How can anyone afford this ?

I consider myself a dedicated audiophile. I am 36(which I am guessing is a little younger than the average here) and single. I have been interested in high-end audio since I saw my uncle's Mcintosh and Threshold equipment for the first time when I was 5.
Since joining the workforce and saving a little I have always been trying to put together a nice system on a budget. I do OK financially(I am a systems engineer) but I do live in NYC which may put some of this into perspective.
Over the last 6 months I have struggled to buy(all used on Agon) a pair of Dynaudio Audience 42s and a Threshold CAS2 amp, Chang CLS3200, and cables(I haven't gone out[I don't have a girfriend], purchased anything else and really haven't eaten too much to be able to afford these and it is still a real stretch). I am using the amp with a direct connection from my CD/DVD player(Cambridge Audo Azur 540D...slightly modified[op amps, PS caps, bypass caps] that I have had for almost 10 years). A fellow has a Threshold FET2 series II(to match with the CAS2) he is holding for me but that seems like a pipe dream at this point along with a turntable.
A few years ago the analogue bug hit me.
I had a setup consisting of an Audio Analogue Settanta integrated and a Nottingham Horizon SE turntable with a Rega RB300 tonearm with the Incognto rewire and structural mod. This was not an expensive kit by any stretch but for me it almost put me in the poor house. I had to sell the entire rig to pay my bills and it hurt.
It seems over the last 10 years or so I have not been able to keep a kit for more than 6 months before I had to sell it. Whenever I don't have a rig I am constantly scanning the online Ads lusting for the next bargain to set up a system and cannot even listen to music on a mass market rig(I have been spoiled).
Anyway, I guess my question is how can anyone normal afford this hobby? What type of money do you have to be making to be able to enjoy this hobby.....$100,000/year? $500,000/year? Do you need to be worth millions? $5,000 barely gets you in the door(some interconnects cost more) and you could possibly spend millions. I am not looking to put together a $10,000 system(not even close...and that is modest in this hobby) but if I wanted to I don't see it ever being financially possible. If I had a girlfriend or a family(hopefully someday) I would not event be able to think about this hobby with a good conscience. I guess I am wondering if all these people in this hobby are millionaires? I am close to selling my rig again to pay the bills(the amp needed repair/recap and that was $450). Any advice for an audiophile who lusts to put together a nice rig but can't afford it? Should I get out and save for 5 or 10 years and then try again? Maybe I am in the wrong hobby but it is more addicting that crack to me(and more expensive). Maybe I should be a crackhead instead...that might be the only thing to make me forget about it. Thoughts?
If you're constantly having to sell gear that you've purchased you're buying things that you cannot afford.

If your gear is worth enough to make a significant impact on your budget when selling then you're likely buying things that you cannot afford unless you've built the system slowly over a long period of time.

You don't have to own an extremely expensive system to have excellent sound quality. I replaced just about every component in my system last year for about $6,000 (It was all overtime and overtime isn't part of the budget at my that we're expecting a kid things will change). My system may not match some of the ones on this forum, but it's good enough that the vast majority should be able to enjoy listening to music and this is the main goal. My non-audiophile friends are blown away by the way it sounds and I can come home from the audio store and enjoy it after listening to systems worth many times more. I would argue that nobody NEEDS a system that's better than what I have to enjoy music, but we all WANT more.

I would guess that the majority of the people on this forum that own the super expensive equipment fall into one or a combination of the following categories: (1) wealthy, (2) system build over many years & (3) purchased used and deep discounts. Some people own system worth more than their cars and even houses. This is a matter of priorities as most people cannot have it all.

I would suggest picking up some quality components and slowly building a system and never sell your gear unless it's for an upgrade. If you can't do this, then you're dreaming beyond your means. It's one thing to have the economy take you down and force some hard decisions, but if it happens multiple times then you need to evaluate your lifestyle in my opinion.
It can be a very expensive hobby. A wife and a dual income helps a lot. I cut back on other things to support my audio habit - my car is 11 years old, we never go on expensive vacations. You certainly dont need to be rich to purchase high end audio, but strong cashflows are required to buy the $10k amp, preamp, etc. I also tend to keep my equipment for a long time, and dont get caught up in buying the newest of the new. If you cant afford it right now, I suggest you stay away from the hobby. Selling the amp to pay for rent is not a good thing. Perhaps moving out of the big city would help.
Interesting question. I do okay, but live in the very expensive Bay Area, so I face a similar problem to you.

