When I just began listening to speakers, I couldn't imagine why someone would pay more than $500 for a set of speakers. After listening to hundreds of speakers, attending a slew of live music events, and being lucky enough to be able to afford a wide range of alternatives, I have a different outlook on this topic. I simply wasn't able to be completely fooled by some of the more affordable sets of speakers -- there always seems to be some compromise. It was only when I has auditioned speakers across a wide spectrum of performance levels that I had learned to appreciate the value in some more expensive items. Salesmen would ask me -- how much do you want to spend on a set of speakers? I would tell them -- as little as possible to achieve an acceptable level of performance. And this acceptable level of performance was only realized after I had listened to an outrageous amount of speakers throughout the performance spectrum in an effort to gain as realistic of an impression as possible of what is possible. Too many people make decisions based on some part of the absolute dataset. I wanted it all -- or at least enough of it to make it statistically representative -- and I think I achieved this. Otherwise, all decisions and judgements are misinformed.
So, I ask you, what brand of speakers can reproduce sound, without compromise, at less than $2k? I don't think one exists. For instance, I really like a lot of the qualities of the Mangepan 1.6QRs, but there are many problems with these speakers. The speakers require very precise placement, have a very small sweet-spot or a very large variance off-axis, have vertical dispersion anomolies, have zero low-bass extension (I'm talking real levels to about 15Hz like my SW-12 can reproduce), etc...However, they do damn well for the money and I'd recommend them to a friend. Do they come anywhere near the level of my Aerial Acoustics 10Ts + SW-12 subwoofer?? I don't believe so.
On the topic of what is a bargain and what is not a bargain, that is truly a decision you have to make. A lot of personal variables come to play here. In my experience, I've found the Aerial 10Ts to be a bargain speaker *for me* -- yes at $7.7k (to start). Why? They can offer, along with the SW-12 subwoofer, an astoundingly realistic display of a music experience. One that approaches the state-of-the-art and one that very nearly approximates the real thing at a cost that is a fraction of what most speakers require in this category. In this category of speakers, they represent a bargain to me. Look at the prices of the competition -- Wilsons over $100K, Dunlavy VIs over $25k, JM Lab Grand Utopia over $70k, Pipedreams over $100k?, Avalons at $20k, etc. Are there better speakers than the 10Ts? YES. Are there other bargains in this category? YES, Waveform Mach or maybe the Vandersteen model 5 are just two examples of them -- there are more. Are there many speakers in this world that approach the level of performance of the 10T for under $10k -- I don't think so. So, are they a bargain in the cost-no-object category of performance? Yes, to me, they are for now. Will they always be a bargain? Probably not. As new price/perf. leaders come to market, they will likely displace the 10T.
[This message has been edited by mdavis (edited June 25, 2000).]