Don Lindich’s Sound Advice: Smaller companies can produce some audio gems


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Ques­tion: You touched on big­ger com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing bet­ter value than some small, high-end com­pa­nies. What are some photo and au­dio prod­ucts from smaller com­pa­nies that out­per­form more ex­pen­sive, big­ger brands?

DONALD CARL

Plantation, Fla.

Answer: This is much more prevalent in au­dio than with pho­tog­ra­phy. With pho­tog­ra­phy, it is easy to put two pho­to­graphs next to each other on a ta­ble or on a mon­i­tor and even an un­trained ob­server can see dif­fer­ences. This makes it very hard to fool some­one.

When com­par­ing au­dio gear, it is easy to rig a demon­stra­tion. For ex­am­ple, if you play back the same mu­sic with just one more deci­bel of vol­ume, it will sound “bet­ter,” though the vol­ume change is usu­ally in­dis­tin­guish­able as a change in loud­ness to the lis­tener. The lis­tener will hear more de­tail be­cause it is very slightly louder and thinks it sounds “bet­ter.”

This tac­tic has been used to sell a lot of ex­pen­sive speaker wire. Lots of com­pa­nies (Bose es­pe­cially) have demo set-­ups in stores where you can only lis­ten to their spe­cially pre­pared demo ma­terial. If you re­ally want to test some­thing, bring your own mu­sic and mov­ies and check it out with ma­terial you like and are fa­mil­iar with.

The first ex­am­ple of a small brand dom­i­nat­ing a big brand is in head­phones.

I re­cently raved about how great the $79 Grado SR60e head­phones are and how much I en­joy lis­ten­ing to them. They have true au­dio­phile sound that is rich, nat­u­ral and de­tailed. I much pre­fer them to any of the Beats head­phones I have tried — even the very ex­pen­sive mod­els sell­ing for $300.

I know I am not unique in this opin­ion and if you seek out the opin­ion of au­dio­philes like my­self you will find they agree with me. Head-fi.org mem­ber JBAn­dra­delIV ex­pressed it very well in say­ing, “the Beats are worth around $30-$50 at most, with like $300 worth of ad­ver­tis­ing poured into them. The Gra­dos are phe­nom­e­nal.”

You can read the head-fi.org thread at: http://​tinyurl.com/​gra­dobeats.

Grado doesn’t have the big-money mar­ket­ing power or flashy im­age of the Beats brand, so they are not as well known and don’t sell as many head­phones de­spite hav­ing a far su­pe­rior prod­uct at a much lower price. Grado head­phones are made in the U.S., and this very ded­i­cated, fam­ily-owned com­pany is wor­thy of your sup­port. Visit www.gra­dolabs.com.

I don't mean to sin­gle out Beats here, but its “The Pill” Blu­e­tooth speaker is the next ex­am­ple that came read­ily to mind as a per­fect ex­am­ple. The orig­i­nal, small Cam­bridge SoundWorks OontZ speaker put the Pill to shame with its much bet­ter sound, while sell­ing for about one-fourth the price. The Cam­bridge SoundWorks OontZ XL cur­rently sells for around half the price of The Pill, and com­par­ing the two is like com­par­ing a stick of dy­na­mite (OontZ XL) to a lady fin­ger fire­cracker (Pill).

You can see OontZ speak­ers at www.the­oontz.com.

In the com­ing weeks I will try to list more ex­am­ples of prod­ucts that should be more suc­cess­ful than they are, some true gems of the elec­tron­ics world that en­thu­si­asts know about but many in the gen­eral pub­lic do not.


Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.

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