Just a guestimate but:
- for DIY enthusiasts < $1000
- for buyers of used retail speakers between $1000-2000
- for full retail price buyers over $2000
Unlike some, I spend as much as my wife allows. I'm sure you've noticed how many items are for sale because of divorce. And, because it's my wife, the allowance amount is subject to unexplainable change without notice. I'm sure many of us have encountered this phenomenon. So, as an answer to your questions, ask me tommorrow.
Your questions is wide open to many interpretations. I have been in this game for only 8 months. I do not consider myself an audiophile. I am, however, a musician with a music degree and a music lover. I decided I was going to go on e-bay and audiogon to put together a budget system, listen awhile and decide what I really wanted to spend money on. I've bought 3 amps, 2 sets of speakers, 2 tuners and 3 CD players. I will buy one unit, then another, then sell the first. That way I get a lot of diversity while training my ear. I have listened to 100's of different speakers and amp combinations at stereo shops. You name the speaker, I've probably listened to it. What I have found is that at my level of expertise, it is very difficult to hear the difference between budget gear and high dollar gear. So, for the time being I have decided to spend very little money and enjoy. What I settled on is:
PSB Image 2 speakers - $299
NAD 320BEE integrated amp - $299
NAD 3155 CD - $92
NAD 4150 Tuner - $37
AudioQuest Interconnects - $68
14 Gauge speaker wire - $20
That's $815 for everything and I am enjoying the music a great deal. I listen for hours and have the stereo on most of the time when I'm not actually listening. I plan on selling the CD and Tuner and replacing it with a more contemporary set from NAD, strictly for the remote capability. That will bring the total cost of my system to about the $1,100 mark. I will listen to this system for quite some time.
I ended up with this system because of advice from this site. While audiogon doesn't have a lot of discussion about budget gear, the advice you do get is excellent. The discussions about high end (and priced) gear is also excellent and very informing.
I'm am in the process of developing my sense of what I want. When the time comes to upgrade, I will be going to local shops. I know I'll pay more, but without them I believe stereo will fall by the wayside. They need our support.
Cripes! Where did all that come from. The simple answer is you don't need to spend a lot of money, and probably shouldn't, at first.
As I type this and listen to contemporary Norwegian Folk Music, I am in a kind of sonic Vahalla. And that for $815.
Speakers = 28% of my total system cost (paid close to $2k used).
How to determine what to spend? Auditioned it, liked it and double checked with my bank account, looked do-able with enough to get everything else that I needed for the rest of the system, then bought it.
Speakers are very important and since they can have such a visual impact that elegance gets them into the living room and this can make up for all of the components that one's spouse will only...tolerate. this is one reason that B&W Nautilus can cause marital problems.
I took mine to a local high-end shop and showed her the KEF 207s, having first explained to the (female) salesperson that we would be buying the somewhat smaller 205s. So, by the end of the session we agreed that the 207s sounded better but the 205s would 'look better' so I got what I wanted. Of course, I bought my speakers here on Audiogon but I still dropped lots of money on a Marantz DVD player and I bought some neat stereo stuff from this salesperson so she was more than happy to help out.
How much did I spend? I bought my 205s for about $5,000.00 while they retail for about 30-40% more.
Regarding the last part of your question, non-audiophiles pay well under $500 for their speakers (as do many audiophiles -- please don't misinterpret) and their choice is based on what they hear in the Best Buy, or equivalent, sound room. Folks either look for bass (larger speakers) or compact size (and, does it match the decor). Folks who are both interested in getting better gear and who understand their own lack of knowledge tend to go to the home theatre installers to ask for advice -- these folks tend to spend more and usually end up with something pretty decent. That's my experience. I'd be interested to hear other viewpoints.
My speakers approach roughly 30-40% of my total system costs. I'd rather upgrade components than speakers so I tend to buy higher quality (IMO) speakers first -- they are just too darned difficult to constantly audition in your home and then go through the sell/buy cycle over and over again.
The determining factor in how much I spent was the speakers I wanted to buy. My new speakers are about $16,000 retail. I had a short list of speakers that I was interested in, including:
B&W Signature 30's
Kharma Ceramique 1.0
Wilson Audio Watt/Puppies.
