Art Dudley Calls B.S. but without naming names - PLEASE DO!


Hey all,

As someone who hasn't been reading the audiophile press for all that long, I stumbled upon this article that I'm sure it lit up these airwaves when it was first published: https://www.stereophile.com/content/skin-deep

It's a great article and one that any knowledgeable person would most likely agree with, but hey, spending your own hard-earned (or inherited) money is a right and a privilege.  Art does call out some brands that he perceives to give great value:  AMVR, VPL, Conrad-Johnson, DeVore and Harbeth and Kimber and Peachtree and Quicksilver and Rega and Rogue and Spendor and Wavelength.  Shouldn't NAD be on this list?  

But what he doesn't do and I think is warranted, is name the companies that are most egregious in selling high-end products where the performance is far below the cost.  

I, for one, would love to see a list of those manufacturers from the people who read this forum.  You can group them by what they manufacture or just put them in order as you see fit.  I think it would be most helpful in calling b.s. but with "added-value", which is what this whole article was all about.  Right?

67859ccb 0a2f 4a1f 84ab 50e04792308blgoler
lgoler....you seem to have abandoned another thread you started quite recently ( speakers for a 2nd home ), and now you started this one. Why should I respond to you ? Besides, I think this question of yours is ridiculous. Enjoy ! MrD.
@mrdecibel my forum notifications weren't turned on and I hadn't been receiving the updates to my original thread.  I've just apologized to those who responded and added some clarification.  As for my question being ridiculous, you are entitled to your opinion.  
Right on Art! You are a "voice crying in the wilderness". But nobody is listening! A certain purveyor of High End products has introduced a $350K mono-pair of amps weighing a back-straining 485 lbs. each! Sure, it is great to have 6000 watts at 2 ohms for those hard-to-drive Apogee Scintilla's - but seriously folks, what does something like this mean to the average middle-class audiophile? Nothing! For the rich, no problem! Just sell that second Rolls and the weekend Bentley! This illustrates that old problem in Economics: better to sell one item for a million than a million things for $1 each? So Mr.D, go for it! We know whose side you are on!
Come the Revolution ...
I really don’t think most people who produce good hi fi are in the frame of mind to rat on the less than wholesome other people who charge outrageous amounts for fear of litigation.
@lgoler I apologize. FYI, I was one who wanted to help you. As far as audio gear being to expensive, look at the homes, automobiles, boats, planes, wines, clothing, jewelry, etc., that the wealthy can afford. Even the pure breed pets they purchase ( I adopt ).The reviewers I follow ( just about all of them ), have too much class to berate or slander a product or manufacturer. And yes, NAD, Parasound, Belles, and Odyssey, just to name a few, sell equipment at a reasonable cost vs. their performance. @roberjerman .......As I have said before, your opinions do not matter to me in the least. Lashing out at me because I spend money on better power cords and fuses for my gear, and called you on it. Well, again childish on your part. I know of some people ( they used to be clients of mine ) who will purchase those amps. Some to attain a higher level of enjoyment, and admittedly, some as a status quo. When money is no object, who are we to judge. I certainly do not have that kind of money, nor do I have enough to " have a 2nd home ", as lgoler, and others. What I do know, is that I joined the ’Gon years ago to share, and learn, about my passion of recorded music, and the means to achieve better results. I believe audio is, to an extent, scientific, but the final results are always in the listening. My ears are my gift, and folks like you are an embarrassment ( again, imo ), and are nothing but trolls. So, enjoy ! MrD.
The maxim of caveat emptor applies here. Anyone with half of an audiophile brain can determine value versus gauging. It’s "audiophools," those who have lots of money to burn and don’t really understand audio or the concept of value, who are the real suckers and buy the pet rocks of the hi-end. Products where cost far exceeds performance or value are fairly obvious based on the laws of price and diminishing returns. So, there’s really no need to identify the offending manufacturers because: (a) those of us experienced in audio already know who they are; (b) those with tons of money are likely to buy from them anyway, regardless of reality, due to a need to consume conspicuously; and (c) those who are inexperienced in audio and/or who have limited funds couldn’t afford or wouldn’t buy the products in any event.
@lgoler , let me commend you for your response to @mrdecibel  and now let me commend @mrdecibel  for his apology to you, for some reason that was setting up to be ugly and the both of you made it a positive, I tip my hat to you both.
I think that there's no reason for Art to do so. 

