A BC Acoustique system for just $1247
Having said that, exhibitors' effectiveness in demonstrating how good a sound could be obtained at this price was often less than ideal. The typical display in a hotel room involved a main system (a collection of expensive components) set up with speakers flanking the window, with the sub-$5000 system along the side wall. In this type of situation, the setup for the less expensive system was not optimal for good sound. Furthermore, in almost every case, the system playing when I walked in the room was the main one, so that I had to ask for them to play the sub-$5000 system. There were also some exhibitors that took the "under $5000" designation to allow for a system that would not include a source component, arguing that people can use a laptop computer as a source, and everyone has a laptop. This was not fair to exhibitors whose system included a source component.
There were, however, some exhibitors that went to considerable effort to demonstrate good sound at affordable prices. Import HIFI, the distributor for BC Acoustique (designed in France, made in China) speakers and electronics, had three systems at three price levels, set up in separate rooms. The least expensive one, shown in the photo, was just $1247: EX602 CD player ($349), EX302 integrated amp ($349), SR B2 ($698/pair). The most expensive system included the top-of-the-line BC Acoustique ACT A 3.5 speakers ($3498), EX-522 integrated amp ($799), leaving $700 for a CD player and some cables. I listened briefly to the cheapest system, and it really didn't sound bad. The room was quite a large one (not the usual small hotel room); the system is likely to sound even better in a smaller room.