Price vs performance


There is a misconception among audiophiles that price is an indication of performance. However consumers are unaware of the ratio of cost of parts to markup. This ratio varies from one speaker to another.
if a 10k speaker uses 2k on parts and the rest is on markup, and if a 5k speaker uses 4k worth of parts and 1k markup then the costlier speaker is not going to provide better performance. Despite this audiophiles will refuse to believe that a cheap speaker can outdo the more expensive one. 


Speaker companies can set whatever price they see fit. Sometimes the price is deliberately elevated to increase the perceived value and performance. It can just be a game of one upmanship. This has nothing to do with the performance of the speaker. 

It's not as if ALL loudspeakers on the market are put in one room and listened to and then priced according to performance. What actually happens is audiophiles rate the performance of a speaker based on its price, which is the antithesis of what should be happening.

magazines and reviewers alike commit the same fallacy all the time. They will only ever jokingly compare a magico with say a mid priced B&w. All because of the price difference. 

But even if we put all loudspeakers in a room, no two audiophiles would ever agree on the order of the performance anyway. Audiophiles' opinions are therefore unreliable.

Audiophiles use price as an indication of quality because they have no ability to sit in a perfectly designed acoustic environment and then compare every speaker they want to hear and spend weeks or months doing this. 

Audiophiles are not in a position to do a blind test even if they wanted to. Instead we only get to hear speakers in extremely poor demo rooms and only for a few minutes under pressure from the salesperson

Revel have been known to do blind tests. I think these tests proved that there was no correlation between price and performance.

Distortion can be perceived as warmth. wider and deeper stereo images can be seen as better even if it's not accurate. Neutrality can be perceived as cold. 

In conclusion, audiophiles have no clue how to decide whether what they're hearing is good, bad, accurate, or imaginary.

Price is not an indication.








kenjit
Absolutely true. Stereophile ran an article awhile back, I think it was Kalman Rubinson who wrote it, that he couldn't tell the difference predictably, repeatedly, between various models of Revel speakers. 
Another writer, Art Dudley, has always maintained there exists almost no correlation between price and performance.
It's almost universal the law of diminishing returns applies to stereo gear...
Perhaps we all have heard a lower-cost item sound better than a higher-priced one? I know I have.

Tom
I agree there are way too many factors for there to be a linear relationship between price and performance.  The skill and goals of the designer are certainly very important.  I don't know how anybody could get an idea from a show.  It takes me a while at home with something to form any sort of an opinion.  If I won the lottery I think I'd set up a facility for comparison.  I'd buy a whole bunch of speakers and compare them, see if I could draw some good conclusions.  
+1 Tom. Lower cost does not mean lower sound quality
if a 10k speaker uses 2k on parts and the rest is on markup, and if a 5k speaker uses 4k worth of parts and 1k markup then the costlier speaker is not going to provide better performance.
You can't say that difinitively.  It completely depends on how skilled the designer is.  Plus, the point is moot because the guy using $4k of parts and charging only $1k markup will be out of business within a year. 

But I also agree that price is not always in lockstep with results.  I will note, however, that in Stereophile's rankings there are often speakers listed in a lower class that are more expensive than several models in a higher class.  So there is some sanity in the world. 

I continue to to use the analogy of a good and bad chef.  You can give the bad chef the most expensive ingredients and the good chef average ingredients, and odds are the good chef will still produce superior results.  Same with speaker designers, which IMO is a big reason why cost doesn't always correlate with results. 

I would submit that the OP is stating something rather obvious to the majority, if not all, the members here.

I doubt anyone here is operating on some simple minded "higher price = better performance" belief.    Who among us hasn't had the experience of hearing some very expensive gear at a show, a shop, or somewhere else, that left us totally unimpressed and happier with our less expensive system at home?   It's an experience commonly shared among audiophiles.

Most of us decide what we want by giving it a listen.  If we like it, and can't find anything we like better cheaper, and we can afford it, we buy it.

OP: In conclusion, audiophiles have no clue how to decide whether what they’re hearing is good, bad, accurate, or imaginary.

Except you, of course!    Yeah, right.