Your ears are the only things that matter. These are devices, not museum pieces. If you are trying to impress others, then all you need to know is the buying price and find some review which validates your spending. 

If you want to please yourself and family then the only thing you should be concerned with is your own ears. :)  Never pay for performance you can't hear or that doesn't please you. 

Best,


E
@tooblue   Thanks.  Civility is way under-rated these days.  I'm a human being first and foremost and know my time is short, so trying to limit the bad vibes I put out there.  @mrdecibel I may have a second home, but I assure you, I'm not loose, careless or showy with how I spend my money, hence, I'm on here looking for deals and expert advice!  My dad was careless with his and it literally killed him.  But he turned me on to Sinatra, so I forgive him.  For those who say that posting brand names would be egregious (but then again, most luxury goods are anyway:).  I was looking to have a little fun.  Sorry if anyone thought it was in bad taste to ask folks to name names of manufacturers.  Furthermore, I'm not a regular poster here and should respect my place.   But I'll say this, I read about too many products that seem to have the potential to be outdated in a year, and they were expensive to begin with.  Upgradeability is key in this day and age, where advancements in all kinds of technology happen at a much faster rate with much bigger gains.  Peace.  
@lgoler It’s all good. I admit, very often when I post, my passion can get the best of me. Again, I do apologize. My dad also introduced me to Sinatra, Goodman, The Dorsey brothers, you name it. At 9 years old ( 1962 ) my dad gave me his Fisher 500C receiver, AR 2AX speakers, and Dual 1229 tt with Shure cartridge. I blame him for my madness, lol, may he RIP. *** The new and improved version of the AGs are 12K plus, almost triple the price as the originals. How do you feel about this ? Is this a value, reasonable, or over priced, in your opinion ? I have not heard the new ones, but the reviews I have read indicate to me they may be overpriced. @erik_squires Plus 1 - You and I are pretty diehard when it comes to " using our ears ". @tooblue Plus 1. Enjoy ! MrD.
@mrdecibel No apologies necessary.  My dad bought a pair of Duntech Crown Prince's and a full set of Nakamichi top-of-the-line gear in 1986 when I was 18.  I smoked a lot of hooch with that system in my basement.  Honestly, the Duntech's never sounded that great but the weed helped.  Regarding the AG's, I picked them up on here for I believe $3,000 about 7 years ago.  If they are $12K now, that seems ridiculous.  They happen to work very well for my apartment.  They sound good, bass is especially well articulated and decent mid and highs. I don't find them fatiguing at all. I'm sure the upgrade Gershman offers would help, but by how much I'm not sure and probably not willing to make the investment.  
@mrdecibel 
“...And yes, NAD, Parasound, Belles, and Odyssey, just to name a few, sell equipment at a reasonable cost vs. their performance.”

This goes to show that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. One company on this small list I found to be terrible and would not EVER buy again. But I agree that what is a forum to exchange ideas and experiences if all the negative opinions are left out? It becomes just advertisement for the companies (who have fanboys) and pay to have threads in the forum. I think the forum SHOULD NOT punish regular audiophiles for being honest about gear they spend alot of money on.
On NAD: I really like my current NAD 3020 D, listening to it now, but NAD has also made a few digital stinkers too. :) 

Even if I like the brand, I may not like everything it's produced.

Best,

E
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Good article, thanks for sharing. It also includes a link to a related one by JA. Though may I point out that now, 6 years later, recommended components includes interconnects for $18,000/M. And a number of others that are close. 
Glad to read the 3 way make up
i enjoy what all three of you have to say :-)
peace is underrated...
i also am blessed to own a 2nd place, but I view that as an asset allocation choice that in this case favors a family member with cancer - I don’t put myself into the conspicuous consumption group but my more frugal friends might question my sanity now and then....( as they should )

listen
build a network of dealers you trust
buy gear from companies that offer offer a product upgrade path: Aestheix, Ayre, Vandersteen come to mind, there are more...
stay away from gear your jeweler or chiropractor would prefer you own....

