1 Minute Audiophile Escape: Vivid, Luxman, Koetsu, Stealth

The path of an audiophile is one of arduous sonic pursuit. Such a worthy cause is often accompanied by an unquenchable aesthetic thirst.

With this video we introduce the "1 Minute Audiophile Escape": the first of many in our series of experiential segments purely dedicated to audiophile eye candy.

This video features a system that John Atkinson and I listened to last month in Chicago at the Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit loudspeaker debut.

The system features:
TechDAS Airforce 3 turntable ($29,750)
Graham Elite 9" tonearm ($12,000)
Koetsu Jade Platinum MC cartridge ($10,000)
Luxman EQ-500 vacuum-tube phono stage ($7500)
MBL 1621a CD transport ($28,000)
Merging+ NADAC Player MC8/music server/DAC running Roon v1.3 ($14,000)
Luxman C-1000f control amplifier ($35,000)
Luxman B-1000f monoblocks ($60,000/pair)
Isoclean isolation transformers ($6000/pair)
Artesania turntable platform and stands
Stealth cables throughout

As we encounter more and more systems throughout our travels, we will attempt to share our journey with you through the 1 Minute Audiophile Escape.

DougM's picture

Just what we need, a story about another system costing over $200K not including cables. Great way to get more regular people interested in audio. And you wonder why the industry is dying. DUH!

tonykaz's picture

How does the cleaning lady keep this stuff so "Sparkling" ? , not a finger-print, speck of dust, slightest bit of tarnish or dandruff from scruffy guests ( not suggesting JA, for gods sake ).

Sure, its a "Show-Off" type of System so it's gotta be kept spotless.

Forget opening a window for some fresh air, he'll hafta get his from a Mannheim Album. Where's the record player's dust cover? Blue contractor foot booties for "everyone" and I mean "EVERYONE"!!! damn-it.

Why didn't he simply buy the B&O Biolab 90's ?, save all that clutter.

Nice video, thanks.

Tony in Michigan

jwh9's picture

..i've made a well over 6 figure salary since the mid nineties and yet i'm gobsmacked at these prices lately. Now I only buy used equipment (nearly as good but infinitely cheaper). Sometimes i click on these articles to see if anything's of interest but all i see is expensive casework and a lack of content as to why this is better. Attending local shows and listening (in my case, Newport Bch) seems to prove this out quite definitively.. the value in this industry is not good, any longer, is it? An $8,000-$10,000 outlay should buy you a new and near reference full range system.. one which looks utilitarian because we care about the sound and the intentions of the artists over veneer. We don't need components gilded in gold like Trump's toilets.

Solarophile's picture

Myself as well.

6-figure salary and 7-figure net worth. Can't figure out where the value in all this stuff is other than maybe some eye-candy. Certainly doesn't sound much different comparing say a $1000 DAC from something $10,000. Likewise a $10,000 pair of speakers is typically just as good as one $100,000 based on personal experience.

The point of diminishing returns is way before the asking price of these items to the point where these prices are just pretentious and ridiculous.

volvic's picture

I see this gear and its cost and I have to assume that at some point a break even analysis was done; different variables that contributed to the cost of development were added so the cost could be recouped. Add then the potential to sell to a very small market and you can begin to see the high cost. To me the issue is quality, workmanship and perceived value. I know when I see a Linn Ikemi or Karik or CD 12 that Linn developed the transport in house and that development explains the machine's cost. I can live with that price as I know time and effort was put into it. A few years ago I walked into a store and a well known amplifier company was peddling its $12,000 CD player with a basic DVD plastic mechanism, with a flimsy tray. Petty? I don't think so, I want to know the unit oozes quality and that appearances do matter. Likewise if someone takes an Oppo player and plops it into their aluminium case and triple the price I know not to ever buy anything from that company. My point is as consumers we should do our homework and expect that someone toiled and worked hard to develop something unique that does not come cheap, there are great products that are expensive but that can last a lifetime and yes there are products that cost a lot that do not offer any quality or improvement in sound. Cost vs performance and perceived quality exists in every product in every segment. Would I pay $7,000 for an ovesized watch from Italy, that flaunts some made up pedigree and heritage with a $500 ETA movement or would I pay $10,000 for one with an in-house movement made by scratch? The answer is obvious.

