In your opinion, what is Hi, Medium and Low end?

Hey All,

I am new to this arena and for all the reading and homework it seems like there is a lot of circumstance out there. It seems that the comment that I see the most is, “…see how it works with your system.” And while this is true about a great many things in life it seems that we are all trying to find a sense for balance for our budget. The other thing that I learned is the spending a lot will not always yield the desired result.

So…regardless of price, here is my question. In your opinion, if your were to put together a system (say something to do it all, as I don’t know about everyone else but I couldn’t afford one for music and one for movies and other activities) in the following three categories: as high medium and low; what would it look like?

Say maybe with the following categories:

1) Processor, Preamp & Amp OR Receiver
2) Sources (CD, Phono or whatever)
3) Cables (Speak, Interconnect and whatever)
4) Power and related products
5) Other tweaks

Did I miss anything? Please feel free to add. :D

There are no motives hear but to learn, I have just bought a bunch of stuff that make me happy and I am just curious or maybe trying to prove that I am not on crack. ;-)


CDP Low End

SS Amp Low End
In my opinion, high end, medium and low end are determined by performance and quality, not price. Of course many of the best sounding components are expensive but there are exceptions and the exceptions are brought about by matching the right pieces.

Some of the worst sounding systems are the VERY expensive ones that are severely mismatched. With the power and resolution to show every detail, a mismatch only serves to make the listener unhappy and even uncomfortable.

So answering your question by filling out components that "fit" the list, is difficult. An inexpensive DAC might sound really good with a computer based system, creating a super value sound, placing it low end in cost and mid to high end in sound.

Same with speakers. A used pair of Vandersteen 2Ce might be found for $650.00 or less, making them mid line cost but delivering reasonably high end performance.

Power related products are all over the place. Some very expensive conditioning equipment damages the sound on my system and some inexpensive ones improve sound.

Cable is a little bit easier. Low end would be door bell wire or zip cord. Works and sounds OK, with everything being "lossy" as opposed to showing much in the way of flaws.

As you move up the cable chain, all of the premium brands contribute their personality but the price does not always assure an equal amount of performance increase.

When you get to source, the best value is probably a $99.00 CD player. It works, sounds OK and no money spent. You can spend 30K on a CD but unless EVERYTHING else in the system is top notch, you'll wonder why it costs so much.

Same true for analog sources (turntable, arm and cartridge) and preamps and phono amps.

Sorry if this sounds like a cop out, but audio is like cooking. Better ingredients can make a great recipe better but is no guarantee a bad cook will serve a perfect meal.
Hello,I just joined this boy's club.My boyfriend has what he calls a high-end system.My dad says his system is only mid-fi
(I think I know what that means)When we are all together they always discuss their systems.I am tired of being left out so I joined Audiogon to learn.Actually I didnt understand the question but I understand Albertporters answer perfectly.
I'll keep looking and learning and will have some questions for you guys in the future.
Descriptions according to the trained ear:

Low=Obviously not so good sound

Mid=Pretty good but with room for improvement

High=Oh yeah, now were cooking!

"Mid-fi" tries to be everything to everybody and usually falls short in every way.

"Hi-fi" does one or two things well but fails miserably at something else.
I hate when narrow minded people put down solid state gear. Just because it's not your cup of tea doesn't make it low end. There are plenty of hi end SS pieces to choose from.
Let me put it another way.

"Mid-fi" is like a handyman that bows out when he gets in over his head.

"Hi-fi" is a specialist technician that's dangerous out of his field.
Low-end - designed mainly for price.
Mid-fi - designed for balance between sound quality and price.
Hi-end - designed only for sound quality.
I hope your smart enough to ignore Glory, that has to be one of the dumbest suggestions ever.

Low Fi, IMO is mainly stuff you get at a large chain store, its cheap easy to purchase and looks like its all you need, and it somewhat is unless you actually really care about Mcdonalds.

