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  1. #1
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    Chinese audio gray market - fact or fiction?

    I've bought lots of Chinese audio gear off ebay without any problems and yet I still read articles regarding rip offs from the so called "gray market". Are these real or are they scare tactics perpetuated by American retailers to keep customers away from direct Chinese purchases?

  2. #2
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    It's real. The main problem is they have no stock. They'll take your money and then try to source the item.

  3. #3
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    They can't exist on ebay if that's the case.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I remember when the Dussun integrated amp was receiving a lot of buzz. You could purchase one from the distributor or Acoustic Sounds or directly from China. The concern for that integrated amp was the quality of the transformer used in products made for the US and our voltage. They would buy the integrated amp in China and use a cheap transformer instead of the one the distributor would use.
    Last edited by JohnMichael; 07-25-2010 at 05:22 PM.
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  5. #5
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    They can't exist on ebay if that's the case.
    Oh no? And how do you suppose Ebay verifies inventories in China? Sattelite feed? Not to be rude Poultry, but Ebay cannot do anything about this problem, until it becomes a problem.

    That said, it doesn't always mean that you would get screwed in this situation. Quite often sourcing the stock is not a problem for these guys. They stand to make alot of cash if they can keep their business going steady.

    There are however, lots of credible sellers from Asia as well.

  6. #6
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    I still see on ebay people selling "White Van speakers" and I see people bid for them!

  7. #7
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    I've always bought from Chinese ebay merchants with high feedback scores and have never been disappointed in over a dozen transactions. The merchants I've dealt with seem obsessed with customer satisfaction. I once purchased 20 banana plugs from a Hong Kong seller and after complaining that they were too hard to unscrew, the guy air expressed me 20 more of a higher quality than I had originally paid for. They know that negative feedback can be deadly on ebay. FWIW, I have never bought from Cattylink or NY Sound.

    If the item gets to me and is as described, why should I care about sourcing or stock on hand? Shipping a heavy amp on a slow boat from China can take close to 8 weeks but saving a couple of hundred bucks can make the wait worthwhile. I must have received a half dozen follow up emails from one Chinese merchant making sure I was pleased with the amp. He was after that all important positive feedback score. I am also impressed with Chinese packaging which borders on being OCD. Love the crazy pink ribbons!

    Some retailers in this country would have you believe that they do their own voltage conversion in the US but in reality it's done at the Chinese factory. I can assure you that is the case with Pacific Valve as their shipping boxes say so. All my Chinese gear came factory converted and have given me absolutely no problems.

    Dussun is a highly respected Chinese audio giant that makes Mark Levinson amps. There's no way they would risk their reputation by using poor quality transformers. If it wasn't just an internet rumor no doubt someone outside their company made the switch.

    With dealer service on a 40 lb mail order amp bought in the US you're often on your own as the shipping charges can often exceed the repairs. I'm still PO'ed with PV as they could not even provide a missing cover screw nor could they sell me a replacement tube socket ( I bent the pins ). I'd rather pay less up front for gear coming directly from China and know there's no dealer service than to pay a lot more for the same product from a US distributor and be mislead.

    As for "white van speakers" I've seen people on ebay bid on unbranded Insignias from China for twice what they cost at BB so it pays to know something about what you're buying.

    It would be good to hear from folks who have personally experienced a gray market audio rip off.

  8. #8
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    I' want to give a heads up for the guys at Pacific Valve. They are a US based direct importers of quality Chinese audio gear. My amp was sourced from them.

    http://www.pacificvalve.us/index.html
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  9. #9
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    Especially beware if a company has a legit U.S. distributor and somebody in China is selling their gear here on auction sites. If it was just a Chinese customer selling it used, they wouldn't be looking to ship it all the way here.
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  10. #10
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woofersus
    Especially beware if a company has a legit U.S. distributor and somebody in China is selling their gear here on auction sites. If it was just a Chinese customer selling it used, they wouldn't be looking to ship it all the way here.
    I know for certain that the Hong Kong distributer for Meixing Mingda is the primary seller on Ebay. You will get the REAL item cheaper there, but as it's been said, if you want customer service and peace of mind that there's a dealer you can rely on backing you up then the extra $$$ up front to Pacific Valve is worth the price.
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  11. #11
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    Geo,

    Glad your experience with Pacific Valve was better than mine. I purchased an amp from them which soon needed a new tube socket. I called PV to buy a replacement socket and they refused to even sell me one. Gave me some lame excuse about their liability for replacement parts for their own products???? The amp was still in warranty but all they could tell me was how expensive the shipping would be to Chicago and that I should find a tube tech locally. I doubt they even have a technician on staff and probably subcontract any repair work elsewhere. Pacific Valve gave me no peace of mind and I'll never buy from them again.

  12. #12
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    Geo,

    Glad your experience with Pacific Valve was better than mine. I purchased an amp from them which soon needed a new tube socket. I called PV to buy a replacement socket and they refused to even sell me one. Gave me some lame excuse about their liability for replacement parts for their own products???? The amp was still in warranty but all they could tell me was how expensive the shipping would be to Chicago and that I should find a tube tech locally. I doubt they even have a technician on staff and probably subcontract any repair work elsewhere. Pacific Valve gave me no peace of mind and I'll never buy from them again.
    Wow, sorry to hear about that. I've never needed repair work except for a tech showing me how to bias the amp.