Now, George Carlin knows how to rant.



Who among us hasn't had the experience of hearing some very expensive gear at a show, a shop, or somewhere else, that left us totally unimpressed and happier with our less expensive system at home?   It's an experience commonly shared among audiophiles.
you rarely hear audiophiles trying to compare speakers that are vastly different in price do you? unless you want to be ridiculed
hearing some very expensive gear at a show, a shop, or somewhere else, that left us totally unimpressed and happier with our less expensive system at home?
this is usually sour grapes. 
There is a misconception among audiophiles that price is an indication of performance.
This is called the Veblen Effect. Products priced higher in order to sell better are called 'Veblen Goods'. When products are priced to a formula they often perform as well or better than those that are priced to what the market will bear, but the latter makes more money.

I have to admit I get tired of seeing products that are cheaply built internally going for as much money that they do.
As @prof said,

"I would submit that the OP is stating something rather obvious to the majority, if not all, the members here.

I doubt anyone here is operating on some simple minded "higher price = better performance" belief. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of hearing some very expensive gear at a show, a shop, or somewhere else, that left us totally unimpressed and happier with our less expensive system at home? It’s an experience commonly shared among audiophiles.

Most of us decide what we want by giving it a listen. If we like it, and can’t find anything we like better cheaper, and we can afford it, we buy it."


Wise words.

Of course no one would deny that there is some correlation between price and performance, but one that extends indefinitely? Debates have long raged over the merits of vintage gear versus modern, and they will continue as today’s modern becomes tomorrow’s vintage. However one fact is undeniable - namely that budget gear performance is at all time high. Today’s entry level turntables, amps and speakers have never sounded better, but can we really say the same for products higher up the price bracket? Have they also improved dramatically?

What say we ask the owners of vintage JBL’s, Tannoys, Klipsch’s, MBLs, Bowers and Wilkins Nautilus, Quad ESLs, BBC LS3/5’s, Thiel’s etc etc?

Do today’s design render them obsolete? I think not.

So just who is it that’s perpetuating the higher cost better performance myth?

I would say that it’s (most - with a few honourable exceptions) reviewers, manufacturers and dealers who constantly imply that this is the case.

Everyone else on here knows better, right?


In conclusion, audiophiles have no clue how to decide whether what they’re hearing is good, bad, accurate, or imaginary.


My hunch is this mish-mash of cliches, canards, truisms and tropes has so much for everyone that no one has noticed this preposterous conclusion. But hey, you want to say audiophiles have no clue and then call yourself one? Be my guest.

Include me out.
@millercarbon   I did, but chose to refrain. 
Does this include the SAT tonearm?


Kenjit: There is a misconception among audiophiles that price is an indication of performance.


Reply: I agree that price isn’t necessarily in indication of performance. I’ve heard expensive gear that does not sound as good as the cheaper gear I use at home.

Kenjit: If you didn’t think the more expensive gear sounded better, that’s just sour grapes.

LOL, priceless.


I sometimes get the impression Kenjit’s posts are form of performance art.
One does not engage with the hope of any coherent train of conversation.
My Klipsch Heresy IIIs were 1500 bucks or so new, built very well by people in Arkansas (one of ’em signed the things, so if issues arise I can whine to a specific person)...Schiit Freya tubed preamp...USA 700 bucks...Dennis Had SEP amp...hand made and listed new (although I bought it used 2 months or so after its birthday) for under 1500 bucks. I’m willing to pay the large clam piles required for this stuff as, obviously, I clearly am an elitist.
There is no such misunderstanding, notion, or belief most audiophiles know better that price is no guarantee of quality, reliability, or performance.
Performance vs price is exponential, in lower price range , there is a linear relationship between price and performance ( mostly below 3000$) but after that you pay extra for something else.
Revel have been known to do blind tests. I think these tests proved that there was no correlation between price and performance.


Cite your source please. AFAIK, these tests were to measure the desirability of various features being considered, not for different commercial speakers.


Bose is another company that does blind testing, but it is NOT to prove this point, but to connect features to desirability.


Best,

E

@sthlm78,

"Performance vs price is exponential, in lower price range , there is a linear relationship between price and performance ( mostly below 3000$) but after that you pay extra for something else."


