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The Sad State Of The So Called Audiophile DAP Market - Page 2

post #16 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post
 

Why doesn't Rockbox start licensing their product to these DAP makers (like Windows does for PCs)? We'd get a better, stable OS and the cost of DAPs will be lower because each company wouldn't have to reinvent the UI wheel.

 

Because there's more to it than that. What ClieOS said above is very true.  Also the makers of these players may be bound to terms/conditions with other companies that are providing them the parts to use in their DAPs. For example Rock Chip. They can't just release the coding for this to sources such as Rockbox. Otherwise they would be subject to lawsuites.

post #17 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by kova4a View Post

I think another reason for the current state of audiophile DAPs and their software is that in the Asian market the consumers seem to care more about just good sound and the UI can be very simple as long as it works. That's why if you read, for instance, fiio x3 impressions and opinions of Chinese consumers you'll see that they mainly comment on the sq and don't complain about the stuff Western consumers, which are used to ipods and their smartphones, complain about - probably most of them just use the browse folder option and that's perfectly fine for them.


 



I very much agree to this..the expectations and wants or needs over here is on another level..but of course if you are talking about $200 dap above I will also be complaining (because I live in a third world country and $200 is alot over here)..but not as much as the guys here..since I only play by folder and random..not by artist, by album, by playlist etc etc..
post #18 of 1303

This is the reason I still use my iMod. Current DAPs are severely overpriced for what you get or buggy as hell (usually both). I imagine they will refine their offering in the future, but as of now, they aren't ready for prime time IMHO

post #19 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post
 

I'll attempt to offer some explanation based on what I have observed over the last few years, and also from talking to a few hardware manufacturer.

 

On a more national level:

 

The easily understanding part is that the Chinese, having replaced the Japanese of the 70s~80s and the Taiwanese of the 80s~90s, is now the largest electronic hardware manufacturer in the world. Well, it isn't so much that they actually out do the Japanese and Taiwanese but more to the fact that the Japanese and Taiwanese have moved their factory to China. So after a decade or two of very strong electronics manufacturing development, one thing that the market isn't short of are over-qualified electronics engineers. In fact, the Chinese universities have been pumping out a huge number of hardware engineers over the last two decades because of the demand in the market.

 

So why are the firmware is still so bad? Well, because there isn't enough software engineers around to write the code. But it isn't as simple as not having enough graduate from universities. If anything, there are more software engineers in China now than any time before. The problem is, as the Chinese internal market has grown stronger and stronger, foreign and domestic companies are now in strong demand of software engineer. The pure manufacturing industry is slowly giving way to the R&D, where companies are now hiring the brilliant local for product R&D instead of just workers on assembly line - and big companies are paying top dollars for experienced software engineer. For an example - I talked to a company representative awhile ago, and he told me they have difficulty hiring good, well experience software engineer to write the software for their product. Whomever is qualified for the job doesn't want to work for them because Foxxcom's (or any big company for that matter) headhunter will offer the same job with much higher payroll. How much higher? Well, much higher than the highest paid person of the company, as I was told. So in a sense, they can't afford to hire well experienced software engineers. They can of course hire lesser experienced, or freshly graduated software engineer, but it take a toll on quality and time - and there is no guarantee that the freshly graduated software engineer won't get offered by the same headhunter for much higher pay once (s)he has enough experience. In short, it is not easy for a small company to hire good people when some of the largest companies in the world is your competition.

 

Now to a more local level:

 

All DAP in the market, audiophiles or not, runs on a SoC - a chip that combines CPU, RAM, and all kind of controllers into one unit. A decent Samsung SoC that can run a DAP requires a minimum of 10K units per order. That's far exceeding any local Chinese DAP maker's capability on expected manufacturing quantity, given most of them only make a few hundreds or a few thousands units of the same model at most. Also, the price tag of that 10K order will likely bankrupt most of these DAP maker. Beyond that, there is the question of whether Samsung will actually entertain such a small order - that's because ordering SoC is not just about chip, but also about getting access to the bootloader and basic firmware, which are trade secret. It is a common practice that when you buy an SoC, you are buying a solution, both hardware and software included, and paying for the physical chip is actually a lot easier than asking Samsung to release the code, especially if you are a small company with a tiny order. In most cases, SoC supplier will actually NOT give you the code, but develop the firmware for you (as a package deal for your SoC order). That means you have close to no control on the code but your faith to the SoC supplier that they will commit enough resource to get the job done, or at least iron out the majority of the bugs. Whatever code you have accessed to is also highly likely get locked down by some contract you signed for the SoC order, preventing you to release it to the general public (which is why you don't see every DAP maker running to the RockBox team, as they just legally can't).

