Just yesterday ...really by random chance... I was watching so Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Videos from 2013, and discovered several bit of interesting information.
First, in the '70's that average Home Stereo was $250, today that is about $1350. Myself back in the 1970's, I had a system worth about $700, and that we really just a bit above the bottom.
Price is a tricky thing. If my family knew how much I have in my audio system, they would have me locked up. Even after seeing it and shaking their heads, I haven't actually told them the price.
So ... how much is too much? From where my family stands, I've spend way too much, ridiculously too much. But the fact is, much like in the 1970's, my system at about $3500 is just a bit above average. Though I confess I have a new amp that is substantially out of proportion to the rest of my equipment. My previous system was about $2500, and really was enough.
One lecturer who spent his life in the audio business in one form or another said, the mistake most people make is they don't optimize the system they have before the decide to purchase new equipments. Putting newer better equipment into the same old bad flawed circumstance, it not the path to audio satisfaction.
You do own it to yourself to make sure the room your system is in, is not itself compromising the sound you hear. Optimizing a room is not free, but neither is it crazy expensive.
Further as you advance in years, you are likely to become more successful and more financially stable. When I was younger I drove a collection of really crappy used cares. Like $100 to $500 each cars. When I got older, I moved up to a $5000 car. Today I drive a slightly used $15,000 car.
Why should audio equipment be any different? If I can afford a better system now, and I want it, and I think I will used it, and I think I will get value out of it, why not have it.
So, there is an element of perspective hear. To most of the working class people I know, I have spent an unfathomable amount on my system. To upper middle class people with some knowledge of audio, I have an OK run of the mill system. To a rich guy who can really afford good equipment, my considerable system is low end.
But, as others have pointed out, that can apply to any aspect of life. When you are young and poor - TIMEX
; when you are rich and successful - ROLEX
. When you are young and poor - Ford,
when you are rich and successful - BMW.
In another thread someone was trying to put together a good system for about $500/$600. You can see the equipment being discussed in this thread -
Sample systems tended to run between $600 for bargains and slight compromises up to about $2200 for fairly routine systems.
But, in today's market, you have to seek out the absolute best bargains, even if those are not the ideal speakers and amps, and you have to make some compromises of features, power, and other aspects of the system.
Finding the asbolute best prices, the following system is nice, but really nothing special. Though it should sound very good and is a very modern amp with Streaming and a decent amount of power.
$380/ea = Yamaha RN500 Network Receiver
$230/ea = Yamaha CDS300 CD Player
$240/pr = JBL ES80BK speakers
$850 = Total
However, hear is a near identical system, more reflective of what a good middle of the road system is going to cost -
$550/ea = Yamaha RN500 Network Receiver 80w/ch
$300/ea = CD Player, or $600/ea for a Universal Player (BluRay, DVD, CD, SACD)
$800/pr = Typical floorstanding speakers (on-sale) (Diamond 10.7 Towers)
$1650 = Total
The world has gotten more expensive, there is no denying that.
Now certainly there are Snake Oils aspects, but "Let the Buyer Beware"
. It is up to you to educate yourself, and to spend your money wisely. If you have a $500 amp, then spending $500 on wire and cable is probably not a good investment. If you have a $5000 amp, then perhaps you could justify $500 on wire and cable. You probably don't need it, but you could justify it. Just as you can justify an expensive watch or a fancy car.
You don't need to spend a lot of money, but you do need to spend a reasonable amount to get a good system. Today, that means over $1000, probably closer to $2000 if you want a turntable.
How much is too much depends on who you are and how much money you have.
Plus ...a good system... varies with circumstances. Perhaps if you are student, in essence, living in a bedroom or dorm room, then a large bulky system is not likely to cut it. A pair of fair Studio Monitors or a small amp with bookshelf speakers is probably the most you can handle for size and budget.
If you are a successful professional with a stable job and home, then you are in a position for a larger more expensive system.
I've heard speaker costing $5000/pr
or a bit more, and they truly do sound fantastic. That is not my imagination. But, despite the fact that those speakers sound fantastic, my $1000/pr
speaker sound pretty damned good. I'm not complaining. But trust me, should I have a wind-fall of cash, I will not be settling for $1000/pr
More than a fixed amount of money, what constitutes a Good System is about perspective.