For me the hobby is largely self-funding, because I'm willing to buy and sell. It is very very rare that I don't ma $100-200 on an item. I only buy things that I am genuinely interested in hearing in my system, and if I love them, I keep them. If not, I sell them for a bit more than I bought them for. How?

First, I spend a lot of time looking at the new listings. You need to be willing to pounce when something comes up cheap.

Secondly, I subscribe to the bluebook like so many others, and while it's not perfect, it's a good guide overall.

Thirdly, be willing to select your items well, communicate with customers and sellers thoughtfully, ignore some lowball offers, and take good pictures, while disclosing any flaws.

Finally, every now and then, be willing to pay the big bucks to get the equipment that will really make a difference.

That's how I climbed the ladder. Over the years, it's been enjoyable, with only moments of frustration when I couldn't figure out what to do to get my system to the next level, or when the equipment I really wanted was too much, or not on the market. Now, I'm getting off of the main equipment ladder as I'm finally happy with my system - back to 2-channel, all-tube (Aesthetix Calypso, Audio Research VT-100 MkII, Oppo BD-83 w/ Bryston BDA-1 DAC; VPI Scout table with BAT VK-p5 phono). Now, I'll start tube-rolling.

That being said, I've heard some really great systems that don't cost a lot of money. My path is not for everyone. Enjoy your system for what it is, enjoy the music, and have fun.
The problem with the "hobby" is that the focus becomes the gear and not the music. Much as car geeks focus on the gear and not the trip. Music can be very enriching on a table radio. I know, I keep an old Sony in my kitchen and listen to it more than either of my three grown up systems.

Steven Mejias reviewed an inexpensive system in his new column in Stereophile. I think it was Wharfedale Diamond speakers, a bottom of the line Cambridge integrated and the Rega P1 turntable. Total cost, maybe a grand or so. At any rate, I was not there, but he said that it played music. And that's what we tend to lose sight of, the only purpose that this stuff has is to play music. The musicians don't play any better on a better stereo. Kenny G does not suddenly become 'trane. Diana Krall does not become Billie Holiday.

A bit of advice, there will always be someone with a better stereo, a flashier car, a bigger house, probably in a better neighborhood, with a bigger TV. Don't worry about it. It doesn't equate to a happier life. It doesn't equate to love and it doesn't have a thing to do with your character or your inner peace.

But definitely, stereo gear, cars and fancy restaurants are not things worth going into debt for. Enjoy your music on a modest rig and start focusing on the more important things in your young life.
The story you tell is quite depressing. What breaks your bank besides ridiculous rent? literally starving to be an audiophile is dedicated. You can't live on the razor thin margin you speak of, it's absurd.
First I would sell the Chang Lightspeed and the amp in favor of an integrated and no power conditioning for now. The amp you do buy, should not be vintage unless you have a refurbishing bill of sale, of recent date, in your hands.
The other bits of advice are good.
If you can start dating someone who has a career that has the same earnings potential do it for more than just audio. It is true for the most part that 2 can live as cheaply as one. Living in NYC is next to insane if you can get a job elsewhere you might consider it. You will find that nothing is equal to a New York, Chicago, or San Fran but there are cheaper metropolitan areas. I lived in NYC then my career took me away then settled in Philly for a long while. Much less expensive and tamer commutes. How much for a modest system?
My guess for one person to save up 5 grand prolly about 75K per annum for two years but not in NYC. It can be close to a one time expense. You won't need to buy your Dynaudios again and integrated amps can last 20 years without a recap. It is likely you and I will be using a server of some sort as a front end soon enough. Even so a good TT lasts forever with good care and maintenance excepting stylus wear, a new belt once in a while.
Good Luck Chin Up
Time is what you need. Buy good used equipment on Audiogon, and slowly trade up. Don't overspend to the point that you have to sell at a loss to pay bills. I would think you may have spent many thousands, and don't have anything to show for it.

