Is high-end audio just lots of gimmicks and high price tags ??

I was just perusing the latest CES report on Home Page | Stereophile.com and I couldn't help but notice that there was a pattern emerging. Lots of gear with very fancy cases and finishes as well as high price tags to go with it, but very little under the bonnet in terms of major advances in audio technology compared to the mass market gear that it was trying to upstage.

It seems that all you have to do these days to be classed as high-end is to employ current technology and then use an artist to design your case and finish as well as a marketing crew to promote it as such. Then add the high price tag and there you have it, a piece of high end audio equipment !!

Is this the future of high-end audio where the consumer can expect little in the way of major technological advances ? Shouldn't the high-end audio fraternity be leading the way in technological advances and not the mass market ??

Is it a case of who can come up with the nicest looking and stylish presentation wins the customer ?? In the future will major advances in audio reproduction come from the mass market sector whilst the high-end audio sector will continue to drag its feet and try to exploit and capitalize on it using gimmicks and lots of unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims ??

Your thoughts please ?

regards
Trevor
 
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"Your thoughts please ?"

I don't think that any small company can compete in the market place with the big brand names that have economies of scale and cheap manufacturing cost in their favor. If the lo-fi and mid-fi markets are full of cutthroat competition that leaves the high-end market to go after and to do that it takes a bit of "spin" on why the equipment is worth (x) amount of money. Stroke some ego's - impress with a cost that shows your knowledge and deep pockets - SOLD!!! Hey - the same market is the one that can afford private jets - estates - expensive auto's etc. and they do like their toys too. If they can afford them then more power to them. In the end we all benefit from the technology advances that trickle down to the rest of us mere mortals.

Plus - when I finally design my super amp, TT, speaker line, cables, interconnects, wah-wah do-dad tweaks, and mo-joe magic upgrades I'm gonna need someone to sell 'em to - and I won't find that crowd hanging around at the big box stores. :D:D:D

Note to self - warning to all others - advice from SHMBO. I'm so full of "it" that I need two bags to carry it in!!!!:rolleyes:

BTW - did you get a look at these "little" beauties??? I think they go for "only" $150,000 or so....
 

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"Your thoughts please ?"

I don't think that any small company can compete in the market place with the big brand names that have economies of scale and cheap manufacturing cost in their favor. If the lo-fi and mid-fi markets are full of cutthroat competition that leaves the high-end market to go after and to do that it takes a bit of "spin" on why the equipment is worth (x) amount of money. Stroke some ego's - impress with a cost that shows your knowledge and deep pockets - SOLD!!! Hey - the same market is the one that can afford private jets - estates - expensive auto's etc. and they do like their toys too. If they can afford them then more power to them. In the end we all benefit from the technology advances that trickle down to the rest of us mere mortals.

Plus - when I finally design my super amp, TT, speaker line, cables, interconnects, wah-wah do-dad tweaks, and mo-joe magic upgrades I'm gonna need someone to sell 'em to - and I won't find that crowd hanging around at the big box stores. :D:D:D

Note to self - warning to all others - advice from SHMBO. I'm so full of "it" that I need two bags to carry it in!!!!:rolleyes:

BTW - did you get a look at these "little" beauties??? I think they go for "only" $150,000 or so....


Quick hide those from Pano, he is 2 old now u know ... :p

If it was those vs a Ferrari, I suppose I'd have to think
about it.

:cool:


Me 2 .. Tinks , 1,2,3............... Ferrari ... yahhhhhh ............. :car:
 
If it was those vs a Ferrari, I suppose I'd have to think
about it.

:cool:

Welllllll - it seems ya gotta pretty good hand on amp and speaker design - soooo I'm guessing - Nah - nevermind..... I juz don't see ya zooming around in a little red sports car that cost $150K. Heck - You seem ta like spending your spare loot on bunches of special made to spec xsistors and rare tubie thingies!!!

AND BTW - We are all still waiting ta see what is behind the curtain dis time!!;)
 

jcx

Member
2003-02-17 7:38 pm
..
an interesting question might be wether there is an obvious time that the current "high end" was invented
say a decade where at the start a "cost no object" system from a dealer in New York, London, ect. would have cost a fraction of the national median family income and at the end of the decade such a system would only be affordable by the top income quintile

possibly the 1970's - with Mark Levinson Audio starting up in 1972?
 
it is sad but, most the time it is true!. these days we see a lot of these kind of gadgets that some companies do to "attract" customers...it is just the outside, as soon as you open the chassis... voila! Nothing especial inside. but most people are not going to open an amp and see what is inside or know if what is inside is good or bad quality. But, We can still find very good commercial amps, Right now I have a Bryston integrated amp that is quality inside and outside! ;)
 
As much as a lot of the basic designs "under the hood" have remained similar, components and materials change which can make them appreciably better than their older counterparts. There is a lot of room in this business to put a pretty face on a product to lure the unsuspecting, therefore it's up to the consumer to do their homework just as when you'd buy anything.
 
Ya don't hafta go to CES to obtain wild unsubstantiated claims and strange gizmo's! I've brought plenty, only problem with them is that they are free, if you have two brain cells to rub together. If you have three I can't help ya.

Bud

Hi Bud!!!! Da 1st time we started talking resulted in your EnABL thread and lotsa kids playing around with pens and paint brushes - only to be followed up with those little dangle thingies you had people tying knots with.

