When a budget speaker is preferred to a high end one...

How many have experienced a situation when a more budget oriented speaker has a more preferred overall sound over a higher end speaker, something at 3 or more times the price?  What are your thoughts, experiences and how can you explain this?


I have experienced this. I at one point “downgraded” from a Wilson Yvette to a Scansonic MB-6B. Beyond just me, I had a few other folks agree it was much better.

First off, many speaker manufacturers are just plain out expensive. Sometimes fancy build qualities and finishes add extravagantly to the price.

Second, most times it’s the room. In my case I have a 19’x23’ room with sloped ceiling up to 18’, but I could only afford to give 48” between the back of the Yvette and the wall, and it really required another foot or two to sound best. The Scansonic just sang with that amount of room.

Third, it comes down to electronics matching. Some speakers just work better with the sonic signature of some amps, preamps, etc.

Last, speakers are just all voiced differently, and each builds a different relationship with individuals. Sometimes the one you fall in love with is the one that nobody else agrees with, and that’s perfectly okay.

+1 @blisshifi Concise, accurate, helpful answer.

There are many expensive things I don't like.

Why would speakers be an exception?

Very accurate and concise @blisshifi if my add the measurement of quality is not always price.

+1 that speaker designers have different ideas of what the perfect sound is.

In a recording studio to make sure the mix will sound good on a car radio.

Many good studios use both.

This is quite common in my experience.

Over the years and after having attended many Hi-Fi shows I’ve very rarely come away thinking that the most expensive speakers were ever the best on show.

The one exception was the Avantgarde Trios which imaged and scaled exceptionally.


At the same time I can’t ever recall the cheapest speakers ever sounding the best either, although last year someone was selling a pair of large bookshelves (in Baltic birch cabinets) which were rocking way out of their shockingly low price range (<£600).


They weren’t the best in show, that might have been the Kudos Titans (£17k), but it did illustrate the huge disconnect often seen between price and performance.

Just why this happens so often isn’t easy to explain but I have noticed that really expensive speakers usually tend to be more revealing in one area more than others and this often works against them.

The result can be that they not only reveal the faults in the recording they often end up highlighting issues within their own performance too.

Increased resolution can be a 2 way sword unless a careful sonic balance is not also maintained.




If a budget speaker is tuned to your ears more closely than the high end speaker of course it will be preferred. 

There is no difference between high end and budget speakers. Only the price.

Super high-end systems require a lot of work from the listener. Everything is laid bare. Most times I just want to play some tunes and enjoy what I’m hearing, not try for a critical listening session. You can be perfectly happy with very modest components. I urge everyone to spend time listening to statement systems, so you know what is possible but use that experience to help identify the characteristics that are important to you. I like critical systems, but I spend 95% of my time listening to my fun systems. 

i have much more fun listening to my budget bookshelf speakers than i do my big @$$ expensive ones.  I 2nd what russ said above in his last sentence. 

it really depends on what you are talking about many very expensive loudspeakers use very high resolution drivers and favor clarity over musicality so these speakers require careful matching to balance out the overall balance so adding a warmer dac or a tube preamp may be what is needed.


so the moral of the story is that the budget loudspeaker which may present less overall quality may be the more enjoyable because it is easier to live with because you  wont have  to work as hard to get that elusive balance between  resolution and musicality.

Dave and Troy

Audio intellect nj

Of course there is a difference between high end and budget speakers. What a ridiculous thing to say.

Which is not to say that all high end speakers are good and all budget bad.

This had definitely never happened to me. I research the daylights out of stuff… and speakers typically audition many. I take audio purchases very seriously.

In my experience Ascend Acoustic Sierra towers with raal tweeters measured up to $5,000 speakers even so they cost under $3,000. Reasoning is builder has a ton of experience and keeps very low overheads since he does it all through his website with zero advertising expense. It's not rocket science. I have only good things to say about them even so I have moved on to bigger $18,000 speakers.

B&W has been a great example of this.  I always found their lower end stuff better then their mid tier.  The 680 series just sounded better then the CM series.  

Whenever someone tells me that, "Speaker A sounds better than speaker B", I ask in what way? Nine times out of ten they reply that it sounds better in every way which is nearly impossible and reveals what kind of listener they really are. The bottom line, and as previously posted, is that there are many variables besides the prices. Foremost among them, room and system matching.

Zero clue as to what Juanmanuel is saying since he doesn't post his system. Enlighten us, where do you spend your money? Radio shack integrated?

I feel the issue is we are not getting close to maxing out the speaker. I have a few systems. My cheap BestBuy insignia speakers sound so good hooked up to my 200 watt amp. I can’t turn it all the way up but it sounds incredible. My main speakers also sound great because I did not go so far beyond my system. Infact, I am well below what you would think I should have. 

how can you explain this?

