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What makes expensive gear expensive? (Distressor vs. FMR Audio)
Old 3rd September 2010
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

What makes expensive gear expensive? (Distressor vs. FMR Audio)

I have both a Distressor and an FMR RNLA. I paid $200 for one and $1500 for the other one. They're both great, but why's the distressor SO much more?

I'm really curious for factual/objective answers as to why "expensive" gear is so much more than "cheap" gear when it comes to pres, compressors, channel strips, etc.

- Is it as simple as better components throughout that add up to more cost (pots, jacks, resistors, caps, transformers, custom chips like API's op-amps, etc.?)

- Is it "branding" of gear as being "high end" and "serious" and "boutique?" [Dave Derr's quote about how he could make a cheap distressor, but he wanted to maintain the image of EL as a "luxury" manufacturer). When it's on the Neve or API level, is it as simple as the "brand" and name recognition makes it expensive (though obviously those reps are earned by decades of quality gear).

What's the deal?
Old 3rd September 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Turdadactyl's Avatar
Old 3rd September 2010
  #3
I don't know about the above statement in this case. The FMR stuff is pretty dang popular, especially because of its price. And we all know how loved and coveted the Distressor is.

The biggest part of the cost these days is where its made. Pete Montessi [A Designs] will talk with you at lengths about this. Building gear in the United States and most of Europe is NOT CHEAP. Labor isn't cheap, R&D isn't cheap, quality control isn't cheap, promotion isn't cheap, etc.

The other simple part of the equation is the build quality. Look inside an FMR and a Distressor. Everything from the knobs, to the LEDS, the connectors, the actual components....the level of quality is massively steep in the obvious direction.

This isn't to say that FMR is bad [I love em], but rather as simple of an explanation to your ? as possible.

Old 3rd September 2010
  #4
Supply and demand doesn't explain much. There are a lot more factors, and yes parts are one of them. If the Distressor sold 50x's more, it doesn't necessarily mean that it would be a lot cheaper. With many parts manufacturers (who are also themselves are 'boutique' in a way) you hit a wall of quantity discount, so buying a million of something wouldn't matter. It also doesn't mean that by selling that many more Dave and Co would be comfortable outsourcing to some large assembly house (US, Chinese, or otherwise). Considering he's the guy who cares about it and wants to personally oversee as much as possible (like many companies), he would just hire more people in house to build them, meaning more payroll, insurance, sq footage, rent, tax etc keeping the equalibrium of the overhead relative to when the quantity sold was smaller. Not sure if that really answers or helps the OP, but I see people mention supply and demand a lot, and being on the manufacturing side of things ourselves, I think there is an illusion in the public mind that more sold always equals cheaper.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Joeycheez's Avatar
 

tuff stuff

I think you also find that "the good stuff" can handle a difficult problem much better than the cheap stuff.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #6
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ScumBum's Avatar
 

High quality parts that are used .
Old 3rd September 2010
  #7
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Tal Black's Avatar
 

Good parts ain't cheap. Mackie could only get their mixers up to the quality that they did on economies of scale and such. And there are levels of quality well above Mackie gear.

I have the Vox AC4TV guitar amp and it screams for 150.00 or whatever it cost but a proper transformer to replace the el cheapo in there, alone would go for as much or more than the whole amp cost. Think about that. The price of a decent transformer not installed is up around 200.00+. Take apart a Pultec and price the same quality parts (or the modern equal). The result would probably be scary.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #8
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thetalkinghead's Avatar
 

distressors are the ****... but man theyre expensive
Old 3rd September 2010
  #9
Lives for gear
As far as getting into a decent compressor the disstresor is at a price a home studio could pick one up. Now a CL1b,La2a I just couldn't do it. Lunchbox modules aren't that bad either. Been thinking of getting a 527 and adding another later. I would love two api 2500s though I just can't justify half that stuff with the plugs I have. Nice pres, mics, monverison, Mac, monitors, treatment I can do and comes first.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #10
Gear Addict
 
Danner's Avatar
 

Because we're a bunch of sluts, that's why.

