Part 2 of my interview with Jason Stoddard, co-founder of Schiit Audio, about ecologically-friendly solutions in manufacturing HiFi equipment.
Last week, I posted part 1 of my email interview with Jason Stoddard of Schiit Audio, a California-based manufacturer of award-winning headphone amps & DACs. What sets the company apart, according to Jason, is that they don’t take themselves too seriously, they manufacture the products here in California, and their amps can drive even the most inefficient headphones, all at a very competitive price.
I should also mention that I was rather impressed with Jason’s candid answers. I was also impressed with the fact that the manufacturing does indeed follow the kind of green thinking that this website believes in. After some more discussion with Jason about the headphones I own, the music I listen to, and my interest in keeping things green, he recommended I try out one of his amps. I decided to purchase the Asgard, their entry-level amp. Even though it is their least expensive product, Jason assured me that I would be impressed.
So I ordered the amp through a third-party vendor and paid full price for it, just so there isn’t any bias. It will go straight up against my beloved, tube-based, Chinese-made, little $67 Quinpu Q2, a small 2.5 watt integrated amp. Aside from the modest power rating, the Qinpu is about as non-green as they come and the polar opposite to the all-American Asgard in every way. The Asgard also costs a whopping 3½ times as much, so will it also sound 3½ as good? Will it be greener? Well I will write about it as soon as I can get them side-by-side: review coming soon.
So on that note, onto the rest of the interview.
Jason, where does Sschiit source parts?
Depending on the parts, we either buy direct from manufacturers or through distribution. They come from all over the world. The majority of our cost stays with US manufacturers, but there are definitely Japanese and Chinese parts in our products.
Do you have any checks in place to ensure that parts quality meets standards?
Absolutely. All suppliers are qualified through product testing, and any changes are re-qualified. We have not one, but two Stanford Research SR-1 audio analyzers—one optimized for analog, and one optimized for digital. In addition, all products are "burned in"--left on for 24 hours--to catch any early failures before shipping.
Are your amplifiers sold in Europe?
If so, do you need to modify them to meet stricter environmental standards?
Do you check if the companies you purchase components from treat their employees fairly and follow environmental laws?
I think that's a little outside the scope of a small manufacturer. The major parts suppliers we've all been on-site with and I'm confident they're cool, especially seeing as how they're in California. The smaller parts must be RoHS compliant for CE certification, so we're covered there.
How do you dispose of electronic parts and possibly toxic materials at your manufacturing facility?
We don't really have much in the way of waste, since our PC boards are assembled by a contract manufacturer in Simi Valley. We don't use any chemicals stronger than Windex. Bad metalwork and stuff like that goes back to recycling. To be honest, we haven't thought about it much yet.
I haven't ordered a product from you yet, although I certainly intend to. Are there any measures taken to use recyclable materials in the shipping boxes and packing?
Everything's recyclable, and we don't use any color printing or toxic inks.
Would you consider adding a statement on your website mentioning ecologically-friendly manufacturing, shipping, and recycling.
Perhaps in context--I'd much rather key on the "buy it and use it forever" argument than simply lip-service. We have a different philosophy, based on the long view, rather than short-sighted profit chasing and endless obsolescence. That's where I think the value is.
Let's end this with a thought exercise: Which is the most environmentally conscious decision...(a) Buying a new Prius and reducing emissions, while commuting 60 miles each day down the 405 to your job, and requiring the global infrastructure necessary to make and ship tens of thousands of components all over the world for its manufacturing and maintenance, or (b) Driving the same old 1968 Mustang for 40 years, 2 miles back and forth to your job, and eliminating the whole new car thing entirely? Hint: there's no necessarily "right" answer. Or it's "get a bike." Or "convert the Mustang to biodiesel." Or something like that.
Like I said, we don't take ourselves too seriously around here!