Solarophile's picture

I hear ya.

No question that workmanship, material costs, overall quality has a bearing on the price!

But like the oversized timepiece from Italy doesn't tell time any better (whether $7000 or $10000), I'm trying to get a handle on whether there's any point lusting over expensive gear once I realize that the money is going into appearance and fashion. Not actually "better" or "higher fidelity" audio quality.

Nothing wrong with a beautiful pair of speakers made of top end materials by artisans and sounds great. But when it comes to this device costing $100,000, the reality of course is that I could probably spend $10,000 and have the same sound, and I have to remind myself that the other $90,000 went to making this into stylish furniture. Same goes with the rest of the equipment, especially those expensive cables!

JaimeB's picture


So you don't like your Panerai because it has an ETA Valjoux 7750? You pay $7,000 and more, depending on the model, so that watch connoisseurs notice it. BTW, you can get both the Luminor and the Marina in 40mm.

Truly, high end equipment is getting out of hand, but some newer companies are coming with good values - like terrific sounding DACs in the $1,000 - $3,000 range.


volvic's picture

I don't own a Panerai and it is a perfect example of making my point with hi-fi gear. The watch costs $7,000 and apart from some purported heritage it offers no perceived value to me with its $500 ETA movement and bulky case, to others maybe but not to me. At that price there are other watches that offer true lineage with in-house movements for even less money. The same applies to hi-fi, at the time when I was looking for my final CD player I went to hear a well known American company that offered up its CD player at a cost of $12,000 to audition. I liked it, sounded great, company had great history and unit was very presentable but what stuck in my craw was the flimsy DVD tray which has always been a pet peeve to me and the flimsy remote. Such afterthought drives me crazy. The next day I auditioned a Linn Ikemi and its silky smooth, in house mechanism and sturdy remote sold me and it didn't sound any worse or better than the $12,000 player AND it was substantially cheaper than the $12k unit. The point is that there is great gear out there for less than we think, that can perform as well or equal to other more expensive gear and the value, heritage and attention to detail that I attach to it is more important than price. It's subjective but I find it is a common sense approach to purchasing. You are correct there are some terrific DAC's out there in the $1,000 - $3,000 range but there are great turntables, tonearms, cartridges that needn't break the bank that can offer tremendous value and its creators took the time to do it right. We just have to do our homework and decide what is more important to us as consumers when deciding to buy. I have my own criteria others different.

JaimeB's picture

Agree on all counts. $12k for a CD player? You can get great sound for much less! The point is that there are many options to achieve great sound, and surely, as you imply, some companies use their well known name to inflate prices.

Same with watches (try a Frederique Constant with in house modified ETAS for $2k and under), cars - say an LT-1 Camaro and a McLaren 570S will provide great adrenaline rush, but with a heavy price differential.

The market is giving us choices, but the pricing is getting ridiculous with some brands!


volvic's picture

Can't argue with any of that, on the same page.

barw41tst's picture

This publication is near irrelevant to a majority of its readers. If we soon don't get more articles about affordable systems I will delete the bookmark from the bookmarks bar. Affordable means $2,000-$3,000 pieces of equipment... get it?

24bitbob's picture

I can afford Roon

John Atkinson's picture
barw41tst wrote:
This publication is near irrelevant to a majority of its readers. If we soon don't get more articles about affordable systems I will delete the bookmark from the bookmarks bar. Affordable means $2,000-$3,000 pieces of equipment.

We routinely review components priced in the range you mention. We also highlight our reviews of those that are particularly affordable at www.stereophile.com/category/budget-component-reviews.

Or are you saying that you don't care about that, that you don't want us to report on cost-no-object products at all?

