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Not all China products are the same!

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by JD, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    I think I have been operating under a popular misconception that China works like one BIG company, and that if two products look the same, they are probably the same inside. I recently bought a couple of Elation 4 channel dimmers for D.I.Y. rentals. These are rated at ten amps per channel, twenty amps max unit capacity. They cost me about $180 each. Later, I was looking at the Bulbamerica site and saw a dimmer with the same specs with the old "Similar to" line in the title. Cost- $58.95! I couldn't resist! I knew there had to be a difference, yet the specs were the same and they looked the same. So I bought one and got out my trusty screwdriver. Now, I want to say that I am not criticizing the Bulbamerica site, in fact I buy a lot of things from them. They didn't say it was the same product, and the price was one third of the cost of the Elation pack. Here is what I found:

    Elation $180 / Bulbamerica $58
    Heavy gauge case / Light gauge case
    12-3 power cord / 14-3 power cord
    (inside)
    Separate DMX decoder board / all in one board
    Larger marked Triacs / Smaller unmarked Triacs
    More windings on filter chokes / less windings
    Well laid out ground wiring / simplified wiring

    There was more, but you get the idea. Both units worked fine, and they are marketed to the DIY crowd and not for permanent installations. I don't know if there is any type of competitive market in China, or if the equipment is simply built to the requested spec of the marketing company. The lesson learned is that there is drastic quality differences between similar looking products built in China, and that name brand actually does makes a difference.
     
  2. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    Great info. Honestly, I was under the impression that the stuff from bulbamerica was exactly the same. (I also purchase a great deal from them, and love the cheap Par64's that they have - I've got more than 40 of theirs for cheap rentals).

    I know that there are many people that say that the elation moving lights are the same or better than Martin, HES, Coemar, and some of the other "professional" movers. The fact is, I do not believe that it is true. I have used the elation's from time to time. One of the companies that I deal with a great deal only stocks Elation movers (they also have ColorKinetics, and I get my LED's from them) and when I am in a tight spot, I will use or subrent from them. Recently, I had a last minute change and needed 6 more movers for a show. The only ones available for same day rental were (2) Elation Powerspot 700's and (4) VisionScan 575's. The road crew was truly piZZed off, as was the LD, when I have to put a few elations in the mix. Everything else was HES and Coemar. The Powerspot 700 was decent, but was heavy and was slower than the StudioSpot, and the VisionScan 575 was a glorified version of a DJ light that I used 5+ years ago. You won't see the elation name on anything piece of equipment in a truely professional touring rig at a concert this summer, I can promise you that. I can not understand why they would make a $4000 fixture that is supposed to be professional grade and comes with a sound activated program. This is like putting a kick stand on Corvette.

    Why does it have such a bad reputation? Well, in the past it has truly earned it. Their equipment was cheaply made and would not stand up to the rigors of the road. It was slower, louder, and not as bright. But what about now? Are they making a turn around? Who knows?

    I can say that if a customer has the choice of renting a technobeam or a studiowash, as compared to anything made by Elation, they will take the porfessional gear hands down every day. (and the technobeams are OLD technology, but still preferred).
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2007
  3. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Ha! Yea, I know what you mean! I think they are still in the process of growing up and don't realize the difference between the markets. China is on a learning curve, and I don't know where on that curve they are right now. Each new line gets better, but even if they were at par tomorrow, it would take years before they were accepted by the professional renters. I just noticed on the "Powerspot" thread that someone is about to put a bunch of them on tour. I hope we can get some feedback after the tour as to how the Elation Movers did.
    As for the par cans, I have a lot of them too!
     
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    [Hijack]
    In the news last night was a story about Chinese tooth paste that contains the same active ingredient as anti-freze. Apparently in this state they've been giving it out to prisoners because it's cheap.

    YIKES!!
     
  5. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Actually, not a Hijack! Quality control is something we must all be aware of, especially with the China products. That's why I'm big on taking everything apart! (It also comes from spending many years in the electronics service industry.) In my first post, we see that the pack rated for a 20 amp draw come with a 14-3 power cord. As it is not a permanent installation piece, it gets away with it, but it should also raise a red flag.

