Good speakers vs Ultra high end - AVS Forum
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:31 AM - Thread Starter
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So this is something ive always wondered about. I just purchased the Infinity series speakers 363's, 163's, 351 etc, and all I hear about these is praise and how they are so good and one of the best speakers etc etc. So my question is, what really do you gain from high end to ultra high end? I mean I am sure that they can get better, I know this, but I just wonder how much better things get, or if its like minimal differences for exponentially more money?

It kinda reminds me of headphones... I liked my AD-700's and while I know there are plenty that are better, just how much better can something be, especially when its costing you 10x's or substantially more than that even.
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:39 AM
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You've never auditioned Revel Ultima2, B&W Diamond2, KEF Reference2, etc?

You are right about point of diminishing returns.

But everyone feels differently, so what is worth it for one person may not be worth it for another.

The ultra high-end speakers won't make your Infinity sound like TV speakers, boom-boxes, or Bose. biggrin.gif
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zowzout123 View Post


So my question is, what really do you gain from high end to ultra high end?

What's your definition of high end, and ultra high end?

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Old 02-08-2013, 08:40 AM
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I would think you could answer this for yourself better than any of us could, as it's a subjective question. Go to your local boutique store and listen to some 800 series B&W or Paradigm Sigs or whatnot.

Alternately: Go to the newest movie theater near you and watch a high-budget action film. They make that sound with speakers.
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Old 02-08-2013, 08:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Well I just started getting into this stuff with my Infinity set. I am sure I will enjoy it compared to what I have before, an all in one in the box set from Yamaha thats about 4 years old. But I have no definition of what ultra high end is, I just mean the stuff people pay thousands for per speaker I guess. And I guess I would have to go to a showroom or something to see really first hand, but I think that peoples input can still be bounced around with the question I asked just to get an idea.

I do appreciate all the responses already as well.
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:00 AM
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To me, the better speakers are, the less you notice their existence. The speakers themselves fade into the background, and sounds seem to be in the room with you. The subtle noises from recording like the breath of a singer or fingertips sliding along strings become clear and real.

In the end, the goals are complete transparency and perfect fidelity. You will never quite get there, but you can get asymptotically closer.

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Old 02-08-2013, 09:08 AM
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I ask because it's all about one's perspective, one's experience and exposure to the industry.

I have an extensive system, and own superbly capable loudspeakers. They're $12k or so just for the fronts, and I do not consider them high end. That said, you bring up a good question.

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Old 02-08-2013, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JD in NJ View Post

To me, the better speakers are, the less you notice their existence. The speakers themselves fade into the background, and sounds seem to be in the room with you. The subtle noises from recording like the breath of a singer or fingertips sliding along strings become clear and real.

In the end, the goals are complete transparency and perfect fidelity. You will never quite get there, but you can get asymptotically closer.

+1

Additionally, they never encounter their physical limits. They accurately track drive signal transients, both big and small. Be it the bombastic gunfire associated with Open Range, or the minutia of the ambient detail that defines the acoustic space of a well executed live recording. Transparency, dynamic capability, smoothness in response, and perhaps most importantly, time coherence, top to bottom.

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Old 02-08-2013, 09:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by FOH View Post

I ask because it's all about one's perspective, one's experience and exposure to the industry.

I have an extensive system, and own superbly capable loudspeakers. They're $12k or so just for the fronts, and I do not consider them high end. That said, you bring up a good question.

I see, and this is exactly what I mean. You are saying just for the fronts its $12k, that is insane to me lol. My entire system with receiver and everything cost me about $1,000 or a little more. To pay 12k for just front speakers seems .... well for right now because I don't make the money to afford that - impossible. But I still wonder just what things I might notice from your set vs mine. (Im sure there are major differences of course). Just something I find interesting to know, even though I know there''s no specific answer.
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:42 AM
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I generally spend around $3000 to $4000 for five speakers plus sub(s), which for this crowd is probably considered "mid-range." I am not opposed to spending more, but I have to support the wife and kids. Anyhow, even with my somewhat limited budget, I have found that there is a huge number of options and a wide range of sound quality.