Mid-fi, a bit harder to spot in the stores but some companies that make crap have "Elite", "ES", "Master", "Select" gear that is the top of their respective lines......a bit less afordable but pretty justifiable to many folks. It also is companies that have always produced well recieved and priced gear, maybe "NAD, Rotel, Rega, Music Hall" fall into this section among many others and its usually somewhat mass produced and many have a long track record of value. These might be considered like "Outback Steakhouse".
HiFi, boy this can be a large well established company with huge factory they own, could be another large firm that ships out fome parts from overseas and some is in our back yard, could be one guy that makes just a few extreme priced and performing items a year and many times its drop dead sexy. Its almost always very high priced and some is the sort of stuff that most folks simply shake their head at failing to understand why anyone would pay so much for items they feel fall into the earlier price ranges. This stuff is a reservation required suit and tie joint with valet parking, 5 star media reviews, and a palce most will never see or appreciate. man I am bored!

You are wound to tight.

I was just kidding. I am sure there are some decent sounding SS amps around. =8^)
By your first paragraph, I'd say you're paying attention and certainly grasp what's going on here. I am not quite sure what, exactly, you are asking though. Is this an audio hierarchy question? Or are you asking what low-mid-high means to others? In the case of a latter, I'd imagine that was a sliding scale according to what you can afford, and to some extent what you've been exposed to, personal tastes, predispositions, yadda yadda yadda.

Albert's response is spot-on, as usual, and his last statement speaks volumes:

Sorry if this sounds like a cop out, but audio is like cooking. Better ingredients can make a great recipe better but is no guarantee a bad cook will serve a perfect meal.

If you take anything from this thread, that is a pearl, and it is anything but a cop-out. Well put, Albert.

If you can discriminate from those speaking from experience and those blowing smoke out their arse you can certainly learn a lot here...definitely keep asking questions. Most of your 'learning', though, will be done by doing (ain't that always the way), and not necessarily following anyone else's formulas or suggestions. Take the most sage advice as a point of departure and create your own 'perfect meal'. Look for folks who might share similar tastes in music, and or have experience with components you may be interested in, or those you already have and want to build upon. No better way to test the waters than to jump in, as you have. The chlorine's not too bad...just watch out for those warm spots.

Thanks all, I appeciate everyone taking the time to chime in. Like I said, I am not trying to short cut through anything, but it can be daunting as excited as one can get in this arena it is also very confusing wihtout the history and knowing what to look for.


Glory with another put-down? Just "decent", eh? Just can't come to terms with the possibity that there are excellent SS amps out there?
I find alot of people posting troubles with the tube amps they have, mostly with the tubes themselves. Should I then state that tube amps are more trouble, or that they are inferior to SS, or just "decent"? I wouldn't even think of it
In concrete terms:
Low end: (The audio moron) Bose, "all in one racks", wire from Best Buy, any audio equipment from Best Buy, Any audio equipment from Walmart, Any audio Equipment found in a Goodwill store.
For example: Bose 5.1 speakers, $300. receiver, Monster cables from a Best Buy, an Oppo DVD player for all formats.
Mid fi: (The struggling audiophile) anything and everything that costs between $600. per unit, and $2,000. per unit.
Adcom separates, many possible $2K speakers, Kimber PBJ or Hero, a Sony ES CD player, maybe a DA converter Plenty of used stuff, including a used TT.
"Upper" mid fi: (the typical person called an "audiophile")(most of us)$2,000 per item to $6,000. per item.
The great middle class.. tons and tons of stuff, new and used. The folks with HUGE collections of music... The folks who have been into it for years
High end: (the wealthy... and the totally crazy) minimum $6,000. per item up to $100,000. per item.
The MBL crowd... $5K cables... etc.
(sorry I copped out on the equipment samples... but I hope you get my idea...)

You are wound even tighter than

Sorry for using the word decent. One of the better sounding rooms at RMAF in '07 IMHO was the Harbeth room with A SS amp.

Feel better?
Some cute answers. Yet, both the serious and fun answers are using the terms hi/mid/low-END, and hi/mid/low-FI, as if they were the same. Are these terms synonymous?

