How much does a single audio product have to cost before you would deem it expensive? Why?

How much does a single audio product have to cost before you would deem it expensive? Why?
Anything over $500
6% (30 votes)
$1,000 or more
14% (67 votes)
$1,500 or more
10% (46 votes)
$2,000 or more
19% (93 votes)
$3,500 or more
19% (92 votes)
$5,000 or more
20% (98 votes)
$7,500 or more
2% (8 votes)
$10,000 or more
5% (23 votes)
$15,000 or more
1% (4 votes)
$20,000 or more
1% (6 votes)
Over $30,000
3% (13 votes)
Total votes: 480

A point brought up by many readers regarding last week's question is how one defines "expensive" as it relates to audio equipment. We're curious about what <I>you</I> think.

the old fart's picture

I have more than myself io feed and my pay cheque is in Canadian dollars. Remember there others besides American that live on this planet.

Brad in Australia's picture

We're talking US dollars here. Double that for the Aussie equivalent - which isn't really equivalent, if you get my drift. But it can be SO relevant, depending on the item. For example,a power amp. may have a higher expected base cost than a CD player, so what is expensive for one may not be so for the other.

Critofur's picture

Most quality components cost well under $1000 to build - I want to "get what I pay for". Why not demand excellent quality AND value?

A.Alfano.Cin&#039;ti.Oh.'s picture

Expensive is relative to "net" yearly income,over 10% comes to mind.Past better be single or else..

Dan Rubin ('s picture

I'm sorry, but this question is pretty meaningless without reference to a category of product. $2,500 is not expensive for a pair of loudspeakers, but it is for a phono cartridge or a cable. Frankly, week after week, your questions are so poorly worded I have to wonder who comes up with them and whether he or she gives them any thought at all. I'm a professional market researcher.

Ioannis's picture

I think everything should be on.

Bicek Bruno, Slovenia's picture

My year salary is 8500US$. NO comment.

Jo's picture

I think there is no such thing as "too expensive". It depends on how much one loves music and audio equipment and the sacrifice that can be done to bought it. I will probably gave $20000 for a audio component but not for a car. (there are cheaper ones)

mikenificent1's picture

I say $10,000 or more for components but for tweaks and cables that figure would be a lot lower, so it depends.

jefe's picture

a blanket number is misleading because $5000 cable is more difficult for me to justify compared to loudspeakers. given the lack of vices in my life, my wife doesn't give me much grief when I want to upgrade! I haven't gone this route yet (expense) as my system right now is singing.

Mike McClendon's picture

I paid $3k for my MG 3.5's. They are the most expensive components I have ever purchased. But then, I am a veteran DIY'er.'s picture

For me, $5000 is the invisible frontier between "good value for the money" and "Is this machine really worth it?" Although most components in my system cost more than that, it's pretty hard these days to find "cheaper" components that sound bad. On the other hand, the best gear rarely comes cheap. The Mercedes C280 is damned good, but the CL55 AMG is another world. It just depends on your taste, and especially on your wallet.

Tony P., Washington, DC's picture

$1,000. It's the four-digit thing. Perhaps because of my history (no, I was never a used car salesman) and the components I've owned in the past, a four-digit number screams "you can buy a car for that much" to me. In reality, though, I realize that "expensive" is probably one of the most relative terms out there.

Chris S.'s picture

The only reason I think $3,500 is too pricey is that it is CURRENTLY beyond my means. I plan on someday having a system comprised of multiple components that are far more expensive than that. I don't plan on being in the same place financially ten years from now that I am today.

Jecopo's picture

It's definitely all a question of perspective. Two years ago I would have said that a $2,000 reciever was expensive. Then I started learning about audiophile quality gear (and got a raise) and now I have replaced the "expensive" (I think they were $650 or so) speakers I bought a little over a year ago with speakers an order of magnitude pricier ($6500). Right now I can't imagine wanting to spring for a $28,000 SACD player, but in 5 years who knows?

