How much will you pay for an exotic cartridge....

I noticed on another forum that there is an interesting point brought up by a US distributor/dealer about his perception that one of his potential customers bought a top end cartridge ( that he reps) from an off-shore dealer/source...and how he intends to try and stop the practice of ’grey market’ sales. ( At least for the lines that he carries).
This gent seems to believe that because he signed some paperwork somewhere that may ( or may not) give him exclusive rights to distribute the gear in the US, that he has the right to try and prevent anyone abroad from selling to US customers! To that, he wants to have the manufacturer try and enforce his right to do the above. Now, one could ask, what’s the issue with this, right? And here’s the rub, the dear distributor is adding over $8K to this product for the simple task of ordering and having shipped a cartridge from Japan ( Yes, i know the shipping of such a large and heavy item is expensive...and the dealer has to stand by the product...whatever that means when we are talking of a cartridge!) The profit motive is high here, and the opportunity to fleece some of the US consumers is i get that, but to come on an open forum and complain about the practice that one of his potential customers did such a an interesting marketing tactic, IMO.
So, my question is much will you pay for that exotic cartridge to insure that you are buying it from a "legit" US rep, and not from a grey market...or in this case out of area dealer....what’s fair to you...a few $$s- or the sky’s the limit??
So, my question is much will you pay for that exotic cartridge to insure that you are buying it from a "legit" US rep

That's easy: Zero!

But then I have been doing this a long time, and been privy to the realities of wholesale/retail markups long enough to know how insanely profitable such things are. Not only cartridges by the way. Typical wholesale-retail markup is over 100%. Well over.

My Benz was bought new in a factory sealed carton from some guy in Europe, and my Koetsu was bought new in the factory box from some guy on eBay about a year ago. Whatever slim risk there is isn't worth it for a few bucks but we're talking over a grand here. Sorry. But you want that much of my money you need to do a whole lot more than try and scare me with "gray market". Gray market is BS. Its a global market. Either its all gray, or none of it is. I say none.

That's if we're talking what I'll pay for that particular peace of mind. Because the risk to me is not is it legit or not. That's simply the wrong question. DYODD you can eliminate that risk.

The proper question is, how much will you pay to be secure in the knowledge that if you do not like if for any reason, any reason at all, you can just bring it back. That means home auditions. Some guy wants a couple grand profit and has a couple solid contenders I want to hear, no problem. No problem at all. He's earned it.

But these guys that think they deserve big money like that for being nothing more than a glorified shipping expediter, they can go.... well let's just say they can go find someone a whole lot less capable. Which should not be a problem. They say there's one born every minute.
In the modern world dealerships has been more or less ruined by the internet sales.

And it’s not only about cartridges, many high-end shops closed here, because (for example) the cables they are selling for crazy prices can be easily purchased online from any country in the world much cheaper (i did that many times). Actually any small size equipment can be purchased online cheaper than in the local high-end stores (and i did that too).

I would ask why the manufacturer doesn’t want to sell direct to the customers wolrdwide ? Think about it! Seems strange, but who will pay for advertizing in your local magazines, on the internet sites etc ? The manufacturer ? Probably too much work for the manufacturer, they would like to have a dealer who will do the job to promote stuff in his country and his bonus is wholesale prices and full support from the manufacturer.

Some manufacturers prefer direct sale and it could be much better for the customers, right ? Nelson Pass has been making amps to sell them direct to his customers for many years, but now he has a distributors too. Why?

I believe the goal of dealerships for the customers is DEMO in their showroom and warranty that none of the grey market dealer will give to their customers. But after a DEMO anyone can simply buy the same cartridge online from another country (i am pretty sure this is what you gonna do if your distributor will give you a demo). Distribution is a tough job, you may not understand how much a distributor have to buy to became a distributor (or even an authorized dealer) and it’s responsibility too (to talk with a bunch of idiots every day, to those who never buy anything but only like to bla bla bla).

The Manufacturer never ever work with grey market dealers. Manufacturers hate grey market dealers, distributors hate them too, buyers prefer to pay less on their own risk (no warranty, no support from the manufacturer, some carts are not reparable, vendors does not have an access to the parts used in exotic cartridges, those parts made exclusively for the manufacturers). If you will broke such $8k cartridge you’re done with that, you can’t get it back to work, i mean to its original condition, because of those exotic parts.

I don’t know who is fool here? But the grey market dealer definitely got his profit and will not help to the buyer, because he does not work with manufacturer (cartridge designer). Distributor looks like a looser in this situation, but a proper distributor did all the job in your country to promote the brand he’s distributing, you don’t read reviews in German or in Polish if you are in USA.