Gogirl: You'll certainly get a mouthful of stuff to talk about here, but if you really want to impress them, you need to dig in deeper, otherwise your father and boyfriend will trample you with jargon and specious science. You go girl!
I think the definition changes as you enter and travel along the hifi path. When I first started I thought my humble, low cost system was bloody great and truly hi-end! Of course, as I travelled down the hifi path, and ultimately, the upgrade path, things became clearer.
You never have the best system. There is always a better one, and when you hear it, it is apparant. Then your perceptions alter again re mid-fi/hi-fi/etc.
Just enjoy the ride, listen to as many systems as possible, and never close your mind to the fact that some ultra piced items deliver truly astonishing performance. Even if they are beyond reach, they are well worth listening to, as they improve/hone your perspective.
To suggest that the high end is reserved for crazy wealthy people is ridiculous. By defintition this is unlikely. It is also grossly incorrect. I know a few guys who have megabuck systems, highly modified, and forgo lots of things in life to attain their hifi asperations. They are niether wealthy, nor crazy. But they are very happy!
As am I.
Just enjoy your new hobby, it can, and should, last a lifetime.
Buy and listen to what pleases your ears.

Ignore all the static you're hearing here.
There is a difference between Low Fi, Mid Fi or Hi Fi but it is not only in terms of price range least not in my book. I believe it should reflect the differences in quality of the material that is reproduced and its honest, accurate image of the original music material. I do understand that it is not always possible to get that last slice of detail and transparency on the low budget but there are exeptions. And that is where this hobby becomes interesting and fun.

Bose and one box systems shouldn't have the "Fi" in, on or near their box, section or the store that sells it.
06-05-08: Gogirl Said:
"Hello,I just joined this boy's club.My boyfriend has what he calls a high-end system.My dad says his system is only mid-fi
(I think I know what that means)When we are all together they always discuss their systems.I am tired of being left out so I joined Audiogon to learn.Actually I didnt understand the question but I understand Albertporters answer perfectly.
I'll keep looking and learning and will have some questions for you guys in the future."

Welcome Gogirl. Please excuse these klutz audiophiles for noticing a lady in the room. Since you have both an audiophile father and b'friend you understand I'm sure.

You picked right up on Albertporter's correctness. If you haven't already, link over to his system and you'll see not low, medium or high end, but "ultimate end."


Glory, yes, that makes me feel better. I thank you for that. I just get fed up with SS being classified as inferior. The best system I ever heard had huge solid state Classe monoblocks with CJ tube preamplification, if my memory serves me correctly. I'll never forget that day. The best of both worlds.
You can achieve fairly high end sound for medium or low end cost if you match any decent speakers properly to a decent amp and focus on good speaker placement within the room

Most systems sound "high end" when speakers can be placed at least a few feet away from walls to avoid early reflections. In general, most speakers sound better when given some "room to breathe" in this manner. Avoid speakers that are too big in a room that is too small. Most decent, smaller "monitor speakers" work well in a variety of room sizes when paired with a decent quality matching amp, like a NAD (warmer sound) or Rotel (more detailed/transparent).

Then add some decent interconnects (anything other than stock cables that come with units, DNM, audioquest or MIT among others are safe bets) and any decent Monster power conditioner and you should be 90% there. Everything from here is a tweak to your particular tastes. If you are using a phono, make sure the cartridge is properly aligned and matched to the phono input properly.
IMHO, hi-fi has become so good and cheap since 50's that there is almost no such thing as low or mid fi around anymore (at least not in your average middle class home). Digital has been the great democratizer - simplifying things with high quality sound with great channel separation, S/N and a dynamic range exceeding previous technologies by about 30 db+.

This has resulted in a battle for differentiation in the high end that is largely one of marketing specs and aesthetics (precious metals/heavy build etc) and plumbing the extremes such as extreme bass performance or SPL capability or odd distinctive colorations. It has pitted tubes against SS (although depending on the topology they can sound similar). It has pitted Analog against Digital - and again depending on the recording quality they can sound similar too.

