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The Chinese fallacy

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Fluffy

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#1
I'm sure you all heard at least one time about an audiophile complaining about some relatively cheap product that it's "Chinese garbage". Usually when asked why they say it, they proceed to mumble something about how China is flooding the market with cheap stuff and that they don't care how things sound and everything they make is a pale copy of some other quality product.

As all countries, I suppose it's reasonable to expect that Chinese manufacturers will produce a range of products, some cheap knock-offs and some high quality and well-engineered. Is there an actual reason to assume that if something is Chinese than it's probably lower in quality? Of if something is cheap it was made in china?
 

restorer-john

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#2
Is there an actual reason to assume that if something is Chinese than it's probably lower in quality? Of if something is cheap it was made in china?
The quality of everything out of China (except fireworks) has been traditionally pretty much the lowest quality and cheapest price you could find. But that situation is rapidly changing and has been for a number of decades. They can produce anything they want, from state of the art, to disposable electronics. It's all about picking the wheat from the chaff as a buyer.

We've all had absolute junk items from China and some people never let that go- they tell everyone all Chinese products are junk because of a few experiences where they bought a $29 circular saw or a $29 DVD player and it exploded in short order. It was their own fault for being too cheap.

There will always be a market for the lowest priced item that does a job, and China has been filling that gap with more success than anyone ever before, but don't expect it to continue- wages are rising, living standards and education with it, and other countries (India/Vietnam etc) are stepping into the low cost breach to fill the gap.

As for Chinese HiFi, I see nothing I want in my system. I don't like the single board, lazy designs. I don't like the cheap extruded casework, tacky knobs, poor ergonomics and lack of real features. I have no interest in the latest D/A converter shoved in a box at the lowest price. But others love the fact they can play in the audiophile playground on a discounted entry ticket while convincing themselves they are getting phenomenal "bang for their buck". Good luck to them I say. :)
 

GrimSurfer

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#3
China has the workforce and industrial base to meet the needs of any audio manufacturer. Many nations do.

The issue is whether a company puts in place the processes necessary for a good product.

When the motive is profiting from a cheap workforce and lax environmental laws, the answer is usually "no". When the motive is maintaining a long held reputation and managing costs to the company and consumer, you don't see outsourcing as much as you do the establishment of company facilities and a very robust, full time, in house quality control regime.

Readers can decide on which motive they believe drive most audio manufacturers.
 

Mtbf

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#4
One can ask the question whether it is sensible to always go for the lowest prices. Remember for instance the CD rewritables that couldn’t be read after only a few years? Going for the lowest prices nowadays gives us again and again polluted medicines, because all the production is tranferred to China and no one else in the world is producing the necessary raw materials for these medicines anymore. Not to mention that this complete dependency of the western world could be used (and already has been used) for economic warfare in times of conflicts. You get what you pay for. If one wants to keep this industry alive (and keep employment) one has to be willing to pay a fair price for products.
 

GrimSurfer

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#5
Just as one has to charge a fair price.
 

restorer-john

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#6
If one wants to keep this industry alive (and keep employment) one has to be willing to pay a fair price for products.
Absolutely. Trouble is, the world has been seduced by several decades of inexpensive, unreliable electronics from the far East. Attitudes changed around the mid 90s and the cheap rubbish got a toehold in the marketplace.

Sites like ASR where $99 Chinese D/A converters are championed as giant killers don't help companies who are, and have been, producing real high fidelity equipment that is supported by a network of dealers, repairers, spare parts and has a lifetime measured in multiple decades instead of a few years.

Having spent my life inside electronics, fixing and reveling in well-designed, quality Japanese and US made gear, I don't have much hope for people's attitude changing. They simply won't pay the prices required to ensure consistent, well engineered ranges of products going forward.
 

DDF

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#7
My work is in high tech, more on the HW side with decades of experience with transfer to manufacturing. I've been using Chinese suppliers for 20 years. I find China will build exactly what you tell them to. In the early days, if you left anything unspecified, corners would be cut. They are under relentless pressure to cut costs, beyond just wages (rooming a dozen factory workers in one company apartment wasn't unusual). IME, a western factory would usually point out gaps in the work instruction or use more common sense before cost reducing the manufacturing process. This made quality notably higher but increased costs rendering them even more uncompetitive. I've helped transfer a factory from the west to China and audited mfg in China. Some of the lapses in judgement from Chinese factories were shocking in their persuit of lowest cost.

