What makes an expensive speaker expensive

When one plunks down $10,000 $50,000 and more for a speaker you’re paying for awesome sound, perhaps an elegant or outlandish style, some prestige ... but what makes the price what it is?

Are the materials in a $95,000 set of speakers really that expensive? Or are you paying a designer who has determined he can make more by selling a few at a really high price as compared to a lot at a low price?

And at what point do you stop using price as a gauge to the quality? Would you be surprised to see $30,000 speakers "outperform" $150,000 speakers?

Too much time on my hands today I guess.
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Sales of $150k speakers are extremely low. Production in very small quantities is very expensive, especially with exotic technologies.  In addition there is very expensive research and equipment involved, that has to be folded into the price.  Do you think that manufacturer is still in business only because of stupid/snobbish people buying their $150k speakers?
Well I do know a little about TAD, which at over $40k for a floor stander seems expensive . I believe TAD/pioneer spent over 3 million in r&d on the reference speaker line, so that must be factored in, but something tells me a lot of mass market gear and plasma tv’s underwrote some of that.

but I do see pricing on some speaker lines where a slightly larger cabinet and 1 extra driver of another model doubles the price, which makes me wonder.  Or a driver upgrade that raises the price 20 or 30k
 You raise an interesting and valid question.  I think basic business economics plays a very large role in determining price, especially when factors like R&D, product development,  and the very small number of potential sales  of ultra premium products are factored in. Top-of-the-line Wilson or Rockport speakers, costing 6 figures,  weren't just imagined and built.  They are the product of years of  development, a team of people,  and a cutting-edge facility.   Imagine if an Apple laptop would only be sold 100 times before the model was discontinued. Diminishing returns is a common theme in the audio world,  and chasing ever higher  performance requires more and more resources, time, and money.  I would be surprised to hear a $30,000 speaker outperform a $150,000 speaker. However, if you narrow that gulf a little bit,  it does hold water.   I would not be surprised to hear a $20,000 speaker outperforming a $40,000 speaker.  At that point it may just be the less expensive speaker is made by a company that made better business decisions, could afford it,  and perhaps sees a higher number of sales to justify it.   Sonus Faber now makes entry level speakers that are sold at Best Buy.  They also make a 6 figure  behemoth.   Wilson, Rockport, and Magico don't make a product under 15 grand.   Perhaps they should! 
To quote from Wiki:

"Adam Smith recognized that commodities may have an exchange-value but may satisfy no use-value, such as diamonds, while a commodity with a very high use-value may have a very low exchange-value, such as water."

But if Magico, et al, started marketing a speaker "under 15 grand", it would be labeled as "entry-level" and thus raise the price of the other products. @emailists is right insofar as the R&D and production put into these high-end products, much like a McLaren car or a Patek Phillipe watch - they are technically advantageous and, when paired with the right equipment, gorgeous sounding.

But for every TAD, Wilson. Magico, and other six-figure speaker, there are 3- and 4-figure speakers that satisfy the listener to the same extent.   
But for every TAD, Wilson. Magico, and other six-figure speaker, there are 3- and 4-figure speakers that satisfy the listener to the same extent.
until they experience TAD, Wilson, Magico ...

Money make an expensive speaker more expensive. 

Quality of drivers,crossover and cabinet as well as were it is made and markup.
The difference between a very good expensive speaker versus a very good inexpensive speaker is usually size and ability to go full range in larger rooms.

In most cases, expensive examples of products generate higher gross margins than inexpensive examples.  A Chanel handbag may feature top quality materials and use skilled manual labor which drive up costs relative to mass market handbags, but the portion of the wholesale price representing margin is higher, too.  This also applies, to cars, cameras, and wristwatches. So, there's usually some element of higher price tags that can't be assigned to "substantial" differences.  However,....

Brand equity generates a return, too.  As a rule, people will pay more for brands they want.  A Lexus ES and a Toyota Camry aren't identical, but they are very close mechanically.  The interior appointments, Lexus buying experience and brand value all increase the price of the Lexus.  When aggregated, Toyota still makes more on each ES they sell than each Camry.

Bottom line, in almost all cases, it's a combination of things, including higher mark-up.

