Made in China - content - How much?

So I recently had a debate with someone who insisted that I am over paying for some of my audio equipment, especially my dCS DAC as it is mostly made of Chinese components and no different that if I just bought a DAC from Denafrips, which uses similar technology and makes it in China anyway…

I made the point that I value supporting western labor and that I am certain that most of the capacitors and other electronic components (at least those which can be had from outside of China) are sourced in the US, EU, Japan and other fair labor markets…

Am I right? Or is this a case of “Assembled in the UK of mostly Chinese components?”

No conjecture please… I’d rather hear the answer form a dCS employee or someone who actually knows, and not theorizes the answer.

I’m not from dCS, but this is a really ropey line of logic.

I hope that person attempts to make the same point with everything they buy.

"The ingredients of this meal would have cost me $3.17 — why are you charging me $15 for my omelette?"

"This painting is about two bucks' worth of materials and two minutes' work — how can you possibly be asking $24 million bucks, Picasso? What the hell!?"

We’re all free to buy whatever we like, thankfully. Had I found something that ticked all of my boxes as well as my Bartok I might not have a Bartok. I haven’t though.

It’s as if dCS has paid for a heap of research, paid salaries while people pored over how to integrate all of the materials and software, paid to make it look fantastic, paid to advertise it, paid to support things when they go wrong, etc.

It’s not all about the bill of materials, in other words.


There is also a major issue relating to the human rights record of China and in my case, I steer away from anything made there (WHEN I CAN)… I buy cloths made in western labor markets for example… Italian Jeans made with Japanese denim vs… Chinese made, with Chinese denim… etc…

For the most part, the only reason anything is being made in China is to save costs… well, when you’re buying a piece of electronics that’s literally 10 to 20 times the cost of a “Comparable” piece, you expect these finer details to be accounted for.

I know for a fact, there are very high quality capacitors made in the US, UK and EU… as well as Japan and even Taiwan (not the same as China)… so it would bother me if they were sourcing a Chinese cap when they could pay a bit more for a UK or other Cap… Especially at the price point we’re at here.

Get it?

Yes, for sure — understood.

There are many different things to consider with everything we do in life, though. What we each consider “comparable” will differ, and so will where our priorities lie. A DAC that sounds as good as my Bartok but that I think looks terrible, or isn’t as well supported after the initial purchase might not pass muster for me. But it might for others. I think it’s great to have options, and even better to have our principles in mind when we choose between those different options. (I think that you look at more than just the product itself is excellent.)

On the other side of the equation are the effort and costs involved in building and selling products. Part of that is setting the right price for the finished product. With a sales price that’s just the bill of materials plus a margin you’re almost certainly leaving money on the table. Not just money, actually, but profit, since the investment — of the parts at least — will already have been recouped.

I remember reading a while back that a Porsche 911 Turbo was only a small fraction more expensive to make than a Boxster. That Porsche sells the Turbo for three-ish times the amount of the Boxster is an excellent example of a business using its brand and some judiciously-applied pricing power to increase their profits. Good for them.

Ben, I get it… and I recently actually bought a 992 Porsche and gave a 2nd look at what we used to call “The poor man’s Porsche” as it was a far nicer car than I remember… that said, I went with the 911 for a few reasons that I will not get into here… But I’d have been upset to find out that it was made of mostly Chinese made components and final assembly was in Germany… sure, with as many components as go into a car, something in it was made in China likely… but hardly enough to merit mention.

Anyway, I appreciate your input but I’d like to know so I can silence the critics I run across in various circles… how much China content is in a dCS product… Not too much to ask.

Your premises:

  1. Chinese parts are inferior, cheap, and coming from an unfair labor market

  2. OK are parts coming from US, EU, Japan and other fair labor markets

This is a / your political statement.

dCS state in their brochures:

Designed and manufactured in the United Kingdom using only the best materials and components, they offer state-of-the-art sound, superlative reliability and are uniquely upgradeable as new formats appear.

Only dCS can comment on where the parts they use come from, if they would like to.

And now the UK is no longer part of the EU.

Not here to argue with you @Ermos

And I specifically listed the UK and the EU as two separate places, I’m not an idiot.

