Jason's First Day in Los Angeles Gets Underway

Industry veterans EveAnna Manley (left) and Mary Cardas (right) were in a particularly ebullient mood when I encountered them in the second-floor hallway. "We just got mansplained," laughed EveAnna. "Whatever you do, man, don't mansplain us," she continued, as the two women recounted the tale of entering an exhibit incognito—they were judges for the "Alfies," the LAAS awards—and discovering some salesman talking down to them.

"This guy did not know who we are. As in we have almost 60 years of audio geek experience between us," she continued. "We were trying so hard to not burst out laughing as he treated us as ignorant girls proverbially patting us on our little girl heads while couldn't really explain anything in any great detail anyway. At one point, he said something about the product putting 3dB more output than its predecessor. When I turned to Mary and said, 'That's twice as loud,' he stared at us and then awkwardly agreed with me."

Mary, of the fabled Cardas family, is currently running a cooking spice shop in Palm Springs, while EveAnna is importing a line of motorcycle armored denim jeans while continuing her work at Manley Labs.

The Source A/V's two world-premiere products—the Dan D'Agostino Master Systems Progression preamplifier ($22,000 for analog-only, or $26,500 complete with optional DAC module), which is shown on the top of the rack, and the D'Agostino Progression Stereo amplifier ($22,000), which appears in black on the bottom—were really turning heads. In fact, at the LAAS Awards Ceremony/Dinner on Saturday night, the Progression preamp won an Alfie.

Together with an Esoteric P-03/D-03 transport/DAC combo, Focal Maestro Utopia loudspeakers ($53,000/pair), and Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling, the D'Agostino products produced bass so tremendous, and so absolutely in control that I initially asked, "Are these speakers' woofers powered?"

No, they weren't. In fact, the speaker cables weren't even broken in. Nonetheless, the bass was world-class, the midrange wonderful, the top lively and excellent, and the pace exemplary. I only visited perhaps a third of the rooms at LAAS, but this was certainly one of the best-sounding I encountered. My review of the D'Agostino Progression monoblocks ($36,000/pair) will appear in the September issue.

VAC and Von Schweikert do seem to like it big. Showing the same system that I'm told was in Munich, the two companies used a Kronos Pro turntable ($38,000) with SCPS-1 power supply ($13,500), Andre Theriault Black Beauty tonearm ($8500), and ZYX Ultimate 4D cartridge ($4400) as one source; Aurender N10 music server ($8000), Rebuilt Technics J-Corder ($14,000), and Lampizator Golden Gate DAC ($20,000) as other sources; VAC Statement phonostage ($80,000), VAC Statement linestage ($75,000), and VAC Statement IQ 450W monoblocks ($120,000/pair) to drive Von Schweikert Ultra 11 loudspeakers ($295,000/pair) with Von Schweikert Shockwave V12 subwoofer used for active room correction ($11,500/each). Master Built Ultra Line cabling and Artesania equipment racks and amp stands, as well as ASC Tube Traps completed a system that, once the tweeter was turned down a bit, displayed a gorgeous midrange and huge, extremely transparent soundstage.

Not everything was hunky-dory, however. Hindered by flabby walls, lack of time to settle in—this was Friday morning, after all—and all else that comes with large hotel rooms, the treble on Capriccio Italien was a bit wiry, with cymbals and tambourine somewhat glass-like, and bass was not as tight as could be.

Von Schweikert's Leif Swanson tells me that he and Damon Von Schweikert designed the speaker, with Albert Von Schweikert joining in on the voicing. Taking me to the back of the speakers, he showed me various transformers and other devices used to adjust tweeter, rear super tweeter, ambient delay, phase, and other properties.

Synergistic Research's Ted Denney and retailer Scott Walker are two smart salesmen. Once Denney's half-hour demos had concluded, visitors were guided into a separate, large, well-stocked room in which a number of salespeople were on hand to offer products on the spot. Hence, I am told, a huge amount of business was conducted with minimal hassle.

Ted's demos were hugely impressive. Despite a room that he said "loads bass like you would not believe," liberal application of various Syngergistic Research devices helped create a huge, expansive soundstage and gorgeous midrange.