If this seems a lot like Yves St. Laurent vs Hugo Boss vs Armani, Versace etc. that is because great functional clothing was invented a long time ago and so differentiation moves to aesthetics and type of material ( man made fabrics vs natural etc)

Like the girls discussing clothing - the guys discuss gear but in the end it is just harmless fun - and todays "cock of the wall" product is tomorrows "feather duster". So enjoy the banter but don't for one moment be fooled into thinking there is some raw ground truths or science to it. It is just fun.
Agree with Shadorne.

I'd only add that the underpinnings of audio is science and engineering, but 98% of the end user experience results from the artistic aspect, which includes the recording process.
Hello All,Dcstep I took your suggestion and looked at Mr. Porters system.I also looked at his professional background.
This confuses my even more.
Some of you have stated that there are no low or mid-fi these days all equipment is good.Some say have fun with it.
It seems that the price of Mr.Porters system can support a third world country.I dont think Mr.Porter intentionally wants to spend his hard earned dollars on what I checked to be a very expensive system not to mention the cost of power to fire all this up.So there must be more to it.
So guys,if you had the dollars to put into a higher end system,would you.And would you then say its all good ??
Honest answers only.Please set the ego's aside.
I'm trying to learn
Thank you
So guys,if you had the dollars to put into a higher end system,would you.And would you then say its all good ??
Honest answers only.Please set the ego's aside.

I'd probably improve a few things here and there, but I don't think I'd be inclined to invest huge amounts of money into my system. I like it pretty well as it is. I don't know where it would fall on the spectrum of what is being discussed here, but I'd say it is quite modest in comparison. I'd be most inclined to put significant money into improving my listening room or building a new one.

Albert has been in and around the industry his entire life and I'd venture to guess worked his butt off to build the system he has. I don't think he paid retail for it..but I think he traded his first born for the turntable. He still has the one son left though so don't feel bad. Keep in mind that represents the evolution of a lifetime's passion...and Albert, as we all know is a very tired old man with only one kidney (he traded the other for those speakers) :-)
If I had the budget, I'd probably end up spending more.

But my system fits my current dwelling pretty well. The differences, if any, would be marginal or subjective, IMHO.

If I had a larger house with larger rooms, I would probably be inclined to scale my system up somewhat accordingly, which would likely cost more.

I might go with a fancier CD player, though I'm not sure I would gain much, which is why I am where I am there.

If I weren't turned onto the Ohms, I might have to spend more to match them otherwise, though I think I could find something second hand in the price range that might be in the same league at least.
So,I think by Jax2 and Mapmans reply that it takes a very large investment to achieve high end performance and some either just cant afford the cost or are not into the music that much.If this is true then why cant you boys just say that.Why do some still say they have high end systems if you need something better to make it truly high end.Or is this like having a faster car gets confused with having a better car ?
It's not so much that it take a large investment of money for equipment. Most serious music lovers have more money in software than gear I'd hazard to guess. Take a 1000 lps or cds and compare that to the cost of a system that most members have. It's the time invested in learning about room and equipment interactions and what works with what. FWIW if I became wealthy I'd have a pro design a room made for audio. And if possible involve the equipment manufacturer in the process. Otherwise I might be just be another rich guy with an expensive but crappy sounding system. There are too many to mention but on this thread there are several members with vast experience in audio that it pays to listen too. If I was starting out and had the money I'd find out what they're drinking and hand deliver to their house on serious listening night. Definitely at least worth reading threads some of the more astute members threads to learn before buying anything. You can skip mine!
So, now we have 4 categories: lo-end, mid-end, hi-end, and wretched excess and Albert is the poster boy for the latter. Way to go Albert, I'm jealous.
Gogirl, if one is willing to give up full range and go with a 2-way mini-monitor, then high-end can be achieved for four-figures, subject to that limitation. Many people do make that compromise and are quite happy with it for many years. I did that for decades and only moved up to full range in the last year or so. (My investment escalated several fold, partly because I can now afford the best components, but a doubling occured simply to get another octave or so without giving up the all-important midrange and imaging.

I think the definition of high end is defined in sound and not money. The key is that timbre be accurate and that the sound be transparent and stress free. Compromises must be skillfully implemented such that they really don't stick out (for instance, the roll off must be natural and graceful).

