Kitch, are you smearing our former Chief again? :-)
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I think the Bel Canto piece is going to push amp manufactureres into the digital age very quickly. Not only does the EVo series challenge some of the best amps around, it does it at a cost(to the manufacturer and consumer) that embarasses the old technology. Think about it...the 200.2 and 200.4 have made some major waves in amplification and are really just scratching the surface of what's possible in digital amplifier technology(remember early 80's CDs?). Makes you think where these things will be in a couple years doesn't it? No wonder "old style" amps are starting to get cheap. They may be a bit better for now, but wait a few months...
Although there are some genuinely good deals to be had on amps here at Audiogon, I think that there are just too many amps selling for more than they are worth on this site. Don't get me wrong- I realize everyone wants to do as well as they can, but some prices are simply too high. Try and understand that just because a manufacturer builds a $10,000.00 pair of mono-blocks with a gazillion watts per channel in pure class A , that doesn't automatically qualify it for classic status(except in their advertising). Perhaps someone can explain to me why we buy cars at nearly $20,000.00 these days and accept with great regularity that they won't be worth half that in five years after purchase, but we can't accept that our gear in most cases is worth less than half 18 months after we purchase it? Folks, this ain't the summer of 99' anymore, and whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, people are getting their butts kicked in business, on gas prices, taxes, and their IRA's. And in a way, it's good for us. Helps us reprioritize and makes us stop being so wasteful. But in the vast scheme of where consumers will cut back spending, solitary pursuits of entertainment when you've got a wife and kids will almost always be first.(IE. STEREO) Now, give me the manufacturer who understands that, who builds great gear at accessible prices first and then releases cost-no object statement pieces second. And, who then can get their offerings HONESTLY REVIEWED in prominent audiophile magazines, and I'll invest my money and my loyalty into them. I do know of a few companies that are meeting many of those requirements, but they simply are not getting the exposure every fledgling company needs to survive in this business. DEMAND from the publications you subscribe to that they review these very products you discover in your journeys through this hobby. Remember, for us it is a hobby. For those who design, build, ship, and review the gear, IT'S THEIR LIVES!
Now, what cha' gonna do?
Patmatt. Good post, but, I don't see it happening. That's why so many of us keep coming back here. This is where the companies with integrity get noticed, by "word of mouth". As far as "demanding" from the publications; it's a hobby, it's supposed to be fun. When I get tired of a magazine, I let my subscription expire. At this point, I choose my battles, and trying to change a billion dollar industry, that is just like every other billion dollar industry, is not one of them. I guess my point is, when they start worrying about me, I'll be first in line to offer a helping hand.
Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm trying to be less distracted, and enjoy my music as much as I can. I am also willing to put in the extra work neccessary to be informed and not misled. That's the most I am willing to do.
There certainly is truth in what you say, Blbloom. At some point after educating yourself, it can be even more frustrating when you see publications and manufacturers not responding to a growing demand.It's like watching an alcoholic. You know they're hurting themselves, but you don't say anything because you don't think they'll listen. Of course, you know what eventually happens. I suppose I've picked this battle because I care about two channel dearly, and I keep on hearing that it's dying. If the market decides to move on, I can accept that. But let's not speed up the process by keeping quiet about our disfunctional family member.
I sincerely believe that if companies like Monarchy Audio, Bel Canto, Anthem and the like were reviewed a bit more. Just given more exposure and endorsed, things could change for this great hobby of ours. I think a perfect example of just what I'm writing about is the new Perpetual Technologies units that are being snapped up. All that performance for relatively so little. And the response to that company is quite clear:GIVE US VALUE FOR OUR HARD EARNED DOLLARS AND WE'LL BUY! Think of their success in the middle of a format war none the less. The writing is most definetly on the wall. And just like this thread asks, ARE YOU MANUFACTURERS PAYING ATTENTION?
Patmatt, you're asking for a clear "value proposition" from manufacturers. I agree. I think this is most pertinent when it comes to electronics and digital sources. IMO, we're getting products, but rarely, bang for the $, even in giga$ propositions.
I won't go into the economics behind giga$ "reference" products and min$ compromises -- we're all tolerably familiar with this argumentation.
I'll give an example: an EE friend build an *awesome* (tube) pre-amplification unit. The replacement cost of all components used (0,6 farad power supply, for example) without the casing was $2.1k, his involvement & research NOT included. In commercial parlance, we're looking at a 10x multiplier i.e., a retail price of 21k + tax, for the cost alone! (to include, distribution channel, advertising, we've got to make a living, etc).
However, that's a niche-market lemon: "who's going to buy that product", the Sales & Marketing VP might ask... The same VP could also note: "there's few enough buyers out there, if I produce the *ultimate* today, how will I survive tomorrow?"
