June 1, 2010

Absolute Nonsense

On May 12, in the Blog section of The Abso!ute Sound website (www.avguide.com), Jonathan Valin wrote an article about a set of electronics from Technical Brain, a Japanese firm. In Valinís words:

  1. ďalmost everyone who has used the monoblocks (at least here in the States) has had one or both of them fail on him at some pointĒ

  2. ďTechnical Brain is not distributed in the U.S.Ē

  3. ďTheir creator, Naoto Kurosawa, is a genuine master. Now if he can only bring his great talent to bear on the problem of reliability with U.S. current -- and then if someone over here can find the guts and taste to take on the Technical Brain line -- then we very well may have a new reference standard in electronics.Ē

I added the italics. Please read all the italicized words quickly in succession before you move on.

Let me get this straight: They all break. No one seems to sell them, at least in North America, perhaps because they all break. You, the consumer, canít hear them, either because they all break and/or because no one sells them. But the Technical Brain TBP Zero v2s are the best thing in the world (unless they break, and they all do). Although there is no current price that I can find, the Technical Brain products arenít priced like NADs -- an old reference to the amps I found online had them priced at over $33,000 USD per pair.

If youíre a manufacturer of audio gear, and particularly if youíve been in business for 10, 20, 30 years, how do you feel about this piece of journalism? You pay employees, pay rent or a mortgage on a building, use your talent and skill to develop a product line that in some cases is generations old. But if you read between Valinís lines, youíre being told that your products sound second-rate when put up against a product that you canít hope to compete against because they all break and no one sells them. Well, maybe youíll catch up one day. Keep trying.

If youíre a consumer, why would you even finish reading the article? You canít hear the product, and you canít buy it -- and why would you, given that they all break? Whatís the point? Is it the pleasure of exploring a think piece on the new ďbestĒ electronics in the world? Donít forget, your system sounds nowhere near as good as the one anchored by the Technical Brain components -- theyíre the best, remember? And just how bad is your system, in comparison? In terms of resolution, this one is ďan order of magnitude higher,Ē according to the article. Itís not just better, but ten times better than what you have. Might as well throw your gear in the dumpster.

I donít know Naoto Kurosawa. He may well be a genius of epic proportions. And his products may be well respected in Japan. But wouldnít making sure that your products donít all break be -- oh, I donít know -- something you ought to do before offering them for sale in a new market for ginormous amounts of money? I wish Kurosawa the best of luck, but I have no interest in hearing his products, or writing about them, until I can say with certainty that they are a safe bet for the consumer. Here are my criteria for legitimacy:

  1. Behind the product should be a company that can fix it, regardless of the country in which the product is sold.

  2. There should be real sales channels where, preferably, the consumer can evaluate the product, and which will support the product.

  3. There should be a warranty that the company will honor, and that will expire while the company is still in business.

Magazines should stay away from products that donít meet any or all of those criteria. Those that promote dangerous, unreliable, or unsupported products do a disservice to established manufacturers that have worked hard to make rock-solid lineups, and to consumers who spend their hard-earned dollars. They ultimately damage the credibility of the magazines that promote them, and cast a shadow over high-end audio as a whole.

I could go on and on about what makes a legitimate high-end product, protecting the consumer at all costs, writing relevant articles, etc. But do I really need to? Arenít the problems with pieces such as Valinís obvious to everyone? Am I off my rocker for letting it bother me so much?

The Technical Brain piece is a load of bullshit. The Abso!ute Sound should have known better than to publish it on their website.

. . . Jeff Fritz


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