Random Thoughts

My “complaint” is not the costs of modern equipment in these days/years of high inflation, but the quality of the “lower” level components is so darned great!


That’s a great point really. There are VERY competitive products out there now that really do make one wonder why pay that much for equal (or less…)? Maybe very high end audiophiles can hear all that “difference” in sound quality…but I doubt many do. Thomas from “Thomas and Stereo” said recently “there is no bad gear anymore” (speaking of quality components) and I think he is fairly correct, you don’t need to spend thousands on gear anymore (most of us). It makes purchasing rough because we all fall into that "bigger better deal’ psychology and we spend spend spend…


I think Octave Records has a direct effect on the pricing of PSA gear. Most of the Stellar series was (is) 3rd party modules wrapped in a nice case with a digital lens input stage. The price of these modules is available online, and is probably lower due to negotiated volume discounts.There is a premium to having the units assembled in the USA and talent needs to be paid well, but the mark-up seems a bit excessive and climbing with each passing year.

The Stellar Gold DAC board had ps audio printed on it. All one board

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If you buy enough of an item from an OEM they will print whatever name you want on it. So name on the board means nothing in terms of origin.

Yeah, you only have to buy 5. They’ll print whatever board you want.

What in the world are you talking about? Perhaps you mean the Stellar amplifiers that use the ICE modules? Those are the only products we make that use 3d party modules inside. If you’re referring to our DACs or Stellar integrateds then I am lost. Every board inside the products are boards we design in house and have made for us (mostly in either Kansas or Longmont).

The price of assembly and parts have nearly doubled over the past 18 months and in some cases where assembly is concerned, tripled. Crazy. We are really struggling to figure out how to build products at anywhere near the price we need to. For example, the cost to build the GCD that we once sold for $1800 at a comfortable (not great) margin has doubled. Metal costs, PCB assembly, parts, etc.

What no one in this country seems to want to talk about is inflation. The politicians and pundits all dance around the idea there’s been an 8% increase and then it stabilized. Somehow no one is talking about the insanity going on for small business owners like us. That trickle down inflation is wild.

We are scrambling to find new vendors and sources to bring our costs back in line.


Thank you for the real world perspective, Paul


Those are all tough places to be in. The price of raw materials has leveled off slightly but at a much higher level than pre-covid.

In one case we had to inform a good customer that the material we purchased for their part in 2019 at $100.00 is now $400.00. Of course the cost has to be passed on to the customer and their customer(s). 8% is actually closer to 400% on some materials.

I am personally glad that you keep as much production here in the USA as possible.

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I think @umiami91 predicament was to be expected. Just about all of the best high quality budget audio is manufactured in and often distributed from China. Cambridge Audio, who were very much high-end in the 1980s (making the first two-box CD player in 1985), worked this out way back then, so they have decades of experience. I read an interview a few years ago, they said the parts are often only 10% of the cost compared to sourced in the UK and are on immediate draw-down in China, whereas even pre-covid in the UK there was a 6-week lead time. Using OEM parts when you are really working to keep costs down can be prohibitive. So for the likes of CA and IAG brands, pretty much everything, amplifiers power supplies, processors, etc. are designed and manufactured in-house. Quad’s approach starting in the 1970s was to design electronics that performed exceptionally well with very cheap components. You can send a 1970s to 1980s amp back to the factory and it will be re-capped and come back like new for $150. 10+ years ago Prima Luna were going downhill, they moved production to China, got it working with their own management over there, and the business has grown exponentially.

The result is you have exceptionally good products like the the CA CXNv2 streamer for about $1,000, the CXA81 integrated amp/pre/DAC for about $1,500 and the all-in-one EVO 150 for about $3,000. That’s just one brand. You have products from the likes of NAD, Eversolo and iFi making great products from $300 to $3,000.

I used Devialet for years. What impressed me was not the shiny box, because I kept it in a cabinet, but the laser focus on parts and production costs and if it didn’t exist, they invented it. It’s a culture they brought from the telecoms market.

I’m not blaming anyone, but for years I just can’t see how anyone can manufacture quality budget hifi in the USA, UK or EU and be competitive. It’s nothing special about hifi. I remember advising some well-known fashion brands in the 1990s to move production to China or go bust, and many other companies since.

There are exceptions. Rega is one, they have a massive local supply chain in the UK, relationships built over up to 50 years, and they have big production levels. Some years ago I recall hearing they were making 4,000 turntables per week, that may have increased. They also make a lot of exceptionally good electronics.

Having looked at thousands of businesses over the last 35+ years, if the intention is to remain a budget range, I’m very surprised to hear anything is USA produced. I don’t know the USA market at all, but the Gold DAC at £4,000 rather than £2,000 is moving up from the iFi headphone DAC market to competing with some very serious DACs like the Chord Hugo TT2 and 2-box Holo May Level 1, and the Holo Spring Level 3 is 25% cheaper.

I was emailing last night with our distributor of Schroder tonearms. At the time he was having dinner with Frank Schroder in Berlin. He’s a brilliant man, but good at spending other people’s money. My budget is £2,000 for a second tonearm. Mr Schroder is the sort that will insist I’m wasting £2,000 and should buy his £5,000 tonearm. With that advice, I would likely buy a £2,000 arm from Glanz or Wand. I expect I’m like many who faced with dramatically increasing price options, will go elsewhere or stay with what I’ve got.


