Today I got an e-mail that PS Audio will be selling AudioQuest cables. Setting “performance” aside for a minute I wanted to understand if PS Audio and AudioQuest really have the best cultural alignment when it comes to pricing and value?
Paul, as far back as I can find, always pushes a message that his gear should never be overpriced just to appeal to a preconception that the higher the price the better the quality. Additionally, I believe PS sets their pricing against the manufacturing cost and not the R&D cost. Most recently, when asked about the new speaker line, he explained that the cost of prototyping would not increase the cost of the final product (and with the number of prototypes this R&D budget has probably been blown 10x over). That their original target pricing will not change. That’s a quality I can really get behind with a company. I think Paul’s products are priced aggressively, meaning great bang for the buck, and only that cultural philosophy around pricing will allow PS Audio to provide such excellent value. It instills a significant “fanboy” quality for the brand.
AudioQuest not so much. I don’t doubt they make a good product. But value? Not such much. They are the kind of company that I strongly feel passing on a significant cost of marketing, R&D misses, and bling to to the consumer. This seems very counter to the PS Audio philosophy when setting prices on their gear.
What do you think?
I can get over 100 pounds of sheet metal, tubes, point-to-point wiring, R&D, and excellent reviews shipped to my house for ~$15,000 (BHK 300s). Or, I can get 12ft of wire, dielectric, R&D, and excellent reviews shipped for $21,000. I assume the BHK actually has more conductive wire in it than the speaker cable (maybe I’m wrong here). I’m confused on the value proposition of these cables.
Paul and company appear to have selected from the AQ offerings for “curated” best matches.
Paul used to prefer/recommend MG Audio speaker cables.
Have the recommended AQ been auditioned against the MG Audio and won?
Have the the AQ been auditioned against the best match Iconoclast and won?
AQ Dragon power cables against the Shunyata Sigma NR, etc.???
I don’t want this to become a competition of “best performance”. I’m sure the AQ cables are great.
I’m specifically asking if the pricing models that PS uses and AQ uses are aligned. When developing partnerships like this I believe the culture of two companies is as, if not more, important than the ability to sell direct. If this isn’t aligned, why put the product on the website? To me, it’s a mixed “value” message.
(and yes, I watched the video where Paul explained the benefits of the Dragon cables.)
Audioquest has 30 different speaker cables and 18 different interconnects. How can that be? Seems ridiculous to me. I’m glad PS audio put in the effort to “curate” the cables for us.
I don’t know how much ‘curation’ has been done. Paul mentioned in a video that his AQ contact or owner dropped some of their flagship power cables off. Paul didn’t know how much they cost. They are stupid expensive.
I don’t think AQ and PS Audio are a good cultural match.
agree - seems to be a case of one high value but if you cant afford here is on further down the line - 6 powercords in the AQ range and I only need to worry about 2.
Anyway if you look at it as a partnership to sell direct then that’s fine but agree with @ipeverywhere seems to be a mixed message and for years this is something PS have stayed away from.
When I started looking for power and signal cables, I looked at their website. Their peculiar naming ideas told me zero about the cable characteristics or differentiation. As I stumbled around the pages, things were still vague and I got bored and stopped wasting time.
Some of their products are excellent. I had a Model 1000 power strip. It was quite good. And their Dragonfly dacs are good.
But I’m put off by bombastic marketing.
Excerpt from an email today from Scott McGowan below:
One of the most common questions we get at PS Audio is, what cables should I buy? For years we’ve recommended one of our favorites, AudioQuest. Inevitably, the next question was, well, which AudioQuest cable? And we didn’t have a good answer. So, I teamed up with Darren Myers and my dad, Paul, and we spent the last six months hand-curating a select series of AQ cables that sound best with each PS Audio component. The differences we heard were remarkable. And now, we can confidently tell you which cable is the perfect match.
We were so excited about the pairings that we decided to partner with AudioQuest and offer this curated collection directly for sale from PS Audio. You can read more about our collaboration with AudioQuest, and watch a little video we made, here www.psaudio.com/connections
Oh boy, things are changing.
I think Paul and Scott deserve trust anticipation
although when seeing the mass and reading and watching, it comes around rather like a business partnership than like single secret hints. Anyway better than starting own cable manufacture.
I’ve owned some fine AQ products over the years. Their turntable head shell wires were quite nice back in the mid-80s and they made this sorbothane turntable platter mat that I sincerely regret giving to my son hahahahaha. That said, every AQ cable I’ve heard has been bested sound-wise by a cable costing much less. Their cables look amazing, and bling is cool, but it only goes so far for this value shopper on a budget. I for one was surprised by Scott’s email.