Over time, they learned the recipes and the business' lack of tolerance for junk reliability (customers speak with their wallets) won out and Chinese factory quality eventually was on par with the west. It took many years.

The reviews here are helpful but don't touch on reliability or after sales support. I don't know why anyone would think there's a free lunch. In this era of race to the bottom pricing, the risk is much higher of manufacturing defects and variance or the gear inadvertenty using junk fake parts. It costs real money to initially vet and periodically review the quality of your supply chain, and to hold production sigmas in check. No way you're going to get that from a $99 dac supplier.
 

Blumlein 88

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#8
I'm old enough to remember when you commonly heard swearing because someone purchased something finding out it was cheap Japanese junk. I remember when Japan made forays into fields producing cheaper alternatives. Sometimes not as heavy duty as American made goods, but much cheaper and not usually junk. I've heard from people who were in Japan just after WWII that worked helping Japan re-start manufacturing. Cheap labor and low pricing got them started, but they moved into high quality fairly soon. Eventually being known mostly for their quality.

China can now produce things of quality. They supply a market that likes cheap stuff. Sometimes to its detriment. I've heard of factory execs in China wondering why Americans buy this junk. They'll take the business, but even they see it is garbage. Most poor optical gear (camera lenses, scopes etc.) are still Chinese. They actually are able to make some very high quality optics and do when they get large enough contracts from customers willing to pay for it. I do think there is a cultural problem holding them back from moving more quickly into better quality in general. I still think it will happen.

I do remember buying some of the early Chinese power tubes for vacuum tube amps. They performed fairly well. Were very cheap. The QC was ridiculous. I always purchased 6 when needing 4. One probably wasn't going to work or was going to be weak. And one was going to burn out the first month or so. I saw things like tubes with contamination of stuff inside. Like bits of cotton rags. The early factory for those was open air and it showed. But I'd end up with 4 that were quite the bargain and worked fine. The price was a fraction of other sources. Obviously if I'd been laying the transatlantic cable with vacuum tube repeater amps such a QC situation was simply intolerable at any price.
 

Blumlein 88

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#9
My work is in high tech, more on the HW side with decades of experience with transfer to manufacturing. I've been using Chinese suppliers for 20 years. I find China will build exactly what you tell them to. In the early days, if you left anything unspecified, corners would be cut. They are under relentless pressure to cut costs, beyond just wages (rooming a dozen factory workers in one company apartment wasn't unusual). IME, a western factory would usually point out gaps in the work instruction or use more common sense before cost reducing the manufacturing process. This made quality notably higher but increased costs rendering them even more uncompetitive. I've helped transfer a factory from the west to China and audited mfg in China. Some of the lapses in judgement from Chinese factories were shocking in their persuit of lowest cost.

Over time, they learned the recipes and the business' lack of tolerance for junk reliability (customers speak with their wallets) won out and Chinese factory quality eventually was on par with the west. It took many years.

The reviews here are helpful but don't touch on reliability or after sales support. I don't know why anyone would think there's a free lunch. In this era of race to the bottom pricing, the risk is much higher of manufacturing defects and variance or the gear inadvertenty using junk fake parts. It costs real money to initially vet and periodically review the quality of your supply chain, and to hold production sigmas in check. No way you're going to get that from a $99 dac supplier.
One example of the fake parts which was humorous to me. I reviewed a HDMI switcher that also put out digital audio and analog audio. It was a bit less than $40. You had to be careful, as there were knockoffs. Yep, knockoffs of a $40 device. They would look completely identical, and even copy the insides, but the caps even at this low voltage were under-spec'd with other shortcuts made. So they burned up in a hurry. But they were $25 instead of $40.
 

g29

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#10
The OP's question brings this picture to mind. :eek:

 
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DDF

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#11
One example of the fake parts which was humorous to me. I reviewed a HDMI switcher that also put out digital audio and analog audio. It was a bit less than $40. You had to be careful, as there were knockoffs. Yep, knockoffs of a $40 device. They would look completely identical, and even copy the insides, but the caps even at this low voltage were under-spec'd with other shortcuts made. So they burned up in a hurry. But they were $25 instead of $40.
This question brings this picture to mind. :eek:

When I was in Shenzhen doing a factory audit about 15 years ago, the highway was lined with well kept apartments but peaking past looked like a ghetto. The govt was very adept at controlling perceptions. The city was built so quickly with such scale unheard of in the west, that I used to joke that at some point one flush was going to take out half the city
 

DDF

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#12
One example of the fake parts which was humorous to me. I reviewed a HDMI switcher that also put out digital audio and analog audio. It was a bit less than $40. You had to be careful, as there were knockoffs. Yep, knockoffs of a $40 device. They would look completely identical, and even copy the insides, but the caps even at this low voltage were under-spec'd with other shortcuts made. So they burned up in a hurry. But they were $25 instead of $40.
I'm sure someone somewhere in the switcher company got a bonus or promotion for that!

