Who Makes It Anyhow?

We all know that some companies have other companies make their products, but there seems to be no way for the consumer to figure out who is making what for whom. Case in point, I recently acquired a Harman Kardon CDR/RW reader/writer and then read a review which stated that "Despite being graced with a harman-styled fascia, gold livery and back-lit keys, this dual-transport CDR/RW player is very close indeed in both design, execution and performance to another LG-sourced recorder, the Grundig RCD-45. " (referring to a Lucky-Goldstar production in the far east). Looking at the new Pioneer CDR/CDRW's the faceplate looks just like the HHB CDR 830. Hmmm..... Is this happening with speakers and amplifiers?
.......I guess my point is how does everyone feel about this? Should there be a resource to see who is outsourcng their products from whom? Is there such a resource? I suppose manufactures want to keep this info secret, but its something I would have liked to know. While I have referenced CDR/RW players/ writers, this has to be happenning with CD players, amps and preamps. I know everyone will say that even though boxes come out of the same factory some were made to special "specs", so we have to be careful, but still, is this info worthwile and will it be likely to be available in the future? Good or bad idea?
Most "commercial" brands are sourced out to REAL manufacturers. This happens in EVERY walk of electronics. With the RF gear that i work on, there are 5 different manufacturers that have accounted for well over 100 different brands / 1000's of models of products throughout the years. Many use near identical circuitry with slight cosmetic / feature changes. "Mass produced" audio is not all that different.

Wires and cables are the same way. There are very few companies that make their own cables, etc... Most simply buy pre-manufactured cables and have their names printed on them. The REALLY "cheap" ones don't even do that. They simply try to cover up the name of the original manufacturer with shrink wrap, "snakeskin" nylon sheathing, etc...

On the other hand, most "hi-end" audio is made in much smaller quantities and basically built in house. Some work is farmed out and / or many of the parts bought from other sources. For instance, most CD players will use transport mechanisms from Pioneer, Philips, Sony, etc... although the rest may be of proprietary build and design.

Like anything else, you're either an educated consumer or you get "bit" a LOT along the way towards becoming one. Sean
I've worked in the electronics business for close to 20 years now and witnessed the sell-off off factories. Nobody builds their own equipment anymore, it's just not cost effective. Lucent, Nortel, Dell, HP...name the company, they all get their stuff built by companies like Solectron, Celestica, Jabil, Flextronics, Sanmina, and others. These contract manufacturers are in the business of building systems; the OEM's listed above design and market their products. The semiconductor manufacturers such as Intel, AMD, National Semiconductor, etc all use third party factories (TSMC, Tower, UMC) to manufacture the silicon. They pretty much have to, it costs over $1 billion to set up a semiconductor fab these days. It's all about the design, not the assembly.
I agree it is about design. The Cambridge Audio T500 FM/AM Tuner is identical to the Creek T43 at half the list price. The Creek is hand made in the UK; the Cambridge assembled in China. The Creek has a more solid case and switches. When Mike Creek designed (ie, copied) the T43 for Cambridge he also thought through where he could cut corners without giving up sound quality. The circuit board and some less critical electronic parts are of a lower quality, but still very functional for quality audio. The layout and critical parts including the FM Chipset are identical in both tuners. The Cambridge does not have a manual mono over-ride switch, only the automatic hi-blend out eventually to mono. So the Creek performs better with distant stations. Mike Creek could not give it all away.
Two smaller companies that I love to deal with are Atma-sphere and Custon Power Cord Co [Luxor]. Both companies are independently owned, do their own research, design, and assembly and have the belief that their products are a PERSONAL reflection of their reputations! It's also a welcome suprise to be able to speak with the corporate OWNER on the phone! (Many times, Ralph Karsten of Atma-sphere and David Blair of C.P.C.C. have PERSONALLY answered incoming phone calls!!!)
Parrot I must agree with you that David Blair is definitely a cut above. He personally helped me to sort out an issue that was giving me fits, then even built me a custom cord to fix the problem. Top it all off, the local dealership was "being difficult" so he continued to work with me personally on the side, & then to be more than fair his dealer still got his 'cut' although IMO they didn't deserve it. Of course I became a repeat customer.
Keep in mind that most CD transport mechanisms are a basic "stock" unit from larger manufacturers. The cost for a high end manufacturer to build those components is simply out of reach. The transport mechanisms then tend to be highly tweaked by the high end manufacturers. The HHB mentioned above definitely starts as the Pioneer stable platter transport. In the HHB case, they kept the entire transport mechanism as well as the case. The Philips transport is also a very popular mechanism in CD players.

In mass consumer electronics (computers, stereo, televisions, cell phones, car parts, etc...) contract manufacturing is the name of the game. Companies are able to maximize their supply chain and offload cost to their suppliers or contract manufacturers and reduce their overall capital investment. This makes it easier for companies to grow because they don't need to invest in physical assetts and can focus on growing the business. Of course, this makes managing your supply chain much more complex.

The contract manufacturer has very small margins so the only way they are able to be successful is by making large quantities in an efficient manner. The buyer is able to operate in this manner because they have such tremendous buying capacity that exclusive contracts to suppliers or contract manufacturers can make a companies balance sheets for the year. Just think how many hard drives Dell purchases annually... Being in the contract manufacturing business is very expensive requiring all of the capital investment that people like Dell or Cisco no longer have to manage... Yes, I know way too much about supply chain...
The question is: how does one find out who is making the unit you are interested in? Are there any resources other than the basic magazines that we all read?