Nothing to argue with in that statement, and not a word to edit. 


Good post from Kenjit, so true.

I would like to add "Brain"

A Product from someone who knows 'what is responsible for what', can do easily something which outperforms way more expensive units.
Now this is not a reflection on any one here and I do not want to upset anyone. Really, truly, unbelievably excellent Hi Fis are extremely rare. Most for us have heard good systems and have a good idea of what we like and prefer in sound and you can make a very good system for not ridiculous money and the very most expensive systems I have heard were far from the best, in some instances because they were in crappy rooms. But experience is everything in this endeavor especially if you are involved in setting up systems for others. Most of us learn what works by trial and error which is part of the fun and many of us started when we were kids. I built my first Dynaco Stereo 70 when I was 13. There were no computers back then so if you wanted to burn yourself on a soldering iron you had to do it on Hi Fis or ham radios. In a way it is more fun trying to make a killer system on a limited budget because you have to get creative. Anybody can buy stuff if they have the money. I see more poorly set up expensive systems than poorly set up intermediate systems. I was once asked to visit a house in Coral Gables FL to see if I could improve a system. The guy had Tympany IIIs push right up against a wall bi amped with 4 Mark Levinson amps. The first thing I told him was that we were going to have to move the Tympanys at least 3 feet out from the wall. "My wife won't let me do it." Do you have another room you can set this up in?
"No." I apologized and told him there was nothing I could do under these circumstances and that he might consider getting himself a pair of Beveridge s. I never heard back from him. I think he thought I was just trying to sell him another set of speakers. 
I wish that all of you will be able to create a system for yourselves that at least on rare occasion can fool you into believing you are at the live show. It is an amazing thing when you hear it.

I don’t see how you come to your original premise, that the tests show there is no difference between price and performance across the industry.

The article you quoted shows tightly controlled quality across a product range, with expected differences due to overall size.

TBC: It is very much my own premise that the MSRP of a speaker is a VERY poor determiner of product quality, I only argue, that the Harman and Bose tests that I know of were never intended to be used this way. They have, AFAIK, about choosing among features, and evaluating the finished products.

Steakster and MillerCarbon +1, that next to last paragraph did it for me....what hooey
Perhaps the linear correlation between price/ and performance hold at some low level, around 3000 bucks? I dont know for sure... But the greatest fact about my audiophile experience is not buying costly gear, it is the implementation, and methods or tweaks to clean the audio grid and the electrical grid also+ controls of vibrations... There is no comparison between before and after with the same gear... Knowing that and reading reviews of new products, I know for sure that there is way too many factors implied to trust blindly any reviewer, most people want to upgrade by buying some new product without even facing seriously in the first place the cleaning of noise and controls of vibrations...These 2 factors when I meet them seriously gives me my dream comes true at a relatively low cost : sonic heaven...These 2 factors gives me that, not the wise choice of components "per se"...My best to all...
By the way we may call that the " conscious continuity of our experience", but anyway any so called "audiophile" can perceive some relative progress in his history of relation with musical sound... Then  saying that «audiophiles had no clues» is only a prejudice expressed not a fact...
In conclusion, audiophiles have no clue how to decide whether what they're hearing is good, bad, accurate, or imaginary.

That's just an absurd statement.  


@soix 

its true. ask ten audiophiles what the best speakers are and you get ten different answers. 
That's because we have different tastes. 
Don’t forget the Law of Diminishing Returns. That essential content cost once distilled down is on a logarithmic scale of price to performance (ie value). 
Dear Kenjit do you know why 10 audiophiles would say different thinks about the same speakers?

