Originally Posted by tom_c
There are people telling me that $50,000 speakers or a $5000 amp is a waste of money because it adds no benefit to the sound quality than a cheaper set up. I'm just asking where that price point is, so I can be done upgrading my system and just be happy knowing this will be the best sound I can get at any cost. It seems everyone knows where that point is but me.
It's really to individualized to allow anybody here to answer for you. With speakers, what you gain as you increase in price is different among different speaker manufacturers and different lines within a particular speaker maker's product array, so you can't say doubling the price will absolutely reduce distortion by 30 percent, increase frequency range by 10 percent and improve the behavior in the crossover region by 40 percent. It all depends . . . .
You'll never actually absolutely know where the price/quality point is for speakers in particular4 because, once you've heard enough of them over a longe enough period of time to prioritize the virtues you most like and vices you least object to, you can only identify, theoretically, the speakers you can actually test to see which offers the greatest amount of virtue plus the least vice at any given price. There are a number of fine manufacturers whose wares are not available for me to hear anywhere near my home, so I'll never know if they would have offered a better price/performance ratio than my current Paradigms, former Magnepans, or more former-er Sonus Fabers (or even my somewhat beat Event 20/20s).
Ultimately as a consumer all you can do is choose among the choices you have available. Unfortunately, the learning curve to identify your own preferences is time consuming, and one's preferences may change over time. I've said before that I tend to like speakers with a "soft" presence region (let's say 4 dB down in an octave and a half centered somewhere around 4 KHz). But eventually I start to notice that sounds with stridency/blat to them (like trumpets) sound a little sleepy on those systems. So now I'm a little more in the flat is mostly right camp. WIth the caveat that off axis behavior is very important and its effects vary dramatically from room to room which complicates the whole thing.
As far as electronices, there's info out there in the world about levels of distortion that are audible and that are not. For a novice, IMO, it's pretty safe to acquire an amp, for example, that keeps distortion well below audibility within the SPL limits they are going to live with. Now if I had tons of money to spend on my HT, I might very well go get a bunch of Bryston amps because (like a few others) they're engineered so that, for example, IM disotrtion is 1/10 to 1/100 of the level you see in other well-regarded devices. But to the extent I'm making the inaudible inaudibler, I really haven't gained audible improvement. I've just satisfied a desire for something like uber-performance.
I listen relatively quietly with speakers of moderate efficiency and find that I'm not hearing distortion, or at least not noticeable (to me) distortion with the amps in my midrange AVR. So I am pretty happy. If I started cranking it up louder, I'd more likely be able to hear the difference between my Denon and some outboard amp of greater capability. Assuming that there are audible differences between electronics that are designed and operated to be linear within the relevant frequency range, they must be very small, because AFAIK, no blind test has proven that they don't sound the same. But you could always grab a mid 80s English amp, which likely will roll of the very highest frequencies a bit, and it might sound different to you than an amp designed with more of a "DC to light" philosophy.
Anyway, just like nobody could tell me that the Martin HD28V I bought over a decade ago was a better value proposition than the Santa Cruz Brazilian that I loved more (and was well over twice the price) or the Bourgouis that I loved about equally, just different aspects stood out to me, nobody can tell you what device(s) will hit your price/performance curve in the sweet spot. After all, I could have continued playing my old Alvarez, which cost less than a 10th of the price of my Martin and from a big picture perspective probably has at least 90% of the performance of any of the expensive puppies I auditioned.
Sorry for the ramble . . .