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ARSCLIST  December 2006

ARSCLIST December 2006

Subject:

Re: Clarifying the MAM-A gold comment

From:

"Steven C. Barr(x)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 12 Dec 2006 01:00:43 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (116 lines)

see end...
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mike Richter" <[log in to unmask]>
> Steven C. Barr(x) wrote:
> > ----- Original Message ----- 
> > From: "Mike Richter" <[log in to unmask]>
> >> Soon after, the company folded. They could not compete on price with
> >> schlock from the Orient; they could not compete on reputation with the
> >> high-end product. I fear that without supplement, the wanderings of
> >> Mitsui/MAM gold will continue until a cliff is encountered and quality
> >> audio media vanish.
> >>
> > IF the "free market" works the way it is supposed to in theory (and note
> > that I make my comment as a NON-fan of it...!) there should be the following
> > result:
> >
> > 1) There presumably exists (must, for this to happen) a body of users
> > (aka "demographic") to whom quality is of sufficient importance to
> > reduce the importance of price.
> >
> > 2) Given the truth of (1) above, there will arise a manufacturer who
> > specializes in making available discs of consistently very high quality
> > and predicted life span...in order to sell them at a higher price to
> > the above-defined demographic.
> >
> > There are any number of products where there exists a minority demographic
> > who demand and require a higher quality and/or dependability than does the
> > average consumer thereof. In almost all cases, there arises a supplier who
> > can fill that/those need(s). What can happen, though, is that the general
> > public start purchasing these "high-end brands" based on their anecdotal
> > repuation; in many cases, the increased production leads to a decrease
> > in quality!
> >
> > I have a personal example here. Among my posessions is a c.1946 E.H. Scott
> > 800-B radio (the last model designed under the supervision of Mr. Scott).
> > These sets were intended to be as close to perfect as a commercially-sold
> > radio could be, and "hang the cost!" Mine has 24 tubes, chrome-plated
> > chassis, a 15" coaxial dual-driver speaker, a solid-mahogany cabinet
> > (veneered with decorative mahogany as well!) and cost over $1,500 at
> > a time when a new Chevrolet cost $1,200.
> >
> > I don't know the history involved, but not too long after the 800-B was
> > introduced, E.H. Scott left his firm and it was sold to other owners,
> > who tried to use the name to market ordinary high-end sets and quickly
> > went under...
>
> I hope we're not belaboring this subject, but at the risk of that, let
> me add some notes.
>
> Your first point is well taken, which is why I suggested medical media,
> where quality and longevity are mandated by the process and, in some
> cases, by law.
>
> The second is less clear. If the market is not large enough to support
> reasonable cost - say ten times that of standard product - then there
> may well be no manufacturer. There was a time when RCA would press a
> custom disc if the customer had the high but standard price; that day is
> long gone, presumably because that price with all its overhead was
> excessive.
>
> Your radio example is valid. Presumably, Scott built the 800-B as a
> proof of principle and as a personal indulgence. My guess is that its
> $1500 price did not mean profit for the company. At that price, there
> would have been too few purchasers to do great harm to the company.
>
> But the CD-R manufacturer of whom I wrote was more comparable with a
> Haffler trying to work in a high-production environment. You can make a
> radio or a preamp by hand, but it takes massive capital investment to
> make CD-Rs. In fact, it takes ever more investment as the quality target
> rises regardless of how many units are sold. And there is another factor
> for the newcomer to the quality market: proof. You can prove many of the
> virtues of your Scott 800-B by listening and by measurement. But how
> does one prove the longevity of a CD-R? And how are claims made credible
> versus such established champions: T-Y and MAM?
>
> Perhaps lining up with the few users of quality in quantity we will be
> able still to find archival media in several years. But the archival
> market alone is unlikely (IMHO) to suffice.
>
Well, E. H. Scott survived, building radios of much higher than average
quality, from c. 1929 to 1946-47. Whether he was making a profit...or
for that matter whether he CARED if he was...I can't speak to.

In any case, the first step is to unite the archival market (and any
other fragmental demographics that not only want but REQUIRE near-
perfection along with maximal "lifespan."). What is needed is that
market be both easily identifiable and easily accessible.

The second step is to forget about brands that USED TO BE good! This
"automatic" market will dwindle as the brands' loss of quality becomes
more apparent (i.e. postwar Packards, for one case).

But...this high-quality-based demographic will need to be ready to
buy the discs built (and, one assumes, tested) to their specifications...
regardless of the price (within reason, of course). Since the makers
won't have "economies of scale," the prices will be quite a bit higher
than even "brand-name" discs of minimal (or unpredictable) quality.

That's why that NYC restaurant can sell a $35 truffle-trimmed hamburger,
while McDonalds can sell its $1.29 by-the-gazillions fast food burger
a few blocks away. In fact, in this day and age the dollar-each error-
free-eternal discs may sell in a few cases BECAUSE of their high price...
that way our non-archivist Joe Gabroni can brag, "Of course I use those
ytterbium-coated blanks, even if they cost a buck...I'm willing to
pay for high quality!" (and bragging rights...)

I'm sure there are other cases where professional whatevers choose to
use a higher-quality tool or product which has a general-public
equivalent sold at a fraction of that price...but lacks durability,
dependability or both compared to the expensive for-the-pros goods...

To rephrase an old cliche..."If you build it REALLY well, a few of
them will come..."

Steven C. Barr

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