April 1, 2010
Warren Buffett an Audiophile?
Maybe, maybe not. But this statement
by Buffett, or a version of it, is relevant to audiophiles: "Its far better to
buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price."
The same could be said of audio components. Too often,
audiophiles look for the next "killer" bargain rather than the next great audio
component. This can lead you down the wrong path. Whatever the product category, and
regardless of your income bracket, the search for the best value is a worthwhile endeavor
for anyone. But value is intrinsically related to worth, and so by definition it
cant be a great value if it isnt worth what you paid for it to you. If
an audio component is judged by how much long-term satisfaction it gives us while
listening to music, its easy to conclude that we shouldnt sacrifice that
satisfaction just so we can revel in the fact that we got 40% off list price.
The bottom line: Its far better to buy a wonderful
audio component at a fair price than a fair component at a wonderful price. If only
Id said that before Buffett did . . .
Bad purchases can be made in a number of ways. One is to
buy from a company that might not really be a company. While some excellent manufacturers
-- ones that stand by their products regardless of where theyre sold -- are indeed
based overseas, other companies amount to little more than a single person importing a
container full of components, then rebranding them to make it appear that they manufacture
them themselves. The problem arises because, in many instances, these products have not
been thoroughly engineered, and their parts and build qualities are sub-par. When the
thing breaks -- and an audio product that has not been thoroughly engineered and
quality-tested will break -- no one at the importing company knows how to fix it,
nor is there any way to get in touch with the designer, whos probably on the other
side of the globe. Ive even seen instances in which, when enough warranty claims
come in, the import company disappears altogether, leaving customers to fend for
themselves. What looked like a great deal in the ad wasnt a great deal at all.
Ive also seen a number of sellers, particularly on
eBay, who market products in auctions that look really good. I once ordered a
specialized adapter cable that I found on eBay that looked to be of high quality. It was
just what I needed, and at a great price -- or so I thought. But when it arrived, I
quickly discovered that it was cheaply built, and didnt even fit the output jack of
the component Id bought it for. When I tried to modify it slightly to get it to
work, it fell apart in my hands. I thought Id gotten a good deal; what Id done
was waste my money and my time.
Sometimes, to get the best value, you need to spend a
little more. Although that might run counter to the bargain hunter inside each of us, it
has been proven to me, time and again, that when the measure of value is my long-term
satisfaction, Ive never regretted spending what I needed to to get exactly what I
want. I have, however, regretted buying things that appeared to be the best deal.
My advice is to buy products from good companies whose
solid track records you can verify for yourself. Only buy products that you can first hear
and see and touch, or that come with a money-back guarantee: If youre not satisfied
with it, you can return it for a full refund. Real companies cant give
products away, but they can offer good value by delivering wonderful components at fair
Someone once said that dissatisfaction will be with you long
after you forgot what you paid. The same can be said for satisfaction. Sometimes, you just
have to spend a little more for it.
. . . Jeff Fritz