This is simple, the same speakers sound different in different room and different, embedded in a different electrical grid and different in a different audio grid with multiple different components.... Nevermind the different brain and ears that review the same speakers...
I agree with mahgister. Until you get the electricity cleaned up as well as YOU can & eliminate vibration (to the extent possible / yes it varies & costs time & some money to do this) to your components, you really don't know how good those components are. 
Absolutely true. There are more thousand ways of a reaching perfect SQ it may be cheaper OR Costlier. Nobody compares below thousand speaker with 100 thousand sets.
Don't think there is an answer to which is best at any given pricepoint as everyone has unique tastes. Some like warm, some like bright, etc. I like dynamic range and soundstage and I don't give a damn about accuracy as long as they have definition. It depends on music one likes and electronics to drive them. Even if one could buy all the speakers he wants and test them all in the same room it wouldn't matter because some sound better in different rooms with different amps, etc. I sometimes switch speakers around to my different systems because vinyl sounds better on some speakers as opposed to c.d.'s. I was telling my roommate that some music sounds better on certain speakers. He retorted"maybe you oughta have a different stereo for every piece of music you own". We both gotta chuckle out of that one. But the point being there are almost as many combinations as stars in the galaxy so just enjoy the music on what you've got--the music's the point isn't it?
"if a 10k speaker uses 2k on parts and the rest is on markup, and if a 5k speaker uses 4k worth of parts and 1k markup then the costlier speaker is not going to provide better performance."

Circular non logic. 
You cannot show that a 10k speaker is not a definable thing, by assuming that 2k and 4k drivers, cabs, and xovers are all set in stone predictable definable things.
They are all the sum of their design and parts.   

The OP doesn’t know anything about producing a speaker. You just don’t add up the cost of parts, the manufacturer has to include his r&d costs to come up with the final product. If it’s a cheaper speaker and he will sell thousands, The his r&d cost per speaker will be much less than a speaker that he predicts will only sell a few copies. 
After this, you have marketing costs, and dealer markup. So in reality, the manufacturer could end up getting the smallest piece of the pie.
As for best, I’ve had many cheaper speakers like the Totem model 1’s and mani 2’s which would excellent, but spending much more, I’ve got a much better speaker. If I increased my budget to say $100k, I could do better, but is it worth it?
No doubt more expensive gears from one manufacturer sound better but the question is it worth it? Is there any product from other manufacturers that competes in a lower price ?
p.s) audio journalists are not fare sometimes and their statements are opinions not facts. 
@kenjit

The OP might even be true if all speakers sounded the same. But, they all sound different, not really because of price or markup, but because of different tastes of both the listener and the designer alike...everyone has a different preference for what’s musically important to them. Take your "list" of each subjective element:

PRAT
Bass extension
Airiness
Dynamics
Lack of coloration
Coherence
Timbre
Tonal color
Sound staging
Presence
Imaging
Micro dynamics
Depth
Control
Lack of sibilance
...and, no doubt, many more...feel free to add...

Now take this, your most comprehensive list of all things musically vital to the design of the speaker you want (don’t leave anything out...!), and arrange this list in order of Your preference for them. Then ask everyone else to do the same for their list, audiophiles and manufacturers. Then compare all your lists and tell me how many of them are an exact match.

"But even if we put all loudspeakers in a room, no two audiophiles would ever agree on the order of the performance anyway. Audiophiles’ opinions are therefore unreliable."

It’s not clear to me the extent of self surgery you had to do in order to antiseptically remove all art from the equation, but I myself would not care to endure that kind of lobotomy.
First of all there are examples of equipment that undeniably represent great value. Maggie 20.7s, The Acoustats in their day, Parasound JC1
RIP, The Sota Sapphire, The Kuzma 4 pt 9. 
It is not a matter of taste. If two of us go to a concert we hear exactly the same thing but remember it differently and actually from a sound perspective very poorly. Our audio memories stink. We remember the show visually and may remember whether or not we liked the sound system a very unfortunate variable. This is one of the reasons you always evaluate a system with purely acoustic instruments with a recording you know to be excellent. Accurate is accurate and not a matter of taste. A string quartet in a specific venue sounds like it sounds whether it suits your taste or not. A system is accurate or it is not. If it suits you to excuse the performance of your system by saying it suits your taste then fine. Euphoric is not accurate is is a pleasing distortion. If I set up an AB test and use exactly the same system but just turn up the volume 1 db. everyone here will think the louder system sounds better. Most audiophiles are out to sea without a compass.
Can modestly priced components be tweaked and or modified to beat higher priced components? Of course! Can rooms be tweaked to make modestly priced components beat high priced ones? Of course! Can high priced components be tweaked to make them sound even better? Duh! Do components sound different in different rooms and in different systems? Of, course they do. The best lain plans of mice and men oft go awry. Hope springs eternal in the heart ❤️ of the well heeled audiophile 💰.
@mijostyn  good points 
Components are one element. 
Cabinet design and construction are another. The crossover unit etc. Then there's the technical measurements.

