I've always found it odd that many audio mfg's. offer signature models. Why not simply give us the best they can do and be done with it? As a mfg., it is less expensive to purchase in quantities, therefore the cost savings could be passed along to the consumer. The final result is a win; win situation.
I think the issue is that the really high end part of this hobby has less sales. All the high end mfgs would love to sell more, but the reality is many will not ante up for the "sig" model.
It is one reason the "mod" industry is going great guns these day. Buy a good piece of audio and then at some point find a mod house that can do the work at a price you can afford. Many offer differing levels of modification so it is basically an ala cart service for audio improvement. This makes mucho sense to me.
A Unico integraged amp is a very good piece and can me modded to take it up a full notch. Many will be happy with it stock out of the box and be content tube rolling for subtle sonic changes. Jolida, Music Hall, Marantz and some Sony CD/SACD players as well also fit this model. The modding industry for cheap DVD players is very active.
The companies that do in-house mods are just trying to keep more money in house which I think is just smart on their part. What I like about companies like Ayre is that when they offer an upgrade old owners can jump in and improve their product. This show character on the companies part and respect for their loyal customer base. This is great PR. Look at all the upgrades BAT is offering.
The question is does the non-sig unit worthy of ownership and can it be upgraded later? Many non-sig pieces may be better than someone elses top of the line. To not buy it because it is not a "signature" model may be a mistake.
As always...He who pays decides.
I think it also depends on the timing of release. Sometimes something learned during the development of a newer flagship product ends up trickling down into what becomes the improved version of an existing lower tiered piece of gear (resulting in a signature version of that lower end product.)
I suspect it also has to do with price. With some items, such as power supplies and laser-cut capacitors, the incremental cost of the best precludes it in favor of the adequate. Sometimes price point is an issue -- and sometimes better costs more. And sometimes, not.
I read the feedbacks and appreciated the insights. What triggered my original diatribe was reading an ad for the VPI signature tonearm with special wiring. Now, mind you, this is absolutely not picking on VPI (which I really like); but my feeling of, "why not put this special wiring in all the tonearms if it's so much better?" With the volume of product they deal with, the extra cost would be far less overall and everyone would win. They would be giving their customers the best they could at the time, and the price is whatever it needs to be.
I know there's a bunch of gapping holes in this argument, but I'm venting here.
I can see your point.
"Signature" versions can seem to send a message that says, "Really, I can do better than that crap version I'm selling for less."
It can hit an audiophile in the old "pride of ownership" part of the groin, I guess.
Like owning a V-6 Mustang or only getting the 32 ounce Big Gulp.
I can relate to owning the second from the top of the line, but owning the "regular" version of a piece of gear that has a "signature" version...well, that's just a little insulting.
Even the name, "Signature," seems to imply that it's meant to exclude the hoi polloi of Hi-Fi.
"Yeah, you can buy this piece of crap, but if you really want to see how I intended for it to sound, you'll kick in the extra green for the version that I actually endorse. Hence, my "signature."
Just tell them that when they stop doing that, only then will they get a "signature" version of one of your checks.
As long as we're talking pet peeves, one of mine is "limited edition" Hi-Fi gear. As if electronics are like grape vines, and only so many cases can be produced.
Hey! It's electronics! Even freakin' Doritos can always "make some more!"
Hi-Fi is not the place to trot out that "exclusivity" bullshit when it comes to production numbers. Save that crap for Beanie Babies and the Franklin Mint.
McIntosh and Musical Fidelity play that game, probably others. Hi-Fi is NOT about "Hurry! Get it now! Limited Edition!"
What utter foolishness.
Can you imagine, calling McIntosh and saying, "Hey, I hear you have a new 5,000 dollar product that sounds good. I'd like to buy one," and they say, "Sorry, limited edition, collectors' model and all. Sold out"
I feel strongly enough that it lead me to shun their gear.
Maybe they are trying to pry money out of the Barbie collecting Hi-Fi crowd, the ones who still go to Holiday Inn on the first Sunday of each month and buy "original" Dali lithographs.
I think maybe I'll start making numbered copies of my sales receipts and send signed, limited, copies to McIntosh and Mu-Fi whenever I spend my money elsewhere.
Disclaimer: The above is a dramatization. Mu-Fi and Mac don't effect my life in any way meaningfully enough to actually make me care what they do.
This post was to portraying my feelings accurately as the X-10D is to musical accuracy.
The cost of upgrading a VPI Scoutmaster with JMW 9 arm to the Signature version is about 700 bucks. It's an upgrade I'd like to make, and eventually will, but, I understand offering the 2 different products at their respective price points. We're talking about spending close to a grand, which is not something everyone might be willing or able to drop in one shot. Think about it this way. You find a CD player that's 500 dollars and another for 1200; I suspect you might view the two as being at two more obviously different price points than the VPI and its Signature version, even though we're still talking about the same 700 dollars.