 

So if you can't order your SoC from Samsung or any big SoC supplier because you are a small DAP maker, what do you do? Well, you turn to the local small SoC companies like RockChip, which specializes in the order of a few thousands units. What is the bad? Well, they have been known to have poor support and very limited hardware capability, and in most case you still won't get the code because they are also handling the firmware development for you. Basically it is a bad situation makes worst, but you have to live with it because you have no other option. That's why many of the Chinese electronic manufacturer (not just the DAP makers) employs a fast-in-fast-out tactic - they start making a new hardware based on whatever SoC RockChips (or any other small SoC maker of such) has developed this year, and only offer (if at all) firmware update and support as long as that particular SoC model is still on the market (which means it is about a year or two). That means you won't likely to see all the bugs getting fixed because RockChips has moved to something newer and won't bother to proactively fixing bugs for the manufacturer - If you are an electronics manufacturer, that's your cue to move onto a new model as well. 'Keep it cheap and keep it new' is how most of them survive, because 'latest and greatest' makes money; software maintenance doesn't. Unfortunately that situation applies to the audiophile DAP maker just as much to any small electronics manufacturer in China. You don't have the software engineering team of your own to do the job and the SoC supplier is more happy to sell you a new chip than to answer your phone call for more bugfix.

 

That being said, a more recent trend is for the the DAP to find SoC supplier that are willing to commit to a longer relationship or at least partially release the code. There is a reason why HiFiman and FiiO both went to the same SoC supplier and able to have their own firmware written in house. Another trend is to adapt Android as it is open-sourced. iBasso does that, though they still stuck in the hole I called RockChips and Andorid isn't really optimized for pure audio purpose. However, the biggest obstacle, as far my opinion goes, is still the lack of a good in-house software team for most of them - and that's harder to fix than choosing a new SoC supplier. It is getting better, but there is still a long way to go before any Chinese DAP maker is able to stand up to the Korean / American in firmware maturity.

 

Well, I hope these explanation at least partially addresses the OP's question.

What you are describing here is an incredibly mis managed industry as a whole.

 

Begin Here

 

1) Good software (firmware) can be used to overcome bad hardware.

 

2) There is NO cure for bad software (firmware).

 

Now shall we begin?

 

Saying you cannot afford to hire software engineers is an excuse at best and a complete and utter lack of imagination at worst. Their are a myriad methods of developing software without "owning" a development team. You can contract that out. There are a lot of high end SD's out there who would willingly take on the task of a firmware write on a hourly part time basis. Many of them have direct experience in DSP. You could go back into the universities and have them take on the task they can be a great resource for this kind of low volume work. This is a completely solvable problem (good god, rockbox does it for free!)

You could, as you mentioned go with Android (it can be made incredibly audio friendly) and that would solve to a large extent both the hardware and firmware dilemna's you described.

The problems you describe are those of organizations who simply wish to run before then can walk. They are looking for a boutique solution that is proprietary and do not have the talent to make it happen. As a result the consumer is taking it in the neck.

This is what happens when an immature organization decides is needs to own everything. Simply put you do not need employees to develop a limited run limited life cycle product in this day and age. If they have not learned the art of managing contract labour to do design then they have missed, arguably the single most important part of limited life cycle product development. This goes back well before the founding days of Microsoft in this industry and has been fine tuned ever since.

 

I'm sorry but the labour excuse just does not cut it here.

 

If you are going to lay this off on the chip makers good luck. Group buying could eliminate a lot of those issues. You could put together a larger order if you co operated with the competition an organized supplies of chips in larger quantities. You also get more leverage for support of the chip that way. Once again the "proprietary" demon rises up to bite you in the azz here. If you want to own everything in house, you better have a really large bankroll. Relying on people to buy you misbegotten product and forgiving you for not supporting it is NOT a sound business model. This forums existence should be a tip off to that.

 

Once again this is a complete management, not technological failure on the part of the companies and really needs to be viewed as such. If any company operates in that manner do they have the right to charge premium prices for a product? Should they  be in this industry at all?

post #20 of 1303

Small companies really cannot afford a software team which could develop a decent OS or just customize Android OS properly nowadays in China.

post #21 of 1303

First-world problems...an imod seems like a reasonable solution until things improve.

post #22 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hutnicks View Post
  Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

What you are describing here is an incredibly mis managed industry as a whole.

 

Begin Here

 

1) Good software (firmware) can be used to overcome bad hardware.

 

2) There is NO cure for bad software (firmware).

 

Now shall we begin?

