Thoughts from THE Show, is $29k the new $10k?

Had another enjoyabe brief one day visit to THE Show, Newport Beach last weekend. Great to see so many fellow hobbiests, and great gear. Went in search of speakers; here is a brief and disjointed summary of my impressions:
Many vendors were focusing on the $25-32k range; with most for sale around $29k as an entry point to 'quality'.
Rockport showed their new entry, $29k speaker in the Atrium. Had great balance; was warm, detailed, and engaging. First show presence for dealer; nice guy. My first experience with Rockport; was very impressed.
Eficion: at the Hilton; wow; for $16k I think it gives Wilson a run for its money with the Sophia; its AMT ribbon tweeter had great crystal highs, and its large woofer filled the room with satisfying bass, I enjoyed it.
BMC: nice gear; their $32k speakers had dipole arrangement; with both front and rear firing speakers; very engaging, huge sound stage, and great low end response. Paired up nicely with their amp/dac
YG: brought my own CD; so I was familiar with what was possible; initialy liked their sound;but in the end found it a bit 'dry', and brittle; and not totally enjoyable, this was at at least three different rooms showing their speakers.
Wilson Shasha's in the Brooks-Barden room; always a treat; enjoyed their room treatments, and professionalism, nice analog set up. Warm, detailed, lovely, and engaging.
Ventures: wow, very expensive; and very large...but totally engaging; great integration, warm, detailed, expansive sound stage, great bass, huge open subtle nuance on female voices...
Ayon: liked their Lumen White's better last year, than their own speaker line this year, but great amps and dac.
Found the KEF blades a bit disappointing, surprised at how large they are in person.
Enjoyed the TAD speakers again this year, well balanced, integrated very well.
There was a 'curved' line array speaker; I forget its name that also was quite good, interesting design, but filled the room with great sound; no glare.
The Veloce gear, with its battery source was extremely 'quiet' and detailed, and enjoyable.
Surprised how many room utilized the Synergistic Research ART treatments...hard to tell how it improved things; but can't argue with the results.
Too much to see and listen to in one brief day. Curious to hear from other members their take....I know you don't need to spend so much to get quality sound, but so many vendors showing off their $29k speakers made me want to chuckle; and take out a home loan...also thought the digital and computer audio was getting very close now to the analog rigs.
Love having this showcase in our backyard on the west coast; and will contiue to support and attend. Kudos to Bob Levi; and his team at LA/OC audio society; another great job; and Tierney Sutton singing on Friday night was an extra special treat.
This is one manifestation of a problem that is going to become more acute over the next several years for a growing range of products, including cars, televisions and appliances. As the middle class disappears in the United States, and countries with emerging wealth see it concentrated in a relatively small number of hands, high-end manufacturers find themselves trying to chase bigger and bigger sales to a smaller audience - those able to buy five and six figure pieces of equipment, with the abundance of money, interest in the hobby, and lack of common sense that all seem to be prerequisites to purchasing most of these new ultra-high end products.

I used to shake my head in wonder when Stereophile would refer to a three or thousand dollar component as "affordable." Recently, I read a piece in a British hi Fi magazine that called a five-figure pair of speakers "entry level" and about fell out of my chair laughing.

My advice: Buy good new and used equipment from Audio Research, Manley, Conrad-Johnson, VTL, Magnepan, Totem, Spendor, and the other "old guard" high-end companies while ye may- if these trends continue, those companies will soon be gone, and those of us who can't afford, or aren't dumb enough, to buy 29k "entry level" speakers and 40k amplifiers will be left adrift.
Or, the companies focus their efforts on the upper price ranges, where they can make more money, and offer the true 'entry level' line as 'trickle down' technology, perhaps sharing design attributes, but manufactured in places with cheap labor, e.g. the Acme Line by Brand X.
I think there will always be more modestly priced stuff available at a more grass roots level that is still serious enough to listen to and not mass market consumer product disposable junk. But, we will tell our grandkids that back in our day, you could buy a first rate preamp or loudspeaker for a few thousand dollars, and they will feign interest while watching the latest holo-video on their virtual screen retina implants.
Rdavwhitaker knows about the world and the economy,common sense and not being foolish to be sucked in just because something has a high price tag on it. If companies could build items half as good as they can lie and market, maybe they could honestly make a good living. Magico? As much as they cost, what is so amazing about them? Try selling them on the used market. Aston Marin, CAT, MBL, Bently, Rolls. They should do what you are paying for. I just don't see anything amazing about it. It's the LEAST they can and should do.
I didn't attend the show, but because of my recent experience looking for speakers, I agree that the entry level seems to be right below 30K. I sold my Sophia 3s and found a used pair of Sasha's. Unfortunately, as good as I thought Sophia 3s were, I submit Sasha's are the first really high-end speaker that I've ever owned and I've had Sophia 2s, 3s, Audio Physic Virgo 3s, Devore, Artemis, Mirage M1, and several more. I was just telling my wife it's sad that everything cost as much as it does. Sasha's are the first speaker I ever owned that sounds natural to me, especially with good recordings.