Weren't the MF products with the little Nuvistor tubes truly limited because the supply of the tubes was finite NOS? Don't companies also need to legally stock 7 years worth of replacement parts to service the gear that's out there, even though they might end up out of business?
I agree that there are certainly some products that are made limited editions purely for the sake of creating scarcity artificially... there used to be more valid reasons for limited editions, usually related to the degradation of quality of the product due to the manufacturing process (think lithograph stones or etching plates wearing away with each print pulled.)
Your comments regarding valid reasons for limited editions are, to my knowlege, right on the money, Jeff. When MF ran out of tubes and could get no more, they had no choice. Shure stopped producing their top line MM cartridge because all their remaining materials were needed to meet the requirement for a supply of the replacement styli. Such practical reasons are, however, not very likely to support righteous indignation which appears to have become a popular indoor activity.
I didn't mean to try and start a pity party.
That Nuvistor thing, I'll give 'em.
Shure never claimed the V-15 line was a special limited collectors edition, as far as I can recall, did they?
I'm just dubious about some of these Hi-Fi companies going the route of Precious Moments figurines.
Besides, this is "Pet Peeves!"
You can't begrudge my pet peeve. It's a rule.
Is it not the case with Musical Fidelity that they chose to limit production so that remaining tubes would still be available down the road and their customer would not be left with non-working ie obsolete gear? With all the tube manufactuers going great guns as it seems, I do not see why the Nuvista should or could not be made in some fashion. Maybe there is more to this story.
Unknowingly it may be that some potential customers have not bought MF gear for that fear even though the gear is all well thought of, might be left inoperable due to no tubes. The recent past fear of no black-gates was striking fear in many mod houses until the problems rectified.
I am not surprised that Musical Fidelity has not come out with products that use more standard tube fare, then like the Eico amp in the current issue, someone could be talking about a full restoration of a 30-40 year old MF hybrid amp that would have flat freq response and none of the other issues JA found.
Whether you buy a "Signature" model or not there will always be someone willing to mod it for you and "improve?" it and make you feel better. It is the dark side of this hobby that makes the vegetable drink commerical ring so true: "Man, I could of had a V8"!
Very funny response Buddha. See, audio can be fun. My point to the others should have clarified that it wouldn't cost $700+ to update the tonearm with "better" wiring if this is all that they used. The mfg. would receive quantity discounts; less inventory; no special printed boxes (one size fits all); etc.
Maybe we should bring out a signature edition of our TheOverboard and charge extra. Afterall, ink's expensive
Since we're getting off on a tangent; possibly a greater concern of buying limited editions is whether the company will even be around in a few years. Think of all the high end audio companies that have disappeared, and the customer is left with no replacement parts/service. One really wants to support small business, but it's kind of scary.
Jeff: One more thing, completely off the subject; your "caricature" bio drawing is fabulous. Very talented.
Regards Shure, I was merely providing what I think is a specific example illustrating Jeff's reference to the requirement to provide replacement parts after and item or a company is no longer around. Sorry I did'nt make that clear.
I just don't see the problem. When I replaced the stock cable on my HD 600's with the Cardas cable designed for them, their sound was noticeably improved. The cost of that cable was significant compared with the cost of the headphones but I had the headphones for some time before I incurred the cost of the cable. Cheapskate that I am, I might not have purchased the headphones in the first place at the combined cost. Should I have complained if Sennheiser had offered the combination as a Signature Edition ? Should I complain that outfits like Headroom offer the equivalent of the old Sears Roebuck good, better, best? What is the difference between a Signature edition and a Headroom Max upgrade? You pays your money and you takes your choice. Theoretically one might point to the "get em while they last element" of Limited editions, but can anyone here point to the circumstance where he sought to buy someones signature edition and was told " Sorry, they're all gone?" I'll bet not.
I believe the headphone cable replacement is a completely different issue. This is a buying decision based on two different companies. Cardas feels their cable will improve the Sennheiser cans, so good for them. Sennheiser, to the best of my knowledge, isn't offering two models (one with crap wiring and one without). Long live the companies that want to improve on something that is good to begin with. What would our hobby be without them. Also, good for Headphone.com for offering these choices.
TheOverboard/Jim(?) - Thanks for the compliment.
