Why audio streamers are so much more expensive than video streamers?

I am a newbie in Hi Fi, and just got into the process of setting up my stereo system. In budgeting the audio streamers, I found it's interesting/hard to really understand that the audio streamers are way much more expensive than video streamers. From technology perspective, video streamers offer 1080p/4k video, with extra decoding of dolby vision/HDR, with built in HDMI and USB port, and same time offers audio streaming capabilities. Not to mention some even have fancy function like voice control. If you look at the audio streamers, pretty much all we talk about is the MQA unfolding, and DSD has been around for many years. Amazon firestick is only $35 while the most affordable audio streamer starting from $400-$500 range (Node 2), and most of streamers will need extra DAC, which adds another several hundred bucks, just to give you the audio. Am I missing something here? Are audiophiles paying way too much to preserve our self esteem and distinguish ourselves from regular people that pay minimum to get regular entertainment through video streaming?
Audio streamers seem overpriced to me, too. I've heard very good performance from cheap ones built around a Raspberry Pi. There is an element of Veblen goods in pricing of much audio gear with high-end aspirations. Then, audio gear often is overbuilt to justify its pricing IMO.
The Raspberry Pi is a great audio streamer. I use it much more often than a disc player these days.

I don't see a need to spend too much on this aspect of the playback chain, but it is a hobby after all.
Back to the question in the OP's subject line, as a hobby, audio has a long tradition of spending lots of money on fancy equipment in pursuit of the last bit of performance.  In my experience, the video world has never had the same rabid level of enthusiasm.  

Audio enthusiasm has many factors -- snobbery, exclusivity, appearance, brand loyalty, debates over (often theoretical) technical aspects, subjective sound quality, component matching/synergy, and so on. 

Those factors are just as true for digital streaming as they are for amps, speakers, turntables and so on. I'm not in the least surprised that that there are some very expensive streamers out there with plenty of enthusiastic followers.  

Me? I'm perfectly happy with my RPi 4 and its USB output to my DAC.

Interesting question.  There is a fellow in Prague who has coupled the streamer with a well built DAC at a reasonable price point and he is so busy they are no longer taking orders.  The secretary wrote me a letter and said they may take orders again late 3rd quarter but I know some folks have been waiting since March for arrival. Big hole in the market for those of us running software that needs to see the DAC on the network. 
I think most people would be more than satisfied with a Raspberry Pi 4 and Pi2AES as a streamer. I've had 0 issues with mine. It looks like the same group is working on launching a more consumer friendly version that makes setup even easier.
On Wednesday I setup 3 Raspberry Pi’s and 2 Sonore OpticalRendu’s for a client. It was not close for my ears, the opticalRendu smoked it. The OpticalRendu is what I use at home. I have a $299 Ubiquiti Networks Network Switch and plug the fibre Optical directly into the Ubiquiti switch. I also set this up at the client who plans on getting a 2nd switch to have 4 fibre optical SPF slots.

I also setup a tricked out ROON Server for the client and could not tell if it was better than my super cheap and noisy DELL ROON Core computer. I mention this because I think fibre optical wire kills the noise that can get into a DAC. I need to do more testing on this last part at home.
I often wondered why I never see a SQ shootout between different streamers. Why?? 

I spent $2k on mine but does three functions. Streams, Burns and stores. 

Anyone else have an answer?
I have had a few streamers pass through my system, ranging in price from $100 to about $1200.  I have a natural sympathy with the premise of the OP, but I have to comment that the cheaper streamers can’t hold a candle to their more expensive brethren.  The cheaper ones have sounded thin and harsh and opaque in the midrange.
  I don’t know where the point of diminishing returns is.  My prejudice is that a streamer costing $15K isn’t going to give me 10 times the pleasure of what I have now, but I have neither the funds or the inclination to investigate.
  And, of course, the rest of the system matters.  If the system isn’t that good then it is hard to grade the difference between sources 
Thank you Mike for this reference of “Veblen theory” as I read through its Wikipedia it is exactly the answer to my question, as to many things/behavior in this world. As I am mocking my wife’s purchase of expensive purse bags, I myself have this habit to be mocked as well. At the end of the day, we are just trying to justify the irrational behaviors to make ourselves feel good. And that’s about it.
I tend to agree with the OP’s premise and I too have noticed that a $40 firestick should be some sort of guidepost for what should be available in the audio world. This is tempered by what I suspect is a vast economy of scale that a firestick enjoys, versus a dedicated music streamer. Then we have to acknowledge the ethos of audio hobbyists- careful attention to power supplies, etc often well past the point of audibility. And uncertainty- a person who has already spent $10,000 or more on a carefully selected audio system my look skeptically on a $35 or $40 streaming solution, acknowledging that it will work, but asking will it work well. After all, we seek “balance” in our system and where we might have a turntable at $1500 and a CD player at $1000, a $35 streamer seems, as a knee jerk reaction, way off. Of course the cynic (or realist) may just shake their head and realize our well intentioned hobbyist has gotten ensnared in the audio industry’s trap. Who knows. Years back I had a set of pricey xlr cables where a connection failed. Being handy with a soldering iron I moved forward to do the repair myself. And what did I find under the tech flex, then the audio cable company’s outer casing and the the actual cable which was clearly marked Belden. Now of course nothing wrong with Belden  but this turned out to be a fancy high priced cable wearing layers of ‘gold’ to conceal its humble but perfectly adequate origins. What was more upsetting is how poorly the “factory” terminations were made. My take away is that for us hobbyists, since we do like solid cabinets, robust linear power supplies, good user interfaces, and we are not buying a product that is being made in the millions, we are going to pay more- and most likely a whole lot more. 

I think everyone should buy my $5K modem and router since that's the first link in the streaming chain guaranteeing data integrity and therefore audiophile nirvana. Buy a modem that filters out all the noise on the WAN, and a router that double checks data integrity passing along your LAN. That's step one.

Anyone spending large amounts of money on a streamer should, following their logic, spend an equal amount on their modem and router.

Great topic!

Video streamers cost less because video streaming is a big thing. The money is in streaming video services not in the streamers themselves. Video streamers are a mass market commodity that opens the gateway to making money via streaming services.

Nobody needs an audiophile streamer except audiophiles who always seek the best with cost less of an issue.

I stream mainly from a meager Roku stick in my family room system. I use Plexamp, AirPlay, etc. It sounds extremely good. Close enough to my main system that is more geared towards hifi that I don’t really care that the Roku also does much harder hi res video streaming as well for well under $100.

So hifi streaming is a bit of a racket I would say. The evidence is in the comparatively low cost of high res video streamers that, oh, just happen to also do Good old fashioned 2 channel digital stereo. Yay!

It’s just not that hard to do right these days if you make just a few right choices. Getting good sound with amp and speakers is also easier but that’s where one should look to make their big investment in good sound IMHO. Features is the thing that mostly differentiates streamers IMHO. That and the DAC for the sound quality, if that is even part of the package.


Also the underlying technologies that enable higher res digital streaming services continue to evolve, so nice to be able to keep up with those. Another reason to not invest heavily in any single streamer.