Is $2500 the point of diminishing returns?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Ron Scubadiver, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Houston TX
    "The $2500 room was a mind-expanding experience. My reviewing practice has taught me that $2-3K is where the remarkably good sound kicks in, and the fine demonstrations in the $2500 room only validated my experiences with products at this level. Of course, the super quality all-around do-everything Elac Debut B6 loudspeakers ($269/pair!) allowed the designer of this room to employ the rich, fast, musical sound of Peachtree's decco125 SKY integrated amp ($1199) and the VPI Cliffwood turntable with included VPI cartridge ($895).

    This system was audiophile-deluxe in every way: it was lush, yet clean and enjoyably detailed. It played every type of music the presenters and the audience threw at it. I could easily live happily ever after with this $2500 analog and digital scheme.

    This is the system price level I try to review for. It is, in my experience, a level where, to do obviously better, you would have to jump up $20,000. I participated in the RMAF 2017 panel "Affordability: How Low Can You Go," and as a group we declared $5K as the beginning of true high-end."

    This is from the Stereophile review of RMAF by Herb Reichert

    What I find interesting is this $2500 system is based on a pair of $269 speakers. It isn't how I would spend $2500, but he says the next jump is $20K. Is $5k the start of true high end? Does more money buy better sound. Is it romanticized sound? Does the expensive stuff just look better? How much is it worth to go below 40 hz on the occasional recording which has it?
    AmericanHIFI, bhazen and SandAndGlass like this.
  2. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    It's all in how you spemd it. I might say that $2500 is the entry point to high end sound, but the law of diminishing returns kicks in much higher. I'd put it around $18,000 to $20,000. Nice little article though. Thanks for the post.
  3. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Florida, Central
    Q Acoustics 3020, is also a great small speaker.

    The rest of what you ask, it depends on many variables. Room, listener's Preferences, Sub or no sub.
    I am not sure what is "High end", but I know good sound when I hear it, and it is not exclusive to high priced gear.

    Probably a great time to be into HI-FI, ones money buys a lot of great sound today!
    AmericanHIFI, bhazen and Helom like this.
  4. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Houston TX
    I think the diminishing returns point is around $5k, but what do I know?
    Sneaky Pete likes this.
  5. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds Yo mama so fat Thanos had to snap twice.

    New York
    I personally think they have their gear priorities backwards. I have my PSB Platinum M2’s ($2500) hooked-up to an old Yamaha AVR ($200) because my NAD c370 got hosed with water and now plays music for Hecate in the land of the dead.
  6. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    for speakers id say is about 4-5k
    for amps, 2k
    for DAC, 2k
    for headphones, either 500$ or 1000$
  7. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Hi Ron

    Diminishing returns is highly subjective - and a lot depends on what you hold to be the best sound. Putting dollar figures on things seems a bit odd - you could very well audition a $20,000 speaker and prefer an $8000 speaker just as you could audition a $5k speaker and prefer a $2k speaker. This would apply to amplifiers and CD players.

    So comparing apples to apples - typically when you find a given speaker line you like (and assuming all the speakers will work properly in your room and you have a sufficient system to drive all the speakers) there is a reason they have a flagship model.

    In most cases the flagship models sound the best and they also cost the most. Even with speaker lines I am not a big fan of - I can still hear an improvement in the top line models and so will you.

    The amount of dollars spent is then about how much you can afford to spend - and a lot of forum posters I've run across over the decades seem to always find the diminishing returns stopping point with whatever they happen to be able to afford. I can afford $5k on speakers so everyone who spends more is fooling themselves. Like a Ferrari is no better than Ford Festiva on a race track.
  8. SquishySounds

    SquishySounds Yo mama so fat Thanos had to snap twice.

    New York
    The actual point of diminishing returns happens at the very bottom tier of audio.

    A Bluetooth “speaker” is $5 and is the only verifiable “night and day improvement” (audiophiles love to overuse the hyperbole), because less than that and you have silence.

    You could spend millions on Hi-Fi and it will never be the quantum leap that was silence:audio
  9. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Not with those speakers perhaps with something at least with a 15 inch woofer - then you are close.

    And I have 2500 - preamp - 2500 Speakers, 2500 turntable and 2500 amps. Not sure how all can be done with 2500. Each piece was an upgrade - and very noticable.
    contium, DrJ, SandAndGlass and 2 others like this.
  10. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Oregon, USA
    Haha, I am addicted to nice clean punch of large woofers (my subwoofer with twin 15" woofers). So I agree with you.
    DrJ, SandAndGlass and costerdock like this.
  11. costerdock

    costerdock Forum Resident

    Prescott, AZ, USA
    Ouch - my HT system - I have one sub with a 15inch woofer(Rythmik E15HP)- and it moves the room easily - 2 would be crazy.
    pdxway likes this.
  12. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Oregon, USA
    Unfortunately, it is in a very leaky (opens to upstairs and the back half of the house) ~5000 cubic ft room. Barely adequate for movie. But great for music bass punch!
    My 12" SVS ported Sub feels more "moving" in my smaller family room.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
    displayname and costerdock like this.
  13. jlykos

    jlykos Forum Resident

    Parts Unknown
    I have no idea what is the point of diminishing returns because gear can sound so different. When I was auditioning speakers between $3,000 and $6,500, there was absolutely no correlation of price and performance. Same thing with amplifiers around that same price range. Some of it is personal preference, and some is the inherent value proposition.

