Really expensive systems that sounded great?

I often laugh at megabucks systems ($100K and above) I hear because so often they are just OK, or the presentation is so off in one dimension or another I can barely listen to them for long.

What I’d like to ask now is what megabucks systems have you heard which you felt actually were worth the asking price? I don’t mean incrementally better than your $20k system. I mean leaps and bounds. Anyone?

The best system close to that I ever heard was the top of the line Vandersteen speakers and Vandersteen monoblock amps driven by VTL preamp (I believe) at a show in Oakland. Nothing else I heard in that price range or above sounded worth it to my poor ears.

Lets try to stay wealth-positive here and stick to things we actually LIKED. 😁


I have heard a few expensive systems that sounded great. One with Auditorium 23 speakers, and a couple with Wilson Benesch speakers and Nagra electronics,

Best system I’ve heard to date...

  • Avangarde Speakers
  • Audio Research amps

But then - I do like a very fast dynamic presentation together with exceptional imaging.

Some people find horns too analytical, but the Avangarde’s were just the right mix of dynamic speed and musicality i.e. to my ears.

I did hear the Audio Research with the TOTL Focal speakers, but I prefered the Avantgarde’s

Other than that I do like Gershman Acoustics very much - much more affordable than many speakers out there and they sound great with pretty much any quality amp

Regards - Steve


They have horrible measurements look at all those peaks and dips. you couldn't get any more ragged. 

MBL Master Reference System.

I have never heard anything better. Close to 3/4 of million dollars, but WOW!!




I have heard a number of really expensive systems over the years. One thing I have found is that seldom will you hear the potential at conferences or small dealerships. They get stuck with horrible compromised rooms with no time to fiddle.


There are some places that have a listening room and expertise to make their components sound good: Overture in Delaware comes to mind. I flew out there to audition some equipment… they did a great job in setup.


The best system I have heard was about $750K. It was Wilson based. It had a permanent room set up (large). I was just blown away. The best system I have heard… however, I also said, “I don’t want that”. Ok, if I could have two systems… sure.

But, there are a lot of “kinds” of systems. Flashy… Liberace like, modest more balanced, really musical… sounds like the real thing. so, it also depends really strongly on what you want.


If you are careful and meticulous you can put together a great sounding system on a modest budget. But assuming the same care and effort a $50K system will sound much better than a $25K system… and a $100K system will sound much better than a $50K system.

I own a $150K system… after pursuing high end audio for fifty years. In that time my understanding of what constitutes a great sounding system has evolved considerably… as well as my systems costing more. I have heard many system in the same price range or higher, I own the best sounding system I have ever heard.

My values are strongly influenced by spending the last 25 years listening to acoustic instruments as much as possible as well as attending hundreds of symphony performances.

If I could afford a $300K system, I am sure I could put together a better sounding system. But in the mean time I love the system I have. It is not a megabuck system in the high end audio world but is carefully tailored to my tastes. You can see my systems under my usedID.

The MBLS put out sound allover which is a waste of power from the amp. What you are listening to is echo coming off the walls and glass windows. Also the speakers are too big. You are never gonnna get speakers as big as that to disappear from the soundstage! 

I own a $150K system

Yet the drivers used probably cost a few hundred bucks at most. Shocking isn't it. only a fool would spend so much money. The hifi companies know this and thats why they set their prices so high for people like you.

Some of the best sounding systems I’ve heard were pretty high dollar, some only on the "expensive" side (😁), but were assembled by extremely talented people. Understanding system synergy, acoustics, electrical interactions, and the influence of the whole chain is extremely important. You’re simply not going to drive speakers like MBLs or Magicos with your average "good" amplifier, even if it cost a lot....speakers like that tend to sort out the contenders from the pretenders and it can be a painful learning curve, or an exercise in blissful ignorance if it sounds bad and the owners love it anyway.  Good sound doesn't know whether it cost a lot or a little, and there's often not even much of a correlation.

I don’t own high dollar stuff, but the exposure to the really good systems has helped me get a taste of good sound...lack of budget just forced me to find another way.

