Is it important to long demo or own HIGH END gear to have a fair accurate view about it?

I have heard a lot of opinions about high end gear on the forums but a lot of it comes from folks that don’t own it. They bash it because of the price. Which I understand on one end but many don’t own, haven’t long demoed or even heard a lot of higher end gear thoughts? Please no personal bashing just your opinion? 


Lower the prices then more people can actually  buy and own and have a more accurate view. 💡

I only ever comment on something I've heard. Equipment, artists, or recordings.  However, some components are overpriced, and seem to be aimed at the ever growing cohort of the new rich. It's fair to say that you probably obtain a more reasonable perspective on a piece of equipment when you're in possession of it for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, I'm a love at first sight man. It it doesn't wow when the needle drops, I'm out!

@noromance great points. It’s so much in this world to buy now. Even to try now. But a lot of it can be costly. By nature the music coming out of it has to touch our souls 

The only time I have heard High end gear was a visit to AXPONA. In a very large room on the ground floor. Setup of MBL speakers and associated components including mono block amplifiers the size of a small deep freezers. Can't remember all of the different brands represented. Sound was good but not what it would be in a properly sized and treated room. Not the best way to experience what a million dollars could do. That was the price that was quoted.

I know and appreciate the design manufacturing effort that goes into the product. High end gear is nice but I wouldn't spend for the high end even if I had the extra cabbage....

Lower the prices

That’s ridiculous. High end audio is a tough business and few get rich off of it. Pricing is reflective of R&D costs, manufacturing, sales network (dealers or direct), shipping and, finally, what the market will bear. Companies who charge more than buyers are willing to pay are not in business very long.

To Calvin’s question, everyone has an opinion and since this is the internet, they are going to share. I filter what I pay attention to and prioritize those who have direct experience (preferably owning but at least hearing) the equipment/speakers/tweaks they are posting about. It also helps when I can see their virtual system to understand the context of the system they are listening to. Even then, their partnering equipment, their room, the type of music they enjoy, and personal preferences all play a factor in what people hear and what gear they like best. These same issues apply to professional reviewers, who don’t always get it right or view it the same way that I would.

There is sour grapes everywhere.   One other thing you have to be aware of here are people touting Stereophile recommendations just to sound smart when they have never heard any of them.  Finally, there is the disinformation spread by Audio Science Reviews and repeated by the misinformed. 

so yes, there are a lot of posts here that have nothing to do with anything but what others read on the internet.


I have heard a lot of opinions about high end gear on the forums but a lot of it comes from folks that don’t own it. They bash it because of the price. Which I understand on one end but many don’t own, haven’t long demoed or even heard a lot of higher end gear thoughts? Please no personal bashing just your opinion?


the high end is not gear, it’s a state of mind.

it’s important to have a hunger to want the best sounding music reproduction. and then love the music and enjoy the process. it’s a state of mind to love doing it and thinking about it.

Negative Nellies miss that fascination and love for the hobby, both the music side and reproduction quality side......they are overwhelmed with having to be smarter and miss the passion. the human condition is to complain, and find fault....takes zero effort. but to rise above that takes a positive action and connection.

if you have the passion, then hearing something that moves your soul does seal the deal. but your mind has to be open to listening. dollars are not the issue. great gear + the hunger = high end. and great gear is more a relative thing. gear snobs are thinking wrong too. it’s ok to love pretty things, but it’s not the issue.

plenty of people have come to my room and got hooked. it does happen. that epiphany can certainly occur and i've seen it. exciting for someone to gush and feel the joy of music reproduction being real to them.

There's a high-end gear that deserves bashing due to the unreasonable pricing, forget affordability.

The fact of the matter is most people’s rooms are not so big that it takes a massive million dollar hifi to do the job well.

The other fact of the matter is no matter what you put in there, the room in most cases will be a big factor in determining the resulting sound. So throwing money at equipment without first getting a handle on room acoustics is not a practical approach to achieve the best possible sound.


Although, it’s also true that

1) Hi end gear are luxury items so one also would naturally expect a certain amount of visual bling as well as excellent performance, so there is that, and

2) part of what goes into judging good sound is often subjective, so anything is possible there.

The more decisions are made based on subjective criteria, more possible outcomes will result. This is evidenced by the fact that few systems end up being exactly the same and often not even similar sounding, even at "high end" shows. The only thing all the gear demoed at a high end show have in common is higher than average cost.

About commenting on what one hasn't heard - I think it's ok to have an idea based the rest. It would be silly to comment about the sound, of course, but I can still read and watch reviews, specs and such to have a somewhat informed opinion.   