I couldn't disagree with you more! You said,"dumb enough, to buy 29K "entry level" speakers and 40k amplifiers will be left adrift." Some people have the money and 29k speakers and 40K amplifiers are nothing to them. Me I'm not rich, retired after 28 years in the Air Force and work everyday. I've been enjoying this hobby for 30 years. I've never bought new, usually purchased demo's and have slowly traded up over many years. I submit most audiophiles sacrifice other things to enjoy their hobby. I for one appreciate those who are rich enough to afford new expensive gear because it keeps the high-end going and all of us benefit.
any comments on the speakers mentioned? Other consideration for 'Best of Show'? It was a great show, like to hear from others...even though the price of admission now for gear is geting a bit steep...
I could write a *very* long post on this, but for now I won't. As with last year, once again this year I found a general rule that above about $12k, speakers (and amps) became less musically convincing the more expensive they are. Aside from knowing what my Zu Definition 4 sound like, the most convincing speakers were the single-driver Audience, the Lindemann standmount, Nola, Vivid, and the one 1%-er speaker I heard that passes my gate, the Magico Q3 (which I thought was much better than the S5, to the point of sounding like it came from a different -- and better -- designer). The KEF Blade has potential, but it was insane to mate them to Chord amplification -- a sure way to strip them of tone.

There were many musically acceptable imitative speakers still short of worth buying at all prices. Then, too, many built for ego rather than sound. If I never hear another Focal, Wilson, Scaena, McIntosh or Vandersteen speaker (among other offenders), I'll be better off having been spared.

I liked the Venture speakers very much- probably best of show for me. They were also amongst the largest speakers at the show-in the largest room. Not sure which model they were, but their top of the line speaker, and over 100K.
I was very intrigued to see the Rockports-my first experience with them. I agree that the dealer was very professional, and a nice guy too. He mentioned that the speakers were still very new-only two weeks old, and still breaking in.
Also mentioned that they sounded much better by Saturday, compared to the day before. While they had a beautiful mid-range, they seemed somewhat reserved or held back. Maybe they needed more break-in, along with the associated gear. I will need to hear them again to make any judgement.
I also found the Rockport Avior with top end BAT gear very enjoyable (I spent time there on two seperate days and was very impressed). I also thought the new (smaller) TAD floorstand speakers (called Evolution Ones?) that were set up on Friday to be excellent (they were about $27k). The big TAD speakers I thought were "Best of Show" but a lot of that may have been due to the quality of the music the designer brought with him. I was impressed with everything he played last year and he may have even topped himself this year - extremely well done and he was very approachable and amenable to playing music attendees brought with them. The new small Sony AR-2s I thought also sounded good even in the cavernous room they were set up in. I also spent time listening to the Wilson Sasha, the KEF Blade and the new Magico speaker (Q3?) which was paired with ultra high end Solution electronics and top of the line Synergistic Research cabling. All in all, it was an excellent show.
I don't know if $29k is the new $10k, but there are an awful lot of speakers in that price range (besides some of the above, there are also the Audio Physics Aventera, the Tidal Piano, Aearial 20T V2, Sony AR1, Marten Byrd, and Focal (Scala Utopia?) among others. If you have that type of budget, you could go crazy trying to figure out which is best for you.
"Many vendors were focusing on the $25-32k range"

Can a show targeting consumers in Newport Beach/Orange COunty California possibly be regarded as indicative of the world in general? No doubt this show would be targeting the high concentration of ultra rich in that area accordingly.

Obviously, any viable product in that price range should perform exceptionally. Personal taste becomes the main discriminating factor. Also room size. You need bigger more expensive speakers and amps to listen loud and lifelike in larger rooms, but for most, a smaller less expensive system can do exceptionally well, in many cases as good or better than larger or more expensive gear.