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

davds1582's picture


You may be doing your readers, your employer and the industry you represent a disservice by not pointing out that many of the manufacturers included in your "1-minute audiophile escape" offer products that are far less costly and yet provide an outstanding audiophile experience. Links to Stereophile reviews of those products -- if any -- would also be appreciated and help to keep your 1-minute escape from becoming a 1-minute turn-off. DS

teched58's picture

yes, that's exactly what we're saying. I've been reading these mags for 40 years (since High Fidelity and Audio) and it's now become officially a joke. You implicitly equate cost with sound quality. Anyway, enjoy your little in-club of billionaire buyers and non-engineer reviewers who believe cables can change the sound. I'll go back to restoring Garrard SL 95B's and the like, remembering the days when the hobby was open to people with normal incomes.

JaimeB's picture

I've been reading STEREOPHILE since before the great John Atkinson came on board. This publication is an exquisite amalgamation of audio knowledge, industry information, subjective reviews, pushing and pursuing industry innovations when components don't meet expectations, and manufacturers take notice and revise and improve designs.

Blasted the CD recording and reproduction (1984 and forward) of the original shortcomings with digital filters, dithering anomalies, oversampling deficiencies, and, the resulting crappy digititis sound that we had to endure before the technology matured, etc, etc.

Look at what Dick Olsher did with the hi-end cable industry - with just one cable shoot-out, audio transmission by cables technology - simply exploded after his article!

Do you think all these sonic improvements came about without critical reviews? The whole high end owes and deserving gratitude to STEREPHILE and THE ABSOLUTE SOUND.

You may not know the history of what has been accomplished by John and staff, but please respect it!


dalethorn's picture

Very nice. Love the video presentation. Suggestion: Make it 5 minutes, and have a person show the gear, state prices and models, brief features. As it is, the items being generally unrecognizable, it doesn't click.

starman1573's picture

WOW !!!
I would be scared to touch anything and I'm sure my old ears are not capable of discerning the difference. I'll stick to rebuilt retro and $1 bins. I'm not cheap just poor, but still love my music and consider myself an "on a budget audiophile". Come back to reality and help grow the love of the hobby and the way of life that we all cherish so much.

Les's picture

Well, I will never be able to afford such a system. Period. And I don't feel belittled by watching the video, either. I'm rather numb to the numbers these days. No doubt it sounds absolutely glorious. And I simply don't believe there is a $10,000 system that will give a similar experience/performance.

Plenty of people purchase far more expensive Ferraris. I'll take this system over them any day. Music means more to my quality of life.

wozwoz's picture

Almost any $1000 hi-res SACD player will kick the pants off that $28,000 CD transport, given a hi-rez recording / source. It amazes me that companies can still produce antiquated technology like that, charge an arm and a leg for it, and it can't even play hi-rez formats ... and still call themselves audiophile.

Anon2's picture

Was the music accompanying this video from the system on display, or was it dubbed in?

I regularly look at Youtube videos of people playing their home systems, or videos of systems on display at shows. It's not a definitive listening experience, but it does provide some insights into the general tenor and tone of a system.

Close up shots of the gear are nice, but don't do it for me without actual sound coming out of the system.

John Atkinson's picture
low2midhifi wrote:
Was the music accompanying this video from the system on display, or was it dubbed in?

The music was dubbed, as we need to use copyright-free music on videos posted to our YouTube channel.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

I take it that the Importer felt the need for some "higher authority" endorsements and/or support. Thus, they brought out our USA leading Authority and the Speaker's Designer to Chicago for an "in-depth" interview. I'd of done the same thing. No doubt the speaker has plenty of points ( typically 50% markup ) which would make the investment worthwhile. I figure a couple grand for JA's expenses and twice that for the designer coming from UK, one Sale result pays the expense and then some.

Of course, you go back decades with these B&W people, don't you?

JA & a concert virtioso Pianist. All they need now is Lady GAGA & Obama as owners to sell tons of the things.

Any Color

Tony in Michigan

tonykaz's picture

How about a "One Minute Escape" for each of Stereophile's Writer Staff's Systems? ( especially JA's )

Tony in Michigan

ps. mine is a little Schiit Asgard 2, Sennheiser headphones and an iMac running iTunes. ( after all these decades of owing rooms full of pricy stuff ) , I'm considering buying a Linn or Meridian or iFi Retro system.