"I do believe we will get rid of the bass hump by tomorrow," said Ted, as he guided the company's Andy Wiederspahn in the placement of HFTs on the ceiling next to lighting fixtures. The music I heard—Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and some nonsense from Olde London on FIM—was rather tacky, but the sound was excellent. For equipment, we are talking Berkeley Alpha DAC Ref 2 w/Alpha USB module ($19,500), Baetis Reference 2 music server ($14,620), McIntosh C1100 preamp ($13,000) and MC 601 power amp ($7000), and Magico S7 loudspeakers ($58,000/pair). Power treatment was Synergistic Research PowerCell 12 UEF SE power conditioner ($5995), while room treatment included Synergistic Research's Active Ground Block, Black Box, Atmosphere XL w/ATM, UEF Acoustic Panels, three kinds of HFTs, Vibratron, MiG 2.0, Tranquility Base XL UEF, and High Definition ground cable. Cabling was Synergistic Research Galileo UEF and Ethernet Active SE along with a Transporter Ultra SE.

The Audio Association of Anaheim Hills commandeered a long room to showcase the world premier of the six-years-in-the-making Evolution Acoustics Exact series Maestoso 3-way loudspeaker system with outboard crossover ($TBD). In a system that also included darTZeel NHB-458 reference monoblocks ($170,000/pair) and NHB-18NS reference preamplifier with integrated reference phonostage ($40,000), Wave Kinetics NVS reference direct-drive turntable ($45,000) with world premier W8 record weight ($600) and world premiere A10-U*R vibration control system ($300 each), Durand Kairos tonearm ($6450) with tonearm cable ($1850), Ortofon MC Anna MC cartridge ($9000), Taleo Audio DAC prototype ($TBD), Sound Galleries SGM2015 reference music server ($16,000), Evolution Acoustics cabling, and more, the sound was lively, with excellent pace.

Bass, in fact, was tremendous, the midrange excellent, and the top lively on the Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 1 in g. However, on Vanessa Fernandez's Led Zeppelin cover at 45rpm, the top was bright, and bass a bit wooly.

When I visited, virtually all attention of listeners was focused on the outboard crossover of a speaker whose ceramic aluminum drivers were designed by Kevin Malgren. Kevin tells me that the drivers were not fully broken in, and the speaker cables out of the box. Between those two factors and a room with a big 5dB hump at 80Hz, who knew what was going on . . . besides the fact that the crossover has filters specifically designed to break up peaks.

"This is a new product," Kevin said of the Maestoso. "We're still discovering things about it."

Audio Plus Services' visually striking Naim/Focal display produced a beautiful midrange, huge soundstage, and excellent top on Boz Scaggs' "Thanks to you." The presentation, however, lacked the last bit of beauty and air. Switching to a harpsichord/flute duo produced a huge harpsichord—bigger than life—and a top that, while lovely, was somewhat artificial-sounding. I'm still struggling for words adequate to explain the system's sonic signature, but I found it a bit unyielding, as though unwilling to let me in emotionally.

Doing the honors: Naim NAC N 272 preamp/DAC/streamer ($5995), Naim NAPS 555DR optional power supply for the above ($11,495), Naim NAP300 DR, power amplifier with external power supply ($13,995), Naim Fraim racking system ($4696 for this configuration), Naim cabling, and Focal Scala Utopia loudspeakers ($32,995/pair).

Another of my jaw-dropping best-of-(my) show systems—one that wrapped me in its warm embrace—was created when mbl paired its Radialstrahler 101E MKII loudspeaker ($70,500/pair) with its new Noble line stereo preamplifier N11 ($14,600), N15 mono amplifier ($17,800/each), and N31 CD-DAC ($15,400). Together with United Home Audio Ultima 2 OPS-DC ¼" tape deck ($28,000), Wireworld Eclipse Series 7 cabling, and SMT room treatment ($500 each for panels and bass traps), the system enabled a hi-rez track from a forthcoming Naxos CD of the Portland State University Chamber Choir, engineered by John Atkinson, to exhibit a huge expanse, gorgeous dynamics, and a totally mesmerizing sense of space.

The soundstage, warmth, and color on another track from Blue Tofu were near unbelievable. Seated in the exactly positioned single sweet spot, it was a case of total immersion.

mrkaic's picture

For example

Radialstrahler 101E MKII loudspeaker ($70,500/pair)
Noble line stereo preamplifier N11 ($14,600)
N15 mono amplifier ($17,800/each)...

You have to be kidding me!! You can get a great car for the price of this stuff. And what costs more to produce, a car or these gadgets?! Someone is charging serious markups!

ChrisS's picture

Only those who can't afford these items complain about price.

mrkaic's picture

Chris, just out of curiosity: how do you justify these prices? Also, are you independent of the industry or employed by one of the manufacturers?

ChrisS's picture

...I don't and I'm not related in any way to the audio industry. Just a consumer.

Why ask me? I didn't set those prices.

mrkaic's picture

That is why I asked you these questions. I still don't understand how they set prices. It seems a bit like the pricing of mechanical watches--prices are driven by markups, not by production costs.