As to the likelihood of a $30k speaker outperforming a $150k speaker, there is little question in my mind that that is exactly the case.  Line up every $30k model on the market against every $150k model (blind) and I'll guess that most listeners will prefer one of the cheaper speakers to one of the more costly models.  On average, I may prefer the more expensive guys, but I'm pretty sure that the performance variations within each price range are pretty significant.  Significant enough that I can build a case for a cheaper model on some measurable basis - bass extension, on-axis response, power response, uniformity of dispersion, etc. - that it's fair to say it outperforms the more expensive competitor.  All you need to do is to prioritize that one performance parameter where the cheaper guy is better.  And, in the real world, measurable or not, most listeners do tend to prioritize some parameters over others.

Personally, if offered my choice of any speaker, I highly doubt that I'd choose a six figure model.  

The price of anything is what the producer accepts to provide that item in quantities the market demands at any point in time. 

It's not whether a $100k speaker is ten times better than a $10k speaker. If Magico priced the Q5 at $10k they would not be able to produce them to meet the demand --  but at $59k you can buy as many as you want when you want.
For openers, the use of real wood, specifically, Maple.
Then comes the finishes and layers of it.
I was not impressed w/ TAD.
Jafant I suspect you may have heard them in a non optimal set up. Also they can image narrower than other speaker setups, due to being coincident point source.   I remember when the q1 was introduced going to hear the demo on some unfamiliar spectacular audiophile tracks and thinking wow my CR’s don’t image like this. But then I asked for 2 standard tracks (a bill Evans and a Rickie Lee jones) and was surprised they didn’t sound very good. On my system and hour later those same tracks had so much inner detail they sounded like audiophile recording.

That being said, after hearing a few Raidho’s at a show 2 or 3 years ago I felt they had more upper frequency air than the TAD’s. Rather than ditch them I added ’stat supertweeters and subs. (which I do now sell as well, BTW)
I hear live acoustic music from up close often (and even a friend singing along to my system). On good recordings it can be shockingly close, even though my system may not tick every audiophile box, and may not be the system of choice for large scale orchestral works.
...but what makes the price what it is? 


"What makes an expensive speaker expensive..."

=>Expensive parts plus Greed, Ego of the manufacturer (or its followers stoking the fires....), higher marketing costs than others and further excessive mark-up...

(Noone has ever truly accounted for the price of many of these speakers in terms of materials cost, cost of construction, etc... versus their more responsibly priced brethren (I'm talking facts and figures not marketing speak). All that happens is we keep hearing the product name and how that must make it worth it just because it starts with certain letters of the alphabet....not saying these speakers are not worth more but seriously, $100K, $125K and more all the way up to $225K, $250K and above???

"Would you be surprised to see $30,000 speakers "outperform" $150,000 speakers?"

=>No I would not as I've heard it from a few speakers (not just the brand I own) at shows and other listening environments and every day I hit play at home with a $20K speaker with a good system behind it :-)

MartyKL and others state a lot of good economic/market-pricing fact above but if you look at the analogies, the difference between a Lexus and a Toyota (fully configured in both cases) or Acura versus Honda (Accord fully blown out...), Nissan and an Infiniti (or other myriad examples) is "X"% in the single or low double-digits whereas high-end audio and speaker markup in particular is usually in the higher double digits (IMHO don't shoot the messenger) or more! High-end audio manufacturers should follow more traditional and conservative market-pricing models and apply a reasonable markup for premium quality; they might very well sell more :-)

Another point; there are companies such as Legacy who were committed to building a speaker and selling to direct to the consumer at the best possible price. The Focus used to sell for $3500.00 direct. Once the magazine reviewers got ahold of a set and gave them a favorable review, what happened? Prices went up up and up! There was an article in the Readers Digest magazine years ago comparing cable TV rates around the country. Our local service was held up as a model of fair price and service. ONE month went by before our local cable rates went north.

  I doubt if we'll see a post from a manufacturer hear that actually answers the question. Puzzling to me though is the fact that when I go to an audio show, the mega buck speakers never blow me away over my humble 20 year old speakers. (now selling for HUNDREDS of dollars!)

