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Audiophile Equipment and Downloads - Cost vs. Value and Performance.


Paul R

In Respect to Audiophile Equipment and Recordings:  

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There is a question that several recent postings, including Chris' report on Searching for Good Sound at AXPONA Chicago 2014, brought to mind. There is a continual dissatisfied element in the Audiophile community over pricing. Does a higher price automatically mean higher quality? It is justifiable to charge $3000 for a USB cable? How about $10K point of entry speakers?

 

Most of you who know me know that I think the last 5% of audiophile quality is just too expensive to pursue. I would far rather put that money into more music, or paying off my mortgage, whichever is more pressing at the moment. :)

 

Not everyone agrees with that of course, and those people are quite sensible and successful. I also get riled up a bit when someone suggests that a $500 BRP is not at all adequate for playing music. (Experience to the contrary of course...) And I love unsettling those very few folks who will not listen to a modern AVR, and never have, but spend plenty of time deriding them to everyone else.

 

To me, the whole balance is simple- spend as much as you are comfortable with, and within that spending range, get the very best sound (and I suppose, video...) you can get.

 

But that is me. Other folks have different views. Please feel free to share them here. :)

 

-Paul

 

 

Note: the poll questions are all in respect to Audiophile Equipment or Recordings, and the poll is anonymous.

 

Checking a box in the poll is equivalent to a "yes" vote. Leaving it unchecked, is equivalent to a "no" vote.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I would say that in general, more expensive gear has better build quality, better sound, and/or more features. For example, I would expect a $600 set of headphones to sound better than an $80 set. I would expect $5000 speakers to sound better than $500 speakers.

 

But there are of course many, many exceptions, and, IMHO, decreasing marginal returns at the very high end.

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I run Vintage gear because I am poor. Since most of my gear is rebuilt I associate a higher price capacitor as being better than a lower cost ones for no reason except price and maybe positive feed back from other users.

Dahlquist DQ-10 Speakers DQ-LP1 crossover 2 DW-1 Subs

Dynaco Mk III Mains - Rotel 991 Subs

Wyred W4S Pre Gustard X10 DAC

SOtM dx-USB-HD reclocked SOtMmBPS-d2s

Intel Thin-mini ITX

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I run Vintage gear because I am poor. Since most of my gear is rebuilt I associate a higher price capacitor as being better than a lower cost ones for no reason except price and maybe positive feed back from other users.

 

Heck, I buy vintage gear only because I think some of it sounds as good as, or better, than the equivalent modern day gear. Voice for a different sensibility perhaps. Cheap is not always true though- I bought two sets of vintage speakers recently just to ensure I had one really good working set. ;)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I bought two sets of vintage speakers recently just to ensure I had one really good working set.

 

Hehe, me too.

Dahlquist DQ-10 Speakers DQ-LP1 crossover 2 DW-1 Subs

Dynaco Mk III Mains - Rotel 991 Subs

Wyred W4S Pre Gustard X10 DAC

SOtM dx-USB-HD reclocked SOtMmBPS-d2s

Intel Thin-mini ITX

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If the poll allowed one to answer yes or no, it might provide information of interest to someone. But voting for questions makes no sense at all.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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Heck, I buy vintage gear only because I think some of it sounds as good as, or better, than the equivalent modern day gear. Voice for a different sensibility perhaps. Cheap is not always true though- I bought two sets of vintage speakers recently just to ensure I had one really good working set. ;)

 

-Paul

 

I hope that you replaced the main PSU electrolytics (at least) in the vintage gear ?

That alone could help to extend it's service life considerably, as well as perhaps restore it's operation to close to new, provided that it doesn't use valves that may also be well down on emission.

With vintage speakers you will also often have a problem with electrolytic capacitors in the XOvers being past their use by date. One major electrolytic capacitor manufacturer even recommends tossing out their own non used electros if they are more than 10 years old.

A lot of vintage gear has a superior build quality.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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If the poll allowed one to answer yes or no, it might provide information of interest to someone. But voting for questions makes no sense at all.

 

Yes, I tried my best, but we don't have that capability. I am assuming any "yes" answers mean all the other answers are no. I'll total them up in a month or so to see what they say. Also all no answers can be recorded with a brief forum comment in the thread.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I picked "vintage" gear (figuring my used Spectral amp was old enough to qualify), because of price. I would guess newer Spectral gear does represent some amount of accumulated knowledge since the time my pieces were built (early to mid 90s), but the newer stuff isn't in my budget.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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No to all (poll wants me to answer yes to something so I did not vote). Regarding the questions "Does price always equate to better quality" and "Does price always equate to better sound", I would say generally yes. However there is the law of diminishing returns. Also there are some things that cost a lot but (in my opinion) don't provide better quality/reliability or improve sound quality. So I have to answer "no" to both.

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If the poll allowed one to answer yes or no, it might provide information of interest to someone. But voting for questions makes no sense at all.

 

The questions should have been statements; so, pretend they're statements and check them if you agree with them.

 

Chris

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The questions should have been statements...

 

Precisely!

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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No to all (poll wants me to answer yes to something so I did not vote). Regarding the questions "Does price always equate to better quality" and "Does price always equate to better sound", I would say generally yes. However there is the law of diminishing returns. Also there are some things that cost a lot but (in my opinion) don't provide better quality/reliability or improve sound quality. So I have to answer "no" to both.

 

That's a perfectly reasonable opinion. A few folks have contacted me recently with some of those opinions. For example, higher cost always equals higher quality.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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None of the above for me too Paul.

 

Since I answered yes to the two "have you spent more than..." questions, I am a bit envious. :)

 

I am surprised that so many people do not buy vintage gear, though perhaps I should have defined that as gear some number of years old, or gear no longer manufactured.

 

Do remember this isn't a serious scientific survey guys. I guess I could put one up and link to it on an external server I control. Have to think about that a bit.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Do remember this isn't a serious scientific survey guys.

 

I answered it blind (well, I closed my eyes) to make the results more valid...

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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The only option that I checked was that I spent more than $15K in the past 3 years. Most of the other options were not acceptable, especially when the absolute term "always" is included. Note that no one has yet checked those.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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Many years ago, I had vintage equipment - an awesome Yamaha integrated amp and a pair of original KLH Model 6 speakers (these puppies looked handmade). And the sound was phenomenal. At the time, I primarily bought them for the price, at a store in Brooklyn called Innovative Audio, which sold new equipment in the mid-upper end (NAD, Adcom, Rotel, Naim, etc.), but they also had a good selection of used equipment. When I saw those speakers, and he hooked them up for me to listen, I was sold. And I think I paid $100 for the pair!

 

Many years later (24 or so), I've got probably less audiophile equipment, but am very happy with it - a pair of Polk Monitor 40s and PSW10 subwoofer, powered by my Onkyo AV amp. I still love the sound, and have always liked the sound of Polk Audio speakers.

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Base on Yes, none of the above. I assumed the $15K was a net amount. While the gear I bought in the last three years cost more than $15K, I got over $8K for the equipment it replaced.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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