A bit of advice, there will always be someone with a better stereo, a flashier car, a bigger house, probably in a better neighborhood, with a bigger TV. Don't worry about it. It doesn't equate to a happier life. It doesn't equate to love and it doesn't have a thing to do with your character or your inner peace.

Couldn't have said it better.
IMHO you are falling into the audio buying pattern that the audio industry wants you to fall in. Bigger power, more flash, new technology, shiny finishes, more drivers, bigger caginets, etc.. The industry, including the audio magazines, want you to equate the foregoing plus higher retail prices with better sound. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of gear, these attributes don't correlate well with better sound. Hence, the merry-go-round.

I'll say it again. Price does not correlate well with quality of sound.

My suggestion, and you know what free advice is worth, is:
a) focus on old gear enjoying giant reputations (klipsh, lenco, technics sp-10, audio research, altec, etc.). Simply, physics has not changed and many sound engineering issues were figured out years ago.
b) focus on less power and simple is good (complexity and power cost money and do not correlate with sound quality, unless you are filling an auditorium)(for a neutral sound buy an old kt88 or 6550 audio research tube amp; for a warm sound buy an old conrad johnson el34 tube amp; for klipsch style speakers buy a simple reputable 300b amp)
c) go back to analogue and buy a Lenco or Technics sp-10 turntable that works, since both are better than tables cost 10x more; and digital costs much more to better analogue
d)terminate your subscription to all audio magazines
e)it is quite possible to build a system for $5,000 that will better many modern systems costing many many times more
f) listen listen listen

Good luck. Jeff
One way of upgrading your system is to have your existing components upgraded, by that I mean replacing mediocre parts with much better ones. If the used equipment you have purchased is in the mid-priced area or better, then much of it can be worth investing in, making them perform much better. Many on this forum disagree with this, but this method has worked very well for me.

I sympathize with your plight. Here are some ideas:
(1) Buy one system within your means and then think of that as basic to your every day life, something that is non-negotiable.
(2) Re-read what Viridian wrote.
(3) For bang for the buck, think used and even vintage gear. There is plenty of information available on the internet to permit you to select some great items that way, at a fraction of their original price.
(4) DIY. Teach yourself a little bit about electronics. You can then assemble kits, make mods, etc, to satisfy your lust for the new and different. If you really get into DIY, you can save a huge amount of money, but it's not essential to go that far.
(5) Use Audiogon marketplace as one source of good used gear, but refrain if possible from reading these threads. Temptation is everywhere here. Avoid envy.
go with minimalist gear that sounds great and is hard/impossible to resell because no one ever heard of it.that way you havn,t spent a ton of money and can buy some music. look up audionervosa on the good luck and good topic. i don,t think it is a matter of how much you have to spend. addiction to substances is not measured by how much you did but what consequences it had in the big picture of your life. ok ,,off my soapbox. thanks
I have put together what many would call a pretty good system, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg. First of all, I know what I want and how much I'm willing to pay for it. Then I scan the used gear websites every day, looking for the right deal. Somtimes it takes me 8-10 months to find what I'm looking for at the right price. I then pull the trigger, FAST.

Virtually all of my system, except for my TV and my Oppo BDP-93, I bought off Audiogon. And rarely did I pay more than 50 cents on the retail dollar for a piece. By doing so, I have been able to assemble a $15,000 system for around $6500. And I am quite happy with what I have. I do not run around chasing the latest and greatest, I am satisfied with what I have and do not upgrade unless I can find a smokin' deal on something.

That's basically it - know what you want, know what you're willing to pay, and have the patience to wait for the right deal. If you do this, you an be very happy for many years to come...

You just start out one day and keep upgrading and the next thing you know you have a ton of money invested in it. I think very few people just start out with $100K systems, though I know some do.

