What improvements did you hear in going from entry level to high end Audio?

I heard more detail. Better transparency and detail 
Oh god....

And who is defining entry level and high end audio??

Do you not see just how flawed your thread is?

Over and out!
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Uberwaltz. I’m not hear to debate whether my question is flawed. If you have an answer then answer. If it don’t apply to you then don’t.

@jab some of the systems sounded great. Even the ones that were not that expensive. Seemed like a lot of guys did well at system matching. The Raidho stuff with chord electronics didn’t excite me. I liked the room that had nagra and kharma. The magico room was ok.  I went to the mbl room and it was nice but it didn’t wow me. I went into the tidal room with Doug white and I think his system sounded great. Rick Schultz and the High fidelity room sounded great. The harbeths had a nice sound 
I was referring to the 20k and up systems as far as the higher end if that answers your question. 
One thing about audiogon that I see is on the forum asks a serious question. You always have trolls with the useless attempt at comedy. If you don’t have a serious answer the beat it! 
I have found these changes in my humble journey (not in any particular order):
1. Speakers disappearing
2. Improved colors for different instruments
3. Instead of your brain interpreting the feel of what an instrument is made from - brass, wood, pig-skin - the rig imparts the info.
4. Removal of congestion when the music got busy
5. Increased stage depth - instruments hang in space
6. Improvement in fine inner detail. e.g. a tiny cough or comment in the audience, shimmer of a brushed cymbal, rosin puffing off a bow, a smile on the vocalist’s face...
7. Minute changes to system easily heard.
8. All recordings sound great, even damaged vinyl.
Allow me to overstate my case.

Entry level uses cheap parts with lots of magnetically sensitive materials in the electrical signal pathways (pathways of any nature)

Good gear, high end gear, uses non magnetic parts and components, and any plating is done with no ’inter-metallic’ (usually nickel).  Materials chosen for their low distortion of transient function and flow.

And then the system/device/part/component is re adjusted to be dynamic and neutral.

The cheap stuff screams like a banshee with nails scratching down a chalkboard made out of tin and nickel, being beaten like a crackling broken drum, every time a transient or micro transient is re-created. importantly, this area of transients and micro transients, is the whole enchilada on how and what we hear, so these incredibly minimal distortions are the THE entire game itself. Period.

this pathetic and hurtful screech is misheard and misunderstood as highs and detail..... when it is really just the core of the offense and distortion that cheap audio gear can make.

Critically, it fakes the detail and info via non-linear out of phase added distortions, all while it masks or covers up the real information. Likened to covering up a bullet hole on your body with a bigger shotgun wound. Death piled up on the insults, it is.

so it’s not just listening, it’s about re-gauging what you are hearing, with these points in mind, and looking inside the unit to see how it is constructed and with what parts. All this is expensive. 1/4 watt resistors jump from 1 cent to 35 cents each, kinda thing.

It comes down to re-adjusting how you listen and hear things. things might seem a bit darker at first, as no one is sticking hot noisy drills into your ears anymore. When you relax and listen, you find that things are actually more tonally rich (in a correct and real way), detailed and dynamically perfected. The overt illiteracy of the mosh pit punt in the face (aurally) from magnetically sensitive elements in the electrical chain - is now missing. (the ’all cymbals sound the same’ problem of early digital plays out here as well--these magnetically sensitive elements provide their own typical and typified distortions)

Once you ’get it’..aurally, listening wise... there’s no going back.

And that is what begins to be the ~true~ separation point between high end and run of the mill audio schlock.

Oh yes. Fewer people and companies do it right, than you might think. It costs money and the buying group is MUCH smaller. How can one sell an item, and be around long enough with enough sales to make a living... if no one is listening nor understands it?

The bulk of the bell curve in any scenario is always mediocre, as that is it’s nature. The same goes for high end audio. You are not going to find the qualities I’m speaking of in a $500 item. All you’ll find there is trade-offs in noise. That is, if the designer was wise enough to even know these things or care about them.

I’ve even seen more than a few designers playing with the noise, shaping it, and so on... and selling that game to people. Collagen lips and breast implants for attracting buyers, in the world of audio.

When a neutral and corrected piece of gear is placed in the average noisy system, people can think it is dark and has no detail, when that is so far from the truth that it’s frightening. Happens all the time.

Frighteningly, in my experience, some high end tweaks and tweak hardware is predicated on accentuation of differing noise parameters... and goes in the exact opposite direction of where things should be going.

It’s a difficult subject, at best.

All we can do is figure it all out ourselves, one at a time. There is no other possible solution, engineering and textbooks and electrical engineering dogma can take a long walk off a short pier -- as this is about the abstract aspects of individual hearing....and it can be no other way.

