It’s the time of year for saving money!
So many of the issues facing the audiophile hobby right now are borderline epic. There’s the aging demographic. There is the resistance to change. There is the often fact-less subjectivity. And with all due respect, we can’t solve all of those quickly or easily. But I do have one simple suggestion that could inject some much-needed life into audiophilia: better product names.
Examples of bad audio product names are everywhere. What the hell is a WATT-Puppy? (Wilson Audio Tiny Tot, I get it, but really)? The new name, Sasha WP, clings on to the old while bringing in a new naming convention. Is it any more descriptive? No. But it’s certainly a lot more inviting.
Schiit Audio–who has a playful outlook on the business, including a somewhat self-disparaging brand name–makes products that sound like they’re auditioning for the next Thor movie (or the last one), from the Ragnarok amp to the Mjolnir headphone amp, the Yggdrasil DAC (which actually can cure jock itch as well as decoding 192/24 audio), and upgrade packages that actually discriminate against vowels, such as Gungnir Multibit. Here’s the thing, though: if you’re not familiar with Norse mythology or Jack Kirby comics, all of these things sound like something you would order with glass noodles or your choice of chicken or shrimp at a Thai fusion restaurant.
Contrast that with Tekton Design’s world-beater $12,000 speakers, the Ulfberhts, which are also named after, get this, Norse swords. Less mythological and more historical, but still. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Tekton Design hierarchy, the $3,000 per pair speakers that have caught the audiophile world by storm are given a far mainstream name like The Double Impacts? I don’t get the connection. Wouldn’t Ingelrii have made more sense? Or would it?
Big companies spend a lot of money trying to give clever names to products with various levels of success. The Chevy Probe was reportedly designed to appeal to a more female audience. Think about that for a second. There’s another classic story about GM, again under the Chevy brand, who had to change the name of the mighty Nova in places like Mexico and Venezuela, as “no va” literally translates to “doesn’t go” in Spanish. It turns out that classic business school story isn’t really true on a couple of different levels. First “Nova” and “No Va” have very different pronunciations in Spanish, and Pemex, the petroleum company, was aelling gas under the name Nova for years before GM imported said American muscle to south of the border. But still, this urban legend points to a universal understanding that names matter.
Porsche does a good job with its naming conventions to this day, especially considering their mainstay car, the 911, could have taken on a completely different, much more disastrous meaning after September 11, 2001. Perhaps the global audience already knew that a Porsche 911 was a world class sports car no matter what misguided message Islamic Fundamentalists were trying to spread on that fateful day? Porsche also has added all sorts of additional descriptive monikers to their cars as to differentiate their performance, be it “Turbo” (most all 911s have turbo power plants but that wasn’t always the case), “GT2,” “Straßenversion,” or what have you.
Audio companies have done the naming convention thing right in the past, too. Apogee Grands come to mind as a good example from the audiophile way-back machine. These impossible-to-drive speakers are nearly as impossible to find (let alone find in good working condition), but their name alone explains the grandeur of their musical playback performance. My mentor, Mark Levinson, back at Cello in the 1980s, was inspired by Stradivari violins and Patek Phillipe watches. Many of the highly efficient Cello speakers tended to follow the Stradivari naming theme, which gave some continuity to the speaker offerings at the now defunct high-end audio giant. Harman owns the brand Mark Levinson today, and they’ve followed the same basic naming format for their electronics using a “No. X” format for their amps, preamps, DACs, streamers, and more. While there doesn’t seem to be an exact formula for the naming, many of the product numbers have stuck–especially the more reference level, two-number products from the past, such as the No. 40 AV preamp, the No. 31.5 and No. 30.5 DAC-Transport combination, and the lust-worthy, two-chassis No. 32 stereo preamp.
To be critical the audiophile hobby can be technically complicated, potentially off-putting, and cliquish to new users. Perhaps looking at naming components in a way that is a little easier to understand and that is a little less esoteric is a good thing? I am not sure names have to make a whole lot of sense, and by no means should they take the fun out of the process of acquiring such dream-worthy products. Like Schiit Audio does, there should be a little bit of fun in the product names from time to time. In the same breath, some continuity and ease-of-understanding could go a long way to make the audiophile hobby a little friendlier to the newbies.
What are some of your best and worst audiophile product names? How would you name audiophile products if you were a brand manager for a top audiophile company? Comment below. We want to hear from you.
The French distributor of a high-end cassette tape tried to convince its manufacturer to change its brand name without success. The name “Pure Tone” in French became “Pur Eton”, which translates as “Pure Shit”.
And, on the low-end side, Infinity, in its pre-Harman days, sold the POS-1 and POS-2 systems until the word spread that POS was their internal abbreviation for Piece of Shit. No, I’m not kidding.
Adcom named their amps and preamps GFA-xxx and GFP-xxx, where GF stood for Great F—ing. To quote you, no, I’m not kidding.
The adcom story is true.
I like the naming conventions established by the C.F. Martin guitar co. The first part of D-28 designates body size and the second part designates the appointments level. It’s worked for them for over 100 years…
It was a Ford Probe. Designed to replace the Mustang, but fortunately didn’t. Actually appealed to no one.
wow, i cannot believe that this nonsense is still being discussed seriously. and by supposedly knowledgeable responsible industry journalists – talk about fake news! ;~)
“So many of the issues facing the audiophile hobby right now are borderline epic.”
