There are tens of thousands of audiophile components on the market today from hundreds of well-known and well-respected brands. Many of them have very specific naming conventions that are the handiwork of experienced marketing executives, Madison Avenue PR firms, enthusiastic audiophile sales teams, AV product engineers, as well as company owners/leaders. These names run the gamut from the fully mundane to the completely bat-shit insane with every possible stop in between. The question is: does naming your audiophile product something crazy help sell more gear or at least get it more attention, or does it put potential customers off buying otherwise excellent audiophile products?
There are many examples of creative audiophile product names in the market today. One of the most notable comes from the world of the best audiophile speakers in the form of Wilson Audio and their historically significant WATT/Puppy line of speakers. The Wilson WATT was a heavy, angular, and hard-to-handle audiophile bookshelf speaker or studio monitor designed by the late Utah speaker designer and recording engineer David Wilson. In the very early 1990s, audiophiles found this stunningly well-made but odd speaker (the Wilson WATT) complete and they ran with it. The speakers were pretty strange looking and physically awkward by themselves, and mating them with good bass augmentation wasn’t the easiest in those days, so Dave and his team created a rock-solid speaker stand/woofer section for a Wilson WATT to sit on top of, known as a “Puppy,” thus the name WATT/Puppy was born.
The configuration of the speaker was strange, in that the top and bottom of the WATT/Puppy combo didn’t really connect physically as much as they did with a big speaker cable tail (if you will) that went from the Puppy bass drivers to the WATT on top. Adjustments evolved for tweaking the WATT speaker including height or more accurately tilt adjustments. For decades, the Wilson WATT/Puppy was an oddly named speaker that was considered as good an audiophile loudspeaker as money could buy. Could one pair it with an audiophile subwoofer like the oddly unpowered Wilson WOW, which was at the time one of the best audiophile subwoofers? Yes, but the sales of the oddly named speaker didn’t seem to keep anyone from buying them for an extended period of time. Perhaps in an even more strange marketing move, Wilson changed the name of the WATT/Puppy speaker line after about eight revisions, to what is now known as the Wilson Sasha DAW speaker.
Schiit Audio, which more often is simply referred to as Schiit, is one of the most fun companies in the audiophile industry. Its products are American made (California and Texas) and American designed and bring a non-nonsense approach to very-affordable audiophile DACs, preamps, amps, headphone amps, and even very well done phono stages. Given the company’s mythology-inspired names, you’ll see products like the Schiit Modi 3E DAC or a Schiit Freya S audiophile preamp, along with badges as un-pronounceable as Price’s symbol. Take, for example, the Yggdrasil+, which is named after the sacred tree at the heart of Norse mythology and cosmology, which perhaps makes a little bit more sense when explained. Nevertheless, the brutal-to-pronounce modular DAC has no problems selling and has recently been upgraded and updated, yet still is priced at less than $2,500, which for reference digital components isn’t crazy money.
More of my favorite audiophile brands are willing to use totally out-there names, specifically Tekton Design. Their speakers are the intersection of the two aforementioned brands, in that they make Wilson-level speakers with Schiit-level value. Consumers who’ve had a chance to hear these made-in-America, super-easy-to-drive speakers often fall in love with them. Their $2,200 Tekton Design Pendragon speaker is a game changer in the world’s most competitive audiophile speaker category ($2,000 floorstanding speakers). When you start going upmarket in the Tekton Design product lineup, you run into products like the Tekton Ulfberht at just under $10,000. These gigantic tower speakers can rock like nobody’s business, and their name may be shy on a few vowels, but they’renot on consumer demand. One of our reviewers is seriously considering these speakers as his reference loudspeaker over other designs costing two or three times the price. The silly name is no factor in him writing a check.
For all the unpronounceable model names referenced above, making fully coherent, linear naming conventions is even trickier. Bowers & Wilkins tries to do this, but even their naming conventions are off by a little bit. The current Bowers & Wilkins 803 D4 Series speakers come with the D4 suffix while other lines like the Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 Signature and Bowers & Wilkins 603 S2 Series come with an S2 or S3 ending. No biggie to me, as I just ordered a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 802s for my living-room system. The sound, the solid nature of the bass, and the feet (I have small toddler at home) as well as the overall fit and finish spoke to me more than anything to do with the name.
While it would be ideal to have an excellent naming convention for audiophile products, it doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker. Would audiophile dealers be able to understand and possibly order the products better? That is likely true. Would being able to explain your product lineups to consumers better help limit product confusion with the end user? That too is likely true, but in the end, value and performance speak far more loudly than odd-ball product names. In fact, maybe the odd product names give the products some special marketing flair.
Does the name of an audiophile product have any impact on your purchasing decision? What audiophile products do you think have silly names? I didn’t even scratch the surface of this topic.
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