原創翻譯:龍騰網 http://www.949557.live 翻譯:聶小璐 轉載請注明出處

the wonderful world of Chinese HI-FI
The best pair of $20 earbuds you’ll ever buy

中國HI-FI的奇妙世界
你花20美元能買的最好的耳塞



When most people need a new pair of earbuds, they’re picking from a pretty small set of brands, usually chosen from Amazon or, worse, the Apple Store. Then there are the outliers, the ones who haunt forums like Head-Fi, who speak knowledgeably about balanced armature versus dynamic drivers, who test their equipment and produce frequency charts. Increasingly, those outliers — a subset of audiophile culture — are obsessed with a wide variety of no-name Chinese brands selling earbuds that often cost less than $25. The outlier obsessives buy these by the dozen from the back pages of AliExpress, write or perform exhaustively researched reviews on blogs and YouTube, and debate endlessly the pros and cons of headphones that cost about as much as a large pizza.

大多數人需要買一副新的耳塞時,他們都會從少數幾家品牌中選購,通常是從亞馬遜或者更差勁的是蘋果商店中挑選。不過也有一些不隨大流的人,他們經常出現在像Head Fi這樣的論壇里,這些人對動鐵單元有著很好的了解,他們會測試自己的設備并繪制頻率響應圖。越來越多的人正成為上述的不隨大流之人,成為音頻發燒友的一員、癡迷于各式各樣的不知名的中國品牌,這些品牌的耳塞售價往往不到25美元。這類小眾的發燒友從阿里速賣通的主頁上買了一堆耳機,在博客和油管上撰寫和發表詳細的研究評價,并且不斷的討論各款耳機的優劣,這些耳機的價格僅僅相當于一個比薩餅。

Online, the phenomenon is known as “Chi-fi” — a mashup of “Chinese” and “high-fidelity.” It’s usually used to refer to portable audio gear — they’re almost always earbuds, which sit outside the ear canal like AirPods, or in-ear monitors (IEMs), which have squishy tips and actually go inside the ear canal — that come from essentially anonymous Chinese companies. It’s a twist on the strange shadow marketplace you enter when you search for something basic on Amazon (“iPhone case,” “boxer briefs”) and end up with pages upon pages of Chinese brands you’ve never heard of. The names of the companies are fluid, the prices are incredibly cheap, and the listings are bare bones or confusing. As a reasonable consumer, you assume that nothing priced at six dollars can possibly be good. But Chinese hi-fi offers the best possible version of that world. What if the brands were unknown and the prices bizarrely low — but the product was actually good?

在網絡上,這種現象被稱為“Chi-Fi”,這個單詞是“中國”和“高保真”的混合體,通常是指便攜式音頻設備、幾乎都是耳塞,或如AirPods之類的平頭塞、或者就是入耳式耳塞(塞頭柔軟、實際上是塞入耳道內的),這些耳塞基本上都出自不知名的中國公司之手。當你在亞馬遜上搜索一些基本的東西如iPhone手機殼、boxer內褲時,你就會進入了一個奇奇怪怪的小眾市場,你會發現一頁又一頁你聞所未聞的中國品牌。這些公司的名字是不固定的,價格則是難以置信的便宜,這些商品清單會讓你無比困惑。作為一個理智的消費者,你可能認為:6美元的價格不可能買到好東西。但中國的HI-FI設備卻能提供這種價位上最棒的產品。如果品牌不明、價格低得離奇,但產品的確很好呢?



Most name-brand audio companies actually make their products in China, so it makes sense that homegrown companies would have an advantage on price. The concentration of equipment, expertise, and raw material has made for many hotspots of semi-DIY electronics manufacturing, most famously in Shenzhen. This is one of the few places on Earth, and certainly the biggest, where you can buy a shipping container full of plastic earbud bodies, cables, drivers, and all the other parts needed to make earbuds. Shenzhen and other Chinese cities like it are the perfect birthplace for these companies. That said, the origin story for each individual brand is a little bit different. Some start as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, meaning they actually make that name-brand stuff for Beats or Shure or whomever. “Some of them are just trading companies, some are engineers that left another factory, it’s every possible variation,” says Mike Klasco, an audio engineering consultant who has been scouting factories throughout Asia for 35 years.