– wrong! it’s same as it ever was – the “audiophile hobby” is and always was a fringe endeavor. and, if anything, it’s stronger than it ever was; while brick & mortar stores may not be doing so well, that’s a marketing issue that has affected ALL retail – it is NOT evidence that the audiophile hobby is in decline. the fact is that interest in quality gear is as high or higher than it ever was. and, if anything, the internet is helping to drive it – it is increasing exposure to millions of people. just because there is over-capacity on the manufacturing side doesn’t mean the hobby isn’t doing well. it just means that those who survive will have to offer something their customers really want, and they will have to figure out how to get their products exposed to their customers – the same issues facing all of retail.
“There’s the aging demographic.”
– wrong again! while there are certainly a lot of old fogy’s (like myself) who participate in this hobby, there are also a lot of the younger generation becoming very interested in a quality music listening experience. as evidenced by a lot of people half my age at the recent caf here in the dc metro area. and as evidenced by my daughter and her boyfriend who are getting into their home audio system, and by my daughter’s being thrilled with the b-day present i recently gifted her – a really nice well set up empire 598ii. ;~) i work w/a guy who just turned 31; he had no idea about caf; and was thrilled to hear about it when i told him. i wasn’t able to attend on saturday; i chuckled when i got a text message from him w/the pic of a hi-end turntable; the message said: “can you lend me $28k?” ;~)
“There is the resistance to change. ”
– wrong a third time! first, resistance to change is not new; it’s as old as humanity. second, while many of us fogy’s are not interested in all the latest-n-greatest tech, it doesn’t mean we’re change-averse, it simply means we enjoy some things – both new and old – and are not interested in others. and, it doesn’t mean that there are not a multitude of people who aren’t into change; in fact, they’re driving all this new-tech stuff, and it’s doing very well, by everything i can see. yes, i personally, have zero interest in subscribing to any streaming service. but it does not mean many others don’t, and it doesn’t mean i am change averse, it only means it has nothing i want because of my listening habits. i have ~2k vinyl albums, ~300 cd’s, a slew of fm tuners and a couple of quality fm stations (both content AND signal quality). and for my “streaming”, i have a really nice grace digital tuner that, outputted into a nice dac, gives quality sound, even at the low-rez 128kbps. stations that have higher bit-rates? they’re even better. the internet tuna/dac set-up is good enough that i can listen critically, w/o fatigue. and, if i’m interested in buying something that i’ve heard, i can go on line (or use a station’s app on my phone) to see what’s playing, or mark the time, and retrieve it later, for up to two weeks. it’s people who aren’t listening to fip-france who are the ones resistant to change, imo! ;~)
“There is the often fact-less subjectivity.”
– fake news wrong #4! again, subjectivity has been around as long as have human beings. and again, just because the “facts” show that digital outperforms analog, there’s obviously something these “facts” are not able to measure, otherwise analog would NOT be so popular. believe me, it’s not popular because it’s convenient. jerry, you REALLY need to stop trolling us “fact-less” luddites. all you do is alienate a large portion of the hi end audio community. and you complain about “epic issues” facing the hobby. well, here’s an epic issue for you – there’s a REASON why so many audiophiles – old AND new – like analog. there’s a reason why, at audiophile shows, there is so much analog on display. if you don’t like analog, that’s ok, but stop insulting a large segment of the hobbyists that do! stop the idiotic statements about how inferior it is because of measurements! people don’t listen to measurements!!! and us vinyl-heads DO know that digital is enjoyable – note my previous statement regarding my ability to enjoy low-rez digital internet radio.
“And with all due respect, we can’t solve all of those quickly or easily.”
– wrong the 5th time. it’s difficult to solve problems that do not exist. but, we can move forward by stopping the fake news of creating problems, because of a particular bias we may or may not have.
“But I do have one simple suggestion that could inject some much-needed life into audiophilia: better product names.”
– wrong statement #6. no one cares about names as much as they care about the product. those who do are irrelevant! you are offering a solution to a non-existent problem! talk about a waste of time!
if a particular company is unsuccessful because of its name, so be it. the overcapacity in the industry is the main driver for those who fail – product must be good quality and have perceived good value. there are plenty of products out there that have names that will appeal to anyone interested in the hobby, even if not all names appeal to everyone.
there will always be people who are price driven, and on both ends of the spectrum – those who don’t want to spend a lot of money, and those who want to buy the most expensive stuff out there, because they’re more interested in the perceived status, and they honestly don’t really care if something might sound better at 10% of the price. the same is true of names.
and, i humbly submit that it’s YOU who are behind the times when it comes to names. your comments about schiit audio are a perfect example. does the company offend some? certainly – i have actually read posts on blogs by a few folks who would never consider their product because of the name. but, as i said earlier, they’re irrelevant!
schiit is laughing all the way to the bank! they, and companies like them, are thriving, and they are what’s bringing new blood into this hobby. they offer top notch product at (relatively) bargain pricing, and they are at the bleeding edge of technological change. as are many other new and innovative companies. as well as the old standby’s. but, i guess it pisses you off that vpi is going like gangbusters…
jerry, it’s YOU and people who think like you do, who are behind the times, and are dragging this hobby down. but i am not worried; there’s enough interest – from the younger generations, and from the enlightened forward-thinking companies who cater to them – that the industry will be fine. (if human life can survive on the planet, that is; but that’s another discussion.)