Magazine article Gramophone

There Are Still Hi-Fi Discoveries to Be Made: One of the Joys of Hi-Fi Is Finding Something New and Exciting, and There Are Plenty of Manufacturers Seeking a Wider Market-And You, as Their Potential Next Customer

Magazine article Gramophone

There Are Still Hi-Fi Discoveries to Be Made: One of the Joys of Hi-Fi Is Finding Something New and Exciting, and There Are Plenty of Manufacturers Seeking a Wider Market-And You, as Their Potential Next Customer

Article excerpt

You'd have thought by now that just about every hi-fi brand in the world would be familiar, but there remain companies famous in some territories but almost unknown elsewhere. Talk to people at some overseas audio events and you occasionally discover this unexpected hi-fi 'language barrier' when you discuss what you use at home, or what you've heard. What's well known in one part of the world, and both acclaimed by critics and users and widely stocked by retailers, may be completely undiscovered outside its 'home territories'.

A couple of things came together to bring that thought to mind while working on this month's audio section. First, I realised that the two products under consideration were from (coincidentally German) manufacturers likely to be unknown to most readers, AVM and Sonoro; and second, I was beginning to receive information and press releases for the annual High End Society show in Munich. Coverage of that show, which has now established itself not just as a major European event but as arguably the world's most important specialist audio event, will follow next month, but it set me thinking of all the brands one encounters at such exhibitions but which aren't more widely distributed.

Speakers are a prime example. Just about every country seems to have a raft of local speaker companies, some of them making some very--umm striking models unlikely ever to see the light of day in the wider world. In that case, it's not hard to see why: the costs of shipping a huge and heavy pair of speakers halfway around the world are such that what may be high-end in its country of origin ends up as impossibly expensive by the time it's been transported to, and then taxed and distributed in, a foreign location.

Yes, of course there are speakers made in one part of the world and sold in another--after all, many of the speakers sold in the UK are actually made in China or somewhere similar--but the economics only stacks up when one is either shipping the products in thousands, or even better tens of thousands of pairs, or selling a premium product in sufficient volume to fill containers, not ship as individual items.

As an aside, I was reminded that the hi-fi industry is pretty small-scale (in global terms) by a conversation I had with an acquaintance in a different industry whose boss was pressuring him to speed up a shipment from another part of the world, and who had to explain patiently that theirs wasn't the only container on the ship and that the ship wasn't sailing directly from the suppliers to their warehouse door. When you are shipping just one container among the many on a ship--and modern ships can carry anything up to almost 20,000 'twenty-foot equivalent units', which is how these things are measured, meaning each standard 40ft container is two TEUs--then you have to wait until that ship goes to a major port, probably in a different country, to land the bulk of its load, which is then sorted and redistributed by smaller vessels. …

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