There is a lot that can go into making a good speaker. Both the sound and the aesthetics. Also the reliability. In the end willingness of customers to pay for whatever reason is mostly what determines how expensive a product is, including speakers. Values differ by person so anything is possible. The goal of marketing is to help make people more willing to pay for advertised benefits by appealing to the values of the target market segment. The more one is willing to pay the more profit per unit. Thus high end audio was conceived, a boutique industry where units are fewer and  prices generally higher.

"something tells me a lot of mass market gear and plasma tv’s underwrote some of that"

Maybe the mass market stuff did, but Pioneer stopped making their Kuro plasma TVs in 2009 - they lost money on them despite being the best plasma TV on the market, bar none.

I’m sure there are bad sounding $100,000 speakers but I’d guess that most people spending this kind of money ($500,000 for the whole system) have audio dealers bring the speakers to their home and set them up for audition and an explanation of why they are worth $100,000, so I doubt it’s all a scam.

You realize that probably 99% of the population think that it is crazy to spend $5,000 on a pair of speakers and that anyone who does is a fool being scammed.

Great topic.  Some folks don't want to hear the truth, but marketing is a huge reason so many speakers cost over 60k.  Folks like to make big cabinets and there are people with plenty to spend, who want the biggest and the best.  They feel that both walk side by side.  Most of us who listen don't believe that.  Too many of the 100k plus speakers just aren't as coherent or musical as many of their little brothers/or sisters IMHO.  Many shop owners I've spoken with have said the same thing.  The larger the cabinet, the more problems you incur.  That's why so many feel the monitors are the best at getting out of the way of the mid bass on up.  

As for R&D, of course that factors in, however the problem then occurs that if the R&D was a lot of wasted money, the price/value proposition may not be there either.  Maybe it just took that long and so many iterations to get it right, but to what expense in the end?  I have never liked (X brand) speakers (one of the most well known brands) for my tastes, but the owner and now his son are great marketers.  Not saying they don't make a nice speaker, but I personally can't listen for long periods of time and yes, I've heard them at their best many times in many places from the the 250k-15K and all were run on the best amps the store sells.  I had a lengthy conversation with a dealer that I've known and done business with since he opened in the 70's.  We were talking about X brand and why they cost so much.  He laughed and said that the replacement costs of all the drivers in their 50k speaker wouldn't cost the owner more than 1k to replace/repair.  They have off the shelf tweeters that only use a slight mod and the other cones are poly and paper.  Not the cheapest drivers, but not expensive and easy to get if you are a DIY'r.  The cost is in the cabinets.  The R&D and cabinets are the cost along with a ton of high end marketing.  Even the cost to produce the cabinets isn't outrageous, but the demand is there and the cost is in line with demand.

This is just one example, however so many of the expensive speakers are priced that way, because too many folks feel that if it's that expensive, it must be great.

To get a top paint job, or a top veneer job is very expensive.  We are going to pay for the cabinet and finish and the larger the speaker, but more costly.  That doesn't make it a better sounding speaker though.  

Most of the speakers I've heard in the high end of the spectrum are nice, but most aren't great by any means and they could be.  Why do they sell us a speaker that has paper or poly cones at that price? 

When I was looking for new speakers after many many years using various Proac's, I did some homework.  Vandersteen was one speaker that wasn't on my radar as they looked generic and I didn't see why they were so expensive.  I visited a local Proac dealer as I thought I'd just get their new D series speaker and be done with it.  I hadn't liked most of the speakers I was hearing and I had auditioned well over 20 different brands (various models) and that also includes many of the 'garage' brands that sell from people's homes.  There's a long story as to why Vandersteen, but the more I dug, the more I realized that his speakers were packed with not just R&D, but technology.  His drivers are very expensive to make. The carbon ones specifically.  He used room EQ for his bass and has built in subs.  If integrated properly, I love built in subs with room eq.  Cabinets inside a cabinet isn't cheap either and the finishes are as good as it gets, but I was able to chose nearly whatever veneer I wanted.  Being a woodworker for fun, I love to play with veneer.  

I think most of us on here really appreciate all of these things and are willing to pay for them IF the speakers sound great to our ears.  There are a few top named companies who do spend a lot to make a pair of speakers, however I feel that way too many don't.  Heck, most of us could build a pair of speakers that cost 25k off the shelf and with some reading and help, make them sound decent.  To me there are some price points that make sense if you have the cash.

