You are here

Log in or register to post comments
Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Point of vanishing returns.

Hola,

We seem to have quite an array of opinions about when a certain component becomes "stupidly overpriced" vs. a "real world value."

As an audiophile, I find that many non-audiophiles find ANY audio expense to be "stupid expensive." So, I know we are in a fringe group just by being here!

You'd think within our hobby, we could at least not have that issue to contend with, but we do!

I'm curious as to what price point, for you, do components cross over from acceptably priced vs. over-priced or "worthy of criticism."

I know of a person who claims to be an audiophile who spent around 14 or 15 thousand dollars for his speakers, yet claims that is a "value." He says that a 10,000 dollar digital playback system by one company provides "value," too.

However, he draws the line at about 40 bucks for an interconnect, and 3 bucks for an AC power cord.

It makes me wonder, are there any points of concensus on component price?

What are your "value" limits?

I'll even go first.

I like the MBL speaker line, and it tops out at about 45K. I doubt I'll ever own any, but I like them and don't spend time criticizing the price. I like the Avantegarde Trios and their subwoofers, and they probably top out around 100K. I can't make myself criticize their price, the Trios are tre cool. Once speakers hit that 100K+ mark, I no longer see them as "worth the price."

I don't develop the need to rant about such a speaker system, and I'd gladly sit and listen to it without berating the owner, but above that range, they cross into the "that's kinda crazy" zone. (Speaking only for myself!)

For turntables, I'm fine thinking about 10,000 dollar tables, 4,000 dollar arms, and 2,000 dollar cartridges, but when I see a Koetsu mineral ensconced moving coil for 15,000 dollars, it makes me, an avid vinyl lover (!) say, "They gotta be kidding."

But then, my in laws say, "100 dollars for a record player and needle? That's crazy talk!"

I look at the 40,000 dollar SME model 30, and say, "Nope, I don't get it."

For a power amp, I top out at about 2,500 dollars per channel. (I biamp, so I'm thinking 5K for two channels is in the realm of expense/"value.")

So, when I sit here and see someone with a 15,000 dollar pair of speakers raging against a more expensive component, I kinda start to wonder if I am seeing one mental patient call another mental patient crazy.

Just curious, what is are your component limits before you say to yourself, "I wouldn't go that high even if I had the money," or some such similar line of demarcation?

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
I look at the 40,000 dollar SME model 30, and say, "Nope, I don't get it."

There's a lot I don't get as well... but only because I can't!

Ergonaut
Ergonaut's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Apr 15 2007 - 9:01am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Nice Post Buddah

The thing is for me is that the value is in the R&D and not the component.

If they have spent a lot of R&D time and resources to overcome a major obstacle and so doing, have taken a step above and beyond the competition -- in THAT I can see value ... I guess they wont sell many components around the world... so if it is a company in this cottage industry -- they woudl still need a return on their investment and also speculating how long it will take for the competition to catch up.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Well, I'm a college student, so "value" takes on a whole new meaning. However, I've always had champagne taste and a beer budget, so I can justify expensive things many of my "beer taste" comrades can't.

I like to build "dream systems" a lot (usually when I should be studying). Damn you, 2008 Buyer's Guide!

Here are my limits of sanity:

Linestages: ~$20,000

Power amplifiers: ~$10,000 stereo/$20,000 mono

Turntables: ~$20,000

Tonearms: ~$5,000

Phono stages: ~$10,000

Cartridges: ~$5,000

CD players: ~$10,000

Speakers: ~$30,000

Interconnects: ~$1,000/m

Speaker cables: ~$2,000/pair

Rack: ~$2,000

Ethan, if you're reading this, I didn't put a price on room treatments because you can't put a price on room treatments.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Hey, big spender!

I do that same thing with the buyers guides, too.

OK, given your numbers, what is your dream system for that budget?

Thanks for the great answers, by the way.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Erik_B,

Had I taken the effort I think my list would look a lot like that! I'd probably go a little less on the line stage (say ~$15,000) and up the racks to ~$10,000 but other that that I'd say... spot on!

bifcake
bifcake's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 27 2005 - 2:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

I look at performance relative to everything else on the market and relative to the manufacturer's own line of products.

