European -vs- US high-end

How would you characterize the differences between European and US high-end?
that's more than a little like asking whether it's better to marry a bulgarian or a hawiian. fact is, several of the highest-of-high-end u.s. manufacturers design their gear to match the taste of europeans, since that's their largest market. the same is true, to a lesser extent, of european makers who sell into the u.s. market. so, "it's a small world after all." -cfb
I think that Kelly's statement can be summed up as "The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side" syndrome. Then again, you'll always have "loyalists" that prefer their "homegrown" to what can be bought overseas.

My take on it is that speakers are typically the most "telling" of where they come from. This is due to the fact that the manufacturer typically voices them for where they will be used and the type of rooms that they themselves have to work with. As such, they tend to carry a specific flavour representing the region that they are from. This is even true of America itself, where we used to have the "west coast" and "east coast" sound.

On the other hand, electronics can sound good or bad wherever they are from. This all boils down to system synergy and personal preference whereas speakers are FAR more variable depending on their design and the individual room interaction that takes place. Sean
Are you referring to the owner's or the equipment? I see no difference as "music is music" and "ears are ears". The only difference between Europe/Asia and the US is the power supply, the average room area and the humidity (though there are many like areas). The continental Indians lost the battle long ago - NOT!!! (Viva recent "gaming" trends!!!) but we are pretty much made up of people of European/Asian/Latin decent. My favorite male singers are Frank Sinatra and Jacques Brel for crying out loud and I am a mixture of English, German, Syrian and Scott's-Irish. English/European trends have conformed, in the past, to smaller (for the masses) rooms, and such, where softer is better, but "most" of us are getting a bit cramped here as well, and I do not see a trend either way other than that softer and/or a bit more aggressive within a short distance (listening area) such as Naim might be just the ticket for smaller listening rooms that are popping up here for people that can afford and are aware of this type of equipment (if only they new of SET's in their predicament:-). Anyway, to answer your question I would say that there are few differences as most of the "informed" people who are into this hobby are "as always" looking for the best bang for the buck. The "others" as "always" are mostly influenced by the advertsising $$$dollar$$$ and/or the whim of their local dealer/shop. As CornFed says "it is a small world".
Slawney, to my mind the gap which there was, especially with British hifi and US gear seems to be closing. For a long time the Europeans (France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK in part) had the better vinyl play back gear in practically all price ranges, but that has changed. The same goes true for loudspeaker designs. There might be Danish, as well as German solid state components which are designed more for the eye than for the ear in a degree of workmanship you will only rarely find across the atlantic. But I find that of minor importance.
There used to be a typically "German" sound in speakers from Deutschland, with an emphasis on highs and a forced transparency, which has fortunately disappeared as well.
In short, Cornfed is right, its become a small world. When I talk to the cognoscienti here in Zurich or converse with my US friends, we all talk the same language....also the hype is the same, on both sides of the Atlantic. A small world indeed.
I think the big gap between US and European tastes lies in the mid-fi to low-end range. It seems that there are many more Euopreans (especially British) people that want good sounding consumer gear. It's very obvious when you check out a British Hi-Fi mag and there are pages and pages...issues even...devoted to $100-$400 integrated amps, CD players, and speakers. The thing that amazes me is that they're all made by the same companies as the US consumer audio gear...Sony, Pioneer, Technics, Kendwood, Teac, etc....but it seems that they make a much better product than they do for the US. The US product has a billion features, surround sound, digital effects, etc., but the UK market seems to have a demand for a good sounding, simple, inexspensive, integrated amp. I find that refreshing. I wish that were the case here too.
Dont forget made In Canada gear.
Most of which is supperior to US and European made.
Go for the Hawaiian!
I run an all American system here in Germany and not because doing so is considered cool. There are some nice European approaches like AudioPhysics, Audiomeca, Audio Aero, Linn, Electrocompaniet, maybe even Burmester - but in my experience American gear does the long jump.
natalie: wow! i guess canada's winning a couple of olympic medals has engendered a reinvigorated national spirit. best thing about canadian gear is that it's priced by loonies. :o) -cfb
Natalie, the only Canadian companies that come to mind for me are Classe' and Bryston. While both solid products, i would not rank either of them as being "top notch". Then again, that is a personal opinion that may / may not be shared by others. I'm sure that there are other brands out there that are Canadian based that also deserve a mention. Sean
Solen caps are nice and their prices are competitive
and the Oracle TT was once (almost) SOTA. Thats all, except for those Sean has mentioned, that I can think of. Cheers,
Interesting thread & posts -- got me thinking. Until now I associated "US sound" as plush, euphonic (good bass), with detail but avoiding the overanalytical. Particularly with speakers, as Sean mentioned. European "sound" was associated with speed, fast transient attack (think of S-Line, YBA, etc), precision & rigour (& engineering) ad nauseam (Burmester, Goldmund, FM acoustics etc) -- and seemingly voiced for classical rather than all types of music. Also add a penchant for reproducing sounds in the MHz region (Tannoy's super tweets, Piega, Detlof's poisonous gas-filled ones, etc) -- were 2MHz possible, we would try to sell it.
Reading the posts, I find my impressions were based on brands -- indeed, not a "national" sound.