I forgot to mention that the pre is based on modified 70's & 80's topologies, that are *cheaper* to realise today, God Bless the www.
NOT the latest, rocket-science technology.
I'm not asserting the aforementioned pre is the ultimate. I don't have the knowledge & experience. I can say it's better (by far) than my $5k pre.
So, before I buy, I join in asking manufacturers the question, "what value are you adding to my system, commensurate to the investment".
The high end companies will not put out lower priced components because that will lower the " Value " of their name, or they just find they can't produce what they feel the name deserves under the restrictions of that budget. They can't deflate the value of current gear and alienate their customer base by putting out sub-par cheap stuff. What are you complaining about? You all ready listed several companies that make good bang for the buck type stuff. If Conrad designed and put out a lower priced amp it would have the same limitations as the Anthem amp due to the budget constaraints. Come to think of it they allready have an amp. Sold under the name Sonograph " by CJ " again, changed the name to protect the "CJ" reputation. Also why Anthem is not called Sonic Frontiers.
Cars lose their value due to the number of moving parts, competition in the market place, and exposure to the immediate environment. Which, again causes extreme wear on the automobile, thus making it less than pristine and eventually a bucket of rust.
You can buy a $20,000 dollar car and in ten years it may only be worth $2,000. All due to the above factors.
On the other hand, in 1987, I bought a new Adcom GFA 555 for $550. In 1998, I sold it for $350.
In 1993, I bought a new Adcom 565 pre-amp for $750. In 1998, I sold it for $450.
These are not high end by any means, but I think it demonstrates that stereo gear holds a better value than automobiles and I would bet that percentage wise it hold as well as other consumer electronics or products.
Just look at the used golf club or bicycle market.
Don't buy the stuff if it does not deliver good value for the money. Just focus on high value-for-performance gear. Is there truly not enough high value/performance gear available?
Can anyone compile a list of high value/performance amplifier manufacturers? Let's examine if there are enough to choose from.
Everyone knows that audio performance does not go up in direct correlation to cost. It is our choice to go beyond the "knee" of the cost/performance curve or not.
Do you want good sound or bragging rights? Have we all not heard mega-buck systems that sounded awful? And cheaper ones that sounded better? Exercise your choices; vote with your purchases.
People paying outrageous prices perpetuate the pricing. The exclusivity, expense, and sheer audacity of some manufacturers appeal to some buyers. We don't have to participate.
We've tried really hard to keep prices down over the years, one of the more obvious being we just don't price our gear to the same formula that a lot of manufacturers do.
Despite that, the market has consistantly told us that it prefers to pay a little more if the end result is better sound. Unfortunately, there is also the phenomena that a more expensive amplifier is perceived to be better for no other reason then the cost.
Eventually the market figures out that the more expensive amplifier is not always better out of sheer price alone. It is finding that out about one of our close competitors right now.
There is also the 'you get what you pay for' issue. I doubt there is a single under-$2000-amp out there that is really something that would be called world class and state of the art. We would all like to make amps that cheap, I imagine, but the facts are that such an amp has to really have some corners cut to be worth making.
I paid < $1000 for a mint,< 50 hour Pass Labs Aleph-3
This retailed for $2500.
I've read dozens of reviews where this amp was put up against 'the best' and more often than not walked away the winner.
"You get what you paid for" mentality is what SOME big $$$$$$$$$ amp manufacturers want you to believe.
Nelson Pass puts out big $$$$$$ amps but still offered a modestly priced amp (aleph-3) and didnt call it something else to protect his name.
I say,buy used at a fraction of the retail and let the big pocket guys who *need* to spend all the money take the loss.
My point is that I don't think the complaints about the absence of reasonably priced audio gear are valid. I call upon those who feel differently to prove that there truly are no worthwhile audio products available at affordable prices.
I asked for folks to contribute to a list of worthy and fairly priced components so that we could perhaps examine whether those components really do represent worthy sonic performance at realistic prices. Let's agree on what qualifies as good performance for the price.
Do we want to compare the differences between the Atma-Sphere MA-1's (at $10K) and the Cary SLAM-100's (at $5K), for example? Or do we want to discuss the merits of going with the entry Plinius separates as opposed to the best Plinius integrated amp? Do products from ARCAM, Musical Fidelity, Antique Sound Lab, Audio Electronic Supply, and Wright Sound qualify for this discussion?
I also suggested we all have some control over the pricing. If it ain't worth it, don't buy it. Prices will come down if so-called over-priced gear does not sell. (I believe that sonic performance per dollar spent is going UP, not down IMHO.)