After I did my homework The Kharma's were number one on the list. So I bought them.
I think most peoples speakers are in the $100-250 range.
Although I'm single I want good looking gear. None of the black, mindless looking boxes. Too many companies nowadays are putting a lot of thought into the appearance of their products.
From past experience I'd say the majority of people spend around $500, if they want something that really lights their fire. The other people would be estatic over a $100 pair og speakers.
I wish I had enough room for my Apogee Stages. Someday....
1500.00 is where good speakers start used. Aerial 10T's are a nice reference speaker at $ 2,500.00 used. If you want a sub/sat set up main speakers can start at a lot less.
To further consider this question, what impact does the cosmetic component play in this choice?
Is a small black box like the b&w more or less acceptable to the wife (gender assumption there, sorry) as the, say dark red cherry cabinets they put on their more expensive models?
While Vice President of Sales for THIEL Audio, we sold 58% Cherry finish, which always surprised me. The cherry we used, was not darkened, only finished with a lacquer. Real cherry looks somewhat salmon like, for want of a better description; and some people thought it bland looking. So when I asked the question to start the thread, I thought more people would respond about the looks of their speakers, with greater passion. For example: Has anyone out there ever bought a speaker simply based on it's cosmetics? Dumb question? I'm thinking of the appeal of the B&O, gear. Audiophiles generally dismiss the B&O's sonics, so cosmetics must make up a goodly portion of some buyers decision making.
Maple is the speaker veneer of choice in our home. It seems to blend unobtrusively inti the decor. When we bought them, it was black or maple. If black had been the only finish, it would have been a harder spouse sell. When we were looking to upgrade the sub and the amount I was looking to spend was about 2-3 times what I'd spent before, the fact that the custom sub would come in maple helped sell my wife. Speaker finish importance really didn't hit me until I mentioned that we could upgrade the bookshelf monitors in the bedroom (the analog setup) with some nice Soliloquy speakers in Rosewood. Responses that I got about Rosewood being too dark and we already had brown speakers in there and they won't match the others set me and probably my search for new (used) monitors back months. Cosmetic importance seems to be growing at our home. The only possible way around this is if she hears speakers that aren't maple and really likes them, but living in rural Montana makes store auditions very difficult and many hours on the road with the children. So it goes.....
When I entered the Audiophile foray over a year and a half ago, my initial quest was a new pair of speakers. I hadn't yet discovered Audiogon, and my research was almost completely based on Stereophile magazine. Cabinet size was an important factor. My wife wanted satellite speakers that would be "invisible". Luckily for me, I was able to convince her of the sonic benefits provided by floorstanders. Once I determined what was an acceptable size, I looked for speakers with good Stereophile ratings. Hey, I know it's not the best way to go about choosing speakers, but it seemed to be a reasonable way to start, and I'll bet there are many like me out there.
Cosmetics were (and still are) important. B&W and Aerial loudspeakers were high on my list; they were both highly rated by Stereophile, and both were attractive. Ultimately, I purchased the Aerial 7B's because they sounded great and looked amazing. Given two pairs of equally sounding loudspeakers from which to choose, I'd buy the more attractive speakers every time.
I've since replaced the Aerials with much better (to my ears) sounding VR4 SE's. But, the Von Schweikerts are not as visually stunning as the Aerials.
The Aerials retail for $6995 in Rosewood (as I recall) and the VR4 SE's retail for $5995.
I believe most folks think anything approaching $1000 for loudspeakers is outrageous, especially if they're looking at bookshelf speakers. OK, $1000 for floorstanders seems to make more sense! Once people hear really outstanding bookshelf speakers...like the Green Mountain Audio Europas or Von Schweikert VR1 they may begin to change their minds.
This is the problem, though. It's tough for folks to audition high quality loudspeakers of the kind not found at chain electronics stores. Boutique audio dealers are intimidating to Newbees.
Anyway, bottom line. My guess is most folks want a complete Home Theater package for around $500. Cosmetics are important. Consider that Home theater packages offered by Bose and others with micro-satellites and small subwoofers sell like hotcakes. This "disappearing act" is really another form of cosmetics.
