Are you Guys Rich or What!?

I have an old system, nothing special, Adcom, Vandersteens etc and I recently set foot for the first time in a "high end" shop, hoping to get to the next level of audio nirvana. When I saw some of the prices for monoblock amplifiers, cables, the latest speakers etc, I practically fell off my chair when I realized that I could blow $50-100K pretty easily on this stuff. I am not rich. Do you big budget system guys all work on Wall Street or something or do you eat macaroni and cheese most nights to put a few bucks away for CDs and your next upgrade?
Hang around this site and you can get your hands on some pretty expensive gear (retail that is) for most times less than half the dealer asking price. I definately believe in allowing others to pay for depreciation. Regards, Mike
My wife and I share an insane passion for music. I'm sure that there are others on this site who are equally crazy but here is our short story. When we got out of graduate school we got very good paying jobs. (we both have technical degress and MBA's). For the first few years we were spending 50-60% of our income on equipment, media, live music and books about music. Literally, we ate a lot of macroni and cheese and Japanese noodles. Fortunately we had subsidized employee cafeterias! Our budgets are driven from music first, retirement second, then make due on what's left over. As our career's developed our peer's were driving big BMW's and we had ONE eight year old car. We used to bet that the value of our car plus our stereo was more than that sum for our peers and we always won. We lived in a cheap loft in a dubious neighborhood for 14 years because the sound was so good and any house we could buy didn't have an equivalent listening room. When we could afford to move we looked at 500+ houses until we found one with a better listening room. We had the room evaluated by an audio engineer as a contigency inspection. We are now quite senior in our fields with high pressure jobs that we couldn't manage without retreating to our listing room or going to a concert. Last week was live opera on Wednesday and from Friday night - Saturday night was a Bruckner fest with our musical friends, two performances each of symphonies 4 through nine. Our business associates have always thought that we are crazy and still do.
Well 'crazy' is just someones opinion.My opinion counts for more,as should everyone's. Pis1- A marriage made in heaven;as good as it gets!!You are blessed.How can you not get behind anyone with the same priorities.More beans,anyone??
While it is possible to spend $100k plus on a statement type system, it is possible to obtain a truly great sounding system for $7,500 MSRP. It is my opinion that most gainfully employed people over the age of 25 can afford to spend this amount if they so choose.
Thomas, listen to Onhwy61. 7500.00 is probably more than enough to spend on a system. I am at about 4500.00 and still upgrading. 7500.00 is my limit. I would not spend more if I had it. 50-100K systems are in my opinion morally incorrect. It is one thing to quest for the absolute sound and quite another it indulge in greed and obsesiveness for any hobby. I say hobby, because that is exactly what it is. If you think that 50-100k is going to get you spiritual enlightenment, good luck! I say you are most likely to find happiness, enjoyment, fulfillment, pleasure and all the other reasons for this hobby, by giving your 50-100K system to someone in need. They could then sell it at 1/2 price (if it's actually worth that much) to pay for their shelter, food, and clothes. The down side of this hobby is those that take a good thing too far. 50-100K in audio becomes not a hobby but an obsession. This would be a reasonable thing if you were an audio professional, either sales, recording, musician, etc. But for the average or even above average, it's just plain stupid. Remember this is just one person's opinion. Some might think my 7500 budget is out of hand. I guess it's all how you look at it.
Having been in the general neighborhood of "audiophilia" for MANY years... and being poor! I can sympathize with the plight of the 'person on a (small) budget' going into a "Hi-End" audio salon. The 'Top of the Line' costs are mind blowing. But then with a bit of searching and reading and listening, one can arrive at a compromise that leaves one aurically satisfied. In 1966 I had a system that cost under $1,200. Now, my (musical only/non video) systems' list price would be around just $10,000 (this is with speakers 17 years old that today would alone be a $5,000+ replacement cost). Over all, the rate of improvement in sound quality ALONG WITH the lower than standard rate of inflation in audio prices (IF you compare the quality of the sound, and not the absolute price of the most expensive things)leaves me with a FAR better system than the one I had as a teen... at only a bit more in real dollars???. To find this system has taken a lot of searching out 'what I really want and can afford', and bargain hunting and price haggling (and dumping horrible mistakes). Audiophilia IS a relatively "nice" affliction to have... but to be "bitten" is NOT the same as having the mature result. Good luck!
To Axomoxa: If consenting adults without children earn their money legaly how they choose to spend it is hardly a moral issue.
I agree with Plsl.
It's not always how much you spend, but how you spend it that counts. By paying proper attention to component interface and balancing out the strengths of one component against another, I believe it is possible to assemble a system where the sum of the musical enjoyment exceeds the value of the parts. It is possible to assemble a system for $7,500 or less that will outperform much more expensive ones, if the money is spent carefully. Hanging around this website is a good way to learn (and get some good deals).
