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


Yes, I'm aware.  I watched a family member try on a $700,000 ring in the diamond district of New York.  They liked us and knocked off $100,000 but we were running late for a show.

For the low-volume manufacturer, it's not the cost of materials that push up prices -- it's paying humans who have a mortgage, car payments, kids, health issues, and dream of sending those kids to college  before they retire with their nest egg.  If you don't have high volume, each unit shipped carries a huge burden to pay for the biological units you need to have a company.

@roxy54 wrote:

Sorry to tell you @electroslacker , but $20,000 isn’t all that much for an engagement ring anymore for a lot of people.

Oh, the trinkets. To each their expenditure.

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Sorry to tell you @electroslacker , but $20,000 isn’t all that much for an engagement ring anymore for a lot of people.

Taking a chicken or egg view, I think the customer already existed for the $5000 power cord and manufacturers use packaging and marketing to be the one that customer chooses.  It's like the $20,,000 engagement ring or the $500 perfume--someone wants those products to exist, so they do.

There's a subculture that wants the discards at half-price, and I'm that customer.

Sell 1,000 / year of "A" with $100 profit and your yearly salary is 100k.

Not too shabby 🤔

Thanks to Hilde45 for that great quote from Chen Xi. Here's another from the same paper:
A large body of empirical evidence finds that low socio-economic status and resulting feelings of relative deprivation diminish people’s well-being, indicated by lower happiness and health. When people respond to this condition by competing for higher status, they often divert resources from meeting basic needs to inefficient spending on status-seeking goods. The negative impact of relative deprivation on well-being can be reduced by curbing such spending among the poor. Possible methods include consumption taxes on status-marking goods . . .
Seems problematic enough just adjusting to the current wave of inflation, but the prospect of new "consumption taxes" on top gives me the willies. VAT? If then everyone asks for a raise so they can pay for their new $80,000 Corolla, $2M home and dad's $35,000 SP3A1, we will find out the truth about democracy and capitalism!

Look no further than VPI as of July 1rst 2021. Tonearms up $500.

The HW40 up $5k overnight.
That seems justified.


I apologize to you for my mistake...

I accuse you of what i just did .....


For sure i read my post few time ago and i realized that  was thinking about the "ratio price/sound quality" not the "ratio price/value".... But i have written "ratio price /value" with the ratio "price/sound quality" in mind, which is misleading...

I sincerely present my apology and thank you for the correction...

My best to you....

Because the full embrace of this meditation could yield satisfaction with small radio.
The ratio is relative to a price SCALE....

In this price scale , low, mid-fi and high end, this ratio guide us toward what is important: looking for the optimal embeddings controls for a CHOSEN system in this price scale...

For any reader it is evident that my argument is relative to an already well chosen system in a price scale...And it is evident that this chosen system quality is IMPROVED by acousic control, mechanical and electrcial control....

For example my low cost system is in the lower end of the price scale .... But for his ratio price/quality now even if it is not the best in the world it is an amazingly satisfying system on par with some costly one.... This was my point...

I bet you are wise enough to have already understood my point...but sometimes someone wanting to make a point read too fast.... 😊

And yes if someone chose a small radio and control all his acoustic environment he can satisfy himself with it and say to himself, this radio compared to all my other one is the best because his ratio quality/price is NOW, thanks to control of acoustic and other variables,one of the best....

Meditation of this ratio is a meditation with 2 sides:

How can i improve my CHOSEN system toward his optimal working state?
And when this is done , how will it cost me to really upgrade toward a better ratio? Is it worth the cost to make an upgrade now?

This ratio price/quality and his twin brother the ratio quality/price are linked together by this more complex ratio the "diminushing returns" ratio....

I hope that all  is clearer ...

My best to you....

My son bought an $8 iPhone speaker from Walmart and is fine with it. He needed something when some people were coming over to his apartment. I had been saving an amp and preamp for him, but he was fine with me selling them....

Maybe when he is older and settled in one place he'll get something less portable.
Meditation about the ratio price/value is the ONLY necessary meditation for any audiophile...

My 500 bucks system rival anything because of this ratio....

Very good life advice which also has the potential to eliminate most gear and all room treatments. Why? Because the full embrace of this meditation could yield satisfaction with small radio. 
Interesting article thanks...

Meditation about the ratio price/value is the ONLY  necessary  meditation for any audiophile...

My 500 bucks system  rival anything because of this ratio....

My secret is elementary science, not only electronic design ....
High-end audio pricing completely makes sense from a macroeconomic standpoint. Due to shifts in income distribution in the past 50 years, fewer people can afford mid-priced audio gear, but a small number of individuals can afford more than ever. So a small manufacturer of no-compromise audio gear might not even get much if any increase in their sales volume if they lower their price (Say from $10k to $5k).
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.

