When someone tells you it's a $40,000 amp, does it sound better?

I've always been a little bit suspicious when gear costs more than $25,000 . At $25,000 all the components should be the finest, and allow room for designer Builder and the dealer to make some money.

I mean that seems fair, these boxes are not volume sellers no one's making a ton of money selling the stuff.

But if I'm listening to a $40,000 amplifier I imagine me Liking it a whole lot more just because it costs $40,000. How many people have actually experienced listening to a $40,000 amplifier.  It doesn't happen that often and usually when you do there's nothing else around to compare it to.  

I'm just saying expensive gear is absolutely ridiculous.  It's more of a head game I'm afraid. Some how if you have the money to spend, and a lot of people do, these individuals feel a lot better spending more money for something.  Now you own it, and while listening to it you will always be saying to yourself that thing cost $40,000 and somehow you'll enjoy it more.



Interesting how you picked $25K...How much did you put in for marketing, warranty service, overhead staff, etc?  

Two thoughts 

  1. “Fair” is subjective 
  2. Price of something is based on the market and specifically the customer 

in your scenario there are many incredible amplifiers. I’ve heard some amplifiers at $20-40k and the overall systems were 6 figures and they sounded incredible. 

And there are always differences in sound; will you enjoy the difference?  I don’t know and that’s true with many excellent amplifiers. 

Enjoy your journey. 

I have to imagine most of those who are considering spending $40K on an amp (not me) would take the time to compare and determine their answer to that question?

My experience listening to $40K+ amps (not sure what you mean by ‘when someone tells you’) that I can not afford; yes, many of them sound better than less expensive amps.




That is a good question and if the amp in your living room coast $100K than the one at your pool costing $40K may seem a bit lame. On the other hand if the amp in your garage cost $4K than the one at your pool may sound fabulous. 

Here is one for you, if you go to an audio show and everyone tells you that room X is best of show and to you room X is worst of show, do you tell people the truth or just agree with them that it is best of show?



I don't agree because I haven't heard such an amp to make that judgement, and apparently, neither have you so it's all just talk. As another poster here said, those who would spend that kind of money will normally compare, and unless they're buying for looks (which is normally a part of the decision), the main criteria is usually performance.

You would need to spend the same on preamp and associated source components plus some truly world class speakers to even fully realize it's potential. 

Not to mention the room it's in.   That will dictate the overall sound quality.   

You can put together a great system for the price of that amp that for most would be pretty amazing 

These comparisons are difficult if it’s just about pricing. We also get into the technological weeds re innovation included (or not) in the given item.

After a certain point, the ganish on the given meal becomes pricey, or that components and build costs become big players in the overall costs involved.

If the builders/designers decide that the item deserves a higher cost due to innovation and there are differences in those innovations as compared to the so called norm. Bleeding edge has it’s costs. Then the issue of blowhard versions of said attempts and whether the buyer can discern that, or not.

Innovations can be difficult to weigh in context or out of it. Science might be the  arbiter but that depends upon all aspects being defined. The calculators/weighers/innovators/'those who apply' said science have to be as psychologically well balanced as much as the given recipients (end users) do. The problem being that science is not complete and likely never will be, the innovation is presumably new and..science is fallible because it made out of people, just like Soylent Green.

In the end, the price is the price and a person has to individually try the item out and decide whether it is worth the price. Porsche vs Lambos kinda comparisons.

Sometimes innovation can make for a better sound quality and is less expensive, and that’s how Class D entered the chat, at least in some people’s perceptions.

Those dang individuals and their opinions and projections. And the thread will go where it goes...

This question is kind of the Achilles' heel that Schiit (not exclusively but especially) is exploiting. Their approach is pretty simple -- they are saying, in effect,

"We know that you know that a certain amount of care has to go into construction and parts, and that much of the rest of quality depends on the brainpower behind design and testing. And the ability of those involved to listen and care about the results. Beyond that, fancy boxes and marketing techno-blather could just be hiding bad product or lack of care. We get that and we don't do that; we are smart and we care."

Youtube guys like OCD Mikey and Danny at GR research also call attention to the possible divorce between price and quality. It's pretty much a standard go-to for any reviewer, I suppose.

Then there are the quiet giants, such as Mike at Quicksilver or Fritz. Their stuff is nice enough looking and everything else comes back to customer experience. And their price points are never out of control. But their gear is not sufficiently bling-y for someone wanting to say to their friends, "I'm very rich."

Quicksilver is one of the best examples of performance to price ratio out there.  If you don't care that it is very plain and without bling you will be rewarded with great sound.  

I had a pair of Mid Mono for about 9 years and for what they cost new, you really have to wonder what beats them in their respective price range.   Not much.   They are some of the best values in audio , regardless of price.