The Avantgarde Trio is so far above anything else that I've heard, that it's hard to put a price/value on it.

However, if you look at the Focal Utopia line of products, every step up in model doubles the price. For example, the Nova Utopia is half the price of the Grande Utopia and Mezzo Utopia is half the price of the Nova Utopia and so on.

The differences are usually in either an extra driver or a larger bass driver. To me, that's not R&D and/or value, it's just greed where you double in price for incremental improvement.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

You mean at the moment?

Von Schweikert VR-5SE ($17,500)
BAT VK-52SE ($10,500)
BAT VK-150SE ($18,000)
BAT VK-P10SE with super-pak ($8,500)
VPI HR-X with super platter and balanced junction box ($13650)
Lyra Titan i ($4500)
Ayre C-5xe ($6000)
Shunyata Hydra V-Ray ($4,000)
HRS rack (~$9,000) I never said I was sane
All cables from Analysis Plus

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 months 4 days ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Wow, that IS pricey! Have you actually heard all this gear, or is based on some reading too? Just wondering, because the longer I spent with way expensive kit at the high-end store I worked at (in college no less) two things happened. I stopped thinking $900 speaker wire was a big deal (although I don't own it still), and I stopped thinking the most expensive stuff was THAT much better than a lot of other 2nd and 3rd tier equipment.

If I had to make a formula it'd go like this: If for instance we could agree that there are many very highly regarded speaker systems at the $30k range, this would be our upper limit. I know there are more expensive ones but not nearly as many as that range. So if we were to say you could get a very well regarded entry level near full-range speaker pair for maybe $4k, in my experience and opinion you basically get 10% more value for every 100% you spend. Thus your $30k pair would be about 75% better at achieving all the criteria you'd look with the $4k pair. So to break it down further, you get 10% for every time you double your money once you go past the threshold of around 15% of the upper value of a price range. Hopefully that makes some sense!

Yeah, I know it's only my own way of looking at it, but it seemed to hold true with almost everything in our store. You'd get to this sweet spot on the price scale where it sounded pretty damn great, yet there was nothing saying you couldn't keep going. It's just that you get only more of the "small stuff"- more detail, attack, warmth, whatever, and less of the hugh leaps in performance. I could hear it all getting better as you went up the scale- I never thought "well, that does nothing more than the moderately priced stuff" but I also felt it just didn't do THAT much more! Ever since it's been my buying philosophy to try and find that sweet spot of value to price.

Example: I got the Krell KAV 400xi integrated amp this past year and love it. Would that Krell $15k integrated amp sound better at 4-5 times the price? I'm sure it would, but I doubt it would be 4-5 time better at doing what the KAV 400 does now. In may ways my integrated amp benefits from the stratospheric priced Krell gear in that they trickle down a lot of the technology for their less expensive items.

So-- I have not yet thought of my list the way Erik did, but you get my formula, for what it's worth. Of course, in the end it's all about what you want from your system, what you can hear and how much you want to spend. For that there is no perfect formula.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

No, I haven't actually heard any of that gear. It's based mainly on reviews, knowledge of my own preferences, as well as aesthetic considerations.

I also agree that the really expensive stuff is not really a huge leap up, especially from the same manufacturer. Linn is the premier brand my dealer carries, so most of my experience is with thin silver boxes.
As an example, I don't think the Klimax Kontrol/Chakra 500 Twin/Unidisk 1.1 combo sounds a great deal better than the Majik system. And the extent to which it is superior doesn't jive with the extra coin.

As I mentioned to Buddha in another thread, I've heard the Rega P7 back-to-back with the Linn LP-12, and preferred the Rega's presentation (which tended to be detailed but quiet, whereas the Sondek dug deeper, but at the expense of background blackness).

OTOH, going from a Rega Apollo to a Linn Majik CD is, imho, a HUGE jump.

I didn't audition any tube amps before I bought my Brio because I wanted a completely bullet-proof setup, being the college student that I am. However, I know that when I drop the dinero grande, it will be on things that glow.