Seeing @ghdprentice called a fool - Now I remember why I stopped posting here for many months. But since trolls need feeding, else they wither and die, I will state that not all drivers are off the shelf and cost a few hundred dollars.

While the vapor deposited beryllium coincident drivers in My TAD’s are expensive, they supposedly cost millions in R&D to develop over many years, which has to be factored into the price.

When Andrew Jones created much less expensive coincident drivers for the Elac Adante,which I use for LCR home theater, they were also bespoke, not off the shelf.

I put together a well performing $8K simple system based on a Hegel H190 when I was away from home for a year.

When I finally returned home and fired up my system that cost around 15 times as much, it was evident that one system made pleasant, enjoyable sound, and the other recreated a more than decent facsimile of live musicians playing in my home.

The other aspect of having systems that perform at this level is that small changes/upgrades (like going to Cat 8 Cable) play huge dividends, which counters the traditional thinking about the law of diminishing returns.

My reference is not other hifi rigs, but live acoustic music played in small or home venues, which I used to attend regularly, and I tuned my ears to that.




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Meridien flagship speakers ($125K) with all Meridian electronics at a dealer.

If you are spending money as a hobbyist/tinkerer Meridian speakers or active speakers in general are boring. You will not be able to mix and match amps/speakers for the next 20 or so years to enjoy the adrenaline rush of banging your credit card over and over and putting multiple unboxing videos on youtube. If that is your thing I get it. But if you are of the buy once/cry once mindset a matched system using active speakers fed by quality electronics is almost impossible to beat. I find Meridian products to be among the best for those who like that type of approach.


@kenjit Enjoy your $8 Big Mac meal with its $0.40 worth of meat.  Low cost, high convenience, shorter life span- who’s the bigger fool?  Something to think about…


Why not start another thread about the secret speaker research from the seventies and anyone using a box speaker is a fool? I love your speaker conspiracy threads, so entertaining. Please don't insult anyone that buys stuff they like, regardless of wheher you approve or not. We don't have access to the secret research that you do. Have you built you flying donut (or balls) speakers yet? Let me know when they are in production so I can buy a pair (NOT)..

I have a friend with a Hegal Raidho REL system that is probably $100K and it sounds good.  

I haven't seen actual meridian gear in ages.  Last time I looked it seemed their HT gear was languishing behind, kind of like Theta Digital.

The new Meridian line was at CES, check it out. When you consider that this is a "system", not just a speaker you get why the MSRP is over $100K:


@kenjit re:

They have horrible measurements look at all those peaks and dips. you couldn’t get any more ragged.

And yet in that same article the reviewer states...

Summing up, the in-room response was wide and remarkably uniform in balance, a testament to the Duo’s good off-axis energy response.


Handsomely delivering the promised high linearity, the midrange horn distortion was astonishingly low, even at a measured 110dB test level. Even at 100 and 90dB SPLs, the third harmonic was unmeasurable, and the second was well below 0.1%—this rivals a good push-pull electrostatic speaker and even some amplifiers!


What a surprise to find a horn speaker with such a wide and well-controlled directivity.

Seems like the reviewer liked these speakers - a lot

AND the first comment to the article speaks volumes...

On the other hand, the rendering of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was simply extraordinary in its realism and palpability. So much so, that I forgot to even listen for audiophile things like imaging, soundstage depth and so on.

I go by what my ears tell me - NOT by what a bunch of graphs that detail things most people cannot even discern

Add to that the amplification used and cables that are in the mix and things can change drastically

When I heard these, they made my ears perk up and I listened intently - that is something many other brands fail to do.

But then its all about personal preferences anyway 🙂

No two people hear the same thing !

Regards - Steve



"Yet the drivers used probably cost a few hundred bucks at most. Shocking isn't it. only a fool would spend so much money. The hifi companies know this and thats why they set their prices so high for people like you."

Interesting way to try and put forth your own agenda.

Everything after the word "probably" is rendered useless. Without actual knowledge of the cost of the drivers, any suppositions you make have no validity whatsoever.