You did not learn anything since your last post about cartridges. I wonder why are you willing to pay $8k for a cartridge if you can’t even afford the service program that official distributor always offering to support his customers ? If it’s too expensive for you why don’t you just buy a $1k cartridge to save $7k on it?

If you think you can safe $1k on price difference why don’t you just buy a ticket to Japan to buy directly in the country of origins ?

I think a manufacturer really need a distributor, first of all it is language barrier, a cultural difference etc.

Only grey market dealer can sell a cartridge and stop responding after he’s got the money, you’re lucky if paypal protect you.

I don’t blame people because their price is higher, i just buy what i can buy, first of all there are a lot of used cartridges on the market that are much cheaper even compared to the grey market dealers price, but they are purchased from authorized dealers (which is better).

And finally if you’re talking about Japanese cartridges i want to remind you that Japan is not USA or Europe, 99% of the deal in Japan are in CASH ONLY. They do not accept your American credit cards even in the bars. It is completely different system, different world! Did you ever notice that ? So you want to communicate with Japanese manufacturers ? Learn Japanese first!

Or continue to deal with Chinese grey market sellers if you like.

As far as i know rich people prefer to have top notch service and they are ready to pay extra for it. I think this is the best way to buy super expensive cartridges if you’re rich. Nothing wrong with that.

P.S. For poor people like me the best deals are always for used stuff in high-end community all over the world via internet. I would love to stay away from any cartridge that cost over $2k max and i will think twice before i will buy any of them. My experience with official distributor of the very expensive cartridges was very positive in a way they build a communication, they are treated you like the best friend, but the cost of the cartridge was over $4k even with discount they can offer privately. Anyway i much prefer to deal with people who can pick up a phone, immediately reply by email, ship your order before you even paid for it, offering you special deal or even can credit you for some time... this is all about  official distributor i've been dealing with. The grey market dealer hardly can speak english, completely different experience (never again). 

@daveyf can you supply a link to the forum you were referring to in your initial post?
@rsf507  Nope, But it is usually known as a 'Wallets Big'...LOL. ;0)
PM if you need more.
I agree  with each statement chakster made . My personal
experience with Reed tonearms owner/designer Vidmantas
confirm his assumptions regarding the reasons they prefer
an importer in each (big) country. I advised direct sell to the
customers  because the intermediary get about 60 % of the
retail price. I hate them more in particular Japanese kinds.
But Vindmantas was not able to pay for advertise  and PR
for his products and also needed help from someone who
at least was capable to write in English. But as one would say
''your problem is not my problem''. Anyway I still refuse to pay
those intermediary and try to avoid them as those with infectious
diseases. The only difference beween us is that my ''limit
price'' for a carts is higher : $ 3000. 

Davey, it is much more than just the cost of buying and shipping the cartridge. It is having a storefront, insurance, salespeople etc so you can waltz in, listen and make an informed decision on what you want to buy.
Having said that, it all depends on my relationship with the dealer. If we are good friends he will cut me a deal and I will be willing to pay a little extra for his services. 
@mijostyn. Is there anywhere in my OP that I stated that this distributor is a brick and mortar dealer?
Dave, it was your previous post about your problem with the distributors and you start it again now. 

What's your problem? 
Cartridges have in general the best profit. They raise with marketing.
No marketing, unknown und also no idea about its abilities:
$1000.00 max
When dipped in holy water: +50%
With a pic Pope listens with it: +200%

 @chakster  Actually what’s your problem? My prior thread...not post, has nothing to do with this thread. Read my OP again, this time without your preconceived idea.
Most audio dealers are like most car dealers or real estate agents. Completely useless and the buyer knows more than they do. Long gone are the days where an “expert” is needed to tell you about the product. Today’s audio buyer spends far more time researching than a dealer does.  If manufacturers offered buy direct I imagine 99% of the people would do that, even without the huge discount.  Why have two other parties (distributor/dealer) in the middle when you could work with one?  These dealers today aren’t maintaining store fronts or doing advertising. They send an email to someone when you want a product and that’s their “hard work”. I’ve asked dealers in the past about products they represent and they’ve never even heard it!

Why have two other parties (distributor/dealer) in the middle when you could work with one?

I wonder how can you work with one if they are in Japan and does not even prepared to sell to the foreigners directly? You can’t, so you need a grey market dealer (the enemy of the manufacturer) between you and the manufacturer or a legit dealer (a friend of the manufacturer) in your country. Up to you, but you can’t buy from the manufacturer even if you really want. This is it, the OP’s post is about Japanese cartridge.

