First to mind is RE Designs. Unfortunately, Dan had little patience for "audiophile mentality" customers and ended production.
The LNPA-150 mono bloc amps are a rare product; well engineered and well built while they sold for a fair price. They ran cool and were totally reliable. I found them (and many listeners agreed) to be among the most musical, smoothest, detailed, yet unfatiguing solid state amps I've heard. In fact a friend who designs and builds tube electronics called them as good as any SS amps he's heard. I sold my pair only because another product with five times the rated power drove my large floor standing speakers to greater advantage.
Finding a used pair may prove difficult. I don't know how many were built (they were in production several years) but owners tend to hang on to them rather than play on the amplifier carousel.
Try advertising, or sending review samples to publications. That will produce better results than indirect marketing.
I agree! All of my tube based stereo is made up of lesser known brands. Your not paying for the name, so I think you can get better sound for less money.The only drawback is you don't have bragging rights.
Lamphear_electronics, considering you advertise in the Audiogon listings, it
would be appropriate to identify yourself as an amplifier builder in your posts
and discussion threads.
Tvad: Your point is well taken! I was making a generalized statement meant to help out all the new builders and people with specialized equipment who frequent Audiogon to post. There's so much to choose from- but folks have to click on it to see what it is...
if you are talking about great audio equipment that people dont hear about as much you need to go to the pbn audio site. peter makes some of the best high end audio gear out there. peter is a genuis at designing speakers and amps and pre-amps. he also makes the best turntable on the market, but you dont hear about hime very much. he overseas all of his builds personally and you cant say that about any of the large companys
if a brand is not well-known and represented by a very small company, a potential buyer will have many concerns, such as longevity of the company, customer service and resale.
it is difficult to compete with audio research or conrad johnson.
Tetra speakers! They are magnificent. Lauded by many musicians for their extreme range and sensitivity. Too bad they don't get more attention.
"if a brand is not well-known and represented by a very small company, a potential buyer will have many concerns, such as longevity of the company, customer service and resale."
I can attest to the truth of that statement by Mrtennis, at least as far as it concerns me. I know my conrad johnson gear doesn't offer the sex appeal nor the elite exclusivity of boutique brands, but they've been reliable performers. Phone calls to cj, even on issues not directly related to the performance of their gear, have been met with knowledgeable concern. I did send my preamp back for repair once and found the cost and turn-around to be very reasonable. Also, I prefer a design that is not so complex that only it's designer is competent to work on it.
By the time I would do a keyword search on Audiogon, I will have already spent much time on the forum, reading reviews, and otherwise researching the product. For me it would be the end of the search (I'm in buying mode), not the begining. When I scroll the listings, I'm looking for equipment I am already familiar and want to see if it is available - I don't want to learn about gear in a classified ad (where most equipment is "incredible" and "crushes" the competiton) from the person selling it. I learn about equipment in the forum discussion, online and print advertising, and online and print reviews. The fact that a piece of gear is from a small manufacturer, building by hand, doesn't matter too much to me - most of this industry is a cottage industry with the exception of a few "giants" - 10 or more people? Most of my equipment falls into that category (many one or two person operations), but these small companies are strong brands due the quality of their gear.
The beauty of tube technology is the ability to produce circuits that are easy to repair. Equipment that is point to point wired has the highest potential to make it through the ages regardless of who made it (as long as it was properly made). There are hundreds of Scott and Fisher amps still around and in good condition. I wouldn't worry about the amp's maker disappearing. Be concerned about how the amp is constructed. Construction details are extremely important. A good design that is point to point wired is superior over those made on printed circuits. I've dealt with enough lifted traces and burned boards for a lifetime. Glued wires belong in computers, not tube audio gear.
I agree that point-to-point is more reliable, easier to repair, and easier to modify; not sure if one approach is any better or worse for sound quality. I imagine one advantage to circuit boards would be consisteny from prototype to units on the market and less variance between units due to more precise duplication of circuits from unit to unit. You do make a very valid point (no pun intended) that point-to-point gear eliminates much possible obsolence in repair down the road.
P.S. All my gear non digital electronics is point-to-point.
My Lamm preamp (L2 Reference and LL2 Deluxe) were both circuit boards, as I believe were my VAC amps.
I'm not sure I've read here any instances of Lamm, VAC, ARC, BAT or CJ gear going bad due to their circuit boards.
I have often read about the better reliability of point-to-point wiring, but I'm not certain it's based on real world statistics comparing repair frequency of one method versus the other...especially in the more established brands.
I don't think the problem is that circuit boards tend to go bad (not good ones), but if they do they are not easy (possible) to repair. Of course if you own ARC you are not likely to have to worry about a replacment board. I'm not sure you hear many argue that point-to-point is inherently better sounding - don't know about that on way or the other.
I understand that point to point is easier to repair, and that it's possible for almost any trained tech to do the work.
To me, this would be more of an issue with products manufactured overseas and from small companies without substantial history in the business.
Hopefully most businesses will have a web site with an 'about us' page in order to help people learn about their background. A good deal of the time people starting new businesses in audio electronics will have some prior work experience in the electronics field and their work will be first rate. Typically an email or call will answer most questions if their site doesn't or if they're a hobbyist. Allot of what I said may seem obvious, but the skipped pages says otherwise. Assumptions can lead to undiscovered great products.
I hear what you are saying, but great, new products are discovered in many ways, by other means. If you have a story to tell, a classified listing is proabbly not the first approach I would rely on for being discovered - sponsored ads on the site, maybe. Classifieds can be a part of your "mix", but don't count on it to get the "word" out.
Just a thought on lesser known brands.
People shy away from some because of support or parts issues.
This is a valid concern. But, think about what CAN fail.
Are there any proprietary parts / technologies? For VacTube folks, you can source a tube from many places. All the electronic parts, likewise. Caps? Resistors?.....all common.
I suppose you could have trouble finding a transformer, PS or Output, but they are fairly reliable when run within design limits. Not much will help a lightning strike!
SS STuff is similar...many parts being chosen from say...DigiKey or other catalogue.
The problem will be proprietary semiconductors but even than there are cross reference books.
The hangup is that parts AIN'T parts and that changing some may change the sound of the equipment and not always for the better. Even Macintosh can't guarantee THAT even though they are the Gold Standard for long-term support.
At some point, you just gotta believe. And for those who do buy from 'lesser known' makers, try to get the schematic, too.
Actually, I don't believe small businesses deal with proprietary parts as much as big businesses. If specialized components and complex circuits are a concern, it's best to stay away from large companies. Something else: I would have to believe a small business would provide more of a 1 on 1 relationship with their customers and as a result, provide better service.
Publ57 mentioned other ways of becoming better known. I 100% agree. Listings and auctions are a good way to test the waters but do not provide all the necessary exposure outlets.
Does Stereophile still adhere to the dealer network policy for reviewing products? One advantage of the "new" online magazines is that they give a much broader class of manufacturers an outlet for professional quality reviews. I do think a lot of excellent products fail to "qualify" for SP based on an established dealer network; I'm not sure that policy, if still in effect, reflects the changing distribution model for high-end gear.