Cautionary Tale

“Don't waste your money on a new set of speakers
You get more mileage from a cheap pair of sneakers"
Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It's still rock and roll to me”

Billy Joel, 1980

I am totally amazed at the current cost of high end home audio and music reproduction equipment that folks are literally spending small fortunes on. Maybe partly because of my socio-economic background, I have learned to make do with very little, which is reflected in my approach to my own systems and what those that I typically recommend and assemble for others. I have watched fads come and go like monster cable, turntable weights and any number of media cleaning solutions that can cost as much as a modest sound system, not so many years ago.

I bring this up because I can basically scrounge almost everything I need by patiently watching E-Bay and Craigslist plus shopping at thrift stores, putting something together that can evoke strong emotional responses (good ones, not sticker shock).

By that I mean you don’t need to invest $10K to well over $150K which apparently is the going rate right now for to get a “perfect” system. Even perfect systems are not really perfect for everyone or on every musical selection and the state of the art keeps moving. What about getting 98.5% of that emotional effect with something that can cost you a very small fraction of that cost? And let’s face it- live music really is best, so as an alternative, why not invest the money in live performances and concerts?

Granted, the consumer electronics industry has not made it easy to get all the basics without some searching – they have been busy cleverly removing things like the mag phono inputs and pre-out from amps, preamps and receivers so you either have to go to the older used stuff, stunningly expensive new electronics or you improvise. Also, the home theater/surround sound/DTS etc. industry has all but destroyed the ability to get a clean stereo signal thru an otherwise good quality multi-channel receiver.  

Back when the Beatles were in town, you could assemble decent tube-type amps and speakers yourself from kits or raw components giving you an amazing sense of accomplishment and some decent gear to start out with. Total outlay was often around $300 or $400 with a turntable. Fast forward to today. Even with taking inflation into account, the high cost of gear today is nowhere near justified but it’s apparent that’s what the market will bear.

I noticed that some of us have been around long enough to have some hearing loss or tinnitus or both. I have to say that in my case this has not significantly diminished my enjoyment of music and I have invested in good music-compatible hearing aids, but I have to take this into account when I consider justification for upgrading to that next step.

We are all aware of what we have invested. Question is, are we totally happy with the result and will we stay that way, or can we even really ever get there? Spock of Star Trek fame said “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but is often true”.



There is no "perfect system"
Either you enjoy what you have or you don't. Not my problem.
Not sure what price range has your panties in a knot but the fact that top end gear costs a bunch of money is not an issue. Good serviceable gear is available at very modest prices. In fact this may be a great time to buy gear at reasonable prices and get good/great sound quality. For those that are able and want to spend big bucks, God bless them, they keep the stores open and the lights on and that benefits everybody. I'm not sure what your complaint is? People spending a lot of money or your are envious of people that do? March to your own drummer and enjoy. 
Definite increase in the number of wealthy purchasers supporting the high-end market enabling high end manufacturing aimed at building a small number of state of the art pieces. 
Let me know when you locate the thrift store Ferrari.

but sure, used value abounds in Craigslist, my garage TT is a Beogram TX and pristine MM cartridge for $120, NAD 3020a and Dynaco A-25 in Walnut round things out...

Fun, musical but I Harbour no illusions..

enjoy your journey :-)
I agree that were it not for the market support given the manufacturers, the creations of Mark Levinson and John Curl  (BTW love the JC amps/preamps) would never have seen the light of day.  I have owned a lot of equipment, some of it expensive, so what I'm thinking is that maybe we're all too willing to allow the prices to ratchet up.  I don't believe the designers wanted to make their stuff so expensive that only a constantly narrowing size of a group could afford them. 

Also, recently found AR-5 speakers for $25 in good shape at thrift in Sequim, WA. Cheers & happy 2021!   
Sequim, eh? How long you suppose before someone besides me even knows how to pronounce that, let alone where it is without using goolag maps? 

You hit a lot of the long term fave audio cliches. I'll just dismantle one for now. The idea things keep getting more and more expensive. That's a direct consequence of fiat money being printed from nothing, its called inflation (you could look it up) and so nothing to do with audio.

But even so, its just not true. Thirty years ago the best phono stage I could afford was an Audio Research PH3SE for $2500. Today a Herron VTPH2A costs only a little more, $3600, not much considering the previously mentioned monetary inflation. But the Herron is vastly superior in every way, and I do mean vastly! Also around the same time the best speakers I could afford were Talon Khorus that retail for $16k back then and I got for a killer deal only $8k. But the Tekton Moabs I just bought are vastly superior in every way, and cost only $4500. Not expensive. Remarkably cheap. Relative to performance. 

I could go on and on. Nobsound springs at $35 out perform $200 worth of BDR Cones and Round Things. Power cords, speaker cables, interconnects, the examples are endless. Its actually quite hard to see how anyone has managed to miss the fact that electronics have dropped immensely in price relative to other goods. Unless they are so blinkered they look only at the price tags on the most expensive Wilson while disregarding the fact only the most superficially oriented novice thinks price is any measure of performance.

Uh oh. You did quote Billy Joel. Oh well.
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15 minutes where ego rules supreme. Sure easy, our fish camp off Kitchen Dick Road in Sequim. It ain’t that exotic. I think I still have a case of Lost Mountain. Anyway good thrift shop score. Keep having fun. one of my four systems is pure vintage, all part of the fun.

The best system in the world is any good one not too costly and better than that, low cost, BUT  well embedded....(mechanical and electrical and acoustical controls)

I must already  own it.... 😁

People in general, it is a story that go back in the past,  wanted to pay to be assured by the eyes of others that their purchase is well worth it after all...Money act like a placebo....

Paying is often  a lack of confidence or simple materialism...

Happy new year.... 
Well, having been out of it (audioholics) for a number of years, I now find myself cooped up at home with my own toys.  Thirty years ago I didn't know what a phono stage was so I never thought I needed one.  I remember in  the 1970s cruising Electricraft Stereo in Seattle and the high-end room had stuff priced anywhere up to $1700 including the corner Klipsches.  You could get a complete setup including McIntoshes for under $4,000.

Looking at top end store websites now gives me a bit of sticker shock and since I really like the stuff I've accumulated (built around a Parasound HCA-1500A and new (to me) Cambridge Azur 540a with a Harman Kardon phono preamp). With my SMGa Maggies and modest belt-drive turntable and Carver sub I've only invested less than $2,000 and I get goosebumps all the time listening to familiar music. Of course each of us collects a repertoire of recordings that we like (and happen to sound good on our system) so the goosebumps are somewhat predictable. I guess to each his own.

Sequim is where we go in the summer, but last summer was shot because of the plague.  Hopefully will go again this summer.
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@noromance  I will ship it to you when next in Seattle, it is loaded with juicy NOS tubes from Andy at Vintage Tube, he would be a good fellow to know. You can listen and tell me what you think. Like any good crack dealer, first hit is FREE !!!

to the OP, surely you have run a 1970 dollar thru the inflation calculator ? You can today buy a great system for $ day..for fun....