OF course, if one is continually looking to do better, the tendency will be to spend more over time I suspect. But I often wonder if a compare between what one has after years and many more $$$S on the constant upgrade path could be made with what they had a few years back, how much better would the latest and greatest really be?

What I find works for me is to listen to as much live music and the best reference systems as I can. Then do what is needed to my gear to attempt to match. Once I get to the point where what I hear at home does not leave me wanting further, based on the reference sounds I have heard, I mostly stop or certainly slow down and think a lot before changing anything.
I have that kind of money, and will never be foolish to pay that much. Nobody benefits but the sellers of these products. I've met many salesmen that could not afford to buy the exact items they sell, and most of them agree, the prices are not worth what you get. OTOH if you have the money to burn, go ahead.
ALso, when I upgrade, I try to do it one reasonably small step at a time. That provides a better chance of getting it right and retaining value without overspending.

Once you dump megabucks into that one silver bullet upgrade, cost being no object, it is hard to go back, finances permitting.

From fast food, to health care, colleges, movies, to "Real Housewives" to high end audio, I suppose bigger, better, more is often the American way. Its a big reason why we are where we are these days. Too much of the wrong kinds of progress that often benefits few and might actually harm many. Hopefully we have learned something and are largely past this at this point with the homes we live in. Why not audio as well?

Is this heresy to express on a high end audio site? I hope not. "High End" can be a relative and not absolute thing I hope.
Agree with Polk432...

Too many speakers (and other gear), that is hidiously over-priced. Magico is one that comes to mind... unecessarily over-built and over-priced as a result. All the "guts" of that speaker IS NOT NEEDED to create good sound.

If you like them and are happy to pay $25k for a pair of "entry level" monitors, great. But for us "normal" people that have household incomes of $75-$125k, spending that much on a single component is just plain foolish.

There are excellent monitor speakers out there for $3k to $6k new and even less on Audiogon. If you think that Magico monitors sound $20k better, you may want to check you priorites - no matter how much money you have to piss away. I have heard Magico and was not impressed nearly enough to warrant those kind of prices.
"If you like them and are happy to pay $25k for a pair of "entry level" monitors, great"

Well, they are no doubt expensive and well built, but not sure I'd consider them "entry level" just because they are relatively small, if not light. They do what they do (not everything) pretty well and monitors including these are a good size for many urban dwellers with limited space.

I wonder, at the Newport show, were there any vendors with lower cost gear running any demos comparing their stuff to the bigger boys? That would make things a lot more interesting to me.
Ricred1 is, at the Brits say, 'spot on.' There has long been a market for very expensive equipment new, by the standards of the day, and this equipment passes down to lesser mortals as the flavor of the month makes those pieces 'obsolete.' Granted, in some or in many cases, the 'mkii' will be better, but sometimes, I'm not sure that is true or not true in all respects for all purposes (e.g. I am thinking here of my purchase many years ago of the ARC SP-10mk ii, which was superceded by a different sounding SP-11). And, unlike the car business, which is very tough to penetrate on a cottage industry level, we do have loads of small manufacturers, inventor-driven companies, that offer value for the dollar. The very raison d'etre of this site is the trade in 'used' hi-end equipment. Thanks for the reminder, Ricred1.
(And if you want to see real depreciation, look at modern high end cars which, with few exceptions, plummet in value the moment they drive off the lot).
I only meant "entry-level" for Magico - Magico would consider them their entry leve (least expensive) speaker.

I think anyone actually calling any audio component "entry level" that cost that much needs their head examined.
"There has long been a market for very expensive equipment new, by the standards of the day, and this equipment passes down to lesser mortals as the flavor of the month makes those pieces 'obsolete.'

If true, and it well may be, then this essentially says that this expensive gear is overpriced and will not maintain value. USed prices probably support that. Nothing unusual though. Few items, luxury or otherwise, including cars, retain value. I guess if you can truly afford these things, you do not care much about depreciation. Must be nice!