ChrisS's picture

Why don't you ask the manufacturers and retailers how their prices are set?

Glotz's picture

Enough to justify the prices! And THEN, when the product proves itself, it almost always means a later product they offer at a lower price point justifies the cost of the original.

Read the Wilson ALEXX review by MF a few months back. He is willing to sell his $250K speakers for a lesser expensive, more accomplished product (by the same manufacturer) that has directly benefited from the trickle down technology.

Then read the Dohmann Helix One review and it is largely based on another turntable, the Continuum Caliburn at 5x the price. The Helix One's performance is on par with the Caliburn.

Mikey ain't lying when he states a lesser priced turntable or speakers outperform the same makers' offering from a decade earlier. Please remember the law of diminishing returns kicks in here, as with any car for the same 6 figure price tag.

People aren't whining about the performance of the Mclaren P1, because they know it is a product that took decades to make. It too, enjoys the trickle down tech of the F1, but I am sure it is a better car. Are you whining about the cost of that vehicle too?? No, for that is something that most people can UNDERSTAND the costs. Strange that people dismiss another industry's offerings, despite knowing analogous examples.

YOU AND I benefit from these technologies, whether we can afford it or not. This is STATE OF THE ART. You pay, you get.

The proof is in the listening.

mrkaic's picture

Your essay reads well, but needs some numbers to be complete. How much R&D cost do these manufacturers really pay? Could you please provide some numbers?

Also, why do the costs of audio gear keep increasing at an obscene rate? Do these manufacturers increase R&D at the same rate?

Glotz's picture

Read the reviews before asking more overly-cynical questions. These salient examples are completely proving your conjecture false.

The products I used for example are HALF of what they cost 10 years ago. HALF dude. That doesn't make sense if you think these companies are trying to screw their prospective consumer base.

The reason you will never get numbers is because these are private industry companies in a cottage market that won't and shouldn't share the tech with other companies, unless you want the government to subsidize it like they can in Britain. Which would be nice, and then I would continue to support both American and British companies.

Have you thought that the costs you are comparing are against Chinese manufacture of audio products? That would not be a fair comparison to base your questions on the rest of the audio industry, as while they innovate, they produce goods that are already well-vetted in the industry and costs have come down on.

The obscene rate you assume is really more companies trying way more expensive approaches at way more expensive audio product offerings. As Steven G. said in his recent 'I Am An Audiophile' video, (paraphrasing here) there are more truly excellent examples of audio engineering that bring way-expensive sound to a entry-level market very effectively, and something that wasn't to the same level of quality 10 years ago (and the same applies to 20, 30 years ago, etc.). The newest state of the art products is also much higher than in years past.

Keeping abreast of Recommended Components will prove that to you over time. Again, big examples abound throughout the years and through Stereophile's Classes. The Pioneer speaker is a great example, but there are way more expensive collaborations throughout the industry that has propelled great change. Curl, Stewart, King, Jones, Schroeder are all HUGE names that have combined forces in ways they have not in the past.

BUT, if you REALLY want to ask yourself why inflation has hit the high-end noticeably in the past 20 years... IT IS BECAUSE OF NON-AUDIO CORPORATIONS that inflated supply chains across the world before and after the Great Recession. THEY make it hard for many cottage industry companies to keep costs down WHILE they innovate and product American / domestic goods. And in fact, many of the high-end audio companies make it possible for the mass-market companies to make tons of profit on their technology (or similar forms of it), while not having to take the huge hit of innovating that new IP. I mean really??

How much does the average car cost compared to 20 years ago, or even a used one?? A lot more! And yet each of those every day cars have luxury and tech items NONE of them had previously, and many we all take for granted, air bags, etc.. The analogy of the McClaren proves itself again. DIMINISHING RETURNS and INFLATION are the reason you and I pay. At least Trickle Down theories actually work in the audio industry; motor sports are probably the only other.

mrkaic's picture

Could you please bolster any of your claims with numbers? It is easy to type hundreds of words, but where is quantitative evidence? If you cannot provide the numbers, then please admit that you cannot prove your statements. I think that would be fair and acceptable to all.

However, it is easy to prove one thing -- high end audio gear has gotten much more expensive, but I don't see corresponding improvements in measured performance, e.g. lower THD. According to you, manufacturers are trying "way more expensive approaches" to audio. I would add that in return they get no improvements in measurable performance. Sounds like a sad engineering failure.

P.S. Also, my dear friend, could you please stop using caps in your replies. I can read you well enough without you shouting.

Glotz's picture

You need to be shouted at- You're a serious dunce. PROVE that gear costs more today and show 'corresponding evidence'. Let's see ONE example.

