What Gear Has Disappointed You?

While it's clearly not an absolute fact, we tend to have an expectation that a more expensive product should be better.  Within a given brand it really should be a fact, but because there's a wide range of factors in play when it comes to pricing it's not necessarily true when comparing different brands.  I think that it's fair to say that when we purchase a more expensive product we generally have an expectation that it'll perform better.  In the cases where our experience confirms this belief it can be the result of the product actually being better and/or some expectation bias. In a sense, it doesn't really matter which it is.

With this in mind, have you ever purchased a product expecting it to be superior only find that it was clearly inferior in your experience?



Sonic Frontiers Power 2

Meadowlark Audio Shearwater HR

VAC PA 100/100

Aerial Acoustics 7T

Roman Audio Centurion

McCormack DNA-2

Cary Audio SLI-80


Those are some that come to mind right away.




Schiit DAC lasting < 3 years. They showed no interest in repairing it.

Chinese balanced with a display and remote same price. Check back in 3:years.

Bought a new Rotel 975 cdp for $550, back in 1996, not cheap. 7 years later, the drawer went bad, controls unresponsive. This happened twice, in a three year time period, and had it repaired by two different techs. Well, as the saying goes- "the third time is a charm",  so I trashed it. I miss that player, it was pretty good sounding.

Bought, a used Rega Apollo, which lasted 2 years, until the ribbon cabble went bad. I then, bought a used Rega Saturn, which lasted a year, before its` ribbon cabble and lazer assy went bad. I had the Saturn repaired by a reputable tech, but eventually, has issues. Still have a cheap ol’ NAD 515, bought in 1995, still going strong.

NAD M10. 

I was a bit shocked as I have had good luck with the brand in the past. 

CAMBRIDGE AV equipment

- (1);the very top model CAMBRIDGE AVR (model number escapes me for the moment ….)

It suddenly and catastrophically failed twice in the reported faulty P,O.S HDMI board ,..,it suddenly crapped out TOTALLY TWICE during its three-year warranty period. The entire HDMI motherboard was replaced each time.

The first FUHBAR was a failed HDMI Motherboard case that was only 13 months out from new; and it was thankfully covered by warranty,

The second catastrophic HDMI board FUHBAR was only 27 months out from new after very light use,…and the distributor now fought me and refused to honour the warranty. It was their BS argument that it was somehow now my fault that created fatal damage to the hdmi connectors from my alleged repeated swap-in and swap-out of HDMI cable connectors . (Hint: there were repeated no swap-ins or swap-outs ,,,,once only to set it up …)

(2) The stablemate top model CAMBRIDGE Blu-Ray player.

It suddenly and catastrophically ALSO failed totally some 28 months out from new. Because it had only a two year warranty, I was SOL. The cost to repair exceeded its FMV, so I passed on it. .



I immediately sold the AVR and grudgingly rendered the stablemate Blu-ray player to a boat anchor status.
I replaced the AVR with three discrete high-end YBA power amps and a standalone 7.1AV preamp/ AV processor.
The BluRay player was Aldine upgraded to an ARCAM that has been flawless.



CAMBRIDGE AV equipment is very good WHEN IT WORKS ….but otherwise is a must-to-avoid IMO.

Focal 806 monitors. Just a dry and lifeless sound. Didn't work for me and I sold them pretty quickly to someone who appreciated them. 

One of the biggest audio disappointments of all time (I’m sure I’m not the only one)

The “Olive 4HD”  (pretty much all Olive products)

@mceljo  I think you are asking what equipment has not prespecteformed to our expectations, given the money paid, as in better sound?  So far, I am reading about failures in equipment, which is not really the same thing.  More bad luck than musical performance?  It might have been better to ask what if any equipment you've paid more for, surprised to the upside in musical performance?   My experience in almost all upgrades has been disappointment in the sound improvement.  Not to say there wasn't any, but the cost/benefit relationship really falls off when you have any kind of decent system to start with.  By example, I had a $600 Audiolab 6000 CDT in my system.  I now have an Esoteric K-03XD.  Yes, I did hear an improvement in sound.  Did it justify the obscene increase in system cost?  No.  I can say the same with moving from a $10K Triton Reference to a $25K Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mark ll, or $25K Focal Sopra 2. (Canadian dollars)  It was splitting hairs between the three sets of speakers.  It would be a wonderful world if spending twice as much on any piece of equipment brought huge improvement to the overall sound of my system, but sadly, for me anyway, this has never been the case.  Well, there was that one 3 foot power cord that blew my mind with the increase to sound stage, more air between the instruments, a nearly 3 dimensional aspect to the performance and don’t get me started on how tight the bass was or the incredible improvement to the midrange and highs……..  Sorry but I couldn’t resist. 🤣


Your onto something- a thread about expensive cables that didn’t deliver would definitely be entertaining!

