Used to be a standard but since this standard had been outperformed during mid to end 70's it became a market tool.
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I don't really think it's a marketing tool, because these terms are almost never used in advertising. Hifi was a marketing term back in the early days of solid state stereo. (I remember my 30-something parents proudly bringing home a walnut cabinet thing.) If it's used with derision now, it's probably in reference to that kind of product.
Low-fi and mid-fi are used by some to describe any equipment they regard as not as good as their own. Many of these same people tend to put great stock in the cost of gear, so it is indeed very much about price.
Basically, these terms mean nothing, except to warn you away from the kinds of people who use them.
Ok,everything I have is better than what anyone else has--(YES!!!)--Now seriously folks: In today's market I would say most all the stuff CC has would be lo-fi. I would say Rotel,Sony,NHT, and the lke would be mid-fi. Then the expensive stuff would be higher-fi. AND,YES Mable, the high-er end does cost more. Someone may love their lo/mid-fi--but I'll bet we could sub. some really high end pieces; and they would love it that much more. --- I figure everybody knows this,Right?
I personally use the label hi-fi for anything designed to offer good musical performance. Thus, I'd use this label for both NAD C521i and the Linn CD 12. (This may be the first time these two CD players are mentioned in the same sentence!)
At the same time, I don't generally use the labels low-fi or mid-fi. I guess I try to ignore mass market electronics as much as I can.
Jc2000,that's my take on this stuff as well.I have tried listening to some 40k systems that were..Gulp...dry with no real life.So it's all about being musical to me.If I'am still sitting there after an hour, it's a winner in my book!Price is a factor up to a point.. after that I feel like I'am pissing in the wind!