You keep asking to see proof that it is justified, and every single piece is in this magazine, in the current issue, even. You're just too lazy to look it up yourself, and you made up your mind about, really, a subject you have little knowledge. You do the research. I couldn't care less if you believe me.

If you want to find great value products, it's here on this site and on The Absolute Sound website. I'll help people beat the inflation game with great high-value products that destroy the garbage most people listen to. There are a hundred examples of these products in these pages. And yes, they do measure way better than whatever THD levels you pretend to believe were truthful 20 or even 10 years ago.

But I won't waste my time with a wheel-spinner like you. You amount to little more than a troll with nothing to say.

mrkaic's picture

"I'll help people beat the inflation game with great high-value products that destroy the garbage most people listen to."

Can you also turn water into wine and walk on water? Please stop, you are embarrassing yourself.

mrkaic's picture

... McLaren makes cares that are measurably good performers, like the P1 smashing the Nurnburgring best time. Expensive audio gear typically does not offer any measurable advantages over mass market stuff. So, what do these audio geniuses research and develop, if they can offer little to no measurable improvements over mass market components?

The proof is in the measurements.

ChrisS's picture

... and pontificating, why don't you ask mbl and all these other companies?

"Expensive audio gear typically does not offer any measurable advantages over mass market stuff".

Have you actually listened to expensive audio gear?

If you are happy with mass market and can't afford the expensive stuff, why are you here?

mrkaic's picture

...ask some of these companies about their pricing. We all know that they will respond with a lot of spin, but it could still be fun reading their justifications for asking stratospheric prices for gear with no measurable advantage over mass market offerings.

ChrisS's picture

What the companies say should be interesting and informative.

However, what you've already decided they will say is not.

Who is "we" in "We all know that..."?

You certainly don't speak for me.

Again, if you are happy with mass market and can't afford the expensive stuff, why are you even bothering?

mrkaic's picture

We, who posess the worldview of engineers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7ERMu825m4

ChrisS's picture

...produced any cheap, mass market audio equipment that measure as well as the expensive stuff to show all the above companies how it's done?

All this fellow on the youtube video is expressing is opinion.

Everyone has one or two...

mrkaic's picture

Manufacturing audio gear is mostly an application of electrical engineering. So, when an electrical engineer says something about audio, that usually matters quite a bit. When the audio equivalent of an anti vaxxer (e.g. someone who believes in directional cables) says something, that does typically not matter much, if anything at all. Not all opinions are equally worthy.

ChrisS's picture

There are many physical, medical, and aural experiences that cannot easily be explained, but neither can they be dismissed.

You sound like you have little or no experience nor any desire or curiosity to try "high end" audio equipment.

mrkaic's picture

I have no desire to experience overpriced high end amplifiers, but I am willing to give higher end (but not high end) speakers a try. I draw a firm line at around $10k for a pair of speakers.

However, as regards amplifiers, a $50k "Super Duper Dominator Transotuber" and a $500 NAD will sound the same, provided that the manufacturer of the $50k amp did not try something utterly stupid. No such worry with a NAD, any $500 NAD is a superb machine.

ChrisS's picture

...enough to listen to (or look inside) a $11k speaker or $50k amp?

And then bring your NAD amp to compare?

mrkaic's picture

All competent amps with low THD and IMD sound the same. Also, what could looking inside $50k amps reveal? Their manufacturers still have to buy DACs and other chips, transistors, tubes, and other components on the mass market.

ChrisS's picture

...you haven't listened to or looked at any "high end" item?

As mentioned above, your bias is showing.

ChrisS's picture

I know people who tell me that they would never buy a Ford product, who have either never driven a Ford or haven't been in one in over 40 years.

mrkaic's picture

Chris, if you (i) take an honest blind test of high end vs mass market gear and (ii) if you can identify high end gear with statistically significant precision, then we can talk about my bias. Until then, it is your bias, that is showing. You have offered no proof that high end gear offers any benefits.

Dr. Sean Olive has a thing or two to say about biased sighted listening: http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2009/04/dishonesty-of-sighted-audio-product.html

ChrisS's picture

I just buy what sounds good to me and whatever I can afford. Isn't that what almost everyone does?

Doesn't matter what Sean Olive or anyone else has to say about blind testing audio products, no one in the entire audio industry does this nor does anyone shop this way.

(Ok, maybe I have to convince my wife.)

ChrisS's picture

Doesn't sound like you are going to bother to find out why some products are really, really expensive.

mrkaic's picture

...with huge markups. They are clearly not priced to match their marginal cost, which should be decreasing due to productivity improvements.