Re the never-ending overpricing debate -I pulled and compared data for a lot of speakers and among a few things, one is very obvious: you usually get what you pay for. With a "freakonomics" approach, I'd say that very few brands are overpriced, in the sense that some party in the distribution chain is "overpaid" disproportionately.


To me, the main thing one needs to be in a good position to make useful judgements is experience listening.  Both to live music and to as many reference systems as possible.  That is the only way to really know what is possible and set a realistic goal.  Then its pretty much anything goes from there and more power to the winners.

@mapman I agree 110% with your post and for some the money spent is pure ego stroke.

@carlsbad2 Jerry there is so much misinformation out there and regulated on forum pages it is a hindrance for the under educated. 

That is a good question.


Listening skills are developed over decades. Values in sound quality change over time with your listening skills (learning about both good and bad attributes) … which in turn influence what you value in terms of sound quality. Also, when you hear a system it takes a lot of experience to figure out what is doing what to the sound… like is that the amp / preamp that is cold or the speakers? Etc.


So, I would say the less experience you have with high end audio the more time you need to appraise gear. Of course, if you have only had mid-fi stuff and you bring home a high end piece it can only take a second to get it. So, lots of caveats.

I remember a piece I brought home early on that I thought sounded great until I heard the “grain” in the treble. Wow, that was bad… I can hear grain in a couple seconds now.

The only piece of gear I have owned in teh last 20 years that was a absolute clear bottleneck on good sound was a Carver pre-amp. I had Carver amp and tuner (still do) and the tuner was/is quite good and teh amp actually not bad if used properly.

A fellow audiogoner whose advice I trusted told me flat out dump teh pre-amp. So I did and replaced it with a Audio Research model.

I have had many changes since then each of which introduced a change in sound, mostly for the better. I have been in a very good place in relation to live music I hear and teh best "reference" systems I hear around for a number of years. That’s not to say there is probably almost always something one can do to get even better. It may or may not cost more. It all depends on educated decision making. Nothing great ever comes easy. How much it costs is another story and can vary widely. My $130 Fosi amp does a top notch job in its role on my little nearfield desktop system. Some day I may try to ask more of it and see how it sounds when given a much tougher job.

Any serious audiophile understands the basics of room acoustics, has nothing to do with the level/cost of gear one purchases. Another outdated misnomer is HEA is just bling. Dan D’agostino is not the only HEA company, take a look at Convergent Audio Technology making some of the best tube electronics available. Finally HEA is not about million dollar systems its about effort/passion/learning/listening with an open mind and understanding a substantial financial investment is a prerequisite.

@dayglow Well count me out as a serious audiophile then (which is quite OK) because I would not drop a fortune on gear before first understanding the acoustics of the room it was going to be asked to perform in. That's a recipe for vendor success and buyer disaster.

Some conclusions can be legitimately and logically/rationally reached, and some not so much.... 

@mapman My point is room acoustic treatment is a given(must have) regardless of the cost/level of the audio system. One can be a serious Audiophile with Burmester or Parasound gear, the point is getting as close to 100% out of the system.


@dayglow I’ll buy that!


I would only add that DSP and room correction is a relatively new tool in the audiophile arsenal to help effectively deal with room acoustics and that is something the modern audiophile needs to be aware of these days as well BEFORE trying to fix a bad room by throwing more money at the gear and/or going nuts with room treatments alone . DSP and treatments like bass traps in particular together can be applied cost effectively and if done right might save folks quite a bit of hard-earned cash down the road.




@mikelavigne great perspective. High end is not always price.  It’s build quality. It attention to detail.  It really can be a company really taking the craft to another level. I have had gear that hangs with stuff 2,3 times its price because of the tech and R&D behind it.  

@ernstmach i can understand your points.  Having it in your own environment is important.  Spending quality time with it is important as well. 20 years in this I understand that 100% 

@carlsbad2 you hit the nail on the head.  I spent about 12 years in a row trying every cable I could so I could learn as much as possible about the sound. What makes the good, bad or average. I probably tried over 40 brands in those years. So I speak from experience.  So when some dimwit tells me they don’t make a difference and I’m imagining things and the come with some psycho science babble about not hearing differences I raise my brow! You are talking to a guy who actually sat and listened to brand  and after brand for 12 years straight. I have the experience personal experience with cables. So when it comes to cables as well as high end audio I have tried a lot in my home.  I’ve had extended demos 2-3 months at a time with higher end gear so though I’m not an expert. I know a little bit. 

@mapman you make great points. Rooms are important.  Also it’s important to research the gear you buy to death. That is smart and that’s what I do. Everything I bought. I bought based on research and actual performance that fits my environment. 

@ghdprentice great point.  You need time with really good gear in a good room set up properly so you can gauge what is actually possible. The more gear you hear the better. It allows you decide where the diminishing returns are. 

