Virtue interview on Hifizine

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virtue

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Virtue interview on Hifizine
« on: 6 Jun 2010, 08:39 am »
Guys,

http://www.hifizine.com/2010/06/the-virtue-audio-sensation/

I recently spilled the beans for one of our favorite customers and AC founder, John Reekie, on how Sensation was born, various challenges in 2008 and 2009, and a handful of other topics.  I can now say that we've "been around the block" and there's a reason for each gray hair sprouting on my 36 y/o head.

Hope you're deeply enjoying your gear.  Please do spread the good word...  and stay tuned...

Seth

TrungT

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #1 on: 6 Jun 2010, 09:26 am »
Seth  :thumb:
Great interview.
Thanks for spilled the beans.  :wink:
Again, Thank you
 :thumb:

tw_switzerland

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Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #2 on: 6 Jun 2010, 07:55 pm »
Seth

Great interview - was fun to read.

I admire your open, sincere way of communication. There are not many people acting like that. To be that open needs courage.

I'm sure many, many customers will appreciate all your virtues... ;-)

Thomas

eclein

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Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #3 on: 6 Jun 2010, 08:40 pm »
Seth-The coolest part of Virtue and its pending huge success is the fact that you are so accessible to anyone who might have a question, etc..Keep doing what your doing for as long as you can Please!!!
 Folks like you make this hobby FUN!!!
 Ed L. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Mariusz

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #4 on: 6 Jun 2010, 09:26 pm »
It was such a pleasure to read this review.
Sincerity & honesty poured on my lap.

Very fresh!!!!

Bravo Seth
 

dvenardos

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #5 on: 6 Jun 2010, 10:45 pm »
What grey hair? Come talk to me about grey hair?  :lol:

TONEPUB

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #6 on: 7 Jun 2010, 12:50 am »
Just curious about the comment that "Many of the high end guys in this industry are living in trailer parks..."

Who would those guys be?

Dave Wilson doesn't live in a trailer park, nor are any other of the legitimate high end audio manufacturers that I know of, and I know most of them.  Most of them all don't live in palaces by any means, but I think "trailer parks" is a little bit caustic.

And it appears that the way you've kept cost down on your product is by outsourcing to China, something that most of the bigger companies that produce all of that "Expensive Gear" have not yet.  I'm sure Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Naim or Meridian could shave the budget by taking this route, but they haven't...


virtue

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Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #7 on: 7 Jun 2010, 01:36 am »
Jeff,

Thank you for pointing out my poor choice of words -- "caustic" if you will.  Perhaps I ought to stick with other pursuits and leave the writing to you!

The point I was trying to make is that a book can't always be judged by its cover.  When you buy a $5,000 piece of gear, you're not necessarily paying for a new mini-bar in the ski-in, ski-out chalet.  In fact, you might be paying for basic necessities and there could even be an element of charity in your purchase - Michelangelo could not have worked without benefactors. 

The authenticity of the merchandise and clarity of purpose of the manufacturer, the back-story, is I think important in the high-end.  Some gear won't be "worth" it's weight any more than a sculpture can be priced by its materials cost, but that doesn't mean the artist is necessarily overcharging or is less talented than another guy who packs the big galleries.  Although, that may very well be the case.

Big names that you mention... sure... different class of cat.    They've found their markets and built wonderful business and more power to them!

Most of us would rather not advertise that fact, but many of the little guys are struggling, even if they (we) charge more that what some would call reasonable.  Just because some of our manufacturing is done in Asia doesn't mean that companies like ours have an overseas cost structure or that we can compete with "Asia on ebay" any more than the Made in America guys.  We support American engineers, label makers, warehouses, shippers, assemblers, etc.  Not in all cases out of choice; it's the price we pay for customization, superior engineering, and flexibility.  For instance, you can buy a $30 Tripath board from China that bears passing resemblance to ours.  Does that make the $299 Virtue ONE.2 "classic" a rip-off?  I hope not. Like many vendors, we struggle to pass on the R&D, assembly, distribution, customer service and other "high-wage" expenses in our product pricing.  Many of us are feeling the same cost pressures, whether some or all of our products are made in Asia or not.

In this instance, I was defending the folks who initially rattled me because of high pricing but whom I've come to respect deeply.  But what about Virtue?  Are we assuming the mantle of "high-end" without the handicap of 100% domestic production?  There's something there clearly.

