We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring James Chung, CEO of FiiO. FiiO was established in 2007 and has experience in researching and developing countless portable music products of different types, and sell FiiO-branded products through sales agents worldwide. The brand name FiiO is composed of Fi (fidelity from HiFi) and iO (number 1 and 0), representing the real feeling and convenient life that digital brings to life. Meanwhile, the Chinese "飞傲" is the transliteration of FiiO, indicating the positive and innovative spirit as thriving as spring. FiiO places great importance on users' needs and ceaselessly pursues perfection in product design and manufacturing, to supply users with the best audio products at the best prices.
FiiO is focused on product quality, adheres strictly to ISO9001 standards in quality management and works hard to attain the lowest repair-related product returns rate. FiiO's aspiration is to raise the reputation of made in China. FiiO designs, produces and sells high-quality products at favorable prices to those who love music and style; our high-resolution digital audio players, portable headphone amplifiers, DACs and earphones have all received praise from the majority of users. Several products from FiiO have created record sales in their respective product segments and have received countless awards including iF Design Award, Reddot Award, EISA Award, VGP Award, etc.
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. It was in the 1980s when I was in college. At that time, China has just carried out the Reform and Opening-up Policy which gave us a new perspective to look at the world. I got the chance to listen to tons of "imported" pop music at school, such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, etc. And some pop singers from Hong Kong were also a hit. Walkman had just started to popularize which really enabled us to stay with music whenever and wherever possible no matter when we were studying or in spare time. It made a big difference in our life. Until now, I could deeply remember the realistic sound performance, robust bass and cheerful rhythm when I listened to Michael Jackson's music with my Walkman.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. When I was in college, I had a very good buddy whose grandpa was living in Hong Kong. One time, he went to his grandpa's and did a part-time job. When he came back to school, he brought a Walkman made by AIWA. It was the first time I could listen to music with such a valuable and high quality music device. Frankly speaking, people in Chinese Mainland was rather poor at that age, so we thought those relatively good music devices were the best HiFi product ever.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. One of my roommates who was a member of the broadcast station in our school, once brought a one-piece vacuum-tube speaker back to our dormitory, somewhat of a Marshall speaker style today. We enjoyed music in the dorm together. This was the first time I listened to music with this kind of vacuum-tube sound . It deeply attracted me by its gorgeous and lasting sound quality.
Q. When did you decide to start a high-end audio company?
A. In 2006, I quit my job from OPPO at the age of 35 as my life schedule. It just happened one time that I gave a suggestion to one of my friends that he should design a dock speaker for Meizu MP3 player. Actually Meizu had also intended to do that and they even completed the ID design. Meizu and my friend finally signed a contract and made sure almost everything. When it had been about to come into the mass production stage, and my friend had already ordered plenty of materials, Meizu put a stop to this project. I firmly believed that it was a hopefully doable project because Apple's dock speaker for iPod was very popular in the market.
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. It was a speaker designed for Meizu. The model was named as PS1120, released in 2007.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. There were uncountable challenges on the road early. Mainly, we were a new brand focusing on product quality and design. This meant higher costs. Therefore, we would be impossible to compete against those large-scale products from rather lower-end manufacturers in price, as well as those big brands with good brand awareness. Additionally, we had a vague cognition of our target customers. Marketing channels and manufacturing were also big problems for us.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. Over these years, the regular way for our product development can be explained in two steps. At the very beginning, we would launch a price-friendly product to do a market trial. If it manages to conquer the market, we would make it to the next level as a product line by developing models with higher quality and performance.
Next, we will listen to our users, following their suggestions to develop and upgrade our products. Earlier I have spent lots of time communicating with our users on head-fi. They are very good customers who are willing to give us valuable suggestions. What we need to do is to follow these instructions with an open mind to improve our products. We trust each other, so it is no wonder we can obtain benefits together.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. It is hard to say this because we have many hot products. But in terms of product model and saleroom, our players are the most popular by far. In terms of the sales volume, our Bluetooth DAC/Amps rank at the top.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. We have a lot of plans, such as the desktop DAC/Amp K7/K7Pro with THX technology, the higher-end hybrid IEM FH9 which is still under consideration, and also one desktop Bluetooth receivers, etc.
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. In my opinion, with the development of science and technology, the analog technique will go into a period of stagnation, while the digital domain, especially the audio algorithm still has a big development space. If we focus on individuals, customizing the best audio quality for them by the use of digital processing technology, I believe it would be a promising career in the future.