Most of us just keep feeding the hole so to speak and one day......
Thanks for all the great advice guys. I won't let it get me down for sure but struggling to do something you love really sucks(NYC is a hole...formally in San Francisco area and a few other places but SF is the favorite). I am not into the latest and greatest and bigger is better and flashier means better sound and I don't read the audio mags and I am not constantly trying to get better than what I have. I am a realist but the hobby does seem to consume me. I love the history of the hobby and I am a big Nelson Pass fan(theory and gear). I certainly think I am staying witin a budget but it never works out.

The current system I have I purchased a piece at a time over the last 6 months(minus the CD/DVD player which is the only piece I have seemed to hold on to...and my speaker stands). The Dynaudio 42s were $400(always come back to these). The Threshold CAS2 was $375(purchased with the intent of rebuilding/upgrading at $450...being rebuilt $825 total for amplification which I think is really fair for the quality). The Chang CS3200 was $170. Cabling from Verastarr was $340(I guess I went a little high here and I don't buy into all the cable hype but I got a really great deal and plan on holding on to them...also picked up the extra RCA pair for the eventual addition of a preamp so at least I am set there). Fairly modest I believe.

It is a really great sounding system and hope/plan on it being even better when the amp gets finished. My plan was to add a Threshold FET2 series II preamp(and upgrade that later on...I am a big fan of modding quality older/vintage gear)and a turntable over the next 6 months. I am definitely putting the turntable on hold for a long while because I know what that involves and I am a very thorough person.

I am not struggling as much as I made it sound. I am able to pay my bills but always wind up selling my system to have that extra savings behind me just in case. I do date(yes...girls) but I do sacrifice other things for the hobby. Anyway, just rambling now. I am not selling the current system and I am going to add the FET2 series II or a Spectral DMC-6(if I can find one) with the hopes of adding a turntable(and all that goes with it[I do still have my vinyl] down the road in a year or so. And I am getting out of NYC. I am planning on going back to SF. I know the cost of living is the same but I will make more money and the quality of life is soooo much better.

Thanks again for all the thoughts and advice. Now if I only had my amp so I could listen to some music(I think that is why I got all frustrated and wrote this in the first has been 2 weeks)!!!!
The best thing you can do is get a system that you're happy with now,and don't read the magazines, Audio Asylum, Audogon, etc.
Money certainly helps, but....

You don't have to spend a lot if you focus first on rightsizing the system to the room and then focusing on value components rather than those where cost/price is no object.

There is very good stuff in both categories. Cost of components does not necessarily correlate with results.
Don't let your components get in the way of the music.
When you are back in SF you won't have this problem. Tell us later if I am right.
I think there's a chance you may have been brainwashed by audio publications, websites and forums into believing that the only systems worth having are those that cost in the megabucks range. This is simply not true. A modestly priced system can give you immense musical enjoyment. And with the law of diminishing returns operating full force in the world of audio gear, the difference between a modest system and a megabucks system can often be shockingly small. Don't believe that the system you have is trash just because it didn't cost $20K. Find the gear that makes music and listen to it.
Get out of NYC first. That is a horrible place and very expensive. Then get a decent paying job. Watch your money like a hawk. You will get there but not by selling a system every 6 months. You are on a road to nowhere.

I can tell you that I have been into audio since 1954. My progress into great audio has been very slow but it has never stopped. You must learn what your tastes are and buy to that need. Most folks can't get to their ambitions in a single leap. It takes time and determination.

Put together a killer headphone system. I was shocked hear how wonderful my AKG701's were for $250. Put all your money into a record player, decent headphone amp and AKG's or Stax.

Then save for rest...I wish I had.
Just a short follow up on this topic for others that might be reading this thread feeling like the OP and don't already have gear. I'm not one to make purchases with the intent of upgrading and also generally avoid buying used. While I understand the value of used equipment I understand that for myself I'm more happy when I research what I want and then purchase it. I always have a fairly specific budget in mind and once I get the item that I want I'm almost always happy for a long long time. With this perspective in mind, that I know other share, here's the system that I'd purchase if I was looking looking for a budget system.

