What is high-end?

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

  1. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    I'm an ad man and marketing guy so I am ALWAYS contemplating appeals. Back many, many years ago I came across a story about Pillsbury's launch of a biscuit mix which only required user to add water and bake for wonderful tasting biscuits. The market rejected this mix because there was too little for the user to do to claim biscuit success for her own doing. Pillsbury changed the campaign to "just add milk" which was enough to get the product off the ground. This story is the equivalent to the use of a CD Player or a Turntable. The Turntable requires user input for the best result, while the CD Player requires no interaction at all. In other words satisfaction with a TT is somewhat about what the user puts into it.
    patient_ot and 5-String like this.
  2. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Why does one amp( high end?)
    Outperform another?
    Circuits are aplenty in text books.
    It's R&D. Refining a product takes time,
    And money, wages to staff etc.
    Component choice all takes time and this
    Is reflected in cost.
    This is high end and hopefully gives the
    Person concerned absolute superb sound
    Quality. The very best.
    Alas, a lot of gear is stunningly presented
    In smart high quality cases and is average inside.
    Each one of us have a different ideas on
    The perfect sound.
    My honest take on high end is licence
    To get rich for the manufacturer.
    I use a Leak stereo 20 and have from time to time used other amps many highly rated, yet its the stereo 20 that I come back to.
    Far better to find your audio nirvana
    And enjoy it irrespective of its cost
    2channelforever and luckybaer like this.
  3. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    High end means a big smile on your face every time you play an album, something your old system couldn't come close to.
  4. catchthecarp

    catchthecarp Forum Resident

    I remember reading this remark from Barry Diament many years ago on this forum:

    "I could be mistaken but it seems to me you equate "high end" with "high price". High end or high performance audio is an approach, not a price tag. Although excellence does cost more than non-excellence, the price is not the determining factor."
  5. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Reno, NV, USA
    I think it's a bit like that old definition of pornography; paraphrased, you'll know it when you hear it.
    SteveFord likes this.
  6. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I don't know why this would be controversial. "High end audio" is first and foremost a MARKETING term. It means to convey that the sound from this equipment will be superior than the average sound gear. As the descriptor is assigned by the designer/manufacturer/marketing team, it is largely subjective. It says, "Spend more to get our stuff because it is really good." It's a term which is only as valid as the goods it delivers. One should expect that equipment priced and promoted as "high end" would be demonstrably high-quality and have a design that is technically capable of delivering superior quality audio but of course as with anything you're going to have to hear it before verifying that claim. It doesn't mean that your cheap gear can't sound good - all my gear is cheap and it sounds good to me. Just because it's a marketing term doesn't mean that it cannot be a true descriptor - I firmly believe that most of the gear that costs ten times what mine does will outperform my gear substantially. I also am quite certain that there's some high-priced junk out there that is not really that great but is marketed as "high end" to make you part with your money. This is the nature of all consumer goods from flour to tea to liquor to clothing to cars to audio and beyond. There's a low shelf and a top shelf to everything and not necessarily everything on the top shelf deserves to be there, and some stuff from the the lower shelves is still quite good.
    timind, Oelewapper and Sterling1 like this.
  7. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    It is very strange to me too. Marantz in the 70's was owned by the family who invented Superscope, a competitor to Panavision. These folks also were the exclusive importers of Sony Tape Recorders, not Sony USA. At any rate, Marantz was no longer the product of Saul Marantz and, although the pricing of the products suggested they must be awesome, I paid $300 in 1973 for my 2230, the quality control was so bad it broke down in the second week of use from poor soldering. The Receiver did look great though, with the brushed aluminum face, push buttons, and knobs glowing from blue and orange illumination; but, it was all a façade, the innards were not so attractive or robust. People caught on and Marantz declined, and is still suspect from folks like me, although I purchased a Marantz NR-1210 Receiver for my mother-in-law last week. Its feature set had a very strong appeal out weighing my concern for the unit breaking down.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2020
  8. Oelewapper

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

    Ah so the “feel” is the customer experience, an immaterial emotional feeling?
  9. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Reno, NV, USA
    Not quite, IMO. You use the adjective “good” for sound, and that is perhaps the primary differentiator for “high-end”; high-end aspires to greatness, not goodness.
  10. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
    HAHA. Marantz and Denon were on my Never-Buy list for MANY years. Through the 80's Marantz went to consumer hell. Cheap like Fisher. By the 90's Denon was crap too. Pioneer followed. Marantz merged with Denon (D&M) and the quality went up! Ken Ishiwata stepped up and helped transform Marantz into what they are today although the difference between Reference and Non-Reference was extreme. Trickle down to Denon over the last decade has revived that brand, D&M also sold off Denon-DJ and Marantz Pro to inMusic.

    I was rather shocked at the quality and design of Marantz and bought their PM-KI. For me that was an incredible leap of faith. Im not disappointed.
    But I think on the lower end (price point) there are bigger bang small manufacturers for the buck available. But on the High End the larger corporations have R&D money and unprofitable flagship products help sell profitable consumer products.
    Machiventa and Sterling1 like this.
  11. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    The post you’re responding to was written by someone who understands the claims made in advertising do not need to be truthful, they need to be believable. The liberal use of the word good, or great does not support belief, they diminish belief.
  12. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I don't see how what I said was different to saying that "high-end" aspires to "greatness." I don't often tend to exaggeration (unless I intend to for humorous or dramatic effect), so I don't always choose the most extreme adjective. If you wish to strike where I say "good" and substitute "great", feel free to do so. My point still stands. "High End Audio" is a marketing descriptor which seeks to advertise product as delivering great audio, and the descriptor is as accurate as the product is good.
    Sterling1 likes this.
  13. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    High-end audio is more about high price than hi-fidelity. I'm not saying high-end pieces aren't hifi, but hifi is relatively easy to achieve. I'll also say, paying a high price isn't necessary to get a satisfying listening experience.
    It could be my ears, but the most expensive pieces I've owned haven't brought me any closer to the music than some so-called entry level pieces.
  14. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    What you contributed to this topic was a highly informed opinion, as informative as it was entertaining, as well as thought provoking.
    dkmonroe likes this.
  15. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    I don't really go with "high end", beyond boutique hifi gear as a descriptor.

