Stratospheric audio gear prices

The more time I have under my belt pursuing quality audio, the more I realize that high audio gear prices have some basis in their quality. Yet there is a limit. When you buy a Ferrari the cost is high, but you can see the money involved in the design and parts. Many would argue that high quality audio gear is similar to the quality and design of a hyper-car. But when you look a the sheer quantity an complexity of this kind of car, there is no piece of audio gear that compares. To me, a piece of audio gear that costs as much as even an inexpensive car is just a manufacturer cashing in because they can. Can you imagine what audio manufacturers would want to charge for a piece of audio gear that was the size and weight of a car? Like $100 million.  I believe it just drives the whole market up and we end up getting a little bit suckered. This is all perhaps a little overstated. I guess I just want to shame audio manufacturers. I do understand that they are not charities, or here for the betterment of mankind. If you are not frustrated by this, good for you.  Here is a quote from a book about marketing. The reference is a victim of link rot. Nevertheless it has common information. 

"Premium Pricing

Premium pricing is the practice of keeping the price of a product or service artificially high in order to encourage favorable perceptions among buyers, based solely on the price. The practice is intended to exploit the (not necessarily justifiable) tendency for buyers to assume that expensive items enjoy an exceptional reputation or represent exceptional quality and distinction . A premium pricing strategy involves setting the price of a product higher than similar products . This strategy is sometimes also called skim pricing because it is an attempt to "skim the cream" off the top of the market. It is used to maximize profit in areas where customers are happy to pay more, where there are no substitutes for the product, where there are barriers to entering the market, or when the seller cannot save on costs by producing at a high volume. It is also called image pricing or prestige pricing.


Luxury has a psychological association with price premium pricing. The implication for marketing is that consumers are willing to pay more for certain goods and not for others. To the marketer, it means creating a brand equity or value for which the consumer is willing to pay extra. Marketers view luxury as the main factor differentiating a brand in a product category."

Source: Boundless. “Market Share.” Boundless Business Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 07 Feb. 2017 from

I've heard that from the perspective of many high-end manufacturers and dealers, the best way to make a small fortune in audio is to start with a large fortune.

Yes, it is a horrible business. The very best most high end components are an incredibly small niche market. Their most desirable attributes are qualities no one has figured out how to measure. They can only be evaluated by listening, something that requires either significant retail demo space or else a lot of at-home auditions with all the damage and restocking costs. Either way an expensive proposition. No wonder they demand 60% margins. Even then they do not clear much after all expenses are accounted for.

No wonder so many wind up being pushy, or elitist- they simply cannot afford to waste time on lookers. They need buyers.

The internet is helping, but only the really good manufacturers. Tekton, Raven, Decware, and other direct sales manufacturers of quality products, the internet makes them work. Then instead of retailers/dealers pushing product the emphasis shifts to enthusiastic buyers and reviewers talking about it. And there you go.
This is all very entertaining....

'Trickle down' does seem to work in certain technologies.  What was once SOTA and priced accordingly later becomes more commonplace and priced as such....anti-lock, terabyte drives, CPUs', audio specs on this 'n that....even a pound of flesh to orbit.....

It would seem that there's a peak in audio, whereas one can design, make, and offer a product that, despite being an improvement, there is absolutely no reasonable or physical fashion even one with 'better than typical hearing' could discern the improvement IRL....

...given a choice of the other items used to audition said product....