I am as poor as they come.I have built my system a little at a time over the last 4 years.I have always loved music but had mass market junk,and I mean the worst of the worst!! A friend forgot a Stereophile here on day and I loved the pictures of tube amps,turntables,speakers etc.I went to a couple high-end shops for a real look at this stuff and was hooked on the sound quality right away.I bought some Paradigm Titans for around $200 to start my upgrade.The shop had a 1 year 100% trade up policy and over the course of 3 years moved up to the Reference 80's,I couldnt have afforded the 80's all at once so slowly I got the speakers I wanted.Around the time I got the Titans I saw a ad in a local paper for a tube amp for sale.I had never heard of the name of it but I got lucky as it turned out to be a Dynaco ST-70. At the time I bought it I only knew it was tubes and thats all I cared about.I paid $150 for a nice shape Dyna then slowly added some NOS tubes,better filter caps,heavier cord.A friend gave me a Hafler 945 preamp and I bought a used Denon CDP and some PBJ's and I was in business.Then I caught the vinyl bug after I bought a $2.00 TT at a yard sale and it killed my Denon.I started out with a Music Hall then a Ariston RD-80 and finally a Rega P-25.I traded in the Hafler for a Rogue 99 and I was doing some serious cooking then.I bought some HT pro-Silways and I thought I was done.Nope,next a got a great deal on a Pass Aleph-3 so I had to grab it before someone else did.My system retails for around $11,000.00 right now but with shopping around,buying some things demo or used and finding a great dealer I have only paid about $5000.00 for what I have.I have had to be patient to get what I wanted.I also drive a 8 year old car and and Im a bit in debt.from my stereo upgrades.I still need to get some better speaker cables,a conditioner,better cartridge and amp stand. Besides the uprades I bought a wet-vac,fluids,accoustic treatments on and on.But a little at a time and smart shopping is where its at for we poor folks.I think now my stereo has gone above the level of my speakers.Time to start over??
Plsl, you lucky dog. Does your bride have any sisters? [:)]Also...sorry boys and girls, but Axomoxa has brought into this discussion the concept of material wealth vs. spiritual wealth. This concept has been addressed by every major world religion, and the timeless truth is that real happiness is derived not from "things" but in your relationship with the Holy, yourself, and those around you. I have to admit, though, that I will be very happy when my new Harbeth C7 monitors finally come in.[:)] Charlie
Not rich either! Who said "....obsessions make good servants but poor masters"? I'm a consenting adult too and agree with Plsl and Mikeam above. No need for guilt trips here. Cheers. Craig
Craig, you have obviously gone to the Dark Side. [:)]
I set goals for myself and chip away at it as I go. I picked a certain level of equipment and saved up for one piece at a time. I worked all the overtime I could and went to a shop that allowed record long layaways. It took a year to pay off my speakers and five years after I started I almost have completed my intial goal. When Im done Ill start to upgrade. I think its fun and although my priorities arent always the greatest I could have spent my money on worst things.
Everthing about the high end is totally insane as far as the prices go. Markups are ridiculous and nothing ever sounds the best but be careful because once you enter the zone you will be hooked in the fantasy of trying to recreate musical instruments costing a few hundred bucks into your living room with this equipment that can cost thousands. If you break down the lists of parts to make any of this stuff it will drive you crazy on what you are charged - just remember to not forget about the music because we all started at Radio Shack and seemed to enjoy the software no matter what woofers and cones it was coming out from. Good luck and happy spending!
It is always relative. Anyone who thinks any amount is "too much" is only putting their own bias into their opinion. I have one rich friend who has not one, but two "cost is no object" dream systems, (one for the city and one for the country). They sounds incredible. He also happens to be extremely big hearted and generous with his time and money toward many charities, so why should he deny himself the pleasure of the "best" sound reproduction? Axomoxa, you couldn't be more wrong.
Ours is a hobby of diminishing returns past a certain point. While you could spend tens of thousands in the pursuit of audio perfection, the wise application of but a thousand dollars can create a very musical system capable of much that audiophila is all about. It's really all a question of degree. Spend what you wish or can afford and enjoy the music.