Pioneer Elite SX-A6MK2-K Stereo Receiver $700
Pioneer Elite PD-D6MK2-K SACD/CD player $700
Focal Chorus 706v Speakers $650
Focal Chorus S700V Speaker Stands $200
Total: $2,250

There are obvious many possible systems in this price range that are equal or better, but I'm positive that I'd be excited to own this rig.
You don't need much of a stereo to have a better sounding stereo than 95% of the people you know, or will ever meet in your life time.

If it wasn't for the internet, you would be surprised by the number of audiophiles you would run across in your lifetime....probably 10 at most?

I've been in this for around 40 years now....after a while things just evolve slowly from one component to another.

Man I hear ya ... Thankfully I have a decent system .. But I am on this site everyday .. I love listening to and playing music as I am a classical pianist .. But I also love equipment and could spent thousands of dollars easily.. I do restrain myself however for the sake of my marriage..

DIY. I went thru the merry go round you're on right now. I worked in film. Long days, big $$$. I was making avg. $80k a year and my system changed so much it wasn't funny.
Then I began pursuing another career and money got tight for awhile.
I started reading about gizmo rosenberg. Thorsten loesch, and learned about the men who had been in this hobby for fifty years finding the magic of SET amps, horns, sut's moving coils and vinyl.
This stuff was SERIOUS $$$. The curiosity piqued, I ordered a cheap Chinese tube amp from eBay. And thus began the journey.
I found a Lenco, a DIY horn speaker site, and bottlehead kits.
The system I have now has cost me less than $6 k to build/ put together, but it is by FAR the best sound I have EVER had!!!
I had a guy over who was purchasing a DAC from me, we did some listening, a/b'd some dacs, and he told me that my system was killing his friends mark levinson 33's and Wilson watt puppies....
I've never heard that stuff, and I don't want to, I've got a modest system now, half DIY, and it's evolved slowly to where it is now. Synergy.
I'm making more money now than at any other point in my life ( I'm 39 now) and im content with my system, period.
There may be changes coming soon, but only cartridges/tonearms, and tubes. That's been the answer for me.
When you find your system constantly gives you joy, leave it alone.
Something as simple as changing interconnects can send you on a years long goosechase, trying to find the synergy you had.
It's one of those things, ever evolving.
First, you live in NYC which means that every night there's high quality live music available for you to hear. Take advantage of that situation.

Second, the equipment can get costly, but the real expense are space and time. Having a living space where you can properly set up and listen to your system and then having the time to actually do it.

Finally, it's been my experience that the least well spent money involved upgrading from OK sounding equipment to slightly better than OK sounding equipment. Don't change equipment unless it's a really significant upgrade.
The amount of money spent has absolutely nothing to do with great recorded play back.
I was 31 when I first entered this 'madhouse' and that was 32 years ago. I was lucky to find the most amazing speakers which were custom-made and which I still have to this day.
The rest of my system was modest but satisfying (Rega Planar 3, Hadcock GH228 arm, Electrocompaniet Preamp and Perraux amp.
Apart from buying a Kebschull valve preamp 5 years in, this system kept me happy (and competed successfully with the high-end competitors) for 30 years during which time I brought up and educated 2 kids, bought a house or two and struggled through life.
When the kids leave home and the mortgages are paid and you're earning more without the money going out, you suddenly look at retirement with a positive cash-flow.
It's then that one can afford to pay the prices for exotic high-end if one wishes to?
Your mistake I believe is in the buying and selling and not settling on 'great' sound for your budget and sitting still.
It is possible.
Onhwy61, offers the best advice. NYC is GREAT! Get out and experience it!
I lived on the Upper East Side for fourteen years and commuted in for most of three more. The majority of people who live in the city would likely say that by the time they get home from work (assuming they in fact get home), they're so fried that the thought of going out after work for live music is like going out after work to climb Mt. Everest. I got so annoyed at spending $70 to sit in Avery Fisher Hall and then having to constantly look at my Blackberry or force myself to listen to the performers instead of drifting back into some deal point we were obsessing about that I pretty much stopped going. NYC is nothing like the glamorous life portrayed on TV shows - it's bare knuckles survival for most of us, and in this regard, people seek refuge in things like high-end stereos. People work hard everywhere, of course, which is why taking in music on one's own time, with a great stereo, appeals to a lot of people. As for the prices of some of the gear, yes, it's lamentable, but the hobby is dying, and with it, anything approaching the economies of scale that would make gear more affordable.
It's trickle down, baby. The cost-no-object designs bought through high prices paid by rich early adopters pays for the R&D and proof of concept that results in advancements in the state of the art that benefit us all. Without $150,000 turntables, how would the maker know which are the most important design elements to be refined and cost-reduced for lower-priced models?

