Are you Guys Rich or What!?

I have an old system, nothing special, Adcom, Vandersteens etc and I recently set foot for the first time in a "high end" shop, hoping to get to the next level of audio nirvana. When I saw some of the prices for monoblock amplifiers, cables, the latest speakers etc, I practically fell off my chair when I realized that I could blow $50-100K pretty easily on this stuff. I am not rich. Do you big budget system guys all work on Wall Street or something or do you eat macaroni and cheese most nights to put a few bucks away for CDs and your next upgrade?
Cornfedboy, thanks for sending out a reality check here. I don't know about the Republican party aspect, but you made some good points IMO. Imagine for a second that you are a gifted designer/engineer/inventor. You have an idea that could potentially enhance lets say... multi channel playback, it takes $100,000 to fund your research and developement for 3 years. You are now able to produce the worlds next, "best" playback device. With investors you manufacture 3000 of these devices, costing $500 each to produce, totaling 1.5 million in hardware alone, not to mention paying 5 employees. You spend $30,000. to advertise, all the while praying your idea is accepted. Your total cost to produce and market this product is $4000 each. You have mortgaged your house and borrowed from friends to retain a controlling interest over this because you want to maintain design integrity and insure that you keep a fair share of the profit, should there be one. At your A/V dealer this product is displayed and demonstrated for the public, (costing the dealer some time and money). People check it out and find that they absolutely love the sound, and it would be a major improvement in your sound system, but it cost say... $14,000. That may seem "high' to some people, but you only get $6,500 at your wholesale price, giving you a $2,500 profit. You sell 1500 of them totaling $3,750,000. Minus your 2,000,000 investment gross profit is 1.5 mil. Split among investors you made $150,000. This enables you to afford to refine your copyrighted design and sell that to a major audio manufacturer for 2 mil. The public gets an even better playback device at a fraction of the original cost, say... $1,400. Change the numbers however you want, is the designer/inventor wrong for trying to build a better "mousetrap", and profiting from it? lets see, at first we had a $14,000 "over priced, self indulgent, conspicuously consumed" device, now the general public can get close to audio nirvana at 10% of the cost. Five years later, the same technology is available for $359 at Circuit city, and all the "less fortunate" people can now have some guiltless higher end fun. Why all the guilt tripping?. I have carefully spent around $15,000 over a 3 year period to come as close as I can to a $60,000 system. Would I have prefered to start out at that level?... Damn right I would. I would have been enjoying my system that much sooner, spending less time researching and negotiating, and more time listening to music.
Sometimes it is a matter of priorities. Some people think nothing of spending $25,000 on a new boat that they keep at some dock and use only a handfull of times. Others will spend lots of money on new clothes, cars or even going out to dinner X's times per week. If I let my wife have it her way we would spend $500 a month just going out to dinner. Let's see that's $6,000 a year. That could get you a good used system. Do the math and fiqure out what you could get over a 5 year span. Anyway, no I'm not rich. I just have my priorities. To tell the truth, I'm kind of tired of hearing people complain about the cost of a $700.00 cd player, when that same person would spend $200 on a pair of sneakers. I would agree that at a certain price point the value curve begins to flatten out, however, overtime, with well used budgeting skills, a person can put together a nice system that won't kill them. Come on, a good case of beer will run you $35.00!
This argument can't really be definitively solved, ever. My last system was a $50K retail 2 channel CD listening system that I paid about $35K for. Not that much of a bargain, but not all the components were used. I auditioned component for months, and that's not over months an hour here an hour there. In New York City there are over 5 high end audio stores, most of which I spent 10 hours listening in, one of which I spent at least 40+ hours listening in to find the right system for me. I listened to more expensive things that sounded worse, and more expensive things that sounded better. The point is that it is completely individual. I DO believe that most systems, given an unlimited budget can be improved to the owners ears. It is statistically unlikely that this would not be the case. But we can all find mediums. For instance, a very respected (by me) audiophile associate of mine loves Krell amps. I would rather have an Aiwa than their 600 lb. monoblocks. But that is the sound he loves. Recently I had to sell my 2 channel system due to financial issues, but was able to replace it with a very personally acceptable home theater system which does music wonderfully for only $12K with a retail of $24K. It comes down to buy used when it makes sense, and more money never hurts.
no...not rich here either....but I am hooked. I had been using a Hafler 110pre and 220 amp with Polk monitors for YeARS. These pieces had been moved into more colledge apartments than I can count. I finally got the bug at age 28 and decided to put a "real" system together. Started with the little CJ tube integrated and JMLabs Daline 3.1's and was really happy. I did purchase new from dealer (amp) and used speakers (same dealer). Then I discovered Audiomart (high end classified via US Postal) and Audiogon. I was able to quickly upgrade my amp to a Prem. 11A at no additional cost (after selling the CAV-50 integrated). I spend a little money on some sonus fabers (direct from Italy at a nice price). After time I opted to plunk down the $$ on a Levinson CD source. I must say....I have approx. 10-11k in the stereo which accumulated over 12 months or so. It seemed like a lot of money....but I wouldn't sell my system for the same money today! sidenote-....there are many systems that cost less than mine that sound stellar...high cost is not a prerequisite for a great sounding system....patience and listening are. It may be a bit easier to find the "sound" you want if you are able to spend big bucks....but you can do it on a budget if you have the patience.
Nloyer, Good to hear from another New Yorker. See you at... Sound by Singer, Stereo Exchange, Audio-Video Salon, or maybe Harvey's?