To Pls1 and Mikem referencing Axomoxa comments on moral issues. Morality is in the eyes of the beholder. I would have a quite difficult time justifying spending 75K-100K on an audio system just because I am a consenting adult that could afford it. I would feel quite unconfortable in the knowledge that there are better things to be done with such wealth. And not only that but such strastospherically (long green fittingly deserves long words) priced gear can't be rationalized to me as better so much as conspicuous consumption, read status motivated. Such products are geared at the irrational non-sensibilities of those that can afford it. To each his own. Now if we were talking about a one of a kind work of art.......hmmm
The views of onhwy61, joe_b, and sgmlaw indeed reflect the wisdom derived from long experience in this hobby. One CAN put together a very enjoyable, "musical" audio system these days for only a few thousand dollars. In fact, it's easier than ever before, because of the large number of small-scale yet high-quality manufacturers, and the ability to learn about them via the internet and numerous audiophile publications. One suggestion I have is to search for any local "out-of-the-home" (but authorized) dealers, i.e., individuals who often offer very good price-to-performance on audio gear, which they have personally selected to compete with big retail stores selling overpriced Krell, Levinson, etc. It's generally a more pleasant experience, and you can often borrow some equipment to try in your home.
to Axomoxa, I should have added ... although well intentioned. Tubegroover, as I said earlier, we all bring our own biases into this issue. Maybe some rich people are status motivated, but so are many non rich people. In the case of my friend, he is the least pretentious person I know. Must someone always do what you think is "better" to gain approval? Unless you were in a position to have whatever you want, and do whatever you want it is very hard to be sure what you might do or think in that situation. Some of the best products in history are now considered works of art. Tiffany and Ferrari are two examples which come to mind. Also, at one time a "millionaire" was a big deal, now it is a "billionaire". To some, $75,000 is not that much money. It is a lot to me, but I would certainly spend that much or more on a home theater/audio system if I had the means. That would not make me one bit less of a "good" person, just a good person with a great stereo.
I seem to remember a great line from Bruce Springsteen, "all that heaven will allow". More money simply allows you to do more for everyone, including yourself. Spending money is always good for the economy. Behind every high end product is a store owner, a salesman, a stock person, a delivery person, an equipment manufacturer, the providers of raw material for the manufacturers, employees with family to support, and on and on. A high end purchase can be a very positive thing for many people. If it makes you feel guilty, maybe you might widen your perspective a bit?
to Axomoxa, I should have added ... although well intentioned. Tubegroover, as I said earlier, we all bring our own biases into this issue. Maybe some rich people are status motivated, but so are many non rich people. In the case of my friend, he is the least pretentious person I know. Must someone always do what you think is "better" to gain approval? Unless you were in a position to have whatever you want, and do whatever you want it is very hard to be sure what you might do or think in that situation. Some of the best products in history are now considered works of art. Tiffany and Ferrari are two examples which come to mind. Also, at one time a "millionaire" was a big deal, now it is a "billionaire". To some, $75,000 is not that much money. It is a lot to me, but I would certainly spend that much or more on a home theater/audio system if I had the means. That would not make me one bit less of a "good" person, just a good person with a great stereo.
It is always relative. Anyone who thinks any amount is "too much" is only putting their own bias into their opinion. I have one rich friend who has not one, but two "cost is no object" dream systems, (one for the city and one for the country). They sounds incredible. He also happens to be extremely big hearted and generous with his time and money toward many charities, so why should he deny himself the pleasure of the "best" sound reproduction? Axomoxa, you couldn't be more wrong.
It all "trickles down" hey, Bmpnyc? Well, it's a nice thought anyway, I remember that from the 80's. And to think I was feeling guilty about those Harbeths, too. Thanks man, I think I'll go spend some mo' money.
Well, Bmpnyc did somewhat imply that the trickle down effect was at work here, but I think you're short-changing much of his point by highlighting that. To basically say that, with discretionary purchases, we each have different points at which we feel the purchase is unwarranted, and that this point varies with the person, their conditions, and the specific purchase would suffice, IMO. To bring morality into the conversation (at a specific price point no less) is certain to draw a rebuttal saying, "I'd spend that much and I'm not immoral".

Just out of curiousity, if it's not "right" to buy a $100K system (for whatever reason), is it wrong to sell somebody a $100K system for the same basic reasons? If people feel guilty for indulging in something that is clearly a luxury, is there any sense of guilt by the people who facilitated it's existence?

To answer the original post, I'm not rich, though I do work in a Wall-Street related position. I definitely spend more on A/V gear based on having more discretionary money than I did in the past. I love the hobby, but am probably not as fanatical as many who post here, and definitely haven't made as many sacrifices as have been described here. By being interested in the hobby I have, as others have suggested, put together a system I'm very pleased with for far less than a similar system would have cost had I walked into a high end shop and said, "set me up!". But to me, it's all about prioritization - a high end music system, purchased with care, is a tremendous entertainment value - you can use it 365 days a year, very little maintenance, and highly enjoyable. Many of my friends have boats, more exotic vacations, more expensive cars or clothes, whatever - I don't think they're crazy for how they spend their money and I think I've convinced most of them that I'm at least not crazy for spending mine the way I do. In any case, if you're interested in getting to that next level of audio nirvana and not spending an arm and a leg, there are many on this site who'd be happy to offer their advice!

