Would you pay to listen?

Just curious, would you pay to listen to a
$100k system? Say a one hour session for twenty bucks?

Assuming the room is great and you have vinyl and cd and your choice of solid state or tubes. Also assuming you'd have the best matched system that $100k could buy.

How much would you pay to hear a $200k system? No pressure or expectation to buy anything, just plunk down your twenty and enjoy the music. BYO drinks of course.

I'm sure I'd pay if there were such a place.
Yes, I would pay and have done so in the past. There's a firm in my area that does consulting for designers and manufacturers of audio gear. I'm not one of those, just a listener, but I asked and they had some free time. Took some discs and found out what everything on them sounded like. Bonus, got chat time with the consultant. Was more than 20 bucks an hour though.
No. WHY?... I have listened to $100k systems and maybe more. They sound good to excellent. Some I thought they were just putting expensive stuff together in a room for that WOW factor. (A lot of sizzle but no steak!) It is not even remotely necessary to spend that amount unless your space is very very large and you live next to the airport or subway:)

Will they offer a refund if you are not impressed?

If your space is like most 10-12'x 12-18' up to 30' you can put together a musical, dynamic, well matched system for much less including room treatments if needed.

Almost any knowledgeable audio dealer will have the ability and the means to help you assemble a system for less than $25K that will rival even the most expensive. The retail price of audio products is a poor indicator of sound quality or synergy. As you know 95% is marketing bable and fancy photos. There is very little to no evidence or science to support their claims or prices. i.e.(the face plate and casework can exceed the price of all internal componets on many high $$$ pieces).

You can listen to excellent sounding systems all day long in most every mid size to large city or suburb for free. Use the $20 to buy more music or pay for gas and travel to a dealer out of your area and hear equipment that is new to you. Develop a relationship with an audio dealer near or far that you trust and work with them to achieve your listening goals.

Well now, let's see. I've had a $50K system, and I listened to it for about 16 hours a week. I kept the system intact for about two years. It was nice having it. It was mine, and it was a long time dream come true having it.
Those 16 hours@$20.00ea would come to $320.00/week, or $16,640.00/year. Doubled, that's still only $33,280.00!
Maybe I'd listen a little less if I had to pay for my listening time, which would lower my carbon footprint...
I think you may be on to something!
One hour with one system? No (unless the drinks were Krug Clos d'Ambonnay in which case I'd go listen to a Bose system).
Who is going to decide which is the "best matched system" anyway? I have heard dozens of representatives at shows make that claim - at both price levels - some of which were downright awful (matter of fact, I can think of three who should have paid me for the hazard I had been exposed to).
To get one thing out of the way, then, why will I pay entrance fee for a show such as the Munich High End (€ 10/day) even if I have to accept far from ideal room conditions, struggle with the crowd in the hyped rooms and deal with disturbing ambient noise? I'll pay for an entire day of comparisons I can otherwise not make (and gain valuable information who's making the best out of it under such conditions).
Maybe I'm the odd one on Audiogon but I have nada, zero, no desire to listen to a $100K system. Seen them, heard them and after the initial "shock and awe" my conclusion is, what a waste.
Do they do things my paltry system won't? Sure. Does my system do something theirs won't. Definitely. Mine makes me smile for about $97K less.
I also am in the camp that you don't have to spend gobs of money for great sound. Seems like most of the megabuck systems I have heard are missing out on the fundamental PRaT to use an overworked term.
So my answer to the OP...
No, as there is little need too. Some hi end dealers such as Overture and World Wide have sessions every now and them where they preview new and exciting gear in the mega buck range. Often providing refreshments as well. And door prizes too boot! It can be a wonderful get together for audiophiles and enthusiast.

Then and other times if I can not afford or desire gear at that time. I do try to make a purchase of music or other items for my enjoyment and respect for the dealers time.
Sounds like you are feeling the water for a business venture maybe?
Danger here. While twenty bucks is nothing for one with a passion for audio, it will lead to many, many more expensive purchases, all because you will never be happy with any but that type of system.
Not even if there were dancing girls and performing chimps on unicycles juggling flaming swords! Maybe if Natalie Portman was the host.
I'd test drive a Ferrari for $20 if I could, so I'd say yes.
I already pay every time I see a movie. The audio system in a typical movie theater costs well above $200K. The only thing missing being able to bring my own material. However, I do get a limited selection at the ticket office.
Why pay when some systems can be assembled for 25K that would sound better anyway.
Definitely not!!
Amazing. I find it odd that thousands of audiophiles buy plane tickets and rent hotel rooms for several days to go to places like the Rocky Mountain AudioFest or CES to hear these type of systems. Lots of times in less than ideal listening conditions. I'm sure their total expenses exceed twenty bucks. But some of you won't pay $20 locally to see a killer system.

