Chi-fi culture

Curious if there is a sizable hi-fi/head-fi community in China or if they’re just building stuff for Westerners. If there is, anyone know what the culture is like? As in, is there anything unique? Sort of like how Hong Kong, Japan and, Singapore have unique audio cultures.

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I came across this video:


What’s interesting to me (from the video) is that Chinese audiophiles don’t have much experience with live music. This would explain the trend of chi-fi being hyper driven by specs (it’s the only thing they can use as a reference) and at times not sounding very musical.


Well there are over 1 billion people so even if just a fraction were in to hifi it would be a large number. I think portable audio such as DAPs and IEMs are big there. Hong Kong would likely have a large audiophile community.

Cant comment much on audio culture but I do know that at least one company, Unique Melody, tune their gear to market preferences.


Any idea what those preferences are? I guess what I’m getting to is, if people don’t have a large reference to live music, what are their references? And in turn, how does that effect the voicing of Chi-fi equipment?

There’s a Japanese version of the UM MEST. I think it’s a brighter tuning but don’t remember exactly.

What I take into consideration when making purchase decisions (and applies to all producers/companies/countries, as well as non-audio purchases): can I trust that this producer knows what good sound sounds like such that they are capable of making products that sound good (irrespective of specs/measurements/features)? This is likely an over-simplification and risks excluding solid products if presumptions are unfounded.

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This implies that making a good product is even on a companies to-do list.

In my experience most of the time it is not. The goal is to make as much profit as easily as possible or to promote the company agenda.

The company may very well know how to produce a good product but doesn’t because it’s not actually their goal.

I pretty much evaluate each product on its own. There is no consistent relationship between an individual product and the company, product line or previous products.

Great point - make profit, maximize revenue, minimize cost. Smaller companies tend to have quality as their mission compared to larger companies that owe a duty to more shareholders and answering to executives/board.

For most artisan/craft products: quality and volume tend to be inversely related, but there is a minimum level of economies of scale (resources) in order for a business to deliver a certain level of quality.

I tend to evaluate who the founders, owners, designers, builders are – sometimes more so than the product. Each product must stand on its own to your point, but for long term purchases there is reliability and track record in a consistent product lineup.

Yes, when making an investment in something like audio equipment, especially of the boutique variety, the people behind the company matter.

A known track record is important. One of the reasons I bought the JDS Labs Eelement II is because when you call/email you can literally talk to the people that designed and built the product. You don’t get that too often.

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The European-American period between Baroque/Classical era and the 20th Century was unique in the world and history. It was driven by technology, to include the invention or refinement of the pipe organ, piano, violin, electric guitar, electric amplification, records, and radio. Paid live music requires free time and disposable income (vs. local, traveling, and religious music). Frankly, one must be relatively wealthy to drop $100 or $500 on tickets, travel to a venue, stay in a hotel, and take a day off from work for a concert.

China started industrializing on a large scale in the 1980s, long after music technology had its day in the sun. They see the options for audio from a fresh perspective.

That’s a lot more ambiguous to me/not sure. When a new audio firm comes on the market today, they have all sorts of technology to choose from. There are gobs of retro tube and tube hybrid amps coming out of China. However, they are fighting a late battle to compete with niche European and American audiophile brands. Not many people can afford $$$$$$$$$ Wilson speakers anywhere in the world, and it’s a steep challenge to develop a competitive reputation. Audio-GD and Cayin are trying to head down this path, like their products or not.


These are good/helpful observations from an anthropology/sociology perspective.

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I suppose in some way, that’s what I’m trying to triangulate. Which of these companies are striving for “proper” music reproduction vs specs and profit maximization. Globalization doesn’t bother me so I buy whatever product suits my needs (although I have no Chinese gear). I’m trying to figure out if there’s a special product worth consideration coming out of China but it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.


I have spent the better part of the last 18 years negotiating with Chinese entertainment companies and going to China for meetings. I think it is just too large to have a single sound (I would argue the US no longer has that either although the West probably does have a preferred sound). Anyway in Beijing and Shanghai a lot of young people are listening to their own artist as well as hip hop and rap. I tend to see them using portable devices and even though most people I know their are very rich I don’t know a single audiophile. Probably doesn’t tell you much but it is first hand.


True about China being too large to have a single sound. Good first hand observation – young people trends there generally line up with young people elsewhere. Your comment on West sound reminded me of this article that mentions West coast, East coast, and British sound.

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So at first I don’t think I understood the original question being asked, now that some folks have weighed in it is starting to become clear.

It would be ignorant of anyone to theorize on what drives a company based in China on how they create their product, if it’s based on specs or based on live music. Think about that for a second, China is a land of so many cultures, languages, traditions, and also a hub of economic activity while also the land of cheap labor. The simple statement of not having live music, therefore they focus on specs is quite ignorant, if not borderline racist.

We have the luxury of choice, and the ability to purchase hifi equipment, the majority of the population in China could give two shites. Don’t get me started on the closed economic system that exploits the workforce so that we all may enjoy our latest tv, mobile phone or rare-earth minerals that find their way into our us made audiophile products.

I’m ranting now, and it’s a knee jerk reaction to the absurdity of the original post.

If your goal is to purchase high quality items from China, there is plenty of research one can do to determine if it’s quality without leaving your couch. Just like we have in the US, their are brands that cater to every need, or audio goal.

Apologies in advance to anyone offended.


The comment about less experience with live sound is not mine. It belongs to a Chinese woman who is in the hifi biz between China and North America. She’s on Guttenberg’s YouTube video that’s linked above somewhere. I can not speak to her level of racism or lack thereof but I assume she’s not, given that she’s Chinese

My question stems from this: it’s not hard to find out which Western brands build for specs and which ones take the time to voice equipment in properly treated environments and with which accompanying gear. The ones that do usually tout that fact. I’d like to understand which Chinese companies do this but this information is not readily available (at least not from what I’ve seen). So I’m trying to get a sense of the overall scene for some perspective.

Maybe my original question was vague but that’s ok because I didn’t want canned responses. I wanted to see what comes out of the woodwork because that makes for a broader and imo more interesting conversation.