I think building up to a wworld class system over time is the way to go. I'm more or less in my fourth system since my graduate school years (11 yrs ago). I started out with a reasonable mid fi sstem (Denon/JBL), them upgrade the speakers, then the pre amp, etc, etc. One step at a time..and Audiogon. I guess my system now would run over $ 45 retail..but the only items I bought new were the REL sub, the Solidsteel stand and the Linn LP12 front end..though I bought the latter in Euroep as I was moving to the US. The rest were either second hand or store demos. Yes, I make decent money. No, I wouldn't go out and splurge on the latest, flavour of the day interconnects for $ 2000, or change my CD player as frequently as my underwear. At some point you do reach diminishing returns.. and the most important thing (the room) is the toughest one to upgrade.
I think less than 10 people have heard my system thus far (including family). It's in its own room in the basement, not on diplay in the living room..and there is only one decent chair in the room. Most folks have no clue what is costs, and I don't tell them. What matters is the music.
There is a moral issue in how much we spend on audio or any consumption although most of people in a capitalist society are standing in the other side of the line. It may be that the issue is metaphysical to the degree that it hardly fits the scope of this forum, regradless of where you stand. At any rate, let alone moral implications, there is one more thing to think about -- namely opportunity cost. If the opportunity cost of that 75K is minimal for you, you can go ahead and spend it however you desire within the boundary of capitalitic ethos, which is what the capitalism is about. If you are spending without that consideration (i.e., while not being so affluent), I think you will have a dilemma there. For instance, a question can be raised with respect to how much in proportion you allow for yourself with other members of the family. I came to a conclusion that 5K to 7K is adequate for my home economy. Of course, as my net wealth grows, I might upgrade my system. But, I probably won't because besides the fact that I have hobbies other than audio that require money in, the price differential is hard to justify the improvement. Of course, that is a subjective assessment. For those who are affluent enough to consider 75K "not much," the improvement may be well appreciated even when the opportunity cost is taken into consideration. On the other hand, I feel that people are actually doing themselves a favor by refusing to buy super expensive gears -- Rolex or whatever -- in the long run. Let me put it this way, if everyone refuses to buy Rolex or Ferrari on the issue of price, do you think if the companies will go out of business or come back with more palpable pricing? Their modus operandi is to maximize profits. By creating a market segment filled with status symbols with proper quality and therefore product differentiation, they are maximizing their profits by selling less at higher price. Not because they will lose money by selling more at lower price. Since I am a quasi to pseudo audiophile, I much prefer to boycott 15K monoblocks, for instance, even when I may be able to afford it. A simple choice to protect and enhance my own interests to enjoy better gears at lower price in the long term. Of course, the aura of status or whatever may well be gone since the premium for the aura is removed by then -- well, at least for Rolex. I have no problem with those who can afford them. However, if the trend reported is true that the number of diehard audiophiles among middle class has been declining, I am confident that many high end companies will revise the current business model in terms of price, at least partially. Because some, though less than before, profits are better than none by abandoning the business altogether. Why shouldn't they evolve when everybody else has to? But, I am pretty darn sure that I am stuck with my gears since that won't happen in my life time. For those gears are specifically marketed to people in a gated community, many of whom are well groomed by the industry as well (that is, no consumer protection by counterbalancing the power of suppliers with most consumer audiophile magazines being self-congratulatory with the manufacturers, let alone minimal criticism from consumers). So, some of you need not bless me to keep my current gears to the grave -- thanks for the thought, though. At the same time, my simplistic argument will not be met with sympathy; after all, I am talking to audiophiles. And, who knows, I may join the Force of Dark Side. By the way, the nature of business environment for the high end audio industry can be identified as monopolistic competition (not true competition); in other words, they thrive on product differentiation to different sonic taste, which is why we have so many functionally similar yet sonically different gears in the market. So, you need not worry about less diversity when the industry business model changes, since they can make more profits by being diverse before and after. Gentlemen (and ladies), get your eggs ready... P.S. I totally agree with those who think one can get a very reasonably good system with 7K...
Cogito - There is an excellent book titled "Luxury Fever" that discusses the phenomena you refer to of the constant need / push to define "the best" (of whatever) in increasingly fantastic (and expensive) terms. The author argues, much as you do, that by participating in these areas by purchasing the high-end version of whatever, you're fueling the need to move it to a higher level. Hence, the effect of buying a state-of-the-art $100K speaker system is that you're helping to push the definition of state-of-the-art to $200K. The author goes on to argue that this type of luxury should have the crap taxed out of it such that the only people who would actually pay for it are the truest of enthusiasts who are buying it for the enhanced performance.