I live in Los Angeles. I drive a very nice car which satisfies all of my automotive needs. However, there are several places here that rent exotic cars and they do a pretty brisk business. Though I've never rented one, I'd love to take a Ferrari, Bentley or a Lamborghini out for a spin up the Pacific Coast. No, I can't afford to buy one, but I'd like to have the experience.

I allow local artists to do art shows in my loft in exchange for a piece of their original artwork. Over the years of doing this, I've managed to assemble a very beautiful collection of original paintings and scuptures that I'm very proud of. I've never paid for a piece of artwork in my life. However, five years ago when the Guggenheim brought their art show to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, I got on a plane and rented a room to see it. I got to see works of Van Gogh, Rubens, Picasso, Kandinski, Degas, Chagall and scores of other masterpieces by other great artists. Of course I'll never own any of those pieces, but I gladly paid money to go see them. When I got back home, I still apprciated my own collection and am still happy with it. I'm living proof that you don't have to pay millions to own beautiful art....but, I'll still pay money to go see works by the greats.

Of course you don't have to spend $100k to get great sound. My system doesn't even come close to that kind of dough and I enjoy it immensely.

Tom6897, this hypothetical room certainly would not be a 10 x 12 room, that would be ridiculous. In my original post, I said the room would be great. So, you could make the room any size you wanted, free of the noise and crowds of an audio show. I'd like to hear the Genesis 1.2 speaker system. I think it goes for about $180k. I'd like to hear it with the Audio Research Reference Anniversary preamp ($25k), triamped with Audio Research Reference 610T tube amps ($120k for three pair) with the ARC Reference Phono2 ($12k), ARC Reference CD8 ($10k) and the flagship VPI turntable fitted with a killer arm and flagship Koetsu cartridge. Of course all cabling and power cords would be of similar caliber for a system such as this. Sorry Tom6897 and Polk432, but I don't care who you know, no $25k system will come close to a system like the one above... and I'd pay money to hear it. I've seen several systems here on Audiogon that I'd pay money to hear.

Of course you don't have to spend $100k to get great sound. My system doesn't even come close to that kind of dough and I still enjoy it immensely.

Timrhu, for $3k your system makes you smile (I did the math). I'm not talking about a system to make you smile, we all have one of those. I'm talking about one that will make your jaw drop.

Soniqmike, I had to chuckle at your post....I have no interest for such a business venture. I don't have the dough to assemble the dream system that I'd pay to hear. Obviously judging from the posts above, I'd starve to death in such a business.

Gsself, you hit the nail on the head! I never pay money to go to movies, I'm content with my home theater. HOWEVER, when an action blockbuster comes out like The Dark Knight, Spiderman and Iron Man, I'm first in line at the IMAX to see it. No home theater can match that for pure size, scale and impact, and I gladly pay the dough every time. This whole post was to see if there was a comercial place with a killer two channel system where you could buy a ticket and listen to state of the art stuff in a killer room. I'd buy a ticket in a heartbeat.
Would there be pretty hostesses?
Don't have to. There's a dealer with a $150,000 system not 10 minutes from where I live. He operates out of his home and is most generous with his time and advice. Talk about luck.
Do the math. 5000 hours at $20/hr just to pay for the equipemnt. What about the cost of staffing, rent/mortgage for the location, electricity and other overhead. realistically, would would have to charge somewhere in the $60-$80 range. Assuming you're open 8 hours/day and you where totally booked solid, it would still take about three years to break even. More likely, it would take five plus years to break even and by that time you would need to update the equipemnt.

Most people regard music as a distraction; something to fill in the background while doing something else. Very few people these days actually sit down just to listen. Audiophiles make up a very, very small minority of the population. Also, there's a subset of "audiophiles" that just have equipment envy and couldn't hear the difference between a $1500 system and a $150,000 system. Remember it's takes a trained ear as well as a fat wallet.

No, I think you would have sell the equipment after a period of time to buy new and better equipment. Hold on, I think you just opened up a high end audio showroom and store.

