Affordability of the High End


#1
makfi said so the DSD is JA's long term reference and in the latest issue of Stereophile he compares it to the Rossini . . .
Nothing against the dCS product line but the exponential growth in prices they represent in high-end gear is why I took some time off from the hobby a few years ago.

I will venture a guess that most of the members of this forum make a good living and could / did invest $30k or more in a high-end system. When you start to think about things like the dCS products (and I don’t mean to single them out), 10,000 power cords, 150,000 speaker systems, etc now you’re talking hedge fund titan territory.

I’ve got a bunch of back issues of The Absolute Sound from their earliest days that I originally purchased when I was in high school earning $3 an hour unloading trucks. Back then though I could envision myself being able to someday afford many of the products they reviewed. My son is a college freshman and a pre-med major. There is virtually no chance, zero,zip nada that he will ever be able to afford most of the equipment that graces TAS/Stereophile these days. Fortunately for him / unfortunately for our hobby he and his friends are perfectly happy to listen to music on his iPhone.

Fortunately for us we have companies like PS Audio where we can purchase products that are 95% (?) of the state of the art at prices that are a fraction of what SOTA costs today.

Just my two cents.

[discussion moved from “Life after Torreys” - Elk]


#2

Most (all?) well-established enthusiast pursuits include a high end affordable only to the few: cars, motorcycles, watches, wines, boats, fashion. As the hobby matures, state of the art niche products become available.

Fortunately for us we have companies like PS Audio where we can purchase products that are 95% (?) of the state of the art at prices that are a fraction of what SOTA costs today.
An ironic observation; touting products such as a $6,000 DAC as an affordable compromise. While PS Audio products exhibit a superb yuck/buck ratio they are hardly available to those of average means. Few can afford to dedicate $6,000 to audio, much less a unit which only converts a data stream to a line level signal.

BTW, TAS and Stereophile both review and recommend many reasonably priced products.


#3
Elk said Most (all?) well-established enthusiast pursuits include a high end affordable only to the few, cars, motorcycles, watches, wines, boats, fashion. As the hobby matures, state of the art niche products become available.
Fortunately for us we have companies like PS Audio where we can purchase products that are 95% (?) of the state of the art at prices that are a fraction of what SOTA costs today.
An ironic observation; touting products such as a $6,000 DAC as an affordable compromise. While PS Audio products exhibit a superb yuck/buck ratio they are hardly available to those of average means. Few can afford to dedicate $6,000 to audio, much less a unit which only converts a data stream to a line level signal.

BTW, TAS and Stereophile both review and recommend many reasonably priced products.

I hear you, affordable is relative. I meant for this audience, those that read and post on this forum, I would think PS Audio products are within their means. The point I was trying to make is that when I was a teenager back in 1977 a $1500 amp that was state of the art then is $6k in current dollars. Meanwhile Goldmund make a number of amps that cost in excess of $250,000. Has the SOTA improved vs. 1977, absolutely. Are today's amps, preamps, etc 25x better than the 1977 Audio Research offerings? I don't think so.

I don’t have the pure data to back this up but I am willing to bet that the number of people that could afford SOTA 40 years ago is a lot greater than the number that can afford it today.


#4
ihmeyers said . . . when I was a teenager back in 1977 a $1500 amp that was state of the art then is $6k in current dollars. Meanwhile Goldmund make a number of amps that cost in excess of $250,000.
Of course; as an enthusiast hobby matures and gains an audience the number of enthusiasts who will buy, and thus justify the production of ultra high end products, increases. The world economy has also experienced a tremendous increase in wealth in many areas of the world, increasing the market.
Are today’s amps, preamps, etc 25x better than the 1977 Audio Research offerings?
I submit, yes. Modern high end amps and preamps are vastly better and, given the expense of incremental improvements and diminishing returns, 25:1 ratio is not out of the question. Whether the Goldmund meets this goal and whether the expense is worth it to a given individual are separate questions.

Along this same line, is a $6,000 DSD 12 times better than a state of the art $500 DAC? For the vast majority, a resounding no.

I don't have the pure data to back this up but I am willing to bet that the number of people that could afford SOTA 40 years ago is a lot greater than the number that can afford it today.
Absolutely true. This is also true of sports cars, motorcycles, watches, wines, fashion, houses, restaurants, boats, cutlery, RVs, race guns . . .

So what? The very purpose of hobby items is to waste time and money. Audio meets this requirement admirably.

I enjoy engineers and designers who push the limits and I delight in their products, whether I can afford them or not.


#5
Elk said
ihmeyers said . . . when I was a teenager back in 1977 a $1500 amp that was state of the art then is $6k in current dollars. Meanwhile Goldmund make a number of amps that cost in excess of $250,000.
Of course; as an enthusiast hobby matures and gains an audience the number of enthusiasts who will buy, and thus justify the production of ultra high end products, increases. The world economy has also experienced a tremendous increase in wealth in many areas of the world, increasing the market.
This is absolutely true. I have a very good friend that is a high end dealer. He swears the growth in the ultra high-end is coming from Asia. At the risk of sounding racist (I am not and worked for a Japanese investment bank for a number of years) there is a tremendous amount of status in Asian society (China, HK, Korea more so than Japan) attached to being able to afford consumer goods at eye-popping prices (e.g. solid gold iPhones). Russia is that way to an extent where the magnates all compete to buy the largest, most expensive yacht. It's not as common in the U.S.

My roommate in grad school was from a Forbes 400 family (at the time $250mm in net worth). He drove a Buick and wore a Timex and while he lived in a very large house on a private island the furnishings were luxurious rather than ostentatious (e.g. no solid gold toilets anywhere to be found)


#6

This is my understanding as well. A good part of this may be that it is new money in China and Russia, for example.

In the States we exhibit contradictory attitudes. We judge people by what they do and the money they make/have, but then disparage those who have money while envying them.

A well-off friend of mine also notes when he is chauffeured in a Rolls he is given the finger; when driving his Ferrari, thumbs up.


#7

True, the highest high-end is out of the reach of most and the “reasonable” high-end as well when new. Audiophile gear is pampered by it’s owners and is often much lower priced second hand. During the years I spent as a student, second hand gear was like manna from heaven and by concentrating on time proven gear I had quite the setup, if not the latest and the greatest.


#8

It is weird. I buy new equipment and within a few months it is used.


#9

For many years, the majority of my purchases were used. In fact, my first PSA item was a used PWD Mk II. As wglenn said, one can assemble an excellent system this way. So I am grateful for those who can afford new equipment and like to keep up to date with all the latest, since I can buy their slightly older items at a good price.


#10

+1


#11

+2

That is how I built my system initially as well. In fact all of my amps were purchased used or demo, as were my main speakers.