I'd take it harder if there were another way for us to deliver products of the quality we do, at an affordable (in the common sense) price point.  As a small company, domestic production, particularly tooling, is cost-prohibitive. We couldn't do it.  We're not the only "high-end" company to outsource certain parts of our operations to Asia.

This is of course a can of worms.  Can Xindak or Grant or many of the others, not call themselves "high-end."  Are they unworthy of support because one or more facets of their production and engineering is overseas? Is there a % local content test?  100%?  At the component level?  Are BMWs made in Kentucky to save money, still foreign cars?

I'd welcome a PM on this unless a smack-down is due, which is certainly your prerogative!

Thank you for your critical eye and for the opportunity to offer my perspective on an important issue.

Seth
« Last Edit: 7 Jun 2010, 03:30 am by virtue »

Light-Echo

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #8 on: 7 Jun 2010, 03:18 am »
Nice reply Seth

Keep up the good fight. The love of music is something enjoyed the world over. Thanks for making it so accessible!!

Regards
Dave

TONEPUB

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #9 on: 7 Jun 2010, 03:48 am »
Seth:

Not a smack down at all.  Just making a point.

Personally, I think what your doing looks like great work and honestly, to maintain a price point off shore is almost a necessity these days.

And no, not saying you aren't "high end" if you don't mfr. here....

So, best of luck to your progress!  Feel free to give us a shout anytime.  I believe you know one of our writers, Mark Marcantonio...

classicjt2

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #10 on: 7 Jun 2010, 07:24 am »
Dear Seth-

Perhaps you should send over to Jeff at Tone Audio a Virtue 2.2 or Sensation. Some of my good old audiophile friends are starting to realize just how good the Virtue stuff is. And my friends are of the "Old Guard", with C-J and BAT and Audio Research and Krell. And they're fed up with the Adonis faceplates and 700 percent markups.

To Jeff at ToneAudio-

Sorry, dude, been there, done that. I was in the high-end retail audio business for over 20 years, working in and managing big stores and small. I've seen it all. Yes, I love ARCs and C-Js and Lamms and IRS-Vs and Apogee Divas and all that I've installed. But Virtue Audio is part of the new frontier- great audiophile for the masses. The reason for the "low" prices (to you, but just correct for normal people) are the extraordinarily short margins taken by Virtue. Times, they are a-changing. High-end as you know it won't exist much longer. Virtue being sourced from China? Better look where your parts are sourced from on your ARC and C-J (American-made tubes in tube amps? Forget about it!), and all those "audiophile" speakers with so-called "European drivers" manufactured in China and India.

Sincerely,

James Takamatsu

JohnR

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #11 on: 7 Jun 2010, 10:27 am »
I thoroughly enjoyed doing this interview with Seth - although to be honest, I barely had to do a thing. What a refreshing and honest and down-to-earth perspective! Thanks Seth, may your hairs at least stay on your head a while longer :thumb:

jtwrace

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #12 on: 7 Jun 2010, 12:16 pm »
I think it would be really cool if TONE could review the Virtue products...

I feel like these products are very much useful to someone that might own the "high end" equipment as they still might want a smaller package weather it be for the office or sitting room.  Lets also not forget that they might have children...

Jeff-I think you would be impressed.  I know you're hard to impress but I think you might just be.   :thumb:

TheChairGuy

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #13 on: 7 Jun 2010, 02:07 pm »
Yes - a really good interview - refreshingly candid :thumb:

I TOTALLY relate to the low'ish returns you're experiencing...if you price something of value exceptionally lower than your competitors - your customers will find a way to keep it even if it isn't 'perfect' (which, as we know doesn't exist but, great value is a fine proxy for it :))

Keep the overheads low, continue to remove cost wherever in the distribution chain while improving your focus on your customer(s) and reach into the market - and folks will be lauding Virtue Audio as an 'overnite sensation' in a few years. 

Only you will know that overnite took many sleepless years to reach and it gets no sweeter than that for business satisfaction :wink:

Thanks for providing insight on your formative years - it was inspiring for me.