Oh no, the dreaded automobile analogy torpedo! Abandon thread! Abandon thread!

No, I cannot afford the cost of most hi-end equipment. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy what I can afford.
So,I think by Jax2 and Mapmans reply that it takes a very large investment to achieve high end performance and some either just cant afford the cost or are not into the music that much.

Did I say that? I'm not even sure where you got that inference from my response?! I think there is a threshold where your investment in "improvement" can skyrocket in terms of $ spent VS improvements gained. If I had the money I don't think my priorities would be to spend huge amounts on small improvements. I like my system as it is. I have heard plenty of all-out systems that have impressed me, but the degree of improvement does not occur to me, personally, as worth the investment. This is all speculation, mind you. I don't have that kind of money, and I have no idea what that experience may be like or how it might change me. For me, right now, the greatest improvements I could think of for my system would be in tweaks to my speakers and in changing my room to a dedicated custom designed room for listening. The later would probably render the largest improvement in my case. That is definitely something I'd be willing to invest in if I had lots of money.

Why do some still say they have high end systems if you need something better to make it truly high end.Or is this like having a faster car gets confused with having a better car ?

I said I considered mine to be a modest system. I don't try to improve it for the sake of bringing it to someone's arbitrary definition of what is "better". I improve it because the investments usually bring me closer to the music, and thus bring me enjoyment. I've reached my own threshold where the investments required to make things significantly better are not worth it to me, short of perhaps the room (which actually would be a very significant investment).

The car thing doesn't connect. I hate cars. I ride a motorcycle, and avoid 4 wheeled vehicles like so many piles of dog poop on the sidewalk. I drive one only if I have no choice. Even taking your statement about cars and applying it to bikes I don't connect. "Faster" makes absolutely no difference to me. I'm much more interested in how well the bike fits my riding style and my preferences of terrain. Fast has very little to do with it. I've ridden the same model bike for 12 years now (two versions of it) simply because it fits me and my riding style best. There are a great abundance of much faster and sportier alternatives to what I ride, yet I have absolutely no desire to go there...not even a curiosity. Been there, done that, it doesn't fit me. If I had money up the wazzoo, I am quite sure I'd still ride the same bike and would still avoid driving a car. There's a thread somewhere on here about what kind of cars we all drive if you want to bore yourself to tears, in case you aren't already.

This all may occur to you as defensive, but I have to say your response just doesn't fit me at all. If I implied what you seemed to take from my post, I didn't mean to. Perhaps it was my poking fun at my buddy, Albert, but that was all tongue-in-cheek. I do respect his passion, and the man is a gentlemen in every respect. Hope that clarifies my perspective a bit.
Hey,Calbrs03,What kind of nonsense did you post here.A while back you knocked women by saying Auto dealers had to change their show rooms and methods just to do business with women Didnt that work well for all of us.
The lady has a valid point.If someone asks "what speakers should I buy" 43 posters will respond without having any other information.I myself now use headphones.In my new environment I no longer have the room for speakers.I enjoy the music and thats what counts for me.As for hi-end and low end actually there is no end its what is important to you and how you feel when the music starts to play.Gogirl, like everything else in life some posters are more relevant then others.Good luck and stick with it
Oem: That was no knock on women. I was simply pointing out that Detroit, after god knows how long, finally took notice that women had access to money that didn't come from their husbands. That is, they earned it themselves. Detroit, as usual behind the curve, was smart enough to wrench into the rusting works and change their marketing to focus on women as independent consumers (hence, the rise of Saturn, the first car my wife bought.) This after a long time when my working mother couldn't buy a car without my father's co-signature, this at a Ford dealership. I wasn't knocking women, I was trashing American automobile marketing. If I didn't make that clear then, I am now.

Gogirl's original post was valid, and I would have gladly kept my fingers off the keys and read. However--and this is my fault--I took offense at her increasingly condescending, patronizing, and confrontational tone, and therfore, lashed out at the tired simile, which seemed to be at the time baiting all of us. She, and you, and everyone else has my apology.

