Why doesn't consumer audio sound better?
January 10, 2012 4:34 PM Subscribe
Why is audio quality so lacking in consumer audio goods, when it is so easy to improve upon it?
posted by krilli to technology (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've built speakers, amplifiers, and just now a tiny USB DAC. In each of these, the audio quality is miles ahead of any consumer audio stuff I've ever auditioned. It's not just me - an amp I built was playing at a party and people were commenting on the sound quality of their own volition, and asking how they could get something that sounded like that. I literally sold three amplifiers that night without any prior intention to do so. Hadn't even crossed my mind that people would want to buy. All these things I've built myself have been very cheap ($40 speaker drivers, $50 amplifier kit, $35 DAC kit). Reasonably simple to build, too. Not many components, small and simple PCB layout.
Hence the question: Why is audio quality so lacking in consumer audio goods, when it is so easy to improve upon it?
Help me understand the free market. I have the feeling that spending $5 dollars more on electronic components and a few hours more on design would improve sound quality quite noticeably in any random piece of consumer gear. Better audio quality could be considered a superfluous aspect, but manufacturers are already competing on luxury aspects of practical items - see Apple laptops, Audi, Ducati, and on and on. Besides that, amazing audio quality is a very good way to differentiate yourself in the market. It's a highly noticeable quality. Big "wow" factor.
I am just an idiot with a soldering iron - How come I am capable of bettering an Apple laptop's analog audio output quality? How come a amateur soldered Tripath amplifier beats the pants off any Marantz, NAD, Denon, Kenwood amp I've ever auditioned?
I'm finding it difficult to phrase this as a distinct question. Music is so important, and good audio quality allows you to discover new music more easily and keep yourself spiritually nourished. People sing and whistle and dance more when the music is presented better. There's simply more happiness. I'm just kind of saddened and surprised at how easy it would be for the manufacturers of our entertainment machines to make the world noticeably more pleasant for trivial cost. What reasons can you think of for them not doing better?