When I swap out gear, I don't really consider it an "upgrade" since I always spend in the same range; it's more about trying different types of speakers to see what I like.
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Old 02-08-2013, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by zowzout123 View Post

But I still wonder just what things I might notice from your set vs mine. (Im sure there are major differences of course). Just something I find interesting to know, even though I know there''s no specific answer.

In both the quote, and the answer, in post #8, are the general details.

Yes, they're expensive, much more so than I'd ever think I'd spend on loudspeakers, let alone the remainder of the gear. However, they're also incredibly high value/over achievers,...constantly being compared to loudspeaker many times their cost. I don't spend in areas not needed. It's all about the loudspeaker/room interface. The electronics, given they are adequate, aren't that important. A good room, with well set-up good speakers.

I know what I like, I've heard differnet speakers over the past several decades in this hobby. I've attended trade shows for many years. I've owned (still own, never sold a one) a handful of speakers from various brands. I've been involved in FOH engineering for many years too. This steered me toward speakers that had essentially no peers dynamically and with regard to pure clean SPL.

I've made recordings for years, knowing what the recorded event sounded like, and attempting to recreate that in the home, ... no easy feat. All these factors brought me to where I am today. Currently, I'm refining the room's acoustics, as nothing impacts a system's sound like the influence of the room. Fortunately, huge gains are achieved quite inexpensively via DIY acoustic treatments. A very modest system can sound quite good in a good environment. Conversely, it doesn't matter how good a system is, if it's poorly executed acoustically, it'll sound terrible. It will not be used very much, .. and the enthusiast/owner won't even know why. That's a shame.

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Old 02-08-2013, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by tsaville View Post


When I swap out gear, I don't really consider it an "upgrade" since I always spend in the same range; it's more about trying different types of speakers to see what I like.

I recognize this approach redface.gif

I'd not recommend this approach. I'd educate yourself as much as possible, minimize your moves and by doing so one can dramatically elevate the capability and value of the playback system, with a more prudent/less costly approach. My experience, my opinion, no offense please, I'm all about experimenting.

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Old 02-08-2013, 10:11 AM
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I recognize this approach redface.gif

I'd not recommend this approach. I'd educate yourself as much as possible, minimize your moves and by doing so one can dramatically elevate the capability and value of the playback system, with a more prudent/less costly approach. My experience, my opinion, no offense please, I'm all about experimenting.

No offense taken. I'm not the type of person who swaps out his gear every few months. I do a lot of research before purchasing, and generally keep my current system for at least 5 years or so. I don't think it's the nature of this hobby to find the "perfect" system and stick with it forever. What's the fun in that? smile.gif
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by FOH View Post

I recognize this approach redface.gif

I'd not recommend this approach. I'd educate yourself as much as possible, minimize your moves and by doing so one can dramatically elevate the capability and value of the playback system, with a more prudent/less costly approach. My experience, my opinion, no offense please, I'm all about experimenting.

To each his own....half the fun of hobbies is experimenting. I find joy in finding products that satisfy me for a small budget (how'd they get such good sound for such a low price) and also finding high end. Experimenting does have a cost sometimes (buy and then sell at a slight loss)

For my desktop system, I had great monitors that were sonically excellent, but as I was using them, I found them 1) a hassle to use since their power switch and volume were on the back 2) they were phsyically obtrusive....and didn't fit with the decor

So I then decided to swap it out for a 2.1 system that was more compact, that was sonically excellent when set up properly in a freestanding space but I couldn't get a good sound in my particular desktop.

Now I went to a passive 2.0 system with an outboard mini class D amp + DAC, with remote.

So in each case I went sideways and swapped out the stuff but I found the perfect solution for me. Sometimes it's about fine tuning the product choice for your particular need.

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Old 02-08-2013, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by zowzout123 View Post

what really do you gain from high end to ultra high end?
You spend a lot more. biggrin.gif
A high price is no guarantee of a good result. Very few 'ultra high end' speakers sound any better than those in the $2k-$5k range, and many don't even sound as good.

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Old 02-08-2013, 11:48 AM
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No offense taken. I'm not the type of person who swaps out his gear every few months. I do a lot of research before purchasing, and generally keep my current system for at least 5 years or so. I don't think it's the nature of this hobby to find the "perfect" system and stick with it forever. What's the fun in that? smile.gif

Wow, great question, you bring up a fantastic point.