 

Saying you cannot afford to hire software engineers is an excuse at best and a complete and utter lack of imagination at worst. Their are a myriad methods of developing software without "owning" a development team. You can contract that out. There are a lot of high end SD's out there who would willingly take on the task of a firmware write on a hourly part time basis. Many of them have direct experience in DSP. You could go back into the universities and have them take on the task they can be a great resource for this kind of low volume work. This is a completely solvable problem (good god, rockbox does it for free!)

You could, as you mentioned go with Android (it can be made incredibly audio friendly) and that would solve to a large extent both the hardware and firmware dilemna's you described.

The problems you describe are those of organizations who simply wish to run before then can walk. They are looking for a boutique solution that is proprietary and do not have the talent to make it happen. As a result the consumer is taking it in the neck.

This is what happens when an immature organization decides is needs to own everything. Simply put you do not need employees to develop a limited run limited life cycle product in this day and age. If they have not learned the art of managing contract labour to do design then they have missed, arguably the single most important part of limited life cycle product development. This goes back well before the founding days of Microsoft in this industry and has been fine tuned ever since.

 

I'm sorry but the labour excuse just does not cut it here.

 

If you are going to lay this off on the chip makers good luck. Group buying could eliminate a lot of those issues. You could put together a larger order if you co operated with the competition an organized supplies of chips in larger quantities. You also get more leverage for support of the chip that way. Once again the "proprietary" demon rises up to bite you in the azz here. If you want to own everything in house, you better have a really large bankroll. Relying on people to buy you misbegotten product and forgiving you for not supporting it is NOT a sound business model. This forums existence should be a tip off to that.

 

Once again this is a complete management, not technological failure on the part of the companies and really needs to be viewed as such. If any company operates in that manner do they have the right to charge premium prices for a product? Should they  be in this industry at all?

 

 

While some of your ideas on the matter are right you seem to misjudge how this niche industry works. Even if you outsource to the outside software development team they are not doing it for free. They'll actually charge you more, especially the ones that actually have the needed experience. As far as Android - it's not as easy as that. Android has limitations - it does not output hi-res audio, so just 16/44.1 - no 24/192. The exclusions like what ibasso did on its own are not general case and working on custom Android kernels to enable that takes a lot of time money and that raises the price of the final product even more. That's why they go with the chips available and simple UI which while not pretty or very consumer-friendly, can do that and because of that they have to rely on proprietary software and the software developers of that company.

And excuse me but that group buy idea is hilarious. You want the competitors in this niche market to get together and buy the same parts, so they can get a discount and leverage for better software support? Good luck with that. Yeah, in a perfect world where competing companies get together and create one product but it's like if Apple and Samsung got together. 
Anyway, you have no idea how much in-house development and outsourcing costs to small manufacturers, which don't get the huge discounts the big companies get (and ironically don't need as they have the money). I think the vsonic's ceo mentioned something about investing more than 2 million yuan (more than $300k) (don't quote me on that but I think it was something in that line) for the development of the new DAP. Now that's no apple, that's a Chinese company with small profit margin - you see how ibasso is selling for a hyped product, they won't be making millions of players just a couple of thousands. So when you add all the manufacturing costs how much money do you think they'll make if they don't sell their product at a premium price compared to an ipod?
post #23 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by doublea71 View Post
 

First-world problems...

Tera player is European made, no display and supports wav only thus nothing to complain about.

post #24 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by CosmicHolyGhost View Post
 

Tera player is European made, no display and supports wav only thus nothing to complain about.

 

I think there is plenty to complain about with the Tera Player....lol.

post #25 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by kova4a View Post
 

 

While some of your ideas on the matter are right you seem to misjudge how this niche industry works. Even if you outsource to the outside software development team they are not doing it for free. They'll actually charge you more, especially the ones that actually have the needed experience. As far as Android - it's not as easy as that. Android has limitations - it does not output hi-res audio, so just 16/44.1 - no 24/192. The exclusions like what ibasso did on its own are not general case and working on custom Android kernels to enable that takes a lot of time money and that raises the price of the final product even more. That's why they go with the chips available and simple UI which while not pretty or very consumer-friendly, can do that and because of that they have to rely on proprietary software and the software developers of that company.

And excuse me but that group buy idea is hilarious. You want the competitors in this niche market to get together and buy the same parts, so they can get a discount and leverage for better software support? Good luck with that. Yeah, in a perfect world where competing companies get together and create one product but it's like if Apple and Samsung got together. 
Anyway, you have no idea how much in-house development and outsourcing costs to small manufacturers, which don't get the huge discounts the big companies get (and ironically don't need as they have the money). I think the vsonic's ceo mentioned something about investing more than 2 million yuan (more than $300k) (don't quote me on that but I think it was something in that line) for the development of the new DAP. Now that's no apple, that's a Chinese company with small profit margin - you see how ibasso is selling for a hyped product, they won't be making millions of players just a couple of thousands. So when you add all the manufacturing costs how much money do you think they'll make if they don't sell their product at a premium price compared to an ipod?