    I prefer to go with high quality, which is a different set of requirements and doesn't come with an attendant high price tag to go with the high end one.
  16. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Reno, NV, USA
    I don't know what pieces you have owned over the years, but I would say it's your ears (or more accurately, your auditory processing apparatus and your own personal values). I own a pretty pricey system compared to most here (and the pieces in it have been carefully auditioned and selected at least in part for value), but the vast majority of more expensive systems I have heard are better. "A satisfying listening experience" is very user dependent, and I have some people in the next room (doing some remodeling and construction work) listening to a Bluetooth speaker streaming Pandora who are very satisfied with the sound and listening experience.

    "Hifi", as in high fidelity to live sound, is virtually impossible to achieve at any price point. Despite the controversy regarding double-blind testing in audio, except in carefully selected and relatively unusual situations live music is never confused with reproduced.
    timind likes this.
  17. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident

    Exactly. Anyone can build a crappy product and sell it for a high price. Doesn't usually happen but I'm sure there are examples out there. To ignore performance is kind of missing the whole point, IMO. You target a high end market because that market is made up of enthusiasts who demand performance.

    Want a good definition? Consult a dictionary:

    Definition of HIGH-END
    Works for me.
  18. Martin Takamine

    Martin Takamine Forum Resident

    East Coast
    Dream On likes this.
  19. Oelewapper

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

    From what we've got so far, it seems that we have the following concepts/interpretations of high-end:
    • Simply a (subjectively defined) pricerange of audio equipment
    • A marketing term to justify a higher pricetag
    • More or less a synonym for high fidelity, as it's made for high accuracy sound reproduction
    • Audio equipment that's not necessarily designed to be accurate, but very good sounding/engaging instead
    • Audio equipment that delivers a certain customer experience - a feel of quality/luxury
    • Luxury build quality often involving exotic materials
    • A no-compromise/cost no object product design
    Am I missing one?
    Buisfan likes this.
  20. Oelewapper

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

    Interesting, I thought that the term high-end was more common a few decades ago.
  21. MikeJedi

    MikeJedi Forum Resident

    Las Vegas
    It’s what you want it to be to an extent. My first piece of “high end” was a Yamaha in the 90s. I still consider them to be “high end “ based on what you get (really good sound imo) for the $$$ and really their HIFi stuff is amazing , now that they have re entered that market. My Parasound I consider to be high end also .. is it higher end than the Yamaha stuff? Depends on the piece. But still up there imo. Something like Krell and Mac are probably up there too. Do they sound better? Depends on your application. I have heard so called high end stuff that sounded like garbage. But there is stuff that just doesn’t sound good and I wouldn’t consider high end like the receivers from Sony or Pioneer at a certain point more recently (not the vintage stuff which I consider really good ) . But Somone else might consider them the best they have heard if they are startng out (some of the newer Sony’s supposedly are getting better again ) the old ES receivers are certainly considered higher end. Any just my 2 cents. You gotta listen to what sounds good to you :)
  22. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Meat and Potatoes all day long

    Perhaps it would be easier to compare "High End" with "High Fidelity".
    The latter term was popular up until the 70s.
    THEN High End took over.
    What is IT?
    Here is my take on what it means.
    And of course this is a general statement and meant to stimulate thought---NOT to piss off those of you with High End gear.
    It is just a sweeping look at the subject and we all benefit from improvement in gear---so I am grateful that some folks spend money like water---just as long as it is not ME doing the spending!
    OK, that said, here goes---

    High Fidelity means you care about the Total Finished Sound Output.
    How REAL is it?

    High End means some engineer focused on ONE problem he thought was a big deal---and then he threw millions of dollars at the problem to FIX it.
    Thus due to the cost to go after ONE problem---it is now "High End" stuff.

    Take horn loudspeakers for example.
    They WORK.
    But sometimes they have a "honk" that comes along with the sound.

    How about spending a million dollars to fix the "honk"?


    Tube amplifiers do not have enough power compared to transistor amps.

    So why not spend a million dollars designing an amp with 50 tubes in it and REAL HIGH POWER?
    THAT is High End stuff..

    OR, headphones don't sound REAL enough..
    So how about spending a million dollars designing slightly better headphones that image outside the cans?

    That is High End thinking right there, buddy..
    I much prefer simple good old High Fidelity.
    But then again, I don't throw money around.


    I prefer to use my brain to fix the sound!
  23. bhazen

    bhazen Beatles Forever

    Newport Hills, WA
    The "high end" begins at whatever price point I can't afford.
  24. Sterling1

    Sterling1 Forum Resident

    Louisville, KY
    True story, back in mid 90’s while in a radio commercial production session I thought I was in a conversation with the VO talent in the recording booth, which was out of my line of sight. To my amazement I discovered I was giving direction to a couple of takes recorded to DAT being played from a Tannoy monitor. This was my first but not my last encounter with amped sound that was indistinguishable from live VO and acoustic sound.
    timind likes this.
  25. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Reno, NV, USA
    As I said, in certain relatively unusual situations; spoken words is one of those. Try it with a good singer and that is unlikely to happen.

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