Hidden Innovation

Tonearms, Design

Hidden Innovation

You can learn a lot from the racing world when it comes to product design. In motor sport and sailing for example, technology can easily make the difference between winning and losing.

Notably, a number of Hi-Fi designers use the technologies involved in these sports to develop leading products.

In choosing a winning design it’s important to depend on reliable information. Opinions vary massively and the experts are sometimes proved catastrophically wrong.

I found the story behind this years Americas cup fascinating from a design standpoint and worthy of mention because it’s a classic on how so many folk did not anticipate the outcome.

The prestigious America’s cup is the oldest trophy in the world and contested at the highest level in sailing. Time does not permit to expand on the extreme technologies used in the latest boats which touch 55mph (well over 3 times the speed of the wind). For those interested, the link below gives a glimpse of what’s involved in these 10 million pound boats ( 10 million excludes development costs).

One of the great things about racing is that opinions are proved one way or the other by hard results.

Before the start of racing, betting odds heavily favoured the Americans at 4/5 with Team New Zealand a meager 4/1.

The American boat had 7 times the level of financial backing so most people reckoned the development had to be the best. The Americans had also won twice previously.

In the end Team New Zealand absolutely dominated, winning 8 out of 9 races.

Most commentators attributed their success to having a faster boat. This may sound obvious but in much of racing, boats are very similar so the determining factor is skill, tactics teamwork etc. Whilst most of the entrants had fairly similar boats the New Zealanders had opted for radical innovation away from prying eyes.

Some of the innovations were easy to spot but as the skipper remarked, for every visible innovation there were about 50 unseen ones. This boat was very closely guarded for obvious reasons.

The Hi-Fi world naturally loves to know why one product may sound better than another but there are areas where it’s unwise to say too much. I do not talk about many of our innovations. The problem is that innovation sounds impressive for sales but is only of real value if it works — at which point it’s copied by competitors.

There are significant examples of proof that our products have a performance lead. Worthy of note is that Germany’s largest Hi-Fi Magazine “Audio” have what they call a reference system. This consists of the very best products they have found regardless of price. An Origin Live tonearm has consistently been present in this system over many years which speaks volumes with regard to the genuine performance of our tonearms.

At Origin Live we don’t have the budgets of the big brands. But we do have an enviable heritage for innovation. And we often enter “races” as the under-dogs only to be awarded best-in-class. Proof that dedicated research and development allied with intense interest remains a defining difference.