Using the phrase "moral issue" is bound to inflame the conversation, and maybe those who have used it don't intend it as strongly as it sounds. At the very least, the subject of audio equipment and a specific price point is completely arbitrary as it relates to the moral aspects of this conversation - I just sold a rental house for the same price range as the audio equipment we're talking about even though I could have moved my family there, sold my more expensive house that we currently live in, and used the proceeds for a more noble cause. The same type of thing happens dozens of times a week to almost anyone living in a capitalist society, just at different levels.

As those who have read my previous posts know, I believe in VALUE when it comes to assembling a high-quality audio system. If you are just starting into this hobby, used gear is the best way to start, and there are some great buys on Audiogon. For about $5000, you can build a very good system based on CD sources. If you plan to invest in vinyl playback as well, you will have to add another $1000-1500. Here are some suggestions: 1. If you are going to use your system for home theater as well as audio, get a good quality DVD/CD player. The 16-bit CD is already "old technology", so get a DVD player with 24/96 capability. 2. Get a good quality integrated amp, such as Bryston's BP-60 or Musical Fidelity's CR3 (available from Audio Advisor), OR a good preamp/power amp combo from manufacturers such as B&K, Adcom, Rotel, Parasound, or Acurus. 3. Speakers: you can get a very good used pair of monitor speakers plus subwoofer for $1500-2000. Interconnects: either buy good quality used cables from this site (such as Kimber Silver Streak or Hero) or, or new ones from HomeGrownAudio or By way of example, here is my current system that I have assembled primarily from purchases on Audiogon or from dealers such as "". My main speakers: Vandersteen 3A Signature (MSRP $3500 - paid $2500). Center channel speaker: Vandersteen VCC-1 (MSRP $500 - paid $325). Rear surround speakers: Coincident Triumph Signatures (MSRP $1100 - paid $650). DVD player: Pioneer DV-37 (MSRP $1000 - paid $650 new). Preamp / processor: Adcom GTP 750 (MSRP $1900 - paid $1150 for unit with 4 weeks use). Main power amp: Bryston 4B-ST (MSRP $2400 - paid $1650 new). Surround power amp: Adcom 5503 (MSRP $1300 - paid $650 nearly new). Speaker cables: Kimber Kable 8TC bi-wire pairs (MSRP $385 - paid $225 with terminations). Silver interconnects by HomeGrown Audio. Total cost of system (some new, some used): about &7500 without turntable, etc. If you add in my VPI HW-19 Mk 4 with Rega 900 arm and cartridge (MSRP about $3K - paid $1600), and a Sony 32" WEGA TV, the total cost of my home theater system is just over $10,000. That's less than the cheapest decent car on the market, and I get a hell of a lot more enjoyment from it than owning a Hyundai or Daewoo. The only "caveats" are: your value system must place good music and sound high on the priority list; you must be willing to assemble the system over time, as you find the right pieces; and you must be willing to act quickly to buy when pieces become available. If you have a year or so to invest in some shrewd shopping, you can build a great system for 35-50% less than MSRP.
Thanks, KT.... Dan, I think you may have misunderstood me. In the 80's there was an extraordinary amount of money not being spent, but being held and manipulated by greedy manipulating, S.O.B.'s, can you say "Boesky"? I never saw people sleeping on the street until Reagan began implementing "trickle down economics", but I think it is fair to say that there is a tremendous amount of interdependance, and yes there is a "trickle down" factor, but I didn't intend that to be an economic guideline, just one of the many factors to consider when making judgements about what is "too much". I don't agree with the typical hate the rich attitude. You are who you are, rich, or not. I would not mind being rich, and I certainly would not mind buying Sony's top of the line video projector, a Camelot Roundtable DVD player, Avalon speakers, a great turntable, a Phillips 5 channel SACD player, Harmonic Technology Magic cables, and a beautiful house to put it all in. Would you?
i've got about $12k into my rig, but i'm by no means rich - it's been built up over the years in bits-n-pieces. one of the amps i use i purchased in '85. oh, & i'm also a bargain-shopper - the retail price of my system is ~$35k. :>) but the whole fambly enjoys listening to the toons...
To Tubegroover: Is a pair of Dunlavy SC-V's with an equal amount spent on room treatment to give a fairly decent imitation of a live performance of The Rite of Spring or the Mahler 8th a status symbol? Does your answer change if someone has regularly gone out of their way to hear these pieces live? BTW and just for grins, what per cent of your lifetime income will you have spent on "better things to be done with such wealth" please be specific.
