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Ariel Bitran
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Engineering

Yesterday, Stephen Mejias and I were looking at pictures of the Spiral Groove SG1.1 turntable, a fine looking product which currently sells for $25,000 (per our Stereophile 2011 Buyer's Guide). I remarked that a car could be bought at this price point (a 2011 Toyota Camry New with LE trim can currently be purchased at $25,750.00 MSRP). SM's response was the following: "The same degree if not more engineering was put into that turntable than a car at that price point."

Do you agree?
(this question is not necessarily specific to the SG1.1 -- can be applied to any component you feel)

Drtrey3
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I agree

there is information inside a record's groove that is measured in angstroms. Given that it is a physical medium, so much can be done to maximize the retrieval of that info. So turntables, especially high end ones, are close to scientific instruments.

Then there is the economy of scale when a large manufacturer can sell hundreds of thousands of a particular model that makes car manufacturing more economical.

God I love capitalism!

Trey

greenelec
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Hmmm

The car has more engineering, but much of the engineering has been built on 100 years of experience. Consider the engineering that is required to make a tire. Chemicals, mold production, tread design, mounting interface etc. etc. the thing is, most of this has been figured out for years, and the car manufacturer can farm this out to the tire manufacturer. A lot of the engineering involved in a car is farmed out to others.

A turntable on the other hand, even though they have been made for 60-70 years, today is engineered from a blank sheet of paper. It is my view that audio cutting edge equipment is the cutting edge of engineering and design.

I have personally been in the manufacturing facilities of both Boulder Amplifiers and Ball Aerospace (a major builder of sattellites including the mars rovers) and I have seen that Boulder Amplifiers are built to specs that are tighter than those used for sattellites.

So it seems to me, that even though a car is much more complicated than a turntable. It is entirely possible that the turntable could be designed and engineered to a higher level of precision than any of the componets in a car. Except for the internals of the modern internal combustion engine, which is truly some magical engineering.

The answer to your question is, Depends on what you mean, more engineering, engineering to a higher spec, cutting edge? Well the answer is it probably takes more engineers to design a car but the engineer that designes a turntable probably has a lot more fun (challenge).

JIMV
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The engineering idea sort of leaves out the materials idea

If the turntable had 80% of its cost tied up in materials, then one could make the case...Is it does not, the case fails.

Ariel Bitran
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Some clarification
greenelec wrote:

The answer to your question is, Depends on what you mean, more engineering, engineering to a higher spec, cutting edge? Well the answer is it probably takes more engineers to design a car but the engineer that designes a turntable probably has a lot more fun (challenge).

happy to clarify is my question was very broad to begin with

the question has two angles: engineering in relationship to price point-->the amount of work put in to developing a new Camry vs. the amount of work put in to developing a new turntable -- which is a truer price relative the amount of work put into it (regardless of other costs -- if you had to pinpoint the % of total cost that engineering plays into the car/component)

and maybe the question doesnt necessarily have to deal specifically to engineering

could be expanded to costs of engineering AND parts (for now): making a new camry vs. total costs and parts of making a new turntable.

Ariel Bitran
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excellent response
JIMV wrote:

If the turntable had 80% of its cost tied up in materials, then one could make the case...Is it does not, the case fails.

thanks jimv

i'm interested in hearing others opinions as well and if they agree with you.

michaelavorgna
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Relative Scale Models

My guess is Toyota spends more on toilet tissue in one year than any small, closely held hi-fi company spends on R&D. Ever.

Ariel Bitran
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all else equal

ah yes, i now remember the phrase i wished to use comparing purely engineering costs: consider everything else "all else equal"

that aside... (just had to say it)

Quote:

My guess is Toyota spends more on toilet tissue in one year than any small, closely held hi-fi company spends on R&D. Ever.

interesting ML. if we bring Parts into the equation (leaving marketing and production costs as equal)-->what do you think creates a greater % of the price in the car or the component: engineering or parts?

j_j
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Engineering?

Both products depend on hundreds of years of scientific research and engineering experience.

I don't think you can compare the two meaningfully. Cars have to be reliable and able to deal with macroscopic amounts of power. Turntables have to be reliable, but only deal with microscopic amounts of power, BUT they must deal with it very, very carefully (from an engineering POV) in order to get a good result.

I just hope my turntable keeps working. My teac V7 cassette deck just demonstrated to me that it can no longer wind tape on to its takeup reel :(

sigh

Ariel Bitran
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True
j_j wrote:

Both products depend on hundreds of years of scientific research and engineering experience.

true. for the sake of conversation though, the first incarnations of both of these types of items came into existence in the late 1800s

j_j wrote:

Cars have to be reliable and able to deal with macroscopic amounts of power. Turntables have to be reliable, but only deal with microscopic amounts of power, BUT they must deal with it very, very carefully (from an engineering POV) in order to get a good result.

this is a very interesting perspective.