    We see China using lead paint in toys, skipping steps in tire manufacturing, and goofing on pet food. In other words, making all the same mistakes we made in the 1900's! They are growing up. They have a pretty rotten reputation to overcome. Still, each product needs to be looked at for its own merits or demerits. So, I will continue taking things apart. (I like doing that anyway!) If I take something apart and it looks good, I will use it. (I've seen some pretty stupid stuff done on American products as well!) If it proves to be reliable and affordable I will keep using it independent of where it comes from. My big surprise was how much variance is found within the products coming out of China depending on the brand labeling.
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Speaking of lead paint... my son has 5 Thomas the Train toys that were recently revealed as having lead paint. A company sells millions of these toys every year... what boy in this country under the age of 7 doesn't have at least a few of them... somehow a few pieces slip through to a bad Chinese subcontractor who hasn't heard that lead paint is dangerous. What surprises me is that when the product arrives on this side of the ocean, the company doesn't run a quality control test once a month to make sure the toy doesn't have lead paint.

    Which brings up an interesting point to our industry. A quality product could be taken down pretty quick to this sort of subcontracting. You make a good product but you circuit board supplier over seas changes and your product can suck overnight.
     
  7. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    That's one way(if slightly unethical) to cut down on overcrowding.

    Sarcasm is in use kids!!!
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Phil you are a sick man.

    I thought it was very funny
    :twisted:
     
  9. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    Ok, here's a question. Check out the new June 2007 issue of PLSN. On page 48, there is an advertisement for Global Truss (which is part of Elation). There is a truss rig that is ground lifted. This is an every day occurrence, but they are using a manual chainfall rather than using a chain motor hoist. This doesn't look very safe to me. It appears that you use the chainfall to lift it, and then hook it up with another piece of chain. What is your opinion of this?

    Also, how many people do you need to lift this thing?
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    HOLY CRAP! When it comes to anything at all related to rigging... if it doesn't have made in the USA stamped into the metal I'm not buying. I don't care how cheap it is. Chinese made truss is about the most frightening thing I can think of.
     
  11. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    Here is what it says on their website about their safety....

    "Our truss bears the certification mark from TÜV, a third party certification body and a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), just like OSHA"

    I can not find anything about where it is made. I actually bought a 40' diameter circle of global truss, but it was the only company that could get it to me in the desired time (it was already sitting in a warehouse in Los Angeles and I needed it in Vegas two weeks later. It was ok, but it was not hung, but rather sat on top of columns and was wrapped in fabric.

    I don't own it, just purchased it and resold it to them.
     
  12. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    In relation to the standard of Chinese gear dropping from spec.
    In Oz recently a reveiw of cheap chinese Air con units has just been carried out and the result checked against the test results for the benchmark gear. the re tests were done on randomly purchased units with a number of different name plates. In all cases the efficiency of the units was way down on the original bench mark gear and the quality of manufacturing of cases and electronics was also down.
    Some of the equipment may lose its Australian Certification.
    I've got some Chinese gear labelled as ACME in this country. The electronics seems OK but the finish and case manufacturing seems a bit shoddy. Cheap and cheerfull as they say. I'v got some 4 way dimmer units and some scans that do the job I want.
     
  13. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    China is the Wild West by way of snake oil merchants, miner 49er’s, settlers looking for a new life, and in general growing at the seams of Levi Stratus type concepts that change the world coming from them.

    China is a country that is both name brand by way of some conscripted hold on a communist politics that don’t work, and in becoming the source for the next industrial revolution. All about 100 years ago the western world lived thru once and is attempting to live thru again by way of what was a driving force in the industrial revolution - the baron merchants. This by way of our Western investors making a profit off a lack or standards in a changing market, investors and businesses taking advantages of what can happen when business is allowed to take control, and customers reaping from the cheaper prices.

    It’s going to be years until China straightens itself out and the market balances itself out. This much less the people of that country are able to reap the benefits of becoming industrialized and all the benefits to them which would hopefully follow. And this will take some time but by than China will become the economic and technological driving force over that of the Western world. Or if not, the next Middle East in a wee problem.

    Beyond this, Elation is American DJ as Honda is to Acura. Elation is the Acura but while in many ways the same the upper line of the same gear. Add to this that companies that make say the Elation gear are easily turning out similar but cheaper gear off the same assembly line at times for companies that follow customer wishes for near future returns to their investment as opposed to long term pay off. Say if that dimmer pack has lasted eight years, it paid itself off in buying new as opposed to the necessity of maintaining towards the end something that is wearing out after 30 or 50 years and or has a huge question of staying up with technology.

    Years ago, it was not so much a question of quality in a newcomer NSI to the market, more that as opposed to individual dimmers one could swap out, the eight pack NSI dimmer would in failing, loose you eight dimmers not just one. And anything premium or inefficient will go bad with time. For cost effectiveness and overall the NSI line became cost effective and did prove sustainable. This news was a nail into the grave of the more high end stuff which elevated NSI as a brand but also opened up the pre-conceived notion that the next generation of cheap gear would be crap.