Adcom GFP-565 preamp (early Nineties). Highly touted by the Mags but extremely ordinary performance. Replaced with a Classe 6. Now you're talking...

Another was the Magnepan MMG speakers (mid Seventies). Were pleasing to the ear until I heard some Conrad Johnson "Synthesis" floor standers which were clearly superior in every way. Granted, the CJs were 3-4 times the price but...

Lastly, for whatever reason, I've never been able to warm up to Audioquest cables. Not extensive exposure but never seemed to keep them more than a few months. I did own and enjoy their "Lapis" phono cables for a few years.


High wattage ss amplifiers with good (not great) reviews.

Also I switched my utility from regular power to green power and could tell no difference.

”The “Olive 4HD” (pretty much all Olive products)”


Olive 4HD, brought back some bitter sweet memories. Started out strong but their ‘closed-in’ operating system and short sightedness, ultimately led to their demise.

@bigtwin - I took the negative approach because it's hard know if the improvement is a result of truly being real or if it's just different colored by expectation bias.  If someone paid for a product that they expected to be better and found that it wasn't, it seems like expectation bias would not be a factor as the result was the opposite of what was expected.

Ideally, I was looking for responses that said I had a $1000 component and then purchased a $3000 component and found that it wasn't an improvement.

I love all my other Bryston gear (14BSST, BCD-1, BDA-3, BP-26 PRE-AMP) but the interface (Manic Moose) for the BDP-3 Network player is so unappealing to use, that mine has been sitting unused for more than a year.
Instead,  I  have a Yamaha np-s303 network player at 1/10 of the price doing the job. It's app is super easy to use. 
I'm holding on to the Bryston player in the hopes that Bryston Canada will succumb to public preasure and develop and app/interface that is simple to use.  
I know this has been discussed on other threads and on other forums in the past.  I'm just hoping that Mr. Tanner is willing to reopen the topic for further discussion.

+1 @okhunter 


I gave up on the BDP 3 for the same reason.  I got tired of waiting for Bryston to do something about it.  I own the DAC3 and use with with a Melco N 100 and a CA CXN60.  .


  The Bryston optical player was a piece of crap as well.

A decade plus a few years ago, adding home theater in a different room from my two- channel system, I purchased a Pioneer Elite top model receiver.  Just after it went out of warranty—~three years, I think, it died.  I called Pioneer for an RMA to pay to have it repaired and was told that the failure code indicated the main processor had gone bad and that the company that produced them had gone out of business … and that there was no replacement.  I was directed to my dealer to purchase a new Pioneer; end of conversation.  I did go to my dealer, who, saying he felt bad about my experience, sold me—allegedly at his cost and it was a very good price— a new, top line but second level Marantz, which has worked superbly ever since.  So, Pioneer Elite is off my preferred list.

Nuprime CDT-8 Pro transport...major problems with drawer and controls...Nuprime and Audio Advisor totally unresponsive, even though unit was under warranty..the unit did sound great when working though...

Back about 10 years ago I decided to get serious about power delivery and purchase a more expensive than had power conditioner.

I bought a Running Springs Audio Dmitri power conditioner (around 5k new)

I was shocked how closed-in and warm it made everything. Maybe I already had to much warmth at the time and it  just wasn’t a good fit. But I surely didn’t expect a power conditioner to impart such a seemingly strong sonic profile onto everything. Out it went after just a few days and I lost more reselling it than any other purchase before or since. 

For me it was the McIntosh MT2 turntable. I am pretty much a Mc guy and thought this would be a perfect intro back into vinyl. While it is well built by ClearAudio, mine would have varying speed issues and I replaced the belt once but finally sold it and moved on. I know have a VPI.

Schiit Gungnir. Just did not have the sound quality for the price. In my comparisons, Chord Qutest and RME ADI2 both better, for different reasons.

Surprisingly, KEF LS50 Meta. Lots of hype,  but for classical music the timbres were just not reproduced well, especially highs. Fine for amplified music like rock and roll. 

Like okhunter and mahler123 with their Brystens, I have a major user interface disappointment only mine is with miniDSP and Volumio.The hardware (SHD Studio) is fine, but the Volumio os/ui is so frustrating that after a year of trying to get comfortable with it I am ready to throw in the towel.  I find my listening time has gone down because the streaming interface is so unpleasant to use. 

Incidentally, I got the SHD because Dirac Live dsp comes integrated with it.  To my great surprise the dsp made little difference in SQ.  Thus, another product that did not meet expectations, but in this case probably not the fault of the product.  Either my room was OK to begin with (I have some tube traps, diffusers, acoustic panels already in place), or maybe it is just plain irremediable.