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It is hard to mentally compare now to many years ago, and while improvements each may have made significant changes in sound, they don't covey overall level changes of the type the OP asked about.
My best memory of what really significant change  has come about occurred when I was playing with my sister's college Thorens tt--a 145? I think with the original cartridge installed.  I listened to a few songs and was thinking of how this really sounded pretty good, and then I switched back to my SME setup and the change was almost startling.
 So I think that maybe inserting one component in your chain that is entry-level might be  a good way to demonstrate the differences that have been achieved in the evolution of a system.

So actually....
  I have 3 systems in my house.  2 of them are Surround Sound systems tha I regard as mid fi.  I didn’t start off planning to have two Surround Sound systems, but for a few years I had adult children living in my basement on a rotating basis and I cobbled together a system down there for their entertainment, hoping to keep them down there and out of my hair.  It’s been a few years now since we’ve had extended stays...
  My two channel system in a relatively small bedroom upstairs is my high end system, although judging by the standards of some here it would be considered mid Fi.  Speakers are B&W 803 D (the first with Diamond Tweeters, from roughly 2004).  Current Pre Amp and Power Amp are both Parasound Halo, John Curl.
I have 2 DACs—a first generation Mytek Manhatten and Bryston BDA-3.  3 Digital sources—Sony 5400 ES CD/SACD player, Oppo 203, and Bluesound Vault2.  Another digital source is my MacAir with Audirvana +.  I have a Synology NAS which I currently control with either the Bluesound or the Oppo.  I sold off my Vinyl Rig a year and a half ago, but it’s latest iteration was a Clearaudio Concept turntable and mc Concept cartridge with a Musical Surroundings phono Pre amp.
  I am not sure that you would care about the two Surround Systems, but here goes,minus the monitors.  My living room has a 10 year old Onkyo receiver.  Digital sources are an Oppo 105 which is also the DAC for the Bluesound Node2 and the latest generation Apple TV.  Speakers are Silverline Minuets as fronts , a Silverline center speaker, (these used to be rears until my wife got tired of every room in the house looking like a AV emporium) crossing over to a Paradigm sub at 80; rears are in Wall Paradigms..  The room for this system is fantastic, a perfect shoebox rectangle, and the only reason that it doesn’t house my 2 channel is that my wife spends a fair amount of time here (her space-she watches a bit more TV than I do, sits here with friends, etc).  And although the equipment is more prosaic here, I’m always impressed and just how good this system sounds when I have the house to myself and get to experiment.
  Basement surround: Speaker fronts are Silver Panatellas (long discontinued floor-standers), Center is aBoston Acoustics, and so are the rears.  Pioneer Elite Pre Amp outputting to Parasound 5 channel power amp, and a Pioneer Elite DVD/SACD Player connected to the Pioneer receiver by “I Link”.  A cheap Sony BDP, another ATV and Bluesound Node2.  This system has to compete with my Forced Air furnace which is one noisy sucker, so that and potential flooding concerns exclude this from ever being the main listening area.
I just made the jump from a typical college dorm/bachelor pad system from the 1980's to a system that probably cost around $20k 10 years ago.

Of course there is a difference and it is not subtle. At the same time I do not find it life altering and I would never consider spending $20k on an audio system.....even as I get more and more into this hobby....which, in many ways and like many hobbies can get bat crap crazy real fast.

Just look at noromance's response, which is a nice, thoughtful and honest response. However, if someone is asking what the difference is between high and low end, they are very unlikely to have any notion of what things like speakers disappearing are, or improved colors for different instruments (when we don't know what an instruments's color is to begin with), or what congestion is.

We might can form an idea of what stage depth means and what detail entails. We might wonder why we want to hear a cough in the audience.

He also mentions minute changes to system easily heard. I've struggled with this. And that fact makes me feel like I just don't get it....until I come to audiophile forums and find people insulting each other's mothers over the merits of cable burn in or expensive power cables....all of whom have $20k+ systems.

Not knocking his response. I'm sure it is spot on for audiophiles but maybe not for those planning on being audiophiles.

And there is a whole language that you have to learn in order to discuss all this too. And even among the best audiophile writers it seems like the language and terms are inadequate....not that the critic or writer isn't competent but just that words often can't describe what they're hearing. And subsequently you hear a lot of those terms over and over again to describe various components and tweaks....which makes you wonder if they're real or worth the $1000 you just spent on speaker cables (like mine).