"Yes, it's our flagship...the Tar Baby Mk V !  Better than ever before!"
(Look all you want....)  ;)
Have you checked the price of food lately? Everything is going up, up, up. Thank you international banksters= gangsters. One of my friends installs teak on exotic yachts. Prices have gotten out of hand simultaneous to supply issues. Ditto all wood. I fear we ain't seen nothin yet
@russ69 LOL! Nothing needs to be "excessively taxed" by definition! Good one!
Talk about "first world problems" ! I'm glad I don't have to worry about such things. I can't afford to chase after the nth degree of SQ so I buy what's within the reach of my budget and enjoy the music. I've had friends with much, much costlier systems and while their systems sound good, I still prefer mine. This, to me, is success. 
The high price of luxury audio equipment in my opinion is justified. There are high operating costs to support any form of business, let alone the low rate of return on low volume products. These manufacturers have a very small market, yet I’m sure provide a personal level of service to their customers unlike the Denon, Marantz and Onkyo high volume manufacturers who are nowhere to be found when problems arise. What does really get me irritated is the HiFi ‘critics’ who drool over themselves on high priced kit, and condescendingly dismiss ‘budget gear’ audiophiles. It’s unfortunate that this hobby has become an unending chase for something a little bit better (and a lot more expensive) because hobbyists are shamed by the ‘experts’ for not being able to afford something that most (not all) of these reviewers get for free or at a deep discount. The term Budget Gear or MidFi has no real bar to measure against other than it costs less than $50k or $100k. Really!?
Don't want to piss anyone off but pro power amps have better or more expensive parts compared to consumer power amps but consumer power amps looks a lot better
Not at all saying before someone blows a gasket that pro amps sound better then consumer power amp. Just some of the parts
The high price of luxury audio gear is justified in some instances but not all. High end moving coil cartridges is an area where it is certainly not justified. The price of the Boulder 3050 amplifiers is justified. They will not make many of them so the cost of development has to be spread of a few units. They weight 350 lb and have some incredible CNC machining out of solid billets. They are truly a  luxury product. They don't sound any better than then decent $20,000 amplifiers but this is what luxury is all about. As for the stuff that is seriously over priced? Thank you Mark Levinson. He was the guy who proved people would pay stupid money for hifi gear.
On another note, for those of us who are really serious about sound and who don't belong to the 1% club you do not have to spend near stupid money to have the best sounding system. The best sound systems I have ever heard cost less than one Boulder 3050, soup to nuts.
Breath taking sound can be had for the price of a used car. So who cares about the uber expensive stuff? I've heard some of it at audio shows. I always click my heels as I walk away from it. Joe
One benefit of high prices is to keep the time wasters away from showrooms.  My local Audio/Video installation specialist is a Linn dealer, with a Plain Jane $25000 turntable that looks like its predecessor Ariston. The sticker shock will keep anyone who cannot afford it from being invited back to see the effects of the incredible $65000 projector.  When the prices quit justifying the sound, which might be now, the Chinese, etc, can fill in the gaps in the pricing/value equation.  There used to be several companies which provided exceptional value for extremely good products, including, but not only, B&K, Adcom (They tell me), Audire, Phase Linear (Amps at least), GAS and Hafler (If you could put up with products haphazardlty assembled by the lowest bidder), and many more.  I Have a set of Bryston, which is good, but not as good as my Audire, etc.  My B&K tuner sounds at least as good as my Kenwood KT-917, but is an ugly black box Yugo looking thing, instead of a beautiful, function laden work of art.  I have owned NAD and Phase Linear, and could easily live with them if necessary.  Much perceived value is simply marketing, e.g. diamonds.
I see your point, but the reality is, these products are not being targeted necessarily for the audiophile, they are going after the affluent egos...the ones that have to have the most expensive show cased in their multi million dollar mansions...higher priced is not better...there are plenty of manufacturers that build high fidelity gear that is kind of obtainable...NAD, ROTEL, ARCAM, ANTHEM, Parasound, Primare, etc. Though I would say even this equipment has become unobtainable to most people...they are expensive, because they rely on internal computers, software and for home theater applications, expensive licensing from the various codecs...I see the prices not unreasonable for new current gear, though not so value driven as they have become increasingly user’s in the old used stereo receiver’s I see a total price gouging for equipment that went obsolete in 1982 with the invention of the CD player. I never found that gear particularly special and the sound stage is often narrow and blah...but getting back to the esoteric gear and creating a false exclusivity... you are educated into the practice...just don’t buy into it...
the current used market has great gear at the most affordable prices, it may not have all the current bells and whistles, but the amps and design is superior to a lot of the gear that costs more. But to be glad it a lot of the more expensive pieces have the best of power supply, capacitors, the design of the carriage and efficient amps..
Thanks for bringing attention to this strange world we live in, I get it, I see it all the time...The branding has replaced the importance of sound quality...Brand Recognition is king in today’s crowded audio industry...This is why Denon/Marantz is so popular...Sound United has created the best brand recognition in home audio...they were known pretty well to people who loved audio, but know they target the newb to sell them mediocre gear.