NAD 7 channel Surround Sound Receiver. I forget the model ( sort of intentionally) but it was the top of the line & pretty expensive. Performed well, sounded quite good for both stereo music listening & for movie watching & had plenty of power. 

After about 4 years of only moderate use, the right channel started to get occasionally noisy for a second or two & then be fine for weeks. Finally, the right channel died. Goodwins High End in Waltham MA where I bought it seemed to have very little interest in helping me, took way too long to get back to me, & quoted about $1000 to get it repaired w/ no guarantee of success!

The unit was supposed to be easily upgradable w/ plug in modules as technology changed which also turned out not to be true. Both the equipment & the store left a bad taste in my mouth. I bought a nice Anthem receiver to replace it & been happy ever since. 

B&W Matrix 802 series 3. I couldn't believe how thin these sounded compared to Infinity kappa 8's. I put them for sale the same day and never had not one call. So I kept them replaced the xovers,  added a sub woofer swarm, they still sound a little thin at times but I'm keeping them for now.  I was told there a collectors speaker whatever that means. 

Aurender A10 lack luster sound for excessive money. its built well but has a boring presentation.

Roon Nucleus other than room software itself what a disappointing sound from a well review streamer, not surprising when you open one up and see an empty box. 

Spendor D9.2 speakers, a very thin sounding presentation, lack of tone, and tipped up top end. yes, they are hyper detailed and have good speed but that's about all. 

A lot of the very large and high end systems set up in small hotel rooms at audio shows disappoint me. Could do just as well in a room like that for a fraction of the cost in many cases.

Onkyo AVR, and Emotiva processors stand out. Marantz also, the latter always sounds harsh to my ears.

PS Audio PerfectWave Transport.

This thing retailed for $4k and I'm on my third CD drive. PSA used the cheapest computer rot-gut drive they could find. The fact that they would put a cheapo $10.00 drive in a $4000 transport has galled me to no end.

PSA replaced the first drive for free then they charged me $500 for the second one. When this one goes out (it's already starting to act up) I will replace it with a higher quality Plextor drive myself. Based on this experience I will never buy another PSA product again.

Not too much lately so maybe as my system has matured toward a sound that I enjoy, my buying choices have improved.

One lately was the Benchmark LA4 preamp. How could I not like the sound of one of the most accurate preamps made, and the preamp that measured better than any John Atkinson has tested? Don’t know, but I just could bring myself to like it better than a couple of others that I have here. I would simplify my description of the sound as precise, strong leading edge, at the expense of body and tone, at least in comparison. Do I like the sound of distortion? Probably.

Another disappointment was Class A amplification. I spent a lot of years trying to make 4 different Class A amps sound good to me in my system and while they did a couple of things really well, the end result was disappointing. I am very happy with my current class A/B amps that are maybe not outstanding at any one thing, except dynamics, but that do everything pretty well, with no fatal flaws.

Rogue Pharaoh integrated amp - bright and thin

Harbeth 30.2 speakers - so very average


Recently, I decided to try out a AmpliD Modern Class D amp from Pathos. Had high hopes that it would take me to the next plane of audiophila, but it was not to be. Class D might have come along way, but to my ears I didn’t like the sound of it. It’s a very clean studio sound and while I couldn’t say it was bad it was just super dry sounding with sharper edges which was not to my preference. The bass was stronger and the sound was overall more forward. Some might prefer that type of sound, but I didn’t, so I’ve decided to stick with AB. That said, it did work great for cinema though.

The straw that broke the camels back was that I was running the amp via unbalanced single ended preout from an AV Receiver. That generated a hum I wasn’t keenly aware of the listening position but had an impact on the sound. It wasn’t until one day, I happened to get close to the right speaker whilst watering a plant that I heard the hum. Immediately sent it back to the retailer.

Parasound JC3+, noisy in my system and no gain adjustment. Replaced it with a Pass XP-15 and later with a Modwright PH 9.0X, both dead quiet.


I still bear a grudge against Mytek (both the maker and the internet site I bought it from) for not giving me even a trace of accommodation when my Brooklyn Streamer/DAC/Phono Amp died pretty much the day it went out of warranty.  And, damn, the thing sounded good! On the other side of the ledger, my Electrocompaniet preamp/phono stage did indeed last a very decent amount of time past its warranty coverage. So I can't really complain. For a while I replaced it with the preamp portion of my NAD integrated amp. In any event, I'm now leery of all Class A transistor gear. By contrast, when a tube goes dead you can easily mail order another one. And when I lived in L.A. there were several places around town that kept a variety of tubes in stock. They were fun places to visit, too.

ARC Ref 80S amp.

Sold to me as being “a match made in heaven” for my Quad 57s.