The results speak for themselves: I bought my first stereo in 1972 on sale for $419. Adjusted for inflation, that's $2125 for an Altec-Lansing compact with 44 wpc receiver, Garrard turntable built into the top, and garden variety small bookshelf speakers. Trust me, you can get much better today for the equivalent money, such as some PSB Image 6's, Cambridge or Marantz integrated amp, and Rega P3 or MMF 5.1 turntable with $200-300 Denon, Grado, or Audio Technica cartridge.

Ultra high end shows us what's possible, and from reading about and listening to such systems you come away with the essence of high end--an auditory virtual reality machine that transports you into a sublime performance complete with artist-to-listener rapport. While the ultra-expensive systems can get you that transcendental experience on the widest variety of music and ensembles, you don't have to spend anywhere near that to achieve a similar experience on most program material and a reasonable facsimile on the rest.
A little story maybe make you feel better... when I was 23 I moved to NJ/NYC area and was a Graphic designer in publishing.. significantly lower salary than you I'm sure... I got by with sharing apts. and started slooowly building system, starting with replacing my college midfi stuff with: Rega P-3 (which I still have the modded arm/cardas wire now on my P-9), Signet MC cart., Music Fidelity A-1 class A integrated, and a pair of lower end Stax headphones.. no speakers, no cables...
IF it was today.. I would start with a Rega Brio, Rega Apollo, entry level cardas cables maybe.. and headphones no speakers... and sloowly build better. but that right there ain't much money and it ain't bad...
And here I am just worrying about paying for retirement in a few years. ;-) I think if paying for this hobby was what was bothering me then I would get on my knees and be thankful. Very thankful.
I do not earn a huge income by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am moderately comfortable. I think the first thing to affording this hobby is to live life financially smart. I don't live in debt. I only use credit cards for making on-line purchases and only when I have the available funds which allow me to pay the entire balance immediately. I only pay cash for cars. I put aside money every pay period for general savings, general investing, retirement and both of my kids college funds. I own a decent home (about 3,400 sf). My annual income is about $100K. In a typical month, I have 5 bills to pay - power, internet/Comcrap, mortgage (includes ins. & taxes), kids school lunch program and phone bill. Of course I have regular living expenses - groceries, gas, spending money, etc. . .

My kids and I take a few nicer vacations each year, usually out west skiing or to Florida. A Canadian fishing trip with my son and several smaller vacations.

I have owned some pretty good mid/upper-tier equipment (nothing in the stratospher). Krell FPB amps, Levinson, BAT, CJ, Pass amps. Some great digital equipment - DCS, EMM Labs, Esoteric, Wadia, Levinson, Audio Aero, etc. . . Some fine speaker systems (Wilson, VS, B&W, Gemme, Totem, etc. . . ).

I think the key is to live responsibly, always saving and only spending when doing so does not present a potential hardship down the road. Living in debt is what kills most people and takes away opportunities. Of course a very high income (which I am sure most people of this site have - many times mine - helps).

