Gone shopping?

Had some holidays left over and so I have just returned from two weeks of vacation in Hong Kong with a small “detour” across the border in to Shenzhen in mainland China.

Shenzhen and the surrounding area is probably the world’s biggest ecosystem for electronics manufacturing of all kinds. Most likely your mobile phone, tablet, laptop and many of the other electronic devices you use every day were made in the gigantic factories here – along with the corresponding accessories and a multitude of other things.

Within Shenzhen itself, there is a number of wholesale electronics malls where the manufacturers showcase their products – think a multi-storey shopping mall packed with small stalls and shops that only have electronics and components – and then imagine a handful of them side by side in the same street! There are also similar mega-malls with computer parts, mobile phones and accessories and security/CCTV-equipment. If you can’t quite get your head around this, the attached pictures might help a little 🙂

These markets are where you go to check out what’s available, buy samples or small quantities and negotiate purchases of larger series or custom products. It’s also where you can go to a small shop and buy 100 ICs if you don’t need a full roll of 1000 or find discontinued ICs and transistors that aren’t otherwise available. This is of course because of the many factories in the area which means there are plenty of opportunities for buying excess inventory, obsolete/liquidated stock and so on.

So, for anyone interested in electronics DIY it should be a goldmine and it sort of is, but unfortunately not all that glitters is gold here – not by a long shot. Counterfeit parts and products are everywhere and so in a couple of places the piles of transistor boxes marked “Toshiba Semiconductor” that sent my heart racing a good bit faster, actually turned out to have been refilled many times since they came from one of Toshiba’s factories – at least that was how the parts inside looked.

An additional complication is that while I do like going to China as such, when it comes to shopping there I have some big disadvantages: 1) I don’t speak the language, 2) I look very obviously foreign and 3) I don’t really like haggling, especially for small amounts. Add the risk of getting counterfeit products into the mix and I spent a lot of time looking but didn’t really buy anything there, instead saving my budget for Hong Kong itself 🙂

Once back to Hong Kong I did some shopping. As is my norm for these trips, I also bought an audiophile present for myself. The obvious choice would be (yet another) pair of high-end headphones, such as the AKG K812, and I did find a pair of those calling my name as well :D. However, in the end I settled for something a little more useful – an Acoustic Research M2 high-res audio player.

I did try a couple of smaller and cheaper alternatives, but the M2 won me over on sound quality and the ease of use with the touch screen and it means I can semi-retire my iPod classics to home-duty. Testing the M2 right now with my AKG K501 headphones (120 ohm impedance) and the sound is much, much better than the iPod or what I’d normally expect from a portable player 🙂

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