Of course, the english knack for creative compromise (using brain power to produce nice-sounding gear at cheapo construction price) is indisputable, I beleive.

Re, Canadian: aren't Tenor & Verity canadians?
I agree with Phild. I'd go as far as to make a broad statement that if your budget is $1000 or less per component then European, particularly British equipment is your best bet. It seems that US companies are more interested in the higher end of the market, though there are many European companies also in this segment.
Another key difference is the size of rooms which are driven. Hence European hifi is generally lower power .... and with lower power it's much less expensive to get good audio quality. I'd never go back to a large room ... it's just too much trouble.
On a more somber note ...
If everyone were hifi buffs then perhaps Europe and the US would have a better political relationship at the moment. The current sniping between European and US media and politicians saddens me greatly.
Re the Canadain stuff. Don't forget SimAudio and the late Sonic Frontiers. Then there's Anthem and Paridigm. Also Energy and Mirage speakers.
Perhaps what Natalie meant was that Canadian gear was superior in value to U.S. and european due to the low dollar value.
Cheers Steve
Sean T, the Europeans do not realise sufficiently the shock which was caused by 11th Sept. in your country and how you feel threatened by further attacks, possibly by weapons of mass destruction. The politics your governement is implementing, seems to follow quite naturally and logically from this scenario with the goal of protecting the US from attack. Obviously, the Europeans feel less threatened and hence plead for caution. After all, harsh action would upset their trade deals with Iran and Iraq for that matter and would put them even more in a tight spot than they are in now, if under obligation of the NATO treaty they had to spend more money for armaments and their military. Furthermore, the US have learnt in the Balcan war, that you cannot fight a war according to their doctrine, if you have to consult all the time with European politicians. That's why they are left out in the cold now and they don't like it. Shall we give them all Krells, Rowlands and ARC gear, so they'll shape up???
This forum seems to have flowed forth in a way that is quite surprising considering that I did not think many people would be interested in it. Many excellent ideas have already been presented. Cornfed, dekay and detlof seem to share a rejection of the difference between US and European high-end: as even Disney likes to emphasize over and over again, "it's a small world," so that the actual difference between European and US high-end is negligeable. If, based on this answer, one cannot really tell the difference between European and US high-end, then that failure proves the success of economic globalization. In response to this idea, let me say that I fully recognize the deterritorializing impact of global capitalism, undermining all stable, traditional form of manufacture: but I reproach this capitalism with the view that its deterritorialization is not thorough enough, that it generates new reterritorializations, and regionalisms. Thus we are left with insights like sean's that speakers carry a specific regional flavor.
I would like to go back to the original question and try to give you some background as to why this topic concerns me. First off, I am an American in Europe. Secondly, and more importantly is the fact that it has always been a favorite idee of mine to bring the life of the Old and the New World face to face, by an accurate comparison of their various hifi (not necessarily high-end) products. For a long time, I thought I would approach this like a natural historian. I would begin with the first recording procedures, of course; institute a large and exact comparison between the development of Leon Scott's phonotaugraph, Charles Cros' pallophone, as these two Frenchmen called their failed inventions, and Edison's cylinder-based phonograph, and then go on to an analytic comparison of the American Gramaphone Company, Berliner, and the Compagnie Francaise du Gramaphone, and also examine the early gramaphone turntables, from the jukeboxes in dimestores, the "nickel in the slot" systems, to the private record players at different ages (the Edison's, Thoren's, Garrard's) measuring height, weight, THD, frequency response by the microphone and computer and finishing off the first part of the study by a comparative history of the first cylinders for use in government agencies, flat 78 RPM records, double-sided and long-playing micro-groove Vinylite records, giving the principal technical characteristics. (Much of this research has already been done by Jacques Attali in "Noise: The Political Economy of Music," ff. 90-101).
