Off Topic : Complaints Thread

Moving posts that turn into off-topic complaining here. If your posts ends up here it’s not because your complaints aren’t valid, they just don’t belong in the thread you are posting in.


Tell me about it, those prices are insane and moreover I checked on French websites (thnaks Google Translate) and found out the French pay about half what we pay here. I know the Euro is pretty high so obviously converting in dollars is expensive but still, what we pay for those pads here amounts to charging $100 for shipping items that weigh a few ounces.

Thank God French wine producers aren’t as greedy as French high-end audio manufacturers. It’s not just headphones (they are worth the money) but every audio item from France I’ve ever come across is very expensive but on the other hand, extremely good quality. I was told it was because the French only export top-tier equipment. I suppose that could be the case.

Regarding Elex pads, some say they aren’t the same as those of “real” Focals, as a result of the “bare bone” treatment from Drop. Drop’s Elex has many Chinese parts on it which keeps cost down and still allow a profit. That’s fine with me, I know the Chinese are perfectly capable of making as good a pad as anyone, Hifiman is living proof of that. Besides, Focal would never have allowed Drop to use poor quality products otherwise it wouldn’t let Drop use the name “Focal” on the Elex. But unfortunately for Drop Focal is drastically dropping its prices on the Elear and Clear, both of which are “pure” Focals. Thid makes the Elex a lesser value than it was at launch when the Elear still sold for $1,000 and the Clear for $1,500.

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I’m in uk and as far as I know we still have to pay silly prices for their pads. It’s just insane. Surely they don’t cost anywhere near that to produce. I may be way off in my thinking but to me it smacks of greed. I do really like their products but still, for something like pads it’s not on. Rant over. :no_mouth:


Oh you bet it’s greed, Focal banking on its prestige to extort more cash from their devoted customers. Of all high-end audiophile headphone manufacturers I know of Focal pads are the most expensive.

And then there are the cables. Focal wants from $135 to $150 for a replacement of the Elear’s cable. They’re clever, they know very well that this unusually thick, heavy-gauge and (too) long cable would be difficult to on the third-party market. I have several high-end cables I acquired over the years and all of them sound worse on the Elear than the original, which Focal designed exclusively for that model. On the other hand and as long as you don’t have a chew-it-all dog or kitty in the home that cable should last for 50 years. It’s the most rugged headphone cable I ever came across.

Not sure about the Clear’s three cables but I would tend to think that Focal didn’t put as much money on them as they did for the Elear’s jumbo line. I can’t really blame them, providing three cables while remaining competitive on a market segment is no small deed.

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Umm, that’s odd. On top of my post it says I edited it twice yet I only edited it once. Even more strange is if I look at the post’s history it shows edits I had made while writing it, not after I posted it, but totally ignores the actual edit I did make after posting. Bizarre…

(Sketch continues from 'Poetry Reading (Ants) ’ Cut to the other side of the door. Chris turns and double takes. It is the manager’s office. There is a long line of people sitting waiting to complain. The manager looks up.)

Complaints Manager (Michael Palin) : (irritably) All right. Take a seat.

(Chris shuts the door and takes a seat at the end of a line often people waiting to complain: the German clothes prop man; the Icelandic honey week man; a Greek with a motor tyre; a man with a lawn mower with a cat sticking out of it; a man with a bandaged nose holding a dog with a bandaged nose; a lady with a bandaged nose; a lady with a bandaged nose and a pram with a small column of smoke rising from it; a rather butch lady with her head through a tennis racket; a man with a cigar in his mouth that has obviously exploded - his face is blackened and his collar awry; a man in a terrible suit with one arm twice as long as a normal sleeve and trousers that finish at mid-thigh. A uniformed shop attendant is sitting next to a rather well dressed lady in twin set and pearls, and her equally distinguished looking husband. The attendant is occasionally touching the lady’s 'cheek and peering into her eyes. The lady and the husband stare straight ahead. Next to them is Colonel Ewing. At the desk is the lady with the flame thrower. Part of the manager’s desk and the entire comer of the office are blackened and smoking.)

Lady: You see! There ought to be a safety catch on it, I mean … ohhhh! (a spurt of flame shoots out) I mean, what if this fell into the wrong hands?

Complaints Manager: Yes, madam. I’ll speak to the makers personally, all right?

Lady: Would you? It would put my mind at ease.

(She leaves closing the door. We hear the flame thrower.)

Lady’s Voice: Sorry…

Complaints Manager: Next?

(The colonel gets up. As he does so Mr Zyndenky [the husband] indicates his wife and the attendant.)

Mr Zyndersky (Terry Gilliam) : He’s still molesting her.

Complaints Manager: Yes, yes, I’ll see to you in a moment, sir. (the colonel sits at the manager’s desk)

Colonel Ewing (Graham Chapman) : I’ve got a complaint to make.