Bmpnyc, and everyone else, I am sorry if I typed kinda smug. I really did not intend to dismiss what you and others have said, I was attempting to gently voice toward Axomoxa. I will stand by my statement that material wealth does not, cannot, and will not bring true happiness. "He who dies with the most toys wins" is bullshit. (I know nobody here has said that, so bear with me.) I often present ideas that I am wrestling with inside my own head, trying to live a balanced life. (Do I really need those Harbeths....Yes!) I am a strong believer that an investment in a good system, at whatever price is comfortable for the buyer, is one of the sounder investments that can be made. (The kids can sell it off after your gone.) The joy of music makes me a better person to work for and be around. How much is that worth? [:)] Hang in there. Charlie
Interesting thread folks. For my 2 cents, I am a believer in two principals...price is relative, and the law of diminishing returns. I dont think anyone should feel guilty spending whatever amount they wish on a system--it's their money, they earned it, let 'em spend it as they wish. To add perspective, how many music lovers out there would gag at the prospect of dropping even $10K (or a bit more) on a fine audio system which will last many years, but yet won't hesitate to bite at the $60,000 BMW that they'll drive for 3-4 years? $75,000 is a very substantial sum to the majority of the public, more so than 98% of those people could ever dream of spending on an entertainment system. However to Bill Gates, he makes that much money while taking his morning dump. Should he limit himself to $7500? Probably not. Even if he can't hear a difference (my second point, coming soon...) he'll be inclined to spend much more simply because he CAN, and God bless him for it. This being said, I am a firm believer in diminishing returns, and while I believe a $1000 receiver DOES represent double the value of a $500 one (just my opinion, others may differ), I do NOT believe that a $100K system represents anywhrere NEAR double the value of a $50K system. I've had the good fortune to sit in the testing room of Madrigal Labratories (makers of Mark Levinson), and listen to their "dream system" , and while I was awed, I was surprised to find that, in truth, given the means, I still wouldn't spend THAT amount of money on that system (roughly $150 - 175K at the time)...I simply didn't hear that much $$$'s worth of value. I think that the majority of responders here have the right idea...that great audio IS within the means of a great many people, especially by shopping wisely, letting others pay for depreciation, doing your homework, and being patient. Let your means decide the investment, and your ears decide the value. Best wishes to all!!!
You know rich ain't what it used to be!!When I was a kid there was a local Jewish Deli(Bay Shore) which had a sign which said,"lean is lean...extra lean is extra". $30,40,50K just don't go as far as it used to. So, if you want to be in the big time, you'se gots to pays the piper. Unfortunately, great stuff often costs a lot, even used.
Kthomas, your point well appreciated. As long as one is living in this society, he may not have moral superiority when it comes to the degree of consumption. But, that does not mean that there is no moral implications however strong or otherwise it is. As one previous poster pointed out, it also is all relative. In that sense, I am a culprit of this audiophile industry; thereby, I based my opinion not on morality but on pragmatism at individual level which I think can be more relevant to this issue though that can be as subjective as you pointed out. At the same time, the fact that I love something to death does not justify much if at all, though it may give us a clue to understand certain pattern of behaviors or consumption, when it comes to pragmatism. I love freedom to death, but I need to be responsible for my actions. One needs to think about his expenditure in that context. In other words, it would he helpful for one to think about his consumption behaviors in the light of pragmatic aspects once in a while. In this audiophile community, I think it is rather acceptable to say that I am willing to spend this much because I love them to death. Without talking about pragmatic aspects. For most of us with regular lives, it may not be O.K. Again, it is not to accuse anyone but to rephrase the followings. My morality may be no better than yours. nor may I be as pragmatic as you are. But, the issues are there for us to examine, flamed or otherwise. We all may not be that great or good morally or pragmatically; but, it would help us to think about the dimension. As I have said in the previous post, I am sure most of us are adamant in our positions. But, I am hoping that there are more people in the audiophile community who would agree with me not because that is a right thing to do but better for my own interests. Again, it is about individual pragmatism, not morality although I crudely rebutted one's claim of no moral issues involved here. If you can afford within "your" boundary of pragmatism, then what can others say in the society we are living in? I am hoping that audiophiles of middle class have a chance to examine the issues. Maybe, some people jocularly say that it is music and sound, stupid. Or, considering (therefore assuming) the pragmatic aspects. BUt.. Anyway, thank for the thoughtful comment... P.S. Would it not be better to have luxury items at cheaper price without having to take my comment as a impracticcal attempt to root such out (I did not mean it that way either)?
ok, i'll ante up to get into this game. here's my hand: i've got one of them $50-100k systems that i've built up to for the past 30+ years. and, i'm damn proud of it, moral implications and all. you want it, you'll have to shoot me and wrest it from my cold, dead hands. FWIW, i betcha' i'm as left-leaning or more as anyone else on this thread. (just to give you some flavor: i not only lived through the tumultuous late 60's, i was already by then a lawyer, defending and bailing out the anti-poverty and anti-war protesters and going up against all the draft boards in iowa arogant enough to ignore the truly moral convictions of conscientious objectors; i never lost one of these cases.) nonetheless, after reading some of the really incredible pseudo-philisophical bullshit on this thread, i suggest audiogon add yet another category to their revamped list: post-marxist audiophilia. sure, i agree you can buy into an acceptable highend system for around $7.5k. but why should that fact limit the amount that is "morally acceptable" to spend to get a better sounding, or even better looking (to you), system? should noone be permitted to buy an armani suit, lest he then lust after ever-more exspensive italian clothes? ought we limit mercedes models available for sale to those under $75,000, fearing that doing otherwise will simply enhance the market for farrari's? give me a break guys. chances are, when you are economically able to move up the audio highend ladder, you'll not only do so but become a true beleiver in the republican party simultaneously.