But and this is my opinion I have a massive MR-85 tuner ( the R = Reference ) that is decimated by a lowly MX-110

same expert master MC tech rebuilt them both at same time... on his bench they were at best equal....

there I said it....
@kosst.........the general public, like my sister, who enjoys music as much as myself, but she listens and enjoys music, through a Bose all in one table top system, and on her phone. The general public, I don’t think so. Just a handful here on the ’Gon think much of this as snake oil, you of course included. That was not the base of Art’s article, as he was talking to, and about, the " audio community ", not the general public, and that prices of equipment ( yes power cords and cables, too ), have gotten out of hand, and I concur ( btw, the general public does not read audio magazines ). Of my many audio buddies growing up, I was always the 1st one bringing home the expensive stuff, at that time. I was middle class, but found ways to purchase the equipment, and because I was in the business, I did get accommodation pricing from the manufacturers and rep firms, which always helped on new equipment, but mostly dabbled in the 2nd hand market. Maybe an upgraded power cord will enhance your system ? I know your F5 would appreciate it, how about you ? $ 30 from Hong Kong / China with free shipping for a 1 meter. Or a buy it / try it offer from the Cable Company ( many other sites as well ) Enjoy ! MrD.
No one yet has named a name.  It seems most reviews talk 'value' and products that 'punch above their weight' or 'you wont get better for X times the price'.  Well here here is one that punches below its weight: Triangle.  I have Triangle Speakers in their Magellan series.  They look ok and sound very good, but are poor value for money.  Also when I had a driver problem it took three emails to get a response to the effect that they were busy and would respond.  They never did.  Focal Sopras, Magico S1, and Canton K3 (all recent auditions that sound a good step up in quality).  Another disappointment was Anthem.  Their 225 amp had the specs but it was lifeless at low volume.  Mind you it was not expensive, so that was more a 'You get what you pay for' product.
DeVore a great value? Compared to what? Vandersteen? Magnepan? Tekton? I know that he wants to reward sponsors with good publicity, but it's a slippery slope and he lost me at Kimber. 
Seahorse...so Kimber isn’t a good price/ value product? Which puts us back where, $18,000 cables? Gotta love how the Forum convos get circular every time, never fails. Good discussion while it lasted. 
I have no desire to turn this into a discussion about what people pay for wire. My point is that without a comparison, everything can just be so great.
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It is only expensive if it does not do what it is supposed to do which is Sound Better than what you own.  Yesterday a friend of mine called me to say he was comparing something and going back and forth to see what differences he heard.  I remember doing the same thing years ago.  Today I feel that when I put something new in my system that I should hear that difference immediately.  Building my own components now, that is what I want my customers to hear.  I want them within the first 30 seconds to say, I want it.  I tell them that if they have to go back and forth to hear a change for the better, send my stuff back.  BTW, that is what happens when they plug in my components.  I love the look of their faces.

So price can be justified is something does what it should do and the parts inside should be top shelf!  I also understand that there are bang-for-the-buck components that sound good but they should not compare to a higher priced unit that does what it should do. 

Happy Listening.   
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A rich man has about as much chance of getting into Audio Nirvana as a 🐫 has of passing through the 👁 of a needle. 
@mrdecibel : When I posted "So Mr.D, go for it!" I was referring to Dan Da'Agostino - not you! More power to him if he can sell these monuments to extravagant consumption!
I wouldn't call out products that, in my opinion, are bad values.  That is far too subjective, and would likely be unfair to the manufacturers and distributers, and hurtful to those that own the equipment.  On the other hand, I fully endorse promoting products that I feel are good, or even great deals.  Further, I think it's within the scope of civil discourse to point out perceived flaws and disappointments in equipment one has had experience with, but not disparage the entire line with blanket negativity.  It takes years to build trust, but one flaming statement can ruin that overnight.
Those D'Agostino mono blocks (which I am quite sure are great amps and well worth the investment to those that want them and can afford them) have nothing on my Stuart Hughes Nintendo Wii SUPREME!
About 25 years ago I rode a motorcycle.  Back then I couldn't understand why anyone would buy a Harley Davidson, as they were beautifully made, but had excessive vibration, poor brakes, were not very reliable, etc. etc.  And back then, if you attempted to purchase a new Harley at a dealer, they would load up the bikes with accessories and one of my local dealers required that you purchase an extended warranty as well.  It just baffled me that they could "get away" with that behavior, but they did.

