What makes an expensive speaker expensive

When one plunks down $10,000 $50,000 and more for a speaker you’re paying for awesome sound, perhaps an elegant or outlandish style, some prestige ... but what makes the price what it is?

Are the materials in a $95,000 set of speakers really that expensive? Or are you paying a designer who has determined he can make more by selling a few at a really high price as compared to a lot at a low price?

And at what point do you stop using price as a gauge to the quality? Would you be surprised to see $30,000 speakers "outperform" $150,000 speakers?

Too much time on my hands today I guess.
The speaker manufacturers build pricing model into their design.  They charge whatever the they can get [away with].

So what makes an Expensive speaker Expensive?  Well, I'll chime in, but I'm sure that I won't solve a thing and will offend someone. Many of you know that I've built a lot of speakers and through the years, I've been inside of a lot of speakers.  Most of what I'll say is accurate, but a bit conjecture and some just opinion.

First, the first thing that makes a good speaker good is understanding the parts used, knowing what response curves sound like, how crossover frequencies change everything because 1 driver may sound better at a given frequency so the crossover point is changed to have one part handle the frequency... a few 2 ways come to mind where the tweeter sounded better at 2k than the woofer, so even though the woofer could go out farther, the designer still crossed lower to use the better sounding tweeter in the upper mid frequencies.

Next what crossover slopes sound like and how the frequency crossed at and the slope affect phasing and time alignment.

Next cabinet design in conjunction with the drivers to get the drivers with the flattest response and time alignment necessary and to hear the speakers rather than the box. 

So in short,  the design is first and for most, regardless of cost.

My initial reaction toward most speakers until I hear them is skepticism. I have opened so many very expensive speakers, scratched my head and wondered "how can someone in good consciousness charge this for such a speaker". 

I have also looked at speakers and have seen Diamond or Beryllium parts,  maybe aluminum or magnesium, individual drivers that are so very expensive that I new that most likely that I wouldn't have the opportunity to build with these parts myself and  then knowing how hard it is to take the peaks out of some of these very expensive parts and I hear them and hear music and accuracy....

My weakness is cabinetry.  I can make a cabinet that in the end will make a nice sounding speaker, but when I see some of the beauty and artistic work in some of these speakers,  I wonder just how much I would charge for a speaker made like that. 

Sometimes, you have a designer that is truly a master craftsman in his driver selection and crossover work that those speakers automatically take them to the next level in pricing,  then I see others that add the artwork in their cabinetry and I understand why they charge a premium. 

Now, all that said,  I truly believe that it is possible to design and deliver....lets say a $5,000 + speaker that can compete at a very high level and depending on the associated equipment could yes sound better than some multi-mega buck speakers. 

And my last comment would be,   $50,000 + speakers?  I'm not sure any speaker is worth that,  but I don't blame anyone for making a buck,  its the people that are willing to pay that keep those few in business.  Hey, they may be worth $50,000 or $150,000 to an individual and if they can afford it and aren't bankrupting their family to own them,  more power to you......... and enjoy. 

I hope this helps someone,  Tim

 I agree with many of the above comments, but would add there are ways around exorbitant pricing, buying second hand, being the most obvious. Speakers seem ideal for used purchase, like cables. They naturally should have a longer life than electronics, with fewer bits to fail. I have had speakers that have worked perfectly well for over thirty years, passed on to family members.

 Secondly you must understand the implications of a very small niche market. As others have said, fewer sales mean fewer units to bear the fixed costs of the company, R&D, marketing, Accounts etc.

 Thirdly and most importantly, is just where does the seller spend his money. I had a long conversation with a small speaker manufacturer a few years ago, who shall be nameless. He estimated the building and parts costs of a large manufacturer, like say Wilson, as 25% of the total. So an $80000 pair of speakers costs about $20000 to build, which shocked me. Where does the rest go, Dealer and Distributor margins, Plant rent, heating, lighting etc, and so on. A very large part goes on Marketing evidently.

 Now take a small one man operation, selling direct. Most of those costs are gone. No dealers, distributors, minimal marketing, just word of mouth and show attendance. The problem, well no massive R&D budget, so he is going to need very good ears to voice the speakers, with no complex, expensive machinery to do the job for him. If he has got good ears and I would say there are a lot of small manufacturers out there who seem to, then everyone can be a winner.

I just got rid of a $4000 speakers, and replaced them with a $200 speakers. I liked the $200 one better.
Pioneer did have the best Plasma set in the marketplace. Damn shame they gave it away...