This will be a cathartic experience on my part since I haven’t written for a while after leaving The Huffington Post.
A little background, I live in NYC but was brought up in Bangladesh (used as a representative third world country among many others). Those who have not heard of the place – open up a world map (do they still have those – or has Google Maps killed it already?) – and look to the right side of India. I sort of proudly say to all that I am Bangladeshi even though “officially” I’m from Wisconsin. But this article (or whatever you want to call it) is about how similar and dissimilar the head-fi or high-end audio scene is from the Western world and a third world country (where the average income – I just looked it up – is 2500 taka/month = $35/month. That math is a misrepresentation because it accounts for garment workers et al. So, for those with the hobby, it would be around $1000/month. I mention money early because, let’s face it, this is a “financially fatal” hobby.
Add to that, we (well I do, I’m in US) don’t have an Amazon/eBay and we don’t have Paypal either. So, once you have it, you’re pretty much stuck with your gear. But things are changing – no thanks to Paypal or eBay but the HP lover community.
The data I will show are from a particular Facebook Group – local to the scene in Bangladesh.
Most popular brands with some reasoning:
- Sennheiser (!!!!!) – yes, the kids with money usually go for the 598’s that they bring on foreign trips or family living abroad. The country does not have any authorized dealer.
- Samson (this is huge there because they actually have dealers)
- AT – yup M50x’s have hit the third world too. What’s ironic is, they are cheaper there.
- Takstar (see a trend here – Chinese companies are totally killing it, it makes sense too given the price tags)
- Beyerdynamic (770 ones) – those who can manage one
- VE Monks ( … wait for it … there’s a story to this)
- V-Moda (for rich kids)
- Logitech earbuds (costs like 800 taka = $10 – I have one – and I love ‘em)
What would an audiophile from a third world country like that ask you If you met him/her?
- Hello, what is a good headphone under 3000 taka ($50)?
- I want a flat sounding earbud but my budget is constrained. Is there anything good?
Why tell you when I can show you?
The demographics would be like 90% male and 10% female between the ages of 12-30. Observe how it is more like a “young folks” thing? I’m sure it will gradually grow to be more of a “12-70 years” hobby.
Struggles faced by a third world country:
- No Paypal
- No Amazon (India has though but no other South Asian countries do)
- No eBay
- No Authorized dealer for the name brands (trust me, there is demand – illustrated evidence coming up - and yes, talking to you - Germany - knock knock!)
- No credible marketplace
- Budget constraints
What we do have:
- Super enthusiasm
- Great discussions
- Meetups at restaurants (ohh the food is heavenly – I never had a chance to join cause I live in the US)
- Carpenters who would make you real Mahogany wood headphone stands for like $10 (wood included) if you just show a sample picture
- Community FTW – see below (in the two pictures following this bullet point) how a subculture without any endorsement or financial backing “officially” have gotten VE Monks to come to a country few have heard of.
Hope you guys liked bits and pieces of the similarities and contrasts. Think of it as a tour.
More soon especially reviews of my own gears.
And lastly, HD600’s are the best headphones existing (I just wanted to write that sentence).