CES 2017: Upcoming HiFiMAN Edition 6 and RE2000 Flagships
This move evidently crossed some sort of tripping point and triggered a firestorm of reaction from the headphone enthusiast community. Some of the response can be found in threads at Head-Fi.org, Superbestaudiofriends.org, and Head-Case.org. Unfortunately, looking now you will not see the full force and vehemence of the dialog as the Head-Fi thread is now locked and has been heavily moderated with the most intense posts removed, and the SBAF thread is locked with ongoing chat tucked away in a more private forum area without casual outside access.
The gist of the backlash from enthusiasts boils down to:
- Stop with the relentless introduction of flagships doubling of price every time.
- Coming out with HE1000 and Edition X version 2 products so quickly devalues the worth of previous owners headphones. It makes owners feel like they bought the right to Beta test the product.
- If you're going to make an expensive flagship product it needs to look the part. Build quality on current $1000+ models is under par.
- There are too many reliability problems and your customer service sucks.
The dialog got pretty vicious at times. I think we should all take a chill pill and return to our corners for a moment. For starters these frustrations are not limited to HiFiMAN, there are plenty examples of similar behaviour from other planar magnetic manufacturers. I think HiFiMAN just hit that nerve a little too hard, and received the brunt of a fairly big well of pent up disatisfaction.
I'm going to go to bat for Fang (HiFiMAN's CEO) for a moment. There are very real cultural differences between China, and the US and other first world markets. China does seem to be improving as a whole, but I've heard far too many horror stories about corner cutting in Chinese manufacturing processes and the cultural norms behind it to believe they think about quality assurance the same way we do in the west. I'm sure some manufacturers there are exemplary and there are a wide range of corporate commitments to quality. I certainly wouldn't know where to put HiFiMAN in that spectrum, but I'm sure Fang doesn't quite see the quality issue the same way as we do here.
There's also a significant difference between the US market for enthusiast headphones, and that in China. Here in the US, we, the vast average public, are the important market. We, average everyday people with various interests both wide spread and special niche, are the important player. We're the biggest market in the world, and we know it, and we often make demands from that position. (Like when we started buying Japanese cars in the '80s because Detroit's quality sucked.)
In China, the vast public is poor. They are not the big buying power. They have way more people, and to the best of my understanding, their cultural structure is more rigidly stratified than ours. My point is that I'd guess HiFiMAN sells mostly to a business class in China; one that is proud of its accomplishments and relishes in its new-found wealth. Conspicuous consumption seems to be a bit more the norm there, and the ever increasing price and introduction of high-end HiFiMAN headphones may be quite successful in that "keeping up with the Jones'" environment. Just a guess.
All I'm saying is, Fang may be operating well within the norm of his culture, in fact, he may be quite exemplary.
On the other hand, HiFiMAN is selling their products globally. If they want to play on that playing field, they're going to need to invest earnings into developing solid sales, distribution, and customer service channels that are just as high quality as they intend their products to be. I too have felt HiFiMAN too often rushes product to market. And I too feel HiFiMAN flagship products fall below expectations in terms of build quality.
I'm sort of disappointed in the descending level of discourse and poo-flinging that appeared in the Head-Fi thread; I think we should be able to express our concerns in a respectful manner. I'm also disappointed that the thread is now so heavily changes from the original because I think things have to get difficult before they begin to get better. I thought the thread was just beginning to right itself and may have brought about some healing and learning, but that opportunity has now been aborted. It is difficult dialog like that that leads to growth and learning eventually. The thread is now locked.
FWIW, the thread at SBAF.org is also lock...but the original content remains without redaction. At SBAF sensitive topics are discussed, and sometimes the thread gets locked when it has served its purpose and there's no need for it to devolve.
Personally, I think the most sensible course of action is to vote with your wallet. I will try to get a sample in for review and make comments on the merits and moistiness of the product itself. 'Til then, you have Fang's words in the video below. I found them...informative.