The consolidation will only make things worse and more expensive.

it is the used 
If the money wasn't out there, these over-priced products would not exist. Huge disparities in disposable income causes us to perceive them as being in that category. One analogy that comes to mind is the salaries of professional athletes.....most people probably think those are also ridiculous, but considering the money generated by professional sports (billions for the NFL alone), they're not. I quit chasing the rabbit long ago and am perfectly satisfied with my lower and mid-level gear. I still spend time actually listening to music, not so much about what weak link needs to be jettisoned so more cash can be shoveled out the door.
How much do you need-to spend .
having owned a audio store before and having a audio system over $100 k
it does sound much better then a $30 k system 
Thst being said ,for-example digital has had the biggest sonic advancements 
in the last$5 years ,now for $6k or less a reference dac , electronics 
for  under $10 k you can get agreat integrated amp or. Separates  in many ways a well executed integrated can beat separates of even more money better synergy 
less powercords,less interconnects , loudspeakers if sold direct $10 k or less
for system cables  not including powercords $3500 should get you verygood cables . Today a $30 k system will get you what was $50k a few years back if you 
know how to purchase for best value . Myself sometimes will buy used and have it modded. My speakers I always upgrade the ❤️ of the speaker the critical Xover
on the vast majority the Xovers are very lacking and average or below at best.
Ha, well you certainly got a rise out of this crowd! In the end, the "educated consumer" makes the wisest decisions. Ergo the rational for this forum, the review industry, brick & mortar stores & dealers, shows, magazines, clubs, ....ya, now you're getting it.
I am convinced that the laughs I get reading the poor english, spelling, grammar, and what-not of these comments are equal to the laughs I get knowing that my ears WERE equal to the best of the best at one time, long ago. Carry on!
If you think audio equip is expensive... check out watches!

The usual suspects Patek & Vacheron as well as the more mainstream brands of mechanical watches can get really stupid high $. Then there are the independent watchmakers $$$

It’s all perceived value and the fact that we keep paying those high prices b
As some have pointed out - It is all relative to the goals of the individual consumer. There are those who find peer brand acceptance more important than enjoying the authentic experience. 

To take the OPs car example - As a consumer are you looking to enjoy the feeling of having your body accelerate through space and time at maximum speed, or do you want to experience the pride of ownership of a Ferrari.

One does not  need a Ferrari to accomplish the first goal. If one were experienced and savvy enough, they could build a car for a fraction of the price capable of producing the same RPMs necessary to create that sought after feeling.

If one's preference was looking to actually owning a Ferrari, the question then becomes which one? One designed and built by Enzo, or one built by the Marlboro Man? In most cases those motivated by peer acceptance don't care as long as it says Ferrari.

Then there is what I identify as the educated consumer - the one that understands the necessary committed Investment needed towards accomplishing the enjoyment of the experience. The Investment made at that level is based on the accountability associated with the brand and its performance.
I posted this on the “Biggest audio hoaxes” thread. It seems appropriate to post it in response to your question here:


I don’t know that this qualifies as a hoax. But my anecdote says a lot about the current state of the audio industry. 

