Originally Posted by ukon16 Do audio engineers at say...Pioneer know this and scoff everything somebody emails them asking for new tube amps or complain that modern recievers suck compared to their vintage, unrestored 60's pioneer amp? Does your average designer at Sony audio realize they're not re-inventing the wheel when designing tower speaker #135 despite the marketing literature saying otherwise?
Engineers realize very early in their career that the product must have something marketable to make a splash. There must be something that distinguishes the product that will induce the company to spend on advertising (versus cancelling the project), and hopefully the constant exposure to the uniqueness will make a consumer decide "that feature makes sense to me, that's the product I want"
Part of growing up as an engineer is understanding that the best product doesn't always win. There are a host of other factors that come into play. Price. Availability. Balance. And most important with buyers these days: Does the product increase your stature among your peers? That seemed to start with jeans in the 80's, and is going harder than ever today. Kids cannot articulate why they want Beats or iPod. They just know that if they have something else, their friends will ask "why didn't you get X?" And of course, their friends don't know either. All their friends know is that the NFL team getting off the bus are all wearing Beats, and they are pulling down a few million a year and can afford the best, and ergo, Beats must be the best. Marketing. Marketing. Marketing.
Now, once a decision is made by marketing on where to focus, the engineer's job is to get the features into the product in the most cost-effective and performing way. And there is where an engineer has TONS of leverage. They can decide to spin things internally however they wish. But he must be subtle. He has all the information. He can really drive the decision however he wishes. The marketing guy will never be able to synthesize the information without the help of the engineer.
The fun part of engineering is helping to get the company into a position where you DO have something that is desired by consumers, and then your ASP can increase and then the engineer can spend more money on making the product even more unique and desirable.
Lastly, the engineer needs to work with manufacturing to figure out a way to TEST the unique and differentiating functionality of the product. And this is where snake-oil departs from honest projects. When you manufacture something, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. A part can get left off. The wrong part can get placed. The vendor can send mislabeled parts. Parts can be out of spec. All of these things conspire to make the product not work as designed (and I've seen every one of these routinely. They are not surprising events at all in high volume manufacturing). But a legit product flow can perform tests at the time of manufacturing to guard against these mistakes. Things like optical inspections, performance tests, temp testing of manufacturing samples can all find these problem.
But what if a product is wonderful because of some "unknown" quantity? Most that are dealing in snake oil cannot tell you the spec that has resulted in such amazing sound stage. Or the spec that gives the product so much clarity. Or presence. And if they can't identify the spec that is unique, then how can they verify is was built correctly? And how can they be sure that serial #1 was built the same as serial #1000? They cannot. Is their claim that a person sitting on the line in a noisy factory making $12/hour can hear this? Or do they bring down the big name CEO to listen to every unit to verify it was made correctly?
So, the next time you hear of an amazing but subjective attribute that makes a product wonderful, ask yourself "how does the vendor know all of these were built the same?" If there isn't a spec that coincides with the subjective attribute, then you can be pretty sure it's snake oil. Without that spec, the manufacturer has no way to ensure that every product was built the same.