Just because other people can spend more on their equipment than you can, is no reason to make baseless claims, call them fools and try to invalidate their purchases,


It is really hard to tell if Meridian has done much innovation or product delivery for the past several years.

Their surround sound system still seems based on their own quirky split HDMI / proprietary link technology which came out what, like 10 years ago?  AFAIK it's the same gear too.  Do they even support ATMOS? 

The brand just doesn't give me the feeling that they are heavily investing in HDMI / home theater anymore.

I’ve been attending many audio shows ? The system that sounds like you are in the concert hall.Most of the people listening on this system are in disbelief because it’s like live music if you close your eyes. I heard this system at Westin Hotel Axpona show.The room does not have acoustic panel. The system Iam talking about is Austin Acoustic.$750k.


Yes, Meridian supports Atmos through their 271 Digital Theater Controller. Its good you started this thread, sometimes you can get an expensive system that rivals systems costing multiples more. When you spend a lot, you risk a lot. Having a Meridian system that is engineered from the ground up not only removes a lot of that risk, it can go beyond what an equivalent chain can achieve for the same price. Look at the specs on the DSP 8000XE. They weigh almost 250 lbs each and have 1250 watts of internal amplification. As good as the specs are they sounded even better than I imagined, dynamics were shocking and you don’t need a sub for sure:



Meridian SpeakerLink connector (RJ45)

1 x co-axial digital audio [RCA phono] supporting up to 192kHz @ 24-bit

1 x optical digital audio [Toslink] supporting up to 96kHz @ 24-bit

1 x USB digital audio [type C] supporting up to 384kHz @ 24-bit

Bluetooth via the Meridian B-Link [supplied]

1 x balanced analogue audio [XLR] on IA21 Analogue Input Module

1 x unbalanced analogue audio [RCA phono] on IA21 Analogue Input Module


1 x Meridian SpeakerLink connector (RJ45)


Peak SPL: 120dB@1m for a single speaker

Frequency response in room within 3dB: 18Hz – 40kHz


Class AB, capable of greater than 150W into 4Ω, < 1% THD

THD + noise @ 1kHz < 0.005%

Bandwidth >100kHz


Class AB, capable of greater than 150W into 4Ω, < 1% THD

THD + noise @ 1kHz < 0.005%

Bandwidth >100kHz


Six bridged pairs of Class-D amplifiers - each pair capable of greater than 240W into 4Ω, < 1% THD.

THD + noise @ 1kHz < 0.008%


25mm beryllium dome with silver voice-coil, steel custom faceplate and waveguide


1 x 160mm with non-conductive voice-coil former and anti-resonance clamp-ring mounting system


6 x 200mm polypropylene long-throw (up to 24mm excursion) with anti-resonance clamp-ring mounting system


Blue in Standby, White in use (can also be unlit in use)


Power On/Off, channel selector switch, input sensitivity switch [on analogue input module]


HEIGHT: 1350mm [53.2in] (With feet/spikes)

WIDTH: 400mm [15.7in] tapering to 158mm [6.2in]

DEPTH 528mm [20.8in] tapering to 210mm [8.3in]

WEIGHT: 110.5kg [243lbs]

POWER- 1250W max

I get the idea of a 100% single brand solution that goes from HDMI to screen and speakers.

I do feel a little humbled and out of place with Meridian gear though.  Like, their customers are the McMansion buyers, not a mere audio enthusiast. 

You are correct, Meridian is a luxury brand, that’s why I listed it in this thread, the gear is among the best I heard, at any price. 

The top system in YG Acoustics old listening room was mental...spent a few hours there listening to Radiohead, Raconteurs, etc. and the speakers just disappeared and the sound was coming from all around me like I was sitting on stage. I've never heard anything close to that.

Well I guess I am disappointed that as an audiophile of world renowned taste (good or bad!) I still feel like there's a whole spectrum of audio gear that is deliberately marketed around enthusiasts and through separate installer channels.

We should be fortuante that MBL for instance still does demonstrations on a regular basis.

By "marketed around" I meant that the enthusiast is avoided or worked around instead of deliberately catered to. 