大多數知名音響公司、實際上都是在中國生產產品的,所以本土公司在價格上占優勢也是合情合理。設備、專業知識和原材料都很容易獲得,從而電子制造“半DIY”大行其道,其中以深圳最為著名。這是地球上為數不多的幾個電子市場之一、當然也是最大的一個,在深圳你可以購買到一個裝滿塑料耳塞腔體、線材、發音單元和所有其他制作耳塞所需部件的集裝箱。深圳等中國城市、是這類公司的完美孕育地。也就是說,每個品牌的起源故事都有點不同,有些公司最初是原始設備制造商(OEM),這意味著他們實際上是為Beats、舒爾或其他公司代工名牌產品的;音頻工程顧問Mike Klasco說:“其中一些可能只是貿易公司,另一些則是從其他廠家離職的工程師,任何可能性都有”,35年來Mike Klasco一直在亞洲各地尋找工廠。

This kind of quality is possible because the relevant components — the cables, the casing, the drivers, the wiring — are all relatively cheap, even at the highest quality. The diaphragm of the tiny speaker inside an earbud may cost as little as five cents, or as much as four dollars for a diamond-coated version. And for earbuds and IEMs, the quality of the components translates directly to the quality of the product. If you have top-tier drivers and circuitry, your product will sound very good, even if the build quality is a little off. (This is different from, say, a pair of shoes, where the best-quality leather and foam won’t necessarily translate to a comfortable fit.)

質量出人意料的好也是有可能的,因為相關的部件如線材、腔體、單元、接插件都相對便宜,甚至質量可能還是最好的。耳塞里的微型揚聲器的振膜可能只需要5美分、一個金剛石涂層的版本可能只需要4美元。而對于耳塞來說,配件質量直接會直接關系到產品的質量。如果你有頂級的單元和電路、那么你的產品聽起來就會非常的棒,即使制作質量差一點也沒關系。(這與一雙鞋子不同,比如最好的皮革加上最好的泡沫、也不一定能帶來舒適的貼合感。)

People also care about audio gear in a way they don’t care about so many of the other electronics manufactured in those Chinese tech hubs. Nobody will spend a week researching the best portable battery charger, USB cables, or smartphone mount for their car. Those are binary utilitarian obxts: they either work or they don’t. Audio is different. There’s a much wider range between good and bad; there are fashion and design concerns, different use cases, different brand alignments. A Bose person is different from a Grado person. And since most customers don’t have the time or money to test out each brand, most of us end up relying on well-known brands that you can count on delivering a pretty good experience.

人們對音響設備的關心程度、不亞于他們對中國科技中心生產的其他電子產品的關心程度。沒有人會花一周時間去研究誰家出的便攜式電池充電器、USB線或智能手機底座最好,這些東西都是非黑即白:即它們要么好使要么不好使。但音頻設備就不太一樣了,優與劣的評價要寬泛得多,是否時尚、設計是否合理、品牌定位是否合理等。Bose粉與歌德粉又是不一樣的(譯注:這倆都是耳機品牌)。而且由于大多數客戶并沒有時間或金錢來測試每個品牌,大多數人最終都只能依賴于知名品牌,而這些品牌可以為您帶來相當好的體驗。

Of course, premium branding means premium profits, too. “Best Buy might get a 50 percent markup,” says Klasco. For name-brand audio companies, the cost comes with extensive testing, design, marketing, staff overhead, packaging, shipping, and multiple cuts of the pie from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer.

當然了,知名品牌也意味這商家的利潤非常高。“百思買可能會加價50%”Klasco說。對于名牌音響公司來說,成本來自于大量的測試、設計、營銷、員工管理費用、包裝、運輸以及從制造商到批發商再到零售商的層層抽利。

Chinese brands cut out all of that stuff. Only the biggest and most ambitious of these companies even bother with a website; most of them have little more than a vendor page on AliExpress. Some of these companies buy their drivers — the actual speakers — from the same factories that provide Sennheiser and Beats with theirs. Tin Audio uses Knowles balanced armature drivers for its T3 model; those are the most important thing inside this product. Those same drivers, or at least very similar ones, can also be found in Ultimate Ears IEMs that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The factories that make the drivers don’t care who they sell to; they maintain a certain level of quality because their clients depend on that. And once you’ve sourced the parts, it’s not expensive at all to put them together. “If you have a van and a bottle of glue,” Klasco says, “you can be in the business.”

而中國品牌把所有這些中間環節都刪掉了。在這些公司中、只有規模最大、最具野心雄心的公司才會為操心自家的網站,他們中的大多數公司在速賣通上僅有一個供應商頁面,其中一些公司會從森海塞爾或Beats公司同一家供應商處購買驅動器(也就是發聲單元)。Tin Audio公司在其T3型號中就使用婁氏的動鐵單元,這些動鐵單元是是該型產品中最為重要的部件。這些相同單元、或者說至少非常相似的單元、也可以在售價數百、甚至數千美元的UE(譯注:UE,著名動鐵耳機制造商,已被羅技收購)耳機中找到。制造動鐵單元的工廠根本不在乎把單元賣給誰、所以質量水平是很穩定的,因為他們的客戶十分依賴于這一點。一旦你找到了零件,把零件拼在一起的費用是很低的。Klasco 說:“你只需要有一輛貨車和一瓶膠水、就可以做這個生意了。

What you sometimes end up with is a headphone with shockingly high-end internals, meaning excellent sound quality, from a company that has essentially no overhead. Those companies can still make a solid profit — if anyone can find their stuff.