    When they said to find a tech locally did they say that they would cover the cost under warranty?
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  13. #13
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    No, they wouldn't pay to have it repaired locally. They would only repair the amp if I shipped it to them and of course they don't cover shipping. The kicker was PV being unwilling to sell me a replacement tube socket for the amp although it was still under warranty. Amazingly enough they could not even tell me where I could buy the socket. I found one on my own and had it repaired locally. My theory is they never have their amps come back so they have little to no experience with service.

    It makes no sense for me to buy from a company like PV when I can purchase the same exact product on ebay for half the price. I've found all four of my Chinese amps ( three bought off ebay from China ) to be very reliable due to their high build quality.

  14. #14
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    No, they wouldn't pay to have it repaired locally. They would only repair the amp if I shipped it to them and of course they don't cover shipping. The kicker was PV being unwilling to sell me a replacement tube socket for the amp although it was still under warranty. Amazingly enough they could not even tell me where I could buy the socket. I found one on my own and had it repaired locally. My theory is they never have their amps come back so they have little to no experience with service.

    It makes no sense for me to buy from a company like PV when I can purchase the same exact product on ebay for half the price. I've found all four of my Chinese amps ( three bought off ebay from China ) to be very reliable due to their high build quality.
    My experience with PV is limited but was very good overall. I bought a DAC from them which was DOA. Should it have been DOA? It was a standard model, not upgraded, and I suppose they can't test every unit. However they apologized and issued a RMA without hesitation. When they received the unit and confirmed that it wasn't working, they refund the price plus shipping both ways.

    I think it is very rare for dealers to authorized local repairs so no surprise in your case, Poultry. There is too much risk of scam with local repairs. Even speaking for myself, having sold quite a few items on eBay and Audiogon, I would basically never agree to local repair. I solded a unit for $700 that was working when I shipped it; it arrived DOA or so I was told. In the first placed I had sold the unit explicitly without warranty, nevertheless I might have refuned his money if he had shipped it back. Instead the guy had if fixed locally for about $350 without even asking, then demanded I pay (actually, half as I recall). I said tough luck.

    On the other hand "insurance" is worth only so much. E.g. we note the Consumer Reports recommends against extended warranties in most cases. Once the price differential exceeds a certain level it makes sense to assume the risk personally.

  15. #15
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    No, they wouldn't pay to have it repaired locally. They would only repair the amp if I shipped it to them and of course they don't cover shipping. The kicker was PV being unwilling to sell me a replacement tube socket for the amp although it was still under warranty. Amazingly enough they could not even tell me where I could buy the socket. I found one on my own and had it repaired locally. My theory is they never have their amps come back so they have little to no experience with service.

    It makes no sense for me to buy from a company like PV when I can purchase the same exact product on ebay for half the price. I've found all four of my Chinese amps ( three bought off ebay from China ) to be very reliable due to their high build quality.
    Well of course if the amp had come from China instead of Chicago the shipping to repair it would have been a lot more. I can't believe that they couldn't even direct you to where a replacement socket could be found? Sockets are pretty much standard things. I agree with you though, the build quality is remarable on these amps. When I opened mine up to bias it I noticed that the RCA input wiring was done with Teflon cased Silver wire?!

    The Meixing Minga Ebay dealer has a stellar record. I've never bought from him but I wouldn't hesitate to do so.
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  16. #16
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Poultry, you seem quite confident about Asian sellers, so why the thread in the first place? Just seems like you already knew the answer to your question.

    Regarding Asian sellers undercutting N.American distributors, for rebadged models...

    I can only speak from the point of view of Grant Fidelity. Firstly, Ian Grant will take a model that has been designed by Shenga and put his own revisions on it. Upon production, there is a 2 year limit before the factory can sell it themselves. I would assume that most foreign distributors have a similar arrangement.

    This mean a few things for people shopping on Ebay. The model you see may appear the same, but infact is most likely different when it comes to parts and micro design specs. Of course, as discussed already, warranty and support are not avaialble. If you check the release date of a model from the American distributor, and it exceeds 2 years, you are likely able to buy the EXACT replica from an Asian seller.

    The Grant Fidelity tube dac-09 underwent this issue. It was available on Ebay, however most units were different than Grants. A chip here or part there. The unit has now reached it's 2 year anniversary. You will notice that Ian Grant has repriced them to $200 as opposed to the 300 it had been at since introduction. He must now compete with Asian sellers who can legally sell his exact model, with his specs in it.

    Poultry, of course dealers and distributors will try to instill paranoia into the marketplace regarding Asian products sold by third party sellers. In reality, I think your experience represents the picture a bit better.

  17. #17
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    ...
    The Grant Fidelity tube dac-09 underwent this issue. It was available on Ebay, however most units were different than Grants. A chip here or part there. The unit has now reached it's 2 year anniversary. You will notice that Ian Grant has repriced them to $200 as opposed to the 300 it had been at since introduction. He must now compete with Asian sellers who can legally sell his exact model, with his specs in it.

    ..
    How are we supposed know that? Grand Fidelity doesn't disclose which chips are, in fact, used in that DAC.

  18. #18
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    I keep getting second hand info on rip offs which hasn't matched my experience at all. Was hoping some one could give a personal experience that would make me leery of buying Chinese audio direct.

    In a few months I'll be in Seoul and will have an opportunity to experience their vast audio market place first hand.

  19. #19
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    How are we supposed know that? Grand Fidelity doesn't disclose which chips are, in fact, used in that DAC.
    If you would like to know, write to them. Proprietary secrets are now pointless, as I explained.

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