We did a big build in 2021 and were lucky with materials prices. We’ve friends who agreed prices for building work and then the builder said it’s gone up 30% or you can find someone else.

A lot of the inflation s due to supply chain costs, such as shipping increasing 3 or 4 times.

But take a hard look, and many budget products manufactured in China but EU and UK companies have kept their prices either unchanged or only small increases over the last couple of years.

I suspect the problem is that people don’t want to abandon local supply chains and it can take a few years to bed down Chinese production, by PS Audio have done it with other products like Sprout and FR speakers.

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There is also the real world issue of trying to keep your employees and country wide neighbors gainfully employed and able to afford nicely made domestic products instead of a bunch of imported crap.

I have no use for people who simply try to beat their domestic suppliers into submission based on pricing from a communist country who regularly eat what we consider family pets in this part of the world.

End of discussion.

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I went to Guangzhou in 1984, when it was a village of 5 million people with one traffic light and the tallest building I remember seeing was a famous pagoda-style restaurant. 40 years later it’s 15 million people in one of the most modern cities in the world and is at the centre of the largest export zone in the world.

Exactly the same thing happened to the village of Manchester in Northern England 250 years ago. It was called The Industrial Revolution.

No one has a right to jobs or technology. Should a country with a highly educated population of 1.5 billion people just grow rice for the sake of preserving western economies that won’t innovate?

Hot on their heals is India, where to most people eating cow meat is worse than barbecuing your own children.

Meanwhile, I’m listening to my Chinese DAC, which is spectacularly good. Designed by a chap called Jeff Zhu, not that I care who designed it, and I have no idea where he’s from or where he was educated. It was shipped to the UK from Hong Kong 2 years ago.


Local should always be better overall. Globalisation (and hence the race to the bottom) has only been possible because of the huge gaps in, I suppose the phrase would be “equitable distribution of wealth and resources” across the globe: eating pets and crushing any dissent and the like makes for a cheaper workforce.

Want a hi quality locally built market in gadgets or furniture or whatever? (I for one would love that) - the only long term way to achieve that is a fairer and more equitably run world.

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When we rebuilt our house 2 years ago much of the furniture and kitchen was hand-made locally. However, one piece of furniture we found has a particular metallised paint finish. I asked my local guy if he could make it, but his price was twice as much as the Italian factory they make these items all the time. Taken to the extreme, half of the people who listen to records have KALLAX units from IKEA, who source globally, but a lot is from China.

Globalisation is a reality and it has vast benefits and in the long run it does result in global wealth redistribution. A country the size China does not lend itself to democracy. To outsiders the USA is currently a laughing stock because with all their democracy they don’t have an operating government and could default on their national debt inside a month. Meanwhile our government in the UK is a mouldy corpse waiting for the last rites.

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I have always assumed that if there were no particular price differential between sourcing “stuff” from far away or near (in terms of unit price), then the vast diesel-belching global shipping infrastructure would be a lot smaller (and hence less diesel-belchy).

These things are of course large scale and complex, and I have many (some would say too many) thoughts on the whole caboodle, but it’s a Saturday afternoon and I am genuinely interested in how these new Stellar gadgets perform, even if I am not actually in the market.

The person further up who complained about the prices and said it was all foreign made catalogue modules (which I don’t think they are) is, I suspect, less interested in them.



I wasn’t criticizing, not at all.

I work in defense so, I get the inflation story, although it is a lagging indicator for us because we tend to sign long-term rate agreements with contractors to mitigate annual budgetary risk. I expect we are going to see big issues starting sometime in the next two or three years, particularly as we ask various suppliers to rapidly ramp up. (We have an entire branch in the AF devoted to predicting this. There’s a LOT of concern about the future…). For all the talk about small margins in defense, stability offsets the risk the rest of the economy sees. That stability is about to go out the window as we see the world start to shift and wars to ramp up.

(NOTE: if you want to turn this into a political argument, I’m not going to do that so just don’t. I’m talking solely about business conditions)

Again. To be clear. My delight with the SGCD is unbounded. I was just curious if the overall Stellar line were moving up in price, and the answer is a qualified “yes” because making gear that passes your quality test in this economy is more expensive.

Glad to see the new equipment streaming out. It looks really fantastic.

Best, Mike


At some point, shipping costs will become a major kink in the globalization paradigm. When diesel becomes too expensive, it becomes cheaper and easier to source home made stuff. This isn’t even considering what happens if we move into a post-Bretton-Woods world where freedom of navigation isn’t a given. We take for granted the investment in the US Navy and what it guaranteed as far as world trade. No telling what the world looks like without that. (Peter Zeihan has studied this pretty extensively. Can’t recommend his books enough.)

Anyhow. It’s bad and it looks like it’s getting worse. Time to fire up the record player.


Spoke to my son a couple of hours ago. Lives on the 28th floor in Tel Aviv, spending today smoking weed and playing FC24 with his mates, running up and down the stairs every couple of hours to the bomb shelter. I don’t read the news or watch the TV, it’s made me an insomniac and stylus wear at the moment is extremely heavy, so the Chinese DAC is in action now.


the news is not fit for public consumption at the moment.
Hope he’s ok!