The Iconoclast’s have put an end to my cable FOMO.
It’s a good question and one that’s not entirely easy to explain.
PS Audio’s value proposition, which remains unchanged, is based on a pretty strict ratio between parts/labor costs and retail pricing. Cables are very different and admittedly somewhat of a mystery to me. I sincerely doubt they use the same pricing formulas we do, but I am not privy to their models.
That said, we have always wanted to make available synergistic cables with our products. As Scott’s note suggests, we’re constantly asked what cables work best with our products (there are a combo, after all). We all hate saying “we’ve tried this or that and worked well, sorry if that’s not something you can participate in” or send you on your way to ferret it out for yourself. Hate it. It’s what happened with MG Audio cables which I so loved (and still do). People either couldn’t find them or afford them. They made no sense for our more affordable products—so I had to shrug my shoulders when asked what to pair products with. That just doesn’t sit well.
We can’t determine AQ pricing but, what we can and did do, is match a sensible price relationship of PS gear to cable. In other words, given a product’s retail price, what would we recommend spending on cables from any manufacturer? It makes little sense to connect a $10K power cable to a $2K Stellar phono stage (though it’d probably sound great)
So, given that we love AQ cables and how some match our gear in exquisite ways—and they were willing to work with us and permit us to retail their products—it seemed a perfect match. Take our recommended combos and you’ll find them to make economic sense and wonderful synergy.
That is a PS combo that not only makes sense but one I can fully support.
Hope that helps.
I think this says a lot, given that Paul has been in this industry for over 40 years and even sold cables for a while (actually they still sell power cables). The folks here have been given a lot of insight into how PS products are priced, so we have a good understanding why it costs what it costs. Cable manufacturers, at least at the higher end, have been very tight lipped on why their cables cost what they do. The only exception that comes to mind is Iconoclast and we can thank Galen for that. He’s an Engineer and understands our skepticism with cable pricing. He’s not afraid to give us a peek behind the curtain. Come to think of it, Paul’s an Engineer too, so that’s why we know so much about the accounting side!
As for culture, I’m not sure if there is a great fit with any cable manufacturer, but Paul has known Bill Low for a long time and he trusts him. Keep in mind PS Audio is not saying “these are the only cables that work” or “the only cables we recommend”, just “these are cables we know work well”. Cables are a big variable in system set up, this is a way of reducing the anxiety for those not willing to try multiple different manufacturers cables.
I appreciate the time and effort you guys put into curating the AQ cables. I’d like to know more about the process, implementation, and improvement over the previous cables by each type and overall system performance. I wouldn’t mind seeing the results in a video or still shots.
What I take this AQ-PS Audio affair to be is that Bill Low offered some cables, Paul and others liked them a lot, they decided to sell some, and worked out (fancy word “curate”) one or two options for each component. That’s it. It doesn’t say that these are the best, or the only ones among the best, for PS Audio gear or any others. It doesn’t even say that these are necessarily a good idea, as user reviews of the inflexibility of and difficulty in using the AQ Thunder (and Dragon?) power cords attests. It just says PS Audio likes the synergy enough with its gear to become a distributor — and apparently get out of the power cord market itself, as the disappearance of its own cords (AC-12, etc.) from the website seems to suggest.
I appreciate Paul’s comment about MG Audio Design. Their ICs, which I initially got on his recommendation and still solely use, are very fine, but it was a small operation to start with, and with the passing of one of the founders a few years ago, exists more as a legacy operation these days.
$21k+ for one pair of speaker cables being sold now on PSA web site. Wow. Not a good look, IMO (just my opinion).
Speaker cables that by themselves are more expensive than the combined price of the mono amps and preamp, even before any component discounts! Really? Don’t forget the power and interconnect cables …
I’m a believer in cables (I have lower end MIT spk and IC), but in none of my systems do the msrp’s of total cabling exceed 13% of system total, and typically closer to 5-10%. I’d rather put the $$ into components.
But it’s a personal choice, obviously. It’s your money - spend it as you wish! Let’s see whether folks take advantage of the recommendations - maybe they will.
For the record, I think it’s actually really refreshing that PSA recommends cables. I just think the $21k speaker cable recommendation is a little tone deaf at a minimum… Don’t have strong issue with other recommendations, but that one certainly jumps out.
My guess is that most who purchase BHK gear are not driving Wilson Alexx or similar with them.
From a business perspective, I suppose it could make sense if PSA’s cut of the cable sale results in much more profit than the potential corresponding downgrade of equipment purchase to fit the cable purchase in, otherwise I’d think PSA would also prefer that customers spend the majority of their budget on components.
But again, is that good system building advice???