So, what determines the "value" of an item in our marketplace?  I'd say it's what people are willing to pay for it.
The best way to go about this might be to just list the names you think are a good value with price points and NOT mention the ones you think are not a less than stellar value.

I agree you can't really list the ones you may think are grossly overrated, or hugely overpriced, so just do the opposite. :)
ejr1953
... what determines the "value" of an item in our marketplace? I'd say it's what people are willing to pay for it.
Agreed. Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
It all boils down to the delta in the competing concepts of "form follows function" vs. "style and flair in a luxury good has a price of its own". Take a stroll down 5th Ave in NYC or Rodea Dr. in Beverly Hills and you see the purest examples of the latter-Gucci, Tiffany, Patek, et al. Not everyone cares to wear Dockers and a Timex watch and use handbags made of canvas. At times, I came very close to buying a pair of Quicksilver monoblocks and the now discontinued Quicksilver Full Function preamp but the barebones cosmetics were just too much for me to overcome. I don't like seeing prominent capacitors jutting out of a chassis with what looks like a chrome hose clamp holding down the cap in plain view. Does it fulfill it's function without compromise? Yes. Should it bother me? No. But something between strictly utilitarian and pure bling is a valid consumer choice. Thanks to the new parent company of ARC with hefty Italian ownership, ARC recently offered two functionally identical amps, one full of bling and one almost devoid of it with the GS150 and the Ref 150SE. The Galileo Series version in unquestionably beautiful but the tariff for the bling was ~$4000 from $15,000 to $19,000 IIRC. The marketplace voted and the GS150 was discontinued. What if ARC had not offered the Ref 150SE and the only option to get the amp would have been the bling version? We will never know. 
Art eschews complication for the sake of complication and values simplicity and durability. Those are noble ideals. But things are not that simple. He loves the aesthetics of Shindo gear and he is not alone. If it were identical functionally but ugly (let's imagine for a minute that it were pink and shaped like a frisbee), he would not own it. 
Art "methodology" is flawed in that Audio Shows don't really reflect the overall state of the market and exhibitors are more likely to show higher priced gear to lure in listeners. That being said value is very much a relative thing to each their own.
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Here's a specific brand for you...MBL.....Really cool tech, waaayyy overpriced and in my experience, sound nasty harsh on any recording but the most "perfectly" recorded/mastered/manf.... 
I disagree with the take on Art not embracing Shindo gear if it was ugly...I'm 99% sure Art would still love it because of the sound and the relationship he had with the designer.....
@kahlenz....you worded it better than I did, stating that it would be unfair to the manufacturers and distributors, and this was the reason why I found the OP’s question initially ridiculous. On the other hand, I do understand the OP for wanting to know, from us here on the Gon, what products to stay away from, based on our perceived value. As I apologized to the OP for my response to his post, I should have explained this to him immediately, which would have shown brotherly love, which is what we should all be doing. Music listening, for most of us ( for me at least ), allows the connection with the artist ( s ), and transcends us to being part of the performance, in the audience, on stage, or back stage, you get the point. BTW, I feel the OP and I connected, as both our fathers introduced us to ole Blue Eyes, and we both smoked pot. It is awesome connecting with people. This is the beauty of music, and this why we are ( I am ) here. @roberjerman, I apologize, but you still need to try some power cables and hear, if not benefits, differences, as you will understand, we are not lunatics. @lgoler, Hey buddy................... It is a beautiful day and I’m going to the pool. Be back later.......Enjoy ! MrD.
Of course you do. Disagreement on this Board (and most others) is about as endemic as smoking among Israeli twenty-somethings. What Art would and would not buy or put in his own living room is not the point. 
The point is that a segment of what we consider the high end audio consumer segment will buy spartan looking gear like Class-D monoblocks in small plain black boxes and Sandy Gross' Triton line of speakers in cock-socks and another segment has to have this "beauty" https://www.mcintoshlabs.com/products/turntables/MT10#gallery-1. You might disagree, but most would believe that John DeVore's fiddleback mahogany finish on the front baffles of the O Series speakers helps them sell, and are certainly appreciated to offset/accent those plain paper woofers. 
Leave the man alone 
and enjoy what you have 
Well, the high end world is bad

