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New Gear? Beyond The Hype It’s Up To You

Save your hammer for when you've got something to nail, and reach into your toolbox when you don't...

Attention shoppers: the good news is that in this century, there is very little bad sound equipment. There are still plenty of bad engineers (not enough sleep and too much fun) and bad combinations of gear (70-volt clusters and powered mixers driving powered loudspeakers).

But the stuff coming out of the factories – and even a lot of the proprietary (home brew) gear – is light years beyond the stuff we all got stuck with in the past.

A not-so-famous philosopher said, “Cynicism is what the ability to see the truth is called by those what ain’t got it.”

I’m not down on trying to make a buck. The sound business doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. We’re all in the same boat (or truck.) If we can own some gear that is just a bit cooler than our neighborhood competitor, allowing us to charge a bit more or snag a slightly more prestigious client, more power to us.

But if we, as an industry, are succumbing to the seductive presentations of marketing departments, then we are just a bunch of beer drinkers in our local pub thinking we’re going to meet that gorgeous babe from the commercial because we drink Horse Drip ale.

Smooth Operators
True story: A salesman comes to visit me from a major loudspeaker manufacturer. He is flaunting graphs of a new high-frequency horn. I comment, “That’s a pretty smooth line on that response chart. Was that generated with a B & K?” He replies, “No, the art department came up with it.”

Let’s name the basic rules of pro audio product marketing:

—New is better (except in recording, where older is better, especially if it has been discontinued.)

—If the punters can build it in their garage, it must be squelched. How many of you seniors remember the 4560, also called the Perkins box? I think many of our readers used to sketch these in study hall and build ‘em in wood shop.

—If it remotely can be tied into a basic law of audio physics (every Grateful Dead fan knows big stacks couple) and contains an outrageous use of a low-cost component (we’ve got warehouse shelves full of 7-inch loudspeakers,) it will set everyone to talking.

—Make it heavy so you can come out with a “light/compact” version.

—Use buzz words like “truck pack,” “sets up in minutes,” “stage hands love it,” “turnkey,” “increases your revenue” and so on.

—Name it something that sounds exotic (un-pronounceable) or scientific (letters and numbers).

—Package it with “easy-to-use software.”

—Start a “users group” to get referrals and create a warm-and-fuzzy feeling about being part of the club.

—Make the cost of entry high enough that only 5 percent of the user base actually pays retail and the other 95 percent sign on as “exclusive dealers,” limited to one per bank branch. Dealer cost has now become the new “street price.” The manufacturers are in effect selling direct and pocketing what used to be called dealer margin.

—Put a tube (or do you say valve?) in it somewhere

—Make it un-usable without a proprietary processor. Dr. Bose thought of this and the rest lifted it. It’s a dongle for your ears (what an ugly picture).

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