Is there a difference?


I have never had nor heard a $50,000 audio system,probably never will.Have heard systems in the $5,000 range,not mine but a few friends.Was wondering from those who may know how big a difference is there in sound quality from those two price points per say and how much would one need to spend in your opinions to have I guess you would say musical bliss?
john421
Huge difference
I just came from the RMAF show and listened to 10 systems or so below 10K, another 10 or so between 10-50K and 20+ between 50K and 1.1M. What I found was that sound quality does not overly correlate to cost. Many of the $$$ systems were analytical, sterile and refined and detailed sounding but not overly like live music (lacking in soul, fullness, body). Many systems had imaging issues that placed all the musicians smack in the middle of the speakers and on top of each other (very unrealistic). Some of the systems sounded great --- but in no way did it correlate to cost. What does correlate to cost is looks --- the shiny systems, flashy looking systems correlate to cost (generally). But sound quality... not so much.

The point is... some 10K systems toast (literally sound much better in an absolute sense) than systems at 3-4 even 5 times the cost. There was a Wilson Audio based system at 200K+ that literally was bested by 5-6 systems that were under 20K.

The point? $$$ does not overly correlate with sound quality. $$$ does track looks, flash, and advertising. So... a well constructed 10K system can better many systems at 5X the cost. A well constructed 25K system can best systems at 150K. It depends on what you get.

I suppose that a well constructed system at 5K versus a well constructed system at 15K will favor the 15K system ... but the difference will be modest. A well constructed 5K vs. a well constructed 50K system will be 90% as good sounding at 1/10 the cost (something like that)... wild diminishing returns. If you have lots of $ that extra 10% can be worth it. Otherwise... no!
For me, serious diminishing returns sets in at about $15,000 used
$15000 used would be about a $30000 to$40000 system. Assuming the best components in the 5000 vs 50000 system the 50000 system will be much much better
Alan
You can't put a price on good sound.
totally agree Zd
It's a more complex question than you might think. It depends in large part on what criteria you use to judge.

If you judge a system using small scale music (e.g. guitar/singer songwriter) vs. orchestral or big electronic then a well set up synergistic $5000 rig might come close to a $50k rig. Generally speaking, more well-produced bass that move enough air to pressurize the room requires bigger higher cost speakers & usually higher $ amp(s) to properly drive them.

If lifelike dynamic swings are an important criteria to you, then costlier gear might justify the higher price.

If 3D instrumental images floating in a lifelike representation of the recording venue soundstage are important to you, then costlier gear might be more likely to justify the higher price.

The more you choose to accept tradeoffs in any of these areas, the more the $5 rig will seem almost as good as the $50k one. IMHE, with about $30k used / $60k new invested, I feel plenty of musical bliss, but still have "wish list" upgrades that I'd enjoy pursuing. I could have said the same thing when I only had $5k invested. Sorry for the rambling...Cheers,
Spencer
If the assumption is that a $50,000 system sounds excellent, then a sub-$10k system can sound very good with the differences between the systems fairly minor. However, some audiophiles will attach major importance to these minor differences and gladly pay the upcharge.
What matters most is how well you choose your stuff to play
well in your room in a way that sounds good to you. Good
quality gear need not cost much these days. It will cost
more in general to get full extended bass in larger rooms.
If your room is not large and good bass down to 40-50 hz or
so is good enough (it often is)you can assemble a top notch
digital source system easily for $2000 or less. Way less
is possible with patience especially if used is considered.
Its not hard to get excellent sound in most smaller rooms
with a little knowledge and patience. Larger rooms are
bigger patients. Most very expensive systems that are also
good values will tend to be geared towards larger rooms.
You don't need that in a smaller room. You can get most of
what the best can offer for a smaller room for not much
these days, at least on the grand scale of "high
end" audio. You have to be smart about how you go
about it though. Throwing money at the problem alone
assures nothing.
Little differences make for large improvements as it is more convincing and that is the point, yes? Subtle as it is, the change is greatly appreciated over the long (and short) haul.

I've heard $150K systems that better anything I've heard in the most convincing manner. I'd never pay for it myself and gladly return to my humble system since it's all quickly forgotten after a tune or two.

All the best,
Nonoise
Yes I understand not putting a price on good sound,guess we'd all be having boom boxes!Yet I have had members compliment me on my small vintage system,I like how it sounds for as little I paid for it.But have had just as many on this forum bash my system and say it's junk.So it would seem some do determine the sound based on how much it costs.
Concentrate on reproducing music in your home and don't be sold by the flash and/or dollar amount.