They don’t need your USD in Japan, your paypal that ripping-off the sellers and can block entire account with funds because of the one complain from the cheater/customer, or your American Credit Card. Also most of them don’t even understand a word in English. How can you buy from them with warranty and service ? This is why they do have a distributor and dealer they can trust. Let's face it! 

You missed the IF in my post. 
I’m very confident the Japanese could deal with USA buyers direct. I do that with one manufacturer now and the service is impeccable. 
Actually what’s your problem? My prior thread...not post, has nothing to do with this thread. Read my OP again, this time without your preconceived idea.

This thread and your previous thread have something in common.

It is obvious that for some reason you don’t like to buy this Japanese cartridge from the distributor in your area. But you can’t even tell us what cartridge do you mean, you told us it’s $8k cartridge. Do you think all distributors are the same (bad) ? This is why i’m asking what is your problem, because it is clearly your problem. Sometimes the problem is the customer, not the distributor. I’ve met great distributors as i said earlier.

I’m pretty sure any legit seller will do his best for the customer who willing to spend money, especially $8k on a cartridge. If you think the seller/dealer is not an expert, i think he is a business man anyway, i believe you can appreciate discount when you will tell him that grey market dealer can offer the same cartridge cheaper (but without any further support by the manufacturer for sure). Based on my own experience with US distributor (as a foreigner) i can confirm that discount even for $5k cartridge from the official distributor can be up to 20% and that’s god damn serious discount. Instead of dealing with grey market seller you (or anyone else) could communicate with the official distributor to get the best deal. Most of them can offer trade-in program to upgrade used cartridge purchased from them to a brand new next model with huge discount, grey market dealers can’t do that. This is another reason to deal with the official distributor, but for me it doesn’t really matter in which country if i can manage shipping address in the same country, because they can not ship to another country where the company have another distributor (it’s fair).

If your reference price is the price from grey market dealer i don’t think it’s fair, normally they are selling prolonged storage items or overstock, not the latest models.

The reference point is the retail price in various countries, if you can save 20-30% buyin’ it from grey market dealer (but you lose all the benefits for upgrade, service, support) then it’s probably not enough, but if you can save up to 50% then you play with the devil (on your own risk). Some buyers prefer to save 50% and rebuild their cartridges with people like SoundSmith (not the original designer, not the original parts, different sound as the result), some people prefer to insure themselves and to stay with original designer (via distributor) who can change or rebuild their cart to original specs.

In my opinion it’s so stupid to buy $8k cartridge to save 30-50% from the grey market dealer if you’re not sure this cartridge is the best and exactly what you need. And if you know it, then what’s the reason to deal with grey market seller who will never be able to send it to the manufacturer for service/upgrade/retip by original designer when it time to. And it’s even more stupidity to deal with grey market dealer when official distributor can privately offer same 30% discount and all the benefits for the future.

You’re talking about EXOTIC cartridges as i can see in your post.
Exotic cartridge = exotic parts, patented and exclusively made for the manufacturer only (imo).

I’m very confident the Japanese could deal with USA buyers direct. I do that with one manufacturer now and the service is impeccable.

This is fine, but it’s an exception. Also you can tell us what manufacturer dealing directly with you or it’s a top secret ? Do you mean they are selling cartridges directly or do you mean that you can ship something to Japan for expensive service like Ikeda tonearm for rewire for example. Regarding the cartridges i'm pretty sure direct deal is possible only if there is no official distributor in your area. For example i can deal with manufacturers in USA because they do not have a distributor in my country, but if they have their own distributor in my country it will be dishonest for them to deal with a private customer in the same country where they got distributor.   

I am just curious, how do you know the grey market sellers are Chinese?

2juki is the biggest grey market dealer on ebay, he’s from Hong Kong. You don’t know this ?

This is about the Etsuro Gold cartridge which is $21k USD retail through the USA dealer. It’s about $8500 USD less (retail pricing) through a legit Europe or Japan dealer for someone living in the US.

@chakster no secret, it’s Audio Tekne. I’m just making the point that it’s possible to buy direct from the Japanese without logistical issues. You will likely get far better service than any other dealer, which has been my experience.  No PayPal, money is wired at a fixed low cost. English is not an issue. How do you think USA distributors are dealing with Japanese manufacturers?  You think they can read and write Japanese?