P.S. Your formula is excellent!

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

I need to add a location-dependent entry:

Magnum Dynalab MD-109 World Source Platform

I love my NAD 4020A, and make good use of it because there are good radio stations here in Ann Arbor. If I settle in an area blessed with enriched airwaves, I'll invest in a quality tuner.

bertdw
bertdw's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 18 2007 - 5:41am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

I find two questions in your post. First, at what price point do improvements in performance become imperceptible, and second, at what price point do perceptible improvements become too expensive? I have heard systems more expensive than I could ever afford whose performance is much better than that of those less costly. In these cases, I wish I had hit the lottery. To determine how much I should spend, and how much is too much to spend, I have considered the relative importance of high fidelity equipment in my home in comparison to other expensive items. My hi-fi system is not as important to me as my house, so components in the six-figure range are out. Well reproduced music is, however, about as important to me as my car. In fact, if I had to choose between a stereo system and a car I think I'd be taking the bus. So now, the only consideration is whether I'm on a Lexus budget or a Kia budget. I drive a Honda.

tom collins
tom collins's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 2 months ago
Joined: Apr 3 2007 - 11:54am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

a very good question with no real answer that would fit even two people. everyone has to find the answer for themselves. how important is music reproduction in your life? and, what are you willing to give up to get it? i liked the last post where he tried to quantify the relative increase in quality with the amount of money spent. i think it is like the geometric progression of watts where the first one is the best, but then it takes 10 to double the perception of loudness. a $10k total system if carefully put together should give a great deal of pleasure, but every Hz of that same quality (not just one note bass) you want to get below say 35 is going to cost you.
interesting, i am enjoying.

tom

dcstep
dcstep's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2007 - 4:59pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Wow, some beer budget. I guess these systems are built from dreams and starting with such a dream is how to get there, eventually.

I could afford the proposed system, but here's what I've actually done:

    Pro-ject RM10/Sumiko Blackbird $2880
    Pro-ject Tube Box $549
    Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands $3700
    Used Conrad-Johnson CA200 $3500
    Oppo universal player modified $600
    Woo Audio WA6 headphone amp $650
    AKG K701 headphones $329
    Kimber PR8 speaker cables/Kimber Timbre interconnects $370
    Korg MR1000, 1-bit 5.6MHz hard disc recorder

I think this is at the point of diminishing returns, such that I'd have to double my cost to gain 1%. Of course, if my room would handle it, I could go to the Mahlers or Strauss for only around $4000 more. The problem is that my room will handle neither of those speakers, nor any speaker that I know of that rolls off in the 20-30Hz range. So, but for an upgrade that wouldn't work in my room, I'm at the 99% point, with no desire to explore the land beyond.

BTW, I just updated my musical instrument insurance with Clarion yesterday. Without going into details, I've got about three times as much invested in trumpets, cornets, flugel horns, guitars, flutes (my daughter's, but I paid for them) and associated items.

Dave

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

WOW! That's a lot of instruments.

I'm a big fan of Vienna Acoustics. At my level, I can't pay for looks, but they'd be on my short list if I could.

I use a stock Oppo, myself, which I've found to be stupidly good.

dcstep
dcstep's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2007 - 4:59pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
WOW! That's a lot of instruments.

I'm a big fan of Vienna Acoustics. At my level, I can't pay for looks, but they'd be on my short list if I could.

I use a stock Oppo, myself, which I've found to be stupidly good.

Guitars add up fast, in number and cost. Don't even talk about flutes. (Trumpets aren't so bad in comparison, but multiply by six and you get up around $8000 quickly).

I figure that about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the VAs is woodwork. They're actually some of the most elegant pieces of furniture in my house AND they sound fantastic. The WAF (wife acceptance factor) is VERY HIGH.

The Ric Schultz's Oppo mods are worth it when you can afford it. See http://www.tweakaudio.com/

Dave

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Not to be redundant, but I am also a big fan of the Vienna Acoustics speakers.

I've always thought they delivered great bang for the buck, and hadn't even considered the cost of the finish!

