To Howard Kneller,
Regarding your Essential Sound Products review, it seems absurd to say that: "Rather, they’re based on proven technologies in an industry in which marketing hype and dubious technological claims are all too common." The ridiculous part is that people would be willing to pay that much for power cords, and what looks like a pretty inexpensive power strip. Why must reviews nearly always sidestep the issue of cost? The markup on these items is no less than immense, given the materials and end product.
I would like to see a little less industry gloss (read: meaningless lip service anyone can read in a product brochure) and a little more reality in reviews. Generally speaking (no pun intended), these items are worth a small fraction of what is asked.
I have no doubt these items have sonic merit, but $3000 for that strip or $2200 for the cord . . . come on . . . you and other writers owe it to everyone to speak up.
Your e-mail touches on a valid point. Too many high-end audio manufacturers charge prices that are unreasonable. This is true after considering the costs of the materials and parts, overhead costs, and even a generous profit.
Of course, there are plenty of manufacturers who do not charge exorbitant prices. These include speaker manufacturers such as Paradigm and PSB, component manufacturers such as Bryston and Rega Research, and cable companies such as Signal Cable and Pangea Audio.
But my review did not involve products from Bryston or Rega, but rather Essential Sound Products. As indicated in the review, the company uses quality, name-brand parts (e.g., Furutech connectors and Leviton outlets), whose costs are not inconsequential. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the ESP products sound good. It’s all too common that manufacturers will charge high retail prices, yet use the most inexpensive parts that they can find.
Also, in the case of the ESP power distributor, the unit is extremely well made, heavy, well dampened, and just downright impressive. This is, of course, difficult to appreciate without physically having the unit in front of you.
Still, although the costs of the parts used in the ESP products cost more than those used by some manufacturers, it’s hard to see how they can translate into a $3000 power strip and a $2000 power cord. In all fairness, my review did point out my belief that for the $13,000 asking price, there are a number of competing manufacturers whose products offered greater performance. I therefore disagree with you that my review “sidestepped the issue of cost.”
Nonetheless, this issue of fair pricing should be pointed out more often and perhaps more vociferously. I, for one, will endeavor to do so in the future. It should also be noted that no one is forced to buy any audio product. Reviewers can only do so much and the best way to send a signal to manufacturers who adopt unreasonable pricing models is to simply not buy product from them. Over the long run, companies that do not deliver value to their customers will ultimately not be successful. Although it sometimes appears otherwise, the audio business is not excepted from free-market principles. To the contrary -- it is ruthlessly competitive.
Finally, it should come as no surprise that if you want the very best, state-of the art product in just about any hobby, you will have to pay for it. Just the other day, I was reading about an Italian racing bicycle that costs over $18,000. This is despite that my current bicycle, which costs about $1300, probably gives me about 60% of the performance of the expensive bike. Due to reasons that include low production runs, the use of exotic and expensive high-performance materials, the necessity of employing costly and very labor-intensive manufacturing processes and high research costs, that’s just the way it is. High-end audio is no exception. So, to the extent that your e-mail suggests that it’s “ridiculous [that anyone] would be willing to pay [$2000] for power cords,” I also have to disagree. . . . Howard Kneller