This is the FUN of being in the hobby of Hi-Fi audio. One can find great value and great sounding equipment for $1000 or $10,000. It depends on how much you do your research in listening to different equipment and reading and listening more...The thrill is in the treasure hunt to find the system that gives YOU goose bumps. For some of us it takes a lot of money, and for others not so much. For me personally, I try not to spend too much but HEY its a hobby right! LOL.
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cost of improvementthe cost of improvement in YOUR sound is heavily dependent on YOUR competency in listening (to music, i.e.) i.e. How well are your ears trained to listen to nuances & artifacts in the music.
I'm not saying you need to get a Ph.D in training your ear to listening to music (altho' it might help. LOL!) but that there are several different techniques to get your ears trained in this dept & it takes time i.e. it's an acquired skill.
Going to live concerts in your favorite music genre helps a lot - it gives the ear a very good idea what live instruments sound like. The biggest revelation for me was how diffuse the sound was in a concert - there hardly was an instrument in the orchestra that was clearly defined in space (unless it was a solo). Same deal with the vocals in a band - yes, there was a pinpoint location for a soloist. This is in vast contrast to audio playback at home where people routinely talk about pinpoint location of an instrument & air/space around it. My live concert experience has proven to be otherwise by a long shot.
I also listened to a trumpet player in a garage-like setting in Atlanta some time back & it astounded me just how loud & sharp (sound had a bit that is very characteristic of brass instruments) that trumpet sound was. I had my ears covered in no time! I don't have that same feeling when I listen to my stereo. I believe that i need many more watts of power to reach that "concert" level of sound in my room.
Another example of acquiring the skill to listen - i have a good friend who listens to 1 or 2 tracks every morning before going off to work. He listens to those same tracks for 1-2 weeks each morning until he fully understands the nuances in those 1-2 songs. Very repetitive & very boring after maybe 2-3 times of listening to those 1-2 tracks but one technique to learn the how to listen to the music in those 1-2 tracks.
Yet another example I'll concentrate on the bass line (very often we are talking about stand-up bass or double-bass) & this takes a lot of concentration to sift out the rest of the music & concentrate on the bass lines but it makes for great training for your ears to pick-up the nuances of the bass & figure how it is supporting the music.
The more competent you get at training your ears to listen to the music (& the enjoyment of music lies in its nuances) the more you will appreciate higher end gear that can bring this attribute (nuances) to you. Until then, IMO, you would be wasting your time you'll have the expensive gear but it won't take you to the next level like you were expecting it to.
This segways perfectly, I think, into what Mattmiller wrote - some people spend a lot for an upgrade & others much less. Of course, there are several people who spend a lot simply because they can. Exclude such folks.
Different people with different listening abilities trying to maximize their $$ to their resp. listening abilities.
this is my take on this matter.
"Of course there are exceptions to this, but in general, does one usually have to spend twice the amount of the previous item to actually notice a tangible improvement?"
For there to be exceptions to a rule, you first have to have a rule to start with. I've never seen or heard of a rule where you need to spend double $ to double SQ. I'm sure some people think that, but that hardly makes it a rule. This is one of those areas where pretty much every situation is an exception.
The more expensive something is does not always mean it will sound better. I have owned less expensive gear that I liked much better than higher priced stuff that I have owned. As a matter of fact my last purchase was a pair of $5000 speakers and I sold them in two weeks and went back to the ones they replaced at half the price. It's all about what sounds good to you!
Sorry Labguy, but That's not how this works.
There is not direct correlation between price and sound quality. In general, many times spending more money gets you better sound. However, many times spending more does not get you better sound. My system sounds better today than 5 years ago, yet costs considerably less money.
Knowledge and synergy are far more important factors than money in this hobby. I have heard a lot of very expensive systems that did not sound very good at all. You certainly CAN get great sound with a lot of money, but you also CAN get great sound for less money too. Most of the time, a well thought out $10K system will outperform a thrown together $100K system. IMHO.
Even if all audio components were priced according to their real value in a system (which they aren't) you'd still be dealing with the 'law of diminishing returns' (which isn't really a law.)
