How do you feel when high-end audio manufacturers use mass-market components as the basis for their own products?

How do you feel when high-end audio manufacturers use mass-market components as the basis for their own products?
I like it because . . .
14% (48 votes)
I don't like it because . . .
78% (274 votes)
I have no idea
9% (31 votes)
Total votes: 353

Recently, there has been a on-line furor over an audio manufacturer having supposedly re-badged another manufacturer's component as its own (with a sweeping price increase). This <A HREF="http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=80790">prac... has been going on for years: Some high-end audio manufacturers have always taken mass-market components and used them as the basis for their own products. How do you feel about this?

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COMMENTS
Doug Bowker's picture

C or, maybe, D: All of the Above. Some times, it appears as nothing but a huge rip-off. Other times, it'd be stupid for a company not to use the millions poured into a high-quality IC chip, or a transport, for instance. But the key is what happens after. If it's substantially improved or added upon—no problem. If it's just a fancy case and a few bells and whistles, I think we are in murky territory.

Don's picture

It may be legal, but it is a dishonest practice. When a customer finds out (and he or she will), the damage done to that company's reputation is great. Far greater than the small short-term monetary gain. "Hot-rodding" a mass-produced product is an entirely different matter, but should still be disclosed to the customer.

Luis Gasca's picture

It is unethical and shameful to take advantage of the market. Then again, if people are not doing research into what they are buying, it too is their fault.

ELM's picture

As long as the consumer is informed, I see no reason for this practice not to continue. The marketplace will decide if the price increases are justified by the performance increases.

Woody Battle's picture

It is difficult for the average consumer to tell if the re-badged component has really been upgraded in any significant way.

Lee's picture

It's unethical. It damages ethical brands who offer a reasonable price for real quality.

Parnelli's picture

This manufacturer did not take a mass-market component and upgrade the electronics, all they did was put it into a billet aluminum box. That's closer to fraud than anything else.

Bubba in SF's picture

Remember when GM had a Cadillac model that was a re-trimmed Chevy Cavalier? Same thing. They will have the same outcome as GM did.

LPSpinner's picture

Do you think that the hi-fi industry is doing anything dodgy? The automotive industry has been doing it for years. Buyers just need to be vigilant and do proper research before parting with their cash.

Dismord's picture

Don't mind in the least if they charge mass-market prices.

James Madore's picture

The Theta laser disc player that was really just a Philips and now the Lexicon that was really an Oppo! Not a changed Oppo, but the low-end version that sold for $600 (!) and selling it in a Halloween costume for $3500! That tells you why high-end audio is dying . . . I'd never buy Lexicon stuff knowing what I know now!

Andrew's picture

It exposes how devious and lazy a manufacturer can be. A significant increase in price should equal a significant increase in performance.

KC Tong's picture

For manufacturers to command high prices, they will have to commit to substantial R&D, not taking over companies and re-badging, ripping off the consumers. This strategy will not get them far and often ends with failure.

gabriel Bernasconi's picture

Most of the time, the result is the same stuff in a sexy looking box—at over 10 times the price.

Eric Shook - Pittsboro, NC's picture

I don't like it because now everyone in high-end audio is suspect of this deception. As we all know, many industries contain no secrets among the manufacturers. BestBuy and Walmart have won new customers today. Just not this one.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.View, CA's picture

It all depends on the facts for a specific situation. Let’s say, a company, who I will call "Basic," comes out with a product that, for the price "Basic" charges, is a totally killer product. Maybe not quite the total cat's meow from an audio/video money-is-no-object status-symbol point of view, but awesome, nonetheless. Some people, maybe even me, may want something better. Of course, on my limited (relatively, compared to people who have golden or platinum, or titanium parachutes and such—hey, give them lead parachutes and push 'em out of their corporate jets—oops, I digress) budget, I'd probably stick with whatever is offered by company "Basic." If some other company offers an upgrade path to get one at or closer to the "cat's meow from an audio/video money-is-no-object point of view," then I say "okay, lets see (and/or hear) what you have to offer." Hey, maybe even company "Basic" itself offers such an upgrade for an amount that does not double the cost of the original unit. Of course, they should tell you what you are getting for your additional outlay of dollars in more than just vague, flowery sales-hype terminology. This is fine with me. You know what you are getting for what you are paying and can make an informed decision. Especially if there are comparative reviews and such. However, let's say another company, lets call them "Spendicon," takes company "Basic’s” product, does some cosmetic changes to the packaging (which may have some arguably beneficial result to the overall result) and maybe does some other changes to, say, for example, the display readout and such and jacks up the price to several times the price asked by "Basic." I say to "Spendicon," show me why I should pay so many times more for your product as opposed to the price asked by "Basic" for their product? Give me specifics, not just generic answers such as "our product has a more natural presentation" or we have a beefier chassis. Hey, maybe a chassis within a chassis. And a really PFAT front panel made out of unobtainum covered in Velveeta. My point is this: I am willing to pay more for a significantly better product, not one that might have incrementally better performance in some areas at a vastly inflated price. So, I say to company "Spendicon," if such a situation and company were to ever, ever, ever, exist and your product is just a repackaging of the original—Get real!