I understand your thoughts on factoring in bulk costs to possibly provide an improved product from the get go at a lower price, but, what if the changes came about from things that were learned working on something after that product was released? How long is a fair amount of time before introducing the improvements without it feeling like a ripoff? In a case like the VPI JMW-9 tonearm, the model existed about 3 or 4 years before the Signature upgrade was released. Besides the Nordost rewiring, the new version of the tonearm has provisions for damping fluid and a mechanical anti-skate. This seems like a reasonable amount of time for the evolution of a product to occur. Is 700 dollars too much? I don't know how to answer that. Could this upgrade be cheaper? Probably. At least, we have options. It seems to me that the Scout and JMW-9 were developed at a specific price point. Some tweaking went on by doubling the plinth and it seems higher than expected performance was garnered. This ended up raising the question of how much better could this product be improved? I kind of think the sonic potential was stumbled upon and VPI ran with it. Would calling it a 9.1 be easier to swallow?
If we sat around waiting for the "ultimate" version of anything, we might still be listening to crystal radios.
You have a very valid point there OB, however, in the world of high end audio there are many very fine companies who do not take the use of the words "Signature Edition" lightly.
Jeff Wong pointed out how VPI offers an upgrade to their JMW 9 tonearm to the Signature version for about 700 bucks. I suspect this has to do with the fact that VPI does not feel that the entire tonearm needs to be redesigned but just upgraded, thus VPI does not engage in the merry-go-round of needless annual new product introductions.
I own a pair of Vandersteen Model 3A Signature speakers. The Signatures are an updated version of the Model 3A, which was itself an update to the Model 3. The Model 3A Signature has proven to be so popular that Vandersteen stopped making the Model 3A and now just sells the Signature. Again, another example of a manufacturer who does not go in for the new year/new model game.
As far as limited editions go, if something is going to be called a limited edition then it had better truly be one. Sticking a "Limited Edition" emblem on a unit does not make it such, limiting the number of units manufactured does. Here again the world of high end audio provides another good example. Sim Audio produced limited edition visions of their P-5 preamp and W-5 power amp. Both models were issued in limited production runs and once sold out they would no longer be available. Contrast that to the Limited Edition Chrysler PT Cruiser, which I suspect Chrysler will just keep rolling off the assembly line for as long as someone is willing to paid for it.
The Vandersteen solution is perfectly acceptable to me; basically what I was trying to get across all along. No wonder Vandersteen is always ahead of the game, and why everyone should support him. Like I said earlier, VPI is another excellent company, and one who could easily adopt this example on their tonearms.
This forum topic has been extremely informative and fun. Thanks all.
On a related note, I have a knack for buying components just before a new and improved version is released. When I purchased a Creek 4240, the 4240SE came out right after. Once I outfitted the last component in my system with PS Audio xStream Statement power cords after using ESP Essence cords for years, I received literature from ESP announcing their Reference versions of cords, and within months, PS Audio released their SC versions of the xStream Statements. After I bought a Grace 901, the m902 came out. I mustn't forget the VPI JMW-9 and Signature version. It does get rather frustrating.
I'm with ya, Jeff!
Only I take the companies down with me:
Bought a PS Audio Lambda transposrt, then one week later came the switch to Lambda II. Got the upgrade, then they went under.
Bought an Audio Alchemy DTI Pro and a nice Straightwire AES EBU connect, then shortly thereafter they went to the DTI Pro 32 - without an AES EBU input. Decided to bite the bullet and run them in series.
Bought the Audio Alchemy DDE 3.0, then the whole company went down.
Apogee Studio Grands...Bam!...out of business.
Superphon Revelation II preamp...Pow!...out of business.
I used to think I should extort money from Hi-Fi manufacturers by threatening to buy their gear if they didn't pay me off.
Tellingly, I can have the same chilling effect on stocks I buy, so my wife does all our saving and I ask her not to jinx it by telling me.
Buddha: I really enjoy your sense of humor. I can relate as well (on all counts), hence the start of this particular subject.
Jeff: Do me a favor and replace your expanding head pic with one of your incredible drawings. Everyone needs to see your artwork; as well as your prose.
I have a GREAT IDEA....I'll sign anything you want. DUP Signiture series. the signiture raises it to the next level. I'll use "audio grade" GREEN INK sharpies. Line up, I'll be signing down at Radio Shack, if you are the 100th person in line, ya know what ya get? ... To stand in front of the 101st!!!!
I originally bought one of the first pairs of Vandersteen Model 3's.
When a driver started going out, 10 years later, I inquired about repair/upgrade. I was told that the obvious thing to do was upgrade to 3A, since all the drivers would be replaced at the factory in any case.
I was also told that the Signature 3A was different in that the crossover components were selected to closer tolerances by actual bench measurements, and that the drivers were more closely matched by actual testing and listening to insure a very closely matched pair of speakers. The extra cost was to reflect the extra labor involved.
Seemed like a reasonable approach to me. Perhaps they are now specifying closer tolerances to their suppliers on all of these components and so all units are considered to be Signature quality.
At what age did the driver start going out, what do you consider to young to go out on their own? 14, 15? Enquiring parents want to know.