Pulsars and the Mythical Armchair Speaker Maker

There’s another thread going about Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers which I did not want to derail, but it is showing up some common logical fallacies and dead ends I wanted to talk about.

As anyone who has read my posts knows, I’m a huge proponent of DIY for speakers and cables especially. Not that I think you should only go with DIY but because the more audiophiles who can build their own we have in the community the less snake oil gets spread around as fact and there’s less worshipping of the price tag as the almighty determiner of speaker performance.

The myth I want to talk about is kind of related. It is the idea that we should value speakers based purely on driver cost. JA’s Pulsars suffer from this because they seem to use off the shelf components, in very nice cabinets, with perfectly executed crossovers. The thing that I don’t understand are buyers who look at driver cost, and say "well, these speakers should cost no more than x amount, so I’m not buying them... "

I call hogwash. Speakers are more than a collection of parts. They are curated components brought together by a designer and manufacturer. Those same people who are likely to engage in this behavior:

  • Can’t actually design a speaker themselves
  • Would NEVER build a DIY speaker even as a complete kit because it doesn’t have a brand, nor would they buy an assembled DIY speaker.
  • Would probably go with a speaker with in-house drivers which have an even higher markup
  • May not have very good ears anyway

My point is, knowing the price of the parts does not make you at all qualified to judge what the final price should be. That is, fairly, in the hands of the market, and it doesn’t actually make you a better listener or more informed buyer. I would argue you end up buying speakers for brands with even more of a markup and more likely to have questionable performance.

It’s perfectly reasonable for a manufacturer to charge for parts, and skill. So, yes, talking tech and drivers and crossover components is always fun, but please stop evaluating the price of finished goods until you’ve attempted at least designing one pair yourself.

And again, DIY is a lot of fun, and if you want to go that way, you should, but let’s not denigrate high value, high quality manufacturers and delers by reducing them to part assemblers any more than you'd judge a restaurant based on the cost per pound of chicken.

Thank you,

plumbers are well known for overcharging. DIY will save you money with plumbing too. But lets stick to discussing speakers.

No, lets stick to the value of work and skill.

That’s the argument. What kind of work do you do, because I’d like to know how you think your work should be valued.


This could go on forever. I’ve decided to not continue banging my head against this ignorant, uninformed, and irrational brick wall. In fact, we’d probably have an easier time explaining these simple concepts to an actual brick wall. Me, I’m gonna take the time I would’ve wasted here and do something productive like learn how to make a good bolognese sauce.

Ill just end with this...@kenjit, do you even realize that between this and the prior thread there's not one audiophile here who agrees with your point of view?  Doesn't that say anything to you at all?

"after all, it’s not easy banging your bleeding heart against some mad bugger’s wall."
- Pink Floyd
Another interesting thread Erik. As a Chef I can certainly appreciate the food analogy here.

For instance, one could go to a butcher shop and buy a prime grade cut of steak, go home and fire up the grill, throw in a baked potato, steam some broccoli or grill some asparagus and couple that with a nice bottle of wine and essentially re-create what you could get at a decent steak house for a fraction of the cost. This is a very easy thing to do and requires very little culinary skill or knowledge. Which seems to be the premise of kenjits argument.

However if you are looking for a true gastronomic experience where ingredients are being paired or cooked in a very technical manner requires a true craftsman who has invested years into honing their skills and expanding their knowledge. It is much harder for the layman to re-create that.

Throw on top of that entire dining experience from the impeccable service to the ambiance and you then begin to see what you are truly paying for.

The problem with the argument is scalability. You cannot just stuff speakers into a box and say they are only worth x amount because thats what you paid for them any more than you can say a meal is only worth the price of the ingredients. In order to scale it into a business you have to take on the ancillary costs.

Many who have never run a business have no idea that there are costs involved that the consumer cannot even conceive of. Restaurants are among the worst with average margins of about 4-5 percent. It’s quite common for people who have enjoyed big successes in typical business get in to the restaurant game and lose everything.

I suspect audio, especially speaker building is very similar in that regard in so much as the hidden costs to scale it would probably come as a shock to most people.
@chrshanl37 As someone who makes a living selling wine to restaurants I know exactly what you mean. The overall cost of doing business is lost on people who just focus on one thing as kenjit is doing.
For instance, one could go to a butcher shop and buy a prime grade cut of steak, go home and fire up the grill,

I’ll just stop you there. I went to a respected butcher and bought some beautiful prime rib eyes, fired up the grill and still ended up with mediocre steaks. In the end, no matter whether it’s food or cars or anything else, it’s all about knowing what the hell what you’re doing in the end -- and the all-important final result. If I want a transcendant cuilinary experience, I’m paying a premium because I am NOT going to create that myself. Some things are just worth paying for!

Here’s another apt analogy. If you’re going skydiving and some guy offers you a half-price deal because he’s only charging you for parts plus a small premium but has never gone skydiving before, would you do that or would you pay more and go with an outfit that’s experienced and has done hundreds of successful drops with no fatalities? Yeah, I know I bowed out of this thread, but I had some downtime as my bolognese sauce is now simmering for a couple hours.