My advice as someone jumping in: don't overthink sound quality that you are happy with. Don't become unhappy with what you have because someone else says theirs is better or even worse because someone wants you to buy what they make. Remember, the economy, and especially the audiophile economy, runs on dissatisfaction. For me, I don't want or need another hobby that keeps me in a constant state of dissatisfaction and envy especially when that dissatisfaction is based on largely subjective observations and personal preference.

Having said all that, I am happy with how my system sounds, I find it intoxicating, I enjoy listening more and find myself finding more time in order to do it. And having said that, I can still listen to my 1980 Toshiba receiver driving 1990's Bose bookshelf speakers and really, deeply enjoy good music....and to be honest....still be amazed how good they sound!
That you have to get the speaker amp marriage correct or nothing else matters. What amp(s) does your speaker designer use? Might be a good way to get there.

noromance covered all the "sonic" improvements, which leaves the matter of involvement, immersion, suspension-of-disbelief, excitement, ability to discern the artists "intent" (for those who, Like Art Dudley, think playback equipment can affect such things), and, most importantly, increased musical comprehension (of complex music like Beethoven Symphonies, and J.S. Bach’s Concerto For 4 Harpsichords And Orchestra, the latter placing great demands on a system’s ability to unravel the individual threads of a dense musical weave).

Of course, the quality of a system's abilities in purely sonic terms affects the above too.

Mahler you get a lot of stuff.  Some really good stuff in your two channel system. I have Gato FM6 speakers, Kr Audio va900 intergrated amplifier. Resonessence Mirus pro Dac,Sony modwright 5400 Es CD player, Melco n1a server.  Rel 212se subwoofer in my two channel.  Then a pioneer receiver with def tech 7.1 in bedroom oppo 103. With martin Logan sub. The things that I hear now that i didn’t hear with the cheaper system I had 10 years ago.  I heard more transparency, better inner detail, better treble decay, more open midrange, better soundstage, blacker background and better dynamics with my current system. I just hear more of everything.  I probably spent too much that’s why I’m stooping now. I have great sound I’m just searching for the best music and recordings I can find and enjoy.  I have kind of been spoiled. I had access to a lot of higher priced gear on loan. Stuff that was 10 and 20k per item and I got long demos with it.  I also had a great group of Audio nut friends that played in the high end so I got to hear some great system. I’m in a good place now. I’m gonna stay with what I have for a while.
To m e it all depends on "whose" high end audio you're referring to.  Not all "high end" audio manufacturers float my boat.  But when I do hear differences they usually begin with tone, especially the piano.  Once that is right to my ears, other things fall into place.  Soundstage, dimension, separation of vocals, instruments, detail, macro to micro to macro passages, bass detail and definition, more floating of the sound, decay of notes, large scale orchestration layers with dimension, etc.

Happy Listening.
I must admit some of the high end stuff is not that good that’s why you have to do your research. I don’t buy high end unless I can hear and know it’s probably going to match. I don’t buy sight unseen or unheard. 
Learning how to listen, comparing what I'm hearing to my perceived idea of realism, and finally does the music on a better system take me to a place of emotional catharsis, or is something distracting me from all of that? I used to listen to Love over Gold on an old pair of Kan 2s for hours, it was like a mini vacation for me. Current Tukans are close. Trial pair of Uber hyped A2.4s distracted me from the music, hollow dips, didn't engage me. Music is my drug these days.
Noromance; I really like your definitions and your journey course. That defines for me the essence of the music. I just had a 4 hour listening session with my wife and our favorite red wine. We marvel at all the nuances of our private concerts in our home listening environment. Beginner or advanced, it's all a measure of the enjoyment you pull from the music. It truly is a journey which may or may not have an end in sight. 
@heardthat---you gotta wife who sits with you listening to music for four hours? Now THAT'S a keeper! Your system must sound real good too, especially at high frequencies. Women are more sensitive to hf distortion than many men, perhaps because we typically have hearing loss up there.
OP-    What improvements did you hear in going from entry level to high end Audio?

My wife could speak louder. "IT COST HOW MUCH?"
@marqmike it’s funny. Me and my buddy would laugh because our wives knew we were not stepping out on them because we would rather spend our money and Time on Audio. Lol. We were nuts in this hobby for about 10 years straight 
I remember when I was first shopping for audio, looking for my first "real" system. I asked the sales guy why I would but a separate preamp and amp and not a receiver. He said he would demonstrate.
He played a song on the receiver and then the separates, (Tracy Chapman Fast Car) that started with some simple guitar and vocals, and then a sort of crescendo with the full band coming in. I remember the biggest difference I heard was that with the receiver the crescendo sounded good but all the sounds blended together. With the separates I could hear all the voices and instruments much more distinctly. The rest, as they say, is history.
More coherence, more tuneful and detailed bass and more natural vocals. And also very important...wider dynamic range!
I have a hard time articulating the difference that I hear. "Richer" and "rounder" are words that seem to apply but I don't really know.