Expensive audio manufacturers don't sell high engineering performance, they sell status symbols to people who have limited understanding of engineering, but tons of money to waste. It is conspicuous consumption at its "finest".

It is a bit like mechanical watches. Economics teaches us that increased productivity lowers prices. Watches are manufactured products. But despite productivity improvements in manufacturing, mechanical watches have seen dramatic increases in prices, since manufacturers "switched" from making tools to making status symbols. And, similar to audio, measured performance has stagnated for two decades. Only recently have Rolex, Patek, and Omega introduced more stringent accuracy standards (with the rest of the pack mostly standing still.)

ChrisS's picture

....your opinion.

You haven't done any research regarding the production costs incurred by any of these companies.

mrkaic's picture

Yes, you don't have to prove anything; we should all buy what we can afford and what we like. But give mass produced gear a chance -- it can save you tons of money for other interesting pursuits.

ChrisS's picture

...that we haven't already done so.

mrkaic's picture

..., to me you seem like a guy who has spent tons of money on high end gear. :))

ChrisS's picture

...too much.

Glotz's picture

By assuming that Stereophile doesn't consistently have the measurements to back up the higher performance and the justification for SOTA equipment. It is all there, JA and MF provide measurements in every magazine that validate the higher perceived and measured performance.

They won't chime in, as it is such an false premise that any Stereophile subscriber would agree.

mrkaic's picture

I read JA's reviews quite thoroughly and have seen little correlation between prices and measured performance.

But since you are obviously an analytical mind, you can collect the data from the reviews and present us with some superb quantitative analysis. For example, the relationship between THD and price in amplifiers would be a good start. How many extra $ will buy you 0.01% lower THD at 2.83V and 1kHz?

ChrisS's picture

...with "$".

mrkaic's picture

...I am a just a realist.

ChrisS's picture

no one else's.

mrkaic's picture

Just to let you know what other realists think of audiophiles -- a most entertaining read: https://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=569776

ChrisS's picture


mrkaic's picture

And as you can see, the perception is not flattering.

ChrisS's picture

A quote from https://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=569776

"Fucking idiots. I get annoyed at some of the debates over cables, this is just fucking sad..."

You've got to be kidding!!

What are you doing here?

Maybe you should go back.

mrkaic's picture

...to help science denying audiophiles see the errors of their ways and reform. Plus, to read about JA's measurements.

ChrisS's picture

Who's been saved by mrkraic?


And, all you do is complain about prices!

If you are not manufacturing your own equipment, how about offering people examples of equipment that you feel measure well, sound good, and exemplify best-bang-for-the-buck quality?

Instead of whining...

mrkaic's picture

I think that the best power amplifier in the world is Benchmark AHB2. In fact, nothing comes close, regardless of price. It costs $3k and measures so well that JA had a problem, because his Audio Precision measurement rig was just about as accurate as the amp. This amp is a grand bargain and I will get it one day. Everyone should have one. :))

NAD amplifiers measure really well, though not as well as the Benchmark. They and are quite affordable, too.

I have a Micromega M-100, it has very good specs and from my email exchange with their engineers I would expect it to measure well when JA publishes its review. it costs $4k for a complete package --DAC, phono stage, Bluetooth, balanced and unbalanced connections, class AB power amp stage with good circuitry, and careful attention to thermal management.

Objective DAC and headphone amp by JDS Labs is great bang for the buck. If you're interested, you can read about its design on the (sadly no longer active) blog by the NW audio guy. If you just need a DAC, then objective DAC is great bang for the buck as well.

I've had good experiences with class D TEAC amps, good specs for the money..

These are just a few pieces of gear that come to mind.

ChrisS's picture

Way better! Should have started this way.

mrkaic's picture


ChrisS's picture

...what they say on that site is of no consequence to anyone.

Glotz's picture

I love how you claim that the mass market companies have the same THD, IM distortion figures that high-end audio companies do. You believe the bull that's fed to you without questioning the source, like you do with Stereophile, and THIS magazine provides real, current measurements to almost every product they review. Sounds like you only trust the ones that measure well first. I wonder if your ears care at all. (Nope.)

YOUR proof is required. I gave great examples above using a speaker and a turntable that used to cost 2x more than they used, 10 years prior. WHERE are YOUR examples?? The Benchmark only proves my point that high-end manufacturers use better parts that are closer-toleranced (and cost more... derp) in the first place. You pay, you get.

You bought your integrated without measurement verification prior!? The Horrors! What happens if your Micromega doesn't measure well?! You'll sell it despite what your ears tell you.

Have you heard the Benchmark amp? Or are you just taking a review's word for it? The Irony.