I've heard systems that cost in excess of 100k that sound lifeless and uninvolving. I've also heard an $800 pair of speakers (Linn Kans) coupled to very modest electronics, such as modified Dynaco MKIII mono-blocks and a modified Dynaco Pas-3 that have tremendous soulful impact. Big bucks doesn't always equate to value and musical pleasure.
There are great sounding inexpensive systems, and certainly poor selection and poor matching can result in a poor sounding expensive system. But with equally careful selection and system matching, I believe the 10x more expensive system the OP asks about can be significantly better. We all have a different price point where diminishing returns sets in...
My current system is about $40 including headphones and sounds very good. Better than a $50,000 system? In some ways yes. Depends on which $50,000 system you're referring to.
Bearing in mind the law of diminishing returns hits hard and fast in this hobby, the difference between a $50K system and a $5K system is not as big as the difference between a $5K system and a $500 system. YMMV.
"10-09-15: John421
Yes I understand not putting a price on good sound,guess we'd all be having boom boxes!Yet I have had members compliment me on my small vintage system,I like how it sounds for as little I paid for it.But have had just as many on this forum bash my system and say it's junk.So it would seem some do determine the sound based on how much it costs.

I meant that comment literally. I use in my main system either my Vandersteen 2's or 3's. I can buy speakers that cost
substantially more, but I prefer the ones I have. Unlike this damn laptop I'm now using that has a mind of its own. We'll see how it likes meetinbg the wheels of my car just as soon as I buy its replacement on my way home tonight.
Everyone here is basically in agreement. No one can even consider the question without knowing what your music is, the size and acoustics of your room, at what volume you listen, what characteristics in reproduced music are priorities to you, etc. There are "small" music (Chamber, small-ensemble Baroque, Folk, Bluegrass, rural Blues) lovers who prefer the original Quad ESL (which is rather SPL and bass-limited) to much more expensive speakers because the Quad's strengths (it may still be as good at reproducing vocals as any speaker ever made) match the requirements of the music.
Zd542,I agree.My system cost less than $100 total and I'm happy with it.Not that if money allows that I wouldn't tweak and upgrade.
There's definitely the 'Law of Diminishing Returns' here, but let's get real; putting together a 'first rate' system does cost some serious green. I probably have somewhere around 30K in my reference system (used), which puts the retail number somewhere around 80K. Experience has taught me that cutting corners much below this threshold is immediately noticeable from a performance stand point. The X-factor, however, still remains primarily in how the system is tweaked out. Most system that I have heard through the years were operating way below capability. There's just no substitute for the trial and error process of using the best tweaks to bring the system up to it's potential.
Lots of different ideas on the subject,interesting for sure.
John421 --- those who bash your system here are like people who drive a BMW and bash a Camry owner. the Camry is just as comfortable, just as quiet, is much, much, much more reliable, will last much longer is a vastly superior value. Even in the absolute, the Camry is 95% the car at 1/2 the price. So... like the BMW guy --- when someone bashes your system it is likely snobbery and people who like glitz, flash, and prestige and are willing to pay for it.
Paid $5.00 for a vintage NAD 3020 pretty much mint,never a problem and had it checked and minor service.Hafler 220,pretty much mint as well, $40 and serviced no problem.Technics SL-1900 near mint,even dust cover is almost perfect with only a couple swirls $20.Need to upgrade the cart though.Celestion DL4 II $15,near mint but would like a speaker with tad more bass and detail.
Forgot the Magnavox CDB465 that still sounds and works great.Near mint $2.
'Bliss'-no- but I think $15k used is a good figure, considering 200sqf room and 8' ceiling.
$4-$5k used being minimum.
"10-09-15: Inna
'Bliss'-no- but I think $15k used is a good figure, considering 200sqf room and 8' ceiling.
$4-$5k used being minimum."

Just throwing numbers around as to what will pass for entry level good sound is really meaningless. If you spend 15k on a system, the only thing you're guaranteed to get is a system that costs 15k.
complete Liberty Audio System

Above a complete system for $ 12500 sans Cables and Turntable should satisfy most, from its maker.

Good Listening

Peter
0-09-15: Robsker
John421 --- those who bash your system here are like people who drive a BMW and bash a Camry owner. the Camry is just as comfortable, just as quiet, is much, much, much more reliable, will last much longer is a vastly superior value. Even in the absolute, the Camry is 95% the car at 1/2 the price. So... like the BMW guy --- when someone bashes your system it is likely snobbery and people who like glitz, flash, and prestige and are willing to pay for it.