Regards, John


jtwrace

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #14 on: 7 Jun 2010, 03:24 pm »
Yes - a really good interview - refreshingly candid :thumb:

Regards, John

+1

TONEPUB

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #15 on: 7 Jun 2010, 04:02 pm »
Dear Seth-

Perhaps you should send over to Jeff at Tone Audio a Virtue 2.2 or Sensation. Some of my good old audiophile friends are starting to realize just how good the Virtue stuff is. And my friends are of the "Old Guard", with C-J and BAT and Audio Research and Krell. And they're fed up with the Adonis faceplates and 700 percent markups.

To Jeff at ToneAudio-

Sorry, dude, been there, done that. I was in the high-end retail audio business for over 20 years, working in and managing big stores and small. I've seen it all. Yes, I love ARCs and C-Js and Lamms and IRS-Vs and Apogee Divas and all that I've installed. But Virtue Audio is part of the new frontier- great audiophile for the masses. The reason for the "low" prices (to you, but just correct for normal people) are the extraordinarily short margins taken by Virtue. Times, they are a-changing. High-end as you know it won't exist much longer. Virtue being sourced from China? Better look where your parts are sourced from on your ARC and C-J (American-made tubes in tube amps? Forget about it!), and all those "audiophile" speakers with so-called "European drivers" manufactured in China and India.

Sincerely,

James Takamatsu

I think you're trying to start a fight where one isn't being attempted.

If you truly have sold major high end gear, you know that none of the major component makers are getting "700 percent markup."  Most hifi shops sell gear on about a 28-40 percent margin and they always have.  Sometimes even less.  And most mfrs operate at about the same level, with many of the majors cutting back their margins as well.

However, your comments on CJ, ARC etc. in regards to their components is way off base.  No one in America has made tubes for years, everyone knows that.  And while I can't speak for every American mfr, I know that there aren't any Chinese parts inside the current CJ or ARC gear.  And I'm pretty sure there aren't any inside McIntosh. 

Heck, they still wind their own transformers (I've been to the factory and met the ladies that wind them), bend their own steel into chassis and jet cut their own glass faceplates.  They even get the boxes made down the street.

The same goes for at least a fair share of British mfrs as well.  Not all of them are immune to Chinese mfg, but Naim, Rega, Meridian and Harbeth to name a few all pride themselves on using local parts suppliers and labor.

We could go on and on about this, but what's the point?

Chinese audio manufacturing is still in its infancy.  A few companies have done a very good job and it remains to be seen who's going to go to the next level.  Hopefully Seth will be one of those manufacturers...

High end as I know it will certainly continue, because there have always people who have wanted the best of what a market segment has to offer.  It's always been and will continue to be a niche market.  Aston Martin, Ferrari and Bentley are doing better than they've ever done.

But audio enthusiasts don't start out with 100k+ systems.  I know I didn't.  There is plenty of room for modest/reasonably priced gear in the market.  Remember, Marantz, Pioneer, Sony and the like (certainly as we knew it in the 70's) is long gone and that's the niche that desperately needs to be filled.

That's why we cover entry level, slightly over entry level and vintage gear EVERY issue.  We feel a new crop of audiophiles is definitely necessary, and they will take a different shape than they have in the past.

However, I'm not the least bit worried about losing the ultra high end mfrs.


virtue

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Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #16 on: 7 Jun 2010, 04:08 pm »
James,
Thanks for your spirited defense!  No fights needed! 
Jeff, your points are VERY well taken.
Regardless, this is a healthy discussion and I know that folks reading the thread are going to learn something.
Thank you both so much for taking time to post here.
Seth

classicjt2

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #17 on: 7 Jun 2010, 05:26 pm »
Hi Jeff-

PM for you.

James

neutralos

Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #18 on: 13 Jun 2010, 12:58 pm »
I'm sure Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, Naim or Meridian could shave the budget by taking this route, but they haven't...

May I ask you how old you are ...?

jtsnead

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Re: Virtue interview on Hifizine
« Reply #19 on: 13 Jun 2010, 01:58 pm »
I also agree, I was in the audio business for 12 years and have owned
everything from NAD to Mark Levinson. The Virtue stuff competes with
amps in the 3 to 5K range EASILY!

If companys like Virtue get people started on the path to better music
reproduction then when they have the funds they can move up the cost
scale then the better it is for everybody.

If it was not for the affordable audio companies like NAD (my first amp
was a NAD3020) I would not of been turned onto the kinds of music that
I have come to cherish.