Meaning - regardless of what kind of goods or services you're considering, spending more and more money brings smaller and smaller improvements.
So the difference between a $1,000 system and a $10,000 system (a $9,000 difference) is quite likely to be dramatic whereas the difference between a $100,000 system and a $109,000 system (same $9,000 difference) may be harder to hear.
Apparently I'm in the minority here, but I think there's something to labguy's thought.
User preference and priority, and designer skill and priority, together with the luck or skill with which a system is assembled, of course can result in less expensive outperforming more expensive -- particularly relative to a given set of tastes. An obvious example is a piece where little is put into a casework sounding better than a more expensive piece with more luxurious visuals.
But sonic quality of parts is surely related to cost, which means cost is -- very imperfectly, for the reasons stated by myself and others -- associated with sonic outcomes.
Thus if one is looking at well thought out and thought of pieces at similar pricepoints, labguy is right, it seems to me, that the rule is not to expect unequivocal sonic gains. You could run through a lot of 1k DACs, or 5k speakers, without noticing much more than sonic differences, meaning that unless one simply enjoys trading, one should hesitate to swap out "peer" equipment, and instead wait until it makes financial sense to make an obvious upgrade.
I own a $1000 system, bought used (~$500) that I believe to sound very good and represents one of the best that can be had at that price.
I also own a ~$2000 system, also purchased used (~$1000), that is a significant improvement in most every way.
I invested ~$8000 in my main system, again used or dealer demo, having a quality that is superior in every way to the others. I spent ~4 years assembling this system. This system resides in a dedicated room which I am in constant process of tuning to get the most out of the system.
Though I am not the most of either, it required knowledgeable and diligent expenditure to achieve satisfactory return on investment for each system. With knowledge and diligence, and in reference to the price range alluded to by Labguy, I certainly feel significant system gains can be had by doubling ones budget. That said, I can in no way quantify the cost vs, sonic benefits.
I assembled the budget systems as a secondary to be used outside during spring, summer and fall months. I also wanted to put system together to demonstrate to my and my childrens friends what can be achieved in a system at minimal cost. I enjoy this as part of the hobby.
Is my main system 8x better than the 1K one? For me, yes, however I had the 8K to spend.
I might add that knowledge is relative to experience. I would have to retool if i had the means to spend a far greater amount on a system. I simply dont know what I would purchase, however would follow the same process as for the aforementioned ones.
I'm not saying you need to get a Ph.D in training your ear to listening to music (altho' it might help. LOL!)
There are bunch of various BS liberal arts diplomas in USA, why not adding an extra to our funding deficient education system? My close bud doctorate in math-physics moved to India 3 years ago and not even thinking moving back. I guess he's got tired panhandling and wanted to teach.
Ah, I miswrote above: I meant to say that you could compare a lot of good gear at similar price points without noticing more than "apples and oranges" sonic differences. I spent several years shopping for speakers in a fairly broad price range without identifying any clear winners, though I heard plenty of speakers I liked. I was firmly convinced, however, that I liked the Grand Ventures more than anything I could afford. ;)
My close bud doctorate in math-physics moved to India 3 years ago and not even thinking moving back. I guess he's got tired panhandling and wanted to teach.pan-handling - LOL!
yes, they would love to take your qualified friend into the teaching profession. there is a scarcity of science teachers at the univ/college level. so, he must have been accepted with open arms....
most westerners, once they visit India, never want to come back!! so, it's not surprising that you friend feels well-settled there....
A good question with no final answer. At the end of day you - hope to - buy brain, not a price tag. Brain can be cheap or can be expensive, but normally it has "a price". Unfortunately, there are also endless products out there which create via their high price tag the illusion, that they are something "serious" ... but we all know, it is pretty easy to buy something expensive which is good for nothing. That's the way it is. The customer pressure to spend more money forces anyone in this business to serve. The audiophile respect is mainly connected with the price of a System ... the more you can spend, the more 'respect' you earn :-)
Re: live concerts/live music as a training mechanism for listening.