Many audio buyers seem to pay a lot for components based on the perceived prestige of owning "pedigree" gear as opposed to superior sonic performance. Is my point any clearer now?
ralph@atma sez:"We would all like to make amps that cheap, I imagine, but the facts are that such an amp has to really have some corners cut to be worth making." I dare say my indirect experience in the matter tallies, lately with a EE friend battling to build a "no-compromise" pre (tube).
The materials research alone has cost him $4.5k and it's not over; already the unit in "beta" form costs ~2.5k to assemble NOT including case, etc and damping matls. The chord linking the PS to the main chassis adds another $100...
And this from a seasoned hobbyist with 25yrs of tinkering behind him!
I hate to think what the retail price of such a unit could be!
95% of the performance at half the price! This is a theory that I adhere to do to my limited funds. If I had an endless bank acount, I might be purchasing differantly. I suppose that the manufacturers are developing products in the market that they think they will most likely succeed in. I typically buy used for economic reasons, however, my last 2 amp purchases were new products, the Odyssey Stratus and the Decware Integrated. Both of these being direct from the manufacturer. This method probably saves somewhere around 40%. Not quite as convenient as your local audio store, but at least as good a way to buy comparing to buying used.
As for a list, I'll stick with:
1. Decware Integrated $1495 (new) or any of the Zen's
2. Odyssey Stratus $995 (new)
I'd love to see others "short" lists
The issue, of course, is not whether one can create an expensive device through the incorporation of expensive components but whether the inclusion of such components yields a discriminable difference in sound.
Is a person who has laid out $10,000 or so for a preamp going to say, "Well, ya know, I don't really hear any difference; I just like the look of the panel face...or the looks on the faces of my guests when I tell them how much I paid"? Obviously not.
This is where the value of blind testing (which is NOT the same as quickie, push-the-button ABX testing) comes in. Alas, we get very little of that in the magazines and none at all in forums like agon. Without careful, extended listening by objective individuals (which excludes owners, manufacturers and dealers) we're really hard pressed to know whether the lavish investment in hand-built capacitors, 6 AWG air core inductors and 0.001% precision resistors makes a difference commensurate with cost--or even any difference at all.
So a few people end up paying terrifically high prices (and defending their decision to do so right to the last breath), while others sag in discouragement, sure they'll never really experience nirvana, while yet others descend into cynicism and begin to write for Audio Critic....
We should keep a couple of other facts in mind, too. One is that not all high priced products are filled with high priced components. There've been enough exposes of high end gear built with low end bits, and megabuck speakers complemented with $25 off-the-shelf drivers. Caveat emptor! Another is that the phenomenon of salon pricing is not limited to equipment manufacturers but extends down the food chain to component manufacturers, as well. One very well respected component vendor charges hundreds of dollars for inductors that any boob with half a brain, a spool of magnet wire, and a ten-buck surplus coil winder can make for himself in half an hour.
The ecodynamics and the psychology of the high end are complex but these phenomena are fairly central to its current unhealthy state, I'm sure.
-which is why I think if comparisons are made, then keep the prices comensurate too. If a particular amplifier performs out of its price catagory, *then* find out what it does compare to. Would it be the bang for the buck amplifier then? What if it cost $5000 but sounds better then one that's 10K? What do all the people who can't even afford 3K do? My guess is they will think the $5K amp is overpriced too.
But the fact of the matter is these disparities exist. There *are* amplifiers out there that outperform other amps that cost several times more.
The comes the issue: how do you compare them? There's an awful lot of amps out there. Usually the best place to test an amp is in the home, as IMMV. Actually, audiophiles have been lied to for so long (every comapny in the world saying they make the best equipment in the world) that all audiophiles have to test the gear in their homes, since if the dealer's or manufacturer's lips are moving, he's probably lying. Its gonna take a log time for everyone to listen to each product in the home to get anywhere.
So what's being said here? That we can't trust the magazines anymore? I think the truth of the matter is that the magazines serve to alert us to the presence of a particular product, but that the real homework is always on the shoulders of the buyer!
Not a lot the manufacturers can do about that. Like any other sport, this one has a lot of politics.
This is actually part of a much bigger problem. Our hobby is incredibly small, and shrinking in the face of surround video. 2 Channel needs to grow 3-5, maybe 10 times bigger then its current size in order for manufacturers' prices to come down. Expecting $1000 amplifiers to perform audio nirvana is just not realistic unless... unless the manufacturers can volume buy their parts. What about their costs? Building leases, electric, phone, insurance, to name a few, are rising exponentially.
Go price SOA cameras, lenses, motorcycles, boats, a decent car is pushing $30K for heavens sake. The average home is $200K, and a decent night on the town, not including ballet, opera, or any hot group concert tickets, is a couple hundred. So why should anyone expect hi-end audio to be cheap. In light of the above sky-rocketing prices in the world we live in- Is that fair?