Somebody who somebody posts that the PDQ-123(x) (and not the y version, mind you) sounded awesome while they tracked the latest promiscuous Hollywood slut last week, so over here in slutzville, we race to our terminals with Gold Card in-hand to order a PDQ-123(x) to keep up with the Jones of slutzville.

Any questions?
Old 3rd September 2010
  #11
Gear Head
 

Try building something yourself and you'll soon have the answer to this question. Parts are expensive. Rotary switches can cost 30-80 dollars each depending on the brand and type. Front panels are expensive. Want cool knobs? Pay up. Don't want scratchy pots after 1 month? You get the idea. FMR makes great stuff without a lot of bells and whistles so it's much cheaper and can mostly all be mounted to a single circuit board reducing the time it takes to "wire" one up. There is nothing wrong with this approach but how many people have you seen scoff at the FMR stuff because it doesn't have chicken-head or marconi knobs?
Old 3rd September 2010
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by echotodd View Post
Try building something yourself and you'll soon have the answer to this question. Parts are expensive. Rotary switches can cost 30-80 dollars each depending on the brand and type. Front panels are expensive. Want cool knobs? Pay up. Don't want scratchy pots after 1 month? You get the idea. FMR makes great stuff without a lot of bells and whistles so it's much cheaper and can mostly all be mounted to a single circuit board reducing the time it takes to "wire" one up. There is nothing wrong with this approach but how many people have you seen scoff at the FMR stuff because it doesn't have chicken-head or marconi knobs?
I think what you'll realize by building stuff yourself is how some gear is grossly overpriced. For example, the SSL rackmount bus compressor. You can build the newest version of the DIY GSSL for under $600, whereas the genuine version will cost you much much more (about $3500 to be exact). Same thing with a Pultec EQ.

Other gear, the cost is really in the parts. For example a Fairchild 670 stereo compressor will cost only a couple hundred bucks cheaper in parts than buying a pre-built unit.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #13
Lives for gear
 
ScumBum's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by echotodd View Post
Try building something yourself and you'll soon have the answer to this question. Parts are expensive. Rotary switches can cost 30-80 dollars each depending on the brand and type. Front panels are expensive. Want cool knobs? Pay up. Don't want scratchy pots after 1 month? You get the idea. FMR makes great stuff without a lot of bells and whistles so it's much cheaper and can mostly all be mounted to a single circuit board reducing the time it takes to "wire" one up. There is nothing wrong with this approach but how many people have you seen scoff at the FMR stuff because it doesn't have chicken-head or marconi knobs?
Same with building your own guitar amp . I thought I could save a ton of money buying all the parts and building it myself . Well if you don't buy the parts in bulk you don't save much at all , and then theres all the time to build it .

All these gear company's deliver products at very good prices to consumers because they buy everything in bulk . They want to sell as many units as they can so they price it as cheap as they can go . Its not a big conspiracy why everything is so expensive .
Old 3rd September 2010
  #14
Lives for gear
Hype also helps in raising prices
Old 3rd September 2010
  #15
Gear Head
 

If I build stuff myself I don't have to pay employees, insurance, rent, advertisers, etc. Sure, I've paid a lot less in parts costs to build stuff. I like to build stuff, but I never think about the labor cost because it's a fun hobby for me and I don't have to. Building stuff has also given me a greater respect for well done gear and understanding why it costs what it does. The gssl is indeed an inexpensive build, but lots of guys have put in lots of time and effort to make it that way and bless them for it. If you start something without all that support behind it you've just entered the world of r&d.
Old 3rd September 2010
  #16
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

I can only speak 100% for the gear I design/build.
Clarostat pots 12.00ea.+
Jensen Transformers; $45.00 to $110.00ea. depending on which.
Gold push button switches; $8.00 ea.
Each unit hand assembled, tested, burned in.
Grounding scheme better than many consoles..All custom..
Hard wired point to point, NO internal connectors.
Chassis mounted connectors, No PCB mounts.
Most components hand selected/tested.
High end chassis; $80.00ea (Rack version)

