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.

Gregg Fedchak's picture

Figure something like a Creek integrated, a Marantz CD-63SE, B&W CDM1s, a pair of good stands, and some Kimber PBJ interconnects. That comes to about $3,000. The only trouble is, as soon as you hear that, you'll be so entranced you'll want more-more-more!

Mike Macaulay's picture

Classic Gear from the 70s - Phase Linear, Dahlquist, Quad ELS, Audio Research D100, etc. can be mated with a CD player like the Marantz 63 to "get a glimpse" for moderate cost.

Steve Dodds /'s picture

The older I get, the more I realize that spending more on components is not automatically the answer to the quest for better sound quality. Having the right room certainly contributes more than most of us realize. In the past 15 years I have moved home almost as many times. This has given me the opportunity to hear several of my systems in a number of rooms. Some rooms just work well. Others simply suck, so no matter how good the gear, the sound still sucks. My system presently should sound like hell, made up as it is of components that logic and reviews would suggest are grossly mismatched. Expensive Rogers E20 valve amp driving a cheap pair of Rogers DB101 speakers, which I bought 'cause they looked so good! (I am a designer and weak in this area.) Front end is a Marantz CD63KIS, which is mass-market tweakery and clever marketing that works. My Flatline silver interconnect is worth as much as the speakers, but the speaker cable is one that got terrible reviews everywhere. The problem is, together, these mismatched components work beautifully---better than my Epos ES14/McCormack system previously. Don't know why. It just does. Which brings me to the point that what you spend is often irrelevant. You can be careful, choose budget components, and be lucky enough to have a friendly room and find audio heaven for under $2000. Or you can spend eight grand and get annoyed every time you turn it on. I have done both. Presently I am happy, because my system is simple, sounds great, looks like a million bucks, and gives me some perverse pleasure from knowing it should sound like crap. My new formula would have to be: Get the cheapest speakers that give you enough bass and the right voicing for your tastes, then splurge on a really good amp and source. Play with interconnects and cables, as long as you don't spend too much. The final X-factor is the stand. I was using a metal-triangle Lovan stand, which I assumed was pretty good since it was stable and solid. Then, for purely aesthetic reasons, I changed to one of those welded-wire "Metro" racks like you see in commercial kitchens and the like. It rang like a bell and vibrated like hell, until I put the considerable weight of the Rogers amp on top. Surprise---the system on its new rack, which should sound awful, improved out of sight. Tight bass, vastly improved detail, soundstaging and imaging. Weird or what??? The only thing I can think of is that the Metro wire shelf has no shelves, no MDF, no flat surfaces at all . . . just thin uprights and wire. Very odd. Looks good, costs under 60 bucks, and it works. It seems the more I mess up with logic, the better things get. Spend all you want, but don't get angry when you hear a friend's system blow yours away when his entire system cost less than your power-line conditioner. Life is strange, is it not?

testing 1, 2's picture


Jim Hong's picture

While purists may steadfastly argue that the "High-end" is only attainable by accumulating megabuck hardware, I think you can begin the path to high-end by spending wisely. Granted, my choice of "around $2500" is still nothing to sneeze at, but I think that (with the right choices) it can get you a truly satisfying system.

Chuck Gerlach's picture

Any number of $200 per pair speakers, $100 to $150 for stands; $200 CD Players (the Radio Shack !! among others); $200 for cables and interconnects; and $600 for amp (no preamp as the amp can be driven by the CD Player with a volume control). I don't have this system but I have heard it --absolutely amazing if set up correctly !!

C Simpson's picture

If you're willing to build electronics yourself, you can save HUGE $$$, and still achieve performance rivaling Class A or B components.

ccd's picture

The high end isn't dying its just becoming more affordable. I could have a very high end system with a $2500 pair of Gallos with a tube amp. The addition of a good sub would result in a full range system. We are already at the point where people need focus on room acoustics as much on the choice of components.

R's picture

My system cost much more than my car . . .

Michael V.'s picture

*Creek Integrated *Rotel 975 CD Player *Sonus Faber Concertino Speakers *Audioquest Indigo Blue Speaker Cable *Kimber PBJ interconnects

Bart Montinola's picture

I have a very modest system which I am very satisfied. Due to limited budget, I purchased NAD 314 int. amp ($390), NAD 512 CD player ($330), B&W 602 bookshelf ($540), Audioquest Ruby interconnects ($95), no upgrade on speaker cables yet and an ADCOM line cond.($193)which subtly improved the bass.