No question that it is an excellent amp, but heavy handed with the Quads.

And I never felt any time a suspension of disbelief.

Just fatiguing on highs and high volume.

Yes: I went on a vintage binge, excited about the cool aesthetics and supposedly superior construction.  All of the following were inferior in all respects (other than the LOOK of the units... I mean, come on: those old Marantz receivers are true eye candy... and the HK and Pioneers are lookers, too, and nice to handle as well) sonically and functionally to the simple, inexpensive Marantz nr1200 receiver... all the vintage were sold off at no loss, following the revelation: 

Marantz 2238 receiver

Pioneer sx450 receiver

Harman Kardon HK430 receiver

all beautiful to look at, but the new nr1200 beat them all handily.  I was rather surprised, but when I was honest with myself I had to admit it... 

KEF LS-50s - just all wrong in my room. They are a near field monitor for small rooms. In my living room, they just sounded tiny and lost, even with a sub. Replaced them with Monitor Audio Silver 300 7G, and am very happy. The LS-50s will go into a second system in a smaller room.

My VPI Scout was originally ordered with a Grado Sonata 3 from Music Direct. Supposedly preinstalled, aligned, and tested. Not only was the installation alignment visibly horribly wrong, the tracking force clearly had not been set, and to top it all off, the Grado hummed as badly as any badly grounded device ever. Music Direct's response was great, swapped the Grado for a Hana SH, which I installed and aligned myself. As for the VPI, other than an initially sticky cuing  damper, it has been flawless. Horror stories about unipivot arm setup are mostly urban myth and the low tracking error of the 10.5" 3D printed arm suits the Shibata stylus well. Very happy now.

No particular order:

Crown Amps--shrill and broke quickly

Quad speakers--definition of "listening fatigue"

Mark Levinson anything (1970's)--really bad sound from awesome components

McIntosh anything--well, their scope thing is pretty cool to look at

Bose speakres--joke of the audio world with "direct reflecting."  Still laughing.

Stax headphones--1970's--SHRILL!

Dynaco 70--really noisy through headphones

Most box speakers

Trascriptor TT--BEAUTIFUL, but does not actually work

Lots more, but enough for now.



if you really love the 70's gear curtdr , you should try some truly fully refurbished pieces...for most a huge difference, though a very vocal few prefer them original...

Klipsch LaScala

Just criminal the complete absence of sub-bass. I was persuaded back to a dealer's home after he promised me epic bass. Put on my first record, some drum and bass, and the point where the bass slam usually descended into the mind boggling nether regions there was just a dry clap with no substance.


@aolmrd1241 I'm not saying the Crescendo isn't a great speaker, if fact I loved it.  And the cabinet work (mine were burled walnut) is some of the best in the world.  My point was that moving from the Triton Reference to a speaker that was more than twice the price, was not justified by the improvment in sound quality.  Were they better?  Yes, not by that much.  But maybe they are the perfect speaker for your ears, in your listening space.  That's waht makes this an interesting pursuit. Cheers.

@gavman - from what I've heard about big Klipsch speakers in reviews and such, their defining trait is most definitely NOT 'epic bass'. Tight bass, sure, but not wall-shaking. I think it was 'criminal' of the dealer to misrepresent the speaker if that is the case. Sounds like whatever you end up getting, you might get a lot out of adding a good subwoofer or two. 

@jl35 each piece I had was professionally and meticulously refurbed, with supposedly all the best caps etc.  Still not up to even the modest nr1200, on sound quality even (clarity, separation, imaging, bass articulation,... the whole of it) let alone the features.

I'm sticking w recent gear from now on.  I want coax, optical, hdmi, ... etc.  Also, remote controls are always nice, lol.  

I very much prefer current gear too curtdr, though I do have fun with refurbished pieces 

Bryston amplification up to the SST range. I extensively auditioned them (in the ought’s) on 3 vastly different types of speakers (from Sonus Faber to Focal) at different dealers. The Bryston signature came through on all of them- thin, harsh, fatiguing with glare and grain.

Simply the worst soundings amps and pre’s I have ever heard for the huge price and reputation they commanded. At the time the Bryston engineers used to brag in magazine feature articles about their pro audio background and how they never did any listening tests and designed by measurement only. Yes it certainly showed. Why they would think this is some kind of positive selling point is beyond me.

But the SST2 range and onwards was a refresh by a different design team and are apparently a lot better, but I have not bothered with this brand since.

All Rega moving magnet cartridges - dull, boring, and thick sounding.

Ortofon SPU Royal N - harsh, shrill, lacking in musicality.  Not an Ortofon fan in general.

Vandersteen 2ce Signature - if you like a blanket over your music and own a 250 wpc solid state amplifier, you're in luck!!