Striking the balance

Online Editor

Lars Winberg discusses customised versus off-the-shelf sound measurement products and solutions.

In the rapidly evolving field of noise testing, the increasing demand for advanced audio technologies like active noise cancelling and voice-controlled smart systems is making high precision measurements to ensure sound quality a necessity. This means that customers - or project owners - developing consumer electronics, cars, aircraft, or other applications, will increasingly face test situations where what they used to do just won’t cut it anymore. They can’t simply reuse their old test microphones. They need something new.

When they reach this point, they will often need to decide whether to go for a customised solution that caters to their needs exactly, or whether to choose an off-the-shelf product that gets close enough. Far too often, in my opinion, customers choose off-the-shelf solutions. Why? Based on my years of experience in the acoustics field, I believe a few common concerns scare them away from customisation.


One big misunderstanding about customisation is that it’s reserved solely for industry giants. But the myth that smaller enterprises or projects won’t get attention and dedication from manufacturers is precisely that – a myth. In today’s market, customisation should not be a question of scale, but a tool for solving unique needs. Manufacturers experienced with customisation understand that innovation requires co-creation and make it a point to treat companies and projects of all sizes with equal interest.


A legitimate concern often raised is whether customised solutions come with the necessary service and support included. The fact is that, to serious manufacturers, customisation is based on a deep commitment to the customer’s success. Tailored solutions go beyond the point of sale, offering support that matches the unique features of the product. In contrast, off-the-shelf solutions, while convenient and fully loaded with support and service concepts, might not address your specific challenges with the same depth of expertise.


Warranties are an assurance of quality and robustness, and it’s natural to ask if customisation removes this safeguard. However, this is another misunderstanding. Serious manufacturers stand by their customised products with warranties that are designed to reflect the quality of the solutions. The key is open communication. As a potential customer, you can do a lot to remove this concern by discussing warranty terms during the customisation process to ensure that your investment is protected.


Costs are undeniably a significant factor in decision-making. But the belief that customisation is automatically more expensive demands a closer look. While it’s true that tailored solutions might carry a slightly higher initial cost, their long-term value often justifies the upfront expenses. Customisation does away with operational inefficiencies and provides functionalities that match precise needs, potentially leading to substantial savings in the long run.


However, it’s important to acknowledge that off-the-shelf products and solutions have their own merits. Sometimes, they fit seamlessly into the fabric of your project, offering a cost-effective and time-efficient solution. The distinction between customisation and off-the-shelf isn’t black or white but a spectrum. And arriving at the right choice often comes down to something as old-fashioned as discussion.


In the ever-evolving noise measurement and acoustic testing industry, the one constant is the value of open dialogue between customers and manufacturers. This dialogue acts as the bridge between project goals and execution, enabling a thorough analysis of your project’s nuances and a clear understanding of your requirements. Whether you find yourself drawn to customisation or opt for a pre-designed solution, it is through dialogue the optimal answer emerges.


But it’s not just customers and project-owners that benefit from customisation of noise measurement products and solutions. The ongoing dialogue with customers is crucial to manufacturers, as it keeps them up to date with where the market is headed, and what trends are shaping their industries. I know this first-hand: At GRAS Sound & Vibration, customisation has been our secret to success since the company’s inception in 1994. Practically all our off-the-shelf products began as customisation projects that have since become industry standards. Customisation and collaboration are key drivers of innovation.

In the end, the choice is not simply a question of “customised” or “off-the-shelf,” but a matter of “tailored” and “fit-for-purpose.” Through dialogue and collaboration, you can find the solution that integrates perfectly with your needs and ambitions. After all, finding the perfect fit – off-the-shelf or tailored – is the ultimate customisation.

Lars Winberg is with GRAS Sound & Vibration.

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