@jacobsdad2000 you also make a great point about misinformation. That’s why it’s important to hear it for yourself 

Listening (as opposed to hearing) is a skill that can be honed even if you’re hearing isn’t stellar. IMHO....any critical equipment evaluations should be long term if you’re trying to decipher subtle differences....high end, or even just "good" equipment. Otherwise, you’re essentially just getting acquainted with a system during an initial listen. Not a great time or method of knowing much about what you just heard, yet that’s the extent of the exposure many of us have to gear we don’t own. It’s not so different than when you first meet people.....some you can get a bit of a feel for initially, but it can take a while to get to know a person (or a new system) well enough to make any long term decisions about their finer points.

You can’t really understate the significance of a room, and the synergy that a system within the room has on the overall impact of the sound. That’s one of the reasons I don’t have much faith in A/B comparisons, or evaluations done in an environment where you’re not intimately familiar with every aspect of a system.



@mitch2 man you are right in the money.  I worked collections attorney for an audio company about 15 years ago. For 5-7 years because the owner was an audiophile. I would get 2,3,4 month demos with great gear while he was selling it and purchasing other stuff. It allowed me to try out of my league equipment in my own home environment. Which eventually led to me being able to afford the gear and hearing more gear. I have heard all of the higher priced gear out here. Some at shows or in shop. Also in home environments. But most importantly I gained experience in knowing what is good and bad or just ok. It wasn’t always based on price either. I speak on it because I own it.  Have owned it or had long demos of it. In my additional job as a dealer now. I get to hear Greta gear through our partners. I don’t randomly give my opinion with no knowledge like I see some do here. 

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@knotscott exactly that’s why guys trying to do quick switching a/b comparisons are a joke. Long demos are needed. 

As a manufacturer we advise people that if they do not hear a significant difference within one listening session - probably within 5 minutes, then we will pay to have the item shipped back to us no questions asked.



+1 Like I said earlier, love at first sight. I'm not sure if listening for days is going to do anything other than get you used to the new sound of the system. Maybe that's the point. Maybe I'm too quick to judge, or impatient. Or maybe, I'm so satisfied with how my rig is tuned for my taste that anything that sounds "off" is not tolerated.

@bigkidz ...we advise people that if they do not hear a significant difference within one listening session - probably within 5 minutes...

That, notwithstanding, it is critical to hear the test component in your system, in your room.

When i hear someone claim to have heard “all “, the thing i know is that person is deluded….

@noromance - we want you taking our gear home to hear in your system.  We can show you the differences in the various systems we have set-up but you need to hear our components in your system to make your best decision always.

If you don't hear the differences almost immediately, then just send it back, no need to wait days or weeks.  We love this hobby and what our customers to always feel happy and that they make the right choice for them.  No questions asked.


It depends on the experience of the individual and what that individual prefers. I prefer line source, dipole ESLs. I only listen to point source speakers when evaluating them for other people. Speakers should always be auditioned as the variability is very high. The speaker then determines the type of amp required. After that auditioning is not near as important. Most differences that some audiophiles gush over are really quite minor or maybe even psychological. Always beware of two traps, the cool looking trap and the costs more trap. Looks and cost do not determine sound quality. Some equipment such as tonearms and turntables can be evaluated on a design and build quality basis and do not need to be listened to. Turntables and Tonearms should have no sound, none. If there is a difference in sound quality something is wrong. The better turntables are silent and interface the record properly. After 15 to 20 grand all you are buying is looks and exclusivity, bragging rights. Once you have a turntable that makes no sound of it's own and is accurate you can not do better and IMHO the extra money for bragging rights should be spent on music and great bottles of wine. 

@noromance @bigkidz


I cannot think of a time in the past 20 years when I have been wrong on my first impression of a component/speaker after trying it in my system. Sometimes in the "first 5 minutes" and certainly within the first couple of days.

There have been a couple of times I deluded myself into thinking I liked something based on its reputation or what it cost but in every case I always circled back to my first impression being the correct one for me. Embarrassingly, in some cases this took months or years but I have become more confident in trusting my gut (i.e., first impression). @mijostyn provided some good advice to "beware of two traps, the cool looking trap and the costs more trap."

Impossible to hear all high end gear; have to depend on other's opinions and manufacturer's fluff. OP reveals a problem with those whose $10 beats the sucker's $100. A tiresome activity. Must someone always win? Mike's adroit inclusion of passion assumes commitment and investment. Many are limited and few have a barn. But I still sing along in my car and it's horrible audio.

I am making strides with my main system, but accept its limitations as honestly as I can.



 Most differences that some audiophiles gush over are really quite minor or maybe even psychological.