Buy used! I NEVER thought I'd end up with the system I've got now, and if you told me two years ago what I'd have today I would have fallen out of the chair! I've got $25,000 in a system that at retail would be $47,000. Shop around, I surely do not regret a penny. I have a stressful job and a few hours a week listening can take away my stress. That you cannot put a pricetag on!
Whether the amount to spend is $7500, $10,000 or $12,500, it is clear that these amounts can bring you a lot of system, which, if selected carefully and bought used at a healthy discount, can compete with systems in the 50k and up category. A $100,000 system bought at retail with poorly matched components and with more attention paid to the price tag rather than the sound quality of the components will almost assuredly return less satisfaction than the system carefully bought at $7500, $10,000 or $12,500. In fact, I would cast a skeptical eye on any product which is priced ridiculously (20k amp, 15k preamp, 15k CD player, 30k speakers). Products like these are priced similar to a car. Think about the complexity of a car as compared to these products and tell me how they justify such a price. And although these products are usually very good, usually I have found they are not the best. Sometimes they aren't even good.
Im not rich. But I have more than one music system, and my first (cost about $7500 total, retail list about $13k, including Harbeth Compact 7s that I bought new for half of their USA list price) gets me pretty close to the feeling that I'm in the presence of this young lady named Eva Cassidy who passed away a few years ago and whose rendition of Wade on the Water could convert the Devil himself. Id rather spend my money there than on a more expensive car, or whatever else you might spend money on. Depends on what makes you feel good. Plsl, thanks for the story. I'm in your debt. Danvetc, email me about the Harbeths. Oh, and Thomas, you can get great sound for about $1,500. Try a used or demo Denon 1650ar cd player, new Acoustic Energy Aegis One speakers, and a used NAD or Proton receiver or amplifier.
I drive an older car. My system is under 10K. I don't change it that often, in fact I'm finally getting my second CD player in ten years. I take some of the money other people waste on cars and buy vinyl and cd's, and a new component every 18 months or so. It's cheaper than cars and more enjoyable, in my opinion. Also, good stereo components last years. I find music rewarding and a great way to unwind. I buy equipment to enjoy the music, not for the love of new gadgets. I think a person can easily buy a good stereo system on the money saved by putting off buying that new car an extra year.
As Danny DeVito says, use "other peoples money."

Over 4.5 years I've been able to build a fairly decent system of components at no cost to me. How, you ask? Simple. Buy a piece here, resell it, buy another, etc. There are a number of good buys at this and other used audio sites across the web. It really is worth what little time it takes to buy and sell.

In answer to your 1st question Pls1 no, not if you are willing and able and it gives you pleasure. I also don't question, judge or begrudge anyone who spends it. My point is my personal values, not yours. I see no need to and maybe I would feel a bit guilty if I did. Why you ask? Because first off I don't think I need to in order to achieve a musically satisfying system of the highest order. 2nd I do believe that much of this ultra high priced gear is specifically aimed at separating one from their money. It is a play on the emotional irrationality of affluent audiophiles. It never seems to end with some guys and it has not a damn thing to do with musical satisfaction so much as wretched excess. Now you raise a very interesting point. My answer for me DOES change if it is attending live concerts. Concerts are a more enriching life experience to me than listening to an ultra expensive audio system by myself in a room. My wife loves concerts as much as I do. She doesn’t enjoy sitting in a room listening to music or share my love of well-reproduced audio. She has to be doing something. I, unlike you, don’t have someone special to share it with. Now for the last part of your question. One of the better things to do with that wealth which in my estimation would have a more beneficial effect on the economy overall “the trickle down effect” and is a better investment, (this all ties into my value conscious business head) would be to add real value to my home by putting in a dedicated listening room and buying more software. Beyond that, traveling the world to hear some of the great orchestras. How about that? BTW my audio only system would retail for 24K. I spent 9.2K for it (I’m another of the bottom feeders, can’t help it, I like a good deal). Other than ultimate low frequency extension I suspect it is knocking on the door of the best and is completely satisfying except for some fine-tuning to the analog front end.
