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Stereo Equipment

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by kegbarnacle, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. kegbarnacle


    Nov 18, 2003
    Many times Talkbass has debated why something costs so much, I usually fall on the side of understanding why it costs what it does. I can see why a particular bass costs a lot. Or why you pay a premium for a luxury car.

    But can someone help me understand why audiophile level stereo components cost so much? Pick up a copy of Stereophile and look at a review - it's probably speakers costing $20k/pair. I've seen speakers more than double that. Is it entirely just that the market will bear the price? There are $50k speakers out there.

    Why will $3 - 5k buy you a fantastic bass or guitar rig and 10k would get just about any top of the line rig and then some, but that might only be enough for one speaker in stereo equipment?

    Is there more engineering, know-how, component costs, manufacturing costs, etc., in some of this stuff than in, say, a similarly priced car? You could get a pretty nice car for $50k.

    Just wondering.
  2. ldervish


    May 22, 2005
    Johnson City, TN
    Some of it has to do with performance, in that high-end rigs try to produce life-like renditions (the philharmonic in your living room feel) and imaging that extends beyond the speakers and also has depth. Done correctly you can pick the spot on the stage each instrument or vocalist is performing from.

    To accomplish this, the engineering and components used in the pre-amp, amplifier and speakers are generally of much higher quality than in more run of the mill equipment. At least that's what they want you to believe. I do know that in high end stuff you can hear nuances in the performance that are lost when listening to average systems. It can be compared to pulling wads of cotton out of your ears - with the wads in there you can hear the music, but with them out you can hear the performers as well as the whole performance.

    Since you, the consumer, determine the "value" of the equipment, the vendors and publications hype the exclusivity (the "snoot" factor) to increase the perceived value. However, a set of 20K speakers could not possibly perform so much better than a "good" set that they would fetch that price from me. But I am a "function over form" type and have no one to impress. The fact that some will pay the big bucks keeps the audiophile world turning 'round.

    Not to mention the quest for the cleanest, most "accurate" sounding equipment, not unlike the never-ending search for "that sound" which can be witnessed daily right here on TB.

    All IMHO, of course. Actually, it might be interesting for you to take some CD's that you particularly enjoy at home to a high-end stereo showroom and see what, if any, difference the expensive stuff makes.
  3. It's diminishing returns, really. There's only so much "better" that can come out of a higher priced pair of speakers. A lot of it has to do with perceived quality and value. I have heard of companies purposely pricing their components much higher than they have to, simply because there is a segment of the audio market that will pay it.
  4. No.

    $400 knobs make your stereo sound much more awesomer.

    Unfortunately, it appears that Silver Rock Audio got tired of being made fun of for charging $485 for a wooden knob that make your stereo sound better, so they took down their website.

    The non-working link:


  5. Yep. I've seen those. I've also seen ceramic "stand" type casters for speaker wire...the idea being that the signal flows better if the wires are elevated off the ground. Then you have all the various "line conditioning" (ie. surge protectors). It's insane what the audiophile market has come up with.
  6. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA

    What I've noticed is that since music is so emotionally involving, people get emotionally involved in the reproduction thereof. There are passions involved in musical gear, both on the musician level (basses, amps, etc.) and the consumer level (high end stereos, etc.), which have everything to do with loving music and little to do with real technical merits.
  7. clarifixer


    Jan 22, 2008
    Powell, Ohio
    My dear old dad used to say you could get 95% for "X" dollars, the next 2% for double that, the next 1% for triple that, etc. Some may be able to hear the difference in an A/B comparison of a $50 cable and a $500 one, but at a certain level, the nuances of sonic memory can get lost while you are changing them over in your system. Also, as the years pile up, a dB or two loss of your aural abilities can make it all seem as vaporous as chasing perfection: a dubious endeavor.
  8. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    Having some experience with listening to various levels of stereo equipment I know there is some truth to the saying that you get what you pay for. A $100 pair of speakers will sound like crap. Step up to $200 speakers and they'll be about twice as good. $500 gets you noticeably better sound quality and you can keep making significant improvements in sound that you will really notice by paying more.....up to a point. That point is where there are no real improvements to be had in speaker technology by paying more money and what you start paying extra for is meaningless snobbery. There are still definite improvements to stepping up to $5,000 speakers from $3,000 ones but I'm guessing that when you're unhappy with your $30,000 speakers and need to step up to the $50,000 ones, most of the $20,000 difference pays for snobbery. :p
  9. Twenty thousand? Pffft.
    This is what 6 million will get ya!

    a big +1 to what hbarcat has to say.

    I posted a thread here a while ago about buying some new home theater speakers with a particular budget in mind and ever since I've been spending most of my time over at the AVS forums. Let me tell you these guys are worse than us talkbassers when it comes to gear and GAS. It's really a bit addictive. Well, lets just say I surpassed my original budget by about three times the amount and I really don't have anything close to what is considered to be on an audiophile level. I'll bet a lot of these guys have spent more on cables than I have on speakers. :D

    I really can't think of anything material wise that would make a twenty thousand dollar speaker. I would have to it's probably the reputation of the maker plus the demographic of the buyers. Let's put it this way. If all bassist in the world made a minimum of $200k per year a Fodera's would probably be Twenty thousand!
  10. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    A huge amount of it is psychosis, IMO. All of us here on TB have at least some small amount of addiction to chasing "the sound" and we all buy and sell gear hoping to find "the sound". These guys are like that, but to an extreme degree. There's also an intimidation factor, like "what, you can't hear the difference between two different power cables? : pretentious smirk :". The companies who make these things know that they convince audiophiles with totally meaningless buzz words, like "improved soundstage" "more clarity and warmth in the midbass" (try to achieve those at the same time).

    The two most preposterous scams I've seen are the $13,000 power cable (discussed at length elsewhere on TB) and "quantum dot arrays" used to treat a cd without ever coming into contact with it.

    I believe that nice speakers are going to cost you, which is why I make it a point not to get myself caught up in a nice speaker habit. As long as I don't listen to expensive speakers, I won't feel like I need them. Kind of like why I've never done heroin: I have a feeling I would like it a lot. And heroin is almost as bad of an addiction as hifi equipment.
  11. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Rule #1: The sound is not better than the weakest link in the chain from music source to room acoustics.

    You shouldn't forget the external noise either. Having an AC blowing next to the hifi system is not really nice I believe.

    Up to a certain point, the cables, CD/DVD/LP/other player, and connector quality doesn't really affect the sound quality as much as the speakers and amplifier do. But if you're using top quality speakers and amplifiers you need to have cables and other equipment that can transmit the sound quality too.

    I'm not an audiophile but I can understand it can be a nice (but expensive) hobby. I have a feeling though that some of these audiophiles enjoy the sound quality more than the actual music.... If that is the case, or if you cannot really enjoy the music on cheaper systems, it has gone too far IMO.

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