Who said your $4000 amp was better than a $2000 one? Gosh, sounds like you're doing the same thing everyone else is... listening first, huh?

mrkaic's picture

... I will respond in a few words.

1. If Micromega does not measure really well, I will of course return it. Who wouldn't? Of course, it sounds the same as Benchmark or any other competent solid state amp, but I want an amp that measures best or at least exceedingly well. If you were an engineer, you would understand. But you are not, are you? Do you have any science education past high school?

2. I don't need to hear the Benchmark, spectacular measurements are enough.

3. Where did I say anything about my amp $4000 being better than a $2000 one?

4. BTW, Benchmark's performance does not support any of your statements. It measures so well mostly because they use a new error correction technique, not because of "closer-toleranced" parts. Incidentally, "toleranced" is not a word, but you get points for creativity :))

Glotz's picture


Now we can see what we are dealing with here. You haven't heard the Benchmark but 'every person' should own one. Right.

You have no idea of what you are reading, when you read measurements. You define the parameters of the Audio Precision analyzer as "a sound-quality" measuring tool.

You will feel utterly happy on not having heard a note(!) from your stereo, as long as you have the misguided security of knowing that 'your' amp measures well! Sad.


And like I said before... oh forget it.

Measurements are more important that good sound, I get it. You like math.

Return the Micromega! (But it measures so WELL!) It never made you happy anyways...

mrkaic's picture

It is amusing to see your claims that I don't understand JA's measurements. (I happen to have a master's degree in physics and studied subjects "just a bit" harder than the electronics measurements in the Stereophile.)

And what credentials do you have to pontificate about measurements and sound quality? I am quite sure that you never managed to get past high school. Can you prove me wrong?

mrkaic's picture

So, what is your gear?

johnnythunder's picture

I can either afford them or I can't. There will be things that I will never be able to afford but that I still like to read about. I would say that many of these items are priced so high because they are not sold in high quantities so the mark up is very, very high. They are practically custom hand made items. FYI,I'm not anyone that can afford this super pricey stuff. My system - assembled over 20+ years - maybe totals 20k in replacement costs.

texanalog's picture

Don't forget about the economies of scale. In addition, mainstream auto manufacturers have the ability to amortize costs more easily.

mrkaic's picture

I agree with you about the economies of scale etc. I fall to see how this leads to 70k speakers.

texanalog's picture

I believe that the customary mark-up for loudspeakers is 5x(500%). As the mbls are a high-end product​ using exclusive proprietary drivers, premium parts and finish, I'm sure the mark-up is much higher than the norm. As a product that offers exclusivity and pride of ownership, the one-percenters are probably not too concerned about price. High-end product prices are also determined by what the market will bear. At least the mark-up is not as high as that of bottled water (4,000% and much higher for high-end water). :)

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

After reading the above dialogue, it is clear that women are not the only sex on earth that gets subjected to endless mansplaining.

tonykaz's picture

I'm an Electrical Engineer, I can prove that wire is just wire, nothing more. The pricy wire is a hoax!


When Karen Sumner brought into my Audio Salon a set of MH-750 directional Speaker cables all my Audio Systems sounded better enough to justify their pricy cost. I've sold scads of the stuff. I never had one single "return".

I'll testify in a Court of Law that wire "can't" make a difference, but it actually does make a difference in Audio gear performance.

So, I've learned that I can be 100% right and still be completely wrong. ( it hasn't humbled me, thank god )

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm hearing from folks in the UK that the IFi usb stuff ($500 ) is useful technology. go figure

mrkaic's picture

Just wandering -- did you do a blind test of those pricey cables? If not, then your diagnosis is not in line with engineering/scientific standards.

tonykaz's picture

Blind tests? That's a good one.

If there was any blindness it was because of the amount of booze I was pouring down buyer's throats. ( not that I'm proud of it )

Tony in Michigan

ChrisS's picture

...Just wander.

Anon2's picture

Since I bought my first hi-fi gear in the great L.A. basin, I was saddened to see--through the published photos--some pretty lean crowds at the L.A.A.S..

I hope that things picked up later on.

I guess a crummy winter is our penance to pay for the standing-room only rooms we had, on opening Friday no less, at Axpona 2017.

Our L. A. friends are welcome to the Chicago (suburbs) for Axpona 2018.

For JVS, at a month out from Axpona, we have more on tap in the Windy City. Pat Metheny with Antonio Sanchez, Linda May Han Oh, and Gwilym Simcock are at the Ravinia Festival this Thursday night. We have Yuja Wang with the CSO on July 11th, and Angela Hewitt playing the Goldberg Variations on July 18th.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am doing a critical review of my 1990s DG Pierre Boulez recordings with the CSO and the Cleveland Orchestra, with two new pairs of cans for critical listening.

