What’s in a name? When it comes to high fidelity audio equipment, a lot. But a revolution is in motion, and Chinese audio brands are taking over an industry that traditionally shunned anything Made in China. This is great news for up-and-coming audio brands, who are seizing the opportunity to source very high quality audio equipment without the hefty price tag.
So, what is Chinese hifi? And how can eCommerce startups take advantage of the trend?
Chifi, Bob Dylan and Schiit audio
As it turns out, streaming your favourite Bob Dylan tune on Spotify, through your iphone, and blasting it out of a single car speaker, isn’t how the audio gods intended it. Hifi audio is about the pursuit of sonic perfection. It’s about audio equipment that so faithfully reproduces music, you could be fooled into thinking Bob himself was in the room with you.
An audiophile will tell you that once you’ve heard your favourite song through a set of proper 300 ohm Senns plugged into a Schiit tube DAC (yes they embrace the irony of the company name), well, you’ll never look back. Until you see the price tag, or course. Things get pricey in the hifi world, like, I could buy a new car instead of this amplifier pricey.
The Times They Are A-Changin' though. Enter, Chinese hifi, or Chifi.
What is Chinese Hifi? Awfully good is what it is.
In an industry where brand recognition has traditionally been paramount, Made In China wasn’t allowed anywhere near the term hifi. China hifi was nothing but an obscure oxymoron, and despite many Chinese manufacturers producing awfully good audio equipment, they just couldn’t shake the awful part in the eyes of the audiophile.
Over time however those Chinese hi fi manufacturers got better, and then they got very good. As the audio expert talent pool grew in China, many of these manufacturers began building their own R&D teams, designing their own gear, and even selling it through their own brands.
That’s exactly what Chinese hifi audio manufacturer XDuoo did. The Shenzhen based audio company started out by manufacturing products for well established brands, and then over time built an inhouse R&D team. They now have their own internationally recognised brand, and have established a solid reputation in the hi fi industry.
How can eCommerce startups take advantage of the trend?
The China hifi revolution presents a golden opportunity for up-and-coming brands and online retailers of hifi audio equipment.
Businesses looking to import audio equipment from China can work with Chinese hi fi manufacturers like XDuoo and tap into an existing, highly specialised R&D and manufacturing process. It’s called ODM (Original Design Manufacturing), or White Label Manufacturing, which we talk about in more detail here.
By sourcing products these Chinese audio equipment manufacturers are already producing, you can drastically lower your cost of production. There are trade-offs, of course, the obvious one being that you’re sourcing products available to other brands and retailers. However, given how fast the Chifi industry is growing, there are plenty of opportunities to get ahead of the curve and source products not currently available in a given market (like Australia or New Zealand).
OEM vs ODM - What’s the difference?
An OEM (original equipment manufacturer) produces your product to your exact specification. You do the research and development and then contract out the manufacturing. Apple invents the iPhone, Foxconn builds it. An ODM (original design manufacturer) does the initial research and development for the products they manufacture. They then sell (or lease) these products to retailers.
But I want to sell customised products
There’s plenty of space between ODM and OEM, and in that space you’ll find the wonderful world of customisation. Generic products have their place, but selling customised audio equipment is much more fun.
When it comes to Chinese hifi audio, customisation ranges from simply putting your own brand on a product, through to more complex customisation of housing, colour, or even functionality. Let’s say you’re working with a manufacturer on a tube headphone amplifier, but you want the housing to look like a 50s microwave, you might be able to do that. Customisation will cost you, but you’re still tapping into existing R&D and capturing all of the benefits that entails.
Tips from a Sourcing Agency
Perhaps the most important step in your hifi audio sourcing journey is finding the right Chinese manufacturer. There are plenty to choose from, but separating the sheep from the goats can be tricky. Take your time, do your research, and make sure you’re working with a manufacturer that can deliver.
Independently verify your manufacturer, and if possible, visit the factory (or have a sourcing agency do it for you). Order samples and thoroughly test them before moving forward with production. Hifi without the Hi isn’t going to wow your audiophile customers.
Need a hand finding the perfect Chinese Hifi manufacturer for your brand? We can help with that. In fact, helping businesses source smarter and import quality products from China and throughout Asia is what we do best. We’ll get you in the right rooms, with the right people, so you can build long-lasting partnerships with your suppliers.
For a complete, end-to-end product sourcing service check out our Epic Suite package. It’ll take you from a big idea to a physical product in hand.
The last word
So, what is Chinese hifi really all about? Sure, it’s about getting really, really, really, ridiculously good headphones for a small price. But, it’s also indicative of where electronics manufacturing in China is heading in general. As the big players look elsewhere for lower labour costs, and manufacturers in China become more specialised, there’s a golden opportunity for small to medium sized players to step in. So go get some.
Interested? Curious? Have a burning question about product sourcing? Drop us a line, anytime.
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Better sourcing everybody.