Its done all the time provided you know what you want and whats available that can give it to you. There are a lot of "sleepers" out there. For example, right now in the for sale ads there is a pair of amps and a pair of speakers (two seperate ad's) which for a total of 4500 would give hugh value to someone, but since they are not well known to the average user the seller will have a hard time moving them and the average buyer will pay 2 to 3x and not improve on quality or sound (different, perhaps). Thats why researching the internet in general is of such great value. You can get some great leads from end users about what works and how things may really sound.
For me it was my speakers, previously owned Avalon Eclipses and down graded to Magnepan 3.6's with minimal regrets. I do miss some things about the avalons and would like to own another pair for a second system at some point, but in the mean time the 3.6 is a much more enjoyable speaker for my musical/listening tastes. Comparing retail to retail a net savings of $4000.
It's hard to call it a downgrade when it sounds better. Here goes though. The best actual savings I had was to use Discovery Essence interconnect between table and phono stage. It replaced a pair of Transparent Reference MC phono interconnects and netted me about a $300 savings, and sounded better in every way.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a ODL amp thats currently in my system. It probably doesn't qualify, because I don't own it. I just sold my Threshold T400 in search of a tube amp. It sold quicker than I expected, so I not quite ready for the new amp yet. My friend Larry lent me this ODL, which is supposedly similar in design to the Odessey Stratos. While I won't claim that it's better than the T400, I will say that it is surprisingly close. The T400 was a little more refined in the treble. The ODL reminds me a lot of a Classe CA-200 which I owned before the T400. Larry only paid about 25% of what I sold the T400 for, but I would say it delivers over 95% of the performance. Quite a impressive little amp for around $500. I don't think I've heard a SS amp that sounds better that has a list price under $3K.
I replaced Red Rose R3 speakers with ProAc 1SCs, which cost less. I had originally had the ProAcs in this system and upgraded to the R3s. While the R3s had deeper bass and a more delicate treble, the ProAcs really were better in the midrange. This system also had a subwoofer which covered the low end, and the room was relatively lively. I eventually felt I missed the ProAc midrange too much and swapped them back in. C'est la vie.
Infinity RSIIa down to Magneplanar MGIIb
Bought the Infinity new the list was $3,200. I paid $2,300 and sold them for parts last year and got back $1,850.
Got the Maggies for $200 from a dealer who used to sell them.
A couple in my case:
- I also replaced a PS Audio PP300 with a BPT Jr., similar effects as described above
- Moving from several different interconnects and speaker cables to Gregg Straley's (Audiogon user greggstraley, fancy that :^) interconnects and speaker cables. At $60 and $120 at the time (newer IC goes for something like $100), they rivaled some IC's costing upwards of $500+.
I use Gregg's cables, Aural Thrills Gold Force (another downgrade in price with quality upgrade, but not as cheap as the GS), and Tritium UHV Gold IC's (not inexpensive, but the best I've heard). All do better as a whole than whatever I had before, at $500-$1000 for 1M IC's.
$2750 for McCormack DNA 225
$1500 for a used First Sound Presence Deluxe MKI
$2500 for a pair of Gershman X-1+SW-1s
$1500 for a 47 Labs Shigaraki
$800 for a pair of Zhorns with Fostex 208 Sigmas
Lost: 3 inputs. About 65 lbs(amp)+50 lbs (preamp)+200 lbs(speakers)and About 180 watts per channel.
Missing: Low frequency.
Gained: 15 lbs for integrated. 80 lbs for both speakers. Immediacy and simplicity to booth.
Talking about audio diet!
PS: changes more extreme if you count my latest amp+preamp, Final Lab pieced, the main amps being just about 3 lbs each.
A few months back, I sold my Straightwire Crescendo IC's and went with Virtual Image Pile Driver 18's. The V.I. cables cost about 1/3 of the Crescendo's and just flat-out smoked them. Definite upgrade in SQ and a downgrade in price!!
Naim 3.5/flatcap to a $59.99 Toshiba SD-3950
Tix to any live acoustic music.
Eosone RSF-600s to Wharfedale Emerald 97s. Paid about $500/demo at Best buy to $200/new+shipping at uBid. I no longer have either set of speaker though. Everything else I've bought cost more than what it replaced.
Here's one VERY significant one: I have traded in my Rogue 88 power amp/ VTL 2.5 pre ($2,000) for a used ASL integrated that I got here for $350.00. I was also able to sale the interconnects b/n the pre and the power, for even more cost savings. I have netted roughly $1,850 in pocket money.
In a lot of ways, the li'l ASL outperforms the Rogue/VTL (quieter running, excellent resolution, and that sweet SET sound). To be sure, I'm down in the bass department, but it's not like it's unlistenable.
At any rate, I'm amazed by what can happen with just a little experimentation; you don't always have to spend more money to get the same or better sound.