries in Europe has a massive smartphone user base, it would be expected that most Portugueses would care at least a little about the sound quality of their headphones but sadly that’s not the case.
Sure there are some headphone related subtopics in the biggest Portuguese online forums, but for most part consumers are more than happy with the stock options the companies provide with their smartphones.
I can actually know who reads reviews and who uses stock headphones just looking at what they use daily. I find it sad because at least 95% of the people I watch on my daily commute use average stock earbuds and the other 5% are enough people to grow the hobby but are dispersed on foreign sites.

Luckily the Portuguese audiophile magazine “Audio e Cinema em Casa” actually reviews High-End headphones so in a way the landscape is not a barren desert for the audiophile hobbyists. We love headphones just like foreign enthusiasts but there isn’t a dedicated Portuguese community to talk about the subject.
Brasil in that point is way ahead of Portugal, mostly because of Leonardo Drummond work on his reference site and forum “Mind The Headphone“, so at least there is a place on the other side of the Atlantic ocean to ask advice and help in Portuguese. I should also note there are some Brazilian facebook groups related to the topic who on their own right help both communities. Sadly it’s not really possible to share hardware with the guys/gals so far away.

The Portuguese headphone scene lacks a connecting hub, I’m sure if all Portuguese enthusiasts joined ranks we would at least share headphones locally and help each other like other communities do with so much success. After all the best way to know a headphone is to hear it first hand.
That community hub needs to be built soon or the headphone enthusiasts in Portugal will be missing a lot. Just look at the meets and greets on the US and it’s apparent their communities share more knowledge and thus have even more in return from their hobby.

Some will point out that I write in English and do little to help the Portuguese headphone community, they are probably right because I write for my own selfish reasons, this is after all a personal blog. Plus I don’t have enough skills or money to review headphones on a regular basis but hope someone does enter the rabbit hole and follows that path after reading my opinion.

Assembled or made in Portugal.

I really love Portugal, after all I was born and raised here so that nostalgic patriotic feeling did rub on me, especially from my father who was in the military during the 70′s. So I’m biased when I say, most stuff made in Portugal is of good quality.
The list is not amazing but if you want cork or leather goods, wines, hats, clothes and some typical rugs, my country excels in those areas. We had some pretty amazing heavy industry but due to economic changes around the world and in Europe they all sunk (pun intended…some will get it)

These days Portugal is mainly a services country so it’s normal that many companies around the world use our small factories to assemble things, because Portugal it’s one of the cheapest places to do so in Europe and also because the work force is often very professional about their duty, taking pride in what they assemble. Companies like Camel Active, Leica, gun makers, shoe makers, bag and even car companies assemble things around here and they also often take pride in their Portuguese factories and work force, something you can’t do with sweat shops in Asia for example.

Assembled in Portugal often means parts come from very low wage factories in Asia, sadly some Portuguese companies are now using the “Made in Portugal” stamp to promote shitty electronics made in China but assembled and packaged in Portugal, and when I say assembled it’s more like OS configured and that’s about it. I’m strongly against this practice because such products are not made or assembled in Portugal, they are not even designed in Portugal! The are re-packaged in Portugal and I think this practice should be strongly regulated by the European and Portuguese law.

So next time you buy electronics “Made in Portugal” you might need to check if the parts don’t come from a very low wage countries made by under skilled workers.

A little side note about China and other low wage countries, like I said in the past, their work force is really necessary but I’m against underpaid workers and sweat shops. Some pretty amazing stuff is made in China and they have amazing engineers. People should be paid for their work doesn’t matter if they are Portuguese or Chinese a fair wage is necessary.

The Portuguese crisis of dedicated portable audio players.

The big stores in Portugal don’t have much choice if you want a dedicated portable audio player.
Ok, you got the typical Apple products, some stuff from Sony and Philips and a lot of white brands on the shelves! It sucks hard because the stores have tons of cheap stuff and a lot of expensive gear but very little in between!

Ok, smartphones might be an alternative to dedicated audio players in that price range but a all-in-one smartphone will rarely win over a dedicated audio player in terms of battery and sound quality.

It would be nice to have some mid-price range to choose from, because even today my Sony PSP is still one of the best mid-price multimedia players on sale and the thing is a bulky portable console for God Sake!

Is it hard for a store to stock up gear from the Sony Walkman range, Philips, Creative and other respectable audio brands? Is there no market to mid-priced audio gear?
The smartphone market gave a mighty push to the sales of headphones so there is hope that some users will cross over to the dedicated audio players, let’s hope there is more on sale in the future than there is today.

The failure of digital radio in Portugal.

 

Digital Audio Broadcasting or DAB started transmitting on my country in
August of 1998 during the World Expo98, millions were spent on a
broadcasting network that was built to be a failure like so many future
projects of my country.

What was the official reason for the failure, even with more than half country covered by the service?
Officially, there were no DAB listeners in Portugal!
Millions were spent on a network that had little or no use for the
population, so why do I have the feeling my taxes money got spent in
bullshit once again!?
I believe there were some listeners but the price of the receivers was very high for the typical consumer, most people didn’t jump to DAB because of that and the absence of information about this new service.

Now I’m glad I don’t have a DAB receiver because it would be an
expensive but useless tech brick.
The now silent DAB receivers can make company to the Magalhães portable computer for schools, another failed project but at least this last one failed because it was ahead of its time, but that’s another story.

Ultra-expensive gear and normal wage.

I live in Portugal, a country in the economic tail of Europe, my monthly pay is about 750€ after all discounts, it’s not bad if you think about the minimum wage they pay here.
That brings me to the fact that most consumer audio websites and magazines make me uncomfortable with my bank account.
Maybe it’s because they only review the most expensive gear around or maybe it’s the casual mentioning of a price tag that makes me wonder if it’s common sense buying two 250K amplifier mono blocks with the final price of half a million dollars.
Why do most consumer audio magazines have a fetish about ultra-expensive stuff?

Bias, especially if the medium advertises the reviewed gear or brand, it’s a way of having good relations with the brand that pays the monthly bills or lends gear for the reference system of the reviewer.

The upgrade syndrome, because most audiophiles always search for the best sound and reviewing ultra-expensive stuff is like showing food to a hungry man.
Most of them will never be happy with their gear and will always search for a better one.
This goes full circle and feeds of itself, editors need to release what their audience wants or the competition will do it first.

 

So how can one solve the uncomfortable feeling of being a normal person with a normal wage in a world of ultra-expensive gear?

Don’t buy magazines that only review expensive stuff, show the finger to the editor and say “I want affordable audio gear reviewed more often or I’ll cancel my subscription”.

Be a critic of ultra-expensive gear, always with good humor and respect for the reviewer and medium, if they are not amused, you might have a case of serious bias virus. Bias virus is a dangerous thing, please run against the wind to avoid the smell of bullshit.

Start a blog or website, you have the right to give an opinion about your hobby but beware of trolls and cable discussions. Try to be professional and don’t bash specific brands because some can be a bit too aggressive with lawsuits.

Read articles and reviews made for audio professionals, usually they review affordable gear and have less bias because pros smell bullshit miles away. You won’t see audiophile or even some consumer brands on these mediums, but it’s a great way to learn about audio tech without the bullshit.

Understand what you need in a Hi-Fi system and your available budget for it, think real based on your wage, and don’t fuck your bank account because you want those 100K loudspeakers.
Your audiophile friend might have the money to buy ultra-expensive stuff, but you should not compare his budget with yours because you’ll never enjoy your system that way.

Always enjoy good music, if you got the chance hear as many systems as you possible can with your own favorite songs, buy the music you enjoy the most and hear it with friends that also enjoy music.