Best Audio-Manufacturing Countries?

What countries are most "important" in the production
of high-end audio gear? How would you rank them, and what trends or changes have occured over, say, the last 2 decades?
This should be an interesting thread. At first, I thought this is easy. It's the US. To a large degree I still believe that to be true (particularly since I love vinyl--you'll understand that comment in a moment). The two countries that have had the most significant impact in the production of high-end have been the Belgium and Japan. Why these two? These are the headquarters for the digital enterprises of Phillips and Sony. While the advent of digital occurred over 2 decades ago, it's impact has really been in these past two decades. In the high end world consider what percentage of equipment is "digital" in some way or another. More than 3 decades ago that number was basically 0.

Well, I'm sure there are going to be many answers to this. And the question is a little open to interpretation--since my response was really about the impact of development on production and not directly related to the production. For example--China could be a huge impact on production right now. How many high end pieces of gear do you buy that the boards were manufactured and assembled in China? China has made huge strides in doing turn key production of high end sub-assemblies, and they are very cost effective. I'll bet it's a lot more than you might think. So there's another valid answer from a different angle.

Interesting question--I look forward to other's responses on this one.
In terms of importance currently, I agree with Rives - China. You never know how much proportion of your high-end gear or home appliances are actually made or assembled in China. There are many "proudly made in USA" products in US, but I believe that most of them have something from China inside, therefore the quote should be "proudly designed and finished in USA".

Going back the time for 2 decades, it would be USA, Britain, and possibly Japan, all as major consumer markets as well as designers and manufacturers. I agree that Philips has been making a great contribution (I thought it was a Dutch company, btw), but it is truely a global company and its playing field for BOTH of digital components and contents has been actually all over the world, so not sure Dutch should be mentioned.

Ah, Italy, Germany, and France - those "Old Europe" according to official US standard - where great music and instruments were created and fostered. I am now talking about 2 cinturies, NOT decades. Audio designers in these countries have gone and still going a great stride to re-produce the "true" sound of their land's / ancestors' music. Who else are more entitled to that?

Lastly but not least, worth nominating are Taiwan (may not be a country), Hong Kong (again, not a country), and Singapore, who are becoming major markets for high-end audio products (meaning more and more rich people are being made). Never underestimate the power, width, and depth - thus contribution to audio - of Chinese-speaking community outside China (no, I'm not a Chinese descendant).

Rives, a minor correction: Philips is based in The Netherlands -- the same country where Van den Hul, Siltech, Kharma (to name only the well known) create their wonderful gear. Having said that, I certainly don't want to suggest that nationality is of any importance in the world of (high-end) audio lovers. IMHO this thread could easily derail into low-end patriotism. It makes no sense to me to introduce irrelevant criteria in our struggle for perfect audio reproduction. In fact most sets will include gear from a great diversity of origins. Mine for instance is a mix of US (amplifiers, cables), UK (tone arm), Swiss (turntable), soviet (NOS tubes in the US gear!!), Japanese (cartridge), Belgian (phono-amp) and Dutch (speakers-with German and Danish units-, cables, cdp & DAC).
It all turns around integration and synergy, isn't it? Just like the real world...
Oops--you're right. I know why I did that--but I'm not even going to say. Anyway, my response should be corrected appropriately.
Hi-end audio is a truly international endeavor. The leading nations are Canada, USA, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, China, Japan, GB and Switzerland. It would be impossible to pick a single nation as "the best". I suspect in few years we'll also start to see interesting designs coming out of India.
I'd like to define best audio-manufacturing countries as the sources of the best manufactured components I've encountered (i.e. highest quality of fit and finish):

USA (Rockport, Wilson, VPI, Rowland, Krell, VTL)
Netherlands (Kharma)
Switzerland (Goldmund)
France (Jadis)
Japan (Accuphase, 47 lab)

The chinese components that I've encountered have often sounded very good, but are seldom manufactured very well. Shanling, Golden Tube, Antique Sound, etc. offer good value for the money, but not the highest level of manufacture.
Hmmm, tend to agree withOnhwy61 & Lourenz (and his Kharma speakers:) -- although I'm sure Golfrok's intentions are really historical and anecdotal.

So, I'll view the question in terms of a global effort and, doubtless forgetting a few manufacturers, I'd mention in no order,

the UK (vinyl, Quads, Linn LP12, Lowther, etc), the US for creating superb ss designs that rival tubes, the garage industry (without which, superlative products would have never seen the light of day), the diy support & availability, and the use of ribbons; France for marketing superlative drive units (incl. true ribbons) & tube gear and quality components, and for mathematical research into digital reproduction; Germany for engineering design & excellent components & innovative use of materials in analogue playback, and for drive units that we find in expensive commercial speakers; Italy for introducing & generalising good looks in hi-end; Holland, beyond the obvious, for innovative speakers design (incl panels), and the digital research amongst enthousiasts; Sweden for its research into innovative analogue recording & playback, and the use of unusual materials in speaker design; Japan, beyond the obvious, for the persistence in refining reproduced sound thru tiny wat amps & the innovative use of exquisitely engineered drive units for speakers, and for insisting in wide-bandwidth reproduction; Belgium, for producing the cdp's that first swamped the world; Russia for instilling extremely solid engineering knowledge and for the designers that we now know (remember the Lamm products?) and for keeping up the tubes production (thanks to their military who use tubes); Switzerland for "absolute precision" engineering (Goldmunds looked/were space age 2-3 decades ago!) and for research into digital reproduction -- not least for trying to market the most expensive ss gear (fm acoustics); Australia for marketing THE most expensive production ss gear (Halcro), and for delving into innovative SS design for "speed" in reproduction, even if it didn't always work (Metaxas); Denmark & Norway for researching, designing, and producing the drive units that are in most of our commercial speakers; the Czech Republic & Slovakia for tubes and tube research, and the use of military production facilities for analogue audio; Spain, for their drive units that are cheap & performant (beyma);
Many others I have forgotten...
1)USA (Theshold,Krell,magnepan,soundlab,etc)
2)Canada (Simaudio, Classe)
3)Japan (Accuphase,Esoteric,Sony etc)
4)Netherlands (Philips)
6)Quickly on the rise; China,S.Korea
Gregm excellent post,very informative.Metaxas components yes were manufactured Down under but the principal designer Kostas Metaxas is Greek , he chose to put his name on the products rather than making up a firm name.
GREECE is currently producing some high-end components but the demand is low and so the production at the moment.
Brands that come to mind:TSAKIRIDIS DEVICES (tube equipment)
TL ACOUSTICS(turntables) NEXUS ACOUSTICS (speakers,power conditioner,interconnects,power cables)
CRYSTAL AUDIO (high-end dipole speakers)
ANALYSIS (full range ribbon speakers)
Traditionally different countries have different strenghts:
USA for amps (phase linear, crown, mcintosh,krell...)
Great britain speakers (Tannoy,Quad, Lowther,ATC,Spendor...)
Germany/Switzerland tt's and anything tape (Thorens,EMT,Studer/Revox,
Nagra/Kudelski, Goldmund)
Japan a bit of everything except speakers.
And it might not really fit in here but almost all good microphones come from Germany and mixing consoles from Great Britain.