Even if I had stupid money,  I would blow it all on fast cars not $40k amps and every thing else needed to go with them 

A lot of the high priced amps do have a better build quality than stuff like Schitt, not that Schitt is bad gear, but they can't price it low and have the build quality of a Dan D'Agostino amp, and I'm not just talking about the difference in the chassis it's the whole amp that's built and designed better.

I'm guessing you're paying 20-25% just for the metal work of these ultra $$$ amps. Maybe more if its Boulder. 

I'm guessing the chassis can also make a difference in sound, less vibration. 

Listen to enough systems at all price points and your expectations greatly lessen. I've heard many systems between audio shows, dealers, in home, at all price points. The best I've heard are fully sota, every t crossed i dotted, sound quality of these systems certainly reflected cost. I've also heard sota components in systems not fully optimized or containing other non sota components, much less impressed, in some cases very unimpressed. I should also add price alone doesn't make for sota component, this most exposed when all components making up a system from one manufacturer. I've yet to hear sota sound quality from these type systems. Sota components generally come from specialized manufacturers IME.


Bottom line, I know sota sound quality when I hear it, expectation doesn't change reality.



As an example. For the last nine months I have had both a set of Audio Research Reference 160m monoblocks ($36K) and a Audio Research Reference 160s (the stereo version, $22K). There is no question the monoblocks out perform the stereo unit and are worthy of the price.

I have found performance levels are largely in line with cost without discontinuity. Different companies have different house sounds of course. The high end audio amp market is highly competitive… any real anatomy in price / performance would get eliminated pretty quickly.


$40K amp sound “better?”

No. It sounds “expensive.” Expensive doesn’t translate to “better.” Any engineer can design an “expensive” amp. Few can design a “better” amp.



so, you are saying that maybe I should choose a company and buy their least expensive amp and it should perform as good as their most expensive amp?

let me ask this question, 20,000 amps are already very very good, do you honestly believe that a $40,000 amp is $20,000 better? I highly doubt it, it may be 5% and at the most 10% better is that worth $20,000 more I highly doubt it.


ghd Prentice, that's not a fair comparison, if you're going to do a comparison compare apples to apples not apples to oranges, obviously monoblocks are going to sound better than a stereo amp so if you're going to do a comparison at least do stereo amp to stereo amp or monoblocks to monoblocks.

This is a typical hi end audio discussion over outrageously priced equipment. And most of the folks discussing it won't even bother talking about their listening room setup. Count me out.

I suppose there is a price point beyond which any design can be built with a reasonable profit margin. What that is is not so clear.  Some designs can be surprisingly expensive when it comes to parts.  The input and output transformers on my amp are vintage parts that can cost $24,000 for a stereo set.  The 9 tubes can cost more than $16,000.  So, even without the chassis, power transformers, resistors, caps, chokes, etc., the parts alone are at the hypothetical excess level.  Is the amp worth it?  I think so, but such an evaluation is very specific to my taste and system matching.  For one thing the output is something like 5.5 wpc—it would not work at all with some speakers

invalid, I don't know what stereo amps you've been listening to and comparing to monoblocks, I've never heard any $20,000 stereo amp sound better than $40,000 monoblocks, sorry I don't know what price range you're listening to but no way will an equivalent price stereo ever sound better than two of the equivalently priced monoblocks, I'll give you an example I have a SIM audio w8 which is a world class stereo amplifier but when you put two of them together in mono it's not even in the same league for the stereo amp to go up against two of them, sorry bud you're wrong as usual. LOL

I'll bet a $40,000 stereo amp would sound better than monoblocks that cost half as much combined was my point.

A $40,000 amp will sound better than a less expensive one because it costs more. Everyone knows higher price ALWAYS equals better sound. Duh.


I'd wager a week's pay that if someone built an amp identical to something from Dagostino but put it in a plain metal case, people would say the tarted up one would sound better. 

Ultimately, it is a matter of taste, and it is entirely possible for a much cheaper amp to fit one’s taste better than an expensive amp and that is not a knock on the expensive amp.  This Saturday I talked with a shop owner who just completed a sale after a customer auditioned various amps and speakers.  It came down to a comparison of two amps, and the customer preferred one integrated over the other.  Throughout the audition, the customer did not know prices.  The amp he outright preferred cost something like $9,000.  The “competition”? That amp costs $60,000. The dealer was not surprised by the preference, although he did think a different set of tubes might have flipped the preference.


No. That’s not what I’m saying. 
Example would be PS Audio’s BHK600 monoblocks. $32,000 per pair, I believe. Paul says it’s full of expensive components. Maybe. But 2 well selected monoblocks at $20,000 per pair can sound as good from a different manufacturer. Like all things, you have to do your homework. Perhaps 2 monoblocks at $10,000 per pair can be equally as good in your setup.