I guess I do question individuals that are always changing out expensive gear in a never ending quest for owning "the best" which ties into the wretched excess comment. This has nothing to do with music reproduction as much as buying the latest most expensive toy which will certainly be replaced in short order. To each their own.
I have an agreement with my wife that my music hobby can cost as much as we spend on a car. Given she has a passion for Alfas, that gives me a reasonable budget, but I am always suggesting she upgrades from time to time. If you are serious about this hobby I cannot see why you would spend more on a car than on your music, and try adding up the cost of owning a car sometime. I agree with you Tubegroover, throwing money at the best is just silly. As my brother once said "any idiot can put together a good system for $100,000, the real fun is putting something together for $10,000, or even a lot less, that approaches the best." I tend to focus a lot of my activity (outside of listening to music) on learning how to wring the most out of a given system.
Cornfedboy is Right, Although i have not spent 100k on my system..somewhere around 30-35k. The point is I work my ass off to support my family and run my company and if the Left keeps taxing and regulating my butt off im going to start wacking them in the head with my heavy,imorale mono-block amps. If you need to find me ill be staying with cornfeedboy cause it sounds like his system sounds better than mine. Lee
Cogito - I wasn't trying to imply that your comments and ideas on controlling the price of high-end equipment was impractical. Actually, I was trying to point out that you have other people in the world who think along exactly the same lines, and I think your points have a great deal of merit. One of the points that the author of "Luxury Fever" makes is that the paradox we face is that it's a series of individual decisions that have consequences for the group as a whole. Nobody feels as though their making a different decision will affect the overall picture but, in fact, to actually change the overall picture a whole group has to make different decisions. The author's answer was to heavily tax things like $75K speakers as a way of getting large numbers of people who might purchase such a thing to not do so, while allowing those who REALLY want such a thing to still be able to obtain them. If this happened, the effect you suggest would quite likely occur - the high-end models would almost undoubtedly come down in price (and quite possibly performance / aesthetics), and the ultra high-end would undoubtedly go up in price, both because of the heavy tax and the need for the manufacturer to make their money on far fewer sales.

Cornfedboy, thanks for sending out a reality check here. I don't know about the Republican party aspect, but you made some good points IMO. Imagine for a second that you are a gifted designer/engineer/inventor. You have an idea that could potentially enhance lets say... multi channel playback, it takes $100,000 to fund your research and developement for 3 years. You are now able to produce the worlds next, "best" playback device. With investors you manufacture 3000 of these devices, costing $500 each to produce, totaling 1.5 million in hardware alone, not to mention paying 5 employees. You spend $30,000. to advertise, all the while praying your idea is accepted. Your total cost to produce and market this product is $4000 each. You have mortgaged your house and borrowed from friends to retain a controlling interest over this because you want to maintain design integrity and insure that you keep a fair share of the profit, should there be one. At your A/V dealer this product is displayed and demonstrated for the public, (costing the dealer some time and money). People check it out and find that they absolutely love the sound, and it would be a major improvement in your sound system, but it cost say... $14,000. That may seem "high' to some people, but you only get $6,500 at your wholesale price, giving you a $2,500 profit. You sell 1500 of them totaling $3,750,000. Minus your 2,000,000 investment gross profit is 1.5 mil. Split among investors you made $150,000. This enables you to afford to refine your copyrighted design and sell that to a major audio manufacturer for 2 mil. The public gets an even better playback device at a fraction of the original cost, say... $1,400. Change the numbers however you want, is the designer/inventor wrong for trying to build a better "mousetrap", and profiting from it? lets see, at first we had a $14,000 "over priced, self indulgent, conspicuously consumed" device, now the general public can get close to audio nirvana at 10% of the cost. Five years later, the same technology is available for $359 at Circuit city, and all the "less fortunate" people can now have some guiltless higher end fun. Why all the guilt tripping?. I have carefully spent around $15,000 over a 3 year period to come as close as I can to a $60,000 system. Would I have prefered to start out at that level?... Damn right I would. I would have been enjoying my system that much sooner, spending less time researching and negotiating, and more time listening to music.
Sometimes it is a matter of priorities. Some people think nothing of spending $25,000 on a new boat that they keep at some dock and use only a handfull of times. Others will spend lots of money on new clothes, cars or even going out to dinner X's times per week. If I let my wife have it her way we would spend $500 a month just going out to dinner. Let's see that's $6,000 a year. That could get you a good used system. Do the math and fiqure out what you could get over a 5 year span. Anyway, no I'm not rich. I just have my priorities. To tell the truth, I'm kind of tired of hearing people complain about the cost of a $700.00 cd player, when that same person would spend $200 on a pair of sneakers. I would agree that at a certain price point the value curve begins to flatten out, however, overtime, with well used budgeting skills, a person can put together a nice system that won't kill them. Come on, a good case of beer will run you $35.00!