Hypex replaced my smps1200 after seeing one picture of it. I think even they got burned by cheap Chinese caps.
 

g29

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#13
I'm sure someone somewhere in the switcher company got a bonus or promotion for that!

Hypex replaced my smps1200 after seeing one picture of it. I think even they got burned by cheap Chinese caps.
I was reading the reviews on the inexpensive Hantek digital oscilloscopes and one reviewer mentioned the same thing about the caps. He said the caps were the point of failure and once you replace them with something descent, the scope was good to go after that.
 

FrantzM

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#15
Hiu

This is a delicate, even dangerous subject. One fraught with political and nationalist minefields.

If we look a bit at history what today Chinese are being accused of (with reason I would think) was perpetrated by most: From the Europeans adventurers (Marco Polo for exemple) visiting China to learn how to work with Silk or stealing gun powder smf other technologies, American at the end of the 19th Century, "borrowing" technology from England or the Japanese "cloning" technology form the American. It is not new. it is what Humans do.

Painting an entire nation with such a broad paint stroke has a bit of racism in it. The intonation of cheap unreliable electronics from the far East doesn't hold. Things from the West are not automatically good. Good design is from Humans Mind from the same Homo Sapiens throughout the World. Most of us in the West, use things assembled in China or somewhere in the Far East: Our Smartphones for the most part are assembled there, with often a good amount of software coming from places like India, which last I looked at a World map was not in the West... I tend to consider the smartphones as marvel of engineering and of reliability. Globalisation came from the West. I am not sure its impetus was from the East.

We often take a snap shot in the present and forget History, We forget how we, in the West treated our people, don't have to go too far... 50 years ago. Our cities were not clean or well kept. We had our share of diseases... of wars, of conflicts..We learned. We are still learning.

Remembering History creates a different perspective.

Peace.

P.S.
I am enjoying my built and designed in China Khadas Tone Board with the JDS Labs Atom (wherever it is from ) in the meantime. I will make a conscious effort not to post on this thread ( I reserve the right to change my mind...) . As it is, this place, ASR is a place of solace and levity where I retreat from the dire situation of my country of Residence, Haiti, mired for almost a month in political upheaval ....
 
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Ron Texas

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#16
It depends on whether the manufacturing is supervised by a US, Japanese or European company. Lots of good stuff is made in China, but it has foreign design and management.
 

restorer-john

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#17
The intonation of cheap unreliable electronics from the far East doesn't hold.
I'm afraid it does hold in my experience. The sheer quantity of poorly constructed, designed and implemented electronics from China over the last few decades has been astounding. Everything from fake components to flat out dangerous. And the fact that idiots (and they are) are importing directly from China, products that have NO regulatory compliance in the countries they bring them into is plain criminal.

We've seen it over and over- even in threads in ASR where cursory photgraphic inspection reveals potentially life threatening wiring and under specified, inadequately secured componentry.
 
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#18
Sites like ASR where $99 Chinese D/A converters are championed as giant killers don't help companies who are, and have been, producing real high fidelity equipment that is supported by a network of dealers, repairers, spare parts and has a lifetime measured in multiple decades instead of a few years.

.
How do you feel about Chinese designs curb stomping US designs such as those of Schitt and PS Audio?

Maybe those who produce megabuck DACs and Amps should lift their game and for those customers who are already in high end audio, they will stick to buying US and European made.

Its the low and mid end that has been revolutionized by Chinese made high performing kit.
 

restorer-john

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#19
How do you feel about Chinese designs curb stomping US designs such as those of Schitt and PS Audio?
It doesn't bother me in the least. Should it?

PS and Schiit are boutique manufacturers playing with the audiophile's desire for a story, a character or two, and a point of difference. They play well in that space. (I dislike that term don't you?)

Its the low and mid end that has been revolutionized by Chinese made high performing kit.
Revolutionized, I don't think so. That's funny. The big brands (the Japanese) simply abandoned vrtually the entire HiFi market and the Chinese slid into the bottom tier. There are thousands of way higher performing real HiFi components still out there, produced in the 80s and 90s.

People just have forgotten (or just never knew) how good HiFi got in the 80s and 90s.
 
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