But what about those who stretch and really cannot afford these things? Different story and perhaps more likely not a happy ending?
I truly believe that someone in this hobby that spends "more than they should" likely appreciates the gear more. My long time dealer of 20+ years had these people come into his store all the time, rolling up in a $90k BMW or Mercedes (the new Ford-like junk that is always in the shop), with a total attitude and big bank account. They did not even care to really listen much to the speakers or equipment, just wanted "the best" they had, something as good (or better) than their neighbor had. Even though he would make larger commisions on these customers, he always favored actually dealing/spending time with customer like me that are not rich and still try like hell to buy the best gear they can afford.... and are spending more than they really should by most people standards on their hobby.
"They did not even care to really listen much to the speakers or equipment, just wanted "the best" they had, something as good (or better) than their neighbor had."

Well, honestly I think just about any salesperson likes customers like this. I know I did years ago working for essentially minimum wage + commissions selling gear at Tech Hifi, Lafayette Radio, and Radio Shack. The most expensive gear offered at any of these still offered value for most. However, there were some clunkers even at the top of the lines that I would always try to steer people away from. Those big top of the line Radio Shack/Realistic Mach horn loaded speakers ($400/pair list I recall) are the ones that come to mind that many might remember. BIC turntables (crappy sound poor build quality and always breaking) were another.
I tend to agree with the feeling that lots of expensive speakers are priced so just because they can. Price doesn't necessarily equate quality.

I came across the Athom GT-1s and thought they were wonderful sounding. A small monitor (stand mounted) in the $3.6K range that I could happily live with if I could afford it. I wouldn't even need a sub. Coplands 'Fanfare For The Common Man' was playing and I couldn't believe the bass, coherence, timing and smoothness of this little gem. They were the entry level of their upper range and they had the top of the line of their lower range (a floorstander) for the same price for comparison. I didn't get a chance to here the lower line speaker and frankly, didn't care to.

They also had the Aphion Ion+ which, I'm sorry to say, although nice sounding, paled in comparison to the Athom to the point that even with the price difference, I'd go for the Athom and worry about the monthly payments later. Granted, it was in a different system but if short term, basic impressions matter any, then it was no contest.

I don't know what you're looking for and what price you're willing to pay but if you can, you should give the Athom GT-1 an audition.

All the best,
THe Athom's are $4000/pair?

Interesting they are French made by a guy formerly with Triangle. They reminded me of my Triangle Titus XS speakers at first glance. Except almost 10X the price of those ~ 15 years later?
Map- I wasn't necessarily implying that the 'latest thing' was always overpriced, but as you said, depreciation sets in fast, particularly when the latest version or model comes out, or when the folks on the knife edge change view and decide that a certain type of component doesn't offer the "best" approach. There are of course, 'cult' items that retain or increase in value, but those are probably the exception.
He mentioned that the speakers were still very new-only two weeks old, and still breaking in.

Is it just me or does this line seem to come up often in threads about shows? These people know they are going to be showcasing their wares, why wouldn't they bring equipment that is in tip top, ready to hear condition? Sorry but it seems like nothing more than a weak excuse for subpar sound to me. Just my opinion, nothing more.
I agree with Tpreaves. Excellent observation. Set up and "the room" are also frequently used at shows to excuse less than excellent sound.

Regarding all of the $29K speakers. Just wait 18 months. Some will be here for $15-19K. The problem is that the Sony and TAD speakers rarely come on the used market. Most of the others will be here though. I'm waiting to see the Q1 and Q3 at used prices. Those should be relatively good values in a few years, IMO.
Nonoise, have you heard the Atohm GT-2's? Just curious to how they sounded compared to the GT-1s. I think they make their own drivers.
I'm so happy to be enough of a prole that I could not tell that much of a difference b/w what I have and what I heard at last year's show to even THINK about paying that kind of money. I want the equipment to do justice to the music- but $30K for speakers??!!!
I wonder how many of these companies with rediculously priced components will be around next year.

No, I haven't heard the GT-2 but if it's a step up from the GT-1, it probably sounds great.

I checked out a review of them and they do make their own drivers and their cabinets are really braced well: reinforcements everywhere. I'm still thinking of the excursions that small driver was going through to make such a big, full sound. There was a guy there who put his ear next to it to make sure the music was coming from that speaker, twice.

All the best,
It's fun to see what somebody comes up with when the design budget constraints don't exist...Buggati my sneakers away! But merely interesting and actually irrelevant to most people. Luckily you can put together a system that satisfies musically for a fraction of the cost of "audio porn", and the real value to me is when I come home after hearing some luxurious machines at maybe Goodwin's or someplace and realize my relatively inexpensive but carefully assembled assortment of mostly used or inexpensive newer stuff is beautiful to behold. Funny...where I live I'm near a few high end places and you cannot buy a turntable phono cable or a tube at any of them. Or any music. Go figure...