A few years back, I was walking home from work and the route took me past an audio shop a few blocks away from where I lived at the time. I looked in the window and saw a pair of imposing speakers with a familiar footprint. Curious, I walked inside. 

I went straight over to them and examined them. A salesman came over and asked if I had any questions. I asked him to simply me what he knew about the speakers.

The salesperson said that were made by Shindo. He spent a considerable amount of time explaining how Shindo wanted to create a proprietary design based on classical speakers of the past. After some 5 minutes or so I interrupt and ask “This design is new and proprietary?” 

“Yes! Shindo has ...”

I interrupt again: “Well, the reason this speaker caught my eye outside is because the scale of the cabinet looked very familiar. It looks like my Altec 604C from the 1950s. It’s a speaker that’s more often than not frowned upon in most audio circles, and I was surprised to see something similar sitting on a shop floor with other very pricy speakers. When I got a closer look inside, I’m realizing that it IS an Altec 604C ...”

The salesperson said that I was mistaken. Undeterred, I pull out my cell phone and say “I’m absolutely certain this is a 604C or D driver. They are quite distinctive. Here’s a picture of my own”. 

I take note of the price. “$33,000? Well, this speaker is very pricy as well. At least for me. Why are they so expensive?” So he carries on about Shindo’s innovative crossover, but this time I don’t let him get as far. After 30 seconds or so, I ask “Could I see the crossover?” But they are inside the cabinet. 

”Could they be by any chance based on the same crossover design that Doug Sax of The Mastering Lab came up with for Bruce Botnick back in the 1960s? Could they be that crossover? Because I use those crossovers in my speakers as well.”

He starts to talk about the cabinet but I continue: “the cabinet is the same size as my own. That’s what caught my attention in the first place. They seem to be built to Altec specs. So, it seems that this speaker is little different from mine. However, my cost of acquisition and refurbishment (I had Jon Specter rebuild the crossover using audio grade Jansen caps, and the drivers re-coned by Gabriel Sound) was $3,500. You are asking $33,000. Granted, the cabinets are much more beautiful than my vintage 1950s design, but isn’t $29,500 an awful lot for a piece of furniture? Surely there must be something else?”

By this time our conversation has attracted a half dozen onlookers, and I spot a brochure about the Shindo Al-ni-co 604. 

“Well, Shindo seems to be somewhat transparent with the name they are using, but I’m still hard pressed to explain the huge price differential. Look, I have to leave, my wife has dinner ready. Could you do me a favor. Call Shindo and tell them about our conversation and ask them about the price differential? I’ll stop by next week to hear from you what they say”. 

I leave, shaking my head. The shop is a short 20 blocks away from Wall Street. I imagine some naive dude from Goldman Sacked or some such investment house, with more money than he (almost always a he) knows what to do with, walking in, getting seduced by the spiel and getting taken to the cleaners. 

I stop in next week. No answer from Shindo. The speakers were sold. 
I was willing to pay substantially for my First Run cables and they are worth every penny.  So I don't understand the purpose of the OP's message.  Sure, some expensive items aren't worth much, but when it makes a difference, then its worth the price.  Like a Ferrari.
This industry needs someone with the same engineering and brand philosophy as the legendary David Hafler and Ed Laurent: :

“Today, Dynaco is best remembered for its highly regarded vacuum tube stereo amplifier, the Stereo 70 (ST 70). Introduced in 1959, the ST 70 was available as a kit (Dynakit) intended for assembly by the purchaser or as a complete factory-wired unit. The ST 70 used four EL34 output tubes, one GZ34/5AR4 rectifier tube, two 7199 input (driver) tubes, two output transformers, one power transformer, and a preassembled printed circuit board (PCB) containing the driver circuit. It produced 35 watts per channel. The driver circuit had a single 7199 pentode/triode tube per channel, and used the driver tube to handle both voltage amplification and phase splitting. The output transformers are an ultralinear design, whereby part of the primary winding is fed back to the output tube’s screen grid. This design reduced distortion and improved audio quality. 