35+ years exp.
24 Years in business.
Old 4th September 2010
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
danetate's Avatar
Yes, parts can cost a lot when you are talking about transformers, rotary switches, etc. And there is quite a variation there. Comparing the API 550A and 550B. The B, which is four band, has PCB-mounted rotary switches. They appear to be Grayhills, and being concentric and with a large number of decks, they are very expensive switches. Plus there is two PCBs sandwiched in there. The 550A version though has hand-wired switches like Mike is saying above - wires are soldered to the switch and then to the board. That is way more costly than the PC-mount type due to labor. This is probably why the 550A costs more than the 550B, even though it is only three band. So there are lots of factors that may not always be apparent at first glance or use.

As for DIY, you aren't paying for marketing, insurance, etc., and you don't have to make a living doing it. : )
Old 4th September 2010
  #18
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tampa's Avatar
 

Well parts is part of it, R&D is a major part, and lets face it they don't sell boat loads of product either. I know a ton of people and I don't know of any that own decent recording gear.
Old 4th September 2010
  #19
Lives for gear
FMR makes a nice comp but it has no ballz and is a one trick pony. Distressor is an absolute beast and has a wide range of sounds and is way more flexible from a controls perspective. It can do what RNC does and RNLA as well as many other popular textures and is more sensitive to it's potential settings. It's more precision I guess.

Also build quality. FMR may use decent components as far as circuitry goes but it is a whimpy unit as far as E/M packaging goes. That's fine for an average small studio but people take Distressors on the road. RNC would last five minutes on tour. Packaging cost money.
this is one way they make a nice (no pun intended) unit affordable. The raw mfg. cost of the distressor's chassis and mechanical aspects are probably more than what an RNC sells for retail.

RNC is not really unique from a design perspective. The layout , sound and overall flavor has been done before at least close enough. Distressor is more unique and is more 'engineered' that cost money.

Should the Distressor be less expensive? that's a good argument, it is perhaps overpriced but then again not really. It's debatable
Old 4th September 2010
  #20
Order of importance varies with the particular company and where you're located:

Complexity of design
Quality of parts
Labor costs (where is it made?)
Distribution costs (middlemen, import duties, etc)
Retail markup/demand
Advertising
Old 4th September 2010
  #21
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nosebleedaudio's Avatar
 

That is one point I really just thought about..advertising
The advertising cost the same in a mag such as Mix..
So depending on your product that same size ad may get the attention of either 80% of the readers OR 5%...
For example stomp boxes compared to high end mic pres...
HUGE difference in overall sales..
Price point has something to do with it NO doubt but demand/real need has far more to do with it IMHO...If good mic pres were $100.00 do you think every musician would buy one???



How many of us have bought some tool that we really did not need or get any REAL use out of??? I have MANY times..This is off subject a little..

How about cars; there is a HUGE demand for a GOOD car, BUT you don't see many that are cheap..my point is supply/demand does NOT lower prices down to the ground..Not a good comparison..

No doubt how MUCH $$$ someone has has a LOT to do with which model Gtr ect they buy..If I had plenty of cheese I would buy several high end snare drums..It would NOT make me a better player, just would enjoy having them to play...

One last point; I use wire cutters everyday and have done so for over 40 years, I have seen the huge advantage/performance of the better ones for more $$.. $12.00 vs. $55.00+..
They are the same thing some would say, made from steel ect...so the $55.00 have to be overpriced/ripoff...NOT to me..I own several pairs of the $55.00+ type..and LOVE them...
No doubt MORE of the $12.00 cutters are sold...
Old 25th February 2012
  #22
Here for the gear
 
Daustin's Avatar
 

Building your own equipment would take away from music production time? Isn't what this is all about? Not looking for a fight here I just value every second I have for production....I guess some people are more into the gear though..lol to each their own!
Old 25th February 2012
  #23
Golf club memberships.
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