    The only thing that I learned is to be very wary of manufacturers from venerable brands that produce their gear in China and then charge a premium price based on their brand name. Give me some products that are produced in China and don’t try to hide it (like Line Magnetic or Auralic) at the same price point and you can have a system that blows the diminishing returns argument out of the water.
  14. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    I agree with @Richard Austen . Diminishing returns can, be for a large part, subjective and dependent on the sound one likes. I'd love to have an Oto SE phono and a pair of AN/e LX HE speakers with my Rega front end. For me that would be where diminishing returns sets in for an amp and preamp in my non dedicated listening room. In fact that whole system would probably be the point. If I went to a treated dedicated listening room I'd probably go a bit more higher up in terms of gear and prices. Since I have other things I want to do that necessitate capping my gear budget I settled on my mint Cornwalls and a true EL84 SEP amp from a boutique builder. Gives me great sound for my room and believe it or not a similar sound to what I've heard from the Audio Note gear above. As good as the AN gear, no but same family of sound you could say. So for me my 1000 dollar (what I paid when you factor in the cost to drive and pick them up) Cornwalls are the point of diminishing returns. I've heard 2k and 3k speakers that I like better but not enough better to justify the extra cash.
  15. ronm

    ronm audiofreak

    southern colo.
    15 inch woofers and TOTL AVRs are what do it for me.It's all totally subjective.
    costerdock and SandAndGlass like this.
  16. Balthazar

    Balthazar Well-Known Member

  17. dmckean

    dmckean Forum Resident

    San Diego, CA, USA
    If I were buying used and was really patient, I could put together some great $2500 systems. I think buying new though, there's still a lot of compromise in most $2500 systems.

    This is even more true if you're trying to do both digital and analog.
  18. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    $2500? No, I think it’s more like $2456.78.
  19. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    There is no such thing in reality. Who is thinking about 'diminishing return' in audio? And another maybe even more important thing, we must talk about specific components.
    Ron Scubadiver likes this.
  20. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident

    Grand Rapids, MI
    My last "big" stereo, which I had to sell when I moved to a smaller house, clocked in at over $10k once you included the Cardas cabling. I thought there was still plenty of room for improvement.

    Tube rolling in the preamplifier
    better output tubes
    speaker upgrade: the UREI 813As were certainly full-range but there was some hardness to the midrange (that horn driver) that I could never tame.
    and stepping up the cartridge quality with a good LOMC

    Don't get me wrong, it was a great stereo but the deeper you dive into the crazy quagmire of audiophiledom, the more you start to notice the small things that can drive you crazy. Which is one of the reasons why I downgraded! To take a break from the craziness.
  21. twowwheels

    twowwheels Forum Resident

    No. If you get really good performing components (available at multiple price points) that have synergy with each other, that are set up properly and that satisfy your own subjective tastes, systems can be very satisfying at all price points. Just this morning, I was listening to the new mofi rumour and sigh on my upstairs system while I was working on breakfast. I did spend a bit of time in the sweet spot while I ate my oatmeal. That system is probably around $10-15k and uses totem model 1 sigs, a sub, a sim integrated amp, a rega planar 3, a dynavector 10 x 5, a moon 110 lp, and some good and some great cables, and it sounds darn good and is very satisfying. But, it pales in comparison to the $100-150k system downstairs. It's not even close.

    IMO, both systems are excellent at their price points. You can spend a lot of money and get bad sound but that's not the case here. The little system gives you a strong taste of true high end but the big system is absolutely state of the art.
    pdxway and SandAndGlass like this.
  22. krlpuretone

    krlpuretone Forum Resident

    Grantham, NH
    I've heard plenty of $50K+ systems that sounded like fresh garbage (unbalanced and either hyper revealing or unnatural sounding)

    I know you can put together a fantastic sounding system for $5K (room-size dependent) if you are doing both vinyl and digital, but I'd budget way more than $269 for the speakers regardless...
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  23. EddieMann

    EddieMann I used to be a king...

    Geneva, IL. USA.
    My main system is around 5k, and the only things new are the speakers. I have to admit though (in my case anyway), that 5k is closer to $2500 than it is to $10,000. I have a friend who's got to be around 10k (Manley amps, Joseph speakers, VPI tt, etc.) and his setup blows mine away.
    SandAndGlass likes this.
  24. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    Russk, are your Cornwall's stock?
  25. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I have two vintage Altec Lansing A7's, which have 15" woofers.

    The sub has a single 15" woofer, but it is a large commercial sub, driven by a 1,600-watt, Crown amplifier. It can accommodate a 133dB SPL and peaks of 137dB.

    Yes, bass is important to pressurize a room with dynamic sound.

    Of course, a dual 18" commercial sub, would do quite nicely too. :)
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
    ribonucleic, displayname and pdxway like this.

Share This Page