Bob Haddard's picture

Once the cost of a component exceeds a certain amount many different forces are set in motion. All of them affect the perceived value of the item, and so influence its worth to an individual. One of these forces is the law of diminishing returns. As cost rises, the amount of improvement per dollar will decrease. And this rule supposes that all components priced at a certain point would be equal, which I'm certain we all know is not the case. Another factor in the equation is the cost of new equipment versus used. If an older model is as good as (or,as happens in many cases, better than), the latest, overpriced piece from the same manufacturer, why not buy on the used market, save a bundle and receive the increased value that comes with better quality at a lower price? Many manufacturers in todays market have their older products as some of the main competition with their newer models, which most likely cannot be produced as cheaply as they could be in the past. There are other major reasons a particular item has a high value to a buyer, one of which I really consider and that's when I know that by doing my homework I have gotten the most "bang for the buck". I feel sorry for someone who goes out and spends as much as possible and still can't get the satisfaction of having a great-sounding stereo system. By reading the articles in the various magazines and websites devoted to equipment it is possible to have a good idea of how a component will perform. Doing my "homework" lets me enjoy the sound of a good piece of equipment while I also enjoy its worth to me. Of course different types of components have different parameters involved in both determining the quality of sound and their value. Digital technology changes so rapidly you can be assured that by the time your latset DAC or CD player or transport has warmed up for the first time, it is already obsolete. To get the best sound at a price point will mean compromises we may not want to make, so we either settle or raise the ante to a higher price point. Speaker technology is also changing as more manufacturers produce speakers that are more efficient with less distortion and have more amp-friendly impedence curves. But good value abounds in many places on the internet used component marketplace. I recently saw a VPI HW-19 IV for less than a thousand. This was a really good deal on a quality piece of equipment that would be an upgrade from my present analog deck. But I'm looking to upgrade my pre-amp and there was another ad for an ARC SP-9 III, also for under a thousand. But I'm not sure I wouldn't be better off with the SP-8. Or a CJ PV-9. These are all really good, value priced items on the used market right now. "Expensive" to me means that an item is over-priced. If I spend what I can afford and receive good value from my purchase it's not expensive, it's a bargain. Buying something new just because it's new is probably the most expensive way to build a stereo system. If you consider something as "expensive", then you probably haven't gotten what you wanted in the first place.

dan's picture

because I have 3 kids, I try to buy only used gear for under $500. It doesn`t matter that much how much it cost new. I have made some mistakes but it didn`t cost me a whole lot. As long as I stay about 3 years behind the buying curve, I can afford to get pretty decent stuff without going into debt

Henry's picture

For me, $5,000 is considered very expensive, but I would buy a product up this price if I think my system will truly benifit by it.

Chango Arce, Argentina's picture

expensive: $1500 very expensive: $3500 or more non cost objet: more than $20K

Dexter M.  Price's picture

Expensive is a subjective term related to one's total income and "disposable" income. However, if I were asked to create a category of "expensive" equipment (recognizing that such an undertaking is necessarily egocentric), it would vary according to component type. An "expensive" pre-amp would be $5,000 or more, an "expensive" amplifier would be $6,000 or more. An expensive CD player (or transport and D/A converter)would be $5,000 and up. "Expensive" speakers would cost $15,000 and up, and expensive speaker cable would be $1,500 or more per 8 ft. pair. "Expensive" interconnect would start at $900 per meter and expensive power cords would start at $500. I realize some readers may think I am crazy, others may think my prices are too low. However, one of the benefits of "Stereophile" is FUN with audio.

JACK BENNY's picture


Joe Hartmann's picture

I am assuming that you are asking about a single piece of equipment and expensive is component relative.I think the correct question is beyond what amount would not consider saving for a purchase. Of course, this is a relative question;to consider some speakers requires a new house. But we all might win the lottery, not that would allow me to consider a pair of speakers costing $88,000. I have never stop amazing myself with what I consider.

Chris L.'s picture

It really depends on the equiptment. For speakers, anything over $5000 would be expensive to me. For interconnects anything over $200 would qualify.

Amrik Shah's picture

Diminishing returns! Anything over $2000 is just feeding the pockets of the manufacturer -- and please do not give me an excuse about premium parts!

Stephen Curling's picture

Although price is the largest factor in determining expensive or not it also depends on the product itself. No one is going to pay $1500 for a discman but to ask $1500 for a high performance subwoofer may be robbery.

casey's picture

for someone that is not into the hobby of sound any one product over a grand is going to take alot of consideration

Emil's picture

My whole system, including 5-disc CD changer, MD recorder, and 80wpc reciever cost only $1100 to compile. It sounds better than any system I've ever actually seen outside of a store.

Jim's picture

Expensive is anything I have to save for to buy. Anything over $10K is not expensive, it's silly.

Kevin Thomas's picture

I work for a living

John West's picture

It make involve a sacrifice but the committed audiophiles will always either want or buy the best equipment. I do.