Once my drive for superb loudspeaker playback capability was sated, ... yeah, you're right, the fun of the pursuit of the great speakers changes significantly. I no longer analyze whatever deficiencies exist in my speakers,..thinking "man if I only had this or that. Perhaps those expensive ribbon tweeters, ...some killer bass, incredible holographic imaging, etc. Were I find my system now, certainly isn't without fault, but there are no deficiencies needing attention. It's essentially all there.

Making strides upward in capability from this point, would really cost a lot. Typically, as with many things, .. the curve is an exponential one. With my purchase of my current mains, bam .. all at once .. I'm a great deal of the way into diminishing returns. To elevate the system via new speakers, i.e; finding a product with all the capability of my current speakers, ... however add other attributes. Maybe an additional a layer of inner detail, somehow better imaging, increased smoothness, greater transparency, ..whatever the characteristic is, would be quite costly.

The fun seems to shift toward the pure enjoyment of the material.
Rediscovering one's music collection. Hearing new contemporary material in a manner similar to the way it was heard in the studio, ... at realistic levels, exciting levels. Superb speakers, properly set-up in the home, brings you so much closer to the performance. Imagine all the raw loudness of the recording, with no dynamic restrictions, no compression or limitation on clean output. Take those attributes and then strip away any colorations, distortions, completely wiping clear the window between yourself and the recorded event. Clarity, linearity regardless of output level. Over and over again, one discovers new detail previous unheard of during playback.

While enjoying movies, dialog is rendered crystal clear. Effects aren't just sounds, they actually achieve the intended effect. That is fully natural, uncompressed, and entirely realistic with wide and deep soundfield ... punctuated with startling detail. The full resolution of all the smallest detail in the soundtrack. Detail deemed important enough to the filmaking team that they spend days aquiring, recording, and mixing the exact sound that elicits the desired effect that ideally serves the visual content. All that precious detail .... fully resolved and reproduced with full dynamic impact intact ... realism.


I've been a HiFi enthusiast since the 70's. My primary area of interest within the hobby has always been loudspeakers. I got into killer auto-sound in the 70's. I had a '76 Chevette w/Alpine ribbon tweeters, mid, woofs, and a dual coil 10" subwoofer. For home audio I've made my own, I've used Polk, JBL, Klipsch, my wife and I installed in-walls in our first home in the 80's. I've read everything I can find, and followed every major mfr. for decades. I've followed and read as much as I can on the smaller mfrs. as well. I've read countless books, and AES papers, including incredible groundbreaking work in the loudspeaker field, performed by industry giants that still today are investigating further into loudspeakers and acoustics. It's become obvious over time, that far too many enthusiasts, myself included, can get hung up on the gear. When in actually it's the room working in concert with the loudspeaker, .. this is where the gold is .. optimizing the loudspeaker/room interface.

Every room is different, and proper set-up and acoustic optimization of loudspeakers is essentially the entire battle. I see so many pooly config'd systems and rooms here at AVS, ... these are systems that the owner proudly displays and shares. I know the gear is sexy, I get it. But so much is to be gained from looking at the set-up and optimization, ... just the simple "low hanging fruit". These days, the technology, the materials, direct internet marketing, man good sound has never been cheaper or easier to attain. Our hearing is easily fooled, measurements are vital. For example, measuring gear like OmniMic, designed by my friend and fellow AVS'er Bill Waslo, is a powerful acoustic tool, yet it's so simple and easy. $300 spent on a product like OmniMic, could easily elevate one's system performance up to the next level and beyond. Truly, within a few minutes of the delivery to your door-step, you'll be taking real-time measurments, guiding every step, from that day forward with science.

This is AVS, AV Science afterall smile.gif



Thanks and best of luck

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Old 02-08-2013, 11:52 AM
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Anything above around 2000$ for two speakers, it gets really hard to make improvements. I would consider my PSB Speakers T6 Towers to be remarkable for the money and I have listened to a lot of speakers. But anything above that price point you start to get diminishing returns.

I like to tell people that above that point you have to spend 10x more money to get 10% improvement (10/10 rule) ie. better bass better mid better treble and a larger soundstage.