Cihangir Güzey's picture

It is very normal for any product (watch, car, TV, whatever we see in the shops). You take a product, fine-tune it, change some components, add a new brand label, and sell it with a mind-blowing price tag (just consider KI version of Marantz but with much higher price multiplier and different brand name). Such business is just limited with imagination and talent of marketing. Some people (with much more than enough money for living) pay for such brands and feel happy. Some people like to be screwed up for buying such customized products (higher the price tag, happier the person). Not everybody takes hours to research before buying something. (Seeing inside the products, checking the written brands engraved onto PCB's, reading reviews, etc.) Money has to flow from one side to other side. I have never bought any re-badged electronics, but that's just my preference and my very hardly earned money). Maybe reviewers have to handle a screwdriver and discover what is really inside the products.

Lila's picture

Same product with the wrong badge and a price increase? More than the original? It's wrong.

A Milliken's picture

You pay the premium for the expertise of that high-end manufacturer. How many companies are there producing CD players with the same mech/chip with simply an output stage upgrade? It's a rip off!

CrazyIvan's picture

Crooks. Proves once again that ultra-high-end companies prey on "more money than sense" and use custom installers to rip people off with over-priced gear.

John Meyer's picture

This has been going on for a long time in the "high-end." For those who believe that high-end should mean innovative design, higher performance, and engineering value, mass-market cores are a rip-off. But then they are ripping off the prestige market where there is no such thing as paying too much. Of course, the products which use mass-market cores are a generation or two behind the mass market, but do their buyers care? You can call mass-market core products expensive, just don't call them high end. It's this confusion in terms and products which has dealt a black eye to the genuine high end audio industry.

amey01's picture

I feel betrayed. Worse, I feel like an idiot to all those that reckon high-end audio is already a farce. I feel like they've won and I've lost—yes, high end audio is a farce. I've got no problem with mass-market components being the basis of other products, as long as engineering has been applied and the product genuinely sounds better. There is also the matter of disclosure, eg, AH! Njoe Tjoeb CD players are disclosed to be based on Marantz players and it is also disclosed what engineering has been done (valve output stages). This is simply not the case with this certain Blu-ray player which has caused all this furore.

Joao's picture

It's a rip off.

FiveDotOne's picture

This approach will provide better quality, since parts (like optical disc drives) that are produced in large numbers always have better manufactuting quality compared with parts that have been produced in smaller quantities (eg, some terribly bad Xindak SACD players, etc).

Vince Helm's picture

High-end then becomes only a name or a justification for higher prices. I'll pay more, but you had better provide me with better sound.

Russell Hemati's picture

The case this question is about is one where the manufacturer did nothing to improve the original product. When the only thing you add is a front plate and your brand, you dilute the value of that brand. Improving another's product is great. Just re-labeling it isn't just dishonest, it is bad business. The same would be true with other premium items like cars—you have to do more than upgrade body panels.

Max L's picture

The manufacturer has tapped into a mind set that more must equal more.

jeff henning's picture

In a case such as the one stated (Lexicon using a complete Oppo Blu-ray chassis in a new case), it is a rip off. Simply jamming another company's component into a new box and upping the price by 700% can't be considered anything, but that. That's quite different from using a Pioneer optical drive in your Blu-ray or SEAS drivers in your loudspeaker.

Michael T's picture

I realize how much I'm getting ripped off. Kind of like seeing VW parts in a Porsche.

JJP's picture

The folks that shop the extreme high-end may not even know what they are buying. At least a Cadillac has more features than a Chevy.

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