It’s the time of year for saving money!
Yesterday a Facebook friend posted a picture announcing the arrival of new cabling for his audio system. The photo didn’t show any cable, just a stack of silver Halliburton-style cases stacked seven high. All I could think of when I looked at the photo was, “Where you gonna keep all those sexy silver boxes?” It was, for me, emblematic of the kind of over-packaging of certain kinds of audio products that I see on a disturbingly regular basis.
It’s not a universal problem. Some kinds of audio products are almost exempt from overly blingy packaging. Power amplifiers and preamps, for instance, rarely come ensconced in burl wood presentation cases. There are some exceptions, however. AVM uses Halliburton-style cases for all their electronics, but I was assured it was for practical reasons (they have extremely low incidences of shipping damage) rather than for bling. Most loudspeaker packaging is also more focused on getting the things to your door in one piece than adding bling, but when they do add bling (such as built-in rollers that can then retract when the loudspeakers are in final position) it tends to have some practical value beyond making a good first impression.
But at the other end of the spectrum in terms of mostly useless, designed to impress the buyer rather than add utility to the product, there’s flagship-level cables packaging. I don’t need to point fingers here as almost every cable and wire firm (with the exception of Audience who have a standard box and bag for all their cables) have felt the need to deliver their cables in something that reflects the qualities within. The logical extension of this silliness is a cable that is delivered by its own bullet-proof drone, which, of course, would be part of the packaging the owner would have the honor of storing until that time when the cable needs to go back to its creators for refurbishment.
Headphones and their packaging are currently the primary major purveyors of excess glitz. Oppo, now gone but not forgotten, delivered their PM-1 headphones in a big old presentation box that must have, all by itself, weighed six or seven pounds. Imagine what it added to the shipping cost? And they are not the only ones guilty of excess preciousness when it comes to their packaging. But since my criticisms aren’t about to hurt Oppo’s business (since they’re out of it) I chose to pick on them. If a manufacturer must do something more for prestige’s sake, why not put the money into a headphone stand as part of the package? At least that is something that won’t merely take up space.
Fortunately, most in-ears, and even custom-in-ears packaging has resisted the flight toward blingy packaging. Some manufacturers, like Westone, include useful travel cases with their IEMs. Others, spend accessory budgets on multiple tip choices and removeable cable options instead of presentation boxes. I like that.
There’s no way, no matter how loudly I scream “Stop overpackaging!” that manufacturers will universally decide that using fancier packaging to increase a component’s perceived value is not a clever marketing tool. But, in my humble opinion, those manufacturers that do “get it” will be the ones that win the hearts, minds, and for them most importantly, the wallets of audiophiles far more than the ones that don’t.
engulfaudio sells Black Rhodium Cables in the US. Super nicely built cables…comes in a white cardboard box, perfect!
Fortunately for my delicate sensibilities there are plenty of good guys out there. I like Periodic Audio’s earphone packaging – a white cardboard box. Inside the white box is a metal cylindrical case with screw-off top that holds the earphones. Recycle the box, keep the case for travel…low waste…ahh… 🙂
I completely agree with you with two exceptions: (1) Spectral at least used to double box their gear with form-fitting foam cut precisely for the specific component. That just makes common sense. (2) Western Electric shipped their 300B’s in matched pairs inside of a mahogany box. Yes, that’s very sturdy; but, really, if you’re paying around 1000 USD for a new pair of power tubes, nothing “NOS” or terribly exotic, you may as well get a nice box. Of course, their 300B’s actually did sound the best and I hope they do again when manufacturing recommences.
Double-boxing is a standard “best practice” for shipping. Many firms do this – I just boxed up a PS Audio component that had a double box and a clever plastic support system. As to whether a wooden box would survive trauma better than a thick multi-layer reinforced cardboard is questionable…but it’s clear that these are efforts to reduce shipping damage, not inspire lust…
While packaging for cables can get a little silly, there is at least one tiny (very tiny) bit of reasoning – it’s easier for the end user to spot a fake. Knock-off cables can be made to look pretty convincing at first glance, but if the packaging doesn’t pass the old eye test, well…
Some cable manufacturers, such as Crystal, have serial #s on separate un-removable pieces permanently attached to each cable to prevent piracy. Judging by the quality of Rolex fake boxes, the pirates can deal with packaging as well as the OEMs…