    With time acceptance was found for such gear. China I theorize as a contry, by way of a huge base of study in how our own industrial revolution ended up is hedging upon short term memory while they make the conversion to what as political system works or in staying the same but changed to work works.

    Yep, you noted differences as with differences in you get what you pay for often for gear. On the other hand, just as say lamps made in Japan were substandard, nobody would call Ushio substandard these days - nor the “premium brands” that are often also made about the world. Elation is not state of the art in the industry - don’t care about what the stage hands think but do about the designer in getting what the designer wants instead of what given. Elation perhaps some day will become the next Coemar if not Martin - both started in the same way as Elation. There is no write offs in my book just curious things to study in how it’s made and develops over the next deckade. Elation... who knows, perhaps some day they will also be huge touring fixtures. If not they at least make what they make and so far as I know supply replacement parts 100% better than they did in the past in general. Earned reputation is for all intensive purposes constantly changing one generation to the next owning and supervising what is done.

    In general, “Made in Japan” at one point during the 1970's was not so pleasing in remarks about it as a country. Don’t hear such things now. Perhaps in the future of China it will be similar.
     
  14. DarSax

    DarSax Active Member

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    Sorry.

    "No wonder this circuit failed. It says 'made in Japan.'"
    "What do you mean Doc? All the best stuff is made in Japan."
    "...Unbelievable!"

    Sorry.
     
  15. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    I agree with Ship, but there is one piece of the equation that hasn't been added to complete it. I will assume that Coemar and Ushio had a true interest in becoming great manufacturers. They had to, at some point, have stringent quality control standards and take it to the next level, so to speak. Will Elation do this? Their units are selling like crazy now to the venues on a budget and to the DJ type market. I own a half dozen Coemar units are love them. I have taken them on the road and there is no doubt that they are professional units. If they started out as the cheap crap on the market (which I doubt, as Italy has been known for it's attention to detail since....well.....the renaissance), they have really stepped things up?

    China is a country known for taking US products and completely stealing them, making cheap knockoffs, and shipping them illegally to the US. If Elation was interested in becoming a professional unit manufacturer, they have their work cut out for them. But why would they spend the time and money to do this? They are surely making profits now, and have a good share of the lighting market. There is already a Martin, a HES, a Vari-Lite, an Apollo, and a Rosco. Is it their intention to become one of the big names, or to put another company out of business. I doubt it. Elation plays a valuable part in the current market. DJ's and really bad dance clubs need lighting, too. That, and it makes it easy to see who is a professional and who is not. Just look for who is using Elation and Behringer.......and then stay away from them.
     
  16. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    I have to laugh a bit at product brand snobbery. It made me a lot of money in the 70s/80s. We had 12 super troupers, carbon arc! That's all anybody would spec! We bought newer, better spots but they just sat. Every tech rider came in still spec'ing Super Troupers. Even when we picked up some xeon Troupers, with the same output, people wanted the old junk. I finally sold that section of the business and the old Supers. I'm too old for that crap now. I'll buy whatever brand I think will work best for the purpose. China is still on probation. I buy the stuff, take it apart, and if I like it, I use it. China must have some motivation, because the products keep getting better. We can't burry our heads in the past or we would all be driving horse and buggies. Ship is right. If the stuff is good, we will be seeing it on tour and it will become part of the norm. If not, then not. I have about 50% China stuff now. Works good. I also have a shed full of EDI dimmers from the 80s. Still work. Gee, nobody wants to rent a 400 pound 12 channel analog dimmer these days! Guess I'll strap it to the horse and buggy and take it out to burry in the cornfield. ;)

    PS: As for China's morality on intellectual property, nobody debates that one! I used to own stock in Sigmatel. Great stock, until ACTS (China) stole all their chip designs. Went from $70 a share to $3. Ouch! Still, if I had a brain, I would have sold my Sig and bought Acts. Those people made money. Tis the world we live in.
     
  17. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    The snobbery was mostly tongue in cheek. The question is, however, do these companies want to improve to professional grade or are we trying to take a substandard company and lift them up to professional because of their cost. Two good examples on different ends of the spectrum are Behringer and Elation. Behringer has made every attempt to cut corners and steal other technology, and Elation seems to be trying to stay on the cutting edge.

    I do believe that Elation is trying to improve, or at least their marketing department is trying to get that point across. They are the biggest advertisers in PLSN and other trade journals, plus have a huge showing at trade shows. This doesn't make them great, but it shows an attempt at growth.

