SURVEY: Are there $20K+ speaker that you think are NOT overpriced?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Arnel Enero, Jul 1, 2002.

  1. Arnel Enero

    Arnel Enero Stunt Coordinator

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    I mean those that you wouldn't hesitate to buy if you had tons of cash to spare.
    If so, pls name it/them and tell us why you think they're well worth their price.
    Personally, if I were a spoiled rich kid, I wouldn't mind buying a $70K+ MartinLogan Statement E2 system... if I had the hall-size room it needs, that is. But that's only my wild idea. [​IMG]
     
  2. Bruce Chang

    Bruce Chang Second Unit

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    I would say

    Dynaudio temptation the soundstage is just amazing. The highs are ment for quality SS amps.

    Sonus Faber amatti All the same qualities of dynaudio but more bass for less money

    B&W signature 800
    Very detailed highs, but needs a good Tube amp or a mellower SS amp. Very picky about components. But I would rate them one step less then amatti.
     
  3. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Bruce:

    I take it you're a big fan of the Amati Homage. It is one of my favorite speakers, and certainly the most beautiful.

    Larry
     
  4. Arnel Enero

    Arnel Enero Stunt Coordinator

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    Btw, by "20K+" I meant not only $20K-$29999, but also those that cost up to $100K+.

    In fact, I mean to exclude even the (still very expensive) $10K-19K models, which to some audiophiles are still "sane".

    I was thinking of something like Wilson Grand SLAMM (or the hell-breaks-loose WAMM), MartinLogan Statement E2, Dynaudio Evidence (even the "cheaper" Temptation), B&W Nautilus (the snail one), JMLab Grande Utopia... you know, those really insane (at least in price) cost-no-object "statement" designs.
     
  5. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    I like the Sonus Faber line in total and like both Martin Logan and Gayle Sanders the designer. The Utopias are great speakers also, even the monitors. However, if I had $20K lying around I would buy the:
    MAGNEPLANAR MG20.1s for approx. $12,000 and put the rest into better electronics, mainly amplifiers. Even Harry Pearson believes that they sound almost as good as the Pipe Dreams.
    These sound amazing with good electronics and nobody throws a great image and soundstage like Magneplanar. The high notes have life due to the fantastic ribbon tweeters they use.
    Of course, I have been with Maggie speakers for almost 20 years and I like them that much, although I do experiment now and again with box speakers.
    You can tell I am a satisfied owner and a big fan. [​IMG]
    From Jonathan Valin of Fi Magazine...
    "So what have we got here? A big planar speaker that throws the widest, deepest, tallest, most coherent soundfield I've heard from a hi-fi system, filled with the most naturally-sized instruments I've heard from a hi-fi system, with the sweetest, most natural timbres I've heard from a hi-fi system, the finest dynamic nuance I've heard from a hi-fi system (particularly in the treble), and the most natural illusion of instrumental "action" I've heard from a hi-fi system. What we've got here, in sum, is "realistic reproduction" in the highest sense of the phrase, in the sense I spoke of earlier, the virtual duplication of instruments and voices rather than mere analogs of certain aspects of their sound....While it's hard to call anything that costs nearly ten grand a bargain, I can tell you this; if it were my money, and I were shopping for the very best, these are the speakers I'd buy."
     
  6. ling_w

    ling_w Second Unit

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    HP of TAS compared the Magnepan MG20.1's to be as good as the $120k Alon Grand Reference (modified twice in the midst of the review to suit HP's taste).

    Here is an excerpt:
     
  7. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    My next speakers will probably either be the $22,500 Wilson WATT/Puppy 7 or the $20,000 Revel Salon, so I guess that tells you where I'm coming from.

    If I was flithy rich and had the room to go with them, I'd have no problem plunking down $70,000 for a pair of Martin Logan Statement E2s or $85,000 for a pair of Dynaudio Evidences or the Wilson Grand SLAMM S3. I'd also happily get the Levinson Reference monos and preamp to go along with them, although I'd probably keep my Sony SCD-1 SACD/CD player.
     
  8. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    Let's be serious here. If you are talking about the pure question of sonics vs. price, then yes, every speaker over $20K IS overpriced. I know, I know - audiophiles have their justifications: warm this, airy that, soundstage yada, yada. The truth of the matter is that turn the lights off and it is doubtful that many could tell a $5K pair from a $35K pair. OK, maybe some people could in some cases, but speakers over about $5K all sound extremely detailed and neutral. Differences are going to be way too subtle to justify those kinds of price differences.