This is about the Etsuro Gold cartridge which is $21k USD retail through the USA dealer. It’s about $8500 USD less (retail pricing) through a legit Europe or Japan dealer for someone living in the US.


All Etsuro models manufactured by Excel Sound Inc.

This is your Etsuro Gold with $21k retail price in USA ?

A bit off-topic, but I will tell you more:

The current $8000 Excel Sound’s Etsuro Urushi MC looks very similar compared to the stylish and very rare Argent MC110 made in the 80’s in Japan for US market. They are both have unique sapphire base, similar specs and they came from the same manufacturer after all, just in different time. I have this Argent MC110 in my collection, one of the reason i prefer NOS vintage cartridges is the price, top of the line Argent DIAMOND (with Diamond cantilever) is no more than $3000 today, while the Etsuro Urushi is $8k and i am shocked that Etsuro Gold is $21k in USA.

The retail of Argent MC110 (the predecessor of Etsuro) from the same manufacturer in the mid 80’s was $385 in USA and Argent Diamond was $1200 in USA. Here is the document with prices and specs.

Hard to believe they can sell nearly the same cartridges, designed in the 80’s, but in better finishing for $21k in 2020.

Prices goes crazy nowadays in my opinion, not sure the quality goes up with the price, sorry.

After Mr.Fremer visited Excel Sound in they garage i was a bit disappointed, here is the video.

no secret, it’s Audio Tekne. I’m just making the point that it’s possible to buy direct from the Japanese without logistical issues. You will likely get far better service than any other dealer, which has been my experience. No PayPal, money is wired at a fixed low cost. English is not an issue. How do you think USA distributors are dealing with Japanese manufacturers? You think they can read and write Japanese?

Only if they do not have a distributor in USA, because if they have a distributor and still selling direct from Japan to USA then it’s dishonest to their own distributor. This is an exception, i can recall maybe 10 well known Japanese cartridge manufacturer that no one can buy from the manufacturer or even from the Japanese shops because they do not ship abroad. Someone at the company must speak English, but only to communicate with their distributor.

Also i remember @lewn comments after he returned from Japan, that retail price in Japanese shops for new High-End cartridges is the same or even higher than in USA. There is a tax in the Japanese shops on top of the retail price. 

@chakster no I do not own an Etsuro Gold.  Just pointing out what a scam dealers are, especially in the USA.

Like I said, I was merely pointing out that it is easy to buy direct from Japan IF the manufacturer allows it.  There are no language or payment issues as you pointed out.  My comments had nothing to do with whether they had USA distribution or not.

I don't believe the cartridges in Japan are more expensive.  You can see the retail pricing online if you search Japanese sites.

You grossly understated the dealer’s expenses. There’s usually some financial commitment to be a dealer for products that can include a payment, commitments to buy and carry a certain amount of inventory, training, travel, not to mention the costs of operating a business.

Grey market items often won’t be supported for warranty service. If you buy an "international" version and are in the US or didn’t purchase it from an authorized dealer, you may be S.O.L. if something happens.

There’s also the issue of education, demonstrations, etc. If you order it from Japan, chances are you’re going on other people’s impressions and making a blind purchase without having an opportunity to hear what it sounds like.

So, those are things to take into consideration.

While I wouldn’t consider it "exotic", when I purchased my Kiseki Blue NS, I chose to purchase it from a seller here on Audigon, saving approximately 35%. I felt it was worth whatever risk there was and had no issues with the purchase or performance.

Just be aware of the potential risks and consider the upside of working with a dealer.
@chakster As someone else has pointed out, the cartridge in question is $8k more than the price in Japan...which IF you read my OP...a little slower, you would see is what I stated....but no, you just have to jump to conclusions. Your understanding of my posts is faulty...and you continue to want to try and debate my meanings and put words into my mouth, I’m done with you.

@vortrex I really dislike it when people come in public forums and insult entire professions with typically no knowledge of what the profession entails or what value they bring to the consumer! Your statement about real estate agents and car dealers shows me your ignorance. As an example, I recently sold a property and my agent was able to not only make this complex transaction easy for me, but also allowed me to realize tens of thousands of dollars over my expectations. To say that her experience was invaluable would be an understatement.
@daveyf you sound like the perfect customer for a real estate agent.  There is a reason they are still in business in 2020.

@vortrex  I can tell you are the exact customer that the agent should keep away from! You already know it all......:0(
Not completely relevant to exotic cartridges but......

I dealt direct with Jico for new stylus even though there are plenty of USA distributor for Jico stylus.

They had no problem dealing with me direct, taking PayPal and communication by email was in perfectly good English from them.