Wouldn't you?Whatever you make, sell, service?I just got back from lunch at I-Hop where I had one cup of decaf (no pots anymore) for $3.50. I was offered a fill up.
If I offered you ten or twenty times what you're selling is worth, what would you do? Then follow that up the supply chain and see where it puts you.
Welcome to late-stage capitalism!

Inflation, budget deficits, the national debt skyrocketing unmnageably .....Canada and Europe, here we come!
Yeah, it can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact we have printed as much money in the last two years as the whole history of the United States going back to Plymouth Rock, and are now at a rate of a trillion dollars a year. Printing a trillion dollars from nothing, what could go wrong?
This has happened to vintage gear and old vinyl lps.

My thoughts are that in 1977 there were 400 million in the middle class worldwide.

In 2021 there are 3 billion 400 million.

Pair with the realisation that the Rock Era was special and not going to be repeated, along with higher quality manufacturing standards, and a Pioneer 737 is $600 and a NM- copy of Soft Parade is $150 USD.

We were lucky - we saw shelves full of albums for $2.99 to $4.99 that now are $200, and the average receiver every college student owned in the 1970s is now a valuable collectible.

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I think amps and speakers represent the biggest opportunities for finding great values in the used market, especially solid state amps. Cables - I'm not one to spend excessively on them, so can't comment on buying used cables and saving big money. Speaker prices vary so widely, and someone's personal taste may not be champagne, but beer. Nothing wrong with that

Turntables and their components, not so much. You just can't see the wear and tear, especially used cartridges. That's not to say that if you have an expensive cartridge (>$2K) you can't replace it with a very nice new one the next time it needs maintenance and or a new stylus, and save some dough. 
I just replaced a $3000 piece with a $600. I did side by side comparisons and I actually have good hearing. 

I replaced a $7K integrated with a $1500 a Class D amp, however, I had to use a ROON Convolution file ($250) to make it sound as good as the $7K integrated. 

I replaced some expensive XLR cables with cheaper Benchmark XLR for my components that are AES48 compliment on the XLR connections. Not all gear is compliant.

About 80% of my gear is American made to save on import costs and it is also the best sounding for my tastes.

I love the way my system is evolving downward in cost. A great time for audio gear. I have some interesting reactions at some of the prices of gear and the associated sound.
The meaning of life is to be alive. Duh. Without it there'd be nothing. Think about it. 
Makes me think about what is the purpose of audio gear, money and life in general.

Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about MacKenzie Scott and how her gifts to charity were impactful based on selection of the charity as well as the 'no strings attached' gift.

I shared I questioned whether it was better for me personally to give $1000-2000 to a few charities or give $100 to as many as possible.  He's response was he wanted to use his will to give to charity so he didn't become a burden on his children if he lived a long-life and needed high cost care and he wanted to leave money to his grand daughter.

It may be off topic it or it might not be.  Since when you buy something in today's world it pays for companies to 'add value' somewhere in the value chain.  If it's a 500 NAD digital streaming amp or the top of the line Boulder pre-amp - the actual purchase supported multiple folks livelihood.

And giving $10 to a charity can make the difference in one persons life.  Sometimes the question is excellent because it triggers new thoughts.  Enjoy the music and life.  Everyone is fighting an internal battle on some level - show compassion.
The following rant was sponsored my Carl Marx, Chairman Xi and Groucho Marx.

That's an insult not an argument. Facts and logic being at odds with your received dogma are bound to be upsetting. So I will let it slide.
Millercarbon, you are clueless and I’m not going to waste more energy on an individual so ideologically ossified in his value system that he can’t distinguish the difference - or chooses to conflate the two in order to confuse his followers - between liberals and democratic socialists.

You are likely to be shocked to find that I loathe liberals more than FAUX NEWS commentators. I loathe FAUX intellectuals more. 
What millercarbon actually said:
So for example there are more trees in N America today than in the 1800’s because we are no longer cutting them down for heat and railroad tracks.

What unreceivedogma comes back with:
a pdf about forested area and, "the quality of today’s lumber is significantly inferior to that of 100 years ago."

The assertion there are more trees is met with forest lands and lumber quality. As if these are anywhere near the same- or even remotely related to each other!

This is why no, I will not have to back up anything with a citation. Why would I? You would just shift the target yet again. There is no point- at least not until you learn to discern what the point being made even is!

Sokogear: I agree on the LODR, and the cost of my gear amazingly happens to fall within your range of $20K to $25K.

To those who think people are untitled to spend as much as they want on this stuff, I vehemently disagree: on a finite planet with finite and continually depleting resources, it is … shortsighted and selfish to spend insane amounts of dollars on audio gear.

