Originally Posted by Chris Schneider
So the system-on-a-budget thread that's near the top of this forum got me thinking -- well actually I've been thinking about such a topic for years myself, but nonetheless it inspired me to create this post.
Over the years, since I got into audio when I was 18 -- and I'm 31 now -- I've noticed a certain type of "need" by audio enthusiasts (not a fan of the "other" term) to spend money (and thereby feeding the Machine) in order to create the most hi-fi system that could possibly afford. On the surface, it seems like a noble cause. I mean, if you can afford it, why not purchase gear that would lead to a better sound. But it's obviously not that simple. Let's face it, most of the "audiophile" (and there it is, dammit I couldn't help it) industry is built upon snake oil, misinformation, biased ears, and gullible folks. This post is not get into the specifics -- it appears the majority of people on this forum already have both feet squarely set on either side of the fence. This post is more or less about the psychology of such a "need" and why it exists.
It's kind of sobering in a way to think that people with such a disposable income are basically brainwashed by the Machine to believe adding a $2,000 amp will make their sound better than a $350 HTR. Or even worse, external DACs. It all just seems malicious to me, on the part of the Machine. As much as I love audio, I equally hate how the Machine ups the ante on everyone that "buys into" their plan. So much gear is ridiculously overpriced, yet folks believe it is a "very fair" price, or a good value. I mean, you can take a 2 week trip to Europe and spend real money over there for the price of a "decent" set of speakers.
So to all the newcomers, newbies, and folks that are wondering if you have to spend a fortune to get good sound: you don't. You can actually build a hell of a system for under a grand if you can dig on Craigslist for the speakers. Everything else is more or less the same, provided you're buying name-brand stuff (Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer, Denon, Marantz, etc.).
i entirely and totally agree.
there has never ever been a better time to get amazing audio at fantastic prices.
i downsized my equipment from a borderline esoteric rig to a reasonable one - my main system prolly represents a $13k investment. to some it may seem irrational, to me it's my music shrine and worth every penny. that said, i am not an audio snob at all. i enjoy my setup at work immensely: my computer, an Arcam rDAC, and Shure 1540 cans... total is under $800, audio quality is absolutely stellar. in my weekend cabin, i have a ~$200 amp (Qinpu) driving used Totem Dreamcatcher speakers ($300), and boy do i enjoy it. i can lay in a hammock and listen to Spotify on my iPad and good cans for hours, and go "who needs anything better?".
i just set up a system at my girlfriend's, where i spend more and more time, and it is simply a NAD D7050 feeding into another pair of Totem Dreamcatchers, and what can i say, it sounds superb. it's less than 10% of my system's cost... certainly radically diminishing results, i admit it. but i happen to also enjoy those in the right place. :-)
that said, i also know my main system sounds "better" in several ways compared to the other speaker systems i talk about - and 90% of the difference is in the speakers. does my main system sound 10x better than the one i installed at my girlfriend's? certainly not by any measurable parameter, we're probably talking decimals when it comes to measurements. but i hear the additional extensions, stage and accuracy of my main rig (~5% tops), but that instills a psychoacoustic satisfaction factor higher than 20%. :-)
i should also say every time i have spent thousands of dollars on audio i have kept stuff for many years. my previous main rig lasted 16 years without any updates (just the peripheral addition of streaming computer audio), and i predict i will keep my current core system just as long, quite possibly for the rest of my life. i fiddle with speaker placement from time to time, i may rotate in other speakers and old equipment for fun, because i have it and audio is a miserable investment... so some of my previous gear is stored (why bother sell it at an insultingly low fraction of its original price) and gets re-used from time to time, that satisfies my urge for change. :-)