I've heard speakers at 14k that blow me away.  A few have dedicated subs with eq and dig really deep and still keep a smaller footprint with a beautifully finished cabinet.  At 30K things open up big time depending on your tastes, however I've heard too many speakers at the 14k-20k range that better many of the speakers that cost more.  

at 50k-70k you can get some of the best sounding speakers you can possibly get.  Any speaker will have compromises regardless of price.  I just haven't heard big differences in sound from the 70k on up range than you can get at 50-70k.  Vandersteen isn't the only brand I like either.  There are others out there that are very nice and also use a lot of technology in their drivers as well as their cabinets.  You don't always get what you pay for.  Personally I just couldn't ever justify spending over 7k on a speaker that used paper and poly drivers or even off the shelf ones that use just a little modification.  

As for the market, it's a strange one in that the more expensive gear is and has been where the money is.  It does sell very well and is keeping many manufacturers in business.  Many have had to go from the 5k and down range and open up the 5k- unlimited range in order to grown.
ctsooner is spot on.

that’s the way it is.... :-)

Some folks don’t want to hear the truth.....

...... He laughed and said that the replacement costs of all the drivers in their 50k speaker wouldn’t cost the owner more than 1k to replace/repair. They have off the shelf tweeters that only use a slight mod and the other cones are poly and paper. Not the cheapest drivers, but not expensive and easy to get if you are a DIY’r. The cost is in the cabinets.
Modern High End is like a boutique store.... expensive bottle .... cheap fluid
Syntax, the thing is that not all products have 'cheap fluid'.  I brought up Vandersteen because I am intimately familiar with the tech, R&D, product costs etc...  I also look at the points a manufacturer gets when selling wholesale.  I won't go into that part of things, but a few of the top lines don't have large margins and their products won't be carried because of this.  That's reality and not always carrying the best products.  Everyone needs to make money of course.  I just hate it when we are gouged for no good reason other than greed.  The market is what he market is and if you can fetch 100k or more for a speaker, then so be it. The market is there, but much of the time we will get as good or even better sound for much much less when we look at the other brand.  That's my reality.  I'll pay what I am able for what is fair.  That's why I got the Vandy Treo's and why now, I'm going to sell those and get the Quatro's.  For my money, the Quatro is the sweet spot in his line.  All the technology from the 7 mk2's has made it's way to the Quatro for only 14k.  That's a ton of money, no doubt, but when set up properly it's just sings.  Big room eq'd bass and the carbon driver just sounds correct.  It's also one of the few dynamic speakers I've heard that sounds like a point source.  That is so hard to achieve and most designers try to.  It's an expensive speaker to build no doubt.
Most people, myself included, don’t have rooms big enough to justify the most expensive home speakers which mostly tend to also be the largest.

If I did have an exceptionally large room that I could not cover for reasonable cost with home audio products I would look towards pro audio gear designed for larger venues for best chance at top notch sound for reasonable cost.

Of course if cost is no object then the world is your oyster....

Cstooner, Wouldn’t some of the people who buy the big speakers also be the people who frequent the symphony and opera, maybe just to be seen there, but still there, listening? And wouldn’t these people at some point think to themselves, "My big speakers sound like crap, I’m going to trade them in on something else"?

Michael Fremer, who is probably one of the people most obsessed with sound quality in the world and who is very knowledgeable about it, owns some big Wilsons and even upgraded a few years back and stayed with Wilsons. His room, from what I read, is rather small and yet he gets sound that blows people’s socks off, again from what I read. What’s going on there? Could one element be that different people hear differently and therefore like different speakers?

I’m not saying that all expensive speakers are worth the money or that the more you spend the better the sound you get. In fact I’m sure you could spend $500,000 and end up with a system that sounds bad, but there must be something other than stupidity and deafness keeping the ultra high end speaker market alive..


I can 100% guarantee that different people hear differently.  All you need to do is grab a few friends and run some pitch training software.  I've done it (part of a performance curriculum I took several years ago ) and you'll see fundamental differences in how different people perceive pitch and changes in pitch.

