Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Vancouver, Canada
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Goatwuss' description of the different tiers of performance and what audiophiles look at the high end of the scale are spot on correct. The question is not about affordability or value since these issues are relative to the person spending the money.
Most people can tell the difference between $500 speakers and $5000 speakers. The $5000 pair will sound better. The average person, given the average and median incomes in North America, cannot justify more than $5000 on a pair of speakers. High end speakers are capable of reproducing full orchestral and choral acoustic images to incredible degrees without sounding stressed. There is a perception of "there-ness" that less capable systems cannot provide. Just because one cannot afford ultra high end speakers doesn't mean there isn't value in such speakers capable of reproducing such a listening experience. This is not a question of snobbery or elitism. It is an explanation of why an ultra high end audiophile market exists.
Perhaps another explanation is that one's ear is not able to distinguish the fine acoustic details between a good $5000 system and $65000 system assuming of course that both systems are correctly setup with matched components. For the average person, a $5000 system is "good enough". For others, they cherish the last little bit of whatever they obtain to improve their listening experience. Of course some people just buy concert-grade JBLs (the kind used for rock concerts) and believe its the cat's meow in hi-fi because they can crank it really loud. But if it meets their listen experience requirements who am I to argue otherwise?
The point is ultra high end systems do sound different and as referenced to traditional hi-fi and audiophile listening standards, sound better and reproduce the live concert experience better than $5000 systems. The phrase "there is no substitute for cubic inches" also applies to audiohile equipment as the speakers need to displace an amount of air to reproduce live music on a large scale. Bose cube speakers just won't do that. This is the reason that ultra high end systems tend to have large speakers which are floor standing or panel sized and tend to be powered by monoblock amplifiers since the power requirements of the speakers are high for optimum performance. Panel sized speakers have a lot so cubic inches to displace a lot of air in their reproduction of sound.