I recall reading a book years ago in college about ; Taoism and the founder Lao Tzu once said ; " Those who don't know say, and those that do know don't say ''. I have kept that with me for many years and has helped me at critical times in my file and also recall having saying things that I have regretted and immediately that saying came back to me as a reminder. 

What does that have to do with Audio and this post you might ask ...... a lot and I think that Mr Kenjit should also look into this and read a little about it as he clearly exemplifies what is the intent of that philosophical statement or life mantra for some. 

I have found it true when it comes to audio to a degree that the ones who ; ' do know don't say '' and they just listen to the music with a smile or a dance. 

I don't think that Mr. kenjit knows it or gets it based on his posts and positions taken here on Audiogon.  I hope that someday he does ...stay well and safe all !   


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Daoism is such a big word, and wasn't always a religion.

It was however quite political, and rebelled against the brutality of a distant centralized government Confucianism had made possible.

Uhhhh.... now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Regarding how luxury brands are marketed, would it make sense for them to sell on Amazon or Ebay?

No, they could, but not really suitable.

Showrooms? Faded away against direct to consumer brands.

Custom installers that typically don’t have a showroom? Check.

Audio shows that are coming back since Covid lockdowns? Check.

Maybe we will see a NEW marketing plan in line with WOM from other luxury brands:


@kenjit Interesting comment about box speakers.  I have no idea what you are referring to as I have not seen it.  I can tell you that we did "informal" research in my shop back in the mid 1970's.  I carried a number of lines of goods--speakers included. 

SO, what we did was, we brought our instruments to the shop--no, not HP oscilloscopes, etc., but guitars and horns and so forth.  MUSICAL instruments.  Then, we hooked up pretty much every combo in the store over a few months (after hours) and listened to these systems with various sources--back then we had reel-to-reel decks, cassettes, turntables, and FM radio, of course.

After much testing and discussion, we did learn that pretty much every box speaker--regardless of the cost--changed the sound of the music.  Some slightly--Fulton 100's, and some dramatically--Bose 901's and Advent's (my college fav) and RTR and AR, and Marantz (yes, they made speakers for a while) and B&O and, well you get the idea.  

What we learned was that if you wanted to reproduce the VERY PRODUCED AND PROCESSED recorded music closest to the original, box speakers were not that good.  We did use the Sheffield direct-to-disc vinyl and 15 ips 3rd gen tapes as well as popular normal vinyl.

Today, box speaker manufacturers have solved many of the "coloration" issues that they had in the past.  Boxes are more accurate today, and while I have not heard the latest Wilson, et al boxes, I can state that what we found was that ARC HW and Magneplaner speakers were about the most accurate systems at that time.

I ALWAYS sold the customer what he or she wanted and liked, but that does not mean I changed my mind.  I recently re-hooked-up my old system after moving and put on Diamonds and Rust.  Mitchell was in the room with me, and my Maggies were made in 1974.  I don't doubt that boxes have improved, but I do doubt that they sound as good as modern Maggies with quality tube HW.

When you own a business, you have to make a profit, so we sold the best stuff available at the time, and it was a wide variety of stuff.  BUT, I would be surprised if any modern stuff exceeded even the newest ARC-Maggie pairing today.  Doesn't mean I am close-minded.  I know what we heard back then and what I just heard on my system, and I would enjoy hearing the latest and greatest stuff.  Possibly there are superbly accurate box speakers out there today.  Funny, though, that after the 1970's almost all the "great" box manufacturers went to the 6'tall form factor.  I wonder where they got THAT idea...


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My wife and I heard the finest, most engrossing music reproduction system which involved Von Schweikert Ultra 11 (and Ultra 9 later) speakers in a $1 million to $1.5 million system.  Nationally, maybe two or three dozen reviewers were astonished and also considered this speaker and it's set-up as the finest they have heard or one of them.  I've heard several 100 $100,000+ systems and most were huge disappointments.  Some were very good indeed but not at this level (using my own LPs and CD).  Out of my price range though although someday I will purchase one of their lower cost speakers, new or used (best for my custom listening room would be the Ultra 7).  