I'm a classically trained Chef, with a trained palate, and I enjoy fine dining. However, it's very rare that I go out for a $125 Burger with Pomme Frites.
I have an untrained palate but still enjoy good food. Cost forbids me from indulging except when there's a coupon.

I think the fee at a hi-end shop would be simply to dissuade the lookie-lou types.
That may work against these stores, long run. I heard some real good stuff a long time ago which while I was ignored in the store (obvious broke kid) was still pretty neat and sort of made me set my course to eventually have some nice stuff. If I had to pay....even 5$ for 'entry' I'd not have done it.

Also, doesn't selling a ticket change some of the legal relationships?
I would. It would be great to hear a kilobuck system properly set up at its best. Of course, it probably wouldn't sound that good, because I have preconcieved notions (hey, isn't that what it is all about)? I doubt a 100K stereo could sound that much "better" than a 20K system- Remember , we are listing to prerecorded music that has its limits, Lets say you get the best record from the best guitarist- that is as good as it will ever get- and yet the recording still has its limits. At some point you have to run up against the limits of the recording and a system can never sound better than that at any cost.

I must spend at least $50 for gas to get to the nearest dealer with any high end gear worthy of mention, and they have open houses all the time with the likes of Wilson, Ayre,Spectral etc. and I never go, even with an invationtion.
I could listen to any product by the above any time.
No, I'd rather put the money towards a live performance.
I live in Los Angeles. I drive a very nice car which satisfies all of my automotive needs. However, there are several places here that rent exotic cars and they do a pretty brisk business. Though I've never rented one, I'd love to take a Ferrari, Bentley or a Lamborghini out for a spin up the Pacific Coast. No, I can't afford to buy one, but I'd like to have the experience.

funny! just last week i asked the guy behind the car rental counter about doing just that; taking an exotic car for a weekend and such. he said, be careful; one of my customers did that and according to him it changed his life. he was in his own words: "born again"

so i guess the old adage is true; be careful what you wish for, you may get it!
I'd pay to hear a system I may consider buying now or in the future, or even if it had one key component that I'd consider. The cost of the entire set-up is irrelevant.
Call me jaded but I doubt any system can make my "jaw drop" anymore. And besides, their are a few dealers in town that display super hi-end systems. All I have to do is walk in and pop on some music, at least that has been working. Unfortunately, they are teeming with customers.
The problem as I see it is that no amount of dollars invested in a system guarantees the owner knows how to set assemble the elements and set it up properly...not to mention the issue of personal taste.

Any wealthy goof ball can buy a million dollar system that ultimately sounds like crap. I've heard enough expensive systems to know that high cost doesn't necessarily translate to good sound.

Nope. Not gonna pay $20 to find out what's in the fun house.
I would do it, but it would have to be 80 bucks per person per hr...

On another note, just ponying up the money would put a damper on things, at least for me. That $150K system I mentioned might not sound so good had I paid $20 every time I've heard it. I'd be in for a C note by now and that alone would eat at me.
Having said that, it is one damn fine system that I've not heard bettered at any audio show (not that I've been to many) or at anyone's home (same caveat as before). It simply sounds so good that trying to analyze it would be a waste of one's time.
After hearing his system, mine comes down that ladder of abstraction a few rungs, comparatively, but after a song or two, all is well.
Is it worth the extra $145K?
Could I get closer but at a saner price?
I've heard a system that I estimated to have a retail value in excess of $300K. I found it to be disappointing and a huge waste of money.
I would pay to spend time with a MBL 101E system.
I would sure feel bad for the guy who spent that kind of dough to end up making $20/hr. You have to assume that these would be "private" sessions, as I wouldn't want to pay to sit in on your choice of music (nothing personal), so the proprietor would be capping out at $20/hr.

There's a sort of creep factor to it as well. I see images of the old Times Square venues. You know-- disheveled musical deviants feeding 20 dollar bills to the machine; the steel door slides up; the music begins to play.

Wasn't Sound By Singer in Manhattan charging sustomers $100 for demos? The money was reportedly credited towards whatever they purchased, if they purchased anything.

