A tale of two products

… in which I make myself unwelcome at a high-end hi-fi store.
This is a personal experience which happened over a decade ago, but I decided to put it here because it’s still relevant.
These are the two products in question

Audio Alchemy Digital Transmission Interface, US$ 1600

Generic 10/100 8-port auto-sensing ethernet hub, around US$ 40 – 60 (at the time) depending on brand.

On the day in question, I walked into a hi-fi shop and the proprietor greeted me with a wide smile. This was a real high-end place where the demo systems are set up with speaker cables as thick as fire hoses, and just the rack that the system is sitting on has a five-figure price ticket.
We got talking (this was years before I started designing and building gear myself, I was just looking at buying a new pair of speakers which is what drew me into the shop). Pretty soon he had figured out my system and had decided that it would be improved by the addition of the top product, above.
While extolling its many and varied virtues, he inadvertently tripped himself up by completely inaccurately describing the phenomenon of jitter … seems he hadn’t read up enough on the technical manual that accompanied the product.
After a little while, I attempted to summarise my understanding of this product back to him, to show him I’d been listening. He was all ready to sell me one until I started asking some questions which led me to explain the function of the second pictured device…

Conversation went something like this:
“So, this machine will take a PCM data stream at 1.4 megabits per second (Red Book CD standard), store and buffer it, then output an identical data stream according to its own internal clock, which is carefully designed to be high-accuracy and not susceptible to disruption, correct?”


“Yes, and [long spiel about how that makes it sound better, yada yada]”


“And it’s $2200.” [That was the $NZ price at the time]


“Yes, possibly the best value enhancement you can make to a digital system…..”


“OK, so what then would you say about a device that does this at around 70 times the data rate, and not for one but eight separate inputs?”


“Well the DTI represents the cutting edge of digital transmission design, so perhaps in the future something might be designed that could do what you say, but it would be a very high-end piece of equipment, so only the most serious audiophiles would require it, and that’s assuming there’d ever be a digital recording standard that would utilise such a bit rate”


“So you’re saying it’d be expensive then?”


“Something with over 500 times the processing capacity of this machine? Very!”


At which point I explained the functionality of the 10/100 ethernet hub, and then its price.
He wasn’t smiling any more.

In fact, I got the distinct sense I’d outstayed my welcome in that establishment.

– This is why I don’t go into high-end hi-fi stores any more. –

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