China is pushing its way into a market in which it was neither present nor expected: that of hi-fi
China is the true factory of the world . It has been so for more than two decades, but the turning point in the commercial strategy of this giant of more than 1.4 billion inhabitants occurred on December 11, 2001. That day this Asian country entered the World Trade Organization ( WTO), which allowed it to compete in the world market protected by a homogeneous tariff regime.
The rest is history. To a large extent, the success of the Chinese production model has been developed on cheap labor and very favorable working conditions for companies. The ‘996’ work model defended by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, and which consists of working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for six days a week, reveals the philosophy of some Chinese businessmen, although, fortunately for the workers, last year it was declared illegal by the Government.
However, China’s working conditions have not only favored companies in this Asian country. Many European, American and Japanese companies, among other nationalities, have also taken advantage (and continue to do so) of this model by moving all of their production , or, at least, part of it, to China. And some of them are brands of hi-fi components that they traditionally manufactured in their countries of origin. What they may not have suspected when they made this decision is that they were feeding a beast that could one day devour them.
China is already intimidating untouchable hi-fi brands
The hi-fi equipment market has been led since the 1950s and 1960s by American, European and Japanese companies. In recent years, some companies have also emerged in Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, among other countries, that have been able to develop very attractive proposals. However, China has had a hard time breaking into this market for one reason: it had to combat the perception that hi-fi components designed and manufactured within its borders are of low quality.
The perception of quality is a very important factor in this industry because, precisely, what it proposes to us enthusiasts is nothing other than reproducing our music with the highest quality and greatest expressive capacity possible. Quality is encoded in your DNA . Although it has been difficult, it is enough to take a look at the forums and specialized publications to realize that Chinese brands are already cornering the negative perception that their products had until recently beyond their borders.
Some of the brands that are receiving praise from both the user community and the specialized press are Denafrips, which has earned a very positive reputation for the high quality of its DACs; Cayin, which has a very broad product portfolio that includes its integrated amplifiers and power stages with vacuum tubes; Xindak, which has transistor and hybrid electronics that are highly respected for their construction and sound; or FiiO, which has made its way, above all, with its DACs and headphone amplifiers.
All of these brands, and some others, have a broad product portfolio that stands out for the quality/price ratio of their proposals. We have had the opportunity to test several hi-fi components of Chinese origin, and we really liked some of them for their finish and sound quality. In fact, some of these brands also offer us high-priced premium solutions that aim to compete head-to-head with the best hi-fi components from Western and Japanese brands.
Another Chinese product that I know well, and that also stands out for its quality, is the Cayin CS-845 A vacuum tube integrated amplifier. You can see it in the cover image of this article. It is a high-end component built like a real tank (weighs 37 kg) that works in pure class A , delivers 24 watts per channel, and stands out for the high quality of its transformers of German origin. And for its sound. It competes with proposals from brands such as McIntosh, PrimaLuna, Copland or Audio Research, among others. It’s a fact: China has arrived in the hi-fi industry. And it’s going to stay.