"I agree with Tpreaves. Excellent observation. Set up and "the room" are also frequently used at shows to excuse less than excellent sound."

I wonder. Having been to only a few shows, however, some displayed systems that are a few hundred thouhsands dollars worth of equipments, I was always rather underwhelmed. Coming back home to listen to my own system is always a treat after a show. Even speakers that I own or speakers that I am familiar with, from friend's system etc always sound quite a bit worse at show. Certainly there are some good sound at a show but it seems that generally, you'll be lucky to hear 40-50% of what the system is truly capable of.

I wonder which system have anybody heard at show that sound as good or better as a comparable system that you have at home?
Some audio companies build and market audio products at prices far in excess of their value, and some people buy them at prices I may not agree with or possibly even be able to afford. Both parties are very happy to make the transaction, so why would I care, and why would you?
You still have to feed the best speakers made with good upstream to get the most out of them. I have an all tube system, and just hooked up a Linn Classik using the same wires to the same speakers and they sound different. Why? If speakers were the be all end all of the system there would be no difference in sound using different amps and preamps. Garbage in equals garbage out. 30K for speakers? Fine...But not my money...No way No how.
"I wonder how many of these companies with rediculously priced components will be around next year".

Quite a few I would think. I am not trying to write an apologia for high end manufacturers, but we live in a world where true high end kit may only be sold to a handful of people. So all the development costs, fixed costs in premises, utilities, have te born by a few sales.

That is only the beginning. Next you have marketting, distributors and retailers %, all this has to be born by the poor buyer. No wonder high end kit, be it speakers, amplifiers, whatever, only a tiny percentage of the cost, is in the material content.

I know none of this is new and has been discussed ad nauseam on this and other sites. What may be more interesting, is how every part of the"industry", is adapting. Retailers seem to be lowering fixed costs by abandoning shop fronts, to work at home. Small manufacturers, use word of mouth and shows, to avoid the need for advertising and direct sales, to reduce distributor, retailers cut.

What underlies this thread is the rapidly changing customer base for HiFi ie rapidly declining and how the industry is adapting. Adapt it must, or die.
What we are seeing in the hi-fi business is a microcosm of the retail business at large- luxury goods makers are directing their products to big ticket items, and that sector has the ability to buy stuff at the stratosphere of price. As a business model it may be hard to fault, given the alternative. I understand that China was a viable market for equipment of a size and price that would otherwise be unmarketable elsewhere in the world. Of course that may change as the world economy slows or remains in turmoil, but hi fi is not unique in this respect. If you had the choice between making a $10,000 product and selling 100 units or a $100,000 unit and selling ten of them, I have little doubt what choice would be made. Not defending the industry, but like any business, they will go where the market is. Of course, there is still real world entry level, but much of it is designed in one place (Europe or America) and built where the labor is cheap, to get to a price point. And, while I have no first hand experience with, for example, relatively inexpensive tube electronics coming out of China, for example, my impression is that it is pretty good stuff, at least competitive, even if it doesn't have the panache, or the 'overbuilt' quality of say, an ARC faceplate on the front.
My system is a "panache free zone" and sounds great, including my Chinese tube amp. My beef with the hifi scene is the utter lack of any interest in engaging the general public. Stage a concert? HA! Put out publicity anywhere but in the magazines catering to the choir? No no no. Really...maybe bring back an audio writer to the New York Times who isn't focused on iPads and large screen video. Multi millionaire Neil Young gets 5 minutes of publicity for his anti Red Box stance while selling millions of Red Box CDs and downloads, and the local "audio salons" can't even manage an email newsletter. A strange world.
"My beef with the hifi scene is the utter lack of any interest in engaging the general public"

HiFi scene: "buy expensive turntables and tube amps. THey sound the best."

General public: "Where do I plug in my ear buds?"
Suteetat, I must not have been clear enough or you misunderstood my post. I agree with you that I have rarely heard a system sound really good at a show. And coming home is a treat for me also. Nevertheless, it is fun to see/hear the latest stuff at shows and meet some of the people involved in the hobby.