Christopher Lim's picture

CD ORDER Help! I've placed an order for the CD package on 2 Jun 98 and I have not received it yet. It has been 2 months already. You have already charged me for the CDs which I have not received. I have faxed nd e-mail to many times but I have not received a single reply. Please reply as soon as possible. Regards Christopher Lim Singapore Blk 109 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #06-306 Singapore 310109 Republic of Singapore E-Mail: Fax: (65)5354811

Anonymous's picture

How much to spend, depends on what type and quality of sound reproduction one wants.A traditional 2 chan. stereo system for (CD), could be assembled from 2 to 4K. For future musical enjoyment, one should consider 5-6 chan. surround system DVD/DAD, with 96/24 bit decoding for audio. As the DVD audio standard develops, the new multi-channel recorded sources, should provide a new realism and a sense of involvememt to the musical experience. The present costs for a "musical" system, will be above 4.5K. Procuring components, with multi-channel sound capability, will allow maximum flexibility in selecting future musical and video sources.(HDTV flat panel displays not included...obviously).... ..

Audun Iversen's picture

That's about what my system costs, 2nd or 3rd hand. With Harman Kardon, Electrocompaniet and a pair of Maggies, I feel that I get a glimpse of High End. In this price-band, you get a helluvalot closer to high end by buying 2nd hand.

Nick Majeran's picture

I think my system catches a bit of that high-end glimmer. Too bad I can't "Rent an Audiophile for a Day" and really find out.

Rich Meier's picture

If you don't mind losing the lower two octaves, the "glimpse" can be had for less than $4k.

S.Camadeco's picture

I am convinced that with time and patience, high-end can be purchased. The key is knowing room requirements and purchasing pre-owned gear. Most salons and pre-owned specialty shops Toys from the Attic & Audio Classics) are reputable. Also the buyer must research integrateds (Cary SLI50) if price paramount. and knowledgeable.

T.  Billman's picture

I choose $10.000 but feel that it's relative. My friends thought that my Yamaha receiver, Boston speakers, and JVC CD player was high end. It sounded better than their all-in-one shelf systems so it must be high-end. I liked it too. Now that I've upgraded and am continuing to do so, my friends think that I'm just plain crazy. I think that there is nothing wrong with spending tons of money on your system if you can afford it. I also feel that sometimes you just have to turn off the lights, sit back (in your non-hi-end chair) and enjoy the music.

Anonymous's picture

Utilizing My Favorite Used Hi-Fi Store, I have compiled an excellent and modest system in the neighborhood of $3000. So, everyone please keep upgrading!

Trevor Marx's picture

Even less if you buy second hand!

Anjin Quatar's picture

Considering the fact that the "normal" folk can get 10 years out of an audio system and be REALLY happy, $500 a year for true pleasure is a bargain. I have tried to set up a killer cheap system (under $2000) and have never felt it lives up to the mark. Spend a bit more and have many years of great music.

walkertm's picture

One of the most fustrating elements of this hobby is the high prices. Even at $3000.00, a figure most people would consider nuts to spend on a stereo; you are limited to small integrated amps and cd players. If you want seperates then it's almost three times the amount.

Dana B.'s picture

$3500 to $4000, if you want a decent representation of 30Hz bass. Otherwise, you can get a reasonably good taste for $1500 or so, or a very good taste for $2500-ish. Out of the $4000, about $2200-$2500 would have to be for speakers. There's no faster path to the High End than through your speakers.

Rohan jackson's picture

Decent cables cost the earth, and there is no substituting them

Aaron Keck's picture

I bought my stuff used and saved lots of $$$$.

Barry Slavin's picture

My estiment is for the Energy speaker theater set, Dolby pro logic detecter and a 35" or larger Sony TV.

Ryan Brodie's picture

I have a Marantz PM-68 amplifier($500), a pair of B&W DM302s ($250), and an NHT Sw-2Pi subwoofer ($700). I find the sound to be very natural, well-balanced, and musical. It is not bad for about $1500---or for an 18-year-old!

Terry Rusch's picture

This system includes integrated amp, CD player, speakers, cabling, budget turntable w/phono stage. I included the phono stage so we can get those LPs out of the closet, garage, basement, etc...

Chris Younkman's picture

($3000) The key, of course, is to buy used equpiment, particularly if it's non-digital. For what it's worth, my experience would suggest that's it's wiser to sink money into source components first, and buy the dreamy full-range speaker later. I don't think it's possible to achieve a really musical system at this price without giving up the bottom end. I'm also thiking one source, probably digital. And it's going to sound better (and cost a lot less) if you can bypass the preamp.

Israel Smith's picture

Adding some simple, low-cost updates to an older system brought my first taste of high-end listening. I put my Mission 700 speakers on decent Target stands, replaced the out-of-the-box interconnect with budget TARA Labs cable, and bought an Audio Alchemy DAC-in-the-Box. These simple changes let me experience imaging, depth, and a deeper appreciation of the music. The core of the system---an NAD 7130 receiver and a 10-year-old Technics CD player.