Complaints Manager: Do take a seat. I’m sorry it’s on fire.


I’d like to make a complaint about this thread. Where should I post it?


That would be for the “On Topic : Complaints Thread”


I just wish Focal would drop the cost of the earpads for the Clears from $200 to say $99…



Just for the heck of it I slapped my Clear pads on my Elears today. At first it sounded as weird as it looked, then I remembered I had DSP on the Elears so turned that off. The resulting sound was not “exactly” that of the Clear but relatively close, more discreet bass, more forward mids. Less slam if you prefer, and some prefer indeed. Proper DSP can make the Elear sound good and accurate enough so as to not want to purchase the Clear but there are a number of people who prefer a mechanical solution for upgrade like using Clear pads on the Elear, which creates a market for Clear pads that extends beyond that specific model. Unfortunately that means Focal will likely not drop the price on those pads any time soon. Dekoni is still in business.

Bloom Audio has Focal Clear Earpads for $149
AudioAdvisor has them for $99


I guess all stores have the expense of returns - it literally is the cost of doing business. For brick and mortar stores they have rent, employees and lights and expenses and still manage to charge zero for returns. Shoe stores offer a try and fit and free return and still save you money when you decide to buy- without a restocking fee- ON SHOES! ewwww used shoes? oh my how does ZAPPOS do it? - I guess its a cost. You sell factory direct. I get the mailing back to you is an expense you cant incur. But a restocking fee is not at all acceptable in todays direct to consumer sales pitch. Thats a (15%) $135 haircut on a $900 headphone in home trial PLUS SHIPPING BACK- some dealers like costco work on a less than 10% margin and still allow returns and have a zillion employees and theft to worry about. Magnepan, Emotiva and even Benchmark to name a few off the top of my head all have zero restocking fee but the buyer pays shipping and if any restocking fee if not in new like condition or was if damage incurred. That’s a reasonable business model. Not charging restocking fees on a direct to consumer product during trial period. You Tom- want to have your cake of cutting out retail man and charge a fee most retailers make when closing out an item at the end of life cycle (15% or less) when blowing them out or having a sale just for returning the item. How in the world is anyone understanding a $135 fee is what it costs to recondition a box without damage? Plastic wrappers and new box all together cost less than $20. Please. Understand- you want more people to try your product- give them what Benchmark gives…
30-Day Risk-Free Trial (United States Only)

Audition Select Benchmark Products With No Obligation:

The only way to fully appreciate the performance of our products is to try them in a familiar listening space. With our 30-Day Risk-Free Trial, you can audition select Benchmark products in your studio or home listening space with no obligation.


I find your thoughts a little harsh. Although I respect your opinion. If you’ve followed this thread you can see the great amount of time and effort it takes to make one of these. Let’s not forget that these are at the real niche end of the market and once they get sold they aren’t new anymore. It effectively greatley reduces the sale price. I don’t think that the retailer should have to take all of the hit. But I can also see your point too. Just my thoughts.


All businesses deal with returns - more people are apt to try a product if their is no risk of return- and would be discouraged to return an item in anything but stellar condition if a 15% restocking fee was a penalty for anything less. Follow the best out there- Magnepan 60 day in home trial. All hand made. Very delicate ribbon speakers? Are you kidding me? This amp is a steel box with no display. I feel no shame in asking for policy change since I want to try the amp and for Tom to make a huge success by offering such a policy for consumers who are interested. You know what- forget it. Who needs the effort to ask - it should be common sense. If this is his policy- so be it. Forget I even asked for policy change-it’s harsh. Let him make $135 for returns. More power to you!

Something to consider, from someone who was part of a small boutique startup company in the 90s. Returns are NEVER free. Returns can be a huge part of a companies operating expenses, and must be mitigated somehow, or they’ll fail in the long run. A company that has no cost returns is recouping those costs in their new product price (msrp). That means everyone shares in the returns cost when they buy the products. Tom’s model separates those costs from the new price, putting the burden on the individual buyer returning the product. There’s no right or wrong here, everyone will have a different opinion on which method they prefer. But understand, the consumer pays those costs one way or the other.

If you’re interested in Tom’s amps, but don’t want to commit to the restock fee, have you tried asking him if a demo unit is available for use? I haven’t had time to read through the whole thread yet so forgive me if it’s been covered already.

I understand your frustration, eating fees is never fun. But do consider how he’s feeling eating costs on returns too. It’s a no win either way, honestly.


Some good feedback here… I’m on the side of, returns are never free… and it is silly to think you can use a return policy to demo gear…

But, I also get the frustration of having to pay a restocking fee… no win situation for sure…

But, no reason to be angry about it! Better to be constructive and nice with out being accusatory or aggressive.