I hope L.A. ended on a strong note. Best of luck --low2midhifi.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I will address the attendance thing in my show wrap. I will address my inability to enjoy everything the Windy City has to offer by noting that even if all that is cited above had been going on during AXPONA 2017, I was too busy to enjoy it. One of these years, I will fly in a day or two early so I can once again visit the Chicago Art institute and revel in the beauty.

Supperconductor's picture

I keep reading how we need to attract new blood to our hobby. But the audio press seems to focus really expensive products. Yes, in my younger days I too bought some "Class A" gear and it can sound great. But with some innovative components coming from the likes of Schiit, the high end represents a pretty poor value (for me) these days and makes our hobby overall less and less relevant to the "average" person.

What I do marvel at is there's got to be a huge number of quite wealthy people who are snapping up this equipment because there's an incredible diversity of product offerings at this level. I guess it's plain old market forces after all. After almost 40 years, this hobby is just less and less fun and interesting from my perspective.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

a. My comments that follow below, which address the notion that the audiophile press only focuses on "really expensive products."

b. My August issue AWSI, available to subscribers mid-July, for a discussion of the hobby paradigm, and an approach that can open the high-end to the blood that is already flowing in our direction.

michaelhigh's picture

I see nice gear I'll never afford, displayed beautifully in spaces that get criticized, with wonderful music that has little to no relevance to me, in awesomely selected collections of brands that my local boom bang shop will never carry, and, despite my complete intolerance of every negative, I still want to hear it. Am I stupid?

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

you value curiosity and discovery over envy.

Forgotten Audiophile's picture

I thought some equipment sounded good, some really poor. I like good headphones, but do they have to be so large?

Canton, PMC monitors. Paradigm, Magicos all sounded good. The 100k Wilson speakers had good highs and mids, but not much bass.

YG had 73k speakers that sounded like Diana Krall was singing out of a bath tub, but I didn't want to disturb the guys running the room who looked to be playing cards off in the corner.

Another poor speaker was the Revel f208be. Must be a prototype.

And it seems many rooms liked to play old recordings of Johnny Cash. Not exactly music to highlight a speaker's abilities. But, who am I?

And one room was selling speaker cables for 93k. Those who have the disposable scratch must be thought of as complete fools.

You want a young, regenerative new base of audiophiles who live by the iPad/iPhone? I wish you the best with that.

I would buy the PMC studio monitors at 24k, or the 20k ATC monitors. That's what the pros use and I can understand why.

The diamond industry is green with envy.

tonykaz's picture

That VAC System is bumping $800,000

About the same price as a New Mooney M20U, a 60 foot Catamaran, a Red Italian Car.

I know guys like this but they're likely to buy Macintosh Gear.

We have the "Analog Planet" still clinging to a thread of relevance with it's $5,000 to $15,000 phono cartridges, $50 limited edition vinyls and Tape with their $500 boxed set Albums needing equally pricy rebuilt Tape machines.

There must be a "Hidden Planet" ( out there ) where these $1,000,000+ Systems find a ready market. We need to have one of our Journalists discover and report on it's location and value structure. Maybe it's the Pro Sports guys who need everything to be a Trophy symbol of their Contractual Success ?

Or maybe it's the inherited children of Industry Captains who have no concept of Fiduciary responsibilities.

Or maybe it's those "Patrons" of the "Modern Art" paying millions for....

Anyway, the real world has folks like that Manley gal ( who herself seems to be 3db+, the Tube guy Keven Deal, Paul at PS Audio ( who's 4H preamp got me started in Audio back in the 1980's ), Nelson Pass, Jason Stoddard, John Curl, B.H.King, Stereophile's HR & JA.

Dear Jason, thanks for bringing us these pricy systems, saving me the price of a plane ticket and lodging, I hope you discovered useful things.

Tony in Michigan

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Gentlemen, as well as women who may be reading these blogs but refraining from comment because they do not wish to get into an endless tug-of-war with men,

My coverage is not indicative of all LAAS had to offer. Jana Dagnadan, for example, covered less expensive systems at the show, while John Atkinson mainly stuck to one floor. Their coverage, as well as the bulk of mine, is yet to come.

Schitt is a headphone product. "HeadGear" has its own Stereophile family website, InnerFidelity.com, which is dedicated to headphones and personal audio. Although Jana could not resist taking in some headphones, because we had a total of 2 2/3 people - JA had to leave the show on Sunday AM - to cover 116 active exhibit rooms, we stuck to those exhibit rooms, and mostly steered clear of the HeadGear, Marketplace, and hallway booths.