Very refined (I mean that in the best way, not a "Niles Crane" way) and excellent 'acceleration/deceleration.'

They seem to be easier to properly place in a room than average, as well.

Just an all around great speaker line.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Well, I just read a conversation at one of the wine forums that mentioned the retail price of the 2005 Romanee Conti burgundy is somewhere around 8-10,000 dollars per bottle.

Mixed cases (12 bottles) of brugundy from that winery that will include one bottle of the Romanee Conti with 11 "lesser" burgundies from the winery will go for 80,000 bucks.

This, for me, has blown so far past the point of diminishing "worth" that I would just accept the idea that I would be going to Hell for spending like that on a wine even if I had Bill Gates' money.

In my next life, I think I'm gonna try to be more money motivated/oriented...then I'll decide on the "value" of these things from the other side of the argument.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

My rule is to never spend $10k on anything that can smash on the floor and be totaled.

Karma is spilling a $1000 glass of wine on your antique Oriental rug.

Jeff Wong
Jeff Wong's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 8 months ago
Joined: Sep 6 2005 - 3:28am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
In my next life, I think I'm gonna try to be more money motivated/oriented...then I'll decide on the "value" of these things from the other side of the argument.

Instead of decant, you'll dewon't.

tomjtx
tomjtx's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 2:53pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

I have my guitars with clarion also. Classical guitars just keep getting more expensive.
Did you know you can get a discount rate with clarion if you join the GFA? Guitar Foundation of America.

You can also put ipods and laptops.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 1 month ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
My rule is to never spend $10k on anything that can smash on the floor and be totaled.

Try dropping that 20,000 dollar turntable, 5,000 dollar cartridge, and 5,000 dollar tonearm you mention a few posts up on the floor and see how that turns out!

dcstep
dcstep's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2007 - 4:59pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
I have my guitars with clarion also. Classical guitars just keep getting more expensive.
Did you know you can get a discount rate with clarion if you join the GFA? Guitar Foundation of America.

You can also put ipods and laptops.

I think GFA would work. I used the International Trumpet Guild to get my discount. i didn't have to send my membership card or anything other than just say it.

Hmm, I'll have to add my computers and iPhone. Thanks for the heads up.

BTW, I just comitted to $12,000 for another guitar, an acoustic archtop. The maker hasn't accepted my offer yet, but I think it's going to happen. I won't say his name, since his "billboard price" is $30K. I offered to pay 100% up front and let him use it as a demo for a few months. We'll see...

Dave

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

Touche.

How, often, though, do you carry a five-figure turntable?

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

I will propose a more affordable system:

Paradigm Reference Signature S8 in Cherry ($6000)

Bel Canto e.One REF1000 ($3990/pair)
PRe3 ($1995)
PHONO3 ($1495)
Dac3 ($2495)
CD-2 ($2995)

Sonos ZP80 ($350)

Rega P9 ($4995)
Rega Apheta ($1795)

All cables by Bel Canto/Cardas

Total system cost: $26,110 (plus cables, shelves, and tax)

I picture this system in a stylish Chicago/NYC penthouse, resting perhaps on glass Quadraspire Q4 wall-mounted shelves.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

i build or modify my own. Even to the point of manufacturing my own metals and composites. From scratch.

It took me a dedicated lifetime, to learn.

So in essence, it cost me an entire lifetime.

Measure that expense.

bobedaone
bobedaone's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 months 4 days ago
Joined: Feb 1 2007 - 12:27am
Re: Point of vanishing returns.

That's impressive!

BillB
BillB's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 6 months ago
Joined: Aug 15 2007 - 2:04pm
Re: Point of vanishing returns.


Quote:
i build or modify my own. Even to the point of manufacturing my own metals and composites. From scratch.

It took me a dedicated lifetime, to learn.

So in essence, it cost me an entire lifetime.

Measure that expense.

Whereas I personally built a time machine to travel back to reinvent music in 12,000 BC, influencing the creation of chromatic scales and microtones. You can thank me later, you inferior weakling-brains.

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading