Why Is Hi Fi Gear So Darn Expensive?

Why Is Hi-Fi Gear So Darn Expensive?! - The Absolute Sound

Interesting read.

"I recently heard a small 2-way stand mount speaker at a show. The sound was excellent. The product was priced at $50,000 or thereabouts, per pair. Allowing for distribution and marketing leaves about $25,000."

$25000 for distribution and marketing? Really? That much more for this than a similar product at 1/10th the cost?

I don’t doubt the marketing cost per unit could be much higher with boutique products. Makes sense. Is the cat is out of the bag regarding the value proposition of boutique products?

How about fancy fuses marketed for free here that cost practically nothing to ship? Oh my!

I guess there are "excellent" expensive boutique products and others that offer value everywhere. Hifi not unique. Take your pick! Live and learn!

The article also chalks up people’s reactions to high-fi prices to emotion. What about the sound they hear? Real or emotionally distorted? What would Mr. Spock think about that? I know he likes music...he plays a harp!



Tom Martin’s blog post is off base. 

Warning: this is a rant.

This article captures much of what is so obnoxious to me about the audiophile community.

Tom Martin applies reductionist thinking to readers asking a legitimate question. Is he a psychologist now? Or, like too many audiophiles, is he viewing the world through the narrow, overly confident perspective of an engineer?


It is the same type of reductionism that makes so much of the audiophile media unappealing. Audio is a potentially wonderful enthusiast hobby, but too often it comes off as an exclusive club of consumer-level electrical engineering hobbyists. 

Of course there should be a place for people to debate the oxygen level of $10k interconnects (or whatever), but there is SO MUCH to talk about that is more important, interesting, and relevant. 

We live in an absolutely fascinating age in the history of audio technology. Never before has music been more available, affordable, or convenient. But it is also a time when public/consumer level appreciation for sound quality has sunk to incredible depths (a frog, slowly boiling after 30+ years of unconsciously trading sound quality for convenience).

There is such a fantastic opportunity for audio enthusiasts to apply their interest and insight to help elevate sound quality everywhere: the restaurant, the vehicle, the commute, the back patio, the kitchen, etc. There are so many simple, easy, affordable tools at our disposal. There is such a compelling case to be made that can improve quality of life for everyone. An example of a community member applying his expertise towards this noble end is Steve Guttenberg’s consistent series of YouTube videos about how to build affordable systems. I salute Chris Connaker for nurturing a tone on this site which is consistently accessible and inclusive. I love that “my dealer,” with whom I’ve spent more money than I should have, is quick to tell me some of the most transcendent moments he has had with music have been on cheap, crappy systems.

But these are exceptions. More often I see arbitrarily limiting comments from the audiophile community like “car systems are not HiFi.” From the audio media we say way too much fascination with engineering and technology, diving deeply into esoterica that seems almost willfully designed to be separate the enthusiast from the lowly public.

Why is HiFi gear so expensive? Because  audiophiles fixate on the technology and lust after the gear. You know the old trope about how audiophiles listen to equipment, rather than music? Well, it’s an enduring trope for a reason. We spend more attention and focus on getting our lonely “listening rooms” from 96% to 98% than we do on helping the world around us get from 30% to 80%. Because we reward manufacturers who build use rare materials to build sculptural art objects that have more in common - psychologically - with art, luxury watches, and other finery than they do with professional tools designed to optimize performance. Because the major media outlets are really just advertising-driven product showcases. 

So, NO, Mr. Martin, I do not think a legitimate answer to the question “Why is HiFi gear so expensive?” is to question the premise of the question or the motivation of the questioner. Frankly, I think it is rude and snobby as hell. And I think it is a prime example of how audiophiles are isolating themselves in crystal towers rather than engaging productively in a world that could benefit tremendously from their insight and advocacy. 

A better answer to this very fair question? 

“A lot of it is so pricey because it is jewelry, but great HiFi sound does NOT have to be so expensive. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise based on how the audiophile media covers the topic.”

My take is with the growing number of multi millionaires/billionaires, high end products of any kind, not just in audio, can be priced at whatever that market will pay. The end result is the masses are losing, the real high tech stuff is now out of their reach. Bottom line is the rich is killing it for the average folks without even realizing it. But all is not lost, there is still enough worthy audio equipment out there that can satisfy our thirst for sound without spending six figures or more. In my experience, don't buy for the name, the hype or the fancy designs, rather look purely for value, it still exists as my system proves.

Thyname…the difference between a VW and a Ferrari is profound and obvious via all senses. Many (including me) would say the difference between a $2k amp and a $20k amp is very subtle and indistinguishable by many, save for the aesthetics. So, not a realistic analogy IMHO.

Here’s an odd analogy, but one that hits close to home. We use an old school veterinarian who argues that most vets prices prevent people from properly caring for their animals. Charge a reasonable price for appropriate and effective service and people will care for their pets. The analogy?  Extreme high margins restrict the public from a hobby that might otherwise attract a much larger audience who will buy equipment to further be exposed to an even larger audience. But alas…I doubt that’s the objective. 

@chocaholic : my analogy VW vs. a Ferrari had nothing to do with performance. Only cost / price. In other words, Ferrari is unaffordable to me, therefore, I don’t test drive it, because I simply cannot afford to buy it. I only look at the car makes and models I can afford.

Many (including me) would say the difference between a $2k amp and a $20k amp is very subtle and indistinguishable by many, save for the aesthetics. So, not a realistic analogy IMHO.

Then what’s the problem? If you are so sure about the indistinguishable difference between a $2,000 and a $20,000 amp, obviously buy the $2,000 amp and call it a day. Problem solved. No reason to sweat about the price / value of the $20,000 amp


Again, Price has nothing to do with sound.  Can someone make something as good or better for less, why sure.  There a differences though depending on who makes the product.

I imagine no body here has tried to manufacturer anything and sell it in a competitive market.  It is not so easy.  Everyone has an opinion on everything and most likely, no body has had the opportunity to do extensive comparisons using different components,


Try designing something, marketing something, getting parts, boxes, reviews, etc.  What do you think that costs?  No one in audio is getting rich, at least not many.  That is why some of the favorite manufacturers are out of business today.

BUT there are high priced components that actually do sound much better.  That I can prove. Our listening room is open in Northern New Jersey if anyone wants to come a play.


Happy Listening.