Quote:

I just hope my turntable keeps working. My teac V7 cassette deck just demonstrated to me that it can no longer wind tape on to its takeup reel :(

well u know, there's nothing more reliable than a camry!

michaelavorgna
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What j_j said.

> I don't think you can compare the two meaningfully.

Well put.

Jeff0000
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Engineering

According to Google the average number of parts in a car is anywhere from 1,700 to over 10,000 if you choose to count all the parts that make up the computer control modules. While Google didn't even provide a hint as to how many parts make up the average turntable, it is far far less than the car.
The car wins the engineering question on shear volume. However, if you choose to narrow the question to which is more precisely engineered then the turntable wins without question ... never heard of VPI issuing a mass recall of a model for an engineering issue. Toyota, on the other hand ....
However, I think the best answer is that you really cannot compare the two in any meaningful way.

JIMV
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Remember regulation costs....

The car is regulated to a fare the well and is litigated as well. The turntable has none of those costs.

j_j
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Useless Subject Goes Here
Ariel Bitran wrote:

true. for the sake of conversation though, the first incarnations of both of these types of items came into existence in the late 1800s

Yes, but Helmholtz, Fichte, even to some extent DeCarte and Kant, Popper, d'Alembert (sp?), Euler, Bernoulli, LaGrange, Hooke, Maxwell, etc, all had substantial influence, and laid the basis for what finally was invented. Interestingly, most of their foundation was not applied at the start of the technology.

returnstackerror
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Engineering

I use this simple yardstick.

A family of four cannot die while driving a turntable.

Even the cheapest car has to be able to steer, turn corners and brake perfectly... everytime... year after year.

So to me, NO high priced audio equipment can justify its price when measured by that standard.

Peter

geoffkait
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"...and brake perfectly...everytime..."
returnstackerror wrote:

Even the cheapest car has to be able to steer, turn corners and brake perfectly... everytime... year after year.

Ideally. You might not have noticed all the problems Toyota (you know, maker of the Camry) has been having with Quality Control of things like, uh, brakes. At least 4 million cars have been recalled in the last year alone for fuel leaks, gas pedal problems and related issues.

Cheerio,

Geoff Kait
Macarena Dynamica

returnstackerror
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A red herring comment
geoffkait wrote:
returnstackerror wrote:

Even the cheapest car has to be able to steer, turn corners and brake perfectly... everytime... year after year.

Ideally. You might not have noticed all the problems Toyota (you know, maker of the Camry) has been having with Quality Control of things like, uh, brakes. At least 4 million cars have been recalled in the last year alone for fuel leaks, gas pedal problems and related issues.

Cheerio,

Geoff Kait
Macarena Dynamica

A red herring comment.

But it shows that cars DO need to be safe hence the recalls and despite the FUD around, this no one has died.

And it is not unknown for high end electronics to also need a recall.

Pinback
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just look at it

Super-high-end gear has an artistic as well as mechanical value. Some of these components are pure works of art, and as such demand a premium, as would any other accepted art form.

JIMV
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That depends on how the item

That depends on how the item fares over time. Art is subject to fad...If the $50K box has an artistic value, that value will exist in 50 years...if it doesn't, then the items current 'value' is overstated.

geoffkait
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Eye of the Beholder
JIMV wrote:

That depends on how the item fares over time. Art is subject to fad...If the $50K box has an artistic value, that value will exist in 50 years...if it doesn't, then the items current 'value' is overstated.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3604/3325649121_ea858987f3.jpg

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

JIMV
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Hence the success of the Pet

Hence the success of the Pet Rock

There is a sucker born every minute...to coin a phrase

michaelavorgna
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You are confusing resale value

with artistic value. The latter is purely subjective and independent of cost, while the former is influenced by many factors which are separate and distinct from the actual work.

JIMV
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That sounds a lot like an

That sounds a lot like an excuse to justify ugly as art, or excessive cost with the same

michaelavorgna
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It might if you don't know much about art

or its history.

There have been differences in the perception of beauty over time and between cultures forever.

JIMV
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Yet ugly is forever...

Yet ugly is forever...

Erick Lichte
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Advantage: turntable
Does the Spiral Groove accelerate uncontrollably mid-record? If not, then it is clear to me the turntable has at least as much engineering as a Camry.
michaelavorgna
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Wrong again JIMV.

Once you realize 'beautiful' and 'ugly' are not inherent in the work of art (or anything else for that matter), rather they are traits applied to it and therefore prone to change willy-nilly, you'll see why.

Pinback
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the eye of the beholder

Just because I don't see Art in a Warhol, it doesn't mean it isn't art. Ugly to one person may be Beauty to another, and vice versa. Who am I to judge what another sees (or hears). Let each pay to the extent he/she deems worthy. If it's too much for you, don't buy it.

