I find the escalating prices of high end audio gear both frustrating and fascinating
For example, the first amp from Dan D’Agostino after he left Krell. It is $45K.
Another example is Tenor, who after a career of making more or less average priced high end amps in the $20K to $30K range went under for a bit and then came back with an amp in the $60K [hard to find a price] region.
There are many other examples. Soulution is another, although they have been around for a few years. The Continuum turntable another example.
And these are established brand names. Many, many others come from nowhere.
What is going on?
I tried to compare it to the clothing industry.
So, say, you have Versace and they come out with $1000 pair of jeans [maybe they have, I do not know]. We look at them and see a whole line of jeans [and many other types of clothing], at a wide range of prices and all fairly well-regarded, if expensive.
This is the model for most high-end audio manufacturers up to a few years ago.
Now, one can continue along this line of thought and imagine that a leading designer at Versace [as opposed to Target or Sears] leaves and creates their own line of boutique jeans. Maybe they then go and come out with their first pair of jeans and price it $1000. One looks at the pedigree/cred of the designer, and A) the quality of the jeans and …
… there will be some B) people who want their clothes to be one-off, or very unique, or to be the first to discover a new designer, and are willing to pluck down a large chunk of their money on the jeans.
The problem is that A) is quite a bit more evident for jeans than it is audio equipment [which requires lots of associated equipment to be evaluated, etc.] and B) [explorers] I do not understand, personally, but people do seem to want to own something new and unique, albeit all the time hoping that it becomes the height of [high-end audio] fashion and quite popular, making them the ‘discoverers’.
It is perhaps the case then that boutique high-end audio manufacturers that have just a few very high-priced products are catering to that small segment of us who enjoy shopping using the B) explorers approach. The problem might be that as soon as one of these becomes slightly popular and successful, the explorers will look elsewhere. They then sell the gear, which then saturates the used market.
So how to avoid this trap if you just have a few products? 1) Put out a new version of the product or 2) broaden your product line:
1) guarantees the immediate saturation of the used market - so it is a little scary if you only have a few products. Some of the previous owners will go elsewhere, but a few new owners will be added, seeing the product as maturing and more desirable now. But as versions increase, the customer base withers. Unless a miracle occurs, this kind of guarantees the manufacturer will not grow beyond a niche status and will eventually fade away.
2) this is expensive and time consuming. But it does build a sustainable brand for the long term.
So, here is a question. How many products does it take to make a ‘broad product line’?
Take it beyond audio again to… hybrid cars. The SmartCar versus Toyota’s hybrids. You can see how having several options allows a manufacturer to weather changes in fashion and economies.
As a counter example, however, take Porsche. They do not have many models [although fairly recently adding an inexpensive model and a SUV]
That is what I meant above by ‘unless a miracle occurs’. I am sure all boutique manufacturers want to be the Porsche of their niche.
But it takes both a miracle [IMHO] and work. Porsche has a long history. They race their cars. They featured them in movies. Famous people drive Porsche. They put a lot of work building their boutique brand. So I guess that gets us:
3) put a LOT of work into building your brand when it only has a very few products
I guess the whole point here is that this is really fringe behavior - where established brands are not treated any different than brand new ones, where the pedigree of the designers is not examined very closely, where products are not compared to each other so it remains this real mystery about just how good something really is.
On the other hand, of course, this is a lot of the charm of this industry too. Kind of the wild west with a lot of wild characters doing wild and crazy things. I have no problem keeping it wild, just so long as we all kind of understand and appreciate just how wild and crazy things really are.