Different people also prioritize things differently, even if they're hearing the same thing.  Take two speakers that are similar, but not identical in mid-range accuracy.  The slightly more accurate speaker has less deep bass extension (or less clean max output or less high end extension, etc).  Two people that hear things identically may well have different preferences depending on what benefit they prioritize.

Unless you have a perfect speaker (and you don't) preferences will differ.

I can 100% guarantee that different people hear differently.  All you need to do is grab a few friends and run some pitch training software.  I've done it (part of a performance curriculum I took several years ago ) and you'll see fundamental differences in how different people perceive pitch and changes in pitch.

Different people also prioritize things differently, even if they're hearing the same thing.  Take two speakers that are similar, but not identical in mid-range accuracy.  The slightly more accurate speaker has less deep bass extension (or less clean max output or less high end extension, etc).  Two people that hear things identically may well have different preferences depending on what benefit they prioritize.

Unless you have a perfect speaker (and you don't) preferences will differ.
The speaker manufacturers build pricing model into their design.  They charge whatever the they can get [away with].

So what makes an Expensive speaker Expensive?  Well, I'll chime in, but I'm sure that I won't solve a thing and will offend someone. Many of you know that I've built a lot of speakers and through the years, I've been inside of a lot of speakers.  Most of what I'll say is accurate, but a bit conjecture and some just opinion.

First, the first thing that makes a good speaker good is understanding the parts used, knowing what response curves sound like, how crossover frequencies change everything because 1 driver may sound better at a given frequency so the crossover point is changed to have one part handle the frequency... a few 2 ways come to mind where the tweeter sounded better at 2k than the woofer, so even though the woofer could go out farther, the designer still crossed lower to use the better sounding tweeter in the upper mid frequencies.

Next what crossover slopes sound like and how the frequency crossed at and the slope affect phasing and time alignment.

Next cabinet design in conjunction with the drivers to get the drivers with the flattest response and time alignment necessary and to hear the speakers rather than the box. 

So in short,  the design is first and for most, regardless of cost.

My initial reaction toward most speakers until I hear them is skepticism. I have opened so many very expensive speakers, scratched my head and wondered "how can someone in good consciousness charge this for such a speaker". 

I have also looked at speakers and have seen Diamond or Beryllium parts,  maybe aluminum or magnesium, individual drivers that are so very expensive that I new that most likely that I wouldn't have the opportunity to build with these parts myself and  then knowing how hard it is to take the peaks out of some of these very expensive parts and I hear them and hear music and accuracy....

My weakness is cabinetry.  I can make a cabinet that in the end will make a nice sounding speaker, but when I see some of the beauty and artistic work in some of these speakers,  I wonder just how much I would charge for a speaker made like that. 

Sometimes, you have a designer that is truly a master craftsman in his driver selection and crossover work that those speakers automatically take them to the next level in pricing,  then I see others that add the artwork in their cabinetry and I understand why they charge a premium. 

Now, all that said,  I truly believe that it is possible to design and deliver....lets say a $5,000 + speaker that can compete at a very high level and depending on the associated equipment could yes sound better than some multi-mega buck speakers. 

And my last comment would be,   $50,000 + speakers?  I'm not sure any speaker is worth that,  but I don't blame anyone for making a buck,  its the people that are willing to pay that keep those few in business.  Hey, they may be worth $50,000 or $150,000 to an individual and if they can afford it and aren't bankrupting their family to own them,  more power to you......... and enjoy. 

I hope this helps someone,  Tim

 I agree with many of the above comments, but would add there are ways around exorbitant pricing, buying second hand, being the most obvious. Speakers seem ideal for used purchase, like cables. They naturally should have a longer life than electronics, with fewer bits to fail. I have had speakers that have worked perfectly well for over thirty years, passed on to family members.

 Secondly you must understand the implications of a very small niche market. As others have said, fewer sales mean fewer units to bear the fixed costs of the company, R&D, marketing, Accounts etc.

 Thirdly and most importantly, is just where does the seller spend his money. I had a long conversation with a small speaker manufacturer a few years ago, who shall be nameless. He estimated the building and parts costs of a large manufacturer, like say Wilson, as 25% of the total. So an $80000 pair of speakers costs about $20000 to build, which shocked me. Where does the rest go, Dealer and Distributor margins, Plant rent, heating, lighting etc, and so on. A very large part goes on Marketing evidently.

