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.
Lots of good information and analysis above.  One thing not mentioned is what are the actual street prices of the $$$ speakers?  Leaving aside "industry accommodation" pricing, what do real consumers actually pay for a $50K or $100K speaker?  I have no idea and I imagine it varies widely, but it would be interesting to know what the average discount is on these uber high-end products.  The only speaker I bought new in the last 20 years was obtained at a very substantial discount from list.  It was not in this price category but still, it didn't take any arm-twisting on my part. 

Of course, the most basic answer to the OP's question is:  "Price".

Hi All,

    Tubes 444,  while I agree with your assessment,  right off the top of my head, I can think of 10 or 12 quality  current driver manufactures.


 One factor I haven't seen mentioned in the price debate, is a piece of kit being to cheap. I know the stories are apocryphal, but I have spoken to dealers who have had customers say face to face, that they like a product, but it doesn't cost enough. The reason, 1) it's cheap so it can't be any good. 2), it's cheap so they can't impress their friends.

 The rich variety of human stupidity, still surprises me from time to time.

Marty, not sure why the 2k ones do it for you over the 10k ones.  Maybe there is something major missing in the more expensive three you have or you have the smaller system in an area where you listen more often.  Personally, I've owned and still do a few different systems in different rooms in my house.  Whenever I can listen to my major system with the Vandy Treo's, I"m all in.  It's the one that I connect with and love to listen to for hours and hours.  That's just me.

When I say reverse snobbery, it really is when folks make blanket statements that spending over X amount isn't worth it or it's  a waste etc..  The bottom line is that if folks want to spend that and feel that it is worth it, then it is if they can afford it.  I can't afford speakers over 15k and even then it's a STRETCH.  That doesn't mean that I feel anything over that is a waste.  My favorite speakers I've ever heard in a system are the Vandersteen 7 mk2's.  I've heard a lot of the 100k plus speakers set up the way the dealer or manufacturer wanted them set up.  They just haven't done it for me, but there are thousands who love them or they wouldn't be produced.  Conversely, it is snobbery when someone says you can't get great sound unless you spend X amount.  I fell in love with a system that consisted of a Rotel integrated amp with a Vandersteen 2 that was set up properly.  It was running with an Ayre Codex DAC/headphone amp.  

I'm also into personal audio and have a few pair of IEM's as well as headphones.  They all give me different things and are easy to collect.   I can say that in personal audio, you can get dynamic and wonderfully sounding music for very little if you want to.  You can also get unbelievable sound if you want to spend more money just like in speakers.  I do feel snobbery goes both ways just like it can in anything else.  That's not a negative as we are just passionate folks (as long as we are still respectful.  I try to be, but probably don't always succeed).

I just realized that I did not answer the last question from the op...

No,  I would not be surprised to find that a $10,000 speaker could outperform a few $100,000 to $150,000 speakers, much less a $30,000 speaker.  Its all taste.... the Accuton ceramic drivers are very detailed, but not at all everyone's cup of tea,  just as the Raal ribbon,  again very detailed,  but many people prefer a good ole soft dome. Quality of parts is radically important, but in the end, its all in the execution.