A masterpiece of efficient circuit design, the ST 70 provided reliable, high-quality audio amplification at an affordable price. The popularity of the ST 70 contributed more than any other single product to continuing consumer interest in tube-based stereo amplifiers at a time of increasing market dominance by solid state audio products. Because of its excellent value for cost, Dynaco tube amplifiers were often referred to as "the poor man’s McIntosh”. More than 350,000 ST-70 amplifiers had been sold when production finally ceased, making the ST 70 the most popular tube power amplifier ever made. [citation needed]”

The price dont tell the story....

In audio there exist the fetichism of electronical design...

And the acoustic science....

My 500 bucks system make me smile when i listen to anything "better"....

Is it because my vintage Sansui AU 7700 was one of the best amplifier in 1978 ? NO

Is it because the Mission Cyrus 781 speakers were so much "high end" ? NO, they are average very good only....

Is it my miraculous French NOS design dac?


Then WHY?

Vibrations controls, electrical noise floor control BUT especially after a passive material acoustical treatment the ACTIVATION of my room by Helmholtz method....

Price means "almost" nothing..... BUT the ratio S.Q./price means something...

Acoustic is more than 50 % of audiophile experience AT LEAST...

Those who dont know that are electronical upgrading fetichist....Or in the limbo created by audio marketing....

Dont upgrade, embed everything rightfully before....

It's just hard for many of us to understand why someone would spend $500,000.00 on a system. First is, if it cost more it must be better. Then there is perspective. To a person who earns 40,000,000.00 yearly half a million dollars is chump change. They just want top quality and usually everything done for them. They view money and privilege much differently than we do. It is just what happens to people when they get that wealthy. They live in a totally different reality. All is right in the world when you live in a gated community. You don't even interact with normal people anymore. If you spend a day or two at Ocean Reef in Florida you will get the message loud and clear.
If nobody bought the stuff, they wouldn't make it or they would go out of business.

These are low volume niche products, some pricing elevation because of the look of the materials that have nothing to do with sound.

Also for some, there is snob appeal that they know everyone will know what they spent for something, like a Mercedes, or more likely Bentley or Rolls Royce. It's called luxury - which really means expensive.

The law of diminishing returns kicks in in my mind for systems listing for about $20K (depending on how many sources you play) to $25K. For this money you can get incredible sound if you know what you are doing. If you don't, you could spend $100K and it wouldn't sound as good.
I don't much care what a manufacturer chooses to charge or why.

I also don't much care what someone else spends on whatever gear they want.  That's really none of my business.

What matters to me is how much I'm willing to spend.  And what I'm willing to spend on audio gear is almost always less than how much I can afford to spend.  I have other hobbies and other uses for the money.

So if a manufacturer charges 100k for a pair of mono blocks and someone else sees value in purchasing them, I'm fine with that.

Be happy with what you have, or can reasonably obtain.  Don't be upset over what somebody else chooses to do with their money, or charges for their goods or services.
One high quality manufacturer that has bucked the high price trend is Cary Audio. They have seen their dealers dwindle as a result of all of the hifi store closures. They now offer their equipment direct to the consumer at a discount. Rather than keeping prices high, they have passed at least part of their savings to the customer. I have taken advantage and bought several pieces of equipment at pretty hefty discounts. Billy Wright is doing it the right way. Also, they are made in USA.
I don't know anyone forced to buy anything.

Cost and value are different and both are conditions based.