 Now take a small one man operation, selling direct. Most of those costs are gone. No dealers, distributors, minimal marketing, just word of mouth and show attendance. The problem, well no massive R&D budget, so he is going to need very good ears to voice the speakers, with no complex, expensive machinery to do the job for him. If he has got good ears and I would say there are a lot of small manufacturers out there who seem to, then everyone can be a winner.

I just got rid of a $4000 speakers, and replaced them with a $200 speakers. I liked the $200 one better.
Pioneer did have the best Plasma set in the marketplace. Damn shame they gave it away...

which brand/model did you rid? Which $200 speaker did you buy?
I just peeked at the speaker page at higherfi.com.   They listed 27 different models with a six figure MSRP (tho most were offered at significant discounts).  One model has a seven figure price tag.  I'd invite anyone interested to peruse them and figure out how/if they justify their price tags.  While you're pondering that, look at the variety of designs and you'll start to get a sense of how different they're likely to sound - one vs the next.

I can't say that I reached any hard conclusions, but I definitely found it an interesting exercise.
jafant: JBL 305. If there was an active version of the 705i I would get that instead though.
Very nice -coli.
There are lots of great ideas and truths on this thread.  Yes to the poster asking me about all of us hearing differently.  I think it was Markel, who said of course. That's just a given in anything audio.  That's why so many of us like different brands.  Fremmer and many others love Wilson. They get them as a very very special cost, but wouldn't own them if they didn't like them.  I know many designers of cables amps etc... as well as reviewers who own and use Vandersteen's (mostly the 5 CT's) for their own personal use let alone reviews or for their products.  Honestly, I have heard Wilson and Vandersteen more than any other brands and it makes sense as they have been around forever and are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  

I can tell you that in any component you have business costs built in.  That's just common sense and a must.  There are many reason's some will buy speakers in the six figure market.  Many have been posted already.  I personally feel that most of these speakers have left me wanting more and or scratching my head asking HOW and WHY.  Tidal is one of the few I've heard in this range that sound awesome, but then I hear the Vandersteen 7's the next week and realize that I'm getting even more musically involving sound and a bit tighter bass for half the cost.  Again, even if you like another speaker, I'd say that you can get better sound than most of the 100k + speakers for much less if you really search and listen.  JMHO
My guess research and development.
I've had a pair of Legacy Signature III's that I've had for years. The perform WAY beyond their price point. I paid $2100 for the pair used. They originally sold for $5000 in the oak finish like I have.  They are amazing ... but the trick is, they have to be driven by a quality tube amp to sound their best. 

Here's some reviews of the Sig III's, including mine:


Here's some pictures of the Sig III's front and rear:


One of my favorite speaker line is Venture. I've met the design engineer and builder many times ... and a true gentleman he is. His factory is located in Belgium, but he was born and grew up on China's mainland.  The design and parts used are the very best on the planet. The finish on all of the Venture speakers is superb. Nothing is left to chance or built with anything but quality in the parts and in the construction of the Venture speakers.  To my mind, the Venture speakers are worth every penny of what they retail for. They are an amazing speaker in every respect.  Here's a link to the Venture speakers:

It seems like speakers are expensive to pay for research and development.  Back in the 1970's, good speakers were developed, and then sold for years.  The big Klipsch speakers can still be bought.  I would like to see the speaker manufacturers pick a design, then focus on bringing costs down, rather than pass improvements down the line.  Speakers are overpriced.  The top of the line speaker in the 1970's sold for $2000.  That would be no more than $15,000 today.  I'm listening to a set of 40 yr old stacked original advents.  They compete well with the speakers in the stores, basically because they get the important things right.  I would have to spend $30,000+ dollars to get any real improvement, basically because of the Advents great tonal qualities and resolution.  Yes, most speakers can do something better than the Advents, but the Advents do everything well.  Someone needs to build a great all around speaker and run with it.

  audiophiles and especially reviewers

Put attention to the price – and if that speaker has a price tag of 100,000 they will be consider excellent and amazing sound

 “Money makers”= manufactures, know that high price consider” best performance”

People believing in that and willing to pay

So, why not?

