Audio Research Ref Phono 10 comes in at $30k

Audio Research has a new ultra reference phono preamp that sells for $30k. Hmm, how much better could it be than the $13k Reference Phono 2 SE?

See the link below for a description of this preamp.

It seems that Audio Research is establishing an ultra-premium line that is over and above its already excellent reference products. Their Reference 10 linestage is also $30k. Could a $30k DAC be in their future?
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It won't be long before they have a pair of tube monoblocks at 120k a pair. VAC just came out with a Reference phono stage for 50k. The high-end companies are focusing on the super rich. They know those kind of people have the money and have no problem spending it.
The upper middle class and lower upper class in America are disappearing, and these companies know it. I suspect that unless trends in the US change soon, we will see most equipment between the Best Buy and Boulder price points disappear in the next few years, along with half or more of the high-end companies, as they all compete to chase fewer and fewer wealthy customers.
I am not sure, but I think high end companies making Uber expensive kit, may have a businiess model with which they can survive. They tend to be very small and hand make to order. They don't have large inventories and presumably no high fixed costs.

The problem I think is with the larger High End Companies like ARC, Conrad Johnson, who do make Statement, insanely expensive kit, but there bread and butter is the kit under say $15000. They are larger companies with higher fixed costs and if the lower end "mass market" sales dry up, they will be in trouble. I say mass market, but that is a relative term. HiFi is very much a small niche business now, compared with the heady days in the 70's, when most people aspired to some sort of HiFi system.

As you say though, the smaller companies are chasing each other up in price and down in sales numbers, all chasing the declining number of super rich, who can afford $500,000 systems
I think it has a lot to do with finding a way to get their existing customer base to trade up and spend more money. Let's face it, the former reference level gear is already at a pretty high level. That owner may be pulled to another brand to get to the next level, unless a new uber level is offered in the same brand.

I do think there is the potential for trickle down technology, so the next generation of mid priced gear will sound better than former flagships.

The examples I know of are the Pass XP10 and XP15 each sounding better than the former flagships X 0.2 and XONO for lower prices. Also, the Magico S1 and Q1 are supposedly better sounding than the former Mini2 at lower prices.

But there is no denying that there are buyers out there who have the discretionary funds to pay whatever is asked for this latest generation of gear.

I also think the surge of expensive phono amps is related to the escalating prices of cartridges and turntables.