As for hi end, low end, mid end, the distinctions don't make a damn bit of difference as long as the owner is happy. If you want to throw a vault of money at this hobby, go for it. If something more earth bound is more to you liking, great. Hell, buy a Bose 501 if it trips the trigger. Since it's all subjective, there's not a dime's edge of difference between the three. If it sounds good to you, then what the heck does it matter if it's high, mid or low?

I'm glad you use headphones, I use them, too. I also have also a pair of raucous Altecs a pair of more refined Merlins. I've used separates, integrateds, cds, phono, music servers, zip cord and Cardas. Who cares? I'm more interested in my library than my equipment. I'm sure it's the same for you. So if we both like the music we listen to, what's our argument?
Hi Fi lets you hear the car in the Counting Crows' Big Yellow Taxi about two minutes into the track. Heh, but it's not what you think. It's not the sound that is like a car door slamming; that's the screen door slamming. Then comes the very low level sound of the car as it rolls away, after the lyrics, "...and a big yellow taxi took my girl away."! You're not going to hear it clearly with a low to Mid level rig(You may not hear it at all or it will sound like distortion; those with hearing difficulty will say it's not there) It starts very quietly in the right channel and moves left. It's a good test of how capable your system and your ears are.

You'll need some good gear (usually the more expensive kind) to hear clearly what I'm talking about. Those with High End gear will be able to hear it cleanly.
My system is clearly not high end if the measure is $$$$s spent compared to others.

I listen to the best systems I can without regard to cost whenever I have an opportunity and use these to set my reference for what is possible. Then I decide how to best invest the funds I can to best achieve that level of performance myself.

My current setup definitely floats my boat in regards to performance and enables me to fully engage my love of music with no significant compromise, which I guess is my goal.

Believe me, I'm always looking for ways to make my system better whenever possible. I do think though that given where I am at currently, the improvements I can achieve are very very marginal.

If I could do anything to improve my system at present, I would probably invest in a bigger listening room somehow in which to really unleash some large scale audio fury!
In looking at Albert Porters System, I see that he has a one meter interconnect that costs more than my entire main system.

I've never heard the Dali's in Albert's system, but have heard other large Dalis albeit in listening rooms that were too small for them and based on that would expect his are quite extraordinary speakers with what has to be state of the art midrange detail, clarity and resolution in combination with the rest of his extraordinary system.

IT would surely be quite a rematch of David versus Goliath to compare my system to Albert's. I'd probably only even consider doing it if I could get a home game in my modest sized room in that I am fairly certain I'd get blown away in a much larger room.

The best I could probably hope for in reality in such a duel would be to put in a valiant challenge and confirm that the differences in performance were in fact marginal compared to the large difference in cost.

If I could afford Albert's system would I buy it? Sure why not. As I've stated repeatedly already, it is without doubt quite extraordinary! What audio nut wouldn't like to own it? Certainly not this one.

If I could afford it, I would also like to buy the Taj Mahal as my new listening room and have it custom treated for better acoustics while at it.
Actually in recollection, I misstated something above.

The speakers I referenced that I had heard were large Avalons, not Dalis. The dealer sold both but I did not get a chance to audition any Dalis. I thought the design of the Dalis in Albert's system looked much different from the ones I was I know why, two different lines!

So that fact is I've never heard Dalis. I'd surely at least want to hear them first before saying I'd buy them if I could.

Nevertheless, the Dalis is Albert Porters system surely sound outstanding as well in his exceptional setup.

You guys are embarrassing me. The equipment in my system is as Jax2 says, a lifetime achievement.

Considering all the work and time I've put in, it's really not that much. Had I spent the time studying the stock market I would be much more successful. Problem is, I'm still a child at heart when it comes to music.

Guess if I had it to do over again, I would still spend all of my energy on my art (photography), my music and my son.

My son John is the only truly perfect music in my life, equipment can only get you closer if you already have the passion in your heart.

When I think back on the times when he and my wife were dancing in the living room to my favorite LP's spinning on the turntable, everything seems perfect. Where else can a man have everything he loves, enjoying life and sharing happiness in a single spot in your home?