You see the reality of those overprice speakers when they reach aoudiogon

Tidal that cost 80,000$ cannot be sold with a price tag of $15,000

And the same is with speakers that only 2-3 years ago were claimed to be the best in the world like YG ANAT that were priced for more than $100000 and on the second hand market cannot be sold with $20000


The high price has nothing with material and knowledge and design

All these Buzz words are an excuse to higher pricing

Enter your text ...
Simply put, I think the most expensive speakers are too much overpriced.
I understand all the money that goes into RD and all the expensive materials and expensive manpower, but I also strongly believe that there is a limit for the production of any speaker that is much much lower than its price when it hits the market.
What's the rational explanation for a speaker to cost more than $300,000? 
I recently had the opportunity to listen to one of the most expensive speakers in the world, the Marten Coltrane Supreme 2. I surely was impressed by the sound, but in the same day I listened to far cheaper speakers that impressed me as much or even more - like Canton, Tannoy, Aurum Cantus and some others. Comparing the price tags, listening to the Martens should have been an orgasmic experience! And it wasn't.
These Marten are costing the same as a Lamborghini or a Ferrari! Why? 
Too much overpriced I say...
I have been an audiophile for 50 years and have purchased a lot of very good equipment in those years.  Motivated by awareness of Floyd Toole's work at JBL/Harman, I just purchased a JBL M2 Master Reference Monitor/Crown I-Tech 5000 system consisting  1250 watts of power to each tweeter and 1250 watts to each woofer by means of active DSP crossover incorporated into the amps.  I found the system on discount at the local JBL pro dealer for $11,500 so I bought it on a lark.  
I have recently auditioned top of the line speakers from  Vandersteen, PSB, Revel, and B&W diamond 3, driven by Mark Levinson, Audio Research, Classe, and the new Vandersteen amp.  All are excellent products but my new system sounds just as good for a fraction of the cost.  I am particularly smug in knowing that it probably sounds just as good at the ridiculously overpriced top of the line speakers from Wilson. ( which, to be fair, I have not heard)  I would single out  Wilson as being particularly pretentious.  A local high end dealer who considered carrying Wilson and was wined and dined by them in Utah verifies this impression.

The same reason people buy Rolex or Philippe Patek ... status. They don't tell time any better. And after a certain price point - say, Revel Salon 2 territory - if listened to in a blind test, I doubt price (or certainly looks) would have anything to do with preferences.
Obviously too much audio gear is absurdly priced, but as long as there are buyers the vendor can keep up the sales... 

In July of 2015 I drove from Northern Virginia to Sanford Florida in order to audition a pair of used Avalon Acoustics speakers. They sounded great, I forked over less than 1/4 of the new price, we packed them into my car and I made the long drive back home. Over the next month I listened to these speakers and came to understand why they are worth the new price (roughly $45k new, used 8-10k).

Amazing speakers. Completely changed my understanding of audio and all the music I had previously listened to on other speakers. Worth the price. Absolutely worth the price, but I would not buy them new unless I would not miss the $ spent. These speakers are worth the price differential compared to lesser speakers.