+1. Very well said Robsker! Many equipmentphiles trying to validate their purchases here.

10-09-15: John421
Lots of different ideas on the subject,interesting for sure.

There always are many different ideas John421. Ask 10 different audiophiles the same question and you will get 11 different answers. Just do what feels right for you. ;^)
I find that most audiophiles think their rig sounds like a million bucks. :)

When someone thinks they're so shrewd that they can beat the system and put together an econo-rig that spanks the big boys, discussion on cost to performance ratio is not easy. :(
I'm not naive enough to think my simple vintage budget system can compete with costlier systems.But I do believe for as little I paid it sounds rather good.Money doesn't grow on a tree in my yard either.I realize that to some on this thread my system wouldn't appeal sound wise.
"10-10-15: Jmcgrogan2

0-09-15: Robsker
John421 --- those who bash your system here are like people who drive a BMW and bash a Camry owner. the Camry is just as comfortable, just as quiet, is much, much, much more reliable, will last much longer is a vastly superior value. Even in the absolute, the Camry is 95% the car at 1/2 the price. So... like the BMW guy --- when someone bashes your system it is likely snobbery and people who like glitz, flash, and prestige and are willing to pay for it.

+1. Very well said Robsker! Many equipmentphiles trying to validate their purchases here."

The only problem with classifying a product as status only is that sometimes people buy them for other reasons. Every car has a unique look and feel to it. Someone may like a BMW for what it is, and not consider it a status symbol. I've heard many comments over the years about tube amps. Some people look at the spec sheets on tube amps and come to the conclusion that they can't be as good as a SS amp, so audiophiles buy them for status reasons. Boutique equipment, is the term they use most. I don't know about anyone else here, but I bought my tube components for how they sound, and for no other reason.
I cannot comment on the difference between a $50000 system and a $5000 dollars system because I have never heard an expensive system. I just finished putting together a used system, that has been completely rebuild : amp-preamp, bookshelf speakers, use decent interconnect cables and speaker wire, for 4800 dollars and I really like the sound. The most expensive part was a new cd player for 1000 dollars.
I probably never will have the money to sink 20000 dollars or more, on a system, so my point is I believe that you can get "good sound" for affordable cost!
I understand that everyone will have a different opinion , and different advice, but "music is in the ear of the beholder"!
In conclusion, when I want to listen to a MILLION DOLLAR SYSTEM, i go listen to the Columbus Symphony orchestra live!
There is no system, past, present or future that can even dream of sounding like a full live orchestra!!!
Thank you.
Like the sound of tube equipment but they are a bit out of my price range.Not that I'm frugal,just a lot of money too invest.Maybe one day I could afford that type of system.
I wouldn't guess the future, they might be able to do things we can't even remotely imagine.
As for the present, they can't even record well full orchestra. It is extremely difficult.
However, our brain can 'record' it directly and kind of reproduce. I never said it.
A couple of weeks ago I got my new Porsche that has an upgraded Burmeister sound system. My old Porsche had the Bose upgrade. There is nearly no difference between the 2 unless you're parked...and then not that much.
If your hearing is so messed up, how did you end up with Vandersteen and Ayre in your home system?
Burmeister sound in a car? That's great.
That's a little off the topic, but when driving I like to listen to the engine and the road. That's music to my ears when the car is good. When you are stuck in traffic, yeah, stereo helps.
You got a great car - listen to it.
As much as I like audio, I have never ordered an upgraded sound system in the car. The standard systems are fine for listening to the news or WQXR classical. I notice that Benz is offering a Burmester upgrade in its 2016 models for about $1000. Not interested. As for the OP's question - yes there is a big difference. The more expensive system is louder. Didn't you know this?
ZD542,,,why do you surmise my hearing is messed up? ..if you're in Arizona come over and take a listen yourself. Inn...my car has a button that sounds like it bypasses the mufflers. If you like the sound of the engine, as you get over 3500 rpm it sounds like a wild animal
I can imagine - driving Porsche at night through Arizona desert, with or without that button. Surreal and yet very real. Oh boy..
Yes, let's not call each other names. It's unpleasant and serves no purpose.
I never heard Burmeister. How does it sound - very clear and a bit cool? I know that for some time John McLaughlin used Burmeister custom guitar amplifier or whatever that was.
+1 J135, I believe it is more about the intent than the money spent.
Stringreen, you'll find this thread to be of interest, and perhaps my post there will be of some help. In any event, enjoy the new wheels :-)

John421, apologies for the brief digression.

Regards,
-- Al
Brief digression,how did I get off the subject?