Not exotic carts but the principle is there.
The real question is why this grey market do exist? It’s not Robin Hood deal for manufacturer and grey market dealer and usually both of them do know what they do and why. Grey market dealer buys directly from manufacturer, this is part of game.

Although no question asked makes some opportunities for both. For good and for bad :)
@ chakster
2juki is the biggest grey market dealer on ebay, he’s from Hong Kong.You don’t know this ?
I know 2juki, but the OP never mentioned such seller in his posts.
You guys are gonna have a stroke. Glad I'm not in that atmosphere and am happy.

Grey market dealer buys directly from manufacturer, this is part of game.

No, they don’t buy from the manufacturers as far as i know, do you know exactly what you mean, can you recall any brand?

I discussed it with the distributor of ZYX in USA for example, nobody know the source of carts grey market dealers offering, but serial numbers are fake on grey market items from juki and this is why it’s impossible to track down the source. Fake serial on the cartridge body and blank field in the manuals where must be a serial number. I know exactly what i’m talking about.

I’m pretty sure they can only buy privately from another dishonest distributors, not for the manufacturer, because the Japanese manufacturer never deal with grey market sellers in China.

A lot of fake coming from China, just because other things manufactured in China, but exotic high-end cartridges manufactured in Japan and it’s another culture, they can’t make 100 more cartridges illegally for grey market sales as Chinese can do with clothes and some cheap stuff.


I know 2juki, but the OP never mentioned such seller in his posts.

So what? Someone asked and i mentioned the biggest grey market dealer who sell some cartridges with fake serial numbers, he replaced them on ZYX cartridges, these cartridges are very expensive and exotic. His price is cheaper, but a distributors will give the buyer much better service, great prices and will treat customers like best friends. SoraSound in USA, Chicago.

I can’t speak for all distributors, but with my personal experience with grey market dealers and official distributors i choose official distributors. As some of you guys here i was looking for a cartridges and noticed big price difference between official retail and ebay, it was long time ago and i did not understand why it was cheaper. Believe me, the official distributor can offer much more than a grey market dealer, i bought my next officially and i can tell you for sure that grey market seller does not have an access to the manufacturer (to the cartridge designer in Japan), but the distributor know him personally and can quickly solve any issues with the cartridge (this is a perfect service for the buyers).

However, when it comes to very expensive cartridges i'm fine to buy used cartridges from audiophiles who bought them from official distributors only (if it’s not a vintage cartridge), but definitely not from the grey market cheaters. 

Just a reminder if anyone is considering a trip to Japan, the “consumption” (sales) tax rose on 1 October 2019 to 10% nationwide.  That applies to damned near all domestic purchases.
A manufacturer that bypasses his distributors in a given country will not have any distributors in that country for long! So it is in their interest if they are in the game for the long run to make sure their product isn’t being gray marketed by one of their other dealers or distributors that has decided to not play by the rules.

So for that simple reason a distributor can often exert pressure on a manufacturer if that distributor does good numbers. Once a relationship like that is ruined, it can be very hard for the manufacturer to get re-established as that sort of thing has a way of spreading. As an example, there is a Canadian speaker manufacturer that started bypassing his dealers here in the US. Dealers here in the US don’t want to do business with him anymore, and other manufacturers like us tend to not recommend his product as its so much harder to deal with.

If you want domestic support for a foreign product, good luck trying to take that to the distributor, even if you bought it second-hand. You got it on the cheap- that is the flip side- you might have to pay more on the other end.
Ralph, I generally agree with your post. However, in this instance we are talking about a cartridge...and not any other type of gear. The rep for this particular cartridge adds $8k to the retail price in Japan to arrange for the shipping and future servicing (if any...and with cartridges how often does this occur...although I personally did have to have warranty work done on my Lyra.. but I still think that is pretty unusual).
The more interesting thing is that in this case, the rep came out with threats against all of his off-shore competitors...because he was sure that they were under selling him. ( which I am 100% sure is correct...and that’s because they don’t  have the same business plan as this guy...which simply to fleece the consumer to the absolute max).

So what? Someone asked and i mentioned the biggest grey market dealer who sell some cartridges with fake serial numbers, he replaced them on ZYX cartridges, these cartridges are very expensive and exotic.

So you automatically assume it is Chinese?