Laugh all you want. Andorid's so called limitations are in hardware not software. You actually believe they intentinally programmed out high res audio. Thats a dac and dsp function.

 

You think that's a hilarious idea.  http://www.cbronline.com/news/mobile-and-tablets/apple-uses-samsung-built-a7-processor-in-iphone-5s-230913  Call Tim Cook, he'll absolutely wet himself.

 

Wake up and smell it. And Apple could actually afford to build their own logic.

 

Any I actually do know how much in house vs outsourcing costs. Intimately.

 

You seem to think it's up to the consumer to finance small companies.Charging a premium price on something of nebulous value that goes unsupported is justifiable because the company needs that money to survive. When exactly did the consumer audio market turn into a charity? You are asking the consumer to become your financier's in the hope that somehow somewhere sometime real soon now you'll make a product that actually works which the "financier" will then have the amazing opportunity to get gouged for again. Good thing you rely on the consumer to carry the freight here, any investor hearing that business model in a pitch would probably suggest you stick to making LED flashlights.

post #26 of 1303

The new breed of audiophile players hits the sweet spot. DX50 isn't over-priced like the DX100 and has both coaxial out and lineout.

 

The heat issues are a big reason I never bothered with the DX100. Having a transport, DAC AND an amp in a small box don't lend themselves well to heat. So far, no heat issues with the DX50.

 

There is no way I would be carrying around a $1200+ unit at any point.

post #27 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hutnicks View Post
 

Andorid's so called limitations are in hardware not software. You actually believe they intentinally programmed out high res audio. Thats a dac and dsp function.

 

LOL No, it's not. Even the Wolfson WM8994 in my 3-year old Galaxy S can handle 24-bit audio. It's kernel-based and something people have complained to Google for years.

As far as Apple and Samsung that's a totally different case. Samsung has been manufacturing parts for apple for years not because they work together but because Apple needs them and Samsung doesn't mind taking a sh*tload of Apple's money. And Apple is actually spending millions of dollars for R&D. Even if all audiophile companies get together to make one product they can't pull off that kind of cash


Edited by kova4a - 9/23/13 at 9:27am
post #28 of 1303

Tape players used to eat the tape. If you were far from home with only one cassette you slowly wound everything back together and away you went. Still we were grateful to have something portable.

 

There is a relationship experience curve. The trouble with glitches can be tolerated to a point then the user experience starts to suffer. Rockbox has better sound in an Ipod also but has it's share of unseaworthiness.

 

I think the future looks pretty good for our portable experience. With the smooth workings of phones and processing power getting to an amazing level, the sky is the limit. Unfortunately it seems these boutique players will always be sketchy at whatever price. It seems an amazing sad reality considering how well most of our technology works now. Anyone remember CompuServe charging a dollar a minute to use the internet in the mid-ninties?

 

With OS7 now streaming digital on Iphones 4 and above from the Camera Connection Kit along with the later issue IPodTouch, just like Ipads with OS7, were in a new level of source playing wave and Apple Lossless at least. We now have Samsung Tabs and phones able to get high resolution FLAC out to a DAC/amp. All this just happened this year!

 

The Imod does look better and better too!

 

I thought the OPs video was dead on. The cathartic results/effects were great I'm sure.:p 


Edited by Redcarmoose - 9/23/13 at 9:29am
post #29 of 1303

Hmm. Clip w/ rockbox and a 32GB SD card. Cost me $40 and I am happy as hell with it driving my $100 IEMs. 

 

However it is important to point out, the hardware that runs things like Andriod or any OS for that matter is seperate from the DAC hardware - or it can be. so you can have a beautiful OS and great sound but that means more chips and more money. 

post #30 of 1303
Quote:
Originally Posted by kova4a View Post
 

LOL No, it's not. Even the Wolfson WM8994 in my 3-year old Galaxy S can handle 24-bit audio. It's kernel-based and something people have complained to Google for years.

As far as Apple and Samsung that's a totally different case. Samsung has been manufacturing parts for apple for years not because they work together but because Apple needs them and Samsung doesn't mind taking a sh*tload of Apple's money. And Apple is actually spending millions of dollars for R&D. Even if all audiophile companies get together to make one product they can't pull off that kind of cash

And if you actually look hard enough you will find software for android that will play that 24 bit audio back to you.

 

Apple and Samsung is exactly the case you are talking about. Someone has something you need, you buy it. Or try to go it on your own and go bankrupt really really fast. If you do not think competitors work together when it benefits them you failed business 101.

 

That LED flashlight venture coming along?

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