In this hobby cost doesn't necessarily equal quality. 

I think it's also the reason that cheaper speakers are preferred, what is your environment? I had an AMAZING pair of Thiel CS3.6s, that are the best sounding speakers that I've ever heard in person and had a simple system that drove them incredibly well......my dream system.

Covid brought on a problem, both my wife and I started working from home full time with one office and one converted bedroom office....which we were in all day. I found myself listening to music much less frequency, because it became "an event" to listen to such large speakers that need to be driven harder (thus louder) to get their best sound. I had to make sure I was ready to crank it up, my wife had to be out of the house because she was exhausted from being couped in an office, and frankly I wasn't enjoying the system the way that is deserved to be enjoyed.

I made a hard decision, sold my Thiels and the accompanying system and started from scratch. Decided I wanted a system that sounded great at lower listening levels, which meant bookshelfs were in the mix. I'll save the gory details over the more than 3 months of comparing components, but in the end purchased a pair of Buchardt Audio S400 MkIIs driven by a Denafriips stack (Pontus II DAC, Hades Pre-Amp, and Thallo Amp) and started streaming with a Bluesound Node V3.

I now find myself enjoying music every day, for hours each day.....and loving discovering music from a different point of view. That pairing is amazing (to me) and is the correct system for where I am at this point in my life. Is it as good as the Thiels on an absolute basis? Of course not, as I said the CS3.6s were the best speakers I've ever heard. But am I enjoying this hobby again with renewed vigor? Yes, much more and I have not looked back....just letting the music play.

For a start is there any reason to believe outrageous designs adopted by some manufacturers can possibly provide any improvement?

Other than bragging rights. They must be brilliant by default. They're more ostentatious than yours!

Love 'em or hate 'em, your focus is drawn to 'em. The opposite of what is preferable.


My main speakers cost 20 times my digital source and 4 times my analog source. Jokes on you @juanmanuelfangioii .

@audiotroy , musicality is mainly frequency response and even the most accurate speakers need room treatment and/or equalization for good frequency response. Accuracy I would assign to distortion and I have never wanted more in a speaker.

Why would I ever want a warm DAC. Why not just equalize as needed.

Decades ago in the 1970s i worked for a Philadelphia area chain, Wall To Wall Sound. As a come on we advertised Dynaco A25 speakers at a price I made no Commision. We also sold the original JBL 100s and the original Heil speakers for 4 to 5 times the A25 price. It was no contest. The Dynacos were smoother, less colored and had better bass. 

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Ah, another jaunt into the Uncanny Valley of the Speakers.....

Watch your step, plenty of trips and falls to be made and had on the journey.... ;)

It's part of what afflicts too many humans. More cost equals better whatever but it's often not the case. From just about any objective measure a Camry is better car than a Ferrari 296GTB, but try convincing most people of that.

Very interesting thread. My experience is that this all becomes moot when you start focusing on the quality and uniqueness of the music. After 40 years of system building I just said this is my stereo and here I stay. Mostly. The access to new and interesting music is where I put my energy nowadays.

The key word in the OP is “preferred”, and no assertion of “best”.This is a fine but important distinction. It introduced the unavoidable factor of personal bias and personal taste , which we all understand.

@blisshifi clearly addressed the resultant highly variable, and intuitively bespoke personal value judgement options, in good form .. full stop.

“… “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”


Yes, it is possible to experience that (but in my experience, not for long)...

Because we have so much choice; 

Because we have such varied hearing perception;

Because we have different wants and needs;

Because we have different things influencing our lives;

Because our systems are different;

Because our listening environs are different;

Because we don't find the time,

Etc; etc.

The matrix of reasons and influencing factors, immense.

Purchase what works for you at the time...

...but be prepared to want more later

Isn't our hobby fun?

@kenjit wrote "There is no difference between high end and budget speakers. Only the price."

Please can you explain your rationale for this statement?

Thank you,


Yes this exact situation happened to me. I had an mv55 Conrad Johnson tube amp. I sounded glorious with my JM Labs Daline 2.1's, which were limited range speakers that went down to about 40 hertz. I put the mv55 on a pair of Wilson wp7s and heard a lot of grunge which made me think that Wilson's weren't so good. I asked the dealer who had let me do this experiment what was happening and he said that the amp was producing lower quality sound in the deep basd and that the Wilsons were now reproducing that where my JMLabs weren't.

So I don't know about better or worse,  but if you have full range speakers you have to have higher quality electronics in the entire chain leading to it.

Lets not forget the people who buy audio for presentation and appearance purposes. These are not really audiophiles, gearheards or luvers of music. They want other people to think or perceive they have the best possible audio system. Period. I think these people make up a slim slice of the overall pie, and they will pay a very high inflated price for speakers for that purpose.