I heard a band at a church and the drums were so loud and clear (vocalist was too) I couldn't believe it. I can't comprehend the speakers and power that could recreate that tight loud percussive snap and impact. The last 3 big live concerts I've attended have had absolute crap sound. Just rotten acoustics. I think my system is ok to mediocre. I know that there is big room for improvement, but finding the weakest link to improve at each part while not overspending is the trick. I'm here to get educated and improve my sound, and maybe I'm not asking the right questions yet, but thank you for the input. I've got more time than money, so proper selection and budgeting is paramount. For example, I replaced my pinnacle ac 650 with Acoustic energy aegis 3 and I'm ecstatic about the improvement that I made for only $200 more. (I got both of those speakers at a bargain price used). The problem now is... how do I improve from the aegis? Probably by spending at least $1000+ (because that was what they retailed for new 20 years ago). I'm guessing that based on inflation and my desire to upgrade/improve the sound, I need to look toward something new in the $1.5-$2k+ price range minimum. The aegis are old and due for eventual replacement in my system. ... And the available options are numerous and overwhelming. I can get a good deal on some old rega ela (fluted cabinet with the Royd speakers?) for less than $500, but I'm not sure that they'd be a big improvement from what i have now, and they are old too (albeit in great shape). Or I could buy some used B&W cdm 7 locally for about a grand,(used in good shape) or I could bite the bullet and buy brand new.
"The problem now is... how do I improve from the aegis? Probably by spending at least $1000+ (because that was what they retailed for new 20 years ago). I'm guessing that based on inflation and my desire to upgrade/improve the sound, I need to look toward something new in the $1.5-$2k+ price range minimum."
I highly recommend that you don't go down this path. Going with more expensive speakers doesn't guarantee anything. If you by new speakers just because they cost more than your old ones, you'll fail. You need to pick the right speaker, not the most expensive.
I can use my 2 systems to give you an example as to what I'm talking about. In my main system, I use a pair of $2000 speakers. In my second system, the speakers cost $10000. Thats 5x more money spent. And for all that extra money, the $2000 Speakers is the better sounding pair.
I completely understand what you are saying which is why I looked at the used B&W cdm 7 as well as the old Rega ela. I just don't want to replace the AE speaks with something that sounds worse. (No point in a purchase if it's not an improvement) The AE speaks are old and one of the voice coils will pop from bottoming out if I push it too hard and overdrive it.
Based on our discussion on your other thread, I wouldnt worry about budget allocation at this time. I would agree that finding the right speakers for the long haul, ones that satisfy your sonic preferences, musical tastes, loudness habits, and mate well in your room would be a good place to start. Them you can look to improve upon your amplification, which might need to be done in conjunction with the speaker purchase for compatibility. One caution, speakers that are power hunger cary with them a hidden cost in amplification, a concern in regards to your budget (which is not that different from my own).
It's a bottomless pit. Some people like the accuracy of transistors others like the warmth of tubes others have cloth ears. It's like asking the question what's your favorite music? Audio files have greatly reduced the cost of an expensive front end but you still need a good DAC and pre-amp. No one I would say is ever 100% happy with their system.
"What are the speakers you have in your primary and secondary system"
My primary speakers are Vandersteen 2's. I have the 3's also which I plan to use when I am able to put the system in a larger room. I also have a Pair of Wilson Cubs.
"and if your $2000 speakers sound better, why haven't you sold the $10,000 speakers, bought another pair of the $2,000 speakers and paid me the difference for helping you achieve better sound in your secondary system?"
The Cubs are different. They're not as capable as the Vandersteens, but I still enjoy listening to them. I find them to be more forgiving on lower quality recordings. And I have collected some components, over the years that I really don't want to sell, and the Cubs allow me to put them to good use. Otherwise they would be sitting in my closet. Selling any of this stuff wouldn't have any effect on what goes into my main system.
Improvement needs to be described. What are you looking for. You can improve the sound of your preamp, dac and amp by using filter chokes, that will make more improvements to details, resolution, black background, dynamic swings, clearer sound, better tone, etc. Caps and resistors can be replaced to improve the overall sound also. You don't need to spend more money on upgrading to more expensive components if you understand what can improve the sound. Once you understand this, then you can find components that use the specific designs to improve the sound.