Do you mean for high end gear? Or any? I hear (or imagine to hear :) ) profound differences with amplifiers.

Like all of us, I have pondered where does high end start?  Is my H390 high end or does it start with Krell, Boulder or Dan D’Agostino?

My Brother, still happily listens to his tunes from the quarter inch speakers in his IPhone and thinks I’m nuts for having spent all that money on my rig. So I guess to him, my gear is high end.  To me it’s just the best that I could afford.

Well I jumped off this tilt-a-whirl a while ago. High end audio is all what you interpret it to be.  For me it is not about high end it is about the sound I enjoy, not status. Not sure where it starts but I know where it ended in my house. 

People who haven’t heard a component shouldn’t have an opinion on how it sounds. Price has nothing to do with it. If it’s too expensive for you then don’t buy it. The fact that it exists at all means someone can afford it. 
I used to find value in forums thinking they represented a collective mind. In other words, if there were enough people saying the same thing about a product then there must be some value in the observation, versus say an opinion from a single reviewer. Nowadays, not so much. There’s too much input from too many people who haven’t the experience to comment, but they do anyway. It isn’t just the Dunning-Kruger effect, it’s people being mischievous or propagating an agenda. 

Merry Christmas!


I said "Most."  Amplifiers can sound vastly different depending on the speaker you connect them to and their output impedance. Some amps are terrible at driving certain speakers but will sound great on others. Choosing the right speakers is the first problem them a matching amp the next. Everything else is very minor. My situation is a perfect example. I use Sound Labs ESLs. ESLs have a unique impedance curve. It starts out at about 30 ohms in the low bass and by 20 kHz it is down to 1 ohm. Any amp with an output impedance over 1 ohm will not be able to make high treble. Atmasphere MA 2s have a reputation for sounding amazing on SL speakers. I got a pair and they do, except for one thing. The treble starts rolling off quickly at 12 kHz. Their output impedance is 1.5 ohms. The sparkle is missing. If you try using an SS amp with a very low output impedance the treble can be wonderful but many such SS amps will die into a 30 ohm load and the bass suffers. You have to use a real monster like a JC 1+. The Atmasphere actually has more punch into the SLs than the JC 1! It's power does not change with impedance. I am working on a solution to this problem. I have a preamp coming with an integral 4 way digital crossover. I will separate the high frequency transformer from the low frequency transformer and I will biamp them using the MA 2s to drive the low frequency transformer and a Bricasti M25 to drive the high frequency transformer crossing at 5 kHz. The M25 has a sparkling high end. It operates in class A for the first 20 watts or so. It has an output impedance of something like 0.05 ohms.

Put the wrong amp or amps on these speakers and they will sound terrible and people will think the speakers and amp are garbage. This happens a lot with ESLs which is one reason people are skeptical. There are many other speakers and amps that can be as difficult to match. But, this is where the money is. Do it wrong and everything else does not matter. Get it right and everything else is easy. 



Excellent post. I really like Sound Lab speakers… they can sound incredible. But, like all planars, amplification is critical.

As much as I love the sound of the different electrostatic, ribbon, annd AMT speakers I have owned for over thirty five years of infatuation I switched over to dynamic speakers. I am happy and cozy with them. So much less trouble.  But that is just me.


I have adapted to them over 40 years. Consequently they are no problem for me. The biggest issue for most people is the size as they are trying to use them in a room used for another purposes. I have a media room used only for music and video. The SLs fit in beautifully as you can see on my system page. We have another "living room" which my wife has dominion over:-) 

I have heard some excellent dynamic speakers lately. The cream of the crop is the Franco Serblin Ketemas. Great speakers!

@mijostyn sounds like 

small speakers > small problems. 

I recognize my mental barriers, just reading what you are dealing with was challenging for me :)


I mispoke earlier. I haven’t heard all of the higher priced gear. I have heard most of it.  Correction. 

@rooze I definitely understand your points. I can’t stand when someone who hasn’t heard something says definitely that it does noy sound different or can make a difference in your system. 

@jacobsdad2000 when I first started in the hobby I said I would never spend x amount of dollars. Well I’m spent  x amount of over the last 2-3 years but I did so after I gained about 15 years of knowledge and experience. I didn’t choose on price. I chose on sound.  My Dac and amp cost more than my speakers but I have a unique great sounding speaker at the price i got it that fits the system perfect. It’s about sound and synergy. 

Easily the best sentence and one good explaining post to go with it i ever read in audiogon...

mikelavigne say better than me what i try to say without having been able to say it simply and directly ...

I admire him for his posts almost always if not always spot on ...

merry Christmas to you ...🎄

the high end is not gear, it’s a state of mind.