How little can you spend on a system and still get a glimpse of the High End? (In US dollars)

How little can you spend on a system and still get a glimpse of the High End? (In US dollars)
Less than $500
3% (10 votes)
Around $1000
10% (37 votes)
Around $1500
16% (57 votes)
Around $2000
13% (45 votes)
Around $2500
10% (36 votes)
Around $3000
17% (62 votes)
Around $4000
8% (27 votes)
Around $5000
17% (60 votes)
Around $10,000
4% (16 votes)
More than $10,000
3% (9 votes)
Total votes: 359

It is often claimed that high-end audio is a rich person's pursuit, while others feel that prices are secondary to careful selection and the right attitude.

Carter Messman's picture

$800 for linn or B&W speakers (although I prefer Dunlavy), $400 for Marantz 67 CD, $550 for Rotel integrated amp, $300 10" Energy Sub, And $200 for PBJ and 8TC. Ahhh!

Bruce's picture

One word: Rotel. Great bang for the buck.

Edan Marshall's picture

I compared everything that I could, from "Mirage" to "Mission" to "Difinitive", and for the money, I settled on the Energy, Pro 4.5. I am totally impressed with them and would strongly reccommend them to anyone looking for VERY good sound, but don't have a trust fund to fall back on.

Klaus Armbruster's picture

I could have checked nearly all other possibilities as well- because that depends on the definition of 'high-end'. Where exactly do you draw the line between a 'very good stereo' and a 'high-end system' ? Anyhow, I believe that with careful selection (and a room somewhat smaller than a football field), you can get a very satisfying system for a very reasonable amount of money.

mikes's picture


Brian's picture

$5,000 is about at the point where the cost/benifit ratio goes exponential.

Doug's picture

You can hear high end sound for $1000-$1500 by purchasing a good CD player, a good headphone amp and a pair of Grado or Sennheiser cans and your"into" HiFi. You don't need anything else exept your favorite music and a comfortable chair.

JP's picture

I have helped several friends "spec" out a system at this price level ($1500), which has included a small pair of B&W speakers, a receiver, a CD player, and a tape deck, all from NAD. In every case, the price has been cheaper than what they would have spent on equipment at one of the large electronic outlets/chains. Every month or so I get a call from at least one friend who drops me a line just to say, "I am listening to the new CD from so and so . . . and you won't believe how great it sounds."

Paul Slovin's picture

I believe I got high-end sound for under a grand, and, believe it or not, I think this magazine helped!

Ron Resnick's picture

Today, a "glimpse" requires LP playback and costs, at a minimum, around $2500. Soon, 24/96 will make a glimpse cheaper. A significant fraction of the best sound available may be heard for around $8000 (e.g., VPI HW-19, SME 309, Benz Glider (high-output), Conrad-Johnson PV-10, VTL Stereo 85, Martin-Logan Aerius, D.H. Labs cables). After approximately this amount, diminishing returns begin to set in significantly, and to accelerate rapidly with roughly each additional $10,000 increment.

Pete Wellhofer's picture

My favorite system, the one I listen to most and enjoy the most: Adcom GTP-400, GFA-535, JVC XLZ-331 CD, Fried Q4 on Mission Pb-filled stands, cheap Monster copper. It's improperly set up on a wobbly dresser in the bedroom, with the bed blocking access to the sweet spot. I picked it out for a new friend (soon to be girlfriend, now wife) new, retail, for around $2200 complete, and unlike you, I mean COMPLETE---including cables, accessories, tax, and shipping, something you always omit, like the pictures in the ads where the electronics and speakers never seem to have any wires attached. But I digress. The reason I claim it costs more than $10,000 to reach the "high end" is, I have spent much more than that in my dedicated listening room with acoustic treatments and esoteric wires and you're-not-worthy-to-own-this-name-brand box of copper and epoxy . . . you get the picture? I listen, and right this moment am listening to the wife's system (with Byron's Bug Music on) because it makes me feel good every time. I don't worry if it's tweaked or would sound better if . . . and it cost me years and tens of thousands to really appreciate how good it is. And that's the price of admission to high-end, not the toys: the education.

Chris Bennett's picture

You can get an awful lot of bang for your buck in the second hand market. Home built kit is still rather underrated but can bring you one step closer to the high end.

Bernshteyn Yevgeny's picture

A/V Rec. DVD (w/DD decoder) Boston Acoustics

jiffy's picture

why pay more?

Al's picture

That's an interesting question. Why don't you guys answer it by reviewing sytems in all the price ranges you mentioned? I think $1500 should give you a taste of hi-fi: Parasound CDP-1000 ($430), NAD 314 ($310), Totem Mite ($560), and TARA Labs cables for $200 make a very nice little system.

Carlos's picture

It depends. For me spending 1K-1.5K on receiver. And around 2K for speakers, and remainder for "other." I would consider that budget high end. It all depends on what components you purchase.

