Here’s the problem. Say you’re a “little guy” manufacturer. You want to fill an order and you’re not rich. So, you order the number of parts necessary to construct your product and fill that order and off it goes. You price your widget based on your parts costs, factor in labor, and add a bit of profit, well, just because. Assuming the market buys them at that price, your widget is actually a product, and voilà, you’re in business.
This is also why high-end electronics from boutique “little guy” manufacturers are so freakin’ expensive. The “why” of that is simple — prices on parts go down as order sizes go up. You order one of anything, and it has a cost. You order 10 of them, that cost-per-unit goes down. You order 1,000,000 of them, and that cost will go way down. Enter the “bin-parts” mentality that seized American auto manufacturing in the 1980s. This is also one of the reasons audio wire is so expensive. Assuming you’re not buying “bin parts” or something out of a catalog, wrapping and labeling as your own creation, you have to go custom. Which most manufacturers that do that sort of thing are happy to fill for you — assuming you make it worth their while and buy it in bulk. Like, a spool of that stuff a mile long. Only need 3 meters? Sorry, no can do — buy a mile, and we’ll talk. So, you buy that mile and price it so that your break-even point happens early enough that you’re able to pay your bills …. But what if you can’t afford the upfront outlay?
Well, that’s where Kickstarter comes in.
I think this is freakin’ genius and a complete Godsend for “little guy” manufacturers. Want to offer a high-quality product at market-competitive prices, but can’t afford the upfront outlay necessary to make that happen? Sign up your prospective customers before committing to manufacturing! Ta da!
Which brings us to the latest from Hagerman. Jim is offering an introductory priced offer for his new Cornet3 phono preamplifier. It’s a tube-based moving-magnet phono (43dB of gain, with all the loading options) and it’s a little different.
How did I get the cost so low? By thinking outside the box, I was able to eliminate the two most expensive components in a tube preamp – the power transformer and metal chassis. The critical high voltage supply is now created using a boost converter running at 44kHz. And this is not a cut-rate design where tubes are starved by running them at low voltage. No, the Cornet3 B+ supply feeds the tubes properly with a +200V rail, the way they are meant to be operated. The result is a robust, powerful, wide-band, low distortion sound with superb bass. The other benefit of such a compact design is that it could fit into a small plastic enclosure. Basically, these two tricks cut the cost in half without any loss of sonic performance.
Moving magnet, eh? But you’re a moving coil kinda vinyl lover! Well, guess what? There’s a step-up available, too. I’m thinking that this isn’t much of a surprise offer, but whatever. Anyway, the Piccolo2 is an update to the Piccolo, and while not an SUT (there’s no transformer), it works the same.
Jim is offering the Cornet3 and Piccolo2 in two flavors, DIY or assembled+tested. FYI, there doesn’t seem to be a cap on the number of units he’s offering. Prices for the units start at $200 and range to $650, depending on what you order.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign here!