JIMV
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Not so subjective
michaelavorgna wrote:

Once you realize 'beautiful' and 'ugly' are not inherent in the work of art (or anything else for that matter), rather they are traits applied to it and therefore prone to change willy-nilly, you'll see why.

The change has to stand the test of time. Just like 90% of any generations music is crap, the 10% that remains comes to define the age...Put another way, what folk will pay for a few decades after the 'art' is produced pretty much defines what is art, and what was just pretense.

Ariel Bitran
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art art art art art art art art art

to each person his own in terms of appreciating the quality of art, but in the grand scheme of things, the best art will outlive the lesser art-->by this i mean, that art lies on a spectrum from bad to good, only the best stuff will survive.

to quote my lead singer: "Cat Power is great, but she's no Paul Simon."

JIMV
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Art

That I agree with...the idea that one can justify a super expensive audio item as 'art' and not based on its sound and parts is my only concern...

michaelavorgna
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Experiencing or Investing?

We seem to be conflating these two – experiencing and investing.

I would say that the real value of a work of art lies in the experiencing of it. Unless of course we’re concerned with investing, time and/or money and/or reputation, in which case these other valuations like good and bad come into play.

I’m personally not interested in this type of investing, as I prefer to experience my music and art simply for myself.

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Micro Information
Drtrey3 wrote:

there is information inside a record's groove that is measured in angstroms. ...

Can you give an example or calculation of what information on a vinyl groove is in the angstrom range?

John Atkinson
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Information
absolutepitch wrote:
Drtrey3 wrote:
there is information inside a record's groove that is measured in angstroms. ...
Can you give an example or calculation of what information on a vinyl groove is in the angstrom range?

Consider a recording of a violin playing Middle C at a level 40dB below 5cms/s. It is still recognizable a violin, meaning that the harmonics that give the instrument its character are accurately preserved. Even with the RIAA pre-emphasis, the higher harmonics are going to be be in the sub-micron modulation region.

A general point on the relative costs of the Spiral Groove turntable and the Toyota Camry: the car benefits enormously from the economies of scale. If Camry production was limited to the numbers typical of the turntable, it would probably cost 10x-20x as much.

There are also very different costs of distribution. A car sells for very close to dealer cost, the dealer making his margin on extras like Lo-Jack and service. With the turntable, the sale price is 30-40% higher than dealer cost. So by comparing retail price, you are not comparing like with like.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

BillB
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car wins

- the Camry has to perform all its duties outside while moving over bumpy and smooth roads, in snow, sun, and rain.
The Camry could probably show some more glistening "engineering" work if it was kept in a climate controlled room under a dust cover and did not need to generate its own electrical power from gasoline.

- if forced to choose, I would take 10 Toyota engineers to design me a turntable than 10 Spiral Groove engineers to build me a car.

- oh yeah, the Camry has a stereo in it, but the SG doesn't throw in a bonus car.

BillB
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and also

Slam your Camry one time with a sledgehammer, hard. Everything still works.
With the turntable - there goes your $25K.

BTW, the automotive unintended acceleration is user error (applying the gas when they thought they were pressing the brake). Some may yell about that for a while, but it's true.

michaelavorgna
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Well BillB

I don't have a Camry but my neighbor does so I went over to his house with my sledgehammer, opened his hood and smashed his engine one time, hard. His car no longer starts (and I doubt we'll be getting another Christmas invite).

I also took a pen knife and stuck it in the footer of his Spiral Groove SG1.1 and it still works but when I went back to his Camry, let's just say I hope he has a spare tire. I also brought along an LP and I'll be damned if the Spiral Groove SG1.1 played it perfectly but that other $25,000 piece of junk couldn't.

I'm glad we cleared this mess up.

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Same old argument Car is

Same old argument

Car is $15,000 worth of material sold for $25,000

Turntable is $1,000 worth of material sold for $25,000

As consumers we will continue to get ripped off until we stop buying over priced bling.

michaelavorgna
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"over priced bling" - Now that's funny!

> As consumers we will continue to get ripped off until we stop buying over priced bling.

This "we" you refer to doesn't exist because perceived value is an opinion. Or if you prefer, we do not get to dictate the terms of what constitutes "over priced" for anyone but ourselves. At least not in any meaningful way.

tmsorosk
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How we look at it .

I guess it's all how we look at it , Iv'e purchased many higher end components and never felt ripped off . The long term satisfaction you get is well worth the investment , I can't recall being that satisfied or happy with a car purchase .

paulsax
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Dont think the user can eval

Dont think the user can eval the level of engineering work based on what something looks like or their satisfaction. In this case the level needed is so not even close that its not even same planet. Does not say anything bad or good about either product. BTW 102 pico meters is 1.02 angstroms which is about the atomic radii of many elements/ions. If a record player could measure or resolve this the entire atomic force microscopy world just got the pink slip.

interesting discussion though. hope some marketing types are reading. Or maybe I dont!

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