I've heard several 100 $100,000+ systems and most were huge disappointments.

If you have to spend $100K on a music reproduction system you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed. The law of diminishing returns kicks in hard.

If you got $100K to spend on a stereo want to know how to guarantee it will be worth it CLICK HERE,

I’ll take this $100K system all day, every day:

Mercedes-Benz’s implementation of Atmos looks to go even further, with a whopping 31 speakers scattered around the car (a list that includes six 3D speakers above passengers, four “near-ear” speakers for the two front seats, and an 18.5-liter subwoofer). Each seat also features two hidden exciters apiece (for a total of eight in the car), and everything is powered by two amplifiers with a total of 1,750 watts of power.

To start, Mercedes is offering Atmos in its top-of-the-line Maybach model, followed later by its S-Class cars featuring its new MBUX infotainment system. Unfortunately, given the price of both the Mercedes Maybach and S-Class cars, having the hardware to get the full Atmos experience won’t be cheap.

The entry-level S-Class vehicle, a 2021 S 500 4Matic sedan, starts at $110,850, and the Burmester 4D surround sound add-on that’s necessary for Atmos is an additional $6,730. Customers of the top-of-the-line Maybach model won’t have to worry, though — the upgraded sound system is already included in the base $185,950 price tag.

Now THAT is a system, talk about a Vehicle baby:


BTW, if you are spending more then even $10K on a "music reproduction" system and it isn’t able to do atmos you are taking a blow torch to your wallet because you will need to sell that gear in 5 years for 20 cents on the dollar and upgrade (again, ugh):


I have heard the Ultra 7’s in Atlanta a few times.  The first time was with ARC Ref 6SE and 160M amps.  They made me sit up and take notice. They sounded great. That was summer of 21. Then last November I heard them again but with Dan Agostino gear. Not quite as impressive as I remembered it before.  Both times the sources were the same- the DAC and vinyl.  Just something to note.  

I have an S-Class.  The sound system is great.  I play it at a very low volume.  It doesn’t hold a candle to my home stereo. 

It’s the base system Burmeister, not the high end googolplex speaker system with moonrock impregnated drivers.

The real entertainment is the twin turbo V-8 and active comfort seats. Oh, brakes work good too.

Some people use a "walkman" for tunes while @tonywinga listens on the go in style

When I was a kid, I remember my Grandfather buying a new Lincoln Town Car around 1970 or so.  “It practically drives itself,” he bragged.  Nowadays they actually do drive themselves.  Good thing too with all the buttons and screen menus I must roll through to find the seat massage.

I’m kidding.  I’m embarrassing myself.  I do like cars.  Saw the interior on this car and my wife had no hesitation with me buying it.  It’s the colors that matter to her.

And like some of you have mentioned- wife approval is a factor in building a system.  I too had to spend about double for much of my stereo gear over the years.  A new amp complimented with new earrings…

@kota1 I've heard several 100 $100,000+ systems and most were huge disappointments.  Yes, at over 15 high end stereo shows and at least a dozen SoCal audio showrooms in the past.  The worst was the Chrisopher Hansen showroom in Beverly Hills (30 years ago?) with Wilson's first speaker (5 boxes stacked) and Audio Research gear.  It sounded like five boxes shouting at me.  Totally incoherent. 

I can understand why I was disappointed at show sound because of rooms and setups.  

As to needing to spend $100,000 to obtain SOTA sound, well, yes, some of the best speakers I've heard are quite expensive.  Sure, a Maggie sounds great but to obtain great dynamics and bass requires their largest speakers, subs and ample power and associated equipment (cables, pre-amp and sources).  That can approach $30-100k easily.  To obtain really fine sound, even high end sound does not require an expenditure of $100K+.  That's why I am usually disappointed above that price point as it better represent an SOTA system sound or else. 

Awww, too bad.  I don't care about Atmos.  :D  It's not hifi, it's effects-fi.  A good 5.1/7.1 system is as much installation as I'm willing to put up with in my life.