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.

Yongfei Lin's picture

ProAc Tablette 50 ($1000), Audio Note Kit One ($1500), Rega Planet ($800), and some CDs!

Larry Marcus's picture

if you asked this question 5 years ago we could do the same with half the price. but prices for electronics in the upper realm have gone up considerably

Dave Orwick's picture

It may be possible to do it for less, but I spent about $1500 for my audio setup. My NAD receiver (used), Audio Alchemy ACDII CD player (on closeout), B&W 601 speakers, Audio Concepts subwoofer, and Audioquest interconnects and speaker cable give me unbelievable sound quality for the price I paid

Dr.  Allan M.  Hunchuk's picture

I think that one could put together a nice stereo kit for around 5 grand. That would include a Zen amp (single end triode valve with 5 watts a channel) for 500 bucks, around $1,500 to $2,000 for a pair of Lowther speakers with cabinent, a grand for a Rega Planet CD player, a grand for the Zen line stage preamp, and 500 bucks left over for fine quality Kimber cable interconnects and speaker wire. If one wants the whole 9 yards, one would need another 5 grand or so for a fine turntable, a fine cassette deck, a good tuner, and a fine antenna and rotor. But 5 grand gets one going fine.

Andrew Bacon's picture

You Don't have to spend alot to get alot if you shop wisely and look at your options on used gear.

Jim Green's picture

Lots of very good used equipment is available. I purchased a Carver C-1 for $100, Klipsch LaScalas for $1000, A new Golden Tube SE-40, and a new NAD 515 CD player for $500. System sounds great. (Frank)'s picture

My "Big Rig" is $45,000 and change . . . However, in the bedroom I have an old Fisher KX200 and Dynaco A25, with a Carver tubed CD player I bought used. The total price of less than $350 gets you in the ballpark with the High End!

Matt Liggett's picture

A glimpse of the high-end is clearly available at less than $500 for a one-source (CD) system, but it requires careful, patient purchases of USED equipment.

Teo Keng Chong's picture

Naim CD3, Naim Nait 3R, Rega Planar 3, and Epos ES12. A glimpse of high-end for US $3500 (in Singapore). Spending more than US $5000 would require too much outlay for too little gain.

B.  Carroll's picture

A decent NAD / Paradigm / CD based system can provide the glimpse; spend any remaining funds on live events and / or quality recordings.

Don Howden's picture

Carefully choosing components that differentiate themselves from the mass-market stuff is important. Fortunately, some high-end audio companies offer a broad enough product line that it is possible to get a taste of their expertise at a fraction of the cost associated with their best stuff.

Rob Cornelson's picture

I have an excellent NAD/Paradigm/Kimber stereo that cost me a little over $600! CD and integrated amp were bought used, but speakers and cables are new. Add a little tweaking and proper room placement. Everyone I know says it's the best they've ever heard! I would like to move on to some tube stuff, but for now I enjoy my "budget" stereo very much.

Mohan Nair's picture

That's for high-end sound, not high-end price. Costlier is not better.

Don D.  Box's picture

I have had a "second system" for several years. This is the famous NAD/PSB Alpha system, first encountered in the pages of Stereophile some years ago. Upgrades to the interconnects/speaker cables could not be resisted. This pushed the cost slightly above $1000. Even though I have $40,000 in my primary system, not to mention $10,000 or so in equipment for the three family vehicles, I still derive great pleasure from the PSB/NAD rig.

Mark's picture

This would be new pricing. Shopping for used would yield additional savings for a tubed pre, ss amp, hot speakers, decent cd, moderate dac and moderate cables. Great sound.

Brad Bishop's picture

A fairly comprehensive system can be purchased in the 5->6k range. The Krell KAV-300i paired with either the Thiel CS1.5s or M.L. Aerius i's can provide a novice a glimpse of audiophile nirvana.

E.  Zamir's picture

If you build your own speakers, you can get away with spending a lot less!

