September 23, 2010

Mid Autumm Festival Thoughts On Hifi.

Here I was, having my Mid Autumn Festival dinner with my family last night. Only this year, I have decided to celebrate without moon cakes for desert. The reason?

In the last 20 years or so, since being financially independent, I've seen the prices of moon cakes rise meteorically, from RM$4.50/pc to what is today in excess of RM$16.00/pc! We are talking about nearly a four fold price increase. Granted, today's packaging standards are a whole lot classier than those before. In fact, one can order moon cakes in all shapes, flavours and sizes. There's now the fashionably trendy cappuccino/latte or jasmine tea variety too.

If one opts for the traditional flavours such as egg yoke & lotus seed, red bean or assorted nuts, there is virtually no difference in taste, flavour and texture of the moon cake, except in today's health conscious society, it is a little less sweet. I personally feel the pricing of moon cakes have become unsustainable, and there fore I have decided to fore go moon cakes altogether this year.

The event is the same, nobody missed it a bit. The little ones still took a walk in the park with their recycled lanterns. They seemed just as happy.

What in the world does moon cakes or Mid Autumn Festival gotta do with hifi?

As I sit here reflecting on the my decision to fore go moon cakes due to it's un sustainable pricing, I suddenly thought about our passion, hifi equipment and it's pricing trend. Like the now over priced(for me at least) moon cakes, over the last 20 years or so, I had also felt that hifi equipments, in general offered some what significant increases in audio performance, but at the expense of very significant price increases. This can in fact, be the cause why vintage audio is gaining traction, with it's romantic sound and ever increasing potential for investment returns.

Like the moon cake(or hifi?) manufacturers, they can say that inflation has caused raw materials, labour wages and marketing & logistics cost to have increased over the years. However, for me as a consumer, all I know is that when I bite in to that moon cake, everything taste, and feels the same! Only the packaging designs seems to have gone thru significant improvement!

I think for many mentally stable people, the question is do they see hifi equipment pricing trends the same way that I see moon cake prices and relate to it's tangible experience during consumption?

Is there a point where ordinary folks would start to choose fore going hifi and all it's tangible/intangible(that depends on how one sees or hears it!) experience during music consumption?

As for me, I have already been certified insane many times over by many qualified parties!


Heinlein said...

I'm no expert in this topic but having price shooting up is a normal phenomenon. Nobody should compare it in the past especially in terms of price. I have a case whereby I rent a room to people and he told me that the price of the room is at certain price 2 years ago. I comment that 2 years ago the chicken chop rice at our area was RM4.50 and now is RM6.00; even a food court hawker increase his price so no doubt the landlord will do the same so this is the price adjusted from the inflation

The only way to have cheaper price is to opt for product of less value but this compromise is not what most of the people want. In more advance country where the product is produced, the price has little change. However, the biggest factor that affect the price is due to the currency exchange value. Our RM dropped a lot since the past few years. It's a sad thing but definitely something we have to face today.

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Inflation and decreasing currency value isn't something we should take lying down. Once you let ease, it is a downhill slide all the way.

If current trend persist, it is predicted that in 2020, malaysia would be one of the major foreign worker exporter in this region.

As for the mooncake, I can see a different problem, the lack of professional pride. Mooncakes nowadays don't sell well coz they don't taste as delicious as before. Younger generations don't inherit traditional methods or the trade coz it is no longer "financially" feasible to do so. Mooncake has become an angle of income rather than culture. Our country's tax structure don't protect local cottage industries. So, marketing through packaging is employed, which aportions less to the cost of raw edible material. Worse, they now have to fight with the hotels whom has taken over and created the high end mooncake market. Smaller and more expensive mooncakes well over RM30.00 a piece.

As a result, I buy my mooncake from singapore. There is only one shop left which makes mooncake the traditional way. And yes, the queue is horrendous.

Vintage mooncakes? Hell, why not?

Heinlein said...

Vintage mooncake hmmm... I heard from my dad that the mooncakes in the old days is only made from red bean paste. Not much choices to choose from.

I normally would buy a lotus paste and 1~2 special mooncakes on that day... I like trying out new things. Things you have today might not be available tomorrow so it's better to experience and enjoy.

Big E said...

Hi! All,

Expected inflation and shrinking currency value aside, I also realised most Malaysian's wages hasn't caught up with inflation in the last 10 years or so.

That has caused the working class to have less disposable income, i.e. extra $$$ for hifi or other things that make life just that bit better feeling.

Like the moon cakes, I feel mordern hifi also had changed much with slicker packaging, better specs and higher quality at much elevated prices. But key question is does it sound that much more better?

Heinlein said...

For me, the keys that allow for good music experience are divided into 3 mediums - the source, the transfer medium (interconnects & others, etc) and the output (speakers).

Neglecting any of them will risk the quality of audio playback. Over the years, I have see improvement on the sources of playback although it really can be quite slow.

As for hardware issues, the improvement is tremendous. The big company out there is making improvement based on past experience. It's a knowledge that they have been working on for years and further refined.

Packaging is important for them because I believe people do judge by appearance of the products and proper packaging protects its content, which is a must have. Well, those are my opinions

mikelau.2 said...


You left out one most important medium...yourself ! If you have developed a 'golden ear' the 3 mediums you mentioned would never satisfy you.

Heinlein said...

I would assume that refer to personal preference on audio, am I right? =)