"Equipment is not broken in yet", "the room is lousy", "didn't have enough time to properly set up the system" are all excuses that I have heard from vendors or read in the show reports from reviewers for why some special system did not sound great at a particular show. Or "it sounded much better on the third day or during that private listening session with my own music that only we insiders were lucky enough to hear, etc, etc."

One would think that at these prices and assuming that the vendor wants to impress a captive audience, that he would do whatever is required to get the most out of a system at a show. The other problem is that too often people talk during the demonstrations. That's usually when I leave.
Peterayer, I understand your comment but I supposed I was not really trying to explain why the sound is bad at show. Just general observation that the sound is bad. Even equipments that I am familiar with and know what they are capable of, having heard them either at home or elsewhere usually sound worse at show.

I am not sure what the main culprit is. Rooms may not be ideal but again, I heard a lot of systems that are not in dedicated listening room, my system included, that sound better than at show. Wall construction of usual hotel room is probably not ideal for stereo equipment either. Lots of demanding equipments sucking all the powers from multiple rooms at the same time probably does not help.

Generally I just feel that a show can only give me a glimpse of what the system is truly capable of. If they sound acceptable at show, they are likely to impress me a lot in another environment. Even system that sounds downright bad usually sound better elsewhere.

It is fun visit a show but it is not the place I would make my final judgement on the quality of the equipment for sure. I have not attend shows in the US for a long time so I have no idea how the rooms that get voted best sound at show etc really sound like or if they are much better than what is heard over here. However, for what's its worth, a friend who attends CES every year told me that at CES, the sound is not any better than what we hear at a local show here.
PS when I first become interested in hifi gear in late 1980's,
a great super amp costed around $5000-8000, may be only Jadis had something in excess of $10,000 that I could recalled.
Only a few speakers were over $10,000 like Infinity IRS beta and something like Martin Logan Statement/ IRS V seemed like something that I could only dream of.

Now, certainly I can afford the price range of those super equipments (inflation not included) but they are now nowhere near the uppermost brackets.Personally, that does not bother me at all. I am interested in getting the best that I can afford without financial strain. Presence of out of reach items is a common occurence in just about all things. The market will weed out the unworthy product. I don't need to be price police or get upset over those pricing myself and I am sure I don't need to be the chaperone for audiophile.
Martin Logan Statements with big Krells is one of the best systems I've ever heard.
Anyone over 50 years of age can not tell the difference between $10K and $100K of speaker. It is a fact of aging. Sorry. Save your money, buy something you like at a reasonable price. Give the other $90K to the homeless.
As far as show sound is concerned, I helped out at a show last year, by lending my speakers for the duration of a show. They were built in the US, the show was in England, so it was much easier and cheaper to use mine. I watched the set up, which was scrupulous and detailed, for hours and the sound next day was pretty good. The room was an insoluble problem though, The ceiling in particular, had loose foam tiles sitting in multiple square metal brackets. You could see them jumping about with low frequency sound, nothing you can do about that.

The basic problem many manufacturers seem to make, is to bring their top of the range, full range speakers, to use in a small hotel room. It just is'nt going to work. Why don't they bring smaller floorstanders or monitors? I am sure that is why cheaper systems often sound better at shows, than the megabucks ones
Anyone over 50 years of age can not tell the difference between $10K and $100K of speaker. It is a fact of aging.

This is surprising. My impression is that many people over fifty claim to be able to detect differences between speakers much closer in price (say Bose vs. Magnepan). I'd been inclined to believe them, but maybe I shouldn't have. Is the 90k difference undetectable even when it goes to radically different implementation (say horns v. planars)?

Bad hearing? The sky is the limit when it comes to cost, and the speaker companies know that most Americans don't care how much something costs, just how much the monthly payments are. Maybe 90K speakers do sound better than 10K speakers, but they should. There's always the chance they might not. Go ahead, spend 90K, you'll thank me now, and kick yourself later. But I'll still have good sounding speakers and my money.
Honeybee2012, it seems that making comments that have no basis in fact may be also be a sign of aging; for some. I am over 50, and I know that I and many 50+ yr olds I know can easily tell the difference. Wether that difference makes it "better" or not is an entirely different discussion.

There is a thought-provoking article in the new TAS by Dennis Prager on a related subject. Recommended reading!
"Anyone over 50 years of age can not tell the difference between $10K and $100K of speaker. It is a fact of aging."

Not exactly. Ability to hear high frequencies diminishes with age usually the case with those over 50 like myself, but most can still hear very well the frequencies where 90%+ of the music occurs plus ears become trained over years of listening to be able to pick up subtle differences better.