Ken Campbell's picture

GOOD INTERGRATED - $1500 SPEAKERS - $1000 cd - $ 750 stands $ 250 cables $ 500 rack $ 500 turntable/cart $1000 my current system is built around this budget with the addition of $3000 biamp subwoofer set-up Many are class "B & C" components, with alot of careful shopping and listening.

B.  James Elliott's picture

In the past ten or so years, in my quest for the best sound on a given budget, I have many times wished that I could start over from the present moment. For example, speakers whose sound I considered a bargain, based on price a few years ago, have recently been eclipsed by some costing half as much! I am sure that this is a trend that may be applied to all areas of audio equipment. Also, I am sure that this is the way things will continue for the future.'s picture

Assuming single digital source, forgiving (subtractive fault if any) integrated and 2-way stand-mntd spkrs ; setup can represent 'virtual' cost of $'000's.

Steve's picture

equipment list would include: integrated amp cd, speakers, and cables

Chip Moore's picture

For around $2000, with a good headphone amp and excellent headphones, even an average CD player can give you some of the best sound in the world. Although not some people's idea of the best way to listen to music, you definitely can at least see what to look for when your budget allows, and enjoy some of the best sound for the $$$ in the meantime.

nba's picture

Its a matter of tradeoffs...get a pair of nht superzeros and some rotel gear and you got the midrange and treble. Throw in a good subwoofer later and you have a musically satisfying system for between $1.5-2k.

Robert Clemens's picture

Instead of bemoaning my career choice (musician), and the tight "discretionary income" it provides, I treated my system-assembly as a challenge . . . and a hobby. By researching each component before purchasing, and buying used (or is it called "previously owned"?)gear, I have managed to acquire a "budget system" that provides a satisfying listening experience. My assumption is that my assembly was a success, as my orchestra-playing colleagues are now coming to me for (what I hope is) "sound advice." Purchased new, my gear would probably set me back $4-5k, but my actual cash outlay was around $1100. I haven't really upgraded in about 5 years, and I'm still quite satisfied. Not all my friends are musicians, nor are they as destitute as we. A few have spent multiple thousands of dollars on expensive,incompatible, hastily assembled gear, so . . . imagine my smug sense of self-satisfaction when I see their jaws drop in my listening room! When they hear how little I spent, they invariably get this crestfallen expression on their faces. Aaaaaahh . . . living well (on the cheap) really IS the best revenge!

Anonymous's picture

My first "real" system - Rotel 60 watt integrated, Rega Planet CD player and Joseph Audio RM7 spekers - gave me a lot pleasure. For around $2700 (with cables and speaker stands) this system gave me more than a glimpse of high end audio. I will never forget the hours I spent "rediscovering" my CD collection.

Gordon White's picture

For those breaking into "high-end," a vintage tube integrated from Fisher or HH Scott is an excellent way to go. For less than $200 (really, $20 if you yard-sale), you've got tube amplification with a tube phono stage and headphone jack. When you want more, ask around at your local hi-fi huts about a good local tube technician and have the amp "upgraded" with new caps, tubes, pots, etc. Then buy used cables (pre-broken in) and a used CD player (something well-reviewed a few years ago, like a Rotel 955), a belt-drive turntable (again, $20 if you yard-sale), and a pair of $250 B&Ws, Signets, Missions, or Inifinitys---and you're there. Then yard-sale some more and soak up all the 25-cent LPs. With a little patience, high-end can be a bargain!

J.  Wm.  Mulcrone's picture

It depends: If you're willing to give up bass, you can get there on the cheap. If you've gotta have the bass, you've gotta pay.

TDA's picture

With low price products from manufacters like NAD, B&W, PSB, Creek, and a host of others, it is entirely possible to create a fine system for well under $2000. Such a system obviously wouldn't be fitting for large rooms or extreme volumes, and bass response would be limited, but if it is quality that one is after, there is no need to take out a second mortgage. Sure, more expensive systems will play louder and sound better, but high-end audio is attainable for a real-world price.

Gordon G.  Putnam's picture

A system based on speak-ers, intergrated amp and a cd player, wires and inter-connects should do the trick. $5000.00

J.P.  Wirick, Jr.'s picture

Acurus DIA100-Mk2, Micromega Stage 2, B&W 602, Kimber PBJ interconnect, Kimber 4TC speaker cable, 3 squishy feet between DIA100 and Stage 2, and inverted tiptoes under B&W's - all for about $2,500.

joe's picture

I have seen some systems that cost between 600 to 1200 dollars that were very musical and "high-end". No you don't get everything at this price, but you do get something that can communicate the music and give years of enjoyment, and that is what high-end is about, you know forgetting about components and just enjoying the music. I would dare to say that if you shopped hard and looked at used equipment you could find some entry components that would cost you five hundred over all. It just matters how hard you want to look