Hmmmmmm.......... what else could be cooking in that brain of yours that is looking for a way to get out?

And can we sell it for a couple hundred zillion dollars at the next CES?
BTW - we need to keep the manufacturing cost below $5 bucks per unit @ 1K pieces. :D:D:D

Eh - nevermind. I don't wanna get back on that horse of doing the day to day "business" thing. Ahhhhhh - retirement - how sweet it is!!!! :D:D:D
 
therefore it's up to the consumer to do their homework just as when you'd buy anything.

I agree!. it is not easy task for many people. some people "think" they are getting what they are paying for... but they are not!!! one good example is this brand "B--e" That people get crazy and swear that is the best audio gear. But in reality it is just cheap garbage. open your eyes people..open your eyes!:eek:
 

perfknee

Member
2010-12-01 2:21 am
High end home audio has as long as I can remember been much more about fancy cases and fancy marketing than about better audio fidelity.

But I think the situation for people who want to fidelity without paying for fanciness is getting better. It used to be that there was a very wide fidelity divide between the mass market and the high end. This was sad because as has been mentioned, the high end is structured around being unaffordable to the vast majority of people. It's essentially only affordable by people for who have more money than they can spend.

What was sad about that is that it meant most enthusiasts (who are not megawealthy) were priced out of the high end market. That certainly includes myself... I have a net worth an order of magnitude larger than most working in that industry, but because I'm not good at dressing fancy and talking hoity toity, I never get any attention when I go into a high end stereo store. So I've had to get my audio gear from mass market rather than high end sources because I just don't fit into that price-no-object culture that surrounds high end audio.

I hate Bose (for a long time the top of the mass market range), but whenever average people would ask me what they should buy instead of Bose I couldn't give a good answer; the only brands that I knew sounded better were high-end brands that cost multiples of Bose's price. There was a wide gap between the low end mass market and the high end, not being filled.

Today however things are much better in that it's not necessary to go to the high end market for quality, with mass market products at very high quality levels (as well as all other quality levels :). My $1500 Denon 3808ci receiver is in the same fidelity circle as the highest end brands. My $150 Sony BX57 blu-ray player plays SACD and other discs just as well as players that would have cost ten or more times as much in the past.

Even speakers have been improved by mass market technology; active drive technologies that used to only be available in several thousand dollar bang and olufsen speakers are now routinely used in ipod speaker systems costing just a few hundred. Computers have drastically improved the design process even for simple products like speakers, so there's simply fewer bad-sounding products on the market than in the past. The more mass-market a product is, the more money they can spend on design.

The high end market will continue humming along for those who have the price of admission, but the good news is that the rest of us don't have to try to crash that party to get our fidelity fix.
 

Pano

diyAudio Moderator
Paid Member
2004-10-07 6:05 am
SW Florida
an interesting question might be wether there is an obvious time that the current "high end" was invented<snip>
possibly the 1970's - with Mark Levinson Audio starting up in 1972?

I certainly remember it from the 1970s. So it must have been around before that.

There were luxury audio devices even in the 1920s. The Edison Diamond Disc, for example. Very expensive and actually very good.
 
What is "high end" audio anyway?

To me it's the attitude of the designer/company. The most for the least.

Kinda like Old Yeller vs. Ferrari, Maserati, Cobra, et al. Nothing wrong with a Buick nailhead running in the same circles as blue-bloods (of course
the Cobra really isn't a blue-blood)..

One thing that can differentiate many of the same sort of products is fit and finnish. And of course higher spec'd goodies to help rationalize the costs.

Having listened to a fair share of dots n' things, and shoe-string devices, I can say without a doubt the designer and implementation of the design are crucial. The rest can be considered eye candy. Given my 'druthers, I'd prefer something that does the job as promised and looks good doing it (even if no one else ever see "it"). But the "looking good while doing it" is where a lot of the money does seem to go.
 
High End audio ... I'm not sure I have a definition that spans our era as well as back to the beginnings of sound reproduction, but it's not really critical ... has always been expensive.

In the 60's the average salary started out around $3,000 a year and by the end of the decade was around $6,000. You could buy a HiFi that cost more than that then, just as you can buy HiFi that costs more than today's average annual salary. I have the payment book for my dad's new '55 chevy somewhere ... the car was $1800 new. My mom bought her new construction house in 1952 for $3,200.00, with mortgage payments of $25 a month, and that was a huge chunk of the average salary then. The mortgage at that time was a fixed 25-year term, so when I was a kid in the 70's they were still paying $25 a month for the mortgage ... but the actual payment was over twice that ... the taxes per year had risen that much by that time.

At the end of the 1970's~early 1980's inflation was such that prices doubled every 4 years for a time. You have to get rid of the idea of what a dollar is worth to you now because it's always relative. At one time ground beef was more expensive than steak. In the early 70's $2.50 an hour was a very good wage, roughly equivalent to $20 or more an hour now. Minimum wage today is 10 times what it was in 1970. So was a $25 radio expensive in the early 1950's? You bet it was ... and that was no High End unit, believe me.

Before the 60's, virtually all electronics were expensive, relative to income for most people.

So I don't think it's really that much different. You could check out the cost of a built Dynaco Stereo 70 in the 60's and run it through an inflation calculator ... most countries have one at the website for the central bank ... it wasn't a cheap unit.
 
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