I am 53 and can hear relatively well up to 12 or 13 Khz. When I was 18, I could hear to 20khz. I have actually measured this using the same reference source material over the years so I can speak pretty certainly about this. "air" is one aspect of sound affected by not hearing those frequencies well. Also detail to some extent.

The fact that people so not all hear the same is a big reason why there is always such a variety of quality gear to chose from at all price points and why few chose the same things.

In my case I am able to hear clear differences with most changes I make to my rig, some subtle like with ICs, power conditioning, some more significant like amps, pre-amps, DACs, certainly speakers, etc.
06-12-12: Honeybee2012
Anyone over 50 years of age can not tell the difference between $10K and $100K of speaker. It is a fact of aging. Sorry. Save your money, buy something you like at a reasonable price. Give the other $90K to the homeless.

Damn, it really chaps my ass to find out I've been wasting money on audio equipment!!!!

I guess I need to sell all my stuff and buy a sports car. No wait, my 50+ year old reflexes would probably prevent me from being able to handle one.

I know, I'll just get me a 20 something year old girlfriend. No, that won't work either. My 50+ year old plumbing would probably prevent me from enjoying that,too.

Honeybee2012, are you really as clueless as your comment makes you out to be?
My high frequency hearing has substantially diminished with age (I'm close to 60), but my sensibility about what makes good musical sound is more attuned than ever. I spend alot of time hearing real music and have always been very critical of midrange reproduction, having lived with the old Quad for decades. So, when i hear 'spectacular' hi-fi systems, often made up of over the top, "best of category" at a given moment in time, they often don't sound like music systems, they sound like exaggerated hi-fi: impressive, but not musically satisfying, at least in show and or dealer environments. This may be partly a function of wanting to attract listeners in a 'sales' environment (shows are ultimately about moving product) and partly a function of equipment choices that are not necessarily ideal as a 'system.'
That may mean that some of the pricey newest latest and greatest can sound way better when properly set up in a home with the right associated equipment. I think I am a pretty quick study in terms of getting a sense of what a piece of equipment sounds like, but without being able to eliminate all the variables in a strange system and strange room, I can't make a meaningful assessment of a specific piece of equipment.
Hey people; I didn't expect this post to drift off into this level of 'bashing'....I was hoping that other people who enjoyed THE Show would be able to share their experiences of what they heard, what they liked, what stuff were they able to audition only at a show like this that was of was only a 'side' comment about the pricing of some of the gear that I thought interesting...
Hey, what about those BMC speakers? Does the ART room treatments really work; and if so, how? Yes, at some level our hobby has gotten expensive; this is my main vice, my wife doesn't understand why I'm buying new cables, but to my ears they complete my system; and now I can just enjoy the music. I purchased some of my gear last year as show 'demos' at good discounts, my steady dealers, that I try to support also provide decent discounts, I've bought some good used gear, and have carefully put together my 'dream' system that I fantasized about when I was back in college. I will update my system page shortly...many folks have assembled their own dream systems for a lot less than I paid...but that's whats unique about our hobby; you can gain enterance at many different the end to me its not about the 'absolute' best send, but simply enjoying the music, helping me chill out after a hard day of work; and taking pride in creating a system that works...for me, and my friends....if I've spent 'crazy' money on my system; that's only on me and my budget...not all expensive speakers sound great, not all inexpensive speakers sound poorly..after this is hobby, not a economic forum
"I know, I'll just get me a 20 something year old girlfriend. No, that won't work either. My 50+ year old plumbing would probably prevent me from enjoying that,too."

OR the other way around....(insert smiley face).

Viagra would be the right tweak maybe....
I attended The Show. I was only there for a day, so I missed a great many things, but here are some of the things I liked: Evolution Acoustics, Rockport, Daedalus, Marten.

I certainly don't think you need to spend $29K on speakers to get great sound. The Evolution Acoustics micros are going for $2500, and they were remarkable. The Daedalus Athenas are $8950, and they sounded and looked beautiful. Both are a lot less than $29K.

As for the hearing thing, which doesn't have anything to do with the OP, I agree with Whart: the diminishment of high frequency hearing is more than compensated for by the honed perception that comes with age and experience. That's not just sour grapes talking. I'm under 40, so my high frequency hearing hasn't completely gone the way of the Dodo.