I think anything above mid-fi speakers is crazy. But then again I don't make a lot of money and I guess that to some people 150k for magico speakers is cab fare.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by warpdrive View Post

To each his own....half the fun of hobbies is experimenting.

I'm down with experimenting, "I'm all about experimenting". They're all around here. I experiment, interchange, replace, etc. etc., all the time. Problem is I never sell anyting. I've got everything I've ever bought audio wise, ... I love learning, experimenting. I still have the car audio gear I referenced above ... from the 70's eek.gif Ever seen Alpine ribbon two-way(dome mid-high, ribbon high) tweeter from back then? Ever seen a cassete-deck/8-track player, that played both in the same slot? Still have that too, see it daily. I know, .. ate up.


But WRT experimenting, I think most of us here share this sentiment.

What I meant was, especially true in the case of subwoofers, ... there are some tried and true best practices one can follow to subwoofing bliss. I intended to convey, if one follows certain proven steps, and the results are guaranteed.


Thanks

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Old 02-08-2013, 12:28 PM
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I'm down with experimenting, "I'm all about experimenting". They're all around here. I experiment, interchange, replace, etc. etc., all the time. Problem is I never sell anyting.

My house ("warehouse") is full of different speakers and electronics. "yes dear, I don't want to sell it because I might need it one day" smile.gif

I agree with subs, they are a pain to sell and upgrade, and it's easier to be objective with buying them. Each one I bought was always a big upgrade from the previous one (haven't needed to downsize yet)

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Old 02-08-2013, 12:29 PM
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I have been reading a ton the last 3 days on the Raal tweeter and how superior it is on paper.

Then I read things like...there is such thing as too much detail. Our ears are used to hearing X so when people audition the Ascend's for example more often than not they don't go with the Raal option because TO THEM...the other tweeter sounds better.

On paper there the Raal beats the living heck out of the standard tweeter, but people prefer to hear music a little less "sharp". Thus, why when we tune a TV we often like it just a tad softer.

Anyway... I know this has been beaten to death.
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Old 02-08-2013, 01:47 PM
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So this is something ive always wondered about. I just purchased the Infinity series speakers 363's, 163's, 351 etc, and all I hear about these is praise and how they are so good and one of the best speakers etc etc.

One very important thing to consider is that we don't listen to speakers in a vacuum. We listen to them in rooms that profoundly affect how they sound.

If we agree that at least some very expensive speakers do have the potential to produce better sound quality we still have to pay the room its due respect.

Great speakers in a crap room sound like crap.

In many cases expensive speakers are demonstrated far more carefully than cheap ones.

The second part of this story is that there is not a linear connection between price and sound quality. No doubt some very expensive speakers are overpriced crap. I can think of some specific examples that I have heard at high end audio shows such as one that contained obvious design faults but was marketed by the manufacturer of a highly regarded piano.

The third thing is that certain components such as speaker drivers that can remain linear and produce high SPLs simply cost more. Lots of Xmax takes more materials and makes the speaker driver more costly, for example.

The counterpoint is that volume production can produce vast improvements in price/performance so equipment produced in small volumes will probably have poorer price/performance.
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So my question is, what really do you gain from high end to ultra high end?

IME you have to judge that one situation at a time. There are no reliable global rules when it comes to performance and value.

BTW at one time I had a pair of AD 700s and a pair of HD 580s. The AD 700s weren't bad but the HD 580s were excellent. Thieves stole them both and the 580s went off the market and I just cant' bring myself to buy a pair of 600s.
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:31 PM
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^^^ +1

For me my space/room is a major factor when considering the point-of-diminishing-returns in speaker purchasing. If I had a dedicated HT or music room that I could treat/arrange at will I would be willing to spend much more money on speakers/audio.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by tsaville View Post

I don't think it's the nature of this hobby to find the "perfect" system and stick with it forever. What's the fun in that? smile.gif

That's what I do, for the most part. I have a long term wish list, but not into changing it up for kicks. My hobby is the music and movies part, not the buying speakers part.

