The audiophile market is filled with unscrupulous sellers, people who take something worth very little and sell it for a lot more than it should be.
This happens in some industries (not just audio) because it is very difficult to verify the product's performance. You can't tell if that that hair-growth formula really works, if that toothpaste really whitens, if that weight-loss pill is not poison, or if this exercise machine is not actually a... wtf.
A seller can simply take a mediocre component, relabel it as something that costs more, and sell it to unsuspecting buyers who are too (insert adjective here) to verify its authenticity. Or he can put a high price tag on a worthless design and sell it to unsuspecting buyers who are too (insert adjective here) to verify its performance. Or, the seller claims he "made improvements" to the original design and sells it for twice as much.
Fortunately, there is a way around this.
Sellers usually sell more than one product. Compare the prices of the other products with alternatives from other manufacturers.
For example, a seller in China is selling OPA627s at $10 each.
You don't know if it is fake or really cheap.
But, this seller also sells NE5532, at $2 each.
Shipping is definitely less than $1, because I have bought things @ $1 inclusive of shipping.
So even after subtracting shipping, it still costs more than $1.
Which is more expensive than what element14 sells it at.
If the China seller sells the NE5532 more expensively than a big trustable company, do you think he would sell a real OPA627 at a price much lower than that of the trusted company?
If one example is not enough (sometimes it is indeed not accurate), look for other products. If he sells all the other products overpriced, except for those that are widely counterfeited, then the signs are clear.
The same trick can be used for non-counterfeit goods, but products that you think might be overpriced.
For example, the seller of an amplifier board also sells power supplies. The PSUs may be just some capacitors on a PCB, or an SMPSes from another company.
He sells the amplifier board at $100 each.
He sells the PSU at $100 each
And you know you can get the equivalent somewhere else for much less.
Since he prices the amplifier board at the same price as the PSU, he is trying to say that the amplifier and PSU have the same value, which is $100. But you know that the PSU is worth much less, so if the amplifier is worth the same, then it is also worth much lower than $100.
Don't tell me "design cost". Whatever the cost, parts or design, is all grouped under cost. And the cost of a product, is, say, $200. You can build it yourself for $200 (inclusive of design and labor costs), or you can buy it from someone else for $200, it still costs $200. Then whatever price you sell it at is up to you - that's your profit.
Cost seldom decides the price anyway. When there are many alternatives, usually the case for a small-time seller, the value of the product decides the price, and available alternatives decide its value.
Which brings us one full circle back to the original issue - value is hard to judge in audio.
So sellers price their products at what they value them to be.
That's why have to check if they value $50 things at $100. If they do, then other things they value at $100 may also be worth $50.
W A R N I N G !
W A R N I N G !
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