When we are very young, even the thought of Christmas brings excitement and joy that as old folk, we forget. Can any of you remember the true excitement of being with the family and the prospect of a toy you wanted when you were five or eight or ten years old?

Do you remember the excitement of your favorite song when you were about to become a teenager? Have you considered what you would have to hear today or find under the Christmas tree to be that excited again?

Think about that a bit and then maybe you can understand why a grown man wishes he could hold a bit of childhood again. Maybe if we push the boundaries of our systems a tiny bit more, we can listen to our favorite music and feel that way again.

Just a thought.

Spoken like a true MUSIC lover!

We have different vendor's components in our systems but otherwise I'd say we're a lot alike.

I reread Gogirls posts and didn't see anything condescending. She seems to be trying to understand the paradox of, if a four-figure system can be "high end" then, if so, why would you spend six-figures?

Part of it is the law of diminishing returns. A four-figure system will always contain compromises, at least IME. Forgetting headphones, where a 99th percentile system can be put together for under $10,000 pretty easily, most open air systems under $10,000 will not achieve deep bass. Music lovers a willing to make this sacrifice in order to really hear their texture of their favorite vocalist's instrument. This is a 90+% system, but it could be a 99% in it's imaging and presentation of midrange.

I wouldn't call that system mid-fi IF (this is a big IF)it does so with very minimal stress and electronic congestion in the presentation. OTOH, I've heard $50,000 systems that were full of electronic glare, congested midrange. A poor high-dollar system is usually only consider high-end by its owner.

Some of us grow old and find ourselves making lots and lots of money (it does happen) and find ourselves wanting to get rid of the compromises in our system, or at least most of them. (I don't know if there's a truly 100% system that EVERYONE would agree is the ultimate). I might could have done this a little sooner, but last year I moved from two-way mini-monitors to floor standing, almost-full-range speakers (roll off below 31Hz) and started upgrading the surrounding components.

My cables and ICs now cost more than my prior two-way systems speakers or amp. I'm chasing the final few percentiles of resolution and freedom from stress (hint, it's in the wires and sources mostly).

Is ego involved? Hell yes, but to widely varying degrees. For instance, my partner is building a four-million dollar house on the 8th hole of a famous golf course. Now there's an ego-statement, as much his wife's as his. Anyway, the sound system proposed by a consultant was MID SIX-FIGURES. I talked my partner out of it and he's spending high five-figures on security, lights and AV. Most importantly, he'll have a small, two-channel listening area. Several of his buddies spent the way more bucks, but their systems sound like pure crap. None of them know that, because none of them love music. It's a pure waste, based totally on ego.

The person with a more constrained budget still has ego. Many want to put together the best system possible for X-dollars. That's a man thing, mostly (my 21-year old daughter is an exception), but when you're constrained then you want to do the most with what you've got. This leads to debates, since there are so many choices that there's certainly no "best $5,000 system." I was part of this. I wanted to watch the jaws drop when my orchestral musician friends came over for a listen. I did that.

Now I struggle with how much to spend on others and how much to spend on myself. I've reached the point where a tithe is never a strain, so the question comes up as to whether I should give more. If I spend $10,000 on a CDP/SACDP wouldn't the money have been better spent helping typhon victims in Burma or tonado victims in the US??

Just so you know, I spent the $10,000 on my system, but comfortable with my ratio of self to others.

So, there are no absolutes. Must a high-end system be full-range, I think not, but it's not high-end in the same sense as the people that refining that last 1% of resolution, like AP. I think AP would agree, it's not the money, it's the result. IMHO, anyone with a truly musical system is in "high end". Of course, lots of people will disagree.


I think your distinction between ego and loving music is an important one on this topic. Being a music lover is perhaps the biggest factor in achieving "high end".

A music lover will achieve a high end system much faster and possibly more cost effectively in most cases. The devil is in the details, and only a music lover is tuned in enough to those details to be able to separate performance from cost.

The good news is this: you do not have to be ultra rich to achieve high end performance if you are a true music lover.
Agreed Mapman.