Amazingly you are completely oblivious to what a hypocritical douchebag you sound like. For far more than 99 percent of the population of this finite planet with continually depleting resources would believe that spending anything over $1000 would be vehemently disagreeable. Somehow, you get to decide what YOUR line of acceptable is and then everyone else is short sighted and selfish. Look in the mirror because your complaint applies to you too.


Where have you been? Kansas?  Don’t you know that communism is so that everybody can afford a chocolate eclair?*
Get with it, dude.
*I avoid chocolate eclairs only because I’m trying to avoid dying of diabetes like my dad did. 
Paula, it’s an iPhone spell check error, not a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s. 
Millercarbon, regarding your comment about forest, that’s an assertion you will have to back up with a citation.

I assert that you are flat out wrong. I can back that up. Here it is:
and as any general Contractir will tell you, they quality of today’s lumber is significantly inferior to that of 100 years ago. When I did a energy retrofit of my 1850 townhouse, I made sure to re-use as much of the old growth wood in the home as possible.

As for everyone else who thinks it’s none of anyone’s business how much someone spends on something, that’s an ideologically grounded assertion that 98% of science disputes, and that Mother Earth herself is rejecting almost everywhere we look these days. I’ll cite but one example: decades ago, my family used to travel by auto from NJ to St Louis every year to visit my mom’s dad. We’d stop every 300 miles or so for gas, and at every stop we would wash dozens of bugs off the windshield. Last summer, I drove 300 miles from Newburgh NY to Buffalo.

Not. One. Bug.

Pollinating bees are in steep decline.

mankind has to learn to live within its means. That includes audio systems. Mother Earth doesn’t need us: she will simply replace us with another species.
I don't think the doom and bloomers are being ignored. It's all over the media constantly.

You have to really read closely what scientists say when they use words like predictions, assumptions, etc. and not the spin doctors who can take the most clear statements and change their meaning.

The best ones are measured and not panicky. The people on different sides of the issue are the more extremists trying to convince the "others" of the their position. Movie stars, Qanoners, the Squad, climate deniers....they are all over the place.

In almost all cases, the extremes are too extreme, and it takes the sensible people to take ALL points into account and see the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Things are never as good or as bad as the media says - remember if everything is OK and not worrisome, no one watches.

We need more politicians and representatives without the "us vs. them" mentality. Pink Floyd knew this back when they wrote DSOTM.
"There's roughly a bazillion examples like that, but people don't know because the ones who are constantly running around predicting the end of the world are noisy and get all the press"

You can take heart, millercarbon, that all those pesky doom and gloom proclaiming scientists will most likely continue to be ignored, however much noise they might make. Standing on a branch while simultaneoulsy sawing away at it is not, to my mind, "intelligent", but perhaps we are working with different definitions. 

I should probably just keep my mouth shut about such things.  I try to not let political differences get in the way of getting along with others with whom I share common interests and most of the time I succeed but we all have our limits... in spite of our intelligence. 
To those who think people are untitled to spend as much as they want on this stuff, I vehemently disagree: on a finite planet with finite and continually depleting resources, it is … shortsighted and selfish to spend insane amounts of dollars on audio gear.

No, what is shortsighted is to view human beings as nothing more than a tube through which food is consumed, and resources as mere matter. Our greatest resource is the human mind, and so the more humans the more resources. 

What you think is scarce is in fact more readily available than ever. A thousand years ago all the copper, iron, gold, etc was buried in the ground. Now it is almost all dug up and refined.  

Not that we need it so much any more, because there's that intelligence again, we have figured out much better more efficient ways of doing things. So for example there are more trees in N America today than in the 1800's because we are no longer cutting them down for heat and railroad tracks.  

There's roughly a bazillion examples like that, but people don't know because the ones who are constantly running around predicting the end of the world are noisy and get all the press. Doom and gloom sells. Meanwhile productivity rises, poverty declines, and The End continues to be moved ever father off into the never-quite-gets-here future.

@unreceiveddogma - glad you agree about the system plateau for excellent sound, but who are we to say what is an insane amount of money to spend on audio? Some would consider $10-15K out of pocket on $20-25K worth of retail priced audio insane (including some of my relatives).

To someone with tens of millions or more in assets, I expect it is like you going out to a nice dinner, or even a lunch. Is that insane? It's a free country, and you can do whatever you want with your money, so long as it is legal.
To those who think people are untitled to spend as much as they want on this stuff, I vehemently disagree:

Did you mean "entitled" rather than untitled?

on a finite planet with finite and continually depleting resources, it is … shortsighted and selfish to spend insane amounts of dollars on audio gear.

Sorry to break it to you, but my money is mine to spend as I wish comrade. 
Sokogear: I agree on the LODR, and the cost of my gear amazingly happens to fall within your range of $20K to $25K.

