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I recall reading somewhere that one reason for the name Apple Computers was that the word “Apple” precedes “Atari” in a phonebook. So it is of no surprise for a company name to serve hidden (or no so hidden) marketing goals. But sometimes the company name just screams marketing: The other week I ran into a company called Schiit Audio. Yes, it is pronounced the way you think it is pronounced. They make HiFi headphone amplifiers and DACs. The reviewer comments are full of easy puns like “that’s some serious s**t” and “I got my sh**t in the mail.”

While the name works and easily sticks to memory (pun intended), there is a danger here: the funny (and somewhat derogatory) company name gets linked to the products and no smart craftsman wants that. To offset the effect, their product catalog reads as an index of Nordic mythology. “What amp do you have? – I got Valhalla” sounds much better than “… I have Schiit.” (Have you ever noticed how luxury car makers do it the other way around? Who knows the difference between Acura TSX and NSX? Who cares. It’s an Acura! While the names like Civic and Accord are self explanatory.)

The other danger is that with the name like Schiit the amplifiers have to be at least above average. Because every potential problem would be amplified (yes, pun intended) by the name: “I heard that their amp can destroy my headphones — Hey, they make some broken s**t!” So the name forces them to keep up the quality of the work.

So, does the name work? How do I know? I’m not an expert in HiFi. The reviews I read are full of praises. The reviews are also full of disclaimers like “this is good, for the price they asking.” Considering the price they are asking is way above what a sane person would pay for a piece of an audio playback chain, I’d say that they must be rather awesome.

One more comment: for a specialized engineering company they got a very nice website. It is well-desinged, clean, and with good photos. Some of the photos show devices with vacuum tubes sticking out. Apparently, vacuum tubes are all the rage with HiFi people. Some claim that amplifiers on tubes sound different and better than solid state amplifiers. But I was surprised that someone still makes the vacuum tubes. I dug into the website and found out that (a) the tubes is almost the only thing they import and (b) they import the tubes from Russia. Running a few searches on the web turned up a few sites selling the tubes. It looks like the highest quality tubes do come from Russia. I guess that makes sense: USSR had a very strong engeneering-oriented industry that made very competitive electronics components and then the industry got stuck in limbo because of the political and economic turmoil. When it advanced, it did not advance fast enough to completely abandon the tube production, and now these tubes found a serendipitous market. Fascinating. Well, score one for the old country.

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