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December 2009
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
In This Issue....
My tour of China...

Article By Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer

一朝时运至      半点不由人

欲穷千里目     更上一层楼

 

  The past two weeks have been filled with a dazzling array of activity as i toured six factories and reported on China's Guangzhou AV Fair 2009. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter where i may be in the world, no matter what new land is being explored, music always finds its way into the heart and soul of everyone. While the difference in language barrier might make a flowing communication more challenging, somehow a gracious smile and a few pleasant gestures always seems to speak what mere words were not able to communicate. In this regard, my trip to China in some ways reminds me of my first visit to Italy as i reported on the Top Audio show.

Almost 100 years ago America was a growing industrial land. Sure there were road bumps and no one cared much about pollution as the industrial complex grew and flourished. Sure there were some business practices that today would be unacceptable. Technology evolved and eventually came the incredibly amazing music reproduction devices with 24/192 digital and such. And with that said i am not going to write about China's political, philosophical or environmental items like the great global warming religion... i mean climate change or other issues. (Friendly humor) Global warming, it has been happening since the ice age. Which is a good thing because i love to get a handsome tan on the beach in the summertime.

 

A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has An Answer.
It Sings Because It Has A Song. -- Chinese Proverb
Now that i have probably lost about 25 percent of the readers, those with a sense of the world, history, and curious what this has to do with high-end audio may be very interested in what i discovered and learned while in China. First and foremost, everyone has truly gone above and beyond in understanding my food preferences and lack of fluent local language skills. On the other side of the proverbial coin am amazed at just how much the Chinese are able to do with such great efficiency and maximization of their resources. Am also very highly impressed at their knowledge of electronic circuits, business prowess and of course love of music that allows them to carefully fine-tune products to achieve the desired results. To simply write-off a country as the next great buying power of consumer goods and their ability to innovate would be a huge error. While a fast Internet search told me the USA has just over 304 million people, Europe has 731 million while China has a population of over 1,325 million. So if you have that one-in-a-million idea, in China there are 1,325 people with the same one versus 304 in the USA.

The Chinese highly respect American and European high-end audio products. They admire the sound it produces, the build quality and the status of owning such luxury items. Basic human nature being what it is, most people strive to better themselves  and to achieve in life not just good things for themselves but also for their loved ones and children. In China, they think very long-term and not just what a bank or company's balance sheets will say for the next quarter (three month time span). All six of the Chinese high-end companies i visited talked about their long history (JJ Electronic's designer, as pictured here) and/or their goals of future expansion of great magnitude (Jungson Audio). Perhaps this has to do with the Chinese calendar dating back to the 14th century B.C.E. as legend says the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 B.C.E. while the United States of America is less than few hundreds years young by comparison.

No matter the reason, each high-end audio company focused on continuous innovation and in delivering quality products to consumers. Sure even the very best companies no matter where they are located can have blips and road bumps as it were, yet on a long-term basis i see China as being an equal force within the high-end audio industry as any other country. Perhaps more so as they have three times as many people. When we add to that their extremely long history filled with a wide variety of music and the inherent love we humans have for music...

 

When Planning For A Year, Plant Corn.
When Planning For A Decade, Plant Trees.
When Planning For Life, Train And Educate People.  -- Chinese Proverb
As i see it, China as a country has a very long term plan too. Naturally high-end audio manufacturers here in China are hesitant to just release products worldwide, because if there are quality issues it could forever tarnish the sacred brand name and company's reputation. While i was at the Guangzhou AV Fair there were some truly impressive products that i wished made their way to the USA and European shores. Upon asking a few of the representatives when they may release their products outside of China, a few of them basically said they want to be sure they are properly prepared on many levels. This makes sense as while audiophiles love great sound at reasonable costs, the market can be unforgiving to reliability or sound quality issues. Those of us old enough to have lived through the early days of American high-end audio, we have the 'scars' of amplifiers imploding, turntable hiccups and cartridges mysteriously losing one channel. Even today's great American and European companies sold a few lemons before they successfully made some of the most naturally sweet lemonade we all enjoy today.

In China their education system is such that you decide not just on a broad major as many do in Europe or America, you train for a very specific task at hand. Naturally many of those i met chose their specialty in audio electronics and engineering. One of the most amazing moments during my trip is while at the Sheng Ya factory there was a man working an electronics schematic program like Dave Brubeck plays the piano per se. His ability to look at the big picture and make incredibly fast changes as necessary was far beyond my own ability or that of any other engineer i have seen doing the same type of challenge. i was nearly transfixed at his ability to work magic with the computer keyboard and mouse as he made changes to the circuit design in record time.

Another impressive moment came as i watched skilled craftspeople look at other's work and honestly critique it. The goal was to ensure that not just the parts were all connected and soldered correctly, it was also in the care given to wire preparation, layout and how everything is secured within the chassis. The goal, of course, is to realize a higher quality product that overall benefits everyone in the company. It is this teamwork attitude within the companies visited where great team members get promoted time and again. At one company a very high up employee actually started at a very basic position years earlier. Simply put, they promote from within.

 

To Know The Road Ahead
Ask Those Coming Back. -- Chinese Proverb
World history shows many lessons, and perhaps my worldwide view combined with what (relatively) little personal historical education may be skewing my outlook. Then again does anyone truly know all there is to know about the history of every race of mankind? For today i am in China and looking around i see immense potential for grown and sustainability. The high-end audio industry here is relatively new as compared to their American or European counterparts. With so many consumers to draw from, roughly three times that of American and twice that of Europe, there is an abundance of homeland consumers. A very large Chinese speaker manufacturer, HiVi, is proof of this as they briefly tried the world markets years ago yet they have been growing as such a tremendous rate within China that they currently have little resources to expand abroad. Anyone who has seen the quality and craftsmanship of HiVi products and heard them at length probably agrees these are truly high-end products that could easily compete anywhere in the world.

During my trip here in China i have seen many things. The potential and possibilities are enormous as humankind loves music. There are those of us who seek out high-end audio products to enhance our musical pleasures. Our niche in the world of consumer electronics may be relatively small, yet we are a highly enthusiastic bunch. It matters not if you are in China, America, Canada, Europe, Australia or even those avid readers Enjoy the Music.com has within the Fiji Islands. Of course in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music (Dave Brubeck "Everybody's Jumpin'" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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