What is high-end?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Oelewapper, Dec 28, 2020.

  1. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    Maybe this very basic question has been asked already, if so, I couldn't find it.

    What defines something to be high end?
    I recently had this discussion a few times, but couldn't really get to the essence of the meaning of high-end.
    I just define it as a pricerange, based on how many products are sold or offered in that given price range.
    So what the average consumer would buy (or the average manufacturer would offer) would define the middle of mid-range and goes up to a certain point, until it qualifies as high-end (which is a very subjective point).

    Are there other product properties that makes it high-end?
    Maybe it's product performance?
    Maybe it's the small scale on which it's manufactured - a sense of craftsmanship instead of mass production?
    Or maybe the target consumer?

    AFAIK, there are definitely different interpretations of "high-end".
    For example Paul McGowan from PS Audio explains high-end in a way that sounds more like the definition of high fidelity to me:
     
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  2. James in NY

    James in NY Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Upstate NY
    I’m newer to “high end” audio but I describe it as a combination of price and performance. I would also say it is very subjective coupled with an intrinsic desire. For instance,I’ve upgraded my sound system...noticeably to me. My son heard it and basically shrugged. He didn’t notice the difference nor did he care. It’s like people who are happy just listening to the radio. It’s very passive and the programmers get to tell them what’s “good.” Meanwhile they are missing out on an entire world of wonderful music waiting to be discovered.
     
  3. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    So the intrinsic desire is wanting something that sounds really good (like the people that use a 30k system they bought in the 80s)?
    Or something that sounds better than before (like the people that are endlessly upgrading, tweaking and tuning)?
     
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  4. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    High end implies there's a low end, so the first thing I think is high end or low end of what? And, the answer is high cost and low cost. Therefore, the consideration is about audio reproduction components that cost a lot in comparison to audio components that do not cost a lot. In the past such comparison had outcomes which could be predicted; but, not today, meaning technology is now allowing most any who have the desire for a life-like experience from recorded music to be able to afford it. So, today, high end just does not have the meaning, status, or relevance it used to project. There are too many folks who are satisfied with low cost components today to spend for high end when such expenditure does not deliver a result which can be construed as being better than what is delivered by low cost components. Now, there are many examples of low cost components today which rival the expensive spreads but if I were to pick a few to complete a stereo system: Ortofon 2M Red Phono Cartridge, Schitt Mani Phono Preamplifier, Technics SL-1210GR Turntable, JBL Stage 170 Speakers, and Marantz NR-1200 Network Receiver would get the job done for most any "audiophile" open to some reality. BTW, the 2008 recession brought about the need for manufactures to deliver more for less through technology to stay in business. Today, they are realizing the fruits of their effort.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2020
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  5. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    Then the follow up question is, where are those pricepoints?
    How do you know if something is below the pricepoint to be low-end or above the pricepoint that defines it to be high-end?

    I mean, you can't really define those pricepoints based on how much consumers spend on it, because of this:
     
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  6. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Well, why define a price point at all when price at any point no longer relates to product satisfaction? Perhaps, a value index relates better today to products marketed to those who want to enjoy high quality recorded music on a budget.
     
  7. James in NY

    James in NY Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Upstate NY
    I suppose that it is/could be both. I believe that I’m content with what I have, a feeling that my wallet supports. Others with more resources may continue to chase the dragon. I’m surprised too at how many people have a main system and a back up system as well. Yet another approach to what might be an ongoing and endless pursuit.

     
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  8. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Location:
    Reno, NV, USA
    High-end is just past the point where more dollars spent brings increasingly smaller incremental improvements in audio quality. That point is probably an individual decision.
     
  9. James in NY

    James in NY Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Upstate NY
    Is it about “high quality recorded music” or music of whatever quality recording being reproduced in a way that recreates the original spirit/feel/sound of the music?
     
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  10. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    So, that would define high-end as high sound accuracy instead of high price?
     
  11. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Interestingly enough, I had about $70,000 in my mostly Sony ES system in the late 80's. I perceived it as top quality and top value. I still have some of the components from that 80's system in my current system. Thing is Sony abandoned the audio enthusiast market it appears because that market became too small for Sony to produce top quality for top value. I'm glad I had the income back in the 80's to participate in what is now being called consumer audio's golden age.
     
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  12. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    Hmmh interesting, I've heard many stories that claimed the opposite of a golden age.
    That most manufacturers (maybe not Sony?) started to cheapen down their devices at the beginning of the 80s and that it's the reason why so many vintage amplifiers from the 70s are sought after, while similar ones from the 80s are of a much lower value (like Marantz).
     