To the original poster. I would learn to live with a lesser quality "out-loud system" and spending a little money on a great headphone system may be the best way to go. One can get a great pair of headphones for a few hundred dollars that can outperform some of the best speakers made! Secondly, go with mid level cables that are a few generations old. I just fail to recognize (via listening) that the latest greatest $3,000 speaker cable of today is really notably better than the $500 (used price) two generation old cable that they replaced.
I turn 32 next month, I've built my 2 systems over the last 10 years. Learning to build things on your own is extremely enjoyable and great learning experience that can take you far. I started out by restoring old Thorens turntables in my free time, models such as TD-150, TD-160 can be had for a little over $100, restore them, and put them back up on eBay for a couple hundred profit. There's a number of sites dedicated to restoring tables. At the same time, I spent much time researching DIY cable recipes, learning, and lots of experimenting with cable designs. I was dedicated to the hobby. I have since started my own audiophile cable business going on 8 years. Don't be discourage, there is a place for us
youngster in this hobby, this hobby needs young minds. It's easy to be
dedicated when you're having fun! Feel free to contact me if you need ideas on restoring old tables;)
there are many sociological essays on materialism, social disorginazation and fetishism available for the person obsessed with more more newer newer now now. read up and understand why things are the way they are in the post-modern world of plenty and why so many are so dissatisfied.
The OP's symptoms sound much more like a raging neurosis than a mere hobby. If at some point you can't settle down and enjoy the music your rig is capable of, there is something else wrong. It could be emotional or it could be a system matching issue.

Perhaps you're spending too much money on components and not enough to clean up the power (power cords & conditioner), transfer the signal (interconnects and spkr cables), and interact properly with the room (racks, stands, traps, diffusers).

We all go through "kicks" and obsessions; it's what motivates us to do upgrades, which properly done, do improve transparency, coherency, etc. But it should always bring you back to enjoyment of the music. Right now my obsession isn't gear, it's those wonderful new LPs remastered by Bernie Grundman, Steve Hoffman, Kevin Gray, & co. At least I can get my "fix" for $25-35 a pop.
Raquel, from your Blackberry deal obsessing Avery Hall seat are you really qualified to talk about the majority of New Yorkers? I lived in Manhattan for 10 years and there was music everywhere and most of it was cheap to moderately priced.
FWIW, New York is a wonderful, vibrant city, unlike almost any other city on earth, in a good way. It does cost too much to live there decently however.
If you need to watch your money in this hobby (and who doesn’t) and if you only have to impress yourself :) then the secret is to buy good quality USED gear. From manufacturers that people respect, and want items from.
There will always be someone on every step of that ladder looking for gear when u need to sell. I mean this even if they are not in business – as long as you have a tech for those not around anymore if a problem arose. If their products were good there are people that want them out there (i.e. Acoustat.)

The speakers, amps, preamps and especially the turntables (god help those that get into vinyl because its a slippery slope if you get hooked) - never the less anything good for 2 channel music will stay the same in value due to popularity, value and quality, and even go up in value depending on market conditions.

CD players, AV receivers, anything for digital music up to now is like computers and TV’s - take your hit every year and it will keep going down. 2 channel is different because there are crazy people like us to snap it up. This is an addiction a disease – you can’t lose money with 2 channel.
You do need to have patience when selling though or you will lose like anything in life that you have to get rid of quick.
I can get the same if not more for a lot of my gear than when I bought it used.