Speakers are the most important factor in a quality system in my opinion. In relation to budget I would invest minimum of 50% on the speaker selection..
maybe 60%.

There is probably a limit, beyond which one is investing for show rather than just performance. What is that number.?

I don't know, but to date in my experience I'd suggest it's somewhere around $12k but that's just my ear.
@mijostyn

I think you're a little mystified about what accuracy is. There are 2 definitions for "accuracy"...there is the objective one and there is the subjective one. Many people seem to labor under the (false) impression that any subjective definition of the word can't possibly exist and that the only valid concept for it is that of an "absolute" - a theoretical that can't be attained.

The subjective definition certainly exists - either a system sounds accurate to you or it doesn't. Either a pair of speakers sound accurate to you or they don't...just as surely as whether or not they sound "euphonic" to you, "dynamic" to you or "life-like", "neutral", "natural"...or anything else. It's an impression, a subjective impression, like any other.

If the only definition of accurate is that of an absolute that can never be attained, then it is of little practical use to either an audiophile or a manufacturer.

@geoffkait 

That's actually a nice post!
@ivan_nosnibor ,

"Take your "list" of each subjective element:

"PRAT
Bass extension
Airiness
Dynamics
Lack of coloration
Coherence
Timbre
Tonal color
Sound staging
Presence
Imaging
Micro dynamics
Depth
Control
Lack of sibilance
...and, no doubt, many more...feel free to add..."

Great list!
Can I add transient response?

Overhang (especially bass) is still a common problem faced by many box loudspeakers / and dome tweeters.
Ivan, We may hear things differently because we are paying attention to different aspects of the performance but there is only one standard the real performance. The very best systems play everything well from rock to a harpsichord. I would be willing to bet most of us have never heard a real harpsichord in person. Out to sea without a compass. Subjective is just another excuse for euphoric distortions. Many of us are arguing about this cable and that interconnect. There are good cables that do not interfere with the sound and bad cables that do. There is nothing in between. This is probably the best example of how gullible audiophiles are. 
You are right in that perfection is unattainable but it is a target and a reference and I have heard systems that come scary close at the listening position with eyes closed. Stop making excuses for inaccuracies even if you like them. Now would it not be nice if we could have a discussion on what type of loudspeaker is most likely to project an accurate "picture" of a live performance?
It's nice to me that you're on an "accuracy kick". I'm personally a rather big fan of it as well. To that end it's plainly important to pay attention to live, acoustic performances rather than to fall back solely on one's "imaginary interpretation" of what that might be. I have never heard a harpsichord in real life, yet as my system progresses in accuracy, I'm starting to get a pretty clear idea of what the real instrument might sound like, both with sustain and when the strings are damped (it would be nice to arrange for the real thing, but so far anyway, no luck yet). But, I have never heard any system that I could confuse for the real thing in the room...and don't think I ever will. Not that any of that is a reason to quit and go home...quite the contrary.

But, you say in your prior post that our audio memory is crappy, yet you say that the only standard is the live performance??
I've been to live performances of music I have at home and have been disappointed by room or stadium acoustics and would rather hear it at home. I've also heard Mose Allison in a small club and listened to his piano sparkle. It's alchemy and art--and yea our audio memory is crappy. But who cares as long as the memories are still there. My favorite speakers from a past age in the 70's or 80's, can't remember exactly, were Dahlquist DQ10's. Copelands' Fanfare for the Common Man gave me goosebumps on goosebumps. Back when there were decent brick and mortar stores. But I digress....
Our "conscious" musical memory can be crappy indeed, but the "unconscious" musical memory is more reliable and can be tapped via the emotions, if we learn to listen to them in the martial art of listening...