In August I was in Boulder Colorado where the factory is. I called and managed to secure a tour. What I saw there were quality craftsmen building massive and complex cabinets that weigh 150 lbs each. I saw top end drivers and crossovers, and internal wiring that goes beyond what the typical speaker includes. Each speaker represents a massive investment of time by craftsmen and engineers, as well as the R&D.
What makes an expensive speaker expensive?
A target audience of very wealthy people who think more money buys the best.  Up to a point its true.  But, today's technology and understanding will hit a wall of not knowing what's the next improvement will be. After a point of some sonic benefits, its a matter of raising in price by over engineering - more and bigger... using the most expensive components that will many times become common place in the next generation..  Just look at past first generation most expensive components ... Now many are obsolete and may not even sound as good as what we now find in mid fi. ;)  And, the fact that the very wealthy will never invite you over to hear his system.  So?  He can cloak himself in a mystique that exclusivity offers him.  You will wonder what it is you are missing, when you may be missing what you already have. One of the most satisfying systems I ever heard was achieved by good quality components and a great room. Not expensive at all compared to the super systems.
Bottom line is there is a strong market for these speakers.  Many who can't afford them are jealous and will say their X cost speakers are as good or better, but I've rarely found that to be true. Some companies do over charge based on cost of production (all costs from utilities to R&D are in the final price), however many do not. I know how much it costs Vandersteen to make their higher end speakers and they are very expensive to produce. I am sure that some of the brands using esoteric drivers are the same.  it's incrementally better and in some cases wildly better.  If I had the money, I'm sure I'd be running the Vandersteen 7 mk 2's.  No doubt in my mind. It's the best sound I've heard.  I used to love the older Avalon's, but their value will go steadily down like Thiels and others who have changed hands recently.  The irony is that I loved the older Avalons and even Sonus Faber and now I don't.  Things change, but it's no different than the auto industry.  They have to have safety items and the costs of both R&D AND newer materials along with THEIR R&D drive the cost of vehicles just like speakers using high end caps and carbon fiber drivers or even ceramics/diamonds etc... can become very expensive to produce, plus what many don't realize is the cost involved in matching drivers and crossovers to make sure both speakers are within tolerances isn't cheap either. Again, all manufacturers have a sweet spot in their lines that represent best value.  The highest end speakers in the lines are not best value and are obviously not priced that way, but they are worth it to many who DO hear a difference and to THEM it's worth it as they have it.  I take NOTHING away from those folks and they actually help support great speaker technology and R&D trickling down to our favorite speakers that are attainable for many of us.

The reverse snobbery is amazing to me to be honest.  It really just hit me.
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It's not always reverse snobbery.  I own three different speaker models that retail at over $10k.  While I spend time in front of each, I spend more time these days listening to a system with speakers that ran me about $2700.


       Please! Hard cold facts there are only (5) quality speaker component manufactures in this world today. I.e. the fiscal itself

 Now who or what High end speaker brands buy from them. Take any
mega brand line like my Wilsons. I've looked inside them. I have several audio buddies with one having Sonus Fabers, other with Vandersteens.

who took there speakers out of the cabinet also. We examined them

carefully. Hmmm! Alum basket >>Hmmm Steel basket. Hmm paper cone

or Aluminum, or composite. Hmm all had magnets, compliances support rings. The only component parts of a speaker that would UP its cost to a very, very  high degree .CONE materials YES! certainly not the baskets or magnets and not wood cabinet materials,. I.e. MDF, PLYWOOD,

CONPOSITS. I left Magico out (METAL). The price for wood cabinet materials is dependent quantities they buy maybe several hundred 4'X8' sheets. other maybe a thousand sheets.

Engineering! Testing! all influences the cost for sure. BUT add-on 50Kea

Take a tower cabinet.   Sorry! NO new engineering required,

Cross-overs 1st order, 2nd,3rd been around for decades. You pay the big

buck 100K systems.+. Because U can EASILY afford the TAB of entry.

The difference in my Mid priced 48K Wilsons do not sound only a third as good as  there XLF $200k. Having audition both side by side. Same amp-pre-amp same record, same cartridge. Made 4 showroom visits before     I opened my wallet.

                ***  I HEARD 5K difference maybe..***

In closing. Should I win the Mega Power Ball lottery. Them would have

the money to do it RIGHT.

 Hire a live Jazz band or a small String group to perform LIVE in my listing room every weekend for @ $ 1,500 for a 2 set gig including a female vocalist every Saturday night. For 200 weekends+.

                ****   TOP THAT  *** Mr. Fermer. Ha!!

OK,OK.  A Lambo  sounds better  than a Honda Civic at full song to..

Tubes 444

Lots of good information and analysis above.  One thing not mentioned is what are the actual street prices of the $$$ speakers?  Leaving aside "industry accommodation" pricing, what do real consumers actually pay for a $50K or $100K speaker?  I have no idea and I imagine it varies widely, but it would be interesting to know what the average discount is on these uber high-end products.  The only speaker I bought new in the last 20 years was obtained at a very substantial discount from list.  It was not in this price category but still, it didn't take any arm-twisting on my part. 

Of course, the most basic answer to the OP's question is:  "Price".