所以有時候、他們最終得到的會是一款內在超級高端的產品,這也意味著卓越的音質,而這些公司基本上沒有任何開銷。如果有人能發現他們的產品,這些公司仍然可以獲得可觀的利潤。

It’s difficult to say how much intellectual property theft is in the mix. There’s rampant counterfeiting going on in these same Chinese tech hub cities, and you can often find homegrown Chinese brands sitting alongside counterfeit Western products at the markets and conventions around China (and on AliExpress and Amazon, for that matter). Klasco told me that he’ll often just ask vendors at these conventions for a tour of their facilities. If they make excuses for why he can’t come visit, the company might be doing something they want to keep quiet — reselling, or counterfeiting, or worse.



A few Chinese hi-fi companies have this potential. Both Lee and Tsang mentioned Fiio and HiFiMan, both of which have actual websites for their products. Klasco actually bristled at the inclusion of HiFiMan on this list of no-name brands, although really it’s just a larger, slightly older, and more successful version of the scrappier companies. HiFiMan started as a very small Chinese manufacturer, unexpectedly found success with a few products, and ramped up quickly. “HiFiMan’s not a no-name brand at all,” says Klasco. “They do some very expensive and sophisticated stuff.” Fiio, too, has garnered acclaim from mainstream sources

有幾家中國HI-FI設備公司也同樣具有這種潛力,前文中的Lee和Tsang都提到過飛傲和海菲曼(HIFIMAN),他們都有自己實際網站。而Klasco實際上對海菲曼(HIFIMAN)被列入“非知名品牌”名單感到十分憤怒,盡管實際上海菲曼只是一家更大型一些、資歷更老、更成功的版本不知名公司而已。海菲曼最初是一家非常小型的中國制造商,這家公司出人意料地在一些產品上獲得了成功,并迅速發展了起來。Klasco表示“HiFiMan根本就不是雜牌,他們的產品非常昂貴且復雜。”飛傲公司也是如此,贏得了主流媒體的稱贊。

And with an endless supply of fresh, affordable product, Chinese hi-fi brands have provided something totally new to debate. For many of these forum users, the classic audiophile gear is hopelessly out of their reach. CNET’s top-ranked audiophile headphones cost $2,400, which isn’t even that bad, comparatively. High-end speakers often cost well over $10,000. That kind of gear is totally unattainable for most people, even those who are obsessive about their audio quality. The Chinese hi-fi boom has given them a way to actually shop, purchase, compare, and analyze audio gear that’s up to their standards, which has never really happened before.

隨著新鮮、實惠的產品層出不窮,中國的HIFI品牌、讓人們提出了一種全新的討論。對于論壇用戶中的許多人來說,經典的HIFI設備往往貴上天、根本遙不可及。CNET公司的頂耳機售價2400美元,相對來說這都算好的了;超高端音箱的價格通常遠遠超過一萬美元。對于大多數人來說、這種設備根本是不現實的,即使是那些對其音質著迷的人來說也是如此。而中國產H-IFI熱潮為他們提供了一種實際購買、比較和分析符合他們標準的音頻設備的方法,這在以前的HI-FI界是聞所未聞的。

Even the equipment that produces those frequency charts has gotten more affordable. MiniDSP makes a product for about $200 — it’s a pair of artificial ears with microphones, basically — that does a totally adequate job. That kind of equipment used to cost tens of thousands of dollars. It still does, and it’s still better, but just like the flood of cheap high-end earbuds, the MiniDSP is capable, a little weird, and affordable to all.

即使是繪制頻譜圖的設備也變得更便宜了,MiniDSP公司生產的產品售價約為200美元,基本上就是一對帶有麥克風的人造耳朵,且完全可以勝任頻譜繪制工作。那種設備在過去要幾萬美元,那些設備現在仍然是這個價、也仍然更好一些。但是、就像那些廉價高端耳塞的泛濫一樣,MiniDSP也很好用、有點另類、而且所有人都買得起。

Given all of those cheap new toys, a little obsession is understandable. One proprietor of a Chinese hi-fi website declined an interview, saying he was “actually on hiatus from the hobby to spend time with my family.”

考慮到所有這些新玩具都很便宜、所以有點癡迷是可以理解的。中國一家HIFI網站的一位老板拒絕了采訪,他說自己“實際上因為業余愛好而中斷了和家人在一起的時間。”

“It’s just so easy to get into it, and you just want to try more and more and more,” says Lee. “For Chi-Fi, it’s like, oh, it’s only another 20 bucks, so why not?”

而Lee說:“入坑真的太容易了,越買就越想買,對于Chi-Fi來說,就好像:啊哦,只要20塊,不買還是人嗎?”