CVB's picture


Mark D.  Sloss's picture

High end is the pursuit of truth in the electronic reproduction of music. If you can hear all the detail and nuance of the music you have achieved the front-end of the high end. The rest is the pursuit of the perfect auditory experience, which should enhance, rather than replace the perfect music experience. There are plenty of live-music venues with less than ideal acoustics, but where the music performance is sublime. Is the experience diminished by the hiss of an air conditioner, the roar of a jet, or the inadequacy of the early reflections in the hall? A little, but the music remains. Imaging and spatial detail is not perfect in live music environments. Sit toward the back of a concert hall listening to an orchestra and close your eyes some time. You can hear every detail of the music, but spatial resolution, high frequency clarity and low frequency "slam" might not be there. It doesn't change the nature of the music or the experience. Someone talking behind you or opening a candy wrapper next to you interferes with the music. Equipment which trashes overtones with distortion, or diminishes dynamics with inadequate responsiveness interferes with the music. Basic gear: B&W DM302, Creek 4330,Rega Planar 3,will get you to the concert. Whether you get to sit front-row center or back of the hall depends on your pocketbook, doesn't it? But all the music is there, and it is still exquisite.

Jasen Jacobsen's picture

Paradigm 3seMkIII speakers with stands, Luxman 35W receiver, NAD 513 CD player, and some decent cable.

Hillary Hartley's picture

Considering list prices, not used.

Willie Goh's picture

If you can build your own tube pre-amp, speakers, and cables, you can get high-end sound around $5K. I built those myself and spent more for a good CD player in Stereophile Class A. DIY is fun & rewarding.

Brooks Bollman's picture

Careful choice of components can result in a pleasing sound from a "budget" system and provide enjoyable, musical sound. I was amazed recently when I hooked my Sony diskman to a Boston Acoustics 3 piece computer sound system. The mid and highs were very clean and the small sub provided lots of smooth bass, in proper proportion to the small mid/tweeters. The whole "system" cost under $400.

Robin Heisey's picture

I can't wait to see how many picked more than $10K.

MacGregor Rucker's picture

I think this is rather a trick question, and the answer is so subjective in nature that you ought not ask it. Being that you're the ones with access to equipment that spans the price spectrum, maybe you should be telling us. No offense, but this question is a stinker and I think you can do better...

William J.  McGee's picture

NHT 1.5 Speakers (650.00 retail) Classic 60 amp (used of course about 1500.00). Any good used pre-anp. (I own an SP-6 which has been modified a few times and it sounds wonderful. It can be purchased used for 500.00-600.00. A good used processor ( an Ultralink can be purchased used for 450.00-550.00, still sounds excellent) any decent CD player with a digital out (JVC 1050 about 200.00. Any decent turntable with cartridge and arm can be bought on the used market for 600.00-1000.00. Economy cables can be bought relatively cheap, maybe 500.00 Total price for my used system which is Hi-End by my book - $4,500.00. My point is that while all the emphasis is on the new gear, there is a thriving industry of great used gear that can be bought for a fraction of the cost of new yet it is completely ignored by Stereophile. This drives me crazy. If you really were interested in the readership of your publication to the degree you profess, you would not ignore this fact. Hey at least make the readers aware of this and don't ignore it. I have never in the 11 years I have been subscribing to your publication seen a comparison of new versus old classic. Why not try it? I'd be willing to bet that the readership would be mighty interested especially the new folks on a tight budget. Bottom line, Stereophile walks the line between appeasing the advertisers and feeding the neurosis of the readership with newer and better gear. When Hi-Fi makes the break to live sound (the improvements are very small relative to the increased price of the equipment in my estimation), I will be interested indeed. So far it is not even close and the used gear will continue to occupy my system. After all every thing is relative. The small improvement in my system that I can hear when I upgrade increases my enjoyment in listening. Is JS's enjoyment any greater with his new 30,000.00 amps relative to the 20,000.00 amps he had before? I would guess not, only my enjoyment is much more affordable. P.S. Don't for a minute think I have not listened to the latest and greatest. I do every chance I get. I just can't afford it. Worse yet I can't stomach the fact that the value will be a fraction of what I paid 3 years down the road.

Fred Thompson's picture

To truly get a glimpse of the high end sound to the point that when your friends come over they mention that they never knew music could sound "that good" on a stereo I think you need to spend at least $4000. This will get you a CD player, amp, preamp, (maybe a good intgrated) good speakers and some wires.

The Rootman's picture

I would say if you scour the used market and pick and choose carefully, you can put a sweet combo (amp/preamp/speakers/cd/dac) together for under $3000. Lots of good used items exist, since some people just have to have the latest and greatest, like automobiles!!! Your bankers love ya folks....

Vernon Neal's picture

5 grand,still spend 3k on spaekers,1k on poweramp/used,rest on CD player, run it preampless.l

carlos r.  rivera's picture

the entry level price go so high for me because of the turntable and cartrige price, and also there is not a cd player in my view of a high-end