Good luck
FWIW, New York is a wonderful, vibrant city, unlike almost any other city on earth, in a good way. It does cost too much to live there decently however.
not to get all dr. phil-like, but it seems like the real issue is not how much it costs to buy a good stereo, but how much of your life you're willing to sacrifice for such goal. like booze or gambling, audophilia is something that can easily move from diversion to obsession. if, for example, i stopped going out for dinner, or pulled the kids out of private school so i can buy upgrade speaker cables, i'd have to look critically at my priorities. which doesn't necessarily mean i wouldn't buy those cables...
Onhwy61: Sounds like you managed to maintain the habits of a tourist. Congratulations.
Ask for a raise. An engineer with some experience in NYC should be making at least 100k a year, right? I would think you'd be able to scrape up a few K for a stereo... How much is your rent, like 4k? If so - maybe move to the suburbs?
$2k rent will get you a small decent place in Manhattan. But if you eat those $10 sandwiches five times a day or always use a cab to move around - that could be a problem.
Recently, as you know, new residential construction has all but ceased to exist. Subsequently, so has my stereo budget. I thought my hobby would be on permanent hiatus.
Over the last year, I have sold off this and that, tweeters, cables, a cartridge, all from my closet of unused toys.
This little bit of cash has been converted into a HLLY Tamp-20 t amp and a used pair of Klipsch Forte IIs.
I know t-amps don't get any cred here, but talk about fun?! This little palm sized wonder sounds as good as any high dollar set amp, and with the Klipsch it compares with any setup on the planet! ....psyche!!! Of course I'm joking! But it is a fun listen and does sound really good. BTW the t-amp sounds pretty good with most of my speakers.
The point is, (to my surprise) there is virtually no budget constraint to enjoying this hobby and good sound.
$100K is what a good shoe salesman makes in NYC - the cost of living is 40% higher than the next highest city (San Francisco). $10 will barely buy you a mediocre sandwich at Starbucks here. $2k/month will get you a tiny dump of an apartment, even since the recession began - that's what kids out of college rent. There was a study done in the mid-90's, well before the crazy salaries really started and began to bid the prices of everything up, which concluded that a family of four that aspired to private schools for two kids, two vacations a year, a bit of savings, and to own their own apartment needed to make $325K-$350k/year to even have a chance at such a lifestyle. Anecdotally, it feels far more expensive now. $25k for a good private kindergarten in Manhattan is on the low side ($30k-$35k is typical). Speaking of shoes, the lowly house brands at Barneys, Bergdorfs, Paul Stewart, etc., start at $450-$500/pair now, and if one is so disposed, you can drop $1,500 (before the 8.25% sales tax) on an unassuming pair of black wingtips at these places. It costs me $250 to fly to Austin to see my mom, and $125 if I have to take a car service home from the airport when I get back. Those big apartments on Friends and Sex and the City are pure fiction - $1 million buys you a two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment, with a miserable excuse for a second bedroom and if you’re lucky, shared laundry facilities on premises – once they hand you the keys, there’s an additional $2k per month for common expenses for as long as you own the place ($2K if you’re lucky, that is). In short, life is very different here than the other places I've lived in the U.S. (Cincinnati, Richmond, Northwestern Ohio, L.A., Boston, Detroit / Ann Arbor), and most people who don't live here do not understand just how different it is.

The really big, cosmopolitan cities – New York, Paris, London, Sao Paulo, Tokyo - have extreme costs of living and correspondingly extreme professional situations and lifestyles (Brazilians are laid back? Really? ... I have former Brazilian colleagues who bill 400 hours a month at their law firms). So to respond to your question, yeah, a lot of people can indeed afford it (but as someone once eloquently said, it's costly to have money).
I'm 28, married with a kid in another very high cost of living area and, although I find myself completely engulfed in this hobby, I've gotta respectfully say--you're doing it wrong, bro.

This hobby provides a lot of entertainment for me and is one of my main outlets in life, but I sure as hell wouldn't put myself into consumer debt for it... or jeopardize my ability to pay for groceries.

I'm a professional, though not 'rich' by any stretch of the imagination--like you, I do fine on the income front, but its all about managing what comes in.

Start with something modest for your means and incrementally upgrade from there. It can actually be a lot of fun trying to extract maximum performance for minimum dollars... I got started in college with a pair of MMGs and a Jolida integrated amp.

Just don't fund this hobby with the money for your necessaries!

One does not have to be rich to enjoy this hobby, but they do have to approach it strategically for their particular life situations and have the patience to wait for the right deal and the instinct to pounce... also, having friends in the industry does not hurt.
i can live like a millionaire in the ozarks. ha. and i never wait in line or spend more than 5 min a day in the car. and if you mind your own business there is no crime. plus there are no audio salons to tempt me with upgrades. i love visiting cities and have lived in a few but heard they keep coming up with faster rats.
Raquel, there is some nonsense in your post. You can get excellent Santoni shoes at their store for $450 plus tax, the same with Ferragamo. These are excellent brands. John Lobb will set you back for at least $1000,true.$2k rent will get you more than what you said. And even $5 sandwich can be great if you know where to buy.
On the other hand, $1 million usually does not buy what you said.
How much do you really know about NYC? Don't misinform people here.