By the way, the OP never mentioned "biggest grey market dealer". These are your words.
 I’m not convinced that these so-called gray market items are fake. That’s just the distributors screaming to try to justify their intense markups.
 Which again begs the question, if everybody supposedly hates these gray market guys where do they get their product from? 
I bought a Vandenhul from the guy in the Netherlands and it was a great experience, worked beautifully. Saved about 50% off retail which translates into a couple thousand dollars.  
 Audio is a completely archaic sales model as it is such a niche market. 
Dear @analogluvr  :  As you I bougth VDh cartridges from Netherlands with at least 50% off  retail price.

In the past I bought from  2juki and never had any problem because he gives you warranty and I know by first hand experiences where he honor his words.Ibougth too from Japan distributors for export market with full warranties and all those grey market distributors including the one from China sale original cartridges.

We as customers have to go where the price is rigth for each one of us for each one budget. As simple as that.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@rauliruegas I tend to agree with you --customers should buy where the price is right! However, this is exactly what the US distributor does NOT want you to do. By having the ability to actually shop the merchandise and therefore shop the price, takes away from his ability to control his margin...and he wants to insure that he has a HUGE margin!
This fellow is not the only one with this business plan; currently, it is quite prevalent with a lot of distributors of high end gear in the US.
Grey market dealers sells original cartridges, but the manufacturer identify them by serial numbers, so they remove serial numbers or replace serial number with fake numbers (if it’s possible), especially for an exotic cartridges that made in a small numbers like ZYX. Once the manufacturer can track down the source used by grey market dealer to buy his stuff they will shut down that source, because every cartridge with real serial number is fully trackable, manufacturer know exactly who bought it from him! Isn’t it so simple to understand or not ?

Once a buyer purchased a cartridge from the grey market dealer like juki on ebay they are ONLY protected by ebay and paypal if the cartridge is not working on the first try, once a brand new cartridge opened and used there is NO extended warranty at all (even manufacturer will not give you such warranty because cartridge has a wear factor and no one replace a cartridge for free, such warranty does not exist in this world), you can’t return a cartridge to grey market seller if it was used for some time and then stopped working or if the owner destroyed the cantilever by mistake. Anyone can return only defective units, but the defect must be recognized in a few weeks or so.

But ZYX owners can return their cartridge using trade-in program anytime they want to (only via distributor like SoraSound in Chicago for example) !

This is simply amazing bonus if the reason to buy some great cartridge is not to safe $1000 once, but to stay with great cartridge forever with ability to change/upgrade it forever, to build a good relations with the distributor, this is a clear benefit for those who can pay for expensive cartridges (and for those who know exactly what they are doing and why).

The problem, as i said earlier, is that exotic cartridges designed with exotic parts made for the manufacturer exclusively, just look at the ZYX Boron pipe cantilever (image made by myself) then try to find the same cantilever from any re-tippers, they don’t have such cantilevers at all, they can only offer Boron Ron with glued stylus, as you can see ZYX method is completely different and stylus is not glued, do you see any glue here? This is ZYX Airy 3, same cantilever on ZYX Premium 4D (owned both).

But another problem is that a ZYX has SEALED BODY and someone have to crack it if there is a problem with coil or if the cantilever must be replaced. In the end when it comes to a third party re-tipper it will be completely different cartridge, a Frankenstein that does not perform like the original one any part changed/replaced by some "smart" re-tipper.

ZYX like many other manufacturer does not bother with refurbishing or re-tipping, instead, they are giving to the customer a brand new cartridge with discount if the buyer purchased a cartridge with real serial number via official distributor only. Smart people buy from the manufacturer then trade-in for the next model by sending their used cartridge to the manufacturer. In this scenario they pay only difference between old and new model to get brand new model instead of the old model. Or they can stick to the old model, they will send it back when it’s worn and same model will be 40% cheaper, this is what a manufacturer can offer for their distributors only. End of the story.

Buying an exotic cartridge for $3-8000 to end up with SoundSmith retip is BS. Exotic cartridges are unique in everything, almost every part is unique and this is why some of them are so expensive.

Only people who does not understand anything about cartridge design can argue with it.


Why i am talking about ZYX so often is because of my personal experience, it was the most expensive cartridges in my life, this is what i call exotic cartridges. I can not talk about different brands, but i think the situation with exotic cartridges is the same for most of the brands today.

The manufacturers are not idiots, they are giving very special options only to their distributors to support the system they like if they wish to sell worldwide only via distributors.

And they are always against the grey market dealers. Do you understand why ?

Dear @daveyf : In reality I’m with the official cartridge distributors but like you I’m against the extremely high profits those cartridge distributors have. This is the main issue why the grey market is growing up because manufacturers and/or official dealers leave us with no other good choice that the grey maRKET.