I sould mention that im a University student, and am accordingly very much budget limited. I spent $350 Canadian on a discntinued model ($550 list) that sounded better than any other locally available speakers in that price range. They are inacherrywood venner that was chosen over the other options after the speakers were chosen (it was not a consideration in speaker choice, but that they look nice is a plus). Most people I knw have a $150-300 mini system.
Lrsky, my recollection from other posts is that you now have a position at Von Schweikert. You will be able to appreciate this purchase being influenced by cosmetics. I was recently looking for good used speakers that were about 5 years old. I had been out of audio for some time due to a very expensive divorce and have recently remarried (another expensive but worthwhile pursuit). I talked to a local dealer here in Chicago who has the Von Schweikert line and had a used pair of VR-4's for sale. I was intrigued and liked how they sounded but realized that it would be an uphill climb placing these speakers in our living room. I looked at the archive section of the Von Schweikert web site and found these very nice looking Vr-4.5's and ended up buying a pair of them at auction here at Audiogon
from another of Von Schweikert local dealer (Paul Lacey...great guy by the way). The 4.5's were $600 more expensive but were worth it cosmetically. I never compared the two speakers side by side from a sonic perspective but it didn't matter! The 4.5's look great compared to the 4's. The 4.5's do sound wonderful as well. I haven't had the same success showing my wonderful spouse how great the Supertek preamp and the Berning amp look together (yet)! Bob
I spend 30%+ on the speaker overall, another 40%+ on amp and pre amp, and remaining on source and cables.
As for look, sex sells. Any speakers that are beautifully finished sell themselves, regardless of the color. One example is B&W 802 Nautilus. But nothing illustrates this statement better than Sonus Faber. They sell tons of walnut finish speakers, tons of stained maple speakers, and even "plain" piano black finish speakers. When the design is beautiful, choice of wood or veneer will only accent the look even more.
For non-audiophile, anything non-obstrusive is good and in-wall is even better. Success story ranges from Bose to Energy Take 5, you should get the hint. It's only the crazy audiophiles who are willing to spend the equivalent of a car on something imposing and create domestic danger for young children at home. I am one of them, but I have my dedicate listening room :) for now.
I am an oddity... Former speakers, bought new Infinity RSIIa for $2,200 in 1984. Sold them for parts last year and got $1,850. cash. Bought a used pair of Magnepan MGIIb for $200 from a area dealer who had even put new socks on. (He used to be a Maggie dealer, but no more)
I am totally happy with my $200 investment.
IF repeat IF I went with something else, I would try a pair of Maggies MG3.6R's used? (local only !!)
Right now I am satified... and am blowing all my cash on LPS...
But maybe next year the 3.6R's
I looked at the Revel F30's and M20's, but the corporate picture going on with that co. made me pause. and I would up with the Maggie MGiibs.
($4,000 is my upper limit for speakers)
Before I went audiophile, my speakers were $50. Since, its been $1000, $1700 and $350, not including the buy-then-return models. Within my cost ceiling, I bought the least expensive model that most satisfied me as far as sound quality and a host of practical issues. The largest issue as far as cost was being buying "new". While there was some comic, newbie confusion during the buying processes (not that much has changed there), there were no close second places, no hard decisions. And I must state speaker cost relative to the rest of the gear was totally out the window for me at the time. I mean, I was using an a $100 Cd changer NAD 314 as a pre for a pair of $1700 speakers. I decided upgrade upchain gear later, which has been fun, not balanced at all, but fun.
Non-o-philes tend to spend a predictable amount on speakers as a funtion of their income, topping out with Bose and minisystems for the poor. Find the cheapest and most expensive speakers at Best Buy and a draw bell curve between them and that would be my guess for what non-philes spend...maybe skewed a little to the left ;)
Before you decide on what to spend on speakers, you must concider what will constitute the rest of the system. In addition what type of sound do you prefer, the orchesteral bloom of a full range floorstander, the pinpoint imaging of a good British(or Italian) two way monitor, or that transparency that only an electrostatic can give. You must also be sure that your choice will satisfy your wide range of tastes. I personally cannot be bothered with purchasing a component and when a better one comes out, sell the old one to purchase the new. If at the beginning you spent some time auditioning, going to shows,
or joining local clubs you will make the right choice & live happly with your purchase. I feel the speaker should be roughly equivalent in price to trhe amplifier.