To those who think people are untitled to spend as much as they want on this stuff, I vehemently disagree: on a finite planet with finite and continually depleting resources, it is … shortsighted and selfish to spend insane amounts of dollars on audio gear.
It's called CAPITALISM.

Indeed. Under communism we’d be listening to 1960 technology transistor radios - if we’re lucky. This hobby would not exist if not for capitalism.
It depends on the source. You can get something used for $2K like an integrated amp/streamer and a decent set of speakers with some $ left over for a non entry level interconnect and speaker cables. When you start talking about turntables, moving coil cartridges, phono stages, vibration control, it adds up and in IMHO you reach a nice plateau around $10-12K out of pocket for about $20K list. You can go way up from there, but the cost for increase in SQ becomes higher and higher, and in some cases it is not better, only different.

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."
Well said! 
And this from:
"People who are unable to maintain the same standard of living as others around them experience a sense of relative deprivation that has been shown to reduce feelings of well-being. Relative deprivation reflects conditions of worsening relative poverty despite striking reductions in absolute poverty. The effects of relative deprivation explain why average happiness has been stagnant over time despite sharp rises in income. Consumption taxes on status-seeking spending, along with official and traditional sanctions on excess consumption and redistributive policies may lessen the negative impact of relative deprivation on well-being.

I think this is great also. Basically if you compare your stuff to what others have, it will make you dissatisfied with your perfectly good stuff. Being content is of great value, for sure. I think that audiophiles are just fascinated with what the next level sounds like. I am just disappointed with how the entry level sounds compared to things I grew up with that were not 'audiophile' grade. It seems like you have to lay out what is truly a small fortune to even start to get to the good stuff. But I have, and I enjoy the good stuff. I am not trying to start another conversation 🙂. It seems like if you spend even $2000 on a system, the sound quality and appearance should blow away a non audiophile. Instead, (I feel like), you get borderline junk for that cost. 

Hi ericrt.  To be fair, it does cost something to develop a product. The lab lights must be lit, the soldering irons heated, etc. Then you have to market the thing, and polish it, and QC it, and pack it, and ship it. Insure it maybe? That money has to be gotten from somewhere. The big things is: How many will you sell? How many people will pay a quarter million dollars for an amp? How many half million dollar speakers can you sell? Not 10,000, I'll bet. the super pricy products do impress people who will never hear them. They make the line look impressive. They give the manufacturer a chance to experiment with ideas he can use in products lower in the line. It provides a WOW item at audio shows. If company X can sell 100 half million dollar products worldwide, he'll do alright. But he never expected us peon with a 1750 square foot house and three kids to buy one. He doesn't think you are stupid; but he does think you can be impressed. That's why some products have more money in the case than in the guts of the product.

There are fifty cent cent capacitors, and five dollar capacitors and fifty dollar capacitors with the same electrical values. Do they sound different? You bet. How much better does the $500 capacitor sound? I'll never know! But there is a difference between the $5 and the $50 ones. I tried it. Once. Maybe an 8% improvement in "transparency." How many capacitors are in that premium preamp? Are they the super-duper ones from Denmark? Are there four? That's $2k in parts cost and we haven't got a knob! And the manufacturer wants to make a profit on those caps. The people who insist on the "BEST" don't care what it costs. they are the fat cats with the $$$. Those products were never aimed at guys like us who say, "How can an amp possibly cost $100,000 @#&*!" Look for fancy stuff used. If it wasn't abused, it's probably as good as it ever was (unless the tubes are OLD). Don't be upset by the pricy stuff. Their advertising pays for the magazines we read and write letters to complaining about the pricy stuff they review.

Relax and enjoy the music. Keep Smiling!
There is some truth to what the OP opines, but there are two sides to that coin. There are pieces of equipment that over the years I have wanted to own, but there were other financial priorities in life. Today most of this gear are considered to be classics and are still sought out. There has been other expensive gear that were en vogue for a time, then faded away like so much smoke. Their mirror partners were probably lonely for awhile, but they eventually got over being jilted. The market shifts and changes. New technologies arise and old ones come back like the Phoenix, resurrected for another go at life.

All of which is why I love AudiogoN. I don't ride the audio carousel like some; my systems usually stay intact for a decade or more. But AudiogoN has allowed me to put together several systems that were beyond what I could have afforded at the time. This site has let me live an audio Life of Reilly on what has effectively been a shoestring budget.
Interestingly, my financial situation has greatly improved over the past few years. Now that I can afford to upgrade, my current system is not in need of any major changes. It's the system I had wanted for so many years. I bought most of it used. Added a few new pieces the last couple of years. Now I'm investing in music.

But stay tuned. The reports of my audio demise have been greatly exaggerated.