    But there are other issues here, both tangible and intangible. There is extremely high quality cabinetry for example. I mean, people will pay $100K for an armoire just because it looks nice. Why not a speaker? And there is the brand name of course. Style and image. Most things we buy aren't so much about the thing itself as idea of the thing. Best not to analyze it too much, or it starts to make less sense.

    Then all the fun is gone.
     
  9. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Eric:

     
  10. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    Larry B:

    That is what makes this hobby the more interesting. We all have our own opinions. And what I printed above IS my opinion. Some people would say there are night and day differences between amps as well, but try having them verify that difference when they do not know which amp is playing. I don't want to trot out the whole DBT issue, but my observation is that tiny differences are often magnified in the subjective opinions that people express. And the more expensive the components get, the tinier and tinier the differences are. I do think in some cases well trained ears could distinguish two very fine quality loud speakers, but in the long run, it is a difficult question as to whether any such differences could justify the enormous price delta without other less tangible considerations entering into it. And if you think those non-sonic considerations don't enter into it, you are kidding yourself. But hey, like I said, that's just me. And this hobby would be dull if we all had the same opinion.
     
  11. Lin Park

    Lin Park Second Unit

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    I must agree with Larry here. I think what happens above $10K is that the speakers sound different not better or worse and hence it would be even easier to tell them apart. I also think that setting the bar at $5K for diminishing returns on speakers is too low. And, I think that Eric is kidding himself if he thinks people can't tell the difference between $5K solid-state amps and $5K tube amps. Why do people have so much trouble believing that there is NO gains made by investing in or upgrading to high-end equipment from mid-fi equipment?
    I believe it has a lot to do with never experiencing the high-end sound. I would love to have a random group do a blind comparison of Vandersteen 3A's ($3500/pr) and Vandersteen 5's ($10K/pr). If no difference is found, then we must assume that the random group is completely deaf, IMHO. [​IMG] And then, invite that same group to back to their homes and listen to what they have for a while. I guarantee you that some will feel the need to upgrade because of what they heard.
    Lin
     
  12. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Eric:

    Your points are well taken and I apologize for having come off a bit too strongly.

     
  13. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Eric:

    It is probably worth mentioning that all my above comments pertain to music, not HT. I suspect that the sonic differences are much less meaningful for HT.

    Larry
     
  14. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    Joseph Audio's 'Pearl' model I think is about $20k and sounded very nice at the NY show. It really depends on what your goal is, e.g. more for theater or more for music or what mix of each. It also depends on what one defines as overpriced. The room and set-up are most important and I would make sure that those things are attended to. The 'Eggleston's' did not sound too bad either at the show and they have models in that range.
     
  15. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    Lin:

    "I think what happens above $10K is that the speakers sound different not better or worse and hence it would be even easier to tell them apart."

    Agreed. The problem here is that if the performance goal of a given cost no object speaker is sonic neutrality, the premise of being able to tell large differences between speakers at these price levels necessarily means the speakers are failing in that goal. What I believe is that most speaker manufactuers aim to produce a speaker that does not add coloration to the sound, and that at the extreme cost end, they tend to be close enough to achieving that goal that differences are *very* subtle. The remaining differences being in one person's preference for the small colorations produced by one speakers vs. another. If the differences are more than slight, we must conclude, ironically, that there is no real point to spending that kind of money, because the implication is that significant coloration is still there. Just as I can appreciate the coloration of one $20K speaker more than another, I might also appreciate the coloration of a particular $2K pair (or even $300 pair) more than the $20K pair. Indeed, this is often true of people less experienced with the hobby - they might prefer the bright sound of inexpensive speakers. But if expensive speakers are better at all, it is because of improved sonic neutrality. In that sense, they all aspire to the same sound (that of the source), and at least in theory should be close to achieving it given the minimal cost limitations.

    "I also think that setting the bar at $5K for diminishing returns on speakers is too low."

    Point of clarification: I was really thinking about bookshelf speakers when I made that remark, because I only buy bookshelf speakers. For towers, I might put the point of extreme diminishing returns closer to $10K. However, trying to peg it at any specific point of demarkation is arbitrary. The point is that returns diminish gradually as you move up the price spectrum. Where the point comes that a person would deem sonic differences too subtle to justify any price difference is obviously subjective. But $10K for towers is the vicinity of where I am on that subject.

    "And, I think that Eric is kidding himself if he thinks people can't tell the difference between $5K solid-state amps and $5K tube amps."