Never cared for the staff in that place. I've been there 4 times, and never had a single salesman say a word to me.
In addition to my dream system posted above, I'd pay to hear all of the following:

The Magnepan 20.1

The Infinity IRS V

All of the Apogees

The flagship Wilson speakers

The Krell Master Reference Monoblocs

The Carver Silver Seven tube monoblocs

The VTL Wotan monoblocs

Any high end reel-to-reel at 15 ips playing a master tape

The Velodyne DD 1812 subwoofer

The Krell Master Reference subwoofer
I live in Southern California and I have heard many expensive systems over the years. Most don't sound that great. I have been more Impressed with modest systems that were matched properly.
Below are a few systems on Audiogon I'd pay money to hear:












"Assuming the room is great"

That's the key isn't it. If this system was put together in such a way, that it was widely touted by symphony conductors, well respected musicians and the audio elite as nonpareil, I would probably fork over. Otherwise, as Tvad suggested, $100,000 is no guarantee that it won't suck.
That Jadis and Verdier based system catches my attention. I bet it is great with acoustic music and vocals. Yes, I would pay to hear it too if I could bring my own records; maybe even if I couldn't.
Wouldn't feel right. Not a matter of rational economic calculation, just wouldn't feel right.


PS Karel, you peasant. Clos d'Ambonnay over Clos d'Mesnil! That swill is for nouveau-riche blanc de noir drinkers. Of course, if this scathing note has convinced you to dump you stash, I stand ready to buy it (at an appropriately steep discount).
Que néni, Messire Marty, hélas!

Hey if I had it in my own cellar I wouldn't have to consider exposing myself to Bose, right.

On second thought, this seems like one heck of a way to write off the purchase of your system on your taxes. Create an LLC, purchase a system to put into a dedicatd room in your home and call it business startup costs.
Karelfd, Why? What's wrong with Bose?
Movie systems cost $200K? If true they are being ROBBED by installers...a first class full range live PA with flown array speakers and piles of amps, monitors, and mixers can be bought for less than that.

I've been amused by Audio Salon pretention for many years...in NYC and elsewhere. Ever get buttonholed by a Linn salesman? "Listen to the RHYTHM"...jeeze...and now in the local Audio Salon where I live they are rarely helpful about anything, and have, of course, absolute opinions coming out of their collective bums and have very little time to discuss anything, let alone have you listen to things...so I buy things here and Ebay.
Pdreher wrote :

I've heard a system that I estimated to have a retail value in excess of $300K. I found it to be disappointing and a huge waste of money.


Pdreher do tell, the pretenders should be outed!!!!

Agree the arrogance is astounding with some of these guys. One would think you should be able to hear a Hi-Fi system in a hi-fi store ...
I would not pay to listen to a system I can't afford. Although I've heard a 300 K $ system too, and was astounded.

But I would easily pay, even 200 $ for a unit that I could borrow for one day to listen in my own system. Especially one that I view as a possible upgrade.
I wouldn't pay money to audition in the premise of paying money to listen to high end system. But as a form of entertainment it could work. People pay similar amount of money just to play billiard, watch movies or enter clubs. I wouldn't mind hanging out at an audio shop with my friends while having some wine and listening to music for a nominal fee.
i would mot pay for several reasons:

1) not knowing the equipment in advance, and price being irrelevant, there is no way to know in advance if i would like the sound

2) it's only a stereo. i would not pay to listen to recorded music, only to live music

3) listening at home, if the equipment were favorable to my taste would be the only exception to # 2.
a dealer showroom introduces too many variables.
I would never rent a Ferrari for a day, unless I could be assured that the seats were molded to my exact body, the tires had just a few thousand miles on them and were properly warmed, the suspension was setup for my exact driving tastes, the intake and exhaust were tuned to achieve the absolute perfect mix of torque and horsepower, it had exactly 12 gallons of 102 octane gasoline, all wiring was replaced with solid silver cables, the roads were free of all debris, cracks, litter, pebbles, other people, etc., the sun offered zero glare in my eyes, and the temperature was 67.5 degrees with 35% humidity, and a light wind out of the southwest.

It is preposterous to think that a Ferrari engineer, and retailer, could EVER put together a car that would perform as perfectly as my 1983 Mazda RX7 GS. Frankly, I’m offended that anyone would suggest that I ‘pay’ to drive that vehicle. The dealer should gladly give me the keys, so I can take it home and drive it at my leisure. After all, I need to see how it will look in my garage, and I can’t imagine renting it unless I ‘knew’ I was going to like it. I find it personally offensive that anyone would suggest I simply rent the car, enjoy the experience for what it is, and have a richer life for the experience. Harrumph!

lol…where do you guys get the curmudgeon sized vat of starch for your underwear?
Manoterror:...........well said,... Touche'!