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StereoFanOregon
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A Question for JA re: ID Manufacturers

JA:
For years you've had a straight-forward policy about reviewing Internet-Direct vendors (actually, not reviewing with few exceptions). As more and more quality manufacturers move to this route, can we expect to see a greater flexing, or all-out change in your policy?

I know from your time at events such as RMAF and Montreal, that you are aware that their are a large number of long time, serious quality small manufacturers who in all honesty, deserve the opportunity to be reviewed.

Many of us will be interested in your thoughts.

Editor
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Re: A Question for JA re: ID Manufacturers


Quote:
JA:
For years you've had a straight-forward policy about reviewing Internet-Direct vendors (actually, not reviewing with few exceptions). As more and more quality manufacturers move to this route, can we expect to see a greater flexing, or all-out change in your policy?

Not as such.


Quote:
I know from your time at events such as RMAF and Montreal, that you are aware that their are a large number of long time, serious quality small manufacturers who in all honesty, deserve the opportunity to be reviewed.

Or not.

I need to be convinced that any such manufacturer who sells direct is a going concern, responsible for a payroll and a balance sheet, who will be there to look after his customers in the long term. Our 5-dealer rule goes a long way to ensuring that that will be the case with a product sold through the traditional retail channel. However, the barrier to entry for a new company selling direct is so low that I am very much more cautious about covering products from such companies. Stereophile is not the place for a "garagiste" selling his first product to get coverage.

If it is bad review, it will stop his company dead in its tracks. But what is not often appreciated is that if it is a good review, it may well also put him out of business. The increased demand for his product will over-stress his production capacity and reveal deficiencies in his pricing. More importantly, it will cause him to go deep into debt to finance inventory. The first bounced check from a customer will put him out of business, leaving his products orphaned.

For example, I recently got an email from a reader who had bought a product from a small company that sells direct but has not been reviewed in Stereophile. He has a problem with the product but the company's website has gone dark and they are not answering their phone. That's the risk you take buying from on-line companies - as the New Yorker cartoon put it, "On the Internet, no-one knows you're a dog."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

StereoFanOregon
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Re: A Question for JA re: ID Manufacturers

JA:
I do appreciate your quick and complete answer. You do have some valid answers, but I also respectfully disagree on a few based on my viewpoint as a hobbyist:

One:
You're promoting the status quo in a time when audio needs to be shaken up if our hobby has any chance stabilizing and possibly even growing again. Having attended RMAF I know of some small companies that have been around at least two decades that build awesome gear. I'd mention their names, but I don't want to be accused of promoting them for personal bias.

Second:
The current model of brick and mortar dealers is sadly dying, as you yourself mentioned in the Montreal video. This will force more and more manufacturers into direct sales. The bad side is the lack of face to face contact with dealers. The good side is that 30 day in home trials will continue to increase. I think we can both agree that the best way to hear new gear is in one's own system.

Third:
It seems to me that much of the best designs are coming from the upstarts. Yes, they could be overwhelmed by new orders, but chances are that people wouldn't mind the wait, knowing that the piece is hand made in someplace other than a mass Chinese factory.

Fourth:
Your independent technical measurements are a help to everyone, both manufacturers and consumers. Considering that you're basically the last source of independent published testing in North American, expanding the review pot can only improve things.

Most respectfully,

tom collins
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Re: A Question for JA re: ID Manufacturers

if i may butt in.... well, i'm going to anyway. it sounds like a great opportunity for a new magazine, maybe webbased? to review those new products. i have seen some people getting their name and products out there by sponsoring sites such as audio asylum. tone magazine(online) seems willing to review newer items not necessarily brick and mortar based. just some thoughts.

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