Timing, needs versus wants and a multitude of other reasons influence what is worth the cost.
Over the past 20 years the gear that I have bought has gotten cheaper and better. Current project is to turn a $8K amp (sold) into a $1.6K amp.
So none of you would pay a lot for good cables?  I did, after watching this, and with the guarantee, I had nothing to lose.  They are worth every penny.
So if the most expense gear is purchased, is that the best sound possible? Assuming a perfect listening environment that is?  My guess is it would sound good AF. 
Some if not many high end audio gear is manufactured in such small numbers, that is reminiscent to protype costs. Plus some is making things more expensive than needed to target those extremely wealthy.
In every piece of audio gear, there is a minimum standard to achieve excellent waveform amplification or transmission.  Cheap engineering won't get you there.  You have to pay the "man" (manufacturer) something for his brain power.  Now, how to know which manufacturer because you already said quality reproduction is only INDIRECTLY associated with the cost.  You have to form an accurate philosophy or goal and pursue that.  Start there and don't let anyone deter you.  There is no better answer because, otherwise, you will just endlessly waste money and never arrive at your goal
@sj00884. “So if the most expense gear is purchased, is that the best sound possible? ”


Good question. In general the more expensive the higher the potential capability of each component or system within the design goals. Very high end audio is highly reviewed by extremely experienced and talented reviewers. So, the cost tend to match pretty closely with the price. However all the components must be complementary, you can take three very expensive components that are not synergistic and have them sound terrible. Also, the design goals and listener values detail vs musicality... of coarse at the levels we are talking about they should have all. But my example is a $500K+ Wilson WAMM based system I hear that was clearly the best and simply jaw dropping holographic... if you have never heard one of these you absolutely must... it is unbelievable. But honestly I do not want that kind of sound. But clearly, if that is the kind of sound I was looking for I would have worked my butt of to get it.
 "So, the cost tend to match pretty closely with the price."

ghprentice, What are you trying to say? 
They don’t call it high end for nothing. The prices are clearly high. Everyone has a unique angle on why their products sound superior. Bling matters. Sometimes the rest is not so obvious.
I get it man...I spent over 1500 bucks on my speakers! Over a thousand on my power's INSANE...don't even mention the 50 bucks I blew on a solid silver "digital" cable...stop me...please...stop me...
Nobody really mentiones the root of all the problems. It is nature of capitalism these days (decades). Thirty years ago, german car factory worker could afford to buy a Burmester integrated amp with one salary and half. Today, for a same thing, he needs at least 7! (seven) monthly paychecks. Not much difference when you check the prices of cars, real estates or whatever else. Living in europe still has some advantages (with almost 'free' acces to health and education) but in many states people live much worse than before (before euro) 

The prices do not follow the stock market except in the sense of the stock market is a hedge against inflation over the long term.  Using gold as the reference luxury items tend to maintain a constant price while consumer prices over the years have fallen- relative to the price of gold.  The real story is that wages are 10% of 1965 wages relative to gold prices.  Real wages have fallen for decades but so have costs although not as much.  The exceptions being luxury items, healthcare and education.  This is in general.  Of course some have profited more than others.  We have enjoyed very cheap gasoline for decades.  That is likely coming to an end as we are pushed into alternative vehicles which might mean less electricity to power our stereos. 
@alexatpos I believe technology has improved drastically in the last 30 years.  I can’t recall the last time a car didn’t start without warning or equipment just broke. 
I also think we are in a more materialistic times. And if you want to feel bad think about how much you pay in taxes and if you get any better services...  I am a low user of government services as a single person with no kids and my tax bill has increased by multiples but roads, department of motor vehicles and politicians have only gotten worse. 

"Be happy with what you have, or can reasonably obtain. Don't be upset over what somebody else chooses to do with their money, or charges for their goods or service"

Wise counsel for those who value peace of mind.

If, on the other hand,  you prefer an endless, never-satisfied "grail-quest", there's clearly no shortage of opportunity for that !
Whether one cares or not about what other people buy is a moot point. I am of the opinion that in general vendors will charge whatever amount people are willing to pay. Making people willing to pay more is what it’s all about. In many cases the value proposition is totally unclear or poor . Call it snake oil or what you will. Just saying. This is what makes the world go round and be weary whenever someone with something to sell tries to convince you that high end audio is somehow uniquely noble and immune to that.