The Problems Of Hi-Fi Supply And Demand
As we slowly clamber out of two years of varying degrees of isolation and privation, it's time to take stock. The pandemic has taken its toll on society at large, although in fairness many parts of the audio world fared better than expected. Like any hobby or pasttime that kept yourself within your own four walls, audio became one of those things people bought with the money they didn't spend on holiday travel. As we peered into the homes of people on Zoom calls, we often saw hi-fi peering back at us.
The problems audio faced were not ones of demand; they were ones of supply. And they still hold to some extent. The world of products moves at the speed of a container ship; even a product made and sold in the same Western country often relies on parts made half a world away, and during the depths of the pandemic, those container ships often didn't sail, or didn't sail with the desperately needed parts because a factory was on lockdown or the region was in quarantine. Those businesses who won the battle of survival in those cruel months of COVID-19 now have to win the war of ongoing supply-chain problems as those older skipped and delayed orders are slowly filled.
Worse, every industry relies on computer chips, whether for in-car navigation or digital conversion of audio. And those chips became incredibly hard to come by thanks to everything from snowstorms and droughts to three chip-making factories burning down (Renesas, AKM and more recently AMSL in Germany). The shortage is bad enough that car makers have had to downgrade specs in order to sell vehicles.
All of which is a way of admitting that we aren't out of the woods just yet. There's a strong possibility that your next audio purchase might come with a waiting list. It's happened before (a few years ago Naim Audio ended up with a significant delay in the launch of its then-new Uniti line. Some filled the void with rival brands, while others just formed an orderly queue), but that must-buy device irrespective of price might not be in your hands as fast as you might have got it a couple of years ago.
That doesn't mean it's time to delay that next purchase, but it does give you the perfect option to make a wish list.
Congratulations go to Pavel Kolarík from Prague, Czech Republic, who wins the excellent Meze Audio Elite headphones in our recent competition. Well done!