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Old 02-10-2013, 09:40 AM
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Here's my biased, uninformed, completely one-sided, take with a grain of salt opinion. Here's some backstory - went to St. Louis to shop for some furniture and stopped by a high end stereo shop. Front and center were a pair of the brand new Paradigm 30th anniversary limited edition Tributes powered by a McIntosh MA6600 and sourced by a MCD500 CD player. The speakers were about 12 feet apart in the demo room and the seats were about 12 feet back from them. The guy put on The Beatles - Come Together and we listened to it at about 50% volume by the McIntoshes meter. Final verdict? - Meh. I really don't know what to take from that actually. My current set up is a pair of Klipsch WF-35s and a Marantz SR5007. Never during the playback was I compelled to say 'wow, these are heads above my current setup'. Who knows, maybe I'm just not cut out for critical listening.

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Old 02-10-2013, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by psycholis View Post

Here's my biased, uninformed, completely one-sided, take with a grain of salt opinion. Here's some backstory - went to St. Louis to shop for some furniture and stopped by a high end stereo shop. Front and center were a pair of the brand new Paradigm 30th anniversary limited edition Tributes powered by a McIntosh MA6600 and sourced by a MCD500 CD player. The speakers were about 12 feet apart in the demo room and the seats were about 12 feet back from them. The guy put on The Beatles - Come Together and we listened to it at about 50% volume by the McIntoshes meter. Final verdict? - Meh. I really don't know what to take from that actually. My current set up is a pair of Klipsch WF-35s and a Marantz SR5007. Never during the playback was I compelled to say 'wow, these are heads above my current setup'. Who knows, maybe I'm just not cut out for critical listening.

I appreciate your thoughts. FWIW, I spent some time auditioning these while at Cedia this past year. The Paradigm Sound-Room had these set up and I was very comfortable listening to these and didn't want to get out of my front/center sweet spot once there. I take verbal notes on a handheld recorder, my notes focused on a few areas. When attending a trades show, you're exposed to so much bombastic presentations, .. some well executed, some not so. After hearing many bass managed, BluRay sourced, big projection demos, with a variety of horn loaded, front loaded loudspeakers, I distinctly remember how much I liked the simplicity of two channel full range music playback.

Anyway my notes from the Paradigm Tribute demo; "Boz Scaggs, Thanks to You, wow, total coherence, so simple two channel coherence was stunning once seated in sweet spot image locked in and opened up beautifully, nicely smooth, buttery smooth coherence extending down throughout bass and midbass, night and day from off axis listening to sweet spot listening, with imaging opening up dramatically in sweet spot." That's all the notes taken, word for word.

Well, I think it must've been smooth, no? rolleyes.gif Looking back, this had to have been a function of one of the core difference between multi-channel BD playback, and quality two channel playback. That is all the set-up and optimization required for bass managed/multi-channel playback, leads so many points for potential error, especially through the bass region and blending the subs to the bass in the other channels. Also, maybe there's some source quality issue, I don't know. Our aural memory is short, but I remember how much I liked it.

A similar thing happened the previous year in the Martin Logan room, ... the wonderful electrostats midrange were a respite from the potentially harsh, high spl demos one encounters at such events.

I'm not discounting what you experienced, I firmly believe it's all about psycho-acoustic receptiveness, and context.

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Old 02-10-2013, 02:18 PM
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It's all about diminishing returns. After the 5,000 mark for a pair of speakers you get little improvements for the increased costs and its up to the consumer if they are willing to spend so much for the slight improvements. I've heard Wilson Watt Puppies that sounded incredible till I found out how much then you seriously start to think about if its worth the cost for the improvements. Some say yes and can afford it but others have a hard time just buying 5,000 speakers than to justify 30,000 speakers and up. Yes it would be nice to own Wilson's but common sense and your significant other beating you upside the head with a frying pan for spending that much is a whole other matter.
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Old 02-10-2013, 04:39 PM
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If the stereo shop was crazy enough to let me audition the 300 pair only exclusive Tributes in my house, maybe I could judge them better. Another alternative is to haul my humble Klipsch towers to their place and do it that way. I imagine it's a win-win for me. If they do indeed sound better under similiar circumstances then it was probably the room affecting the sound. If the sound the same or worse, maybe my hearing is bad. :/ Kind of interested in doing that experiment now, maybe against something less extravagant, like the RF-7s or the CM9s they had in the same room.

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