The dCS wording is good:
"using only the best materials and components"

…since what’s “best” can change depending on all sorts of factors, and from all sorts of points of view:

  • Price (cheapest to source for dCS might mean a cheaper DAC for us — but not necessarily)
  • Availability (an exotic component might sound better, but if it’s never in stock when we dCS need to make a repair you might say that it wasn’t “best” after all)
  • Supply chain (zero involvement of anyone outside a 15-mile radius from my house might be important to me, but I’m not sure I’d move to Cambridge just so that I could buy the Praetorius that Erno is hoping for, or even the new dCS Bonzodog! :stuck_out_tongue:)
  • Performance (could be that we don’t all agree on “best” here, but I trust dCS to choose well)
  • …and many more.

Each of us is a complicated, fleshy, mixing desk of priorities. Those priorities play out in different ways in different situations. Whether it’s chasing the best car for us that also fits with our morals (I’m never buying another VW Group car after the emissions scandal, for example), or the best product of some other type that hasn’t had any forced labour — those things all inform the decisions I make with my hard-earned lucre.

If we all had the same settings on our mixing desks the aisles at the supermarket could be a lot shorter…


Those Preatorii / Preatoriae you mean? :smile:

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Any arguments should obviously be about which of the Stuttgart beasts is the way to go. And I’ve got my own very strong preferences to voice there. I’ll just keep them for a different forum :smiley:

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Do not worry, Sam. No argument here.

Maybe you should just ask these critics if they have ever demoed a dCS product, and compared it to their cheap ones. Bet they will state their’s sound better. Everybody happy.

Hi all,

This thread is almost spilling over into non audio or music related so I’m keen to try and keep on topic.

To answer some of the questions I’ll start by echoing Ben’s point that any audio product is the result of many years research and development, prototyping and testing before going into actual assembly and production. At dCS it doesn’t stop there, as we continue to innovate and update our products through their life, mostly through software updates.

We have been in audio for over 30 years, starting out in A-D and the recording end of the chain before moving into signal conversion (upsamplng/downsampling) and the playback end with D-A technology. All through this time our engineers have been working to advance the state of the art in digital playback. In terms of product design we do not use standard off the shelf components (e.g. SPDIF receivers, DAC chips, output stages etc.). Any competent electronics engineer could make a DAC if they went down this route, but at dCS the entire signal path is in the dCS domain and any design trade-offs or decisions are made by us (not the chip designer) and with performance in mind.

You are correct that most of the components you will find on a printed circuit board originate in the US or Asia. However, our PCBs are manufactured in the UK by various contract manufacturers, depending on the complexity of the board. It is worth pointing out that our hardware is proprietary to dCS as is the software code that runs on them. All of the design effort to create this hardware and software is the result of our years of experience and performed by our team of engineers in our UK factory.

Second, our raw metal is milled in Europe, cut into billets and slabs, transported to the UK and then machined into fascias, sides, tops, buttons etc. by various precision engineering firms in the UK before being anodised. Different engineering firms have different competencies and tools so we always try to match the right supplier to the part or process required. This is a skill in itself and crucially important when products are in the market for many years as fit and finish must remain consistent.

A dCS audio product is not just the kit of parts. It is the results of years of R&D, extensive prototyping and testing, unique hardware and proprietary software. Our suppliers and partners also bring extensive experience and expertise which we tap into to ensure our products are state of the art. Performance, reliability and ease of huge are so important to us so without our partners we could not build the products we do.

Finally, unlike many audio companies we do all of the final assembly in house as our assembly technicians are skilled craftsmen (and women) who are able to assemble and test all of our products.

I will loop back to this point briefly. The Ring DAC platform is proprietary to dCS. As above, the hardware we use is specific to us and won’t be found in other products. For example, all of the DACs listed on the Denafrips website are R-2R based, use OCXO based clocking, and so on. While both a dCS DAC and a Denafrips DAC perform D/A conversion, they use different technologies (both hardware and software) to do so.


Interesting summary James

Quick question, are the network cards still built by Stream Unlimited Austria?

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They are from Japan, as are our CD mechanisms.

Edit: No, you’re right, Stream card is from Austria, CD mechs from Japan. My mistake :+1:


Japan is great stuff… no issues with this, as a matter of fact my Accuphase stuff is on par with dCS in terms of it’s quality…

My question relates to the raw electronics… and not just the PCB’s, but the capacitors, resistors, diodes, transformers, and such, etc… There are high grade capacitors made in the UK, US and other 1st world labor nations… and there are capacitors made in China in sweat shop factories.

It is exactly like a John Lobb or Edward Green pair of shoes, they can do it with French leather but no one would say it is french shoes. It is high quality English shoes because the making processes are better defining the shoes than its raw material…but dCS you don’t necessarily have to put french leather on your products :laughing:

It is nice having the manufacturer’s point of view sometimes in the forum’s discussions.

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