At $1995 the Plinius 8100 is an all-time incredible bargain- 100 wpc, remote control integrated that is both wonderfully musical, and powerful. The GamuT CD-1 has been compared to the Burmester $58K transport/DAC. Gamuts amps have set the price vs performance benchmark with their amplifiers too!
Ask not what hi-end can do for you- ask what you can do for hi-end. And that my friends means inviting friends into your homes and sharing the passion, joy and psychological benefits of music played through a well conceived audio system.
Who cares what TAS rates as class 1. I would suggest that there is much more that goes into these ratings than meets the eye. I am certain there's a lot more involved in these ratings than how a component makes music. Can you read between the lines?
And only if you have the disposable income, I'll tell you why you should spend more than the Spectral , BECAUSE IT AIN'T TUBES, speciffically an OTL tube design.
Solid state is looking at a Monet from 5 feet. Tubes are looking at a Monet at 10 feet. Otl's are looking at a Monet from 20 feet. Try it and see which one is more realistic.
Fiddler. Do you mean listener distance in the hall, or do you mean general clarity?
If you mean apparent "hall perspective," my experience is the opposite. Every single SS amp I've auditioned tended to give a more distant perspective than either tubes with transformers or OTL amps.
If you mean general focus, I still don't follow you based on experience. OTL's happen to provide the most detail in a realistic way I have ever heard. SS amps might initially give one the impression of increased focus, but one usually pays the price in the form of either exaggerated, dry detail, or an attempt to control those known down sides with an artificially damped or controlled upper frequency presentation. The SS amps I am comparing to include: Mark Levinson No. 33's, Spectral DMA-100, Pass Labs 250's, BAT-VK-500, and the Sunfire amp.
Not all the tube amps I've tried are the cats meow, either. I still just can't relate to your unequivocal statement about viewing a painting at 5, 10, and 20 feet, etc. My own experience does NOT jibe with it.
I also find it interesting that SS supporters tend to phrase their position in absolute terms, as if they have scientific certitude on their side. To question it is to throw oneself into the realm of heresy--so religiously convinced does the language of many SS proponents sound.
I personally could care less what is inside the amplifier-whether it's SS, tubes, OTL, or batteries, whatever . All I care about is verisimilitude to a live performance. I find a greater consistent familiarity to live sound when I listen to good tubed amps. That's different from stating something like. "Take a listen to a live performance; a good tubed amp gives you the weight, authority, the air, the harmonic structures in tact, etc. The SS amp gives you a good approximation, but it tends to foreshorten the front-to-back layering or lessen stage depth, shrink the sound stage in general, reduce the physical presence or sense of real people making air move." Many SS proponents seem to use dictatorial language, which implies that any other view is inaccurate, and worthy of ridicule. Many tube folks seem to just state matters in terms of their experiencing a live concert and leave it at that.
I've got a suggestion. Start a co-op of dedicated enthusiasts, who really know how to judge components (and who have the time),and have them do so by auditioning components in their home and writing an "underground" review mag (not glossy or anything) that doesn't take advertising and whose reviews we can take seriously. We can pay a heftier price for the mag and be sure that when we ultimately buy moderately priced or ultra-expensive gear, we really are doing so on good advice. I know very few of us can audition even 1/5 of the gear out there.
What a minute! Isn't this how it was done in the "old days"? This old fashioned approach to reviewing is sorely needed again. Any volunteers?
This is where I came in!
Hey, where's my quarter note?
Yeah, I've been lurking here a little this past year but mainly over at the Asylum and especially Pi Asylum.
The brand names I referred to: C-J, ARC, etc continue to do their thing and a lot of new guys are making even higher dollar, more questionable gear throwing parts at the same old topologies.
Kits is where it's at. No prior experience needed. Building from schematics even better.
I've discovered that value is there for the taking. In the past year I've built pre-amp, 2A3 monoblocks, horn speakers and all their cables. That's an investment of about $2000. Sounds good to everyone who hears it and even a few reviewers.
Now I've replaced the $400 Cambridge CD player that embarassed the Planet and Classe with a $200 Sony SCD-CE775 SACD that buries the Cambridge on Redbook.
And I'm going to modify that.
Once your face stops hurting from grinning over what you've created, you find yourself listening to music more and components less.
Come visit me at my low rent website:
Fiddler, I get it now. Wow, how easily I misunderstood your analogy! For some reason, the same language I found sort of "in your face," seems OK, now that I know that you agree with me....
This has been a good lesson for me. Thanks for clarifying matters. It's such a relief to find a concurrence on these illusive, esoteric issues of aural approximation to live music. One can begin to think every other opinion is unique and no agreement can take place because we all process music too differently.
I can think of no other explanation for some of the widespread acceptance some audio gear has. I hear the same, lauded gear, and scratch my head in disbelief. This is supposed to be good?