Is "entry-level high-end" an oxymoron?

Is "entry-level high-end" an oxymoron?
53% (88 votes)
8% (13 votes)
39% (65 votes)
What's an "oxymoron"?
1% (1 vote)
Total votes: 167

According to some, audiophile nirvana can be reached with only a few hundred dollars. But is "entry-level high-end" an oxymoron?

Neil D.'s picture

In my experience, the entry-level position for high-end audio is occupied by the equipment in the "sweet-spot" representing lowest cost vs highest performance location.

Don Mallet's picture

Several thousand is more appropriate for entry level, but you needn't spend five, six, or seven figures for good sound.

Blue Mikey's picture

Yes, because "high end" refers not to performance or enjoyment but to money and status. It's like saying a "basic" (or stripped-down) luxury car. What does make sense is entry-level audiophile, entry-level hi-fi (high fidelity), entry-level audio enthusiast gear. Unfortunately I think the time for this category has passed. My son takes two bass lessons a week and loves music, but he wants another iPod and credit on iTunes, and does not want a CD-playing music system for his room. He's 14. I doubt he's ever going to be into tube amps and $2500 matter how rich he ever gets.

Edw.A.Roth's picture

Maybe, but there needs to be a definition. As long as there are manufacturers such as Adcom, Cambridge Audio, PSB, and the like, there will always be an entry to very high quality music reproduction. But if we define high-end by some dollar for quality amount where do we start? Oh, what a fun can of worms this question could be,how much space do we have? And is this an attempt by Stereophile to get in touch with its readership?

Steven's picture

High-end is about maximizing sound quality, which can be accomplished for any given price point. Therefore, it is not an oxymoron.

JoeL's picture

Entry-level high-end is not an oxymoron. A thoughtful approach to a purchase within a budget you are comfortable with can yield very satisfying results. Not all audiophiles have esoteric high cost equipment. A nice CD player, headphone amp, and headphones can provide exceptional results for a reasonable price. I think the process of putting a system together that you like counts the most. You can take this hobby to any level you like. Enjoy your system and the music at the level you choose.

Matt W.'s picture

It is not an oxymoron—it's NAD.

Louis P.'s picture

Not at all. A well chosen system that costs $2000–3000 can sound so much better than the typical home theater system for the same amount of money.

Mullard EL34's picture

There are many facets of audio reproduction that let us engage with the music on an emotional level, connecting us with the artistic payload presented during a musical performance. Entry-level audio gear can be tailored to offer various subsets of the complete musical gestalt; if the particular combination of audio strengths coincide with the audible triggers that allow an individual to really connect with the music, then a major portion of high-end audio objectives have been met.

Joe Hartmann's picture

When reviewers use the term it denotes a quality of reproduction in one specific area in which the product provides high end sound. More importantly it denote poor or unacceptable performance in other areas. Auditioning any product is a job these days (try phono cartridges) the high end is becoming much less fun as the performance goes up. I bought speakers three years ago to replace my Thiel CS2s after waiting five years for the new CS3s.

Malcolm MacPhee's picture

Maybe good sound can be achieved, but by no means audiophile nirvana. However, I do believe there are some ridiculous prices for certain things like cables. I have seen them costing thousands of dollars and not really noticing any change after auditioning them. I really tried, but can't understand this area of audio.

Brandon's picture

Because so many manufacturers use the same Chinese parts, the sounds are very similar at the entry-level. It is only when you spend money on quality craftsmanship that you truly find out what high end is.

AD's picture

It truly depends on how the term is used.

Audioxy moron's picture

The word "thousand" is missing in front of the word "dollars," but going just by semantics, I would say that the term "high-end" refers to a range of audiophile equipment whose prices/performance levels are at the highest range available worldwide. Thus "high-end" would denote a "range" of attributes, and an "entry-level" segment would simple be a part of that range. No contradiction whatsoever to constitute an oxymoronic reference.

Paul Basinski's picture

Quite the contrary. Entry level is the first step to Valhalla. It implies a foot in the door, or at any rate an ear in the listening room, of true high-end sound. I can name half a dozen pieces off the top of my head--Rega, Exposure, Naim, Audio Analogue, Rotel and Anthem--that sounded mightily close to the best megabucks systems I've heard (at a fraction of the price). That's why I pat folks like Roy Hall and Kevin Deal on their balding little heads; they make the high end fun and affordable. And let's face it, for the vast majority of us that lack the deepest of pockets, entry level- trickle down technology- is the best way to get our bread buttered without losing our lunch.'s picture

No. Many companies made their reputation by delivering components that cost as much as cars. And while 99% of us choose not to spend our limited resources this way because we'd rather buy, well... cars, these companies have recognized this and now offer scaled-back models that draw off the same technology but at a price in the low single-digit thousands. For example, you can buy a pair of Sonus Faber Guarneri memento loudspeakers for $15,000 (Aug. Stereophile) or you can opt for their very similar Cremona Auditor for a mere $3,500.

Lynn R.  Shasteen's picture

'High end'is not a point but a range and encompasses equipment with a wide range of prices. One has to start somewhere, and for many of us it's at the 'lower' end of 'high' end.

RFS's picture

Yes. It is a socialistic dream. When wasteful technology can be replaced by ingenious but economical designs everyone will be better off. I feel that class d amps point in this direction. Maybe the National Semiconductor chips described on this website will change my answer.

DW's picture

Entry-level is just that, entry-level. High-end has an entry point. Sometimes it's $250 and sometimes it's $2500.

Anonymous's picture

I hate the term "high-end". That sounds so stuffy and exclusive. Why not call it "high performance audio"? After all, isn't that what it's all about regardless of the price tag? So how about "entry-level high performance audio"?

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