  13. NorthSidePark

    NorthSidePark Forum Resident

    Location:
    California
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  14. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    [​IMG]
    For me it's always been about being moved by the music, moved so much as to want to enjoy it via LP, CD, DAT, AAC, FLAC or other means when and where I want. My earliest desires were fulfilled back in 1959 from a 6 transistor AM Pocket Radio from Magnavox, which I still listen to today.
     
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  15. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    It`s difficult as I´m sure some could call some components 'high end' where others would not. And vice versa. Personally I´m not sure I would use this expression. Some surely invented it.
     
  16. sangbro

    sangbro Active Member

    Location:
    Costa Mesa
    Once you simply link $ to the word “High-End”, you are unlikely to understand.
    Also don’t simply connect “High-End” to “Higher Spec, High numbers on the paper”

    It’s sad that the term high-end or luxury are often misused nowadays.

    Fundamentally, the nature of high end is the finest quality that people can “FEEL”.

    It doesn’t have to be expensive. But except the hype created by psychological marketing strategies, usually it’s expensive to create something that many people feel really good about it. Then there is demand vs supply.

    So it happens to be difficult to get -> lead to higher price. You should be able to feel the fineness without the price tag and other people’s confirmation.

    Don’t overthink it. When you see it, hear it, touch it, you should be able to know, if you’re the type of person pursuing high-end materials.
    If not, it’s totally okay. :)
     
  17. luckybaer

    luckybaer Thinks The Devil actually beat Johnny

    Location:
    Missouri
    High-end is anything I can't afford.
     
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  18. 5-String

    5-String μηδὲν ἄγαν

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    I have read that the term “high end audio“ was first used by Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound fame.
    Who invented high-end audio?

    To me the term means nothing.
    It is very subjective and it can refer to both price and quality while at the same time it is full of esoteric notions of a mystic holy grail that leads to an audio nirvana. We all know that there is no perfection in audio.
    Anyway, I prefer to use the term “high fidelity” instead of “high end”.
    I define “high fidelity” as the level of performance of an audio equipment where there is minimum compromise to the music and sound.
    Contrary to the term “high end”, the term “high fidelity” has nothing to do with price but with the quality of reproduction that a certain component provides.
     
  19. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    I got the bug for hi-fi back in 1973. My first purchase was a Marantz 223o, a little later I purchased a 2270, and later still, a Marantz 3800 and 250M. These all disappointed in all manner from poor quality. At any rate, I turned to Sony around 1976-77, purchasing an 5450, 5550, 3950 stack which totally satisfied. This was a stereo affair though so when 5.1 came about I upgraded to a 80ES, 55ES, and 1000ES stack and complement of source components. These components were upgraded through 2000 and I saw no evidence of diminishing quality or value; however, IC's reduced the weight of my 5oES Tuner in contrast to my 730ES Tuner.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2020
  20. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    The "feel" makes sense to me for audio components that have a physical user interface, like a turntable for example.
    But how about speakers, which offer no tactile interaction when using your system?
    Or devices with digital interfaces like Roon, smartphone apps and other software that has no physical interaction at all?
     
  21. Boomy

    Boomy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    It's a hobby, too. Which is awesome. If you can afford the high-end, go for it (I say). To me, all we do here (collecting music, looking for new/vintage equipment, decorating a room in your house to accomodate your collections of media and equipment), it's a hobby and doesn't need explained to others.
     
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  22. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    Strange, those 2200 and 2300 series Marantz still appeal to many vintage audio lovers.
     
  23. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor. Thread Starter

    Well, it does make communication a lot easier with accurately defined words.
    With English as my tertiary language, I can tell that from personal experience :winkgrin:
     
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  24. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Essex, UK
    I can agree with this. High-end is defined, for me, by price. I recently bought myself a system for Surround playback, and spend $2500 on the whole setup (5 speakers, a sub, and amp). That's low end, imo.

    If I'd of spent closer to $5000 then you're in a mid-range. $10k and you're starting your high end. IMO.

    When you're talking about performance then you're on a different scale. Some lower cost setups, done right, can sound amazing. But on the high-end, you're perhaps looking at incremental change, rather than something dramatic. How important that is to you is something only you can decide. We all have different budgets, sets of ears, and tolerances.

    The right amount of money to spend is to a level where you're happy. No more, no less.
     
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  25. sangbro

    sangbro Active Member

    Location:
    Costa Mesa
    When you use the whatever app/software, you intuitively feel fineness, then it’s high end, no matter of the price.

    You feel good for many reasons, interface, colors, designs etc kinda work together.

    Again, the key point is, whether you can “feel” it, physically or mentally or whatever sensory input you have.

    The word “High End” is maybe the most abused word as “Luxury”.

    When people “experience” something good, usually they know. They can feel it.

    Again, if you can’t feel it, that’s fine.
     

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