• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

General reliability of big Chinese brands?

I would love to buy a USA made headphone amp, and I looked hard to find one

I worked at one of the largest electronics company in the world; definitely the one with most revenue and money in the bank. People like to trash talk about this company, because its products are expensive and people think it's products are elitist. Reality is that this company's focus is to make products with best user experience and quality; cost is not high priority. The result is that the products are high quality, but also expensive. It doesn't go about thinking that it will make an expensive product and highest margin; and try to make money off consumers. By the way, assembly is done in China.

For manufacturing, I prefer to have the product made offshore (China, Vietnam, or wherever) instead of USA. Today, process control and manufacturing quality are actually higher in Asian manufacturing than US manufacturing. And the cost of manufacturing is cheaper. Yes, lower cost and better results.

The issue is QC acceptance of company that sells the products. When priority is on sale price and cost cutting, QC is basically is secondary to saving money. And the result is inferior products with high defect rate. And unfortunately many new and upcoming Chinese companies tend to fall into this category. Their value proposition is low pricing.

Why does QC affect price? Let's say factory will make 100 units for $10,000. If all 100 units are accepted, the cost is $100 each. If there are 5 units that are rejected, the cost becomes $105 each. If there are 10 units rejected, cost is $111 each. This is just a simple example. But you get the idea. Higher quality standard means tighter tolerances, less units are accepted, and cost increases.

There are engineering methods to improve quality. Thru robust design, tighter process control, improved tolerances, better machines, etc. But these engineering efforts take time and cost resources, which will add to product cost.

So when Chinese companies' focus is to make low cost products, they accept parts with wider tolerances or even known defects. And these products can have higher failure rates.

What is more important to consumer? Is it cheaper product or better product? There is no straight answer. It is likely a balance, somewhere in between. For headphones and audio equipment with low volume, prices are not cheap and is toward premium side (relatively). So we would expect quality product for premium pricing. But when QC issue occur, there is a deviation from expectation.
 
Last edited:
None of those are made in the US except the jotenheim which doesn’t perform well with low impedance headphones like my LCDs.

True but at least there are alternatives if you absolutely don't want Chinese products.

And there are Chinese brands that might be more realible than your usual entry level topping and sabaj etc devices.

Matrix audio for example. Singxer has a pretty good reputation. The more expensive stuff from SMSL and their fancy sub brand.

(I'm for example very happy with my SMSL SP400 and Singxer SA1. )

And like someone mentioned there would be RME and lake people from Germany. Both offer balanced devices.
 
None of the problems I've ever heard of with topping, gustard etc have been typical qc issues, flaky sockets, bad solder joints, failed board level component at time of shipping etc. They've been functional issues with incompatible secondary devices, software etc that's a different issue, though still a none working unit as far as the end user is concerned.

Features, not failures.
 
I needed a linear power supply for my Matrix X-S/PIDIF 2 DDC. The other forums were suggesting brands and models in excess of $400. I have a real thorn in my side with audiophiles who think because it cost more, it must be better. I found a Chinese LPS on eBay for under $100 and took a chance. I threw it up on my spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope to check for noise, distortion and other transients. My tests were near perfect and nothing that would affect audio. My only concern is the quality of the Chinese components and their longevity. I saved myself over $300.
 
The Van Alstine Transcendence RB 10 preamp has a headphone output. It didn't damage my headphones, but I use it as a preamp into a power amp. Can only say it sounds excellent.
 
I needed a linear power supply for my Matrix X-S/PIDIF 2 DDC. The other forums were suggesting brands and models in excess of $400. I have a real thorn in my side with audiophiles who think because it cost more, it must be better. I found a Chinese LPS on eBay for under $100 and took a chance. I threw it up on my spectrum analyzer and oscilloscope to check for noise, distortion and other transients. My tests were near perfect and nothing that would affect audio. My only concern is the quality of the Chinese components and their longevity. I saved myself over $300.
Longevity is a big concern for me. If I am in the studio 40+ hours per week that means the headphone amp is going to be on that long as well, which is a lot more than I imagine an average consumer will have it on. It worries me when the average consumer says it died on them in 2 months. What is that for me… a week or two? And if it breaks what am I supposed to do when I need to continue working? Reliability is worth a LOT of extra money to me.
 
Longevity is a big concern for me. If I am in the studio 40+ hours per week that means the headphone amp is going to be on that long as well, which is a lot more than I imagine an average consumer will have it on. It worries me when the average consumer says it died on them in 2 months. What is that for me… a week or two? And if it breaks what am I supposed to do when I need to continue working? Reliability is worth a LOT of extra money to me.

Then get something from RME that is intended to be used that much.
 
Longevity is a big concern for me. If I am in the studio 40+ hours per week that means the headphone amp is going to be on that long as well, which is a lot more than I imagine an average consumer will have it on. It worries me when the average consumer says it died on them in 2 months. What is that for me… a week or two? And if it breaks what am I supposed to do when I need to continue working? Reliability is worth a LOT of extra money to me.
you answered your question. Buy something that is known for reliability and great support service.
 
I prefer to have the product made offshore
Sounds like Apple. In any case, there are social variables, too. When investment and production jobs flow to low-wage countries, the U.S., European, and Japanese workers have a big problem. QC does not make up for that. And, the huge underclass of Chinese assembly line workers, sweatshop workers, delivery workers, and day laborers has a problem, too.
 
Sounds like Apple. In any case, there are social variables, too. When investment and production jobs flow to low-wage countries, the U.S., European, and Japanese workers have a big problem. QC does not make up for that. And, the huge underclass of Chinese assembly line workers, sweatshop workers, delivery workers, and day laborers has a problem, too.

Quite true. The social and economic issues will play out more in subsequent years when the U.S. becomes the world's No 2 economy and a Communist nation ascends to No. 1. Taiwan will be a litmus test, as Ukraine currently is. People vote with their wallets, but at some point non-economic factors begin to creep into that decision making.
 
when they import something into the EU, it has be compliant with EU regulations and directives
 
Back
Top Bottom