    As for right now, there really is no pro tour or house using Elation. Check out their website and news releases. They did a temporary stage at the Kentucky Derby and have a small handful of lights on stage with Carrot Top in Vegas. That's it. And as far as the Carrot Top show, I saw it........it's not as bad as I expected (Comp Tickets for staying at the Luxor).

    Brand loyalty is a fact of life and does serve a purpose. I really like certain fixtures, not just because of brand, but because I know what they are going to do for me night after night. They are reliable and it is one less thing to worry about. Everyone that has been around a while knows what a Super Trouper will do, what it won't, and what the show is going to look like with them. Are there better units? Yes, without a doubt. But, if you don't have much experience with other units, or are not sure which model is which when you are on tour, it is a relief to see "Super Trouper" or Mac 700 or StudioWash on the house plot.

    As far as getting a fixture that gives you the look you are going for, no matter who makes it, I haven't seen anything revolutionary from Elation yet. All of their products seem to be just like others that already exist. Why should I take a chance getting the same output from an Elation unit that I could get from a Mac? I guess price is one consideration, but that is it. I may have missed something and an elation fixture does something that nothing else does, and if so, please let me know.
     
  18. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    So far as I know, only the stupid audio feature! China is a huge unknown. I have no idea what motivates any of them as it is not a capitalistic economy! So, what causes the products to be different or improve? Speculation: Some of the companies, like Elation, have a US base of operations. It could be that they are the eyes and ears for what is going on. As for innovation... My gut tells me we are not going to see innovation from any of these companies. I could be wrong, but I also believe they are in a "follow" mode. So, other than cost, why use them? Don't know! But... we are not talking a small difference in dollars. IF (and a big one) they perform the same and cost half as much, that's a big motivation. I started accepting them in the par world first. A par is pretty easy to analyze. Then, I added a few of the 12 channel blade (modular) dimmers. Then I added some Chauvet movers. So far so good. In five or ten years I will know if any of it was worth anything.

    As for brand names and the story of the Super Troupers, it always brings a smile to my face! Besides the weight, the lack of "Carbon" operators finally pulled the plug. I remember having a Roledex full of names of local projectionists (who worked in local theaters and ran carbon) that I would go through whenever I would have to crew a non-union gig. It drove me nuts to see the monsters booked, while the xeons and HMIs sat. JFK Stadium in Philly was our last big customer, and was so after I sold out. When they closed JFK, the Supers were retired. We (actually the new owner) didn't even list them after that, but still got requests!

    Ok.. sorry... got off on a tangent. One last point... Name brands. The case may say Mac, or Martin, but have you opened one up and looked at the chips? The Chinese may be a lot closer than you think! This week, Intel announced they are building a new plant. Guess where.... :eek:

    **sigh**
     
  19. stantonsound

    stantonsound Active Member

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    I agree with just about everything that you said, JD, except for one part. The entire world is capitalistic, whether they admit it or not. The internal politics of China might not be, but the only reason that they are exporting stuff like this is for profit.

    I am all for cheaper movers and a little competition is good. It helps drive the price down, which is good for me. I quickly had to change from a production company to a rental company to fit a new demand (a conflict between several local companies left a wide open market, and since I tend to get along with everyone, I stepped in quickly). I buy what the customers want. I doubled my inventory in each of four months in a row and I truly place weekly orders for equipment. Customers do not want the elation stuff, and pay more for the name brands. If they want elation, I will stock elation. Heck, if they want popcorn poppers and snow cone machines, I will buy those as well. Not that I am simply profit minded, but who cares what equipment I like to use. They are the end user, and they will go to whoever has it.

    Personally, I love the older movers (Trackspots, Technobeams, StudioSpots, etc...). They are easy to fix and are really dependable. I know they are outdated, but they I know what they do and working with them is second nature to me. I have had two of the TrackSpots for almost 10 years and other than lamps and cleaning, they have required no maintenance. I wonder if we will be able to say that about any equipment today in a decade to come no matter where it was made.
     
  20. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    This conversation reminds me of this one bizarre booth in the back corner of LDI last fall. It appeared to be all Chinese knock offs of both audio and lighting gear, with the real thing located only a few booths away. None of it had a brand name on it anywhere. There were no fancy displays... none of it even appeared to be hooked up so you could test drive it. It was all pretty much just sitting on top of the box they shipped it in. The employees appeared a little nervous the whole time. I walked by several times and no one tried to make eye contact and suck you into the booth with a little friendly chit chat. There weren't even any show girls handing out swag!!
     

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