Back from the TAA 23rd international High-End Audio Show https://www.facebook.com/events/404902892951857
here in Taipei.
Usher was showing a new line of speakers, the N-6300, N-6311, and N-6361. This line is slotted above the V series speakers. And below the X. Visually, imagine V-601, V-602, and V-604 respectively, but with rounded backs. They are also showing the Mini-X stack, which can be built mix-n-match in various combinations. They also had a new rack, the SR-4, and one or two additional new stands. I can't speak authoritatively about price or shipping dates for other countries. Beyond that, the mid and upper range of their line remains unchanged.
Considering the release of the X-Mini at the previous year's show, the N series seems to presage the conversion of the entire brand away from rectangular boxes and towards rounded backs. For that matter there were quite a few other manufacturers with a similar look. I don't know who started it, but its becoming a standard. What next... side firing woofers? I don't see Usher doing that, but I do wonder if the days of any square models, even the X-718 and BE-718 diamond, are numbered.
I did hear setups there that, within the limited listening environment of an audio show in hotel rooms, rivaled or exceeded my BE-10's driven by an R-1.5. However, these systems weigh in at six figures, and head north rapidly. And I have to ask, for the record, just how related those prices are to underlying manufacturing costs, as opposed to say, price gouging, and that the market somehow bears these prices, in that higher prices appeal to the 1%. We have to thank Usher for poking a pin in their bubble.
I don't mean to position Usher as a low-cost brand. Its a bang-for-the buck brand. An honest brand. If some day I find a second, third, or fourth $25K burning a hole in my pocket, maybe I'll have to figure out which other speaker or amp could be next. If there is some middle ground. It is of course diminishing returns. And again I thank Usher for saving me the trouble, as well as the expense, of this search.
If I had to criticize Usher, I have to go along with a friend here who points out that Usher's heart doesn't seem in their home theater speakers: their center channels and their subwoofers. At least lets say they didn't seem to get the D'Appolito treatment, or win any awards. Also their speaker line does seem rather crowded. While conversely, their electronics, I feel are excellent, and regret that they didn't get more traction. They had a much wider range of amps many years ago but for some reason they did not see the response they deserved. And at this late date, electronics are a whole different animal, and I wouldn't presume to have the knowledge to advise anyone how to enter that market. So for home theatre I use a Mini-X Diamond for the center, and found another brand for the LFE channel(s). Last, I wish Usher could get more reviews in the audiophile press. Maybe this is a political problem. Isn't their US distributor responsible for this? They do get some UK reviews.
Now in the above, I don't mean to say that other brands are dishonest. The real issue, is that the audiophile world, is 2 markets... but you can only set 1 price (and worldwide at that). The first market is buyers who want the best sound possible for the lowest price. The second market is buyers looking for status, prestige, design, and luxury. Its roughly like the 99% vs. the 1%. And at the end of the day, most manufacturers, are going to go with the economics of selling audio like they sell a Ferrari. Yes, there are a lot of sub-plots here, complications in marketing, etc. But I would say that as you start getting into 5-figure stereos, the equation rapidly kicks in towards catering to luxury buyers. It a little perverse, in that most of the manufacturers and customers in this business got into it through a love of music and sound quality. And yes, we are getting that. I'm just noting that it comes with a much higher price than is actually justified. In that the dual-market distortion makes me pay for 1. hey if we double the price that makes it more exclusive 2. industrial design that while admirable I might normally not choose to pay for. They might not say it exactly this way, and they might have some refinements to this analysis, but I derive this from discussions with two or three friends who have been in this industry for 30 or 40 years each. So what's a 99%-er to do? Buy Usher. Beyond Usher you hit a glass ceiling. Buy Usher. Then stop. And enjoy the music.Edited by Toe Tag - 8/19/13 at 3:30am