it was also bad 10 years ago

it will stay bad in the next 10 years

Magazines live from Advertising, no one writes for free.
There is a writer for Digital guys.
There is a writer for the expensive units
There is a writer for the younger ones
There is a writer for technical stuff
and then there is Art

Do you think, online mags are good? For whom?
I would say, for the owner.
I don’t read Dudley, never took him serious.
Best source for information is here, Audiogon.

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Well, hey, remember what John Lennon said about the general public.
P.T. Barnum, the second greatest conman/showman ever, once said "There is a sucker born every minuet"....Jim
Any high priced class D amp.

Anything produced by Synergistic Research.

 There are a lot of people saying how they upgraded from this to that and no one, but themselves, know the degree of improvement.When someone says they used something they thought was a good value,used it for years and then found something that was an even better value that "blew it out of the water".Does "blew it out of the water" mean 20% improvement, 40 % improvement.The actual degree of improvement we are always left in the dark on, even with adjectives like that phrase.I propose that it would be good to implement some kind of system of improvement percentages,so people can know what others mean.I do mods and after I do a successful one without even consciously trying to rate it % wise, my mind after listening to often repeated tracks, always just automatically thinks," hey, thats about 20% more open sounding or however much the improvement it is.Figuring out what % something improved it by is very subjective and probably never 100% accurate, but on my personal yardstick as an example, putting speakers under a good set of cones amounts to what in my mind is usually about a 15% improvement, greening the edge of a CD a 6 or 7% improvement.Cleaning all my interconnects and RCA terminals after about a year I think I heard over a 15% improvement once.These percentages might not be 100% accurate or even that close, but at least they are consistent, relative to my own personal estimates and numbers.If Stereophile rates something as a low class B, about how higher % wise is something in high class B ?The degree of difference is of utmost importance, but people Don't seem to express this in meaningful accurate terms and instead use colorful adjectives to describe the improvement, but what would you liken the improvement to? Unlike most audiophiles I have a big  collection of Holiday music.I continually try to improve my sound throughout the year; every year modding and purchasing.When it gets towards the end of the year and I start playing my holiday music, if my year has been a good one for improving my sound, (50% or more), its like the biggest "WOW" ever, because this is music that I have not played for a whole year since last holiday time and playing something you know oh so well  after a year of improving your system is much more "wow" like, than playing something you play regularly as the improvement train moves slowly but steadily forward.Like seeing a face of someone you know, every few months.You probably will not notice any aging because its gradual, but if you see them every 5 years.Thats different.Sometimes you might hardly recognize them as in"Wow".So if you get new gear and there is an improvement; is it a greening a CD improvement or something much more dramatic.Giving estimated percentages might be of value to others and also being more specific as to what areas of improvement.Remember there are people who might buy what you are describing and it might even bias them to get it.

jhills
P.T. Barnum, the second greatest conman/showman ever, once said "There is a sucker born every minuet"....Jim

Nope, sorry, Jimbo, P.T. never said it. What he did say was, “People would generally be much better off if they believed in too much rather than too little.”

geoff
@geoffkait   Too bad he didn't say "There is a sucker born every minuet".  A very musical quote to be sure!😛
Audio today is in a death price spiral  manufacturer A raises prices since so many audiophiles correlate price with performance so manufacturer Bs lower price on top model is seen as being lower in performance over costlier model A thus manufacturer of B raises prices now manufacturer A top model is no longer consider the best by audiophiles who correlate price with performance and now they must raise prices. At the same time these high priced offerings are selling in less nums since price increases  thus price is increased again to cover costs... 
@geoffkait
Right?
Regardless, the quot still holds true...Jim