The Fifth Element #59 Please Clue Us In

Sidebar: Please Clue Us In

It has become a pet peeve of mine that too many audio manufacturers don't seem to make any effort at all to explain the rhyme and reason of their product lines. I think that if a manufacturer has two different speaker models that cost exactly the same or several different digital players that appear roughly or at least somewhat similar, everyone, including the manufacturer and dealers, stand to benefit if the manufacturer's website and sales literature make some effort at explaining why. My guess is that many companies don't offer an explanation because the real reason they offer a given product is that their competitors have a product at that price slot, and they think they should, too.

The explanation need not be elaborate. "This is our entry-level line, this is our solid-value line, and this is our highest-performing line, which we make without regard to cost." Steinway dealers sell not only American Steinways made on Long Island, but also instruments built in Japan and Korea to Steinway's designs and specifications, and imported by Steinway. No secret handshake required. Why are so many audio manufacturers so secretive?

This problem is only compounded when manufacturers coyly refuse to post their US suggested retail prices on their websites. If a company makes three amplifiers costing $2500, $5000, and $10,000, I can probably figure out that one is the entry level, the next is the value leader, and the last is cost-no-object. But without prices, who knows which is which? The 30W amp could be $10,000, the 50W amp could be $5000, and the 100W amp could be $2500. Please clue us in.—John Marks