    Ah yes, you have me there, stating the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, even order distortion that tube amps infuse upon sound is often detectable under blinded conditions by trained ears. However, more to the point is the typical case of one solid state amp vs. another, even at widely dissimilar price points. Try doing some research into the results of people attempting to distinguish $500 receivers from $5K solid state amps. The results are very eye opening. I have heard audiophiles argue that blinded tests should be discounted, and I want to believe them, but so far no argument has persuaded me.

    However, it is somewhat unfair to compare loudspeakers to amps. The differences are certainly there with loudspeakers. We just disagree as to the *extent* of those differences at extreme price points.

    "I believe it has a lot to do with never experiencing the high-end sound. I would love to have a random group do a blind comparison of Vandersteen 3A's ($3500/pr) and Vandersteen 5's ($10K/pr)."

    I've listened to Vandersteen, Dynaudio Contours, B&W Signature 800's, many Linn's, some Sonus Fabers, Vienna Acoustics, Revels, and a wide selection of Wilsons, including the Maxx which run $80K per pair.

    "If no difference is found, then we must assume that the random group is completely deaf, IMHO."

    Now *there* is a conclusion that can't be metaphysically wrong. If I have already decided the result of a test beforehand, any results at variance with my conclusion must be incorrect.

    Larry B:

    "It is probably worth mentioning that all my above comments pertain to music, not HT. I suspect that the sonic differences are much less meaningful for HT."

    Good point. I agree. It is not so much that HT is in theory any less demanding than music. Actually, HT contains a good bit of music in addition to dialogue and effects, so is in theory more sonically diverse. However, our attention is divided between the the visual and the auditory with HT. Hence, we do not listen as critically. I often tell people shopping for an HT system to not bother going beyond about $5K for a complete 5.1 speaker set (including sub), for that reason. BTW, all the figures I throw out are based on the assumption that the money is intelligently spent on speakers with good bang for the buck.

    Take care.

    Eric
     
  16. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Eric:
    You raise some interesting points about differences between $20K speakers suggesting that speaker manufacturers are failing. I believe it was Ivor Tiefenbaum (sp.?), the founder and head of Linn who recently stated (in response to a question) that we are only about 10% of the way toward accurate reproduction. (I'll ignore for a moment my distaste for quantifying such matters. [​IMG] )
    However, I disagree with your conclusion (which I paraphrase) that there is thus no point in buying such products, since they are flawed. Simply put, while all components are flawed, some are more flawed than others. That is the key. A well-made $20K speaker will get you much closer to the "real thing" than a well constructed $10K speaker, whijhc gets you closer than a well made $5K speaker, etc. How much one is willing to pay for this added performance is obviously a personal choice. But the added performance is very real.
    Larry
     
  17. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    "The truth of the matter is that turn the lights off and it is doubtful that many could tell a $5K pair from a $35K pair."

    This is simply not true. While the amount of improvement in sound quality certainly diminishes as you go up the ladder, there is a huge difference in sound quality between a $5000 speaker and a $35,000 one. The $5000 one is certainly a better value and closer to the point of diminishing returns, but you do get what you pay for, generally speaking.

    I also agree that home theater doesn't warrant the expenditure that stereo music does.
     
  18. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    "However, I disagree with your conclusion (which I paraphrase) that there is thus no point in buying such products, since they are flawed. Simply put, while all components are flawed, some are more flawed than others. That is the key. A well-made $20K speaker will get you much closer to the "real thing" than a well constructed $10K speaker, whijhc gets you closer than a well made $5K speaker, etc. How much one is willing to pay for this added performance is obviously a personal choice. Bu the added performance is very real."

    I think I used too many words and my point did not come across well. When I stated that they were flawed, I meant that hypothetically. IF there are as people say such large differences, THEN they are flawed because the design goal of expensive speakers is sonic neutrality. It stands to reason that if 2 pairs of extremely expensive speakers differ to a large degree, at least one of them has failed in its design goal (if not both). In reality, my belief is that most audiophile grade speakers are close to sonic neutrality, and therefore the similarities actually outweigh the differences (which was my original point.) Your point about how $20K gets you closer than $10K I agree with. Where we might disagree a bit is the actual extent of that difference.

    That remark from the founder of Linn about how we are only 10% of the way toward accurate reproduction is interesting. I am naturally quite skeptical since my belief is that most good quality speakers are quite close to accurate reproduction, but I'd love to pick that guy's brain on the subject...
     
  19. DonJ

    DonJ Second Unit

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    I would have no problem buy the B&W Nat 800 Signature[​IMG]
     
  20. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Eric:
    Thanks for the response.
     

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