Does my Pass XA-25 contain expensive components? It seems like it might. Would a D’Agostino’s 4 or 5 watts (which is what my speakers require to put music into my earballs) into my 99 db speakers sound better? 5 to 10 times better? Are they better watts? I actually like D’Agostino’s designs as a sort of "steam punk" esthetic, but otherwise think the prices they require from hedge fund managers are sort of silly...like a 2 million dollar watch (Richard Mille...nice, and I collect watches, but the market is down so that one will wait). Some think a Schiit Aegir is in the same class as some very expensive amps, and 2 run as monos are real cheap, relatively speaking. But I can only assume their watts aren’t doing what a $10,000+ amp does, which is satisfy expectation bias all day.

Preamps and power amps have been transparent to the source for decades. Amplifiers will exhibit sonic differences when driven into clipping - but who wants that? Beyond a basic level all you are paying for is bling.

I have had about 10 amps in the last 2 years and they all sounded different at volume levels no where close to clipping. I sold my KRELL amp yesterday and only have Benchmark AHB2 monos left. Both of those 2 amps are very different sonically. I usually connected my amps to my very revealing and quiet Benchmark LA4 preamp. So it was mostly the amp and source I was hearing.

My next amp, for a second system, is supposed to be a $40K amp, but we will see if that is a pipe dream or reality next year. The reason to spend that much is because it will be sonically similar to an amp I owned and sold but it lacked the power I needed. The $40K amp will have much more current and power than any amp I have owned before. My next speakers can make great use of that current.

I have owned cheaper very high current amps but they were nowhere as good as what I am looking to get.

A lot of that cost is also bling though that is not important to me.


It is so subjective....  Double Blind testing is the only fair way of doing an honest assessment so as to eliminate any biases.  

Fella's... its all subjective, and determined by personal taste and perception.

Using percentages as far as performance really doesn’t work. It is exceptionally arbitrary as there are so many variables to sound quality and every person values different aspects.

Is it worth it, is a value judgement based on your desire for better sound and your income level. I own a $22K amplifier because I can afford a $22K amplifier…OK, let’s be honest… I can afford a $10K amplifier… but this is a disease so I bought one more expensive than was prudent.

If I could afford it I would own an amp in the $40K range, I would… in this case the own the ARC REF 160m I have that my friend lent me. I know the performance of both these amps very very well… they are sitting in front of me. To me the more expensive mono blocks are worth it.

I can't relate to anything above $1000.  Any more is just for those who have too much $$.

not necessarily, but unfortunately the best sounding gear to me, is expensive...there is some expensive stuff I don't like and some inexpensive stuff I like very much...but give us all more credit than we would buy expensive gear we don't really like ...



Why $1,000 why not $500 or better yet $200. These are just arbitrary numbers that have no meaning.

@invalid : give me an original NAD 3020 and I am happy! I had two of them back in 1978/79. List price then was $199! The Audio Critic tested the 3020 and preferred it over most $2000 pre/power amp combinations.

sure invalid, I did not mention any numbers...JB, the NAD 3020 was awesome, though I did much prefer the Mac amp and pre, though owned neither...

Every individual determines value for him or herself. I went from an under $20K amplifier to one that's over $30K and it's worth every penny to me. No, there isn't a night and day difference, but listening to music is more enjoyable. 

This hobby is no different than any other, if your into drag racing it cost a lot more money to make your car a few seconds faster, after that it will cost a lot more to just shave a few tenths of a second. Some people are just happy with a car that can break the 10 second mark, others want to break the seven second mark.

No! My $27k Wakarimasen Buddha Enhanced amp with power supply upgrades by Hugo Burpie blows it away! Why anything else is junk. Junk I say!

What was the question?

I think you hit the nail on the head in the original post and everybody has rolled right over it. There is a cost for rarity - and there is an economy of scale. That is a big part of costs. Paying for design, parts, quality and the living wages throughout the distribution chain is one thing. Paying a premium because all of those costs need to be recouped on a relatively small quantity of goods - that is a waste of money. I don’t think there is anything nefarious going on here - it’s just math. If they were to sell 1000 40k amps a year, could they get the cost down to 25k? 

I've not seen value mentioned thus far, many variable enter into value equations. Parts count and quality, how much one company charges for R&D, profit margins, business models, these just off the top of my head.


Making objective statements as to all $40K amps being superior to those priced beneath is total nonsense. Proof is in the listening, and for comparison to be really valid, needs to be in one's own system over long term.


Too much one upsmanship based solely on price at this forum, not enough value considerations.