What makes a good piece of audio gear ?

Is is the design ? If so how many possible designs are there for say an amp ?
Is it the materials used ?
What else am i missing ?
Are new designs even possible anymore ?
Will the future bring better gear ?
Something that is eye catching / Fancy looking will make one envision how nice the sound must be . Obviously that is not the case ,but it brings the mind there .
Let's take asthetics out . Envision all gear used the same exact box to house the gear . Only the sound would make are decisions on what to buy . Do you think the most expensive ones show through ?
The blue smoke. Some use better smoke. That is the secret.
Actually i think it is 'talent'.
It does not matter what design, or parts, or if it is according to some popular 'theory' ir single ended, or balanced, or no feedback, or whatever is the hot buzzword at the moment.
All that matters is the guy who designed it has the magic quality of 'talent'
And it may even be accidentally great.
One hit wonder...
So forget the particulars..
Except the special blue smoke... that really does matter.
B r a i n and the Knowledge 'what is responsible for what' from the
11-08-12: Elizabeth
The blue smoke.....
lol! in yester years it used to be red or green smoke but these days the colour of the smoke has changed to blue.
Or, is it a blue (errr.....purple) haze?
Good design, good parts, good build. Features that prove pertinent to you. Ending with a feel and most important a sound that moves you. The right gear will cause you to listen more and have a gleam in your eye even when turned off. And if you see smoke...something may be wrong.

In order of importance:

1) Good circuit/crossover design.

2) Parts choices (and spending your parts budget on the parts of the circuit where quality parts will make the most difference).

I will also add that in my experience a good power supply in a component makes a big difference. Particularly in amps and preamps. And quality transformers matter (for power supplies, tube output transformers, and SUTs for LOMCs).
A good piece of audio gear is something that accurately and consistantely reproduce the musical signal, does not load down negatively the next in line component, does not affect the sound/signal, is designed such that cables make little or no difference to the signal and can drive the next in line component accurately within its design specifications, and most importantly, does what the customer wants it to in his/her system well. If, all things being equal, your system is almost "there" and you add this piece of audio gear in, and then you are "there", then that makes it a good piece of audio gear.

question: What makes a good piece of audio gear ?

answer: The Audio Research factory.
There are no secrets or magic involved. It's a mature industry, and has been for decades. A great piece will be one that meets your particular requirements and will be very reliable. Build quality is real, high quality components is not. All else is marketing and one-upmanship. Did I mention reliability? The more exotic or complex, the greater the failure rate.
Luck. I say this after building a few things like speakers and passive preamps and having no talent.
Rok2id what do you mean by saying " high quality components is not"?
I wound think that this is a very important issue to designers and manufacturers;high failure either caused by bad design or a lower quality of parts selected creates bad press and results in product not being sold;if they fail in the warranty period there is extra cost now involved and will lower the margins.
First and foremost, speakers that sound great in your room. Make, model etc. does not make a difference. Let your ears tell you, the expression 'you will know it when you hear', true today as ever.
No matter the design (did I just say that? LOL), one always reads in a review how they end up testing with 'their' ears. So, as long as ears don't change with the one who heads development, a 'house sound' will exist from one model to the next with clarity and detail improving as one model supercedes the next.

And, as long as ears are different from one individual to the next, their will be no concensus from one brand to another, resulting in a high variation of what is considered accurate and/or pleasing, making your question moot at best.

It will all boil down to what you like, others ears be damned.

All the best,
"Rok2id what do you mean by saying " high quality components is not"

I was speaking as to what to look for in a piece of high end gear, once you get past the spec sheet The build quality will be rather obvious and a person can make an informed decision as to it's value. HIGH QUALITY PARTS USED, has become a buzz word to justify obscene pricing. And it is very hard to verify what that means, and even harder to assign or determine their value as pertains to the listening experience. I would just ask: who is making all these LOW QUALITY parts, and who do they sell them to?
With regards to the original post, new designs in amps are quite possible. Examples: Atma-Sphere (first fully balanced zero feedback OTLs), Berning (first zero hysteresis air-core transformer coupled amplifier, can be single-ended or fully balanced), class D, Nelson Pass 'first watt' amps (zero feedback class A with single gain stage)... I can go on if you like.

The same is true of preamps: Messenger (single ended direct-coupled output) Atma-Sphere (the first fully differential preamp, also all-tube with direct-coupled outputs), buffered passive systems.. again I can go on about this.

I can tell you that cost is by no means the last word. For example our preamps employ a simple circuit that has a direct-coupled output; the result is a lot cheaper than the competition that operates at the same level. OTOH if you have a well-done Dynaco PAS-3 mod, it can kill a lot of preamps costing a lot lot more! In high end audio a lot rests on the design itself, and in that on the intention of the designer (and how competent they are). This *does* mean that price may not amount to anything!

Component quality makes a difference too, as well as more arcane things like how well the circuits are grounded, quality regulation, layout, ability to survive rough shipping (that latter being quite important; I know of one popular preamp that is held together by hot-melt glue, if dropped it goes from 'sounding great' to 'fire hazard').

Intention can be huge. It makes a big difference if the designer is an audiophile (it also makes a difference if he went to school...).

Bottom line is there are many variables, cost is not the object, there are new designs that can make a difference, and you have to listen because everyone says they have the best, and that can't possibly be true- there can be only one.

Have fun :)
A great meal requires a talented chef, whose talent is defined by a discerning palate. Same thing holds for audio gear. Ultimately, a designer has to know what music sounds like.
any good places to learn how amps and preamps work . I would like to learn
what all the wires and parts do to change the sound.I am off work for a few
months and would like to get some understanding . These questions came
forefront after purchasing a Dodd audio preamp . Many reviews saying you
would have to spend 10k to better the sound . I guess one way the price is low is
because he is a one man operation with i assume no overhead . does not
advertise but his equipment is in magazines when they show audio show rooms