The cartridge business is already a controvertial subject.

When for the audiophiles " money is no object " then they buy to official distributors no matter what because they are wealthy enough to do it several times they want it.

The other alternative is what I did or do it with expensive cartridges: look in the second hand atractive price market, yes it has some trade-offs but I have not really bad experiences through second hand bougth audio devices and especially cartridges, tonearms or TTs.

Around 350 bucks. The price of the Ortofon Quintet Red MC I recently stuck on a Linn Akito arm...utterly worth it.
My Decca Super Gold retip and Decapod cost around $850 with shipping. It was cheaper new back in 1987.
I am thinking about a cartridge upgrade and recently began investigating Lyra Etna Lambda.  Retail price in the US , as set by their distributor, Audioquest, is $8995 for the standard MC model.  

My search led me to a UK dealer and another in the EU, their retail price is 6950 Euros about $7k vs the $9k US price.   I can either pick one up next time i'm in Europe or have my friend mail one to me so the dealer/distributors remain in compliance.   Seems to me the US mark up is being artificially pumped up by Audioquest . Cartridges aren't amps and are easy to ship and they are not going to cause me problems with a different voltage, etc. 

Now I'm not going to waste any local dealers time auditioning the cartridge and am relying on the tremendous word of mouth if I do purchase from an out of country dealer and I'll have to have my usual pro do the install for me for a few hundred dollars as an added expense but I'll still be thousands ahead and i've yet to ask for a discount from any of these dealers.

I support US dealers and buy a tremendous amount from a few great guys on this board each year and I price isn't my only factor in whom I give my money.   But if I were to ask a dealer to sell me a $9k cart for $7k (full EU retail) I'd be considered a low baller!  What could a US dealer do in order to compete with the couple grand weight that has been placed on its US dealer network in the world of Google we live in?

This is a real problem for the Lyra brand and for those US dealers who are trying to sell to internet savvy consumers willing to pay the price of a stamp.

@bbyer I agree with you. This is a problem for US dealers, although I suspect they really don’t care too much about it! Also, remember that the EU dealer is still making a nice profit at the EU retail price..although I also suspect they are not making quite the ’Killing’ that the US reps and dealers are looking to score.
Now OTOH, if something goes wrong with the cartridge, which although unlikely ( although not impossible, as I stated above, my Lyra did need to be returned to Japan for work under warranty) the US rep has to stand by the product. With a cartridge, I would have to believe that the cost to cover warranty is still pretty minimal...and certainly not thousands of $$.
Another point that I have not the US- the question becomes how many ’middle men’ are involved in the cartridge business...compared to other markets? Nonetheless, the point/question in my OP still stands.
Just want to clarify what Chakster says I wrote about purchasing audio items in Japan. I last shopped at Yodibashi Camera which is an enormous department store in the heart of Akihabara, the capital prefecture for purchase of anything in the world related to audio or cameras.  Yodibashi is about the size of the original Macy's in NYC, maybe bigger. You can buy pretty much anything for the home in that store, but 3 whole huge floors are devoted to audio and/or cameras.  The prices in Yodibashi vary all over the place, in comparison to US prices.  In some cases, you can pay 20% to 40% less than US list prices. In other cases, there is no advantage to purchasing there vs here in the US. In no case did I see any product that cost more in Tokyo than it does here in the US, unless it was a product that is actually MADE here or in Europe. 

As to cartridges, there wasn't much if any discount on Audio Technica, for example, at least nothing to make you excited.  (I checked out the AT5000 in May, 2019.) This applies to a few other brands, but I can't name them off hand. But at Yodibashi, you get an automatic discount (8 or 10%, can't remember) just for using your credit card.  You get another 8% off the listed price (which includes VAT), if you have your foreign passport with you and can show it to the sales desk personnel.  I calculated I could buy a Technics SL1000R for about $6500 net, and they had them in stock, no waiting. I mentioned this before in another thread with Chakster; you DO NOT have to pay the Japanese VAT if you can present proof of your foreign citizenship. I think the large differences in the savings between one product and another, by purchasing in Tokyo vs the US, has everything to do with the mark-up by the respective US distributors, where that product is also sold by US dealers.  Some distributors ARE a bit greedy.  Some are superb, like Robin Wyatt. 

