In a review of the $1200 PMM1 bookshelf speakers by AAD, 6Moons Srajan brings up a good point about the future of audio and China:
With audiophiles, "made in China" was very uncool about 10 years ago. Our kind at that time referred to NAD as Nearly Always Defective. It was a reflection on the QC issues that then still plagued many an apparent Euro product that was really manufactured offshore...Those all-Chinese, all-Malaysian or otherwise exclusively Pacific Rim products were considered plain uncouth if you wanted cachet, quality and reliability.
Then he goes on to say how China is quickly becoming known for quality and solid manufacturing. In fact, companies like England's Onix (distributed in the states by AV123.com) design what I would classify as distinctly British-finished speakers made "with pride in the PRC."
Today, the question isn't, "you don't manufacture in China, do you?" But, "how much would this speaker cost if it were made overseas?" One manufacturer I spoke with, when broached with the China question, responded, "our $3000 speakers could be sold for $2000 if made in China." For a $1000 price drop, how much does the China label matter to you?
Interestingly, at CES, a number of Chinese companies booked rooms to show off their OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) services, trying to convince American brands to make the big leap. One company showed off a line of demo speakers using the thin ply construction (rather than MDF) found in a handful of American $20k+ speakers. Price in China? $450 per speaker. Of course, that doesn't account for the many other costs that feed into the food chain, but it is an interesting number to reflect upon.
Then again, there is something to be said for USA pride. Companies like Escalante, Zu, Manley and others advertise home-grown products as part of their identity. In the clothing industry, American Apparel has made a name for itself manufacturing in downtown Los Angeles using sweatshop-free labor. Successful? Heck yeah. They have dozens of stores in 11 countries selling what amounts to trendy Hanes Beefy-Ts. They're nice shirts, but 5 times the price nice? Many vote with their money and say they are, indeed, worth the extra coin. Hey, I even own a couple (and one even says "Zu" on the front and "A Revolution in American Hi-Fi" on the back...fancy that).
So is it out of the realm of possibility to start seeing companies advertise "made in China"? Best bang for the buck or pride in American craftsmanship?