The one thing I can clearly pinpoint in the type of music I listen to most is clear differentiation between instruments on the low end. In other words, notes from the bass guitar are clear and distinct and they are also clear and distinct from the kick drum and toms even when played at the same time. Of course the recording is important here. Some recordings are muddy even if the system isn't.
You are right.  What I find out is that you must have good to great recordings and when you do in a higher end system it’s a real treat. I also hear better instrument seperation, instrument placement and layering when I went to a higher end system. 
Listening tonight and enjoying my system. It’s worth every dime. Music makes me happy! MA recordings great high fidelity high quality music!
My system wasn't exactly entry level.  I had an Adcom pre, an Aragon 4004 amp and a Best Buy CD player with Polk SDA-1 speakers.    Then I added a Krell KRC-3 preamp and that made all the difference.  Crosby Stills and Nash, the first album had a song called Gwenivere on it.  Crosby and Nash sing a duet.  At one point they stop singing and I could hear them patting their feet on the floor.  I had never heard that before.  So much more detail.  It was like I was hearing the songs for the first time!  If I'm testing out a new component (among other things) if I can't hear the feet it's a no go.  Hope that helps.
The path to high end is long and expensive in most cases. Few push the boat out and buy a $200 000 system for example. Some get caught up what gear is reviewing well, hype of the back of it in shops Etc. All our ideas of what the ultimate is true high end vary greatly.  I like fast powerful clean sound that takes your mind away from everything else to it. That sweet spot sound at a concert where the engineer has it down. Loud clear but not harsh. So my journey has ended in big studio monitors with active crossover multiple power amps driven by a pre amp connected to good but not overly expensive source components. Some would say this array of boxes and cables are crazy but I go for performance first looks second and live with the mess. We all get a taste of a particular sound that gets us hooked. Then we spend or overspend to reach our sometimes unattainable dreams. Could say loads more but this is enough for now. 
Jbselector great post! I always tell people that your audio nirvana and mine are not the same. I’m the type that when I hear something great. It becomes my reference and I will try to get to it by spending less than they spent.  Less for some people is $500 for some people it’s 5k for some people it’s 50k. Depends on your income and or willingness to chase it. You attempt to find the match of cables and components that make it happen for you. The reason I started this thread and others is because I see a lot of posts that treat those of us who spend more to get there like we are foolish and that the manufacturers are selling us all snake oil. There are some manufacturers who charge way too much for what they sell. However, if it gets a person to THIER Audio joy then it’s worth it to them.  I asked if people had heard certain gear and combinations so that I could figure out what their reference point was and even that turned into a debate negatively.  They may hear a speaker with a different amp and cables and that could change everything. We all have our opinions so if you spend the money you make on what you want then my OPINION IS THAT OTHERS SHOULD STFU! But that’s my opinion!
Of course $20k is not essential for enjoyment. I'd say $100k minimum. I mean seriously, why would someone spend $100k or $200k on a system if it wasn't worth it?

calvinj, I think to suggest that people STFU in a forum discussing high end audio, or anything, for that matter is a little ironic. We're here to share opinions after all. I agree with you that if someone wants to spend large amounts of money for incremental differences that this their option and if it makes them happy then that is fantastic.

But we all probably have that point in which the skeptic lurking inside all of us comes out. The guy who has spent $100k on a system is going to be a tad suspicious that the guy who spent $485K on used speakers (they were listed on this site not long ago) is probably a little daft.

I also think the two ends of the spectrum are about the same: People who spend less thinking that people who spend more are doing it for reasons that don't warrant the expenditure verses people who spend more assuming that people who spend less are either settling for poor quality or just don't know the difference.