So, as a reminder keep it nice, think before typing and understand people will have different opinions which is ok :ok_hand: lol


So I guess everyone has their opinion on how much it costs to repack retest returns - the Magnepans at $600 which are super delicate speakers must include the expense in the price yes of course! I think the level of reconditioning them must be huge. I guess I think a restocking fee of $135 on a $899 metal box is excessive - it sounds more like a profit for effort - like I said Costco works on a less than 10% margin as a business model
Benchmark allows free returns if item is in resellable condition- what’s so hard about that?

Costco also moves millions of items a day around the world…so that 10% is a massive amount of profit… just saying :wink: not the best comparison…

No need to get upset about it… I feel like this has been put to bed at this point and now is just noise… I’ll be moving these posts to the off-topic here in a bit to declutter this thread =)


When someone buys one of my $899 headphone amps, they expect and deserve to receive a new product. Not a demo model or a used product. So I cannot sell a returned amp and claim it’s new. I’m an honest man and run my business accordingly.

The cost of new packaging is pretty small (about $10-15). But that still brings the product to “demo” or “reconditioned” not to “new”. If the chassis has been scratched, the relevant bits will need to be replaced. Those bits cost money. They take time to replace. Time = money. The amp will need to be tested. This requires calibrated equipment (= money) and the time of a skilled operator (= money). There’s also an opportunity cost. I could be doing something to grow my business during the time it takes for me to recondition a product. And after all that, I still have to sell the amp as “factory reconditioned” for a lower price, which means I lose money. That’s why I charge a 15% restocking fee.

You can certainly claim that “returns are just the cost of doing business”. That’s a completely valid approach. And, in fact, if you read my original response to you, you will find that I did consider that approach.
To reiterate: Any “cost of doing business” will need to be rolled into the price of the products. Money does not grow on trees - at least not at the latitude I’m at. There is no free lunch. I think it’s pretty reasonable that those who return their products get to pay the costs associated with those returns. I do not think it is reasonable to wipe that cost off on those who keep their amps.
I make more measurements and detailed specs available than anyone in the industry, so you know exactly what you’re getting. If you prefer the sound of a tube amp, you will likely find the HPA-1 to sound too revealing. If, on the other hand, you prefer the amp to add as little as possible to the sound, you’ll likely enjoy the HPA-1.

“Costco takes returns and operate on 10% margin”. Good for them. They also move significant volume of consumable goods. I don’t. People don’t “use up” their headphone amps and have to buy new ones every week. They don’t panic-buy and stock up on headphone amps in a pandemic, just in case they run out. Different business model, different market, different margin.
You may also have noticed that Costco’s return policy on electronics is considerably shorter than it used to be. Some figured out that they could return their 1.99 year-old TV “no questions asked” and buy a new TV with the latest features. Who do you think paid for those returns? Clearly, Costco decided that serial returners drove up costs and they put a stop to it.

Comparing with shoes? Really?! A pair of shoes costs a few bucks to make. In that market, what you’re paying for is the distribution cost. A high-end headphone amp, such as mine, costs hundreds of dollars to make. Would you care to elaborate on how you find that comparison even remotely reasonable?

I see returns as a short-term rental. I consider $135 to be a very reasonable rental fee for a two-week rental of a high-end headphone amp.
Audio Precision charges $5k for a short-term rental of one of their $30k audio analyzers, so really… $135 is pretty small potatoes.

You may see things differently. That’s fine. If you believe I’m engaging in price gouging or that my return fees are too extreme, just shop elsewhere. Or - better yet - start your own business and compete with me.
Or you can arrange a loaner tour for the HPA-1. Let’s say you get ten people together in a loaner tour. Have everybody pitch in $50 + shipping. Offer that one of the ten will get to buy the amp for $500 at the end of the tour, and you get to make a cool $100 for your trouble.

Alternatively, you can meet me and listen to the HPA-1 in person at the next audio show. I was planning to attend RMAF and CanJam/Chicago this year, but they’ve both been cancelled. It looks like CanJam will be in June next year. There might be a show in Seattle around then as well. I could do the Florida show again (in February).



There is a BIG difference from a large established company with tens/hundreds/thousands of employees and a small one person company.

I find it completely fair that Tom and others like him have a restocking fee. Actually I welcome it, as I like small companies with different products, but they need to survive. But if people think, that they are entitled to take an expensive product out of the box, play around with it and then ship it back at no cost, then I think they should understand how the world works.

I for one would not, like Tom says, want to pay full price for an open box/reconditioned product.

And if you as a customer don’t like the restocking fee, then buy the factory made product in the global company; but if you like rare products, made by someone who REALLY has know-how within their field, but it is a small company, then it will cost you, also when you ship the product back.