You won't see a Lyra or a Koetsu cartridge, at least not any of the high end Koetsus, for open sale at any audio store in Tokyo where I have shopped. I did buy a Koetsu Urushi at a high end boutique, in about 2009. I had to pay for it in full and wait two weeks for it to arrive at the dealer by special order, and this was only achieved because my son is a fluent speaker of the language. None of the salespersons at Yodi or at this other store spoke English, and they have limited willingness to try to figure out what you want.  I had one salesman at Yodi just walk away, in frustration.  The check-out people do speak enough English to help you make the purchase. And you can often corral another customer to help you with language. By the way, that Urushi cost me about one-third of the US price, and it was fully warranted by the Tokyo dealer.  When I got home, I noticed that the cantilever was out of alignment.  I sent it back and got another sample, with no questions asked.  I think the US distributor for Koetsu may be one of those who takes a big cut for himself, maybe because he can, due to the popularity of the product. But my experience is all about being there in Tokyo.  The only thing I ever bought off one of the vendors on eBay was a used Fidelity Research FR64S; the transaction was perfect and the product exactly as described.
Facts and theories, Facts can be assumed to be ''true statements''.
But not all statements are truth-functional. That is those can't be
considered to be either true or false (tertium non datur). 
Well an enumeration of facts is not a theory. Theory is an attemt 
to explain the facts. Our problem by such attempt is implicite or
explicite mixing with personal valuatinon . As stated before value
judgment are not truth-functional. They can make ''sense'' but only
in the context of an culture or customs. Consider ''watershed'' 
between digital and analog sound. By CD introduction anybody
was convinced: ''it is done with analoge''. However our forum is
a proof that this is not ''the case''. Aka ''not true''. 
Similar to CD-versus-analog is the case with ''digital'' versus
traditional market. Our on division of labor based society means
that assumed skills for the old- are not sufficient for the ''new
division of labor''. Older people have difficulties to accomodate
to ''digital revolution''. This may explain the fact of dealeship which
 is ''fade away'' and buying on internet. Skills are also ''factual'' 
we can't assume them if they are not present. Not everyone has
chaksters skills to buy on inretnet in order to save his (modest)
means (grin).

Air Tight PC1

Original Price - $2000
Price 3 months later after TAS Review - $4000
Price then rose to $10000 over a short period of time ( happened to conincide with the release of the dumbed down versions PC7 etc that are still more expensive than the original PC1 ).

My issue is dealers who want full retail margins but are unable to provide product for audition. And then they wonder why people buy offshore.

If dealers/distributors/manufacturers dont ensure global parity in pricing ( allowing for local taxes ) then they dont have an appropiate business model for this world.

And then there are the $6-10k cartridges churned out with manufacturing faults like crooked stylus etc, but thats another story.

In reference to my post above, I made an error. The item that I priced at $6500 at Yodibashi, after all discounts, is the Technics SP10R, the chassis only, which retails in the US for about $10K. “SL1000R” is code for the complete turntable including tonearm and plinth, which is much more costly..
I find this discussion interesting. But what I would like to know, what is the correct understanding of the gray market in audio. It seems implied that the ‘gray market’ in audio seems to ‘just happen’, or perhaps are counterfeit goods?

As a person who likes mechanical watches as well, I was always told that the vast majority of the gray market for watches were actually received/were sold their merchandise via actual *distributors*, who for a variety of reasons, could not sell a volume of ‘excess’ merchandise to retailers, thus cut their losses by selling them cheap to a gray market seller. Some distributors , as I understand, are forced to buy a certain quantity of product from manufacturers knowing they don’t have the retail market to support their overall inventory, and much of that is earmarked for gray market sellers. They essentially make their profit on the retail market they have relationships with and ‘dump the rest’.

I’ve purchased a gray market watch, but not one of incredibly high value, but one from a very reputable manufacturer, which is actually my daily watch. I took a chance knowing that any problems I may have would probably be minor, and was worth the risk.

I’m not sure I would take the same risk on a multi-thousand dollar piece of audio equipment, (or watch for that matter), as a warranty and factory authorized service of that piece may be necessary. That said, I do understand the risk one might take to obtain an actual trusted and reputable manufactured item at a fraction of the cost of retail. Again, it is a risk, but one a buyer may be willing to take. ‘We’ do it with used gear all the time.

I was just curious if the audio selling/distribution chain in similar to that of watches.
I disagree that the dealer has been ruined. Not if you know how to relate to them. If you become a good customer many of them will give you much better pricing than you get on line and you can be assured that you are getting the real deal. The best dealers interact with one another so your dealer can get pretty much anything by swapping equipment with the dealer that has what you want. 
Most music lovers are not audiophiles. They want someone to come in and set up a system for them and teach them how to use it and service it when necessary. You can not get that kind of service on line.