Finally, I do not believe that it is true that every additional dollar buys you a subjective or objective benefit. I think it is true up to large sums but there comes a point in most hobbies at which that extra dollar does not buy a dollars worth of benefit and in some cases will buy you less.
N80 great observation. I will tell you I have heard probably 20 systems that cost over 200k.  They systems I heard was about 700k the second best 200k. However the third best came in about 35k. The guy who put it together was really experienced at matching cables and components and he cheaply soundproofed his room. I really enjoyed his system. I would go by and listen to hours on end. I enjoyed it because had managed to get the supersystem sound at a fraction. He researched each component and took some advice from a few industry vets and hit an enjoyable home run! As far as STFU is concerned I see the same trolls on a lot of threads that say the same comments and in their minds and mouths they think they are geniuses. That was for them. Lol.  You can have a great enjoyable for less money and I admire those who are smart enough to spend less and still build a great kit!
Pipebro is that what the tapping sound is ? I always thought it was Stills tapping time on the body of his guitar. Not sure I would use that as a reference for a high end system, I can hear it on my samsung tablet and I'm over 60 with high freq hearing loss. 
I am glad that you enjoy your system Calvin.  That’s all that matters.  
I am in a good place as well.  I have had more expensive demo stuff in my system, and it didn’t work.  Not in it for “my stuff costs more than yours” factor.
And I truly believe that I am at the asymptotic part of the curve, where shelling out a lot of extra cash will only marginally improve things.
  For a long time my base system was my College dorm system—Advent 3 bookshelf speakers, an entry level Pioneer receiver, entry level turntables, cassette recorders, and then a Sony 14 bit CDP.  When I finally started upgrading, each successive change was huge.  Now, not so much
Mahler I agree.  Now I am where I am if I spent more the system would only probably get small fractions better.  I’m going to pretty much keep what I got and be happy. I guess some people have approached my threads like I’m bragging on how much I spent.  I’m actually not and to be honest my system costs a fraction of the other guys I know.  Their systems cost 2,3,4 times what I paid.  I’m at a good spot in the hobby.  I think I have good enough stuff to pull a great sound that can surpass the way more expensive stuff 
For a quick answer:  Getting the bass correct.  I changed speakers over 10 times. Combinations with subwoofers didn't work. About 8 years ago I went with Evolution Acoustics MM2 which nailed it
For me its about the size of the soundstage, transparency (i.e. hearing the smallest details of the recording), and dimensionality.  I do think what type of music you are listening to is key.  I'm sure for heavy metal death rock there are other parameters one would search for, but for the classic folk rock I listen to, those are my goals.  All tube system with 45 SET monoblocks playing Dylan on vinyl, I can close my eyes and feel his presence in the room.  The better the system the more aware I become of how the source was recorder and mixed.  But I don't think $$ always equates with better.  My Cary equipment is marginally better than my bottlehead setup, but really it's mostly about aesthetics.  I've never heard an over $100,000 setup, maybe they would blow me away, but I can't help feeling that with the vibrancy of the under $5000 used market some people just have money to burn.  It's all good.  :-)
Teo_audio nailed it.

That's exactly what cheap electronic components are and what they sound like. My only quibble is this: the price spread in resistors is not 35:1, it's more than 1000:1 (nude Vishays retail at $16 each).

In my preamp, volume is controlled by a gain circuit, implemented as a rotary switch with discrete resistors. As an experiment, I put different types of resistor in each place, and heard huge differences, Vishay being clearly the best. Oddly enough, the most expensive resistor (yes, more expensive than Vishay) sounded the worst, and was unlistenable.

Same is true of capacitors. Only a few designers can make electrolytic caps sound like anything but nails on a chalkboard; but they are small, and cheap, and therefore popular with some manufacturers.

Ditto for mechanical noise. A cheap turntable introduces all sorts of noise which manifests as high frequency tizz. Why did that rube spend $10,000 on a turntable which sounds so dark? Because, on careful listening, it produces sounds similar to live music. Because you can listen for 4 hours at a stretch, and be sorry it can't be for 5.

Once you have heard these things, it can become an obsession, as it obviously did with me.
terry9 said:

"That's exactly what cheap electronic components are and what they sound like."

I suspect that's what the guy with the $500,000 speakers (used) says too. And unless you have $500,000 speakers he'd say your stuff was "cheap" and sounded like it. Thus the 'infinite regression' nature of such comments.
Sorry if I offended you, N. But that’s the physics.

There is no component which is pure resistance, pure capacitance, pure inductance, pure gain. And there are other effects, such as dielectric absorption, phase shift, temperature stability, etc. Each component and each combination of components has its own mixture of these, and its own sonic signature. And may be priced accordingly.

To quote Horowitz and Hill, in their famous electronics tome, from the table on characteristics of capacitors,
"Electrolytic: Accuracy - Terrible; Temp Stability - Ghastly; Leakage - Awful".

Again, sorry to offend you, N. But that’s the physics.

The whole wall came alive, versus the sound coming from just the speakers or the lower end half of the wall.
More body and detail.louder without any distortion.Natural timbre. Big improvement in bass. Uniform across frequency range. 
A better audio system allows me to hear with greater detail and resolution, the faint sound of money draining from my bank account!