Twice I have invested in a major speaker upgrade only to "build" thre rest of my system around them.  The good news is thst with each susequent upgrade the speakers sounded better and better.  I guess this is a testament to system and room matching.  No speaker can sound great regardless of room or what it is being fed.  

This is why my trusty Monitor Audio Silvers haven't been shown the door yet.  They just work so darned well.  I demo'd an SF Olympica with an MC452 driving it and was totally underwhelmed.  I come back to my system is far from broken, and have one of the rare moments where I don't want to tinker.  I do want to square off some sort of Klipsch vs. Zu on my upstairs system though.  

@theaudioamp @hilde45 @juanmanuelfangioii @akg_ca 

Thank you for your appreciation. Helps me continue to put my positive energy into these responses  :)


#psyop, have you seen a show  "Suits"?   One of the lawyers has an office with a wall of LP's, McIntosh amp, turntable, etc.  It's all decoration.  Never gets played.  Here's your sign.

@ghdprentice  It's never happened to me either in my personal system, and for the exact reasons you mentioned, proper research and auditioning.

@blisshifi   I have to say the Scansonic MB2.5s showed me what could be done with a sealed ribbon tweeter, better sound than the Esotar II I had liked in the Dynaudio Sapphires.

Occasionally I have been wowed by the sound of great budget system and its probably a combination of things that all went right. Rare.

I see speakers costing 10000s using cheaper drivers than ones costing 1/2 as much. With audio price doesn't necessarily equal performance. 

Years ago, I heard and fell in love with Martin Logan Monolith IIIx, active xover, two amps, lots of wire, cost a fortune, amazing speakers... bought them, and within a year, replaced them with Vandersteen 3As. Much better.
The problem was my room.
(Sold the Monoliths to a buyer in Japan and actually made money, so it's all good.)
I think it comes down to your order of preference: less expensive speaker can do some things spectacularly well (I love the Revel M106) and if that's what floats your boat, might as well stop there. But some, not all, more expensive speakers do many things well, and... can float more boats? Float bigger boats? I'm lost...

Good luck!

I heard the Radialstrahler System Xtreme in a good demo once... breathtaking. Truly breathtaking. $250,000 was a little high for me at the time (ya think?). But I heard the incredible sonics and could see the engineering and expense. Well done, MBL. Clearly they represent value for (an incredible amount of) money. 

Chacon a son gout! And happy listening.


 "There is no difference between high end and budget speakers. Only the price."

Please can you explain your rationale for this statement?

Thank you,


How about I turn the tables and ask you to show me evidence that there is any difference?


The key word in the OP is “preferred”, and no assertion of “best”.This is a fine but important distinction.

What is the distinction?

@kenjit wrote: How about I turn the tables and ask you to show me evidence that there is any difference?

Unfortunately, that does not answer my question. Thus, I anticipate that you wrote "There is no difference between high end and budget speakers. Only the price." without any experience or knowledge on the subject and, I have wasted my time responding to you, which I shall not continue to do.





I like this thread because I have always felt that source and electronics are more important than choice of loudspeaker. I’ve said this many times in various threads-the choice of loudspeaker has the most effect on the character of the sound, not on the quality of the sound. This combined with garbage in, garbage out. Like the old adage that a good photographer can get far better results with a cheap camera than a novice can achieve with an exotically expensive camera, an experienced listener can do amazing things with optimally placing any well designed loudspeaker if the supporting components are in place and assuming reasonable compatibility between amp and speaker. It seems that I am in the minority due to human nature-most audio enthusiasts focus on loudspeakers because they garner the most visual and visceral attention. And, from a very real practical standpoint, it is easier to choose a set of loudspeakers and then choose the amp rather than vice versa. But, what is practical is does not necessarily equate to what is best. Time and again I see systems being listed on this Board consisting of very expensive loudspeakers- Magico’s being the flavor of the month-and what imho are inexpensive and sorely compromised supporting components. As always, just my humble op. The fact that I have a viewpoint does not mean I am right in this very abstract world.

Considering the inordinate amount of garbage stockpiled into a Harbeth bookshelf speaker (like there was a contest to see which network could be the most complicated piece of junk anyone could produce on design day), it is not at all surprising to hear that a less expensive and well engineered speaker could wipe the room with them. While you didn’t mention brand, I did. Imagine what they could sound like if you could improve them. But you can’t. You’d have to go external to make any headway. Trying to replace all the cheap Chinese scraps in the network with quality components would be cost prohibitive in the face of the initial outlay and the fact that the cheaper parts are smaller. No room to do a straight swap in their bookshelf designs. 


Reality is subjective. Your truth is shaped by your ability to process what is. 

I often wonder if it is more beneficial to spend money on a better than on speakers. I wonder if you can hear the difference.  It would be nice to be able to do an A vs B comparison in your home to see what is best.  Kind of like garbage in equals garbage out.

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