Dcstep,Thank you for understanding what I was trying to say.
I did not try to demean any ones system.In fact 99% of you will have a better and more expensive system then I when I complete mine.Possibly,I'm to impatient.I want to learn about as much as I can as fast as I can.In re-reading some of your posts I find your systems evolved over long periods of time.Maybe I should slow down.
Calbrs03,I apologize to you sir.It seems i took your words and did a 180.
Gogirl, I'll be serious for a moment, Yes, it does take time and more than you'll ever learn by just reading these forums, although they can help too. The biggest learning curve is knowing what you like and what you are willing to compromise, or not. For example, my massive speakers are in the middle of what is supposed to be a dining area. The kind of compromise only a bachelor could make.

When I was a teenager, I had a stereo that was twice as expensive as my 10 year old P.O.S. car. Thirty years later, and I still have an old car and a stereo that that most think is a case of misguided priorities or question my sanity. Without the music, I might go nuts.
Audiofeil,"Avoid all the static here".After reading many of these Forums I should heed your advice.
Doug_Schroeder,Perfectly explained.Thank you.You do mention that in some systems it wont be heard at all.How does one know what should be heard if they haven't heard it before.
My Dad is forever changing cables.With each new purchase he exclaims "this is so much better."Frankly I heard little or no differences with these changes.He told me its because i dont know how to listen.My question is does a music lover also need a trained ear to hear differences or when it comes to high end is it obvious?
06-09-08: Gogirl asked:
"...My question is does a music lover also need a trained ear to hear differences or when it comes to high end is it obvious? "

If you really don't sit down and listen to your dad's system a lot, then it's not surprising that you hear little difference. To some extent your ears do get trained, but it'll often require an "epiphany" of some sort.

One such epiphany for me was with high quality CD players. When CD was young I was using a very inexpensive CD player and wondering if I should spend big bucks on a top line CDP. I listened in a few shops and didn't hear anything. Finally, a smart retailer said, "Take it home Saturday evening and listen to it over Sunday in your own system." Even after an hour of ABing, I wasn't hearing anything and finally settled down to listen for enjoyment. All of the sudden I heard a clarity and openness that I hadn't noticed before. When I went back to my cheap player the glare and opaqueness was obvious. Later when I got in the car the glare of that player was obvious and almost unlistenable, even though it'd sounded fine to me earlier in the same day. I called the dealer on Monday morning and said I was keeping the $3000 CDP/DAC rig (this was 1993).

Anyway, the training part is that I now easily hear that coloration and glaze/glare. Cables display similar character. Some can't really hear it, but they get "listener fatigue" with one system and not another, it's often related to these kinds of causes.

"Making" yourself hear a difference NEVER works. You need to relax with your own system. Live with a system for a few weeks before ever considering a "tweak". Once you're used to the system and very familiar, then switch one component (like borrow some cables from your dad). Listen for a few hours and then switch back to the original component. Did you hear a difference? Maybe, maybe not, but if you did and it wss for the better, then switching back to the original will be very disturbing.

For those of us that listen a lot, getting rid of the stress/glare/glaze in the sound is very important, inabling much longer, more enjoyable listening sessions.


"Making" yourself hear a difference NEVER works. You need to relax with your own system. Live with a system for a few weeks before ever considering a "tweak".

I agree with that 100%. I I've always advocated long term, relaxed listening. I would even say "listening from the heart" to see if it brings you closer to the music. Almost any change is audible to the well experienced listener.

What throws many people off in this pursuit is described perfectly by Gogirl in her post:

My Dad is forever changing cables. With each new purchase he exclaims "this is so much better."

I think her Dad was indeed hearing differences but confusing change with improvement. Improvements that make music better, providing long term satisfaction requires patience and discipline.

I follow my own advice, only two speaker systems in 19 years, one brand of cable in 21 years and the same preamp and phono for 10 years. Sure, I've listened to dozens of others, but to change I would have to be convinced that I was getting a TRUE upgrade, not just another set of trade off.

Experience is impossible to gain from a forum, other than to educate the listener to exercise care when making a decision. Even so, it's much like trying to find your all time favorite dining spot from reading restaurant reviews.