Of 116 active exhibit rooms, I believe we covered all but a few. Note that our approach was different than at AXPONA, which I covered solo. There, I attempted to limit my coverage to premieres. Here, we attempted to cover all rooms.

It is the choice of exhibitors as to which products they will exhibit. Many intentionally bring their most expensive products because they attract the most attention for their brand. Marketing and sales are not my areas of expertise, thankfully, so I can't comment on that. But let's put it in the most basic terms. People would not be exhibiting the upper end products in their lines if it were not wise for them to do so.

Stereophile is not a luxury product magazine. Several Contributing Editors have more modest systems than I, and spend the majority of their time reviewing products at lower price points. The reality is, however, that no matter how many times John Atkinson tallies up the cost of products reviewed in this magazine and demonstrates our commitment to products at all price points, people complain. The glass is never half full; it is always half empty.

I raise my glass in celebration of all who love music, and find ways to enjoy it that are in harmony with their budgets. Hey, I even celebrate those who bitch and moan. It's all a part of the game.


tonykaz's picture

Dear Jason,

I understand and accept your point.

I did these Shows for a period of years, always looking for a "few" useful things, I usually came away with two or three good performers and sellers, like the Audible Illusions Modulus Pre, the dirt cheap Kindel loudspeaker line, Dynavector 23R phono cart.

Most of what we see at big Shows are dead-slow sellers, very few are Red Hot stuff like the NAD 3020, The Linn Sondek or the charming Magnapans.

Schiit seem to be noticed by the Press, they are said to be selling 65,000 units per year ( according to TAS Editor ) all from 10,000 sq.ft. of manufacturing space. It's good stuff ( I own a few of their pieces ) and they seem to attract the under 30 group despite their Cult like demeanor ( or maybe because of it ).

A Century from now, people will look back and say that the year 2000 was the time when the entire World changed as all knowledge became digitized giving all the Earth's population access to everything ever known. Phew!

So, I look at the Audio Segment and see the next great thing being Roon/MQA Streaming. This is what an Audio Retailer could base a viable business on, a 21st Century Red-Hot seller.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Tony in Michigan

Anton's picture

Check Kevin Deal's manufacturer's comments about his Prima Luna preamp in this month's Stereophile.

Hal Hollis's picture

From the article:

At one point, he said something about the product being up by 3dB. When I said, 'That's twice as loud,' he stared at us and began to realize that we actually knew something."

Not to be too pedantic but 3dB is twice the power and not twice as loud; 10dB is 10 times the power which sounds (more or less) twice as loud.


dalethorn's picture

The 10 db thing I've heard from several sources, and it may be true for most speaker systems, and at least some headphones in very noisy environments. However, with any of my headphones listening in most places, 3 db is definitely twice as loud, and Apple's default 3 db increments on the clicker buttons (or the buttons on the cable) are ridiculous - I'd like to have 1.5 db increments worst-case, or 1 db preferably.

Anton's picture

I just figured I knew what they meant, but your take is hilarious when I think of what he might have been starting to realize.

"I'm not so think as you drunk I am."

manleylabs's picture

Ayyyy yes, Hal, you are totally correct and I feel damn stupid for getting that wrong! Thank you for the re-education. I totally used to know this like the back of my hand especially in relation to recommending amplifier power to folks vs their speaker efficiency. Thank you! --EveAnna Manley

Glotz's picture

This person built an audio company on great measuring AND sounding products!

Oh no, but they're using TUBES! Those can't be accurate?? LMAO..

prerich45's picture

It's ironic to me that many of the people that moan and complain about the prices of Hi-End Audio are the same people that criticize me for buying a Genesis instead of a Mercedes or BMW (I've owned 2 Bimmers). They will say things like get a real car if you're going to spend the money. The Genesis for the money packs more luxury into their vehicles than any I've test drove...that's why we have one - and I've owned it for 7 years with no problems at all!!!
I think it's about what we place value in. In America - cars and homes are looked at as the supreme status symbols - HIFI is looked at by many as a waste of good money. It's all about what you as an individual enjoy.
People also say I should go for an open concept home...I don't like open concept - due to security, and audio reasons. Speaking of homes - the average kitchen remodel runs between $12,715 and $33,051 and some go as high as $85k or more. I'd never spend that kind of money on a kitchen...but my wife might, it all depends on what you enjoy.
My conclusion - people will spend money for what they enjoy, if you don't like it - you don't have to buy it.

bilguana's picture

The Radialstrahler 101E MKII loudspeakers drove us out of the room after just a couple of minutes. They have a hard,
tinny high end.