Then I would follow this up by contrasting the various parallel forms of hifi systems in the two continents from, say, the late 1970s onwards. Some audio engineers (Tim Paravicini. say) often refer to this incidentally or expressly; but the "animus" of audio engineering in the two half globes of the planet is so momentous a point of interest to us audiophiles, that it should be made a subject of express and elaborate study. If I go out in that mall which here in Frankfurt is called the "Sandweg Passage" and look at the US, British, French and German components. The US components are large, robust, "built like tanks" (as the Germans like to say), and seem like they will carry on operating for years longer than the European components. The European components are more compact, "artistic," and seem to possess a suggestive power, sometimes a "finesse" and a "Spielfreudigkeit" over and above the US units. Is this typical of the creative force on the two sides of the ocean or not? Nothing but a careful comparison through the whole realm of high-end can answer this question, it seems.
There is a parallelism without identity in the electronics and speakers of the two continents, which favors the task of comparison in an extraordinary manner. Just as we have two Audio Notes (UK and Japan) alike in some ways, yet not the same at all, both Audio Notes easily distinguishable, so we have a complete flora and fauna in European and US vacuum tube amps, which, parting from the same idea, embody it with various modifications. As the same patterns have very commonly been followed in phonograph, amplifier, and speaker design, we can see which is worked out in the largest spirit, and determine the exact limitations under which the different high-end industries place the movements of musical life in all it manifestations in either locality. To get back to cornfed's beginning, I think Europeans would find themselves in a very bad position if it should prove that European high-end components cannot be sold in the US, but remain unsold, if not somehow designed for American tastes. It may turn out the other way, however, as I have heard one of my audiophile friends argue,--and though I took the other side, I liked his best--,that American high-end is simply European (more specifically, British) high-end reinforced. What do you think? Keep the contributions coming.
Oh NO!!! Now I am hearing the song from Disney's "It's a Small World" over and over in my head. If only "On the Good Ship Lollipop" would come back an take over again.
An odd sidelight to this is that there seem to be some brands that enjoy a much better reputation on one side of the pond than the other. Cambridge Audio comes to mind--I've seen it praised here in the US, but I gather it has something of a mid-fi reputation in the UK.
Korean web site. This is slightly off-topic but not that far. I looked at the korean audio club website recently. Every single system had a room diffuser between the speakers and lots of room treatment, panels pillows, pucks, you name it. Plus most equipment sat on spikes for vibration control. I do not recall any setup which contained a big rack full-o-stuff, or a HT entertainment center. I have not commonly seen systems in person on on the 'net with that attention to detail and passion for room control here in the US, not even at high end dealers. So, I guess the point is that there is much we can all learn from each other.
Tenor,Wytech,Coincident,PSB,Mirage,Verity,Sonic Frontiers,Anthem,.I can go on and on.
As good as any and by far better value considering the value of a lonnie.
Hey we even had one at center ice at The Olympics.
Brought us Hockey gold times 2.
We are not only the best at Hockey we RULE AUDIO as well.
Alright Natalie, I agreee with you to a point, as I have owned only Canadian speakers (paradigms and now Verity's) but you must look to your cold weather USA brethren in Minnesota to find one of the worlds greatest